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Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Updated: October 31, 4:44 PM ET
Time for a quick NBA fix

By Bill Simmons
Page 2

Believe me, this wasn't what I had in mind for a 2007-08 NBA Preview, but the Red Sox and real life ended up intervening. There's still plenty of time this month to unleash my extended thoughts on the 30 teams (including the first Power Poll, as well as my annual "NBA Top 40 Trade Value" column). We'll just have to wait a week or two for family reasons.

I did want to mention one thing: At the last minute, I ended up renewing my Clippers tickets and splitting them with a friend. We were going through the home games when I realized there were only three teams I wasn't interested in seeing live: Portland, Indiana and Sacramento. (Most people would throw Minnesota in there as well, but I'm still attached to Ryan Gomes and Al Jefferson and want to see them play.) Every other team had something to offer, and there were 15-16 teams I was genuinely excited to see, which made me realize the league is in an extremely good place right now from a talent standpoint. Now it just needs to figure out how to handle the ongoing officiating problems, the ongoing competitive problems , the stale playoff system, the ongoing tanking issue, the luxury tax's stranglehold over any potential roster improvements and a lottery system that clearly doesn't work.

Why weren't these issues handled before the season? The NBA tinkered with the officiating infrastructure mainly because the Donaghy Scandal forced its hand; let the record show the league completely ignored the other problems. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. After the most damaging 12-month stretch of the Stern Era, it seemed arrogant (and that's being kind) for the league to adopt the always-dangerous "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy, especially after Boston's resurgence and the never-ending Kobe Saga saved the league from a month of cover stories about how screwed up the NBA is right now.

The question remains: Why do the people running the NBA care so much about big-picture issues and causes (globalization, technological advancements, the WNBA, etc.) and so little about the quality and integrity of the league itself? Not only are there better and more entertaining ways to run the playoffs and the lottery, but the widespread tanking that happened last spring was an unequivocal disgrace. We're all fine with what happened? Really? Where is the brainstorming? Where is the public admission these are legitimate problems and need to be fixed? Why have the league's TV partners (Disney and Turner) been so silent during all of this? How can anyone think it's OK that the Minnesota season-ticket holders will pay full price for a team that traded its only asset and will be openly tanking by March? How could a playoff system that piques public interest in Round 1, then leaves fans progressively less interested with every round ... I mean, how is this OK?

As much as I respect David Stern's passion, leadership and vision over the first 23 years of his tenure, it's hard to fathom what happened over the past 12 months and what's being allowed to continue to happen now. I don't get it. I really don't. Let's hope there are some changes in the works that haven't been announced yet. And let's hope Gary Bettman didn't secretly take over this league a year ago.

In the meantime, I wanted to get all my thoughts and predictions about the upcoming season ON THE RECORD. Here we go.

PREDICTIONS FOR THE SEASON
(updated to include the revised playoff system that started last season)

EAST PLAYOFF TEAMS
1. Chicago, 56-26
2. Detroit, 50-32
3. Boston, 49-33
4. Miami, 43-39
5. New Jersey, 45-37
6. Milwaukee, 41-41
7. Atlanta, 40-42
8. Indiana, 40-42

WEST PLAYOFF TEAMS
1. Phoenix, 64-18
2. Dallas, 57-25
3. Denver, 56-26
4. San Antonio, 56-26
5. Houston, 48-34
6. New Orleans, 43-39
7. Memphis, 42-40
8. Utah, 41-41

LOTTERY TEAMS
14. L.A. Clippers, 40-42
13. Golden State, 40-42
12. Cleveland, 39-43
11. Toronto, 39-43
10. Washington, 39-43
9. L.A. Lakers, 37-45
8. Philly, 36-46
7. Orlando, 36-46
6. N.Y. Knicks, 32-50
5. Charlotte, 28-54
4. Sacramento, 27-55
3. Seattle, 25-57
2. Portland, 24-58
1. Minnesota, 17-65

PLAYOFF PICKS
First round: Chicago over Indy; Detroit over Atlanta; Boston over Milwaukee; Miami over New Jersey; Phoenix over Utah; Dallas over Memphis; Denver over New Orleans; San Antonio over Houston.

Second round: Chicago over Miami; Detroit over Boston; San Antonio over Phoenix; Denver over Dallas.

Conference finals: Chicago over Detroit; San Antonio over Denver.

NBA Finals: San Antonio over Chicago in five.

TOP SIX MVP PICKS
1. Kevin Garnett
2. Steve Nash
3. Carmelo Anthony
4. Dwyane Wade
5. LeBron James
6. Dirk Nowitzki

TOP SIX UNINTENTIONAL COMEDY MVP PICKS
1. Brad Miller
2. Robert Swift
3. Ricky Davis
4. Yi Jianlian
5. Chris Kaman
6. Stephen Jackson

TOP SIX PICKS FOR ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Kevin Durant
2. Al Horford
3. Juan Carlos Navarro
4. Al Thornton
5. Acie Law IV
6. Corey Brewer

TOP FOUR PICKS FOR COACH OF THE YEAR
1. George Karl
2. Mike D'Antoni
3. Scott Skiles
4. Marc Iavaroni

TOP SIX CAREER YEARS
1. Dwight Howard
2. Carmelo Anthony
3. Dwyane Wade
4. Chris Paul
5. Pau Gasol
6. Deron Williams

