My 2010-2011 NBA Predictions | Sharapova's Thigh

Here's my predictions for the 2010-2011 NBA season. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments though, and I'll be glad to debate or answer any questions about my picks.

Player/Coach Predictions

Biggest Name Traded During Season

Carmelo Anthony, F, Denver Nuggets- He wants out, and the Nuggets are trying hard to make that happen. The only reason he hasn't been dealt, and the only reason he could stay in Denver all season, is if the Nuggets can't find a team willing, or able to give back a fair return(a couple of first round draft picks and at least one good, young player that can be a core piece for years).

Rookie Of The Year

Blake Griffin, F, Los Angeles Clippers- You keep hearing about John Wall(and rightfully so), but people seem to be forgetting about Griffin. Yeah, he still qualifies as a rookie because he didn't play a single game for the Clippers last year after getting a stress fracture in his left knee during last preseason, which would later require surgery. The power forward and first overall pick last year is going to be a stud and a half; a double-double machine. Don't be surprised if he averages near 20 points and 10 rebounds on the season.

Coach Of The Year

Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls- The team's going to be much better simply due to the additions of Carlos Boozer(although he's out for at least a month with a broken wrist), Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Keith Bogans, Kurt Thomas, and C.J. Watson. But do not underestimate the Thibodeau addition, especially after Vinny freaking Del Negro was the last coach. The players are raving about him(as players around him always have), and he's considered a genius when it comes to coaching defense. It's hard to argue with that when you see how well the Celtics performed on the defensive end while he was an assistant there. The Bulls have already showed a noticeable difference defending the pick and roll in the preseason, and players such as Derrick Rose are reportedly looking much better already on that side of the ball.

As I saw one NBA journalist say recently(forgot who it was and can't find the article), there's people around the league that feel Thibodeau alone could be a 10-win boost for that team. Now, I have a hard time ever believing a coach in professional sports makes that big of a difference, but it speaks loudly of Thibodeau's reputation around the league.

Defensive Player Of The Year

Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic- Who else should I be picking? He's won the award the last two years, and the 24-year-old beast is only going to get better. He's a blocks and rebounding machine, and reputation alone may get him this award for at least a few more years.

Sixth Man Of The Year

Ty Lawson, G, Denver Nuggets- It's time for the Nuggets to look towards the future more than the present, and Ty Lawson is a huge part of their future. Lawson was very impressive in his rookie season, averaging 8.1 points and 3.1 assists in 20.3 minutes per game. He has blazing speed and can be outstanding on the fast break. The problem is that he's stuck behind veteran point guard Chauncey Billups on the depth chart. However, the Nuggets will play those two together frequently, and if the Nuggets do the right thing and commit to the future, Lawson's going to take a few more minutes away from Billups this year.

Most Improved Player

Jrue Holiday, G, Philadelphia 76ers- New Sixers head coach Doug Collins is RAVING about Holiday. How much so? Collins recently said that Holiday will be a top-5 point guard in the NBA in a year from now. I don't know about that, but Holiday's full of potential and Collins must be seeing a lot out of him. Also, when your coach is talking about you like that, it means you're going to be getting a ton of playing time as well.

Sleeper Rookie Of The Year

DeMarcus Cousins, C, Sacramento Kings- Full of talent, especially for his size. He can be a consistent double-double guy, just like Blake Griffin. But, he's also full of immaturity. Oh, and it's a pretty safe bet he'll get suspended at least once every season with all of the technical fouls he's going to get. This is the league's new Rasheed Wallace.

Sleeper Most Valuable Player

Derrick Rose, G, Chicago Bulls- I've been saying it all offseason- This is the year Rose goes from star to superstar. He's maturing as a point guard, has more weapons surrounding him which will boost his assist numbers, improved his range greatly over the offseason and can shoot the three much better now, and is improving defensively under Thibodeau. It's going to be tough to score enough for him to win the award as a point guard, but if the Bulls make a huge leap, he has to be in the MVP conversation.

Most Valuable Player

Kevin Durant, F, Oklahoma City Thunder- Mark him down for around 30 points per game, and his assist and rebound numbers should improve. He will make what would just be an average(maybe worse) Thunder team without him a legitimate title contender. Additionally, I can't see LeBron winning the award when Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will be taking statistical numbers away.

Team Predictions

Eastern Conference

1. Miami Heat- They can half-ass it in the regular season and their talent alone should be good enough to win 60+. Challenging the Bulls' 72-win record though? No.

2. Orlando Magic- 59 wins last year, which was six more than any team in the East but the Cavs. And we know we don't have to worry about the Cavs.

3. Boston Celtics- Do. Not. Sleep. On. Them. They have another run in them, and they will play physical, defensive basketball. They don't like everybody going on and on about the Heat and forgetting about them.

4. Chicago Bulls- Even without Boozer for at least the first month, they're a much better team. They will be better defensively under Thibodeau(and added Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogan to defend shooting guards), they finally have a great outside shooter in Kyle Korver, and most importantly, Derrick Rose is going to take the next step. Also, watch out for Luol Deng. He's looked great in this offense, is finally healthy, and has significantly improved his three-point shot.

