The Dawning of a New NBA Season, Part 1

Before we get too far into the season I had better weigh in with some predictions and prognostications. I’ll look at teams today and individuals tomorrow:

Western Champion:
Lakers. I think that the Artest experiment is going to work, and that will make this team tough to beat. If Andrew Bynum can stay healthy he’ll have a good year and another anther dimension to this team. The window isn’t going to stay open forever in L.A. and Kobe and everyone else knows it, so they will look to take advantage of their strength while they can.

Western runner-up:
San Antonio. Richard Jefferson should fit here like a glove.

Biggest Western surprise:
Golden State. I don’t think that they are a playoff team, but I also don’t think that they will be the doormats that most seem to think that they will be.

Hardest team to read:
Portland. I like so much of what they have, but I have never bought the Greg Oden hype, and I’m just not sure how far this team can go as it is. I want to think that they are a 50-55 win team, but I feel like they might disappoint as well.

Western cellar dweller:
Sacramento. If there is anything to like about this team then I can’t think of what it is. Tyreke Evans is going to be good, but he can’t do it alone.

Most improved Western team:
Clippers. I am going to fall into this trap. Blake Griffin will be a big help when he is healthy, Baron Davis can’t be as bad as he was last year, and Eric Gordon is ready to be a star.

Eastern Champion:
Boston. Like the Lakers, Boston knows that their window is closing. I think that the addition of Rasheed Wallace is brilliant, and that this team will be exceptionally hard to score on. I love the tone they set early by going into Cleveland and leaving with a big win.

Eastern runner-up:
Orlando. I don’t buy into the Shaq experiment in Cleveland, and I think that Vince Carter makes the Magic a different and mostly better team. Dwight Howard is older and wiser now, and he is good enough to carry this team on his back – especially with a healthy Jameer Nelson at his side.

Biggest Eastern surprise:
Toronto. I don’t think that their opening win over the Cavs was a fluke. It’s time for Andreas Bargnani to prove himself, and Jay Triano is the coach to help him do that. Adding Turkoglu was a master-stroke, and Demar DeRozan will contribute as the season goes along. Chris Bosh will be a focused player while the team is winning, and the loss of Jermaine O’Neal and Shawn Marion is addition by subtraction. This is definitely a playoff team, and I think they have an outside shot of hosting a playoff series.

Hardest team to read:
Detroit. They were lousy last year but the stories you hear about the chaos that Michael Curry caused are pretty compelling. With a new coach and an updated roster it’s hard to get a sense of how much better this team can and will be.

Eastern cellar dweller:
Charlotte. There is a chance that they could get their act together a bit, but I’m not betting on it.

Most improved Eastern team:
Chicago. The obvious first answer is Toronto, but we have already covered them. Last year the Bulls squeaked into the playoffs and then gave the Celtics a big scare.This year they certainly won’t need to squeak in. Last year Derrick Rose was rookie of the year. This year he becomes a superstar.

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