Monday, October 27, 2014

2014-2015 NBA Season Preview

On the eve of another NBA season here are my standings, awards, and playoff predictions:

*Numbers next to certain teams are playoff seeds

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

1.     Toronto Raptors (4)
2.     New York Knicks (8)
3.     Brooklyn Nets
4.     Boston Celtics
5.     Philadelphia 76ers

Analysis: Not much to like about this division.  Toronto is the only team that has a chance to win 50 games.  The Raptors have a nice athletic core with Terrence Ross and Demar Derozan on the wings and a good point guard in Kyle Lowry.  It gets ugly fast though.  The Knicks were a mess last season and if Derek Fisher struggles to implement the triangle offense in the Big Apple it might not be any better.  By default, I think the Knicks sneak into the playoffs.  Brooklyn’s attempt to contend for a championship last season failed and they have an aging nucleus and don’t have too many draft picks.  Lionel Hollins coming in as the head coach won’t help fix that.  The Nets are in trouble.  The Celtics are in the midst of a rebuild and should look to trade Rajon Rondo to acquire more draft picks though watching sixth overall pick Marcus Smart this season will be interesting.  The Sixers are firing up the tank again and will probably win fewer than the 19 games they won last season.

Southeast Division

1.     Washington Wizards (3)
2.     Miami Heat (5)
3.     Charlotte Hornets (6)
4.     Atlanta Hawks (7)
5.     Orlando Magic

Analysis: Washington is one of the best up-and-coming teams in the NBA.  With John Wall and Bradley Beal anchoring the backcourt and the addition of Paul Pierce in the offseason, the Wizards should win this division.   In the first year of the post-LeBron era, the Heat should be good enough to make the playoffs, but Dwyane Wade’s health should be worth monitoring as well as Chris Bosh’s production after he got a max contract over the summer and is taking on a much larger role on offense.  The Hornets are another nice team on the rise and the addition of Lance Stephenson should definitely get them back in the playoffs for the second straight year. Atlanta is just okay and much like the Knicks sneak in by default as I think there’s a big gap between Charlotte and Atlanta.  Orlando is looking to add more pieces in the draft and will struggle through their third season since the Dwight Howard trade.

Central Division

1.)  Chicago Bulls (1)
2.)  Cleveland Cavaliers (2)
3.)  Detroit Pistons
4.)  Indiana Pacers
5.)  Milwaukee Bucks

Analysis: The Bulls are for real pending the health of a certain point guard and former MVP out of Memphis.  Derrick Rose needs to stay on the court but if he can I think he can still play at a high level and contend for the MVP award and Tom Thibodeau will of course have his team playing defense.  Adding Pau Gasol should help them on the offensive end.  Cleveland will be so much fun to watch. I think it’s awesome that LeBron went back home and I can already imagine Kevin Love throwing outlet pass after outlet pass to him in transition.  Detroit could be a borderline playoff team because I think there’s too much talent on that team for them to be as bad as they were last year.  Indiana is in bad shape.  They lost Lance Stepehnson and Paul George may miss the entire season.  They’ll be quite the offensively challenged team.  It will be hard for Milwaukee to be much worse than last year with Jason Kidd on the sideline now and Rookie of the Year favorite Jabari Parker providing lots of offense.

Western Conference

Southwest Division

1.)  San Antonio Spurs (1)
2.)  Houston Rockets (4)
3.)  Dallas Mavericks (6)
4.)  Memphis Grizzlies (8)
5.)  New Orleans Pelicans

Analysis: This is the best division in the NBA.  San Antonio comes in as the defending champs and until proven otherwise, I’ll put them as my top team in the West.  Houston lost Chandler Parsons but Trevor Ariza will help them defensively and knock down three-point shots like Parsons did.  Dallas got a lot better in the offseason adding Jameer Nelson, Raymond Felton, Al-Farouq Aminu, Tyson Chandler, and Chandler Parsons to a team that won 49 games a year ago.  Memphis will still be rock solid on defense, adding Vince Carter was a nice move, and Zach Randolph will still give them reliable post offense.  New Orleans has some nice young players but it’s just hard to take anyone else in the West out of the playoffs.

