NBA Mid-Season Projections

All MVPs have a 4th%ile SAT score that jumps to the 75th%ile on a subsequent exam with a little tutoring from Calipari!!

So now we’ve finally hit that All-Star weekend mark. The point in the season where we are finally over football, and the basketball juggernauts actually start to wake up. Well, at this point, I don’t really know if the Lakers will actually start playing 35 minutes of real basketball per night until April, but at least Boston, Miami, and Orlando will continue turning it up.

This is the time I love the most because it’s a reflection of the very little basketball knowledge NBA fans and so-called experts possess. A recent poll on espn.com showed that ~35% of people in the U.S. believe the Lakers will lose in the second round of the playoffs and that less than 10% believe they’ll win in the finals. Reminds me of 2001 when Sports Illustrated writers predicted during All-Star weekend that the Lakers would lose the Sacramento Queens in seven games in the second round of the playoffs. The Lakers then proceeded to go 15-1 in the playoffs, sweeping Sacramento in the second round en route.

Thus, predictions at this point in the season have to be based on more than records and stats. They have to be based on talent, match ups, and history. In 2009, prior to the playoffs, Bill Simmons adamantly claimed that Lebron and the Cavs would take the title easily with Garnett hurt. Anyone who understands basketball knew that the Cavs were worse at every position except SF when matching up with Orlando. Lebron would have been completely humiliated in that ECF if he didn’t hit that game 2 winner. You cannot base your predictions on highlights, home records, and media hype.

So on to the predictions. I’m certain a lot of you will disagree with me in the Conference Finals section and be at my throat in the comments section. I assure you, I’m right and you’re wrong :).

MVP: Derrick Rose

25/4.5/8 vs. 26/7.5/7. Statistically, this goes to Bron. But the MVP award rarely is based on stats. Moreover, Bron can’t win a third MVP award in a row especially after jumping ship to MIA. The voters/NBA would never allow it. Rose offers an amicable award winner. He is the consummate leader. He lives for the fourth quarter. He excels in his biggest games (42 points against SA 2 nights ago). Plus, he’s doing it with Noah hurt while Bron is doing it with Wade and Bosh.

And the NBA would be sending a great message to kids by teaching them that the SAT is merely just a test, and you don’t have to excel at it to have an excellent career or be a role-model.

WCF Prediction: LAL (2 seed) over SAS (1 seed)

I know, I know, Duncan is “such a great guy” who “deserves this” and Ginobli is a “hard worker” and “excellent teammate” and George Hill is “a good young kid who adds fresh legs and boosts energy in this team.” Whatever, you lost the morality argument when Tony Parker bagged his ex-teammate’s wife. Furthermore, what was the last fast-break offense to win a championship? Probably the 1988 Lakers (the 2008 Celts were much less fast-break based than the more recent Celts).  I don’t trust the Spurs to have any 4th quarter sustainable offense. I trust the Lakers’ resolve to push them through in six games.

ECF Prediction: MIA (1 seed) over BOS (2 seed)

Here it is. This is an idea that people absolutely hate. Of course, the counter-argument will automatically be the 3-0 season record Boston has over Miami.

But take out the first two wins because those were during the first 10 games of the season and Miami just wasn’t jelling yet. So you have a Celtics 3 point win in Boston, in which Boston does exactly what Boston does best: the Celtics had 11 total points in the fourth quarter. Yes, Lebron choked by missing a crucial free throw. And yes, I completely agree, that is definitely an important issue worth considering in the future.

However, Lebron, has taken Boston to 7 games and 6 games in the past with Mo Williams as his second best player. Besides having Wade, he now has Bosh, who everybody wants to claim can’t do anything against Boston, even though in their last meeting he went 8-11 with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Miami is equally, if not more talented, and Boston has not showed me that they are clutch enough to overcome that talent barrier (they were evenly matched with Orlando two years ago with Garnett out and the Lakers last year but lost both series). And no, I don’t think Boston will be fully healthy in mid to late May, especially when they’ve been playing passionately to try to compete with Mia for home advantage this early in the season.

I do agree though, that if Boston has home advantage, and it goes seven games, Boston will eek out a win. But with their age, I just don’t see them winning home advantage throughout the Eastern Conference. The Heat win in seven in MIA.

Title Prediction: LAL over MIA (MIA has home advantage)

For me, this is the most difficult prediction to make. I know MIA is more athletic. Additionally, I think they have the best ball movement in the NBA, which may be enough to break through the Lakers’ exceptional playoff defense. Also, I really don’t know what to expect out of Gasol/Bynum these days. But what separates the Lakers from Boston against Miami in this matchup is purely Bryant.

I know the media loves to overhype Kobe’s fall from athletic grace this year. The real truth is that last year he looked like an old man due to knee problems. This year, he actually looks great, especially after he stopped practicing. I do believe that Wade is a top 5 Kobe defender. But Bryant’s fourth quarter methodical high-post offense will slow Miami’s athleticism down too much.

This series will go seven games like last year’s Laker-Celtic series. But Miami’s home advantage really means nothing. Too many senior citizens and South American soccer fans in South Beach. Kobe/Pau/Lamar/Artest have proven that they can perform in a game 7 in the Finals. I don’t feel the same way about Lebron or even Wade honestly.

