Early Season Power Rankings & 06-07 Vegas Line Analysis

The Contenders :

1.  Spurs:  (Over/Under 55.5)

               My pre-season favorite to win it all this year.  You can look for at least a 60 win season from the rejuvenated potential number one squad out west.  Tim Duncan is hungry and healthy, a very deadly combination indeed.  This is a team that came within one stupid foul from making the Finals last season, even without a fully healthy Duncan.  The Over seems like a pretty safe bet for this squad to me.

2.  Clippers:  (Over/Under 46.5)

            I feel that this team should have gone further than they did in last year’s playoffs.  They absolutely imploded against the Phoenix Suns, and I think they could have given a much more competitive Western Conference Finals.  The Clips have a good mix of inside and outside players and a still healthy Sammy Cassell to lead them.  Elton Brand is his usual dominant self down low, whilst the Caveman Kaman is emerging as one of the top five centers in the West.  I can’t see anything less than 50 wins for this battle tested squad.  A mortal lock for Over 46.5 wins.

3. Cavaliers:  (Over/Under 50.5)

            I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t bet against Lebron James, especially in the sub-par eastern conference.  He will have to come up with some Herculean efforts this year, but if any player in the league is capable of carrying a team on his back, it’s most definitely Lebron.  He’s that good.  The scary thing is that he is still maturing and I honestly think he could rival MJ when all is said and done, a small thanks in part to the new perimeter defensive and hand-checking rules.   How high does his potential go?  I don’t know, but I don’t think we have seen the best of him yet… Look for over 50.5 wins as Lebron leads them to one of the top records in the East.

4.   Mavericks:  (Over/Under 56.5)

            Despite their 0-2 start I still see them up there battling it out for the best record in the West with San Antonio.  I am not sure they will repeat their magical Finals run, but they could certainly take a good shot at it.  They had no noticeable losses during the off-season, and are coming back basically intact with the team from last year.  Dirk is, of course, a perennial MVP candidate.  The West is a tough conference and everyone will be gunning for them, but I think I would still go with the Over, even despite the early stumble out of the blocks.

[image] Shaquille O'Neal blocked
If Ben Wallace has his way, Shaq and the Heat are going “Under”. [image2]

5.  Pistons:  (Over/Under 51.5)

            If they played in the western conference I don’t think there is any way that they would get over the 51.5 line.  However, luckily for them they play in the east.  They should cover the Over… barely.  With an improved bench and something to prove to the rest of the teams, look for them to continue their winning ways and get back on track this season.  They still have the best team chemistry in the league, and that’s ten extra wins right there alone.

 

The Pretenders:

6.  Lakers:  (Over/Under 43.5)

            Off to a blistering 3-0 start, which included a big comeback against Phoenix.  Mostly without Kobe, none the less.  Can’t say I saw that one coming.  If Kobe can come back and manage to play with a team role (or as much as he is capable) look for some pretty impressive things from this team.  Lamar Odom is the versatile jack of all trades, but the key will hinge on how well Kobe gets his teammates involved.  No way could I not suggest taking the Over with a clear conscience. 

7.   T-Wolves:  (Over/Under 37.5)

            Perhaps a little homerism involved with this high ranking, but c’mon the Wolves had a realistic shot at 3-0!  Our two wins were not against pushovers as we beat Sacramento and Denver AT Denver!  That is nothing short of amazing for this squad that had very low expectations going into this season.  KG is rejuvenated and playing as well as he has in the last few campaigns.  Along with our new supporting cast, this team is poised to really turn some heads this season.  A weak division should lead to a few more wins than expected (well, if we hang onto those leads against teams like Portland)  A mortal lock for Over 37.5 wins, especially due to KG sitting out the remaining 8 games  last year.  Those extra losses contributed to the low expectations and the initially very low Vegas Win line.  Bet the farm if you’ve got one.

8.   Pacers:  (Over/Under 45.5)

            I really like the addition of Al Harrington along with a healthy J. O’Neal.  This team could be really good, but then again who knows…a few injuries and this squad will be decimated as the bench is less than spectacular.  If they are healthy it could go either way.  I feel good about the Over, but they could realistically be anywhere from a 40-50 win team.  Playing in the weaker eastern conference adds about five or so wins, minimum.

9.   Hornets:  (Over/Under 38.5)

            The high ranking is mostly attributed to their blistering 3-0 start.  I like their off-season additions of Peja and Chandler.  Both players will be a good fit for this squad, playing alongside the superb court vision of the amazing Chris Paul.  Peja should be open for kick out threes all season long, thanks to the penetration of CP3.  With even more experience for the young point guard I see only good things in the future, along with a low seed playoff birth this season (7 or 8 seed).  Don’t sleep on David West, he’s underrated and can play.  Take the over and don’t look back, no way they don’t win at least 39 games.