Northwest Division
1.)  Oklahoma City Thunder (3)
2.)  Portland Trail Blazers (7)
3.)  Denver Nuggets
4.)  Minnesota Timberwolves
5.)  Utah Jazz

Analysis: Oklahoma City will miss Kevin Durant enough early on to slip back from second in the West last year to third this season but once he gets back they’ll be a title contender.  Portland didn’t really do anything major in the offseason, and while LaMarcus Aldridge is so much fun to watch I don’t know if they can earn home-court advantage in the first round again.  Denver has some decent young players but that’s not enough to make the playoffs in the West.  Minnesota will be really fun to watch with their young core but inexperience will keep them around 30 wins this season.  Utah is continuing a rebuild, which I think may take some time.  I’m not sure if Trey Burke and Dante Exum can play together.

Pacific Division

1.)  Los Angeles Clippers (2)
2.)  Golden State Warriors (5)
3.)  Phoenix Suns
4.)  Los Angeles Lakers
5.)  Sacramento Kings

Analysis: The Clippers have a lot to prove this season after a disappointing six-game exit in the second round of the playoffs against Oklahoma City last year.  Golden State will still score a ton of points even though I’m still not sure why they fired Mark Jackson. Phoenix is good, but not good enough to make the playoffs in the West.  I think Kobe has a nice year for the Lakers, but he doesn’t have enough help.  Sacramento has one of the best centers in the game in Demarcus Cousins, but he doesn’t have enough help either.  Selecting Nik Stauskas eighth overall over Noah Vonleh who could have helped Cousins up front was a head scratcher.


MVP: LeBron James (Cleveland)
Coach of the Year: Dwane Casey (Toronto)
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis (New Orleans)
Sixth Man of the Year: Tristan Thompson (Cleveland)
Rookie of the Year: Nerlens Noel (Philadelphia)


Eastern Conference

First Round

1-Chicago over 8-New York in 5
2-Cleveland over 7-Atlanta in 4
3-Washington over 6-Charlotte in 6
4-Toronto over 5-Miami in 7

Second Round
1-Chicago over 4-Toronto in 6
2-Cleveland over 3-Washington in 6

Eastern Conference Finals
2-Cleveland over 1-Chicago in 6

Western Conference

First Round

1-San Antonio over 8-Memphis in 6
2-LA Clippers over 7-Portland in 6
3-Oklahoma City over 6-Dallas in 7
5-Golden State over 4-Houston in 7

Second Round

1-San Antonio over 5-Golden State in 6
2- LA Clippers over 3-Oklahoma City in 7

Western Conference Finals

2- LA Clippers over 1- San Antonio in 7

NBA Finals

Cleveland Cavaliers over Los Angeles Clippers in 7


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

NHL 2014-2015 Season Predictions

NHL 2014-2015 Season Predictions
With the puck set to drop in NHL arenas, time to give my predictions for the season.  An asterisk denotes a playoff team.

Eastern Conference

Metropolitan Division
1.)    Pittsburgh Penguins*
2.)    New York Rangers*
3.)    New York Islanders*
4.)    Columbus Blue Jackets*
5.)    Washington Capitals*
6.)    Philadelphia Flyers
7.)    New Jersey Devils
8.)    Carolina Hurricanes

Analysis: I think this is the deepest division in the NHL.  Arguments can be made for every team except Carolina to be a playoff team.  Pittsburgh lost some pieces in the offseason, but is still the class of the division as long as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are healthy.  The Rangers had some subtractions from their Eastern Conference championship roster as well as Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman, and Brad Richards are no longer around, but are still very strong defensively and still have Henrik Lundqvist.  The Islanders are much improved.  Having made the playoffs in 2012-2013, they fell off a cliff last year once John Tavares got hurt in the Olympics.  With Tavares back, the addition of forwards Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk added on the back end, and Jaroslav Halak between the pipes, look for the Islanders to make the playoffs for the second time in three years.  Columbus is quite an up-and-coming team with a roster with lots of promise and Scott Hartnell could be a helpful glue guy for them.  Washington will be better as well having improved their defense bringing in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik from Pittsburgh and Barry Trotz was a good hire for them.  The Flyers weren’t able to do much in the offseason due to their cap situation.  Steve Mason might be their goalie for the future but they have an average to good at best defense and will need to score a lot of goalies to have a chance at the playoffs.  Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat help the Devils up front but there’s not enough offensive firepower to help Corey Scheinder.  Carolina will be cellar dwellers without having done much to improve in the offseason and Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner sustained injuries in the preseason.

