Monday, October 31, 2005

Paul's Complete 2005-06 Predictions and Projections

Shaq and the Heat will finish atop the Eastern Conference standings yet again.



As promised, here are my Eastern Conference projections...


Atlantic
New Jersey 47-35
Philadelphia 44-38
New York 40-42
Boston 33-49
Toronto 22-60


Central
Indiana 55-27
Detroit 53-29
Cleveland 46-36
Milwaukee 42-40
Chicago 40-42


Southeast
Miami 56-26
Washington 43-39
Orlando 34-48
Atlanta 18-64
Charlotte 18-64


And of course, my Playoff predictions...

1st Round

East

Miami over Milwaukee in 5
  • Heat just too talented for the Bucks. Not an easy 5 games though.
Detroit over Cleveland in 6
  • Pistons have a major edge in experience. The Cavs will advance further...next year.

New Jersey over Philadelphia in 7

  • A classic 1st round match-up between two teams that went neck-and-neck all season long for the Atlantic Division title before the ailing knees of Chris Webber forced him to miss the last month of the season. A worn-down Sixers team can't handle the non-stop New Jersey pace in a decisive Game 7.

Indiana over Washington in 4

  • Wiz no match for physical and determined Indiana team.

West

San Antonio over Minnesota in 4

  • KG willed the Wolves to the Playoffs, but notching a series win proves to be too tough a task.

Houston over Dallas in 6

  • Oh, sweet revenge!

Phoenix over Sacramento in 6

  • The Suns enter the Playoffs in a fury thanks to the triumphant return of Amare Stoudemire. Sacramento has no answer for Phoenix's potent offensive attack.

Denver over Golden State in 5

  • A raucous Arena crowd is enough to secure the Warriors' first Playoff win in 14 years.

Conference Semifinals

East

Miami over Detroit in 7

  • Unfortunate for Miami that they draw Detroit instead of a Jersey team that they completely own (a folly in the NBA's Playoff system). Regardless, the Heat exact revenge in a rugged 7 game series thanks to the healthy Shaq/Wade combo.

Indiana over New Jersey in 6

  • Indiana's suffocating defense shuts down Vinsanity and Jefferson in an ugly 6 game series win.

West

San Antonio over Houston in 5

  • Houston's just happy to be there. Maybe next year.

Denver over Phoenix in 7

  • Denver's frontline is able to keep Amare in check and Earl Watson puts the lockdown on Steve Nash in the deciding Game 7.

Conference Finals

San Antonio over Denver in 5

  • Don't get me wrong-- I'm sold on Denver being a very tough out in the Playoffs. The Spurs are just that good.

Miami over Indiana in 7

  • I'm not buying into this "too much talent" bullshit in Miami, not as long as Shaq and Wade are involved. As long as these two are healthy, Miami is better than anyone in the East. Homecourt could be the difference here.

NBA Finals

San Antonio over Miami in 6

  • A long lay-off coupled with a fatigued Miami team enables the Spurs to take the first two in San Antonio. The Heat make a statement with a dominant Game 3 win, but the Spurs, thanks to the heroics of Nick Van Exel, pull off an enormous comeback victory in Game 4. Spurs then close out Heat back at SBC in a hard-fought Game 6 thanks to a monster game from Finals MVP Tim Duncan.


Is there anyone who honestly believes someone can knock off the Spurs?


Awards

Most Improved Player

1) James Jones, Phoenix - Reggie Miller took him under his wing the last two seasons in Indiana. You're going to see this pay-off in a major way now that Jones has all the opportunity in the world with the Suns.

2) Josh Howard, Dallas - I'm not a huge fan of giving this award to young players who "progress" the most, but Howard stands out because he's about to make an unexpected leap into All-Star status.

Sleeper) Smush Parker, LA Lakers - Can you give this award to someone who's barly even been in the league the last two seasons? Smush has impressed in the preseason and could have a major impact on the Lakers.


6th Man of the Year

1) Ben Gordon, Chicago - I wouldn't be shocked if Gordon eventually forces Skiles to get him out there when the game starts. With nothing but praise being bestowed on Gordon over the last month, there's no reason to believe he won't be even better this season.

