Thursday January 24th, 2008

For those of you who doubt my analytical proficiency at hoops, rest assured that any financial evaluations you would get from me would be worse. Nonetheless, the looming recession and my deteriorating portfolio (never all that strong to begin with) have compelled me to think about the NBA's midseason point in Dow Jones terms. (Though in a history replete with Joneses, no Dow has ever played in the NBA.)

Here we go. And, please, heed this warning that a broker once gave me about stocks: "Nobody knows anything."

Note that all prices are hypothetical. Like I really had to tell you that.

New York Knicks (NIX)

Price at beginning of season: $11.75 Current price: One cent Analysis: Buyouts impossible for overcompensated workforce. Leadership crisis. Stockholders in near revolt. Company has taken the "standard" out of Standard & Poor's.

Miami Heat (MIH)

Price at beginning of season: $28 Current price: Ten cents Analysis: Downward trend to penny (not Penny) stock will continue with Mark Blount only currently active center. Shouldn't stand Pat, but D-Wade is only tradable commodity.

Los Angeles Clippers (LAC)

Price at beginning of season: $22.50 Current price: $8.50 Analysis: Overinvolvement by out-to-lunch owner suggests serious internal problems. Prime asset Brand on shelf. Haunted company past still seems an issue.

Milwaukee Bucks (BUC)

Price at beginning of season: $20 Current price: $7 Analysis: Seemingly strong parts have not properly integrated. Message about past success in gloomy company headquarters hasn't gotten through. Chinese investment main hope for future.

Seattle SuperSonics (SSS)

Price at beginning of season: $5 Current price: 50 cents Analysis: Immature workforce in need of veteran stability, but vets reportedly tuning out management. Company headquarters due to be moved. Patient investors can look to maturation of prime asset Durant.

Minnesota Timberwolves (MTW)

Price at beginning of season: $5 Current price: $1.50 Analysis: Volatile summer trading frenzy (OK, they unloaded Garnett) paved way to bleak winter outlook, especially outside of home base (2-20 road record).

Houston Rockets (HOR)

Price at beginning of season: $45 Current price: $28.50 Analysis: Two-pronged offensive strategy of new veteran bench leader (Adelman) hurt by familiar company problem of absenteeism. Chinese investment was probably wise but may not pan out in long run.

Indiana Pacers (IND)

Price at beginning of season: $20 Current price: $15 Analysis: On-again, off-again season course has investors concerned. Will be battling similar mid-sized companies NJN and ATL for Eastern scraps.

Chicago Bulls (CHI)

Price at beginning of season: $50 Current price: $10 Analysis: Much stronger leadership needed from someone on workforce not named Noah. One of few consistent assets, Nocioni, may be dealt. This is no Bulls market but might be wise not to unload it yet.

Memphis Grizzlies (GRZ)

Price at beginning of season: $10 Current price: $8 Analysis: Rumors about potential takeover (apparently you just don't absolutely, positively have to be at FedEx Forum) and asset relocation (Gasol) have hurt, but young workforce, particularly point guard Conley, shows promise in Bear market.

Philadelphia 76ers (PHI)

Price at beginning of season: $13 Current price: $10 Analysis: New management team now in place but will need time to make changes. Still, workforce uninspiring to investors and potential buyers after departure of Iverson.

New Jersey Nets (NJN)

Price at beginning of season: $38.50 Current price: $14 Analysis: Opportunity for dynamic change missed with re-signing of Carter. Long-term stability of prime asset Kidd impossible to figure. Corporate headquarters still dispiriting to workforce and stockholders alike, but urban move seems years away.

Sacramento Kings (SAC)

Price at beginning of season: $25 Current price: $25 Analysis: Company settling in after turbulent transition to more iron-fisted Theus. Chemistry issues unresolved. Watch pending new acquisitions.

Charlotte Bobcats (BOB)

Price at beginning of season: $8 Current price: $8 Analysis: Company flow chart a mystery with absentee legend Jordan an on-again, off-again presence. But there are promising young assets.

