Baseball season is very nearly upon us, and while I prep for fantasy drafts, finish up my 30 Teams in 30 Days viewing on MLB TV, and go nuts anticipating the Phillies’ systemic dismantling the Braves on opening night next Sunday, it’s also about time for me to make a couple of unlikely predictions, hoping to hit on a longshot and achieve that elusive dream of the sports geek–the appearance of actually knowing what you’re talking about. But before that, we are also nearing the end of the NBA season, and as you may or may not recall, I threw down a handful of prognostications for that season as well. And since accountability is of the highest priority here at IITS, let’s look back and see what success–if any–our crystal ball had.
10. Against all odds, the addition of James Posey will not automatically make the New Orleans Hornets a championship team. Something of a joke prediction, obviously, but I do feel somewhat vindicated here. Sure, Posey was a nice addition to one of the weakest benches in the league, and his eight points a game, lockdown defense and ability to hit clutch threes are all assets. But for a team struggling mightily with depth issues, especially after Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic spent stretches of the season on the DL, they probably could’ve better used the $25 million they gave him for four years for a couple role players, or at least some similarly-needed cap space. Plus, Pose recently got suspended for throwing a ball at a ref–how ya liking that veteran leadership now, Byron Scott?
9. For the first time in his career, Kobe Bryant will miss 20 games in the regular season. Whiff. I suppose I should’ve known better than to underestimate Kobe with perhaps the biggest chip on his shoulder yet after such a scarring end to last year’s finals, but nothing, not even multiple bouts with the dreaded flu, has clocked #24 out of even a single game this year. Good thing, too, as Kobe and company have sewn up the top seed in the West early on, and can pretty much coast from here on out. Try telling him that, though, I guess.
8. The Washington Wizards will miss the playoffs. And then some–although I definitely thought I was being more outlandish with this prediction than I actually was. I didn’t realize that Brendan Haywood was out for the season as well, that Gilbert Arenas wouldn’t be coming back until late March, that DeShawn Stevenson would shoot 31% for a third of the season before disappearing altogether and that Darius Songaila some guy named Dominic McGuire would be starting a truly disturbing number of their games. But yeah, the Wizards will be lucky at this point to simply not finish with the worst record in all the NBA–and even that would be detrimental to the one glimmer of hope they’ve had this season, the prospect of beginning next season with a core of Arenas, Heywood, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and consensus #1 draft pick Blake Griffin. Here’s hoping, anyways–I love all those guys, and they deserve better than this.
7. Dwight Howard officially becomes the most overrated player in the NBA. Eh, not really–stat-wise, he was more dominant than ever this season, easily leading the league in boards and blocks, and scoring over twenty a game (though he did lose his Slam Dunk crown–a big part of his early legacy–to “Krypto-“Nate Robinson). I still personally believe him to be mildly overrated–an elite player, sure, but not a true MVP candidate–until he can be more of an offensive go-to guy in the post, stay out of foul trouble in big games, and get his free-throw percentage to a respectable 65% or so. Getting the Magic to the third round or beyond in the playoffs this year would be a good start towards proving me wrong–hopefully without going through the Sixers to get there, though.
6. All the big men coming back from big injuries–Brand, Oden, (Jermaine) O’Neal, Bynum–will have statistically disappointing seasons. Gotta give myself some props for this one–the only one who looked like he might prove me wrong here was Bynum, but he checked out of the Lakers’ season just as he was starting to realize that all-star potential. In the meantime, the other three were disappointing, either because they failed to mesh with their teams (O’Neal), couldn’t stay on the court (Oden), or failed to mesh with their teams and then couldn’t stay on the court (only four years and $65 mil to go, Elton). Dunno what it is about these guys, but ’09-’10 can’t come soon enough for ’em.
5. Speaking of Oden–neither he, Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley wins Rookie of the Year. Erm, not looking good here–at first, the Grizzlies’ OJ Mayo seemed like he might interrupt the public’s love affair with Rose long enough to nab the award. But as Mayo’s scoring has tapered and his team has gone down the tubes, Rose–who will likely be leading the Bulls to the playoffs, albeit to a certain first round demolition–seems the consensus favorite. Would like to at least point out that the two rooks I guessed would have the best shot besides these three of winning the award (the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook and the Clippers’ Eric Gordon) both had expectation-exceeding seasons, but their slightly less impressive stat lines and cellar-dwelling teams aren’t helping the cause much. Fair enough–it’s kind of hard not to be in love with Rose anyway.
4. The Denver Nuggets will be this year’s New York Knicks. All right so this obviously didn’t happen, but there were a bunch of things that happened here that I could never have anticipated–Nene coming back to a near-all star level of center play, Carmelo suddenly maturing into a team player (DAMN YOU TEAM USA), hell, even Chris “Birdman” Andersen coming back from hard-drug sabbatical to block like six shots a game. No team–not even the Knicks–has undergone a transformation as dramatic as the one-time Thuggets have this year. Of course, there’s another big factor as to why this might be…
3. Allen Iverson swings a team’s playoff fortunes by getting traded midseason. My crowning achievement here. Happened only like two days after I predicted it–even called him going to the Pistons, and said that “shuffling around their lineup to include Iverson will either sink ‘em or make ‘em the legitimate unstoppable force they’ve always believed themselves to be.” Well, one of those two things certainly happened, at least, though I’d be lying if if I said it was the one I was expecting. And as negative an effect as the swap had for the Pistons, it was about that good for the Nugs to get Chauncey Billups–though they still probably need to win at least one playoff series with Mr. Big Shot at the helm for the trade to be a totally unqualified success. In the meantime, I’ll certainly be rooting for the AI’d Detroit against Boston or Orlando in the first round this year.
2. The Suns finally beat the Spurs in the playoffs. Sliiight wishful thinking here. My prediction looked solid for exactly one day, as the Suns beat the Spurs on opening night. Then they lost the rest of the games in the season series, got their coach fired, alienated their franchise player and then lost him to a lame-o ocular injury, and lost five must-win road games in a row to all but ensure that not only would they not make much of a post-season run, they wouldn’t make the post-season at all. Meanwhile, the Spurs were the Spurs, overcoming early injuries, hitting big game-winning shots and coasting their way to likely Home Court in the West. It’s going to go down as one of the minor tragedies in the history of pro sports that the Suns never got to taste the promised land, and that they will likely never get proper vengeance on the team that ruined so many of their best chances of doing so.
1. The New York Knicks make the playoffs. Admit it, though–they came closer than you thought they would.