TOP SIX LEAP YEARS
1. Andrea Bargnani
2. Monta Ellis
3. David Lee
4. Marvin Williams
5. Tyrus Thomas
6. Emeka Okafor

TOP SEVEN INJURY-PLAGUED SEASONS
1. Baron Davis
2. Carlos Boozer
3. Vince Carter
4. Brandon Roy
5. Zydrunas Ilgauskas
6. Ray Allen
7. Yao Ming

TOP FIVE COMEBACK YEARS
1. Peja Stojakovic
2. Kenyon Martin
3. Grant Hill
4. Bobby Simmons
5. Eddie House

TOP SIX RANDOMLY REALLY GOOD YEARS
1. Rasheed Wallace
2. Tyson Chandler
3. Shaquille O'Neal
4. Jermaine O'Neal
5. Corey Maggette
6. Al Harrington

TOP 12 RANDOM ROTATION GUYS I LIKE TO MAKE MINI-LEAPS
1. Kyle Lowry
2. Hilton Armstrong
3. Martell Webster
4. Big Baby Davis
5. Sean Williams
6. Jordan Farmar
7. Keith Bogans
8. Jason Smith
9. Ronnie Brewer
10. Matt Bonner
11. Ime Udoka
12. Andray Blatche

TOP SIX FEBRUARY BUYOUT GUYS
1. Sam Cassell
2. Damon Stoudamire
3. Theo Ratliff's Expiring Contract
4. Kurt Thomas
5. Tyronn Lue
6. Antoine Walker

TOP SIX MOST LIKELY TRADE CANDIDATES
1. Lamar Odom
2. Antawn Jamison
3. Mike Bibby
4. Andrew Bynum
5. Ricky Davis
6. Darko Milicic

PREDICTIONS FOR THE ALL-STAR TEAMS
East Starters: Shaq, KG, LeBron, Wade, Arenas

East Bench: Pierce, Kidd, Billups, Howard, Redd, Bosh, J. O'Neal

West Starters: Yao, Nowitzki, Carmelo, Kobe, Iverson

West Bench: Duncan, Gasol, C. Paul, Nash, Ginobili, T-Mac, Marion

TOP 20 RANDOM PREDICTIONS FOR THE SEASON

1. The Lakers do NOT trade Kobe unless it's for T-Mac.

2. Ricky Davis and South Beach turn out to be the single worst NBA match since P.J. and Spree.

3. Cassell tanks in L.A., gets bought out and signs with Denver over Boston.

4. Phoenix kicks off with an insane stretch of basketball (something like 24-2) before Grant Hill and/or Amare Stoudemire go down for a few weeks.

5. You will never get tired of those "The NBA is amazing" commercials.

6. Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston play fewer than 20 games combined.

7. Both Jerry Sloan and Pat Riley announce they're retiring after the season.

8. Jermaine O'Neal recants his trade request because he's drinking the Jim O'Brien Kool-Aid.

9. Isiah Thomas gets fired between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.

10. A writer or broadcaster finally convinces Stan Van Gundy to throw Pat Riley under the bus.

11. Baron Davis gets shopped around but NOT traded.

12. The Celtics break the records for "most amount of time the bench guys stood up clapping and cheering during an 82-game season" and "most times the other four guys immediately ran over to pick up a teammate who got knocked down."

13. Anderson Varejao signs a lucrative one-year deal in Europe.

14. After narrowly missing the All-Star team, a slightly perturbed Kevin Durant averages 28/9 after the break.

15. The Atlanta Hawks draw more than 11,000 people to a home game.

16. Not only will Phoenix NOT trade Shawn Marion, but stories will start trickling out that Grant Hill defused the entire situation, took Marion under his wing and did everything short of legally adopting him.

17. Stevie Francis is either traded or bought out before the end of February.

18. LeBron asks to be traded, then recants the request and claims he was misquoted.

19. The whole "Yi Jianlian needs to get 20 minutes" promise becomes a complete debacle and nearly undermines Milwaukee's season after it becomes clear the Chairman isn't even remotely ready.

20. John Thompson gets Dirk Nowitzki to cry during a TNT interview.

OVER/UNDERS

Before every season, Vegas releases the over/under win totals for every team. I thought I'd go on the record with my picks for this season.

BEST BETS

Denver (49.5) -- Over
Indiana (30.5) -- Over
Memphis (34) -- Over
Cleveland (48.5) -- Under
Orlando (46.5) -- Under
Toronto (42.5) -- Under


OTHER PICKS

Atlanta (39) -- Over
Boston (50.5) -- Under
Charlotte (35.5) -- Under
Chicago (50.5) -- Over
Dallas (56.5) -- Over
Detroit (50.5) -- Under
Golden State (43) -- Under
Houston (53.5) -- Under
L.A. Clips (30.5) -- Over
L.A. Lakers (42.5) -- Under
Miami (45) -- Under
Milwaukee (36.5) -- Over
Minnesota (20.5) -- Under
New Jersey (44) -- Over
New Orleans (38) -- Over
N.Y. Knicks (37) -- Under
Philly (32.5) -- Over
Phoenix (56.5) -- Over
Portland (31) -- Under
Sacramento (34.5) -- Under
San Antonio (54.5) -- Over
Seattle (28) -- Under
Utah (47.5) -- Under
Washington (40) -- Under

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos, favorite links and more, check out the revamped Sports Guy World.