Sports Illustrated's 13 Worst NBA Preview Predictions
A new NBA season means new predictions, all of which will come to fruition, of course. But believe it or not, there have been a few instances over the years when our picks didn't pan out. For your amusement, we rounded up some of our most forgettable predictions from NBA preview issues, dating back to 2000.
2015: Bulls and Pelicans make us look bad
The Bulls and Pelicans entered 2015–16 with new coaches in Fred Hoiberg and Alvin Gentry, respectively. They both had one objective in their new gigs: speed up the offense.
That of course, didn’t happen. Chicago missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008 while New Orleans struggled with injuries to finish 30–52.
SI picked the Bulls to finish third in the Eastern Conference, but they ended up ninth after failing to mesh their roster with Fred Hoiberg’s new offensive system. New Orleans, led by Gentry, was slated for seventh after a 2014–15 campaign in which it grabbed the eighth seed on the season’s final day. The Pelicans, who finished 16th in offensive pace last season, had just two players appear in more than 70 games.
Ironically, we did get one part of our Bulls’ preview right from last season. Ben Golliver wrote, “Hoiberg’s successful turnaround at Iowa State depended largely on his welcoming transfers, and Chicago’s roster might need a similar overhaul.”
2014: Picked Bulls to the Finals; Warriors who?!
Nobody knew what to expect during LeBron James’s first season back in Cleveland. How would his new “Big Three” co-exist? Could James fulfill expectations? Would Kyrie Irving become a superstar? What we did know was that Tom Thibodeau had the Bulls and an experienced roster ready to avenge three previous playoff series losses to The King. Not so fast.
Chicago, picked to topple the Cavs in the conference finals and lose to the Spurs in the NBA Finals, ended up losing in the second round to LeBron. Remember this shot?
Even worse (but who else had these guys really?), we picked the Warriors to finish fourth in the West and not even make the conference finals. You know the rest.
2013: Literally everything about the Nets
Fresh off a 49-win season and their first year in Brooklyn, the Nets wanted to make a splash in the 2013 off-season (and apparently, so did we). They executed the trade that would keep on giving (to the Celtics) and hired Jason Kidd to replace Avery Johnson as coach.
A second-round 4–1 exit to the Heat ended a season that started with an SI cover story boasting, “Who Wants a Piece of Them?”
2012: Now this is going to be fun
As it turned out, the 2012–13 Los Angeles Lakers were anything but. In perhaps our most forgettable prediction, the Lakers and “their next cornerstone center” Dwight Howard, were our NBA Finals pick out West.
Expectations were high in L.A. especially with a starting lineup featuring Steve Nash, a 26-year-old Howard, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant. Unfortunately for the Lakers, injuries and poor chemistry kept this team from getting anywhere close to reaching them. When the season finished, Howard said it best, “It’s like a nightmare, like a bad dream. We couldn’t wake up out of it.”
The preview included best case and worst case scenarios, which the latter in retrospect was spot-on. “Injuries and disagreements muddle the locker room, leading to an implosion against Oklahoma City in the playoffs.”
We got the playoff opponent wrong, but the sentiment was correct. Dwight Howard couldn't leave L.A. fast enough.
2010: Fear the deer
LeBron’s stunning departure to the Miami Heat left an opening for the Milwaukee Bucks in the Central Division and created a natural storyline as the NBA’s ascending team to watch.
Milwaukee, coming off a 46–36 season, featured Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings, Corey Maggette and Larry Sanders. Unfortunately, the Bucks just couldn’t score enough under Scott Skiles finishing last in points per game at 91.9. Picked to win the division and seventh in the East, Milwaukee was 35–47 in 2010–11 and a staggering 27 games behind the top-seeded Bulls.
In related NBA preview gaffes, check out young KD, Nenad Kristic and Thabo Sefolosha gracing the 2010 cover.
2008: Michael Beasley is your Rookie of the Year
Was there ever more of a sure thing than Michael Beasley coming out of Kansas State? OK, probably.
Beasley was the safe pick at No. 2 for the Miami Heat after his ridiculous 26/12 lone season in college. SI chose Beasley as its 2008 Rookie of the Year over the likes of eventual winner Derrick Rose and fifth pick Kevin Love.
The reasoning? “A matter of supply and demand: Beasley provides scoring to a team that desperately needs it.”
