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2007-2008 NBA Predictions

2007-2008 NBA Predictions

2007-2008 NBA Predictions
by Josh Nagel

It seems like just last week that the San Antonio Spurs put the final touches on their NBA Championship season, going from a team that flew largely under the radar during the regular season - while more glitzy teams sucked up the hype - to cutting down the nets when the final buzzer sounded in June.

Images of Tony Parker torching Cleveland's defense, and the Spurs' general domination over last year's token trial horses of little resistance from the Eastern Conference remain fresh. And yet, tip-off on the new NBA season is fast approaching.

The standard-issue offseason has run its course; teams have retooled their rosters and coaching staffs, and enter the new campaign with a fresh wave of optimism about their chances of contending.

Here are some of the hot topics heading into the season: can the tried-and-true Spurs win another one? Will stylish but title-less teams like the Suns or Mavericks finally break through and reach the pinnacle? Can any team in the Eastern Conference be taken seriously? Is there any rookie talented enough to vault his team into contention?

Who knows? But it's that time of year to delve into the fun of pre-season analysis and give our 2007-2008 NBA predictions. The following is a brief team-by-team breakdown. The information provided in parentheses is last year's record and finish, this year's predicted record and finish, and the odds on each team to win the NBA title:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics
(Last year: 24-58, fifth place. This year: 50-32, first place. odds: 7/1.)

If ever there was a team built to win now, it's this year's revamped Celtics. After trading their whole team and practically half the Red Sox to get Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Celtics picked up a few guys from the downtown YMCA to meet the NBA's minimum quotient of rostered players. But Garnett, Allen, Paul Pierce and assorted warm bodies should be enough for them to immediately become the class of this division.

Toronto Raptors
(47-35, first. 45-37, second. 50/1.)

The Raptors got the better end of the trade for T.J. Ford, and they were remarkably improved. Chris Bosh is a rising superstar and Andrea Bargnani had the best rookie season in NBA history for an Italian man with a woman's first name. A fringe contender in the East, but better than most in this division.

New Jersey Nets (41-41, second. 39-43, third. 40/1.)

If you never expect much from the Nets, then you can't possibly be disappointed. Richard Jefferson is soft and overrated, and Jason Kidd is getting old. Head coach Opie Taylor - aka Lawrence Frank - has kept this team running on a treadmill of mediocrity. Expect more jogging.

Philadelphia 76ers (35-47, third, 30-52, fourth. 100/1.)

Dumping Allen Iverson and Chris Webber was a mandatory step in the start of the rebuilding process. But it was just that, a start. Andre Miller and Kyle Korver can only do so much.

New York Knicks (33-49, fourth. 20-62, fifth. 100/1.)

The organization is a wreck in the wake of the Isaiah Thomas sexual harassment scandal. But lost amid the tabloid headlines is the fact that he isn't much of a coach, either. There's plenty of talent on this team, but no leadership on or off the court. Calling on the ghost of Allan Houston won't help.

Central Division

Chicago Bulls
(49-33, third. 54-28, first. 13/1.)

Draft additions Joakim Noah and Aaron Gray will help shore up the frontcourt, but Chicago still could use another legitimate scoring threat up front. Even so, the core of Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Ben Gordon is solid, and the Bulls are on the rise.

Detroit Pistons (53-29, first. 50-32, second. 13/1.)

Still not sure Flip Saunders is the right fit for this team; he adds too much offensive pizzazz to a team that was founded on hard hats and lunch buckets. But Barry Switzer could probably coach this squad to 50 wins, and the re-signing of Chauncey Billups guarantees the Pistons will contend, regardless of who roams the sidelines.

Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32, second. 49-43, third. 13/1.)

You hate to call any team that reached the NBA Finals a fluke, but the Cavs present a strong argument for the proverbial exception to the rule. In their efforts to provide Lebron James a stronger supporting cast, Cleveland did … nothing, basically.

Indiana Pacers (35-47, fourth, 35-47, fourth. 100/1.)

Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington for Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy? Oops. Jim O'Brien is a pretty solid coach, but he has his work cut out for him. Jermaine O'Neal, Jamaal Tinsley and Danny Granger give the Pacers a reasonable core to work with.

Milwaukee Bucks (28-54, fifth, 26-56, fifth. 100/1.)

The drafting of Yi Jianlian already looks like a mistake. At first, he didn't want to play, now we're wondering if he can play. That question might not be answered for years. The Bucks might have been better off drafting Noah or another big man more prepared to make an immediate contribution. The team was decimated by injuries last year, but is mediocre at best when healthy. Michael Redd is great, but they have too many guys who are less-talented versions of him.

Southeast Division

(40-42, third. 49-33, first. 25/1.)

The Magic landed the coup of the free-agent market when they picked up Rashard Lewis, a budding superstar who is just hitting his prime. His signing changes the face of this division. Along with fellow blossoming stars Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, and a solid surrounding cast led by Hedo Turkoglu, the Magic should be the team to beat in this division. Billy Donovan did the Magic a favor by turning them down; they got a better candidate in Stan Van Gundy, who is more experienced, less expensive and more prepared to take Orlando to the next level.