10.   Suns:  (Over/Under 56.5)

            Led by the worst two time MVP in the history of the game and a still-not-completely-healthy Amare Stoudamire, how do people keep predicting this team to be one of the top teams in the West?  I don’t see it.  On top of Amare not coming back 100% healthy (beware Microfracture surgery!) they lost Tim Thomas, who could bang down low while still spotting up for threes at a good pace.  They did add… Marcus Banks!?!?  He just doesn’t win games.  No way this team lives up to the expectations.  Go Under 56.5 and go home happy. 

11.  Bulls:  (Over/Under 47.5)

            This will be a decent team, but I don’t see all the hype simply because they signed Ben Wallace…his better days are behind him anyways.  Also, the great Pistons team helped covered his deficiencies, which will be glaringly obvious on this Bulls squad.  This team has been overrated ever since they signed Wallace, but I still don’t see them winning 48 games. 

12.  Heat:  (Over/Under 52.5)

            This could be one of the most uninspired title defenses in recent history.  The team is simply too old, too slow and doesn’t have much to scare anyone other than D-Wade.  I can’t see the old vets like Walker, Payton, and Mourning being as hungry as they were last year, because what else do they have to play for? Shaq is showing his age worse than ever.  Granted he plays his way into shape during the season, but Under 52.5 wins should be a pretty solid bet.  Of course they will still make the playoffs, but I wouldn’t expect greatness. 

 

Not Quite Over the Hump:

13.   Jazz:  (Over/Under 43.5)

            The Jazz have climbed higher than I would have guess in the early going, mostly due to their strong 3-0 start.  The West is too strong though and I just don’t see them continuing at a very high clip.  The key question is how long can Boozer and/or AK47 stay healthy?  If either one goes down, look for their season to go that same direction (down).   I’d take the Under… I just don’t see them winning 44 games.

14.  Rockets:  (Over/Under 45.5)

            I like their off-season acquisitions, namely Battier and Bonzi Wells.  Two guys that should complement Yao and T-Mac very nicely.  Battier is a great “glue” guy that every team needs to be successful, as he does all the small things with a great attitude.  If T-Mac and Yao stay healthy they should be one of the top teams in the West.  When T-Mac and Yao play in the same game together they win something north of .600.  It’s tough to factor in injuries but I’ll go with the Over 45.5, despite Yao and T-Mac both being injury prone.

 

The Outside Looking In:

15.  New Jersey:  (Over/Under 49.5)

            Still a good team, don’t get me wrong.  I had them higher in my pre-season rankings, but the 1-1 record didn’t do too much for me.  (I know, I know it’s early.  But this isn’t a overall record predictor… its power rankings too!)  They should be in the thick of the playoff hunt as they play in possibly the worst division in basketball, and they should win that hands down.  Which is another reason they are not ranked too high.  49.5 seems awfully high, I’ll take the under, thank you.  One injury to Kidd, Jefferson, or Carter though could mean serious trouble.  Vinsanity is in a contract year, so he should average about 153 dunks a game. 

16.  Washington:  (Over/Under 41.5)

            Gilbert Arenas should be good for about 20 wins himself.  He is a machine.  What a crazy, zany, lovable character.  Anyone else see him come out for the Wizards home opener for the pre-game ceremonies?  What a stud!  Jamison somehow manages to quietly get his 20 points a game and can rebound to boot.  A healthy Caron Butler on the prowl should do wonders for this team.  The Over is a pretty safe bet.  They should be one of the teams battling it out for a low playoff seed towards the home stretch of the season. 

17.  76ers:  (Over/Under 37.5)

            They started off a hot 3-0 but granted it’s still the Eastern Conference and everyone was healthy at the start of the season.  No way this dysfunctional squad will play like this for long.  Too many problems and too few positives.  Look for the inevitable Chris Webber injury and the AI Trade rumors by the beginning of the new year at the latest.  Personally, I think they will implode and AI will be traded for 30 cents on the dollar before the February trade deadline.  After that they will sink like a brick.  I’m taking the Under.

18.  Bucks:  (Over/Under 39.5)

            This team won’t be great, but I’d still think they could manage to win at least 40 games.  They should also be in contention for one of the last playoff spots in the East, but I see them falling short towards the end of the season.  The addition of Charlie V. for the overrated TJ Ford was a great addition.  (He’s fast…. and……???)  Charlie V. is a great shooter than can play outside or down low.  The one question I have is that why did they add Ruben Patterson?  Because they could?  He’s a head case.

19.   Nuggets:  (Over/Under 45.5)

            I hate the Nuggets. 

P.S. Go Under.

 

Better Order NBA League Pass:

20.  Trailblazers:  (Over/Under 24.5)

            I can’t believe the fire and intensity this young squad is playing with.  Roy seems like he could be the answer to their problems.  They have a plethora of talent youth who look like they could be putting it all together in the next few years. (Roy, T. Outlaw, M. Webster, J. Jack) It will be interesting to see how this team does.  They are starting off strong and I think Roy will provide good leadership, he already seems wise beyond his years.  Kind of like a Chris Paul type, just not quite as good.  With that said, a mortal lock for Over 24.5 games.  What an absurd line. 

