If Rudy Gay emerges as a star for Memphis, the Grizzlies will land in the NBA finals. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- I'll be the first to admit I'm not a exactly a prophet when it comes to sports predictions. Still, WUSA 9 is giving me this amazing platform to express my opinions on professional basketball. So why wouldn't I venture a few guesses into how the 2011-2012 NBA season will play out? It's a little long so buckle your seat belt.
They are the new Spurs. Before you go and say 'The Spurs had Tim Duncan" take a look at Zach Randolph's stats from last season. This team was an eight seed last year and upset the Spurs without their best player in Rudy Gay. Something special is brewing in Tennessee; special enough that the Grizzlies will shock the world and represent the western conference in the finals.
A once drowning franchise will be a team swimming laps in the playoffs this season. The additions of potential rookie superstars Derrick Williams (think Chris Webber) and Ricky Rubio (think Rajon Rondo) to go along with the new proven head coach Rick Adelman are enough reasons to have me buying into the T-Wolves stock. Kevin Love is going to be quite a different player this season too. After honing in on his outside shot and losing 25 pounds, I'd expect Love to take on more of a Dirk Nowitzki role as a scoring small forward.
I think the Pacers will be this year's version of the Memphis Grizzlies. Their front court of Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough, David West and Lou Amundson may be the deepest and most effective in the eastern conference. And I'm obsessed with the George Hill pickup at guard. Hill is extremely clutch -- taking pressure off of Danny Granger -- and will be team up masterfully with Darren Collison. I can envision this team in the second round of the playoffs or, dare I say, further?
Everyone is counting out basketball's best player since Michael Jordan. The reasons are understandable. He's too old and injured. He has a coach he probably doesn't respect in Mike Brown. He's losing enough money in a divorce that could buy several small third world countries. I'll bet you this though: Kobe loves this new role of being doubted. It's like he's the new Tiger Woods to a lesser degree. He will relish in the media scrutiny. He will bask in today's world of on-demand Twitter doubters. Something tells me the Lakers roster will feature some new addition by the trade deadline. Unlike many experts, I don't foresee a Lakers collapse this season.
It won't quite meet the hype, but Jimmer will be the NBA's version of Tim Tebow. Fredette is way more exciting of a player than Tebow and has all the potential to get the whole country on his side, minus all the religious shenanigans (no offense). The problem? His Sacramento Kings are full of youth and lazy defenders, meaning the Kings won't have a good record. Jimmer does have natural scoring ability that will translate to the NBA. It is not out of the question to see him averaging 15 points per game this season.
To me, the addition of Richard Hamilton at shooting guard won't be enough for the Bulls to make the leap forward to the NBA finals. Carlos Boozer will stuff a stat sheet, but he'll disappear in the playoffs when you need him the most. There's no questioning the Bulls will bring it defensively, but I can see defenses keeping last year's MVP Derrick Rose away from the rim this season.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Honestly, I find myself rooting for this team in almost every game they play in. I love how someone without muscles like Kevin Durant can be the most talented player in the league. The Thunder have the bench pieces in James Harden and Serge Ibaka. They have a defensive specialist in Thabo Sefolosha. But where are the veterans who will speak up? Durant is not exactly a fiery leader. Remember Russell Westbrook is steering this ship and not Jason Kidd or a true point guard. I get nervous on this teams shot selection late in big games. I expect another playoff disappointment from OKC.
Is it just me or does Chris Paul look fatter, older and slower? This won't take away from his elite passing skills but my guess is that his knees are nowhere close to being ready for a grueling 66 game schedule in 120 days. The Clippers will obviously improve but with Paul playing at 75 percent, I think people need to tone down the hysteria surrounding the LA ball club.
1. Miami Heat
2. New York Knicks
3. Chicago Bulls
4. Indiana Pacers
5. Boston Celtics
6. Philadelphia 76ers
7. Milwaukee Bucks
8. Orlando Magic
Eastern Finals: Heat over Knicks.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. Dallas Mavericks
3. Memphis Grizzlies
4. Los Angeles Lakers
5. Los Angeles Clippers
6. Denver Nuggets
7. Portland Trailblazers
8. Minnesota Timberwolves
Western Finals: Grizzlies over Lakers
MVP: Carmelo Anthony
Rookie of the Year: Jimmer Fredette
Most Improved: Evan Turner
NBA Finals: Heat over Grizzlies in 5.