Washington Wizards (41-41, second. 42-40, second. 80/1.)

The Wizards are an exciting bunch, with Gilbert Arenas evolving into one of the game's premier scorers and Caron Butler finally living up to the promise he showed coming out of Connecticut. But they've done little to shore up a woeful frontcourt that scares no one with the two-man combination of Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas, and the Wizards don't play much defense to go along with their formidable offense.

Miami Heat (44-38, first. 40-42, third. 18/1.)

Never underestimate Pat Riley's ability to squeeze a contender out of what he's got. But this year, it's the all-Geritol team. Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Antoine Walker are still around, and they aren't getting any younger. The Heat added fellow senior citizen Penny Hardaway, too. This is clearly Miami's last chance to contend before it must undergo a youth-driven overhaul. But Dwyane Wade and the old guys might have one last run in them.

Charlotte Bobcats (33-49, fourth. 31-51, fourth. 100/1.)

Recent drafts have been disappointing; the Bobcats traded Brandan Wright on draft day for the inconsistent Jason Richardson, Adam Morrison is a defensive liability who has struggled to get his shot in the NBA and Sean May has been injury-prone. Emeka Okafor from a few drafts ago worked out just fine, but he's about the best the Bobcats have to offer under first-year coach Sam Vincent.

Atlanta Hawks (30-52, fifth. 30-52, fifth. 100/1.)

New year, same old Hawks? Maybe. Well, yes, until further notice. Atlanta made two excellent picks in the lottery, grabbing Florida's smooth forward Al Horford and Texas A&M point guard Acie Law. They join a talented young core that includes Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Josh Childress. The Hawks should be improved, but they probably are still a couple of years away from making a push to the playoffs.

Western Conference

Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets
(45-37, second. 57-25, first. 25/1.)

Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin all on the same roster. Wow. It's enough to keep Denver's finest working overtime on their nightly patrols, and enough talent to keep the seats filled and vault Denver to the top of this division. George Karl might be the only coach quirky enough to tolerate and nurture this eclectic blend of oversized egos and considerable game. In their first full season together, the Nuggets should run up some big scores and look impressive doing it.

Utah Jazz (51-31, first. 49-33, second. 25/1).

The new-look Jazz were impressive at times last year, shedding their dull half-court, college-oriented style in favor of a more up-tempo game. Deron Williams has turned into a star, and second-round pick Paul Millsap proved to be the steal of the 2006 NBA Draft. Hard-nosed players like Matt Harpring helped maintain Utah's workmanlike identity. However, their so-called stars present problems. Mehmet Okur is wildly inconsistent, and Andre Kirilenko fell out of favor with coach Jerry Sloan after a disappointing regular season and a worse postseason. Look for a bit of a letdown.

Portland Trail Blazers (32-50, third. 33-49, third. 100/1.)

This tough-luck club caught another bad break when the future of the franchise, No. 1 pick Greg Oden of Ohio State, went down with a season-ending injury. Even so, there are bright spots. Brandon Roy is on the brink of stardom, LaMarcus Aldridge is developing nicely, and they made some other savvy acquisitions by getting Steve Blake and Channing Frye in the off-season. Still, too much annual personnel turnover to develop any stability, and Nate McMillan might be overrated as an NBA head coach.

Seattle Supersonics (31-51, fifth. 32-50, fourth. 100/1.)

It might look like full rebuilding mode for the Sonics, who lost Rashard Lewis to free agency and traded away franchise player Ray Allen. But at least they got a little in return for Allen from the Celtics, so the cupboard isn't completely empty for first-year coach P.J. Carlesimo. We should get to see right away if Kevin Durant can live up to the hype coming out of his all-everything lone season at Texas, and players like Nick Collison and Wally Szczerbiak provide at least some veteran presence.

Minnesota Timberwolves (32-50, fourth. 15-67, fifth. 100/1.)

Introducing your 2006 Boston Celtics. That's about all Minnesota has to offer after shipping the Big Ticket to Beantown. It's officially time to start over in Minnesota. The T'wolves didn't get much in return for Kevin Garnett, aside from a bunch of role players and a whole bunch of salary cap room. Al Jefferson is a budding talent, and the only other players of any note are Ricky Davis and Juwan Howard. The outlook is bleak.

Pacific Division

Phoenix Suns
(61-21, first. 63-19, first. 9/2.)

Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire and friends should continue to outrun, outscore and obliterate most of their regular-season opponents in crowd-pleasing fashion. But can this club ever win a big playoff series, or for that matter even get a key defensive stop when it needs one? The answer, under the guidance of jovial coach Mike D'Antoni, has been no. And until that changes, it's hard to consider the Suns a serious title contender. But they'll look great during the regular season.

Golden State Warriors (42-40, third. 46-36, second. 50/1).

