About a week late with this, but here we go...
It's that time of year again... The NBA All Star Weekend is over, and 2 weeks remain in the month of February... Which means March Madness is upon us! No, I'm not talking about the NCAA Tournament, I'm talking about the final 30-32 games that each NBA team has between now and April! It means that teams in the playoff hunt dig deep to try to get a better standing, blockbuster trades happen at the deadline to make a particular team that much better, which all adds to the making of a wild finish on April 16th.
So with that said, I've got 30 BOLD predictions as the last leg of the season gets underway:
1. Indiana will cool off - The Pacers are on pace for a 60 win season... However, they may fall into a false sense of security down the stretch. Many of their final 30 games come against teams under .500, but as we've seen this season, a team's record doesn't necessarily indicate how good the team is. The Pacers will probably get to 58-60 wins, but they'll drop some games that they really shouldn't.
2. Miami will Heat up - The Heat are also on pace for a 55-60 win season... and they have better competition along the way. The easy thing to do would be relax and coast into the post season, resting their best players (D. Wade) in the process. But as long as LeBron James is living and breathing, he will not take days off. The Heat are still due for a major run and now is as good a time as any to do it. Look for their record to be close to Indiana's.
3. LeBron will win his 3rd straight MVP - As much as people are quick to hand Kevin Durant the MVP trophy, LeBron James is still the best player on the planet. And if/when Miami goes on a tear, King James will most definitely be leading the charge. When he's fully engaged, you just can't stop him. Period. Sorry Durant.
4. LeBron will also win DPOY - coupled with the inevitable Heat run and LBJ's MVP push, LeBron will also capture that elusive Defensive Player of the Year award, another feather in his cap on his quest to becoming the Greatest Player Of All Time.
5. Don't Sleep On The Spurs! - Every year, I say the same thing and NO ONE LISTENS! Yes, I know they're old, banged up, BUT DON'T COUNT THEM OUT! They will overcome. I don't know how they do it, but they do... They will be in the West Finals.. I know that much.
6. We've seen the best from Portland - I'm sad and sorry to say this, but Portland has officially dropped back to earth. And I had so much hope for them too... They'll finish 5th in the West.
7. Clippers are Legit! - Every time the Clippers have a successful season, we always say it's a fluke or a flash in the pan or they're just pretenders... Well, they are pretenders no more! Look for the Clippers, led by Doc, CP3 and the Blake Show to go deep into the playoffs!
8. OKC doesn't pass the eye test - I know Durant is playing like an MVP (if the season ended today, he'd get my vote), but his team only feeding off his play (kinda like LeBron in Cleveland). Expect Durant to have a rude awakening when everything falls apart in the playoffs and he's once again saying he's tired of being second.
9. The Suns will fall - Just like Portland, we've the best from Phoenix. They will come crashing down to earth... HARD!
11. Teams 10-15 in the West are officially out - You can still make a case for Minnesota, but they don't have what it takes to make the playoffs. And the rest of the West bottom feeders are wishing they were in the East right about now...
12. Paul George is NOT MVP material... Yet - As much as the media and former players want to lobby for Paul George, he isn't at MVP status yet. He's like Derrick Rose, the best player on a well built team, reaping the benefits thereof. He's just not on LeBron's or Durant's level... Yet. Give him another season or two, then we'll see.
13. Milwaukee will finish the season with 15 wins! - What more do I need to say
14. Teams 10-15 in the East won't be making the playoffs - We know that Milwaukee isn't making it, let's just get that out of the way. And Philly and Orlando aren't making it either. And while there's only 10 games max separating teams 3 thru 12, Boston and Cleveland won't be in. And while analysts have predicted New York to go on a run, Melo's situation coupled with New York's early hole will find them a few games shy of the 8th and final playoff spot come April 16th.
15. Brooklyn will fall from grace - The Nets' lack of youth and fresh legs will ultimately cost them down the stretch and they will be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
16. Detroit and Charlotte will make the post season - Their can only be 8 teams in the East playoff picture and it's looking like it's gonna come down to these two teams for 7 and 8. My money is on Charlotte making it over Detroit.
17. The Dallas Mavericks will upset whoever they face in the playoffs - Outside of the San Antonio Spurs, the Mavs can take out any team in the league. Whoever they face other than Spurs, expect Dallas to win in 6-7 games.
18. The Bulls will continue manhandling every team they face - Win or lose, the Bulls are tough to face. They literally tackled the Raptors in their last meeting. No team wants to face them, no matter the outcome. That's that 2nd best defense for you.
19. Jason Collins will get cut - Yes, Collins is the first active openly gay player in the NBA... That will be short lived, as he's not good enough to help the hapless Nets. Let's stop the media show now.
20. Kobe's career is over - we may have lost an NBA icon due to injury. Kobe Bryant has played his last basketball... There is no shame in calling it quits. He's had a legendary career and will be a first ballot hall of famer.
21-30 are dedicated to the Raptors
21. Kyle Lowry will be considered for MVP and DPOY - Lowry WILL NOT win these awards, let me just clarify that right now. HOWEVER, his name will come up in those talks.
22. Lowry or DeRozan will win the Most Improved Player award - Lowry, DeRozan and the Raptors are enjoying a breakout season and they will be rewarded for that.
23. Casey will win Coach of the Year - It would be too easy to give Frank Vogel the CoY award for what he's doing in Indiana or even Terry Stotts in Portland. The Toronto Raptors have capitalized on a VERY weak East and while I still think Casey isn't the right coach long term, he wins the award as long as Toronto wins the Atlantic Division and remain 3rd/4th in the East.
24. Masai Ujiri will win Executive of the Year - if the Raptors maintain their momentum and finish the season 3rd in the East, Ujiri will become a 2x EoY. Having midlevel talent at best playing 10 offense and 7th best defense and win when the team was suppose to lose would be enough to net that award.
25. Lowry will drop 40+ points soon - Ross had 51, DeRozan had 43, Lowry is due for a big game.
26. Raptors will make a play at Ron Artest - I refuse to call him Metta World Peace, but when he gets bought out, the Raptors will make an offer for him.
27. Landry Fields will get bought out - no one wants Fields and his ridiculous contract (thanks a lot Colangelo), so Ujiri might just bite the bullet and give Landry his walking papers.
28. The Raptors will win 22 of their last 30 games for a franchise best 50-32 record - the Raptor are already 3-1 since the All Star break, so they need to go 19-7 to finish the year... Given who they have left and barring any injuries from the Raptors (Johnson is down again), this isn't as far fetched as you may believe.
29. The Raptors will win their first round matchup - assuming the standings remain relatively the same, Toronto will win their first round matchup in the playoffs... Even if it's against the Bobcats! This season would be for nothing if Toronto couldn't get out of the first round. Toronto beats whoever they face in 5-6 games!
30. The Raptors will take the Heat to 6-7 games - Barring some devastating injury to the Heat, the Raptors won't beat them in a 7 game series... But they'll make it interesting. expect some drama to unfold in this matchup as the Raptors get burned in the post season by yet another former Raptor.