Friday, May 17, 2013

Prediction Review

Way, way back in December 2012, before most of you even knew this blog existed, I put together a piece outlining 5 bold predictions for the upcoming NBA season. The prediction piece is a classic space-filler for most sports blogs looking to put up more content before the season started, and - full disclosure - that's exactly the purpose it served here. But unlike most preseason predictors who make their claims then pretend they never existed when the season blows them to smithereens, I am here to own up to my claims and see just how I did. A few quick disclosures:
  • When I initially published the column, I specifically noted they would be bold predictions, i.e., things I didn't really expect to come true, but things I thought had a legitimate shot of happening that most people seemed to disregard. Does that excuse my pick of Kyrie Irving to win the scoring title? Absolutely not! Just wanted to state my case before diving into too much detail.
  • These predictions were not technically made before the season, but they were made after about 13 games for each team, so the sample size was not high enough to really get a good read on any teams. I would have been pretty happy to get 2 out of these 5 predictions correct at the time I made them.
  • I'll go ahead and score myself using the following grades: resounding victory, victory on a technicality, loss on a technicality, and "what were you thinking?"
With those out of the way, let's see how the predictions played out...

This guy knew a thing or two about bold predictions.,

1. Memphis will not finish as a top-4 seed in the West.
I started the column with probably the least bold of my 5 predictions, stating that Memphis would not continue their hot start and would fall behind several other Western contenders. As it turned out, this one came true, but not because Memphis fell apart - they still won 56 games, which would have been good for a top 4 seed (in either conference) every year since 2002! It really wasn't Memphis' fault that 4 other Western conference teams went nuts and prevented them from getting home court in the 1st round - and so far they have shown they were for real, advancing to the conference finals with relative ease. I will take some credit for Memphis' struggles before the "addition by subtraction" trade of Rudy Gay, but they went nuts after the trade and only a late loss to the Clippers allowed me to suck out on this bet.
VERDICT: Victory on a Technicality
2. At least 9 Western Conference Teams will win 47 or more games; at least 11 Western Conference Teams will win 42 or more games.
Hmmm...looking at the West before the season started, we had a load of teams that were expected to be competitive night in and night out, and only a few that were not...but those that weren't were really supposed to suck. To me, this looked like a recipe for strong parity at the top of the conference, a weak underbelly, and not a lot of help from the East, leading to a bunch of teams finishing above .500 and no mediocre teams making the playoffs. So what happened? Well, a few things. First of all, Minnesota, projected as a playoff team at worst before the season started, sustained a preposterous number of injuries to the point where they started somebody named Mickael Gelabale 13 times during the season. Next, as covered above, 5 West teams went away and hid at a level not seen in the prior 10 seasons. And despite all this, I wasn't terribly far off - the Jazz finished 9th, punted the last 1/4 of their season and still won 43 games, and the Mavs won 41 and finished 10th in the conference. Definitely not an accurate call, but also not as far off as it appeared on the surface.
VERDICT: 2 Losses on a Technicality
3. Neither Boston nor Indiana will advance past the first round of the playoffs.
Ah, now there's one prediction I really nailed. Boston started the year without too much vigor, but still sat well in the Eastern Conference in the early going because...well...the conference is garbage. "Hey, wait," you might say, "Boston lost Rondo before the season was half over!" While this is true, it is also true that they were under .500 when Rondo went out and finished the season above .500 (barely, but still). This Boston team was never as good as they appeared, and despite incredible efforts by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett all season, they were destined to get bounced early in the playoffs. On the other hand, I have no idea what got into Indiana without their leading scorer from last season. Somehow they figured out how to score mid-season, took the 3rd seed in the East, and dispatched of the Atlanta Hawks in a series that fewer people saw than see aliens on a daily basis. I have no defense here.
VERDICT: 1 Resounding Victory, 1 "What Were You Thinking???"
4. The Chicago Bulls will win at least 2 games in the Conference Finals
Against all odds, I will be bringing up the Atlanta Hawks a second time in this breakdown! Why you ask? Well, in their desire to avoid potentially facing the Miami Heat in round 2, the Hawks shamelessly tanked their final 2 games, preventing Chicago from ending up in the 6-seed and putting them in the 5-seed instead...where they ran into the Miami Heat in round 2. They put up a game effort in 3 of the 5 games despite missing massive contributors Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, and somehow managed to start Nate Robinson all playoffs without getting burned in a major way. I'd say it was the matchup and the unfortunate Deng spinal tap that prevented this prediction from coming true. Yep. Definitely just those two things. Absolutely no other reason I can think of. None whatsoever. Nada.
VERDICT: Loss on a Technicality (or two...or three...)
5. Kyrie Irving will win the scoring title

Let's not go there.
VERDICT: "What Were You Thinking???" 

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