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6 Responses to NBA Mid-Season Projections

  1. This is quite a provocative prediction.

  2. pakastallion says:

    Kid,

    first off, really feeling the love for ma boi, D-Rose.

    I like your picks (and agree most people dont agree with us) I’d substitute San Antonio for Dallas in the WCF. And I’d take LA over Miami in six … (This is what I had in the article I wrote right after “The Decision” – LeBron, Wade, Bosh & the NBA AND my predictions at the start of the season.)

    Having said that, I’ll take issue with Kobe being the difference in a series against Miami. I can see an argument in a series against the Celtics, but Miami simply locks the perimeter down. They fly to the ball on double teams and recover faster than any team in the league. If it weren’t for their interior defense, I’d say they are the BEST defensive team in the league (I know…people might disagree with this, but that is a debate for another day.)

    Also, as you acknowledged, Wade does a great job on Kobe. After watching Wade play against Kobe both last year and this year I’ve noticed a shift. Unlike last year (when Wade still did a great job on Bryant) this year he was energized, free to expend energy previously reserved for the offensive end. He knows he could average 18-11-6 in a series against the Lakers and his team could win. He trusts Lebron and Bosh to carry the offensive load. Thus, he will be willing to go all-out on the defensive end and disrupt Kobe’s game. Also, he can still go hard at Kobe on the other end of the floor to help wear him out throughout the game. Unlike against the Celtics, the Lakers will not be able to spare Bryant on defense. Bryant wont be able to not guard the back court of the Heat the way he does with Rondo. The Lakers wont be able to switch Fisher on to Wade the way they do with Allen. They could move Kobe to point and bring Barns at the two, but any inventive line-up changes the Lakers put out still has to deal with Wade and Lebron (And the jury is out, while Artest can do a great job on Melo, Durant, and Pierce, he struggles to contain Bron — also to this point, when the Lakers use Ron on Bron, Bron takes defensive plays off/ doubles off Ron/ plays help side/ plays the passing lanes… all while preserving his energy and young legs for offense.)

    To the earlier point, Kobe isnt the same Kobe that he used to be … while he is still one of the best players in the league he simply cant take it to the rack at will and draw fouls or make plays on demand (especially against the Heat perimeters.) His high post game will be frustrated by quick doubles and Wade/Bron playing straight up. If Kobe goes off (which he can def still do) and makes jump shots like he is on crack, he might be able to take over one or maybe two (at the most) games in that series. However, the numbers don’t lie…the more shots he takes at the end of games AND the fatigue of having to play more minutes against Wade, will negatively effect his late game heroics.

    I think the Lakers will beat Miami, but it will be because of Pau primarily and Bynum secondarily (screw it throw LO in that too.) Kobe will have serviceable numbers, he will be effective, but they need him to drop 17-9-9 a game rather than 30-5-5 … basically he needs to make sure everyone is playing up to their potential. He needs to grab offensive boards, drop dimes, and make sure Pau is taking at least 24 shots a game. I think he understands this. I think Phil knows that Miami’s weakness, defensively, can be exploited by slowing the game down and playing inside-out. Missed jump-shots and 0ne-on-one Kobe plays do two things: first, they create fast-breaks and second, they speed up the game. They will forgo this, throw the ball in work the shot clock down and trust the triangle.

    Having said all that, there is a lot to be said about the Celtics. I keep writing them off and they keep proving me wrong. Also, I’d love to see one more LA-Boston battle (before I write off the Celtics, again.)

    Nice article. I really enjoyed it!

  3. Adnan says:

    Beginning of the season I said the Celtics, and I still stand by it. I follow your predictions (though I really hope the Spurs beat the Lakers for personal reasons), except I think Celtics have the depth to take them all the way. Word, it depends on health, (we can write that off both ways, you think they won’t, I think they will, it becomes arbitrary), but I think an even bigger factor is the depth they have at the 4 and 5 which makes the difference.

    It may be my personal biases in respecting big men more than guards, but I just see them pounding away down low (pun intended?) on Miami and then (though to a lesser extent) on the Lakers.

  4. Darshan says:

    Just don’t see the Celts going down in the ECF. BOS over MIA in 6 in the ECF. LAL over SAS in 6 or 7 in the WCF. LAL over BOS in 7 in the NBA Finals.

    People were saying LA wouldn’t repeat around this time of year last season too, and especially at the close of the season. It doesn’t really matter once LAL is in the playoffs… LAL wins it all, no question. And no, they don’t need to trade for Melo (or make any trade for that matter) to 3-peat.

  5. kidveesh says:

    Adnan: The Celtics are really no different than they were last year except one year older. They really didn’t address any of the reasons for why they lost in the finals (i.e. no real fourth quarter scorer) and they actually lost a great defender on Bryant in Tony Allen. So if Boston does make the finals, your prediction, which of course may be valid, rests on the Lakers playing worse than they did last year (it’s hard for me to take the Kendrick Perkins injury seriously as the sole reason why the Celts lost since the Celts still held the Lakers to 83 in game 7 and Sheed was basically the only player who excelled in that game 7, and he wouldn’t have played if Perkins was in the game).

    Darshan: I agree, MIA still has a great chance of losing to Boston, but I feel that’s more based on the fact that Boston can maybe get by on that “older brother” psychological feel. I’m not buying their big men at this age.

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