2) Caron Butler, Washington - It appears that Eddie Jordan is going to stick with Jeffries in the starting lineup, meaning Butler will likely be the first man off the bench. His game suits Jordan's system very well as shown in his stellar preseason play.

Sleeper) John Salmons, Philadelphia - There's going to be plenty of available minutes for Salmons as he appears set as the primary back-up to Kyle Korver and Andre Iguodala. If he performs at a level anywhere near where he did over the last month, he could be one of the league's best 6th men.


Coach of the Year

1) Larry Brown - It's a difficult award to project because you're basically picking the coach of the team that exceeds expectations the most. The Knicks are receiving considerable attention as a Playoff team in the East which is simply a factor of LB being their coach. If they actually make it there, he'll receive due consideration.

2) Dwane Casey - Casey's hiring was long overdue and I believe he'll have a tremendous effect on the success of the 'Wolves this season.

Sleeper) Mike D'Antoni - No coach has ever taken the award in consecutive years, but if D'Antoni were to lead the Suns to another Pacific Division crown, the man might very well deserve it again.


Executive of the Year

1) Carroll Dawson, Houston - He's made all the right moves over the last year and should have the Rockets positioned as the 2nd best team in the West before season's end.

2) Geoff Petrie, Sacrameto - He's quietly transformed a contender into a team capable of making some serious noise all without having to take a significant step back.

Sleeper) Larry Harris, Milwaukee - I still feel the Bucks are a year away from making serious strides, but an appearance in the Playoffs this season could warrant him some mentioning.


1st Team All-Rookie

Deron Williams, Utah - Should secure the starting point guard spot before too soon and lead the Jazz back into respectability.

Chris Paul, New Orleans - Will have every opportunity in the world to run this team no matter how much they sputter.

Charlie Villanueva, Toronto - I'm not afraid to admit when I'm wrong-- Villanueva is thus far making us all look like total idiots.

Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee - He'll eventually work his way into the lineup and will greatly benefit from having Magloire around to ease some of the pressure.

Ike Diogu, Golden State - We didn't get a chance to see him this preseason, but don't let that fool you. Diogu is going to be a major player for the Warriors.


2nd Team All-Rookie

Marvin Williams, Atlanta - It might take him some time to develop, but he'll be putting up solid numbers by the second half of the season.

Joey Graham, Toronto - Like Villanueva, he's going to receive a considerable amount of burn. I think he's one of the most ready to contribute.

Rashad McCants, Minnesota - If McCants doesn't merit at least 2nd Team All-Rookie status, the 'Wolves could be in a bit of trouble.

Raymond Felton, Charlotte - Very impressive during the preseason. Felton should be implemented into the starting lineup by the New Year's.

Danny Granger, Indiana - The Pacers will encounter their fair share of injury problems throughout the year and Granger will pounce on every opportunity he's given.


Rookie of the Year


1) Chris Paul, New Orleans - Even with Speedy Claxton pushing him for PT, Paul still should see in the range of 35-40 minutes per game. He'll shine once he settles in-- the acquisition of Desmond Mason won't hurt.

2) Deron Williams, Utah - Williams was by far the best point guard on the Jazz during the preseason. If Sloan awards him the starting spot, that alone tells you how good this kid is. I think he has the potential to make the biggest impact of any rookie, but his numbers might not stand out the most.

Sleeper) Ryan Gomes, Boston - It could only be a matter of time before Danny Ainge decides it's safe to send Paul Pierce packing with the impressive Gomes waiting in the wings.


1st Team All-Defensive

Tim Duncan, San Antonio - First team in 6 of 8 seasons. No reason why he shouldn't make it this year.

Ben Wallace, Detroit - Contract season or not, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is coming with it no matter what.

Kevin Garnett, Minnesota - He'll lead the league in rebounding once again and be the anchor of an improved Minnesota defense.

Ron Artest, Indiana - The best defender in the league is a lock for this team as long as he stays out of trouble.

Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers - Was not named to an All-Defensive team last year for the first time since 1999. That will change this year thanks to the improved team defense of the Lakers.


