As the calendar turns to November, it’s time for the action on the hardwood to begin. It should be an exciting season because it was a very busy off-season. Several players changed addresses, and some have improved their chances to make the playoffs.
Here is the breakdown of my predictions:
1. Dallas Mavericks (60-22) – After winning a franchise record 67 games and also setting an NBA record (most wins for a first-round loss), the Mavericks will return with a vengeance and remind people that they are the best in the West.
2. Phoenix Suns (58-24) – The Suns still have the best point guard in the West, Steve Nash, who averages 18.6 points per game and 11.6 assists per game, and power forward Amare Stoudemire (20.4 ppg, 9.6 rebounds per game). However, if they want to be championship contenders, they have to play defense.
3. San Antonio Spurs (54-28) – The third spot is where the Spurs will most likely be. The oldest team in the league will get off to a slow start, but will finish strong due to their old, crafty veterans.
4. Utah Jazz (53-29) – Point guard Darren Williams (16.2 ppg, 9.3 apg) and power forward Carlos Boozer (20.9 ppg, 11.7 rpg) are the best one-two punch in the league. Utah coach Jerry Sloan will have his team ready to play.
5. Houston Rockets (50-32) – There is excitement in Houston with the return of Steve Francis and the hiring of Rick Adelman. If Francis can get along with the coach and Tracy McGrady can stay healthy, look out.
6. Denver Nuggets (47-35) – Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson on the same team will not work again, but the Nuggets will still make the playoffs. They may have to mount a late-season streak, but they will make the playoffs.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves (42-40) – With the addition of Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Ryan Gomes from the Kevin Garnett trade, the T-wolves will sneak into the playoffs.
8. L.A. Lakers (41-41) – The Lakers get the last position in the West by default because the Hornets, Warriors or Clippers won’t be here.
1. Boston Celtics (53-29) – The Celtics have just gone from worst to first in the Eastern Conference. With the addition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, they will be legitimate contenders in the East.
2. Miami Heat (50-32) – With the addition of Ricky Davis (17 ppg, 4.8 apg), along with Shaq and Dwyane Wade, the Heat are still a force.
3. Detroit Pistons (48-34) – If Detroit’s head coach, “Flop” Saunders does not get his teams to the finals this year, there will be a new head coach in Motown next year.
4. Toronto Raptors (46-36) – The emergence of Chris Bosh (22.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg) as a force, along with T.J Ford, Antony Parker and the sharpshooting of Jason Kapano, look for the Raptors to compete.
5. Chicago Bulls (44-38) – The Bulls are always a force, but they need a low post player.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers (43-39) – The Defending Eastern Conference champions need another player to complement small forward Lebron James.
7. Washington Wizards (42-40) – Point guard Gilbert Arenas, forward Caron Butler and forward Antoine Jamison will get the Wizards in the playoffs. But other than those three, there are no players who can step up and make plays. They will make the playoffs but won’t stay long.
8. New York Knicks (41-41) – This team has too much talent not to make the playoffs.
MVP: Dwyane Wade (Miami)
Defensive Player of the Year: Samuel Dalembert (Philadelphia)
Coach of the Year: Doc Rivers (Boston)
8. New Jersey
9. Golden State
13. New Orleans