21.  Kings:  (Over/Under 45.5)

            This team has been there-done that.  No way they even get close to winning 46 games, take the under.  I see them winning between 40-42 games.  They just don’t have the weapons they used to (the loss of Bonzi Wells was big, bigger than you know) and they don’t strike the fear into teams like they did in the Chris Webber glory days.  It will be interesting to see if Ron Artest lasts an entire season though.  I’ll put the Over/Under on the number of rap cd’s he releases this season at 1.5 

22.  Seattle:  (Over/Under 35.5)

            This is a tough one, I’ll take the Over only because they play in our division… which is to say, very weak.  Otherwise they don’t bring a whole lot to the table.  I guess they still have Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, and Ridnour… so anything is possible.  That’s not a bad group of three.  Not sure who is going to bang down low for them though, especially with Swift out for the season with an ACL tear.

23.    Magic:  (Over/Under 40.5)

            Tough call betting wise.  But since they are in the East I’ll give them the nod… barely.  They might win a few they should have lost, and they also might lose a few they should have won.  Your classic 2006-07 .500 team.  Dwight Howard is fun to watch though.  He should be in the top three overall in rebounds and double doubles.

24.  Raptors:  (Over/Under 30.5)

           I don’t know.  I don’t see how they couldn’t win more than 31 games.  With Bosh, the overrated TJ Ford, Garbosja, Bargnani… then again maybe they won’t win 31 games. Ehhh….

 

The Greg Oden Sweepstakes:

25.   Grizzlies:  (Over/Under 40.5)

            With Pau Gasol’s broken foot I certainly thought Memphis had no chance this year… well, Rudy Gay seems to be playing quite well, thank you very much.  The Battier for Gay trade was honestly a great trade for both teams.  Houston needed a veteran presence and Gay will get ample time to learn and develop with Memphis.  Mike Miller should get a lot of opportunities to score with Gasol out.  Regardless of what happens with Gasol’s return, there is simply no way that Memphis wins 41 games this year.

26.     Warriors:  (Over/Under 37.5)

            Reality is that this team is not very good.  The positive is that they have a good chance to get a high lottery pick in the upcoming draft.  A tough western conference coupled with lousy, overpaid stiffs does not bode well for Nellie.  Coach Don Nelson might end up wishing that he would have stay retired.  If by the grace of god Baron Davis and his crew can stay healthy for the majority of the games this season, who knows, they might have a shot at winning 38 games… but certainly not making the playoffs.

27.   Bobcats:  (Over/Under 34.5)

            The key to this team can get boiled down to two things: if everyone (read: Emeka Okafur) can stay healthy and the young guys can jell as a cohesive unit.  With Felton running the point and Okafur and May banging down low and Gerald Wallace guarding everything on the wing, this team has the makings of a decent squad in the future.  Felton is vastly underrated, as I never hear anyone talking about him (mostly due to lack of national media exposure) but check out his second half splits last year, he put up some great numbers for being a young point guard leading a team of rookies.  And don’t forget about Adam Morrison…I actually know someone that thinks he will be a NBA Finals MVP someday! Granted, they won’t be world beaters right off the bat, but in a few years they could really surprise some people.  Still, Under 35 wins looks like the right bet here.  

28.   Hawks:  (Over/Under 29.5)

            The one thing this team was lacking was a true PG.  (Can you imagine Chris Paul on this team…that would have been WOW!!) Now that they got Speedy Claxton to go with their 10 other wings and Sheldon Williams.  I’d be lying if I said to expect big things out of this team, so I won’t. I think they are good for 30 wins though.

29.   Knicks:  (Over/Under 33.5)

            Well, the Knicks aren’t last.  It should be humorous to watch Isaiah Thomas attempt to coach this band of misfits and outcasts, I’ll admit that.  Does anyone other than David Stern and Bulls fans (since they have the rights to switch first round picks with the Knicks this next draft) care about the Knicks?  If you are seriously contemplating betting on the Knicks Over/Under total, you have more problems than I can help you with.  Still…if I was a betting man, I’d bet the Under.

30.   Celtics:  (Over/Under 37.5)  

            It’s quite sad to what this once proud franchise has amounted to.  It’s been 20 years since their sixteenth banner, and it’s a good chance they might have to wait another 20 more.  Glenn “Doc” Rivers easily takes the cake for worst coach in the league.  His offense is stagnant, his defense is non-existent, and his substitutions are befuddling.  The biggest downfall to this year’s squad is that they only have four active players with three or more years of experience.  9 guys under 24 years old.  It’s quite the youth movement that Danny Ainge is assembling there in Boston.  Paul Pierce and Wally S. are the only two players that you could remotely count on.  The rookie Rondo looks like he might have some promise and Gerald Green is an offensive dynamo, but he can’t play a lick of defense and has a very low basketball IQ.  Their one saving grace is that they have Michael Olowokandi…one of the goofiest players in the league.  He is good for an extra .5 wins per year, at least.  Take the under.  I wonder how Greg Oden would look in Green?

CW 

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