After the Warriors captivated the nation's attention with their stunning upset of Dallas in last year's playoffs, it's time to see if they can build on the momentum or revert to their losing ways. With Don Nelson back and an improved lineup, count on the former. But their frenetic style does not bode well for long-term success, and this team should have its shares of ups and downs. With Baron Davis still running the show, key additions Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington providing depth and experience and young players like Monta Ellis and Matt Barnes pitching in, the Warriors should again provide an entertaining product as they continue to climb toward respectability.

Los Angeles Clippers (40-42, fourth. 44-38, third. 100/1.)

The Clippers might have gotten the steal of the draft in Florida State forward Al Thornton, who looks like an immediate contributor. If they can avoid the injury bug that has plagued them in recent years, the Clippers have a loaded and dangerous lineup. Stars Elton Brand and Corey Maggette are in their primes, and the seemingly ageless Sam Cassell provides a nice dose of spunk and leadership. How soon Brand returns from his offseason injury will likely dictate how far the Paper Clips can go.

Los Angeles Lakers (42-40, second. 41-41, fourth. 25/1.)

It remains to be seen what effect the latest Kobe Bryant drama has on the Lakers. This type of distraction would ruin most teams, but coach Phil Jackson and Bryant himself seem to thrive in the face of controversy. When they can stay healthy, they are surprisingly competitive, as Jackson displays his knack for maximizing this squad's potential. Javaris Crittenton should be an upgrade at point guard over the departed Smush Parker, but the Lakers will need consistent production from Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm up front to contend.

Sacramento Kings (31-51, fifth. 25-57, fifth. 100/1.)

It's full rebuilding mode for the Kings, who took a chance by hiring the inexperienced Reggie Theus to lead the effort. Mike Bibby and Brad Miller are the only holdovers from the glory days, and they are in the twilight of their careers. Kevin Martin has been a pleasant surprise and Ron Artest, no surprise, has been in a lot of legal trouble. It might not be long before the Kings go for a full-swing youth movement.

Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks
(67-15, first. 60-22, first. 9/2).

MVP Dirk Nowitzki and his stellar surrounding cast, including proven veterans like Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse and rising stars Josh Howard and Devin Harris, should again be a front-running and TV-audience pleasing bunch. But like the Suns, they still have a lot to prove in the postseason, and last year's meltdown against No. 8 seed Golden State has some critics questioning little big-man Avery Johnson's leadership skills. But there's no reason to expect anything less than another dominating regular season.

San Antonio Spurs
(58-24, second. 58-24, second. 7/2.)

It always feels like the Spurs are getting old, but they really are not, and that might be part of their magical formula. Well, Robert Horry and Bruce Bowen are old, but they are simply nice role players on a roster full of others in their prime. Despite a decade in the league, Tim Duncan is still relatively young by big-men standards, and he is still capable of MVP-like numbers. With Tony Parker turning into a bonafide superstar and spastic Argentine Manu Ginobli doing the same, the Spurs should show their familiar dominance under Gregg Popovich. Draftees Darius Washington and Marcus Williams should provide speed and youthful depth, and the Spurs won't miss a beat.

Houston Rockets (52-30, third. 47-35, third. 7/1.)

With Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming and a solid supporting cast, the Rockets usually look good on paper, and they occasionally look just as good on the court. But over the past several years, it seemed they were just a piece or two away from being a serious contender, though their needs were difficult to pinpoint. The coaching switch from Jeff Van Gundy to Rick Adelman should be a push. Adelman might provide some offensive wrinkles and more punch than the Rockets showed under Van Gundy, but the team will surely miss the hard-nosed, defensive-minded approach that Van Gundy instilled. The Rockets have potential, but remain somewhat of a mystery.

New Orleans Hornets (39-43, fourth. 35-47, fourth. 100/1.)

Chris Paul is a stud, and the Hornets have some nice role players like Tyson Chandler and Morris Peterson. But they lack depth and scoring punch up front, and last year's 39 wins seems like an overachievement for a club that isn't stacked with big-name talent.

Memphis Grizzlies
(22-60, fifth. 20-62, fifth. 100/1.)

Is it too late to bring back Hubie Brown? This franchise has gone in reverse ever since the gray-curled, high-energy coach left the bench and returned to the commentator's booth. Rookie Mike Conley is a future star, Pau Gasol is among the league's top big men and Rudy Gay is developing into a star guard/forward. But this team has a lot of work to do under first-year coach Marc Iavaroni.

Prediction: This might be the year that the Suns or the Mavericks break through, but you won't find that 2007-2008 NBA prediction here. There's no real reason to expect them to change their ways, and there's no reason to expect a letdown from the battle-tested and championship-proven Spurs. Look for them to find a way to make one more push to the NBA Finals. Their opponent from the East probably doesn't matter, but look for the new-and-improved Celtics to do what they were quickly built to do: win. Spurs beat the Celtics in six games for the title.

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