ESPN's '09-'10 NBA predictions

ESPN.com surveyed their entire crew of basketball writers and staff (53 people) to gather their opinions on the upcoming NBA season.  I wanted to post them here so we can discuss their predictions.  I provided the link on every topic to ESPN's writeup.

First off, ESPN has each panelist predict the number of wins and losses for every team and those were averaged to get the final results.  The panelists predicted the Cavs would finish with a 61-21 record which gives them the best record in the Eastern Conference.  Boston was second (57 wins) and Orlando was third (56 wins).  Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Philly, and Washington were the other playoff teams.  Out West, the Lakers were the clear favorites with an average of 62 victories followed by San Antonio, Portland, Denver, and Dallas all bunched closely together.

They also seperately predicted champions for each conference and the Finals, and in the East the Cavs were the clear favorites with 32 votes.  The Celtics (13) and the Magic (8) were the only other contenders.  The Lakers were the overwhelming favorite in the West with 41 votes.  The Spurs had 10 votes and the Mavs and Nuggets each received one vote.  The vote for the NBA Finals champions were almost even split between the Cavs and Lakers -- the Lakers got 19 votes and the Cavs were only one behind.  The Spurs, Celtics, and Magic each garnered a few votes, too.

Not surprisingly, LeBron was the big favorite as the MVP with 35 votes, well ahead of Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade.  The panelists were also asked where they think LeBron will land in 2010 (along with other top free agents) and 73% think he's staying in Cleveland, a significant change from last year where less than half believed he would resign with the Cavs.  A big reason is the probably reduction in the salary cap next year which won't allow the Knicks and other teams to sign two max players.  Also, the Cavs have made moves to keep them as title contenders and LeBron is going to want to sign with a team where he has a chance to win mulitple championships.  The other teams listed as possible destination for LeBron were New York (8 votes), Miami (3), New Jersey (2), and Boston (1).

The panelists voted on other categories for the upcoming season.  Shaq finished second in Best Newcomer category with 8 votes (behind Richard Jefferson of the Spurs) and ironically also finished tied for fourth as the Worst Newcomer (behind Zach Randolph, Ron Artest, and Rasheed Wallace).  Finally, the Cavs received two votes in the Team Turmoil category, evidently by writers who don't think that LeBron and Shaq can coexist this season.

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