So here we go with another season preview. This year we have a special guest along for the ride. He is the starting point guard for our Jr. National team that won a bronze medal this summer in Texas. He is also heading next season to play for the Longhorns speaking of Texas. Myck Kabongo tries his hand at being a media guy and lays down some predictions for the NBA season. Having his prospective as a player with some great skills made for some interesting conversation. Myck goes through his thoughts on the Raptors the teams he sees coming out of the West and East and we run through the major awards. I don't offer all my picks in the interview so for those I will post them below the interview. I got to know Myck (beyond just hearing his name a lot) this summer. He has been fun to talk with and enjoys coming to be with us on the Dino Nation Blog so I am happy to have him aboard.
So my picks, let us start with the Raptors. Obviously we have talked about them a lot so I am not sure if there is anything that has not been said already in the blog. There were no really major revelations in the pre-season for me. I went into the pre-season looking for reasons to change my mind in a positive way about this team's outlook. I regret to say, that I can only see a minor tweak in what I expected heading in. I entered the pre-season not seeing the Raps having a realistic shot at the playoffs and that has not changed for me. If I was pressed to give a number of wins prior to pre-season my answer would have been 30-33 wins. I have bumped that up to about 33-35. The Raptors position wise fall somewhere between 10-12 in the standings in the East.
Bargnani is the question mark that I expected him to be. Calderon is still heading in the wrong direction. Jack of the players returning was the best overall in the pre-season. The most improved is real just back to normal in the form of Reggie Evans. This is the Reggie we were suppose to be getting last year but an injury got in the way of that. Young Gunz changed names to Young Onez but wanted to see more of a change in their play on the floor. Had high expectations and likely to high for them. However let's see what happens when the games start for real. The additions have all been good in Barbosa, Kleiza and Andersen have all been nice additions. Julian Wright, have just not seen enough of him, to have formed an opinion. My expectations for the 2 rookies in Davis and Alabi could not be lower. I have said that I feel both could be Erie Bayhawks at some point this season.
To sum it up in terms of the Raptors. I think regardless of team they are playing the Raptors will have to have max effort on both ends to win basketball games. Against the elite teams in the league even that 100% will not be able to match an 80% effort of an elite ball club. This team is going to earn every win they get. The problem being when reality sets in can this team continue to play hard and get a long with each other during the down times. Same things with the media and fans having to endure a long season. But as someone said to me at Fan Jam on Sunday, 16 years is a longtime. You will hear that comment and a bunch more from Raps fans tomorrow from Fan Jam.
On to the Eastern Conference. Love them or hate them simple fact is this Conference is the Heat's to lose. The contenders beyond them are many of the same faces from last year. The team on the rise from bottom of the playoffs to just on edge of contending should be the Bulls. Atlanta may take a step back but still a playoff team. The one playoff team from last season that might have the toughest time getting back is the Bobcats. Aside from the Cavs that is. The other team that should be on red alert is the Bucks. Some feel they have got better I am not one of those. I fear the deer less then I did last season. So here is my eastern playoff teams for this season.
7. New York
I admit the 7 and 8 could be any of perhaps 4 or 5 teams. Nets could be better but not enough to make the playoffs. Let's put it this way I would not bet any amount of money on the teams I have slotted in 7 and 8 to get it done. John Wall is a big reason for picking Washington. He could be that good.
At the end of it all the Miami Heat are going to the finals from the East. Hate the MWO all that you want the truth is that this team is just far to talented from an offensive perspective. I have no idea how any team is going to defend this team once the chemistry is there. People thinking Boston can beat this team are not thinking clearly. If anyone derails the Heat it will be Orlando not Boston. But don't hold your breath. The crazy 70 win talk I am not sold on that this season. 65 wins is a number the Heat can realistically get.
Western Conference is tougher to call. The 2 time defending champs have to be upset about all this Miami talk. Kobe most of all. But I am not calling for a 3 peat for the Lakers because you have to make the Finals to win them. This year they won't make it. Ironically I do like a few of the off-season move L.A made but it will not be enough to stop the Team that will go.
Who is that? Oklahoma City Thunder. Many snickered at my selecting them to make the the playoffs last year, because they were to young and still a year away. They gave the best challenge to the Lakers in the playoffs. I would even go as far as saying they gave them a bigger scare then Boston. Kevin Durant is going to be the best player in this league number wise and is now in a conversation with Kobe and Lebron. Westbrook is taking major steps as a point guard. You don't have to believe me now...but you will believe. When I picked Scott Brooks to win Coach of the Year last season that raised eyebrows too. Couple years ago I picked Lakers to beat Magic in the Finals that happened as well. Point is while I screw up just like everyone else. There is always some things where I go out of the box and am right. Thunder to the Finals is out of the box for sure. But I am not along on the loving the Thunder Bandwagon. Thankfully I got a good seat near the front of the train.
The West might be more wide open then it has been in awhile. Chances to see a bit of a changing of the guard in the West. I think that is going to happen this season at least start to happen. Denver and Phoenix seem obvious choices to fall out of the playoff mix. I have little confidence in the order these will be but fairly confident in the 8 teams I am selecting to make it.
1. L.A Lakers
7. San Antonio
9. L.A Clippers.
Yes the Kings. A Melloless Denver and and Amareless Suns are not good enough to finish in front of these guys. I thought for a second about slotting the Clippers at 8 but sanity kicked in and said no to me. Better but still not ready will be Golden State and Memphis. Like I said, the way the west goes that order can be pretty fluid 2-7.
Not going to go into great depth on these I will at some point but for now just getting my picks on the record here.
M.V.P- If I like the Thunder as much as I am saying the MVP can only be one man...KEVIN DURANT OKC
ROY- John Wall in a close battle with fellow number 1 pick Blake Griffin.
Coach of the Year- Stan Van Gundy if I keep picking him eventually I will be right. He was been my pick 2 of the last 3 years.
Defensive Player of Year- Lebron James. because he will not have as much of load to carry so he can make more plays on the other end.
6th Man- Fans at every Heat road game. This is an odd one but how about Steve Blake with L.A
So that is it. tomorrow some thoughts from you the people from Fan Jam and a look at the Raptors Opener vs Knicks.
Wait I forgot something....Miami vs Thunder final....Who Wins...Thunder Do in 7. Crazy? Maybe.Thanks to Myck for helping out with the NBA Preview I think he added something to the mix.