Atlanta Hawks (ATL)

Price at beginning of season: $13 Current price: $18 Analysis: Early optimism has given way to reality. Zaza, for one, not gaga over company leadership after run-in with coach. Workforce must forget poor performance of past few years as well as tepid support from stockholders, but attaining playoff status would be huge step.

Toronto Raptors (RAP)

Price at beginning of season: $35 Current price: $38.50 Analysis: There are slowdown concerns in this globally based company, but assets are numerous. Could be good playoff bet for bargain hunters.

Cleveland Cavaliers (LEB)

Price at beginning of season: $45 Current price: $45 Analysis: Company still too heavily dependent on one product and needs to diversify. But same system brought results last year and early downturn seems to have been corrected.

Utah Jazz (JAZ)

Price at beginning of season: $45 Current price: $38.50 Analysis: At least one lesser asset (Giricek) sold off as battle with longtime management ended predictably. Course clear for experienced company but faces considerable comp in this sector.

Denver Nuggets (CA-AI)

Price at beginning of season: $45 Current price: $45 Analysis: Two-product company strategy unavoidable and questions about their integration fuels recession fears. But growth potential still worrisome to their competitors in all markets.

Golden State Warriors (GSW)

Price at beginning of season: $45 Current price: $38.50 Analysis: Unpredictable West Coast maverick didn't kick into gear until May of last season, but competition may now be wise to derring-do strategy. Still, investors with cajones could see profit-taking down the road ... or go bust.

Los Angeles Lakers (KOB)

Price at beginning of season: $30 Current price: $50 Analysis: Apparent discord settled with help of prime asset Bryant and wizened CEO Jackson. Injury to young asset Bynum may slow surge but company has considerable brand value and may weather it.

Portland Trail Blazers (TBZ)

Price at beginning of season: $10 Current price: $48 Analysis: Imaginative leadership has sold off several drags on profit (such as Randolph) and established new prime asset in Roy. Continued upturn expected but new product infusion (Oden) will need time to integrate in '09.

New Orleans Hornets (NOH)

Price at beginning of season: $25 Current price: $50 Analysis: Though home market remains concern, rapid growth of young workforce (Paul and Chandler) has doubled return estimate. Investors should fall in love with feel-good story but still may be wary.

Orlando Magic (MAJ)

Price at beginning of season: $30 Current price: $45 Analysis: Early out of the gate, young company appeared to wilt but then rebounded. Positioned well to be strong factor in May, though making it to June still seems unlikely.

Washington Wizards (WIZ)

Price at beginning of season: $30 Current price: $35 Analysis: Company taking on rare defensive position. Will need to reintegrate with return of Arenas, who must play more complementary role, though best-known asset doesn't do complementary particularly well.

Detroit Pistons (DPS)

Price at beginning of season: $50 Current price: $50 Analysis: Positioned well with good company fundamentals. But aging workforce and product stagnation remain concerns as season goes on

Phoenix Suns (SUN)

Price at beginning of season: $55 Current price: $54.50 Analysis: Rumors of minor discord continue but, at its best, company can outperform all competition on given night. With more defensive position could surge to top.

Boston Celtics (BOS)

Price at beginning of season: $40 Current price: $55 Analysis: Still needs to demonstrate Western strength with post-All-Star road trip. Dips at home, such as losses to WIZ, RAP and BOB, worry longtime investors. But tri-pronged approach should carry company well into May.

Dallas Mavericks (MAV)

Price at beginning of season: $55 Current price: $54.50 Analysis: As if old competitors weren't enough, company didn't anticipate new regional battle with NOH. But if young quarterbacking (Harris) doesn't fade and Dax Index (Nowitzki) stays strong, Cubanists could flourish.

San Antonio Spurs (SAP)

Price at beginning of season: $58 Current price: $48.50 Analysis: Rare downturn, aging workforce and enervating repeat challenge have raised fears in Alamo Town, particularly if home-court advantage is lost. But with four championships and solid leadership, wide-moat company is strong enough to maintain industry position with reinvigorated close.

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