NBA Preview plus Week 17 NFL picks

Since it is the holiday week I have decided to combine my week 17 picks with a NBA belated preview. Week 17 is also a week where most teams either rest their players or have nothing to play for, therefore, there is really not many games with any playoff implications. If you want my picks scroll down to the bottom of this column. Otherwise enjoy my NBA season belated preview.

With a 66 game schedule and a very compacted schedule I once thought of this season to be very difficult to predict. What teams will benefit and what teams will suffer from the schedule complications? Will younger teams with fresher legs like Indiana or Minnesota get a better seed than teams like Boston or the Lakers who are older and have some players who may not last through the schedule? There are many intriguing questions that could lead to some very outrageous predictions so I am going to keep things simple and break down the league into 4 tiers. The contenders, teams that can contend, borderline playoff teams, and the teams in the lottery. Lets start with the lottery teams.

Lottery teams

Toronto, Cleveland, New Jersey, Detroit, Washington, Utah, Phoenix, Golden State

These 8 teams are the long shots to do anything this year. Toronto and Cleveland are still recovering from the summer of 2010. New Jersey is waiting for Dwight Howard and is willing to give up the season to wait for him, Washington and Golden State are too young and do not play any defense though I think Golden State with Curry and Ellis have the best shot of these teams to stay competitive throughout the year. Utah just does not have the chemistry or enough talent to be successful.

That leaves the Phoenix Suns who by far have the worst team of the Robert Sarver era. This may even go down as the worst season in the history of the franchise. In the NBA you need guys who can score and guys who you can count on in crunch time to get you a basket when you need it. The Suns do not have a player who can do that. Steve Nash has been awful in the first two games this season. Same to Channing Frye and Grant Hill who have not stepped up at all. The center position seems to be the Suns strength with Robin Lopez and Marcin Gortat, but both are not go-to scorers and do not threaten the defense in the final 5 minutes of a game when most NBA games are decided. They have no shooting guard unless their recent signing of Michael Redd can provide them with something. Jared Dudley is one of the best bench players in the league, but when he is starting your team has problems.

The bottom line is this….the Suns are still recovering from not resigning Amare Stoudemire and they can not contend again unless they bottom out and get lucky in the lottery. Any team that loses a perennial All-Star for nothing goes through this. The Suns need to trade Grant Hill to a Chicago or New York for either a first round pick or a young rotation player and need to trade Steve Nash for a solid rotation player AND a first round pick, preferably a lottery pick. That way you will have 3 first round picks plus your own which would be a top 5 more than likely. The Suns also would have enough cap money to sign to max contracts. The Suns could be contending for a playoff spot again by next year if they make the correct trades with Nash and Hill. Or they keep both and win enough games to miss out on all the top prospects in the draft then lose both of them for nothing and be awful again for another year. With how Sarver runs things why do I think that this rebuilding process will last a few years??

Borderline playoff teams

Indiana, Atlanta, Orlando, Boston, Philly, Charlotte, Minnesota, Sacramento, Houston, New Orleans, Dallas, Denver, Portland, Denver

This is a very big group with some very good teams in it, but the bottom line here is none of these teams have a shot of winning the championship.

I am sure everyone wants to know why the Boston Celtics are in this group. The Celtics are a very flawed team this season that I think will struggle to even make the playoffs. They have very little depth on this team and can not afford ANY injuries to their big 4. For example they are starting Sasha Pavolvic with Paul Pierce missing the first 3 games of the year which resulted in a 0-3 start. Doc Rivers will also be forced to sit Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and even Pierce throughout the year to keep them fresh enough for a playoff run. There is no way I can this team can stay healthy and fresh enough to make a run in May with a short compacted schedule and are probably one of the teams hurt most by the lockout.

Dallas has looked absolutely awful to begin the year. Mark Cuban might have made his worst personnel decision by letting Tyson Chandler go to New York. Dallas has been totally out of sync to begin the year. There is still plenty of time to get things together, but Dallas has lost chemistry and defense from last year’s championship and I do not think they will be repeating.

Indiana, Minnesota, Sacramento, Philadelphia, and Charlotte are all wildcards. They all have young and fast paced teams that with this schedule I think can out run some of the older teams and steal a few wins that they wouldn’t with a normal schedule. I think Indiana and Minnesota will have legitimate teams this year and both teams will be the surprises of the year. It would not shock me at all if Indiana even gets a 4 or 5 seed in the East. They have 2 all-stars in Danny Granger and David West to go with some very solid young rotational players. The only thing missing is a consistent point guard and there is one that could be on the trade block in Phoenix that could make the Pacers a championship contender.

