New Season; New Prognostications
By Kassandra Posted in: Blazers, Bobcats, Bucks, Bulls, Celtics, Clippers, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Jazz, Knicks, Lakers, Mavericks, Nets, NicolasBatum, Nuggets, Pacers, Rockets, Spurs, terrystotts, Thunder, Timberwolves, Warriors
Here it is; another season is upon us.
The onset of this season comes with promise, but with a reality check. Most don't see the Blazers as a playoff team, and likely rightfully so. The promise is that of a new start. There's a new coach, new players and revamped returning vets. Perhaps the Blazers can surprise some this year. Perhaps against all odds, the Blazers can claim one of those eight coveted Western Conference playoff spots. Stranger things have happened.
Earlier this evening, I viewed Trail Blazers Courtside, marveling at the predictions of Mike Barrett, Mike Rice, Brian Wheeler and Antonio Harvey. It's difficult to agree or disagree with any of them. There were so many player moves, as well as a deep draft which is likely to keep even the best prognisticators guessing. So, you may ask, "Are you going to make your own predictions, Kassandra?"
Oh, did you really need to ask? I'm not one to shy away from such an opportunity. Where you agree or disagree, feel free to submit your comment below. Here goes:
Eastern Conference Playoff Seedings
1. Heat (hard to argue with this one).
2. Pacers (didn't really lose much; ready for next step).
3. Bulls (don't count out D-Rose & the front-line toughness).
4. Celtics (got a little younger & Jason Terry will be big for them).
5. Hawks (they always seem to hang around).
6. Knicks (they'll be there, but not all that impressively).
7. Bucks (they take the next step).
8. Nets (may be the new darlings of the east, but 8th is the best they do).
Derrick Rose's Bulls will battle LeBron James' Heat in the east.
Western Conference Playoff Seedings
1. Thunder (Martin will fill in for Harden & they'll be just fine).
2. Clippers (they got deeper & win the battle of Los Angeles).
3. Lakers (didn't upgrade from Bynum to Howard as much as many think).
4. Spurs (never count them out, plus they play in a weak division).
5. Nuggets (they'll be improved, but still claim just fifth).
6. Jazz (with four front line guys who could start, playoffs are inevitable).
7. Grizzlies (they're not that old, but their window may be closing).
8. Warriors (they slip in their over Rockets, Timberwolves, Mavericks & Blazers).
Heat over Nets
Pacers over Bucks
Bulls over Knicks
Celtics over Hawks
Thunder over Warriors
Clippers over Grizzlies
Lakers over Jazz
Nuggets over Spurs
Heat over Celtics
Bulls over Pacers
Thunder over Nuggets
Lakers over Clippers
Heat over Bulls
Thunder over Lakers
Heat over Thunder
Most Valuable Player -- Kevin Durant
Finals MVP -- LeBron James
Defensive MVP -- Joakim Noah
Most Improved Player -- Enes Kanter
Rookie of the Year -- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Coach of the Year -- Tyrone Corbin
Yes, I understand Damian Lillard is the local and sentimental favorite for rookie of the year, but MKG will lead the Bobcats out of the depths of obscurity (they'll win about 27 games this season and, before you argue -- trust me, they will).
Mark my words, the Portland Trail Blazers will win 39 games this season. This may seem a tad high, but perhaps not too much. The team may struggle at the beginning of the season, but as they come together, learn to play with each other under Terry Stotts' system and improve individually, I think there is a lot of potential.
The Blazers will be strong at home, going 30-11, while seeing some struggles on the road, ending with a 9-32 on the road. One thing I'll say is the same thing most in the BlazerNation are saying: This team will be exciting to watch.
BLAZER TO WATCH
Of course, with this being my 88th blog on the Blogger Network, I'd be remiss in failing to mention the money man who wears that very number on his jersey. I'm designating Nicolas as my Blazer to watch
Will Nicolas Batum take his game to the next level this season?
Nicolas enters his fifth season and perhaps the one with the most pressure on him given his new contract. But actually, money aside, this is a new start for Nicolas. He is the clear number two option behind LaMarcus. It seems Nicolas' role is much better defined this year and that he will be expected to step into it and thrive.
I'm generally not one to criticize former Blazers players or coaches (sans Raymond Felton), but I had felt for quite a while that Nicolas was being -- and would continue to be -- stifled with Nate MacMillan as head coach. There were few if any plays specifically drawn up for him, but when you've built a team around Brandon Roy, your other wing player isn't going to get a lot of touches.
That will change this year under Terry Stotts. I believe and have always believed Nicolas is capable of great things and this year he will see some of those things realized. I believe this is the year he truly turns the corner.
So there it is. My own season prognostications for the upcoming season. As I wrote earlier, I'm sure there will be agreements and disagreements. What are yours?
In Kassandra's Words features periodic blogs throughout the year. Comments and questions are welcome and encouraged. Seasons begin and end; players come and go; our Blazers are forever. Please follow on twitter: @PDXKass