It's April and by now we've all got a handle on who's who in the NBA. But back in October, not so much.
I don't do power rankings. Not my thing.
There are certain things one simply cannot predict with any kind of accuracy. Among them are politicians, the weather, and what stupid thing Pat Robertson is going to say next. And yes, ranking all 30 NBA teams from top to bottom is on that untouchable list, high up on that list.
Nevertheless, come mid-October, or sooner, every psuedo-analyst and main stream media outlet alike come out with their best prediction of what the upcoming season holds for each team. And as I've said plenty of times in the past, they are more often than not wrong, bland, or a combination of the two. What you usually see to be true in most rankings is that the right predictions are the safe predictions and any attempt at a daring speculation falls flat on its face.
I'm not without my own share of mistakes of course. Early in the season my truncated version of a season preview was as wrong as Bush's intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. Not nearly as costly however, my miscalculation was more along the lines of saying the Houston Rockets were one of the top three teams in the west. Looking back, I wish I would have had one of two things(not both): either a crystal ball to ensure my predictions success or writers block to ensure I never would have been able to write the piece in the first place.
I'm not alone in my errors however, ESPN.com has made sure of that. What follows is a look at some of the most notable "miss-the-damn-mark" predictions from ESPN's pre-season power rankings. I'm not trying to be hypocritical because of course my missed predictions are as notable as any. But a look at early rankings like these can go a long way in showing us all how little we really know.
Current standing: 15th
Remember that list of things you can't predict? Well Ron Artest goes right on top. Artest has been one of the most volatile characters in recent pro sports history. He may not be causing any problems for Indiana in the future but he's turned what should have been a title contending year into a casual playoff appearance and bounce run. That and injuries, namely to one Jermaine O'Neal, have kept the Pacers from living up to the expectations.
Current standing: 20th
Ouch. Don't even ask me what happened to Houston. I'm not speaking to those people. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it was all due to McGrady's back issues, but it's more than that. This team is stagnant and unproductive offensively even with a healthy T-Mac. Yao has come on as of late, but consider it too little too late. We all dreamed of a new dynasty when Yao and Mac were joined in Houston, at this point I have to wonder if we'll ever see that come to fruition.
Current Standing: 3rd
The Mavs haven't made any real shocking jump nor have they managed any massive improvement from years past. What they have done is pushed themselves just one notch higher finally moving into title contention and not just a merry second round playoff appearance. Defense is now a priority thanks to Avery Johnson and Dirk Nowitzki is playing like an MVP. The Mavericks have done just a little more than we expected and that could lead to Dallas traversing a level they never have before.
Los Angeles Clippers
Current Standing: 8th
The Clippers are a good basketball team? The Clippers are a good basketball team. We may not have seen it coming, but so often we never do. Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley have brought some extra scoring and savvy to the Clipps and the mid-season trade for Radmanovic hasn't hurt either. Mike Dunleavy is going an excellent job leading his squad. And Elton Brand? He's doing what he's always done only better. It's just now people are taking notice.
New York Knicks
Current Standing: DEAD LAST
Okay, so we knew the Knicks were going to be bad. But the level of failure that we've witnessed from the Knicks is damn near unprecedented. No one could have predicted the Knicks being this bad. Larry Brown is supposed to make his teams better, right? As of now the Knicks are stuck in reverse. They're not at rock bottom, they hit rock bottom by the All-Star break, by now they've started digging their own grave. Hey, coach Brown, I hear Detroit is pretty nice this time of year.