Possible contenders

New York, Both L.A. teams, Memphis, San Antonio

These are 5 teams that could win the championship or at the very least make it to the finals, but they each are flawed enough to lose a 7 game series to any of the other teams.

New York has star power and 2 players who can score at will. They have one of the top defensive centers in basketball and some very young and intriguing guards. Their flaws are chemistry between Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire as they still try to co-exist. Defense and their bench are also some very big flaws that will leave them just short of Chicago and Miami this season.

Memphis I think is good enough to contend and if EVERYTHING falls their way they can get to the Finals, but there is no way they are beating Miami in a 7 game series. The Spurs will always be right there in the end, but will also be hurt like the Celtics with the compacted schedule due to their old age. The Lakers will also always have a chance as long as Kobe is healthy. The Clippers are the wild card of this bunch. They need to trade either Chauncey Billups or Mo Williams for some more depth elsewhere and to avoid chemistry issues. It is also not a good thing if Brian Cook is playing heavy minutes for you. If they can make the right deal to add another player they can definitely make a run to the Finals, but there is still plenty of work they need to do.

Contenders

Miami, Chicago, Oklahoma City

All 3 teams bring back most of the same team and all of their core players from last season. They have combined 4 of the top 5 or 6 players in the league on their teams. They are all fairly young and all have yet to taste a championship. One of these three teams will be celebrating with the Larry O’brien trophy in June.

OKC big issue will probably be getting Russel Westbrook to concede that Kevin Durant is the best player on that team. The deal that should happen, but never will is a swap of Rondo for Westbrook. OKC would get a pass first PG which would fit that team better than a shoot first Point Guard. Boston needs more scoring from Rondo to be successful this year and they would defiantly get that from Westbrook. Both players also need a change of scenery it seems like and makes sense all the way around. I will be interested if any rumors ever come out of a Westbrook for Rondo swap this season.

Chicago has the same exact team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals last season with an upgrade of Rip Hamilton at shooting guard. They have the defense to shut down Lebron and Wade and if Rip can provide 15 points a night they will give Miami a run for their money in a Finals rematch this season.

Miami season can not be judged until after the first two rounds of the playoffs. They are going to win 55-60 games this season unless Wade or James miss an extended period of time. Their chemistry issues are more than likely figured out by now and we all know that Wade is the go-to guy in the final minutes and Lebron seems willing to defer to Wade in the crunch time which will be huge for their championship hopes. The only thing they need to figure out is their role players and who can be trusted coming off the bench come playoff time. Everything else is already a known. We all know that Lebron and Wade are the best talents in basketball. We all know that Lebron is the best regular season player and has the most talent of anyone on the planet. Those are obvious facts that are not worth arguing anymore. The arguments involving Lebron is can he lead a team to a championship. We already know he needs help, that is also an obvious fact. Can he be mentally tough enough to not shut down during the playoffs when his team needs him the most when the times get tough. The last two years he has been a frontrunner, so to say, playing his best when it is easy and playing his worst when it becomes a challenge. This season could be a cake walk for the Heat or it could be another disaster for Lebron. It really is up to him to decide the Miami Heat’s fate and we will not know what Lebron decides until May.

Finals prediction

Miami over OKC in 6

MVP

Kevin Durant

Coach of the year

Rick Adelman (Minnesota)

Rookie of the year

Kemba  Walker

Now my quick Week 17 picks…I do not have scores since this week is so hard to predict with not knowing about if teams are playing their guys or mailing it in.

Philly over Washington

Detroit over Green bay

Minnesota over Chicago

Atlanta over Tampa Bay

New Orleans over Carolina

Frisco over St. Louis

Jets over Miami

New England over Buffalo

Baltimore over Cincy

Pittsburgh over Cleveland

Arizona over Seattle

Jacksonville over Indy

Tennessee over Houston

Oakland over San Diego

Kansas City over Denver

Giants over Cowboys

Last week: 10-5

Season 105-69

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About jeffreysanders

Jeffrey Sanders writes for the Puma Press at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix, Arizona. He is supported by his family, friends, and his girlfriend. Sports is his life as he is an avid follower of the MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL. He hopes to attend the Walter Cronkite school of Journalism in the fall of 2012.

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