x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A little hindsight and new forecasts

After two months of play, it is as good a time as any to start revisiting pre-season prognostications.

After two months of play, it is as good a time as any to start revisiting pre-season prognostications. And this may not be the first time I revise my predictions. For starters, I will be the first to admit I was wrong about Rasheed Wallace. When he signed with the Boston Celtics, I thought this was a stroke of wisdom. This season has shown that Wallace does not belong on the floor for more than a few minutes a game.

He is overweight and over-matched. Whereas I thought he would put the Celtics over the top, Boston are far from being an elite team anymore. At the same time, Wallace can defend the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, which leads to the prediction that if a healthy Celtics team meet the Magic in the play-offs, the Celtics will win. The Magic are on shaky ground. They may have tremendous depth after bringing in Vince Carter, Jason Williams, Matt Barnes and Brandon Bass, but they no longer have the dynamic dimension Hedo Turkoglu brought them last season.

Carter was not an upgrade over the Turkoglu's tremendous playmaking skills and it would be foolish to suggest the Magic are better without the 6ft 10in Turk, who plays like another point guard. I thought Washington would be much better with the return of Gilbert Arenas. Now it looks like Caron Butler will be traded to a contender and the Wizards will go back to the drawing board. I thought the Atlanta Hawks were going to be good and predicted a bright future for the team. I had no idea they would blossom so quickly and start knocking on the door of the elite club of teams atop the Eastern Conference.

The Hawks are in a phase where they get better every game and could beat any team on any night. The Toronto Raptors have gone on a run as we close out the year and finally seem to be learning how to play as a team. Chris Bosh might be the NBA's best power forward, and they added Turkoglu in the summer. Luckily, the Raptors' schedule has had them playing a disproportionate number of games in the first two months of the season, giving the cast of 10 new players a chance to get familiar with one another's playing styles.

This could be a Cinderella team in the play-offs. The Dallas Mavericks have emerged as a solid team. Who would have thought that Dirk Nowitzki would become a mean and competitive sharpshooter? The German is now a game-changing force who does not back down from anyone in the NBA. I called them my darkhorse and I stand by it. It is not unthinkable that the Mavericks become 2010 NBA champions. The San Antonio Spurs have been a disappointment thus far.

I had them winning the Western Conference but now I would be shocked if that happened. That being said, this is a smart team with an all-star centre in Tim Duncan. On any given night, the Spurs could beat anyone in the NBA but they are not as good as the Los Angeles Lakers. The "Lake show" looks like the real deal. The West is theirs to lose. The biggest surprises are the Memphis Grizzlies and Zach Randolph.

Contrary to what I thought, the team has not imploded. Instead, they are in 10th place and could make the play-offs while Randolph often looks like the best power forward in the West. If I were to make a new prediction about an NBA champion, my heart says the Cleveland Cavaliers but my brain says the Lakers. sports@thenational.ae