This Monday through Friday, I’m going to give my season predictions in a countdown from worst to first. The format will be three teams per post, one post in the morning and one in the afternoon. Whichever team you’re a fan of, there’s a good chance you’ll feel like I’m disrespecting them. I understand this, and I promise you I won’t take your insults personally.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder
When making a case for the Thunder finishing at the top of the Western Conference this season, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook obviously come first to mind. But even though they’re each just 23 years old, I feel like if they’re haven’t quite reached the peak of their potential, they have to be pretty close. It’s their supporting cast that I expect to rise up and help take this team to another level.

I’m talking about James Harden, who surely can’t be kept out of the starting lineup for much longer. I’m talking about Kendrick Perkins, who brings the interior defense and toughness they’ve been missing. And I’m talking about Serge Ibaka, who could prove to be their secret weapon if they end up meeting the Heat in the Finals. Who else on this team could guard LeBron? This is the most complete team in the Western Conference, and first place is theirs to claim.

2. Chicago Bulls
When an already-great team acquires a good player that is a perfect fit for its needs, fans of other teams typically get pretty bummed out. But the Rip Hamilton signing is just so perfect for the Bulls that we can’t even be mad at ‘em. We have to just nod our heads and say, “Nice.”

So why don’t I see them finishing first in the East? As great as they are, I don’t think what happened in the Conference Finals was a fluke. And I don’t even think the addition of Rip and full seasons from Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah will make up the difference. I don’t have anything negative to say about this team — they’re excellent defensively, really good offensively and extremely deep. I enjoy watching them and Noah might be my favorite player so I’m certainly rooting for them to slay the South Beach beast. But if I had to put money on who was going to finish with the best record in the 2011-12 season…

1. Miami Heat
I’m just going to go ahead and throw this out there: 58-8. I’ve done the math and that’s an .879 winning percentage — the 1995-96 Bulls’ winning percentage in their historic 72-10 season was .878. I’m wearing armor as I write this in preparation for the slings and arrows of your outrage.

Remember when the Heat got off to a 9-8 start last season and everyone was celebrating their “failure”? They went 49-16 for the rest of the regular season and entered the Finals with a 12-3 post-season record before they were solved by the Dallas Mavericks. There should be no question that this team is capable of being this good — it’s a matter of whether or not they’re healthy and have the mental toughness to avoid the slumps that almost every team endures. If the Heat don’t have a 17-3 record or better over their first 20 games, I’ll admit that I gave them too much credit.

What’s different about this team from last season? There won’t be quite as much focus and pressure on them, they’ve added Shane Battier and they’ll open the season with a healthy Udonis Haslem, and head coach Erik Spoelstra will no longer feel like a trap door might open under him after every loss now that he’s been given a two-year extension. Granted, almost everyone still wants them to fail, but they’re used to that now.

Keep in mind these are regular season predictions, so spare me your retorts about LeBron choking in the playoffs once again. Besides, all this talk about his supposed lack of mental toughness conveniently overlooks all the pressure and drama he’s overcome just to get to this point. I’d love nothing more than to see LeBron go ringless in Miami, but I’m not naive enough to think that’s actually going to happen. Their floor for this season is an Eastern Conference defeat at the hands of the stacked Chicago Bulls. Their ceiling is a scorched-earth display of sheer dominance that will leave their staunchest haters agape as a triumphant LeBron proclaims, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Previously: 30-28 | 27-25 | 24-22 | 21-19 | 18-16 | 15-13 | 12-10 | 9-7 | 6-4

Comments (30)

  1. As much as I wish it weren’t so, but Heat are the team to beat.

    But 58-8? With no bench? Sorry but they are built to excel in the post season. But short bench will limit their winning percentage in the regular season. Condensed schedule makes it more so.

  2. I really don’t understand why people talk about the Heat winning like it’s a sign of some kind of insane domination.

    Did we not just see the Lakers go to 7 finals last decade, including a 3peat by 2 of the greatest players of all time? And before that, we had 2 3peats by the Bulls, a decade of Lakers and Celtics trading titles and the Celtic domination of the 60s

    Also, I doubt that the Heat could win 4 in a row, for example, just because Wade is already pushing 30 and they would have to contend with Rose, Durant and Howard all in their primes

  3. I think the Bulls have a better chance of winning 58 games than the Heat. The Bulls have more depth, more youth, more continuity, right now more health, and more incentive to go for home court advantage. That being said, I think Miami has a very good chance of beating the Bulls with a shortened rotation in the playoffs even without home court advantage, and would be foolish to jeopardize that by playing the big three more than 40 minutes a game during the season.

    Problems for Miami: who gets minutes besides the big three? Can the big three play better than last year, when none of them had career years? Can the big three remain unhurt? Can the supporting cast relieve the load on the big three?

  4. Lack of depth is why the Heat won’t win 58 games. The condensed season’s going to be too tough to get that kind of success when you consider their lack of size upfront, other teams gunning for them and the injury-prone-ness of D-Wade especially in consecutive games.

    Pretty confident OKC ends with best record in the L.

  5. Great list Scott, and good to see you put your balls on the line with the 58-win call. I just don’t think they’ll try to get 58 wins, and will likely sit LeBron for large chunks of games or even full games towards the end. We all saw him burn out last year (for whatever reason) and once teams lock in a top seed this year, I see them mailing in their last few games.