2nd Team All-Defensive

Andrei Kirilenko, Utah - Should lead the league in blocks and rank high in steals.

LeBron James, Cleveland - His being a shut-down defender could be the difference in the Cavs being a 50-win team.

Marcus Camby, Denver - One of the best defensive big men in the league even if he's not even close to being one of the toughest.

Bruce Bowen, San Antonio - Might lose some minutes to Finley and Van Exel down the stretch, but is still the best perimeter defender in the league.

Andre Iduodala, Philadelphia - Get used to seeing his name up here.


Defensive Player of the Year

1) Ron Artest, Indiana
- Has stated that he's not going to change anything about the way he plays despite being an obvious target for officials. I like Artest to have his best season ever, meaning a 2nd Defensive Player of the Year Award.

2) Ben Wallace, Detroit - It's difficult to place Wallace any lower than second given his recent dominance of the award.

Sleeper) Josh Howard, Dallas - He's about to completely break out and it all starts with his efforts on the defensive end. If Dallas maintains 50+ win status, it's going to be because they're a better defensive team led by their catalyst Howard.

Can AI claim a 3rd All-Star Game MVP?


Eastern Conference All-Stars

Starters:

G- Allen Iverson, Philadelphia - He deserves to start almost every year whether he gets voted in or not.

G- Vince Carter, New Jersey - He almost never deserves to start, but he's a lock to get voted in.

F- LeBron James, Cleveland - 'Bron will be starting in this game for at least the next decade.

F- Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana - Grant Hill narrowly edged out Jermaine last year, but I think Jermaine will claim to spot this year due to Hill's injury to start the season.

C- Shaquille O'Neal, Miami - If last year's voting was any indication, Shaq should already have booked a hotel in Houston by now.

Reserves:

Dwyane Wade, Miami - The second of many All-Star appearances to come.

Jason Kidd, New Jersey - Kidd was only left off last year's team because he missed almost all of November and December.

Ron Artest, Indiana - It'll be interesting to see how many votes Artest gets. He'll make the team either way.

Ben Wallace, Detroit - 4th straight All-Star appearance, 3 DPOYs, 4 All-NBA Teams-- is this a budding Hall of Famer?

Gilbert Arenas, Washington - Tough break for Stephon Marbury, Chauncey Billups, and Steve Francis-- there's just too many point guards in the East.

Dwight Howard, Orlando - Lack of quality power forwards in the East makes it a little easier for Howard to claim a spot.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cleveland - He never really deserves it, but the last spot is almost always used on the next best big man.


Western Conference All-Stars

Starters:

G- Tracy McGrady, Houston - The NBA is hoping and praying that the two Rockets are elected starters once again when the All-Star Game comes to Houston in February.

G- Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles - Steve Nash might make a run at T-Mac and Kobe in the voting, but it's more or less unlikely.

F- Tim Duncan, San Antonio - No reason to believe he'll relinquish his starting spot in the West.

F- Kevin Garnett, Minnesota - Ditto.

C- Yao Ming, Houston - The real question is, will Yao again shatter the record for most votes?

Reserves:

Steve Nash, Phoenix - Don't expect a let-down year from this guy.

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas - Dirk is a lock to make the team every year, but I doubt he'll ever start an All-Star Game.

Baron Davis, Golden State - His first full season in the Western Conference will result in his first All-Star apperance with the West.

Shawn Marion, Phoenix - Quietly, but surely, becoming a perennial All-Star.

Pau Gasol, Memphis - Cross him off the "Best Players Never to Make the All-Star Team" list.

Ray Allen, Seattle - He's no lock, but how can you leave him off?

Mike Bibby, Sacramento - Last year Popovich picked the players he felt most deserved a spot without much consideration to their positions. He'll do the same this season in taking Mike Bibby, the team's 4th point guard, over the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Elton Brand, Jason Richardson, Andrei Kirilenko, and his own, Manu Ginobili.


1st Team All-NBA

Tim Duncan, San Antonio - There's no safer prediction in the league.

Kevin Garnett, Minnesota - Might have his best season ever.