Atlantic Division

1.)    Tampa Bay Lightning*
2.)    Boston Bruins*
3.)    Montreal Canadiens*
4.)    Toronto Maple Leafs
5.)    Detroit Red Wings
6.)    Ottawa Senators
7.)    Florida Panthers
8.)    Buffalo Sabres

Analysis: Tampa Bay will win this division with a healthy Steven Stamkos and an improved blue line with Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman on board.  Boston won’t be far behind though as Tuukka Rask will compete for the Vezina and Zdeno Charra is always a threat to win the Norris.  Montreal went to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and may have won if Carey Price did not get hurt.  The Canadiens young forwards and Price will propel them into the playoffs.  Toronto and Detroit will vie for wild card spots with the teams that aren’t in the top three in the Metropolitan but there’s too much depth in the Metropolitan for me to see Toronto or Detroit make the playoffs.   For Detroit, this would end of streak of over two decades of making the playoffs.  Ottawa, Florida, and Buffalo will keep the basement warm in this division.

Western Conference

Central Division

1.)    St. Louis Blues*
2.)    Chicago Blackhawks*
3.)    Colorado Avalanche*
4.)    Dallas Stars*
5.)    Nashville Predators
6.)    Minnesota Wild
7.)    Winnipeg Jets

Analysis: While I tend to lean towards the Metropolitan as the deepest division in the NHL, the Central is also very deep.  St. Louis is a very talented team that just hasn’t been able to get it done in the playoffs.  Nonetheless they’ll have another shot this year.  Chicago is always a force to be reckoned with and Colorado, much like Columbus in the East, has an up-and-coming roster of young talent.  Dallas is loaded offensively and while they have some question marks on defense should be able to score enough to make the playoffs.  Nashville could be the most improved team in the West with Pekka Rinne healthy, a strong defense, and Peter Laviolette behind the bench.  Minnesota won a round in the playoffs last year but there has to be an odd team out here.  Similar to the Flyers in the Metropolitan, Minnesota isn’t a bad team, there are just better ones in this division and Winnipeg will be left at the bottom.

Pacific Division                                                                                                                                    1.)    Los Angeles Kings*
2.)    Anaheim Ducks*
3.)    San Jose Sharks*
4.)    Vancouver Canucks*
5.)    Edmonton Oilers
6.)    Arizona Coyotes
7.)    Calgary Flames

Analysis: The Kings aren’t going anywhere.  Anaheim and San Jose will still be playoff teams but questions remain about Bruce Boudreau and Todd McLellan.  Vancouver should be a playoff team with Ryan Miller solidifying their goaltending situation.  Edmonton has young talent especially up front and will be improved while the Coyotes and Flames struggle.


Hart Trophy (League MVP): Steven Stamkos- Tampa Bay
Rocket Richard Trophy (Most Goals): Steven Stamkos- Tampa Bay
Art Ross Trophy (Most Points): John Tavares- New York Islanders
Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman): Drew Doughty- Los Angeles
Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie): Carey Price- Montreal
Calder Trophy (Best Rookie): Jonathan Drouin- Tampa Bay


Metropolitan First Round
Washington over Pittsburgh in 7
New York Rangers over New York Islanders in 6

Metropolitan Second Round
New York Rangers over Washington in 5

Atlantic First Round
Tampa Bay over Columbus in 6
Montreal  over Boston in 7

Atlantic Second Round
Tampa Bay over Montreal in 7

Eastern Conference Finals
Tampa Bay over New York Rangers in 6 
Central First Round
St. Louis over Dallas in 6
Chicago over Colorado in 6

Central Second Round
Chicago over St. Louis in 7

Pacific First Round
Los Angeles over Vancouver in 5
Anaheim over San Jose in 7

Pacific Second Round
Los Angeles over Anaheim in 5

Western Conference Finals
Chicago over Los Angeles in 6

Stanley Cup Final
Tampa Bay over Chicago in 6

Happy Hockey Season!