I cover, talk about and write about the SEC. However, I love many of the pro team-sports as well. Every once in a while I’ll step out of the SEC to share my opinions on something else in sports.
Here are my NBA predictions, just for the record, for the lockout-shortened 66-game 2011-2012 NBA season.
To tie this back to the SEC, there are 46 players from Southeastern Conference schools on NBA rosters entering the season. 10 of those players are rookies who played in the SEC last season (technically, Enes Kanter is included for UK even though he didn’t actually play a game for the Wildcats.) Kentucky has the most with 16 former players. The Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers have the most former SEC players with 4 each. Only six teams don’t have a former SEC player on its roster (Pacers, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Hornets, Lakers and Suns.)
Vinny’s Predicted NBA Division Champs
Atlantic – Boston Celtics
Central – Chicago Bulls
Southeast – Miami Heat
Southwest – Dallas Mavericks
Northwest – Oklahoma City Thunder
Pacific – Los Angeles Clippers
I think there are eight NBA Finals contenders. Two from the East (Heat and Bulls) and six from the West (Mavericks, Grizzlies, Spurs, Thunder, Clippers and Lakers.)
I like what both the Heat and the Bulls did in the off-season to improve their rosters. They added complimentary pieces that make sense and will improve both teams. Shane Battier is the defender and the mature, humble influence that the Heat needed. The addition of Rip Hamilton is perfect to give the young Bulls an intelligent, tough and experienced perimeter player with playoff experience.
I have to give the edge to the Heat. Miami was so close a year ago and there’s no reason why the team won’t be better this season. I still wonder if the Bulls have enough reliable scoring outside of Derrick Rose in big games. I also don’t quite trust Carlos Boozer to bring-it big every night. The Heat has more margin for error, and a better combo of offense and defense. Miami wins the Eastern Conference.
The West is more wide-open to me with six capable teams that may not look the same at the end of the year as the start of the year. For example, I can easily envision a terrible start for the Lakers that prompts them to make a drastic trade to shake the team up. I think trades could change several other teams out West as well. The unusual schedule will be a factor in different patches for all six of those teams.
Overall, I give the younger teams (Thunder, Clippers and Grizzlies) a slight edge over the older teams (Mavericks, Spurs and Lakers) to handle so much basketball without the nights of recovery the vets are used to. I’m very tempted to go with “The Clip Show” in the West. The trade for Chris Paul to go along with some other savvy roster moves to add perfect veteran pieces around CP3, Blake Griffith and DeAndre Jordan makes this team instantly legit. Typically though, a team has to go through a playoff disappointment first before making the NBA Finals. The Clippers haven’t done that yet. The talented Thunder, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, went through that last year. It makes sense for the Thunder to take that next step in the playoffs and reach the NBA Finals. Oklahoma City wins the Western Conference.
NBA Finals: Miami Heat over Oklahoma City Thunder in 5 games
League MVP: Kevin Durant
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