Shaquille O'Neal, Miami - A given with Amare out until at least February.

Tracy McGrady, Houston - Will be even better than he was during the second half of last season, and you know what that means...

LeBron James, Cleveland - I don't expect his status as an All-NBA First Teamer to slip for a long, long time.


2nd Team All-NBA

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas - He might have just as good a season as last year, but he's not keeping KG off the 1st Team this time around.

Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers - It's hard to believe Kobe fell to 3rd Team status last year. Don't expect that to happen this year.

Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana - I'm banking on O'Neal garnering 'Center' status (just like LeBron's 'Guard' status and Kobe's 'Forward' status, which is nonsensical criterion anyways) with him slated to play in the middle to start the season. He'll have a big year.

Steve Nash, Phoenix - I was Nash's harshest critic last year when it came time to choose an MVP, but you'll see me be one of his biggest supporters this season if he can keep Phoenix among the elite.

Allen Iverson, Philadelphia - Anything less likely means Philadelphia disappoints this season.


3rd Team All-NBA

Ron Artest, Indiana - The Defensive Player of the Year will narrowly beat out

Vince Carter, New Jersey - Did you know Vinsanity has been named All-NBA only twice in his career (2nd Team in '01, 3rd Team in '00)?

Ben Wallace, Detroit - Big Ben narrowly edges Yao to make his 5th consecutive All-NBA Team.

Baron Davis, Golden State - With much apology to Jason Kidd, Ray Allen, and Gilbert Arenas.

Dwyane Wade, Miami - It might be difficult for D-Wade to duplicate last year's numbers, but if Miami stays atop the East, he'll get the nod.



It promises to be a fun season in Houston where 2005-06 MVP Tracy McGrady leads the Rockets into the NBA's elite.


MVP

1) Tracy McGrady, Houston - A month ago I took T-Mac, and I'm not ready to back off my pick just yet (despite some injury concerns to begin the season). The situation is ripe for McGrady, and I just think he's ready to pounce upon the opportunity.

2) LeBron James, Cleveland - I was very close to swapping T-Mac and 'Bron, but I really do feel McGrady has the slight edge in my eyes (I'm not just being stubborn and going with the chic pick like so many writers do). Nevertheless, if I had to throw money down, give me LeBron.

Sleeper) Baron Davis, Golden State - Baron has since slipped a bit on my MVP radar, but that doesn't prevent him from being a sleeper candidate. If he stays healthy and leads Golden State into the Playoffs, he'll get some consideration.

6 Comments:

At 4:56 PM, Blogger Nat said...

hey guys.. nice rundown and i think we are all eating our words after watchin cv perform in the pre-season. i am going into the season with a better feeling than a few months ago and joey g and charlie v have impressed me enuff to really thin the raps are going to crack the 30 win mark. i am saying it now i hope it dont bite me in the ass later but i really do belive if the bust otherwise known as rafael araujo can improve in any way all the nay sayers are going to be changing their minds about the raptors. Also if bosh does develop at the rate he is going i wouldnt be surprised to see him as a reserve on the all-star team this year in the east. i know it sounds really biased coming from a raptor fan but i do think this youth movement will have some bright spots.

 
At 6:18 PM, Blogger Paul Benedict said...

Nat--

You make very valid points. IF all those things happen, the Raps can notch 30 wins. The hardest thing about making these predictions is trying to set aside all the optimism surrounding every team. Seriously, top to bottom you can find reasons to feel pretty good about every team out there. Oh, the Hawks picked up Joe Johnson and Zaza Pachulia? Josh Childress and Josh Smith are a year older? Al Harrington is really going to break out this year? This would have you believing they're easily capable of winning 30 games...but they're not. And what made it even harder this season, for the first time in a LONG time, most of the GMs actually got it right. This was a very productive offseason for the majority of the teams-- the foundation of almost every team remained the same with most of the acquisitions being players that suit a particular team's style or complement their stars well. As we see from year to year, continuity is as important as anything as far as a team's improvement. Too often there's so many personnel changes that organizations just don't give their rosters enough time to gel. Of course not every team can live up to their expectations and so the cycle of overturning rosters merely continues. Nevertheless, I think there is hope for your Raptors. 30 wins is a possibility and as a dedicated fan, it's only normal for you to shoot for the stars. Only time will tell if it was merely wishful thinking...

