Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2014-15 NBA Predictions

Superstars rule the NBA, and championships are won with multiple superstars, so, it would only be fitting that the Cleveland Cavaliers are the favorites to win the 2015 NBA Championship

It's a sign of the times. Superstar player joins team, then attracts other superstar players to join forces. There's not much parity in the NBA when it comes to legitimate championship contenders. And I expect teams like the Cavaliers to prove that once again this year.

In their case, LeBron James decided to break his bond with the Miami Heat and return home to Cleveland. As a result, Kevin Love's trade demands, combined with the intrigue of playing with James, also led him to Cleveland.

The Cavaliers are just one of a handful of teams that I feel have a legitimate shot to win it all this season. Also on the radar (according to Vegas) are the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, and the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.

The Indiana Pacers won't be able to keep up without Paul George for the entire season. And to be completely honest, the more I think about it, I'm not even sure I feel too comfortable calling the Thunder a "legitimate" contender this year. Sure, Kevin Durant is expected to only miss the first two months of the regular season after having foot surgery last week. But he's already telling the media that he's "not going to rush" his return to the lineup.

When you take into account that Durant just turned 26 and is up for a new contract after next season, just how long does "not rushing" mean? And listen, I wouldn't blame him if he missed more than two months in order to look out for himself. Do what you have to do, big dog. I'm just pointing out that the two-month timetable seems somewhat unrealistic, based on the factors I previously mentioned.

Speaking of questionable timetables, it would seem that Derrick Rose is past his injury issues, at least for now. Rose has missed the last two seasons with serious knee injuries. But his renewed explosiveness, along with the addition of Pau Gasol, could possibly give the Chicago Bulls the juice they need to finally live up to the hype that's been hanging over their heads in recent years.

You want a couple sleepers, outside my handful of "contenders?" I'm waiting for the Golden State Warriors to make a serious playoff run with the type of shooting they have in their backcourt. I would assume that as this season goes on, the Warriors will be happy they didn't trade Klay Thompson in the offseason.

Also on my sleeper list this year is the Houston Rockets. I'm one of the biggest Dwight Howard haters out there, but I have a feeling that Houston is somehow going to land Rajon Rondo during the season, if Rondo is traded during the final year of his current contract.

If that happens, Rondo gives the Rockets the type of distributor and floor general that can allow to James Harden to focus strictly on scoring and defense.

After all, championships are won with multiple superstar players. If Houston can land someone like Rondo, I wouldn't be shocked if they made a crazy playoff run.

But would they have enough to win it all?

Here are my 2014-15 NBA predictions:

EASTERN CONFERENCE:
Atlantic Division: Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks
Central Division: Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls,
Southeast Division: Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets

WESTERN CONFERENCE:
Northwest Division: Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder
Pacific Division: Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers
Southwest Division: San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks


NBA PLAYOFFS:

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals:
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers over (8) New York Knicks
(4) Chicago Bulls over (5) Washington Wizards
(6) Charlotte Hornets over (3) Brooklyn Nets
(2) Miami Heat over (7) Toronto Raptors

Western Conference Quarterfinals:
(1) San Antonio Spurs over (8) Dallas Mavericks
(4) Houston Rockets over (5) Oklahoma City Thunder
(3) Golden State Warriors over (6) Los Angeles Clippers
(2) Portland Trail Blazers over (7) Los Angeles Lakers


Eastern Conference Semifinals:
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers over (4) Chicago Bulls
(6) Charlotte Hornets over (2) Miami Heat

Western Conference Semifinals:
(4) Houston Rockets over (1) San Antonio Spurs
(3) Golden State Warriors over (2) Portland Trail Blazers


Eastern Conference Final:
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers over (6) Charlotte Hornets

Western Conference Final:
(4) Houston Rockets over (3) Golden State Warriors


NBA FINALS:
Cleveland Cavaliers over Houston Rockets

Monday, October 06, 2014

2014-15 NHL Predictions

In the last five years, only three teams have won the Stanley Cup: he Los Angeles Kings won two, the Chicago Blackhawks won two, and the Boston Bruins won the other

There's nothing new that tells me those three teams won't once again be contenders to hoist the Cup next summer. But if I had to put my money on it, I wouldn't bet the Kings to repeat as champs. Fo no reason other than the fact that the Stanley Cup is the toughest trophy to win, in any sport, never mind repeat.

We saw that first-hand, after the Bruins won the Cup in 2011. The Cup hangover is real. there's no denying that. As a reporter at the time for Comcast Sportsnet New England, I can recall Shawn Thornton telling me that the following season, in 2011-12, felt like an extension of the championship 2010-11 season.

"It felt like a baseball season," said Thornton.

Baseball plays 162 games. In the NHL, there are 82. The year after the Bruins won the Cup, they lost to the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs, in seven games.

Long story short, they just ran out of gas.

As to what point the Kings will run out of gas this season, remains to be seen. But after winning the Cup last year -- their second in three years -- I expect them to be watching someone else hoist la Coupe when it's all said and done.

If the trend of the last five years continues, one would have to consider the Blackhawks and Bruins as favorites to win it all again. In the days leading into the beginning of the regular season, the Blackhawks were the overall favorites, at 13/2. After that was the Anaheim Ducks at 10/1, the Bruins at 10/1, the Kings at 10/1, and the Pittsburgh Penguins at 12/1.

And that would be the moment when you remember the Penguins still exist, and that Sidney Crosby is the reigning league MVP. If there's any team entering this season that would be capable of crashing the Stanley Cup party, it would be the team with the best player in the world.

But will they?

Here are my 2014-15 NHL Predictions:

EASTERN CONFERENCE:
Atlantic Division: Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins
Metropolitan Division: Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets
Wild Card: Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers

WESTERN CONFERENCE:
Central Division: Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche
Pacific Division: Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks
Wild Card: Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS:

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals:
(1) Montreal Canadiens over (4) Toronto Maple Leafs
(3) Boston Bruins over (2) Detroit Red Wings

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins over (4) New York Rangers
(2) Washington Capitals over (3) Columbus Blue Jackets

Western Conference Quarterfinals:
(1) Chicago Blackhawks over (4) San Jose Sharks
(3) Colorado Avalanche over (2) St. Louis Blues

(1) Los Angeles Kings over (4) Phoenix Coyotes
(2) Anaheim Ducks over (3) Vancouver Canucks


Eastern Conference Semifinals:
(3) Boston Bruins over (1) Montreal Canadiens
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins over (2) Washington Capitals

Western Conference Semifinals:
(3) Colorado Avalanche over (1) Chicago Blackhawks
(2) Anaheim Ducks over (1) Los Angeles Kings


Eastern Conference Final:
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins over (3) Boston Bruins

Western Conference Final:
(3) Colorado Avalanche over (2) Anaheim Ducks


Stanley Cup Final:
Pittsburgh Penguins over Colorado Avalanche