So let's take a look at the standings right now and compare them to what was expected at the beginning of the season. Let's see who had themselves some (Clips WHAT!) and who failed at a little thing called life (Houston, where you at?)
I will only be focusing on the Western Conference, because breaking down the east means talking about teams like Milwaukee and New Jersey, and I don't like to talk about stupid teams
#1 San Antonio (23-7)
Oh just go get some, kids! If you didn't think the Spurs were going to be the #1 seed in the west this season, you don't know anything about basketball and you should try to find a new sport to be interested in. I hear NHL is taking applications.
Really though, the big surprise, for me at least, is that they have already lost 7 games. I didn't see that happening until February. I really thought with Finley and Van X they could challenge the Bulls. But still, they are absolutely dominating.
#2 Dallas (21-7)
Dirk, raze it up! This is a surprise to me. I figured they would be good, but not having an almost identical record to SA. That's tough. They're playing great. Watching them play the Wolves, they did everything they needed to do to win, and they never let the Wolves think they could be beaten. They'll be this good for the rest of the season, I think. But, eventually I think they will lose the #2 spot to....
#3 Phoenix (17-10)
No Stoudy and still they're eating donuts in Arizona! Phoenix is one of those teams who is probably going to rip off 13-15 wins in a row soon. And if Amare comes back strong, they'll do exactly what they did last year.... floss and toss into the playoffs and run into the brick wall known as San Antonio.
But I do think they'll end up with a better record than Dallas.
#4 Memphis (17-10)
Normally, I would say they are destined for a fall here, but Damon's got the dog in him this year, and Fratello's done it before. No Bonzi to fuck them up, Pao is going all ghetto now, and they have survived some tough tests. Prediction? Shit, I have NO idea. I see them around a #5 seed, but who can say?
#5 LA Clippers (16-11)
My partner (not THAT kind of partner) said it best:
Has Sam Cassell helped revitalize the laughing stock of professional sports organizations? Sure, this year. Has he held up his claims of being healthy and still being a very dangerous player? Absolutely. So far. Will he help them get into the playoffs? He certainly won’t hurt their chances of achieving that goal. Will he be around in the future, to continue the Clippers growth as a franchise? Absolutely not.
Now, I'm not going all White-Sox here and proclaiming that the Clips are going to tank, but I honestly don't think they can hang this high. If they make the playoffs, I see it coming as an 8 seed. But then again, who knows? There are a lot of teams in the west underachieving (Denver, Seattle, Houston, Sackramento), so the Clips have put themselves in a good position. But it's a long season, and the Maghettos of the world have no idea how to play meaningful games in March. So count this as a "wait and see" approach. By February, we'll know if they're for real.
#6 Minnesota (14-12)
Wally's drinking paint straight from the can, Eddie's knocking chips in stacks like this was Vegas, and Marko's looking awful dead-eye (and I don't just say that because sometimes he looks like a cyclops). Oh yeah, and Kevin Garnett.
Where will they end up? I think #7 or #8. They look like a playoff team. No, they don't look like a successful playoff team, but they keep beating the lesser teams, and if you do that, you'll make the playoffs. If you beat Portlands, Utahs and NOOCHes, you can take losses to San Antonios and Phoenixes (let's just stop with that plural city names, shall we?) The point is that beating inferior opponents is always a sign of a good team, and the Wolves are in a weak enough division to make the playoffs. Can't believe I wrote that.
#7 LA Lakers (15-14)
Hey, did you know Kobe Bryant plays for the Lakers?
They will not make the playoffs this year.
#8 Golden State (15-14)
*sigh*, whatever. The Warriors are playing well, sure. And there's no reason to think they cannot make the playoffs. They are balanced and have a very underrated floor general. They don't have defense, and if Baron needs a backiotomy, they're done.
Let's put it this way - there are 8 playoff spots. San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix are guaranteed to make it. Right now, I would say Memphis is also a semi-lock. That leaves 4 spots for 7 teams (in my opinion). So out of Minnesota, Denver, Seattle, Lakers, Clippers, Sacramento and Golden State, 4 of those teams will make it. If you make me choose, I say Minnesota, Clippers, Denver and Sacramento. But really, I have no idea.
Really, the prevailing trend here is that nobody can knock off the top three teams. Yeah, the Clippers were out of their mind for awhile there, but they're not going to bounce with the Spurs or Mavs. They just don't have what it takes. Hell, no team does (save Detroit), so let's not worry about it. The Wolves will be locked into a fight for playoff position from now until April 19th, but it won't matter when they have to open the postseason in sunny Phoenix.
#9 Denver (14-16)
They suck, they're punks, and they are underachieving. George Karl is not a good coach, and will eventually implode. They lost the only non-punk on their team (Nene) and Camby can't play like this forever.
Can they make the playoffs? Why the hell not.
#10 Seattle (13-15)
They can't shoot it as well as last year, and they just ran out of steam during last year's playoffs. I don't know if Nate McMillan was that big of a force on this team (he sure wasn't when he was playing), but something's wrong with them. That game on Wednesday was telling. Something's amiss. Or rather, something was wrong with them LAST season, when they were tossing out hits like E.A. Presley.
#11 Utah (13-16)
They'll be in this same spot all year. Call them what you will, but at least they are consistent. They will win somewhere between 35 and 36 games this season.
#12 NOOCH (12-16)
HEY!!!! Chris Paul is REALLY GOOD!
The rest of this team REALLY SUCKS. That is why they will not have any success this year. But yes, I admit, Paul is awesome.
#13 Sackramento (11-17)
They just feel like they will turn it around, don't they? Or am I lost here? I don't know what it is, but when Bonzi hit that dunko-donk in front of Skita's face, I saw some life in them. And they're too solid to not make the playoffs, right? Right? Anyone?
I'm probably wrong. They'll probably end up winning 30 games.
#14 Houston (10-17)
Unlike Sackramento, I think Houston is D-U-N done. They are doner than done. They are so done, they can't even talk about done anymore because done would come back and kick their asses and drink all their kool-aid. That's done.
McGrady just doesn't have it, and if he's not in the perfect situation, he's never going to be anything. Yao is pathetic this season. I'm doubting their whole team, from Van Gundy on down. He deserves better, but McGrady does not.
#15 Portland (10-18)
Nope, no way, not this year. They will win about 25 games, and NBA fans will wait with bated breath to see if Zach Randolph completely loses his shit on the court in April. There's a powderkeg in Portland, and when you hear things like "Joel Pryzbilla will likely leave in free agency" and that HURTS their team, you know there's trouble.
So - a summary:
San Antonio - Will continue to dominate
Dallas - Will be right there with the Spurs, until the playoffs
Phoenix - Will play the Spurs in the conference finals
Memphis - Will continue to play well, because Fratello is a disciplined coach
Clippers - Will collapse if/when Sam's dick breaks. Elton Brand will return to normalcy regardless
Minnesota - Will make the playoffs if not too many teams step up and fill in those last 4 spots. They will win 45 games
Lakers - Will not make the playoffs. Other than that, I don't care
Golden State - Will make or not make the playoffs (I care even less about them than the Lakers)
Denver - Will probably continue to tank, which will lead to a Karl meltdown
Seattle - Will not turn it around and end up trading a major piece of last year's team
Utah - Will continue to play basketball in Utah
NOOCH - Chris Fucking Andersen
Sackramento - Will prove me wrong by losing a lot of games and trading Bibby
Houston - Will contemplate trading Yao, which will end Jeff's life
Portland - Will get arrested
Have a good new year, scabs!