(By the way, is anyone else absolutely FIRED UP for the season to start?! Reality is starting to dawn on me and I'm just completely and utterly PUMPED!!)

 
At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

cmon, the raptors are going to stink. they might even be worse than the hawks. i like most of your predictions, though I disagree in some places. I dont think tmac is going to win M-V-P, though i suppose it's a possibility. I'm not sure Miami can come out of the East either-- something about J-Will, Toine, and Payton freaks me out a little. I think people are selling Detroit way too short. They'll get back there. And I don't see how anyone can go against LeBron for the Playoffs. Remember how he was the undisputed MVP through the first half of last season? He's actually got a solid supporting cast this year and a head coach with a brain. 'Bron is going to run away with the first of many, many MVPs.

 
At 7:18 PM, Anonymous Joe said...

As always, great job. I agree with most things. A few things though :)

I see AK47 as a candidate for DPOY and he's locked for ALL NBA defensive first team. Its a difficult task finding space for him, but he should be there. It depends on things, but I'd probably put KG in 2nd and AK in first. If I could though, I'd dump Kobe to 2nd or 3rd to bring AK in first. If this would be the case, that Kobe would be in 1st and AK in 2nd it would be a shame because AK47 is so much better defender than Kobe. However, there are lots of good defenders that will miss out on 1st, like Bruce Bowen.

I think Bonzi Wells could be a candidate for most improved player. He will get PT in Sacramento. While the Kings have many "Kings" they always get lot of shots and Wells will get his share of minutes, shots and assists.

I dont know about Villanueva. He's had a good pre-season run, but its only pre-season. It doesn't mean shit. But, he has shown aggresiveness, good shooting and versatility. How much of it will transform into real games? The Raps actually needed a player like Villanueva badly. They have lots of players playing with no heart and no will. The will stink like never before, but I think CV will be just fine. At least he will get PT. Its his to make the best of it.

 
At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If" Amare comes back, there is no way that Denver is going to beat the Suns. Amare is only going to come back at 110%, and if that is the case there is no way that Denvers bigs can stop him on this team. If you watched them play this preseason, you would know that they would be an even better team this year if Amare was healthy. Also, Denver just isn't built to beat them, with all of their perimeter shooters. If you think that Earl Watson can keep Nash in check, you are crazy. Because as good as Watson is on defense he is even worse on offense. If you are going to beat the Suns, you have to outscore them. Denver won't be able to do that. Last season when Denver was going off on that unbelievable run at the end of the year the one team that they couldn't beat no matter how well they played was Phoenix.
Good call on Diogu. He is my sleeper pick for ROY, but don't sleep on him when he gets back.
Marion needs to start getting some love for all defense. Only David Robinson was able to put up the type of defensive numbers Marion did last year. Robinson won Defensive Player of the Year that year, and Marion didn't even get on the second team. That is just stupid. When he plays on the Suns who have the reputation that they don't play any defense, but he is able to players like Dirk, there has to be some love.

 
At 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can somebody explain to me why the Pacers are picked ahead of Detroit for 3 years in a row? Have they done something I'm not aware of? Are O'Neil, Artest, Jackson, Tinsley and Foster better or as good as Wallace, Wallace, Billups, Hamilton and Prince? No. What about the bench? Croshere, Jones, Harrison, Granger, Jasicasifasishish is better than McDyess, Arroyo, Dale Davis, Maurice Evans, Darko (new and improved!), Hunter? No.

Detroit is just getting started. They are pissed and hungry this year and have an offensive-minded coach now.

The Pacers have never (ever) beaten Detroit when it's mattered. And anytime Detroit needs a victory against them Rasheed guarantees it, home or away, and it happens. Because the Pacers are Detroit's bitch. People are going to harp on Detroit's "we get no respect" crying in six months but every year it's true.

Shaq is fat.

 

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