The Heat swingman struggled with consistency though and Miami eventually traded Beasley after two seasons for practically nothing in order to clear cap space for some guy named LeBron.
This remains Beasley’s best highlight to date.
2007: Luis Scola over Kevin Durant for ROY
In 2002, the Spurs selected Luis Scola in the second round before trading his rights to Houston five years later. At 27, Scola would have been the oldest Rookie of the Year winner ever. He was one of Daryl Morey’s first acquisitions with the Rockets and started right away alongside Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Shane Battier.
Morey gave high praise when asked about Scola’s NBA comparison. “Maybe Vlade Divac with a better jumper? Scola’s pretty unique. That’s why we can’t come up with an answer.” While Scola broke in with international acclaim, his rookie season paled in comparison to Kevin Durant who finished with a rookie-leading 20.3 points per game and 90 of 125 first-place votes.
Scola provides a good opportunity to enjoy KD in a Seattle SuperSonics uniform.
2006: Doc on the hot seat; Adam Morrison takeover
The 2006-07 season was a weird year for the SI preview. There was the Suns-Heat NBA Finals pick with Phoenix winning it all (Spurs topped the Cavs come June.) Not to mention a Greg Oden section with a list of teams who would jump at the chance to draft him (Portland wasn’t one of them.) But the two predictions that stuck out the most were Doc Rivers on the coaching hot seat and Adam Morrison as Rookie of the Year.
Rivers was coming off a 33–49 season, but one in which the Celtics traded Antoine Walker before the season and set the foundation for their franchise-altering trade for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Crazy to think Doc was on the outs in Boston. He would win his first NBA title just a year later.
Now for the Morrison pick. He finished with what would be a career-high 11.8 points per game and fourth in the voting, only to be out of the league by 2010.
Maybe he should’ve showered more.
2005: Pacers get the cover
This cover is just too good.
“You May Not Love Ron Artest But Larry Bird Does” might be one of our most ironic lines ever. The cover comes just a year after “The Malice in the Palace” and Artest’s season-long suspension.
Maybe it’s that SI cover jinx, but Artest requested a trade and Larry Legend shipped Artest to the Kings by February.
You can read Jon Wertheim’s cover story on the odd couple that was Artest and Bird here.
2003: Kings will win it all ...
Another year. Another Kings NBA title prediction. Who wouldn’t have picked these guys? Their lineup on paper was stacked and they were SI’s No. 1 Western Conference team before the season. But this was the beginning of the end. Chris Webber played in only 23 games following microfracture knee surgery and Sacramento underperformed en route to a fourth seed in the West.
Alas, top-seed Minnesota knocked out them out 4–3 in the conference semis, which led to Sacramento dismantling its once promising core.
This video makes us miss KG.
2002: Kings will win it all (again)
After perhaps the most controversial playoff series in NBA history against L.A. (27 free throws in the fourth quarter?!), SI picked the Kings to exact revenge in the Western Conference finals. They never got that chance.
After a 59–23 regular season, a Game 2 knee injury against the Mavs to Webber diminished title aspirations and Sacramento would fall 4–3.
This video is from the double-OT Game 3 thriller, but fast-forward to 9:40. You’ll thank us later.
Here’s Jack McCallum’s feature story on Vlade Divac.
2001: The MJ effect; Pistons?
Michael Jordan in a Wizards uniform will never stop being weird, but SI picked Washington to make the playoffs as the sixth seed in Jordan’s first season with the team.
Unfortunately, there was that Kwame Brown pick and injuries to Jordan and Rip Hamilton that sent Washington to a 37–45 record. We not only sold high on the Wizards, we insulted the eventual 50-win Pistons with a preseason ranking of 14 in the Eastern Conference.
We should’ve seen Rick Carlisle coming.
Check out SI’s cover story on Michael Jordan taking on the world ... as a Wizard.
Walter Iooss Jr./Sports Illustrated
2000: Darius Miles; worst Finals pick ever
First ... that cover?! Kevin Garnett will go down as one of the NBA’s most transformative players ever. Darius Miles, not so much. He did star in a movie, though.
Now for the NBA Finals prediction: Portland over Orlando in a matchup of No. 1 seeds. While both teams lost in the first round, this one on paper isn’t so egregious. The Blazers finished 50–32 in a loaded West while the Magic had acquired Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill that off-season.