Sunday, October 29, 2006

NBA Preview 2006-2007: Awards and Playoffs

Click for each preview:
Atlantic
Central
Southeast
Southwest
Northwest
Pacific
Awards and Playoffs

Each team is scored on a 1-10 scale based on its projected starting lineup, bench, head coach and general manager. The maximum score possible is 80.

Overall scores, brief summaries and franchise outlooks will predict how a team performs this upcoming season.

A final preview article will predict regular-season awards, playoff results and the eventual NBA champion.



Awards

Most Valuable Player: LeBron James
Voters will have Steve Nash fatigue after selecting him for back-to-back MVPs, but even if they didn't LBJ would get their votes. With the Cavs now being amongst the elite teams in the league, LeBron is in an perfect position to put up the individual numbers and have the team success to secure his first MVP trophy. The Lakers will not have enough wins for Kobe to contend, and voters feel Dwayne Wade's production is largely assisted by Shaq.

Rookie of the Year: Brandon Roy
Roy will likely supplant Martell Webster or Jarrett Jack early in the season. He was the best prospect in the draft and will prove it with his play. Randy Foye of Minnesota is also in contention for the ROY, as he should get significant tick.

Defensive Player of the Year:
Ron Artest
Artest is simply the best defender in the league. Ben Wallace, Bruce Bowen and Andrei Kirilenko take a backseat to Tru Warier's tenacious guarding. As long as he stays on the court, Ron will dazzle people with his defensive skills. A dark horse contender is Gerald Wallace, who averaged a ridiculous two steals and two blocks per contest last season.

Sixth Man of the Year: Shaun Livingston
Livingston will continue his apprenticeship under Sam Cassell, but that doesn't mean he will have a limited role. Because of his size, Shaun can and will play multiple positions. He's a marvelous passer and good rebounder. As his jump shot continues to improve, so will Shaun's status as one of the league's best coming off the bench. Look for his numbers to take off.

Coach of the Year: Jeff Van Gundy
The much-maligned Van Gundy can lead the Rockets to 15 more wins than last season. A healthy Houston team stands to be the most-improved squad in the league, and Van Gundy will earn his share of credit, whether he deserves it or not. Other candidates include Chicago's Scott Skiles, Utah's Jerry Sloan and even New York's Isiah Thomas.

Most Improved Player: Darko Milicic
If Darko plays substantial minutes, the productivity will be there. He's already one of the best blockers in the league. Darko bulked up ten pounds over the summer, which bolds well for an emerging interior game to complement his perimeter play. Box scores of 12/8/3/3 should be a regular occurrence for Milicic.

Executive of the Year: Carroll Dawson
The Executive of the Year Award tends to go to the GM whose team improved the most from the previous year. Dawson should be the recipient in 2007, considering the Rockets will be that team (again, assuming they stay healthy). The decisions to acquire Shane Battier and draft Steve Novak will also pay immediate dividends.


Overall Scores
Eastern Conference Western Conference
1) Miami 71.5 1) San Antonio 71
2) Detroit 66.5 2) Phoenix 70
3) Cleveland 65.5 3) Dallas 70
4) Chicago 65.5 4) Houston 66.5
5) Indiana 65 5) LA Lakers 66.5
6) Orlando 63.5 6) LA Clippers 66.5
7) New Jersey 63 7) Utah 66
8) Milwaukee 62 8) Sacramento 66
9) Washington 61.5 9) Denver 63.5
10) Toronto 61.5 10) Seattle 63
11) Philadelphia 59.5 11) New Orleans 62
12) Boston 59 12) Memphis 62
13) Charlotte 59 13) Portland 61
14) New York 53.5 14) Golden State 60.5
15) Atlanta 53.5 15) Minnesota 60

Factors such as schedule difficulty, team chemistry and injury histories played a relatively minor role in determining the scores for each team. In reality, of course, those aforementioned factors are significant determinants as to whether Team X or Y will succeed in any given year (see Portland and Houston circa 2005). Frankly, I was more concerned about the talent and potential of every franchise; my scores are more preoccupied with predicting how a how well a team should perform as opposed to how well a team will actually play.

For example, I have the Miami Heat rated the highest team with a culmulative score of 71.5, which would suggest that they would finish with the league's best record. But anyone that follows the NBA knows that Miami isn't concerned with wins and losses in the regular-season, but rather simultaneously securing a high playoff-seed while keeping starters healthy come the postseason. Frankly, it's more than likely that Miami, once it clinches at least the #4 seed by winning the Atlantic Division, will rest its starters even if that means losing a game here or there -- a decision that could cost it the top seed.

A few injuries have popped up since this preview was posted. Some won't affect the NBA landscape, while others are more severe. Marvin William's broken hand won't have an impact on the playoff picture (Atlanta's postseason hopes go from zero to... less than zero?). Likewise, Robert Swift's season-ending knee injury will only change Seattle's chances in the Draft Lottery. Mike Bibby's thumb injury, however, may alter the Kings' postseason chances. He will be sidelined for the first few weeks of the season. Considering Sacramento is a bubble team to begin with, the Kings could be left out of the playoffs if they get off to a poor start without Bibby.


Playoffs
Eastern Conference First Round
#1 Miami vs. #8 Miwaukee
#2 Detroit vs. #7 Orlando
#3 Cleveland vs. #6 Indiana
#4 New Jersey vs. #5 Chicago


Western Conference First Round
#1 San Antonio vs. #8 Sacramento
#2 Phoenix vs. #7 LA Clippers
#3 Dallas vs. #6 LA Lakers
#4 Utah vs. #5 Houston


Eastern Conference Second Round
#1 Miami vs. #5 Chicago
#2 Detroit vs. #3 Cleveland


Western Conference Second Round
#1 San Antonio vs. #5 Houston
#2 Phoenix vs. #3 Dallas


Eastern Conference Finals
#1 Miami vs. #3 Cleveland


Western Conference Finals
#1 San Antonio vs. #2 Phoenix


NBA Finals
#1 Miami vs. #1 San Antonio

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