Ball Don't Lie - NBA



For the next few weeks, I'm going to pick an NBA-related subject, A-through-Z, and tell you why it's worth your time, and why it's one of the reasons I love covering this league.

Because that's why I wanted to become a scribe who's paid to cover this league. Sharing the things I know and love with those of my kind. All that stuff.

Because I'm lucky enough to have your ear for however long, I don't care that this might come off as a bit twee. A little embarrassing. A little too forthright. I'm OK with that. Hopefully you are, as well.

"P" is for "playoff positioning."

The initial point to this post was supposed to lay waste to the idea that the NBA doesn't really matter until the postseason. How things are steadied, conservative, and rather boring until spring hits. And, how pennant races hardly matter, when more than half the teams in the league actually qualify for postseason play.

But as I wrote more, and went back and looked at end of season standings, after standings, it became clearer and clearer that any hope for a midseason-and-beyond batch of pre-playoff intrigue just seems like happenstance. You have to be there, too. Nobody really looks upon the late-season jostling in the NBA like they do, say, Bobby Thompson's home run. But it's there. More than in other sports.

Because while baseball might still have its pennant races (two, right now, for six divisions; with the leaders in the wild card standings in no danger of losing out on the postseason, in a sport where playoff positioning and home field advantage rarely make a difference), and football still has its "a Titans loss coupled with a Jacksonville win and a Bengals tie and/or win will allow ..." nonsense brought to us by Greg Gumbel in late December, basketball still has its own sorts of pennant races.

Honestly.

And, think about it. In what pro sport do these matchups mean the most? Any football team can waltz into any stadium in the winter and have a fighting chance. Any baseball team can hit October with 85 wins and still have as-good-as-any odds at a ring.

Basketball? No chance, here. Who you play, counts.

And, if my mid-summer guesswork is correct, we're about to see some real jostling down the stretch of 2010-11.

I'm going to present to you my expected standings for 2010-11, as submitted for the Yahoo! Sports NBA preview magazine. Completely untouched, unedited, unchanged. Written in mid-summer, before the Darren Collison(notes) trade and irrespective of Carmelo Anthony's(notes) wishes, I still think they hold up. The point of all of it is the close proximity between a ton of these teams, and what the resultant playoff matchups would be.

The point, after the read, is for you to go into the comments and, sure, call me a moron. There are 30 teams, and fans of each of these teams will find something they don't like. Such is life as an objective observer that watches about eight hours of pro basketball a day during the regular season. Sorry I didn't give you 81 wins, Miami.

The point after that is to wonder aloud about just how close these pairings are, what the playoff implications will be, and to consider how likely it is (assuming Carmelo sticks, which seems likelier and likelier by the minute - though we have no faith in the Denver front office and are assuming they'll act like a bunch of give-ups and refuse to call his bluff) that a good 70 percent of these playoff seedings will be decided on the last week of the regular season.

After this particular point, you're allowed to call me a moron, again. Because I legitimately have enmity for each of your favorite teams. All 30 of them. Affects everything I write.

The projected standings:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Miami Heat 70-12

Orlando Magic 60-22

Boston Celtics 50-32

Chicago Bulls 49-33

Atlanta Hawks 48-34

Milwaukee Bucks 48-34

New York Knicks 41-41

Charlotte Bobcats 38-44

Philadelphia 76ers 35-47

Toronto Raptors 31-51

Washington Wizards 31-51

Indiana Pacers 28-54

New Jersey Nets 27-55

Detroit Pistons 19-63

Cleveland Cavaliers 12-70

***

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Los Angeles Lakers 57-25

San Antonio Spurs 55-27

Dallas Mavericks 52-30

Phoenix Suns 52-30

Utah Jazz 52-30

Denver Nuggets 50-32

Portland Trail Blazers 50-32

Oklahoma City Thunder 47-35

Houston Rockets 46-36

New Orleans Hornets 44-38

Memphis Grizzlies 40-42

Los Angeles Clippers 38-44

Sacramento Kings 26-56

Golden State Warriors 21-61

Minnesota Timberwolves 13-69

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