5. Milwaukee Bucks- Scott Skiles has done a great job coaching this team. They improved their record by 12 games from '08-'09 to '09-'10. Brandon Jennings, like Derrick Rose, is capable of a huge leap with his sensational talent. John Salmons was terrific for them last season after being acquired from the Bulls, and I loved the Corey Maggette addition that went unnoticed by many. He averaged 20 points a game last season for the Warriors.

6. Atlanta Hawks- The Magic humiliated them in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Bucks took them to seven games in the first round even, and the Bucks got better by adding Maggette and Drew Gooden. The Hawks didn't do anything to get better.

7. New York Knicks- Amare Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, and Anthony Randolph will be great in Mike D'Antoni's offense(we've already seen it from Amare and him in Phoenix).

8. Washington Wizards- John Wall is the real deal. More on them from me later(keep reading, dammit!).

Western Conference

1. Los Angeles Lakers- Easiest thing I predicted on this post. Loved the Matt Barnes and Steve Blake additions. This is how you build a championship roster.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder- Kevin Durant is that good. They were the #8 seed last year, but had just five less wins than the #2 seed(Dallas Mavericks).

3. Dallas Mavericks- You know that this team is at least going to be very good, and if newly acquired center Tyson Chandler can get back to his double-double ways, that would be a huge boost to this team and greatly help their chances of playing with the dominant frontcourt that the Lakers have.

4. San Antonio Spurs- You know they're going to hang around. Age is obviously the problem here, but they have very talented young forwards/centers in Dejuan Blair and Tiago Splitter that should make a big difference this year. At worst, they'll help keep Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess fresh.

5. Portland Trail Blazers- What are we going to get from Greg Oden, aside from injuries? This team had horrible, horrible luck last year, yet still won 50 games. There's a ton of talent... when healthy. If they can stay healthy this year, they can be as high as the #2 seed. But, we have to see it first.

6. Utah Jazz- Lost Carlos Boozer, but may have even upgraded there by acquiring Al Jefferson. However, along with losing Boozer to the Bulls, they also lost their best three-point shooter in Kyle Korver to them.

7. Houston Rockets- Limiting Yao Ming to 24 minutes per game? That's one way to try to keep him healthy. Still, they were able to win 42 games without him last year. Additionally, they get a great scorer in Kevin Martin for the whole season(played 24 game for them last year after being acquired from the Kings).

8. Phoenix Suns- I debated between a few of teams here(like the Hornets and Nuggets), but have most confidence in the Suns to find a way into the playoffs. They added Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, and Hakim Warrick, but I'm not sure if those moves will really improve the team.

Surprise Team

Washington Wizards- I have questions as to how the John Wall/Gilbert Arenas/Kirk Hinrich backcourt is going to work, but I do know that they will at least get solid production there, and that will certainly be the case from John Wall. And Kirk Hinrich is a terrific defender and solid combo guard that understands his role. I really like the talent of JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche in the frontcourt. Will this be a very good team? No, but they can be decent and I think they sneak into the playoffs. John Wall will make them a team worth watching at least.

Disappointing Team

Denver Nuggets- It's just going to be hard for them to succeed with all of Melo trade talk going on constantly. And do they really focus on trying to win now and being an average team in the West, or start committing to the future like I alluded to earlier? It's an odd roster in a crappy, distractive situation, so I just have a hard time seeing their season go well. Plus, if Melo is indeed traded, their team is almost certainly going to be worse at least this season following the trade. Will I be surprised if they get in the playoffs? Absolutely not. But limit your expectations, Nuggets fans.

Worst Team

Toronto Raptors- Awful. Brutal. Horrible. Pick a word that describes what will be a giant suckfest, and that's your 2010-2011 Toronto Raptors.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

Miami Heat over Chicago Bulls

Boston Celtics over Orlando Magic

Western Conference Semifinals

Los Angeles Lakers over Portland Trail Blazers

Oklahoma City Thunder over Dallas Mavericks

Eastern Conference Finals

Boston Celtics over Miami Heat- The Heat may be the best video game team ever, but I still have my doubts about how this is going to work, for this year at least. Can they defend well enough? Can they play playoff, physical basketball? Do they have enough solid role players alongside the big three to be a championship team? I don't know if they have any of those things. But the Celtics do, and the Celtics will bully the hell out of this team if the two teams meet in the playoffs. They'll play dirty and push the Heat around.

Western Conference Finals

Los Angeles Lakers over Oklahoma City Thunder- I'm totally buying the Thunder, but I can't see them, or anybody in the West beating them in a playoff series. The Thunder will get to the finals within the next three years though.

NBA Finals

Los Angeles Lakers over Boston Celtics- Yep, again. The Lakers are the best team in basketball and can beat you playing pretty much any style. They score, they defend, they have the best player(arguably) in the world, they can shoot from the outside, they can score in the low post, they have great size at every position, they rebound, they have great depth, they have guys that know their roles and excel in them, and they have the best coach in the NBA. They have it all. And yet everybody keeps talking about the Heat. That's fine with the Lakers. They'll show who is really the best team in basketball, again.

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