  6. 58 wins? Really? They won less than 60 last season, and I’m pretty sure Lebron, Bosh, and Wade will lose a few tired ones since they carry the team.

    I’m just flabergasted that you would give the Miami Heat the same percentage of the greatest regular season team and possibly the greatest overall team of all time. How could you do this lmaooo!!! HOW? Lebron and Wade still share the ball and they CLEARLY don’t have the chemestry to win games late.

    To win 87% of your games, you need to have every player on your team to step up and everybody on the floor contributes something. Miami has guys just standing on the floor doing nothing while Lebron does everything. What is even Bosh gets injured let alone LEBRON! Still take Miami for 58 wins? Thats just rediculous

  7. Being an orlando fan its hard to admit it.. But Miami is the best team in the NBA. What’s all this talk about the bulls and there youth.. Miami’s big three are all under 30 except wade who turns 30 during this season. They are all in there prime and they have the best player in the NBA on there team. This doesn’t mean that they will guaranteed win the championship this year but of course they are the favorite.

  8. 58-8 with no center and a terrible bench in a condensed season. Rein it in please

  9. I think the number for the Heat this year is 52-14. They’re a lock for 50 IMO, but you would have to think that near the end of the season they’ll give the big 3 some rest and lose a few unimportant games.

  10. You just went full retard on this one Scott. Never go full retard.

  11. Maimi no matter what will make the Finals unless Lebron or wade get injured I hate them but thats star power but giving them a better winning percentage than the greatest team of all time is insane dude Im begging you never rank them like this again you are thinking like a band wagoner your better than this the heat have less to prove they dont need home court advantage they had it last year and they still blew it they will focus more on perfecting their rotations and using their weak bench to full effect count on them lossing a few games trying to figure it out

  12. they’ll win if they trade lebron for tebow, thay’d actually get 4th quarter

  13. I’m still not sold on Miami being that good in the season. It’s not even a PG/C issue, it’s the coach that makes them vulnerable in my opinion. I’ve seen them play more than a few games last year and he made so many horrible decisions I wondered how he even got through the season without getting sacked.

    Unless “Spo” suddenly becomes vastly more competent than he was, their winning chances won’t get better.

  14. Barachat is in my brain because he’s thinkin just like me. If this team had Popavic or even flipping Jay Triano, thats right, Canada’s best coach and Team USAs junior coach Jay Triano, they would be winning way more games over having a rookie coach in Erik who was on the Miami team that had Wade and Marion and won 13 games all season. He should be on a young team getting his feet wet in the NBA, not on the most talented team in the league.

    But Barachat was also right, you can’t win without the two most important positons. But the Heat might be an exception

  15. WHOA! 58 Wins, C’Mon man, great piece, but I don’t really understand mentioned they went 49-16 after their bad start last season…I think the number will go right there either 50-16, or 49-17…thats a 60 win season when projected over an 82 game season

  16. I just want to applaud that finishing sentence. Well done sir.

  17. The Bulls also started last season 9-8 (while Boozer was out I think) and then they finished 53-12. I respect your prediction that the Heat will end up better in the regular season, but your arguments are kinda weak.

    I would feel more confident predicting a Heat championship than a regular season title because of the whole condensed schedule reduced minutes thing.

  18. When healthy, the Heat have the toughest line up to face in the playoffs where rotations are shortened. However, if one of their big 3 goes down with an injury, it completely changes things. Last year they were hit with injuries to Miller and Haslem, but Wade, Bron and Bosh all remained relatively healthy throughout the year. Man i’m excited for the season to start. Hopefully we all get a Heat loss as a present for christmas.

  19. Agreed. Never go full retard.
    They might get to 50+, but even that is somewhat pushing it Scott.
    A team with no heart/soul, mental toughness or late game systems (that don’t rely or Wade and Lebonk running their arse’s off or going 1 on 5).

    I’ll take that 58-8 bet.

    You seem to forget Phil ran Triangle which almost religiously depended on unexpected rolepayers chipping in, especially in important games.

    Battier and Miller aren’t going to win you many games, they will however do the job of avoiding losing games. Just not narrow ones.

  20. Now Scott — imagine if Bosh went there instead of the Heat. Probably doesn’t seem so preposterous now, huh?

  21. Waow waow….waow. Great piece but thats really pushing it. Heat’s a very tough team to beat no doubt about it. However; for the record, heat lost last year not cuz of lebron’s physical burnout but because hes mentally weak and lacks focus when it matters most. Crumbled like a cookie….ill spare the rest of the lebron jokes im sure everyones heard enough of them. I could be wrong but, what makes you think hes got it now?

  22. Totally agree with #1.

    Release the Kraken!

  23. Absolutely love that last sentence. Well done sir.

  24. I have been patient with my posts Scott…
    For you to put the Miami Heat rank #1.. you are merely another blogging NBA homer riding the bandwagon… following the other pro sports media writers. It is insane for you to put them with the similar winning percentage as the 95-96 Bulls. The Miami Heat have the most talent in the league, but will fall short… again I will have them ranked #2 as the Chicago Bulls will win the eastern conference. The Bulls will finish with a 51-15, Heat finish 49-17.

    The Chicago Bulls will be playing with more confidence than last year. I see Carlos Boozer being the x-factor that he wasn’t last year (especially during the playoffs). The addition of Rip Hamilton who adds