The Disappointment Zone is a forum dedicated specifically to Cleveland sports, with the occasional nod to our friends down in Columbus and our friends overseas playing that other type of football. That said, from time to time (this really being the first time), when other bloggers throw down mini-challenges, The Disappointment Zone must step out of its comfort zone, as it were, to deal with more general sports content. In this instance, the Association of National Basketball…wait…the National Basketball Association (I knew this wouldn’t be easy). The excellent sports blog Rebuilding Year has posted its set of NBA predictions for the 2006-07 season, which can be found here, and has challenged The Disappointment Zone to a duel of NBA forecasting ability.
To catch you up to speed, a few of the salient details from the Rebuilding Year preview include:
Cleveland as the sixth best team in the Eastern Conference
Chicago as the second best team in the Eastern Conference
Phoenix as the fifth best team in the Western Conference
Houston as the fourth best team in the Western Conference
Tim Duncan as MVP
Scott Skiles as NBA Coach of the Year
Marcus Williams/Steve Novak as Rookie(s) of the Year
DeShawn Stevenson as Most Improved
Spurs over Clippers in WCF
Miami and Chicago in ECF
Spurs over Miami for NBA Championship
Following the Rebuilding Year template, here is the Official Disappointment Zone NBA preview:
Top eight teams in the Eastern Conference, from best to eighth-best (Atlanta is worst)*#
4. New Jersey
Notes: Miami will follow the same formula from last season and play only when it matters, which is to say that Shaq will not try until March. Cleveland discovers an offense that relies less on LeBron James scoring and more on him passing. By the middle of the season the Cavs will be playing a more up-tempo game, resting Ilgauskas for the playoffs and using Varejao in his place. Gooden has the second-best season of his career. Damon Jones is traded in early 2007. LBJ averages 29-7-7. Detroit starts strong, crumbles in the middle of the season, but finishes well. Flip Saunders is fired during the crumbling portion, Wallace draws five technical fouls for complaining by January, Prince eats two servings of dinner in April and immediately purges out of fear that he might put on weight. Chicago has a tough start to the season but comes on strong after Christmas, which ultimately propels them into the playoffs. Washington leads the league is scoring but still plays terrible defense. Indiana realizes signing Al Harrington was a mistake in March–two months after the fans realize it–when Danny Granger proves the more valuable, more cost effective, player. Milwaukee improves from last season by one win and barely beats an upstart Orlando team for a playoff spot. 55 wins gets one team home court advantage, 41 wins gets the last team into the playoffs.
Top eight teams in the Western Conference, from best to eighth-best (Portland is worst)
3. San Antonio
4. LA Clippers
8. LA Lakers
Notes: Dallas improves its win total from last season. Phoenix is grateful for the return of Amare early in the season, but his impact isn’t felt until late in the regular season and through the playoffs, when his size and ability shore up the most glaring weakness on this team: a lack of big men. Kurt Thomas does better than you think. Phoenix averages 110 ppg. San Antonio stumbles and loses in the second round of the playoffs. The Clippers become a legitimate contender and Brand quietly has another MVP season while Livingston becomes a household name in places not named Los Angeles. Houston is scary good when both Yao and McGrady are healthy, but they combine to miss 25 games, which ultimately prevents Houston from being as good as it can be. Signing Battier looks like a brilliant decision after two weeks. Utah challenges Houston as the team with the greatest potential to be frighteningly good on any given night but utterly pedestrian on more nights than not until Derron Williams is maximized. Denver rides Anthony and Camby and the thin Denver air. The Lakers suffer from no having consistent point guard and no bruising center, but Kobe has another stellar season and Odom does, too. New Orleans misses out on a playoff spot by a game.
Cleveland over Chicago in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami will falter in the playoffs because the team is just too old and the NBA season is too long. If the playoffs began in March the Heat would win it all, but such is not the case. Chicago will lose to Cleveland in the ECF because of LeBron James, with a bigger-than-expected bump from Eric Snow, whose veteran leadership and defensive ability become crucial in key moments. Without LeBron the Cavs are far worse than the Bulls. With LeBron the Cavs are slightly better.
Phoenix over Dallas in the Western Conference Finals. Amare, while not within three-point-range of being a quality defender, is another big body the Suns can use to spare Marion, who was entirely overworked last season. This will be crucial not only against Dallas but also against Cleveland.
Phoenix over Cleveland in the Finals. Phoenix is too good at dictating the tempo. Ilgauskas and Snow kill the Cavs in the Finals.
MVP: LeBron James
Coach of the Year: Jerry Sloan (he’s due)
DPOY: Ron Artest
ROY: Brandon Roy
Most Improved: Shaun Livingston
*These aren’t seedings for the playoffs
#All of these predications are based on the assumption that teams will remain relatively healthy throughout the season and will be fully healthy come the playoffs.