the NBAThe World Series isn’t over, technically, but the National Basketball Association insists it’s now basketball season.  Last year,  the Western Conference delighted fans of good teams (and dismayed fans of bad ones) with one of the most competive races in sports history.

What will happen this year?  Well, is here to find out.


The West

Pacific Division

lakersLA Lakers – The Lakers start the most open season in years as consensus favorites, with experience gained from defeat in the Finals seen as an advantage for Phil Jackson’s talented and motivated roster.  After a stellar Olympics, Kobe is the league’s alpha male.  Prediction – 1st 58-26.

sunsPhoenix – Last season felt like a disaster in the once-proud land of the Sun, but don’t forget that Nash, Shaq, Grant Hill and co still won 55 games.  Steve Kerr may have question-marks over his capabilities in the front office, but Terry Porter is a proven coach.  Prediction – 2nd, 52-30.

warriorsGolden State – The loss of Baron Davis and the injury to Monta Ellis may seem like disasters, but it’s under precisely these circumstances that Don Nelson excells; low expectations.  Ever heard of Anthony Morrow, Rob Kurz, or Richard Hendrix?  You will soon.  Prediction – 3rd, 33-49.

clippersLA Clippers – Elton Brand’s dramatic summertime defection to Philly was the last straw for Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, who made a grab for power and usurped longtime GM Elgin Baylor.  Now, the success, or otherwise, of this disjointed squad lies on his shoulders.  Prediction – 4th, 25-57.

kingsSacramento – One of the surprises of last season was the way rookie coach Reggie Theus kept the dysfunctional Kings competitive in the merciless West.  But repeating the performance, in the standings at least, this season will be different yet no less challenging task.  Prediction - 5th, 22-60.

Northwest Division

nuggetsDenver – The Nuggets have made the playoffs 5 straight seasons, but last year was the first time they reached 50 wins.  And still wound up with the 8th seed.  To make a serious a move this season, Nene and Kenyon Martin must play more than 87 combined games.  Prediction – 1st, 53-29.

jazzUtah – With an ounce of good fortune, Utah would have defeated the Lakers in the conference semis and gone all the way to the Finals.  But coming off a summer where Williams, Boozer and Kirilenko all played international ball it will be tough to reproduce that effort.  Prediction - 2nd, 50-32.

trailblazersPortland - Many observers have already written the Blazers into the 2009 postseason, and as capable as Greg Oden’s team undoubtedly is, which team is going to drop out of the playoff race for this to happen?  Denver?  Utah?  Phoenix?  Dallas?  Hmmm, thought not.  Prediction - 3rd, 44-38.

timberwolvesMinnesota – Kevin McHale is transparently re-building with transparency, adding Kevin Love, Mike Miller and Brian Cardinal on draft day, and it seemed to work in the pre-season, with the TWolves finishing with a 6-2 record, the same as Boston and Detroit.  Stop laughing.  Prediction – 4th, 29-53.

supersonicsOklahoma – The pressue is on the city of Oklahoma, ah, City to support their new NBA franchise which as much enthusiasm as they did the visiting New Orleans Hornets a couple of years ago. It’s no fait accompli; this bunch of rookies and ex-Sonics is going to be awful.  Prediction – 5th, 20-62.

SouthWest Division

hornetsNew Orleans – All last year the league waited for the Hornets to fade, but behind undisputed superstar Chris Paul and still-disputed coach Byron Scott this team is for real.  With an improved bench and a full training camp together, the Hornets are the cream of the crop. Prediction – 1st, 56-26.

spursSan Antonio – Many pundits predict a slow start for the Spurs, who will be without Manu Ginobili (injured), Damon Stoudamire (waived) and Brent Barry (traded).  But an unusually refreshed Duncan and Parker combo means that any lack of depth is unlikely to matter.  Prediction – 2nd, 55-27.

rocketsHouston – Season 08/09 promises to be all-or-nothing for the Rockets, who have a roster capable of winning the championship in 8 months time.  But with annual injury worries already hanging over McGrady and Yao, Houston need to walk before they can run the table.   Prediction – 3rd, 53-29.

mavericksDallas – The Mavs will be happier under new coach Rick Carlisle, but will they be better? They fell from 67 wins 2 years ago to 51 last season, and it’s hard to know which was the abberation. Either way, this is not a young team any more, Dirk turned 30 over the summer. Prediction – 4th, 48-34.

grizzlesMemphis – It’s been a poor 12 months for the Grizzlies, who started last year with promise but in the end managed only to gave away their franchise player for the 2nd worst #1 pick in 20 years.  Memphis have lost 60 games both of the past 2 seasons.  Sounds about right.  Prediction – 5th, 22-60.