This week SI revealed its visions for the upcoming NBA season. My confession is this: I am responsible for the predictions. So when the Knicks are playing like an Edsel on a flat tire, blame me for picking them No. 6 in the East. (But I don't think that's going to happen.)
My sense is that several of these picks demand explanation, if not rationalization, so please allow me to explain the logic (or lack thereof) that went into my decisions.
I'll be hearing a lot of jeering if New York doesn't start strong, because the free-world consensus is that the Knicks will habitually crumble and force owner
But I look at the Knicks roster and see a team that's hard to guard, whether in the halfcourt with their low-post scoring and backcourt shooting, or in the open court with their wings fully extended.
When the Knicks acquired power forward
I'm also guessing the improvement of
Of course they have too many non-defenders and non-passers. But I'm imagining they'll play hard for Thomas in an us-versus-world kind of way, leading to a strong start up to the All-Star break. Then I can see them fading while the better teams are gearing up. At the moment it's politically incorrect to forecast good things for the Knicks. And while no one should take my prediction as a show of support for Thomas' hurtful testimony or for the phenomenally (and characteristically) stupid decision by ownership to not settle out of court, this team should win 43 to 45 games with a variety of styles that will make for an interesting playoff matchup.
The Nuggets look like a spectacularly flawed team with a lot of weapons, but with little attention to defense or execution in the halfcourt. But
The Nuggets need to win in order to subvert all of the high-maintenance egos in their locker room. While it's hard to imagine a wild, full-court team such as Denver overrunning the Spurs or other championship contenders in the postseason -- when defense and halfcourt execution grow crucial -- the timing is right for the Nuggets' talent to streak through the regular season. Anthony is maturing,
The Nets look like a tired team, which may be why ambitious team president
On paper the Nets look like they should contend for the conference title, but can they keep up with the young legs and energy of
And yet the latter half of the Eastern playoff race is going to be so ridiculously tight, with a few games separating No. 10 from No. 6, that I won't be surprised if the Nets fight their way into the postseason. At the same time, I'll be even less surprised if Thorn is back on the phones trying to negotiate a major shakeup of his team before the trade deadline in February.
As for the Lakers, the only reason to believe in them is
Detroit looks like the only team in the East that can match up with Boston:
The question about the Pistons is whether they have the energy to do it, and whether they'll play hard for
As much as the Celtics will be trying to win it this year, their best opportunity to contend will come in 2008-09. Newly-assembled teams don't win the NBA championship right away. Give the three stars a full year together, give
Dallas is the forgotten team of this preseason. Because they've blown it twice in the playoffs -- wasting a 2-0 lead in the '06 NBA Finals, then spoiling a league-best 67-win season with their opening-round loss to the Warriors last spring -- there is a sense that their opportunity has passed. My argument is that it arrived prematurely: This is a young team with a young coach, and it was naïve to think they could win a championship without having to learn from mistakes. I'm anticipating more maturity from coach
I remember when
We're going to see a new toughness and maturity from the Mavericks that will grow over the course of the season. Going into the playoffs they will be the consensus team to beat, and while they'll surely need some big plays to get out of the West, I'm betting they'll navigate their way to the title as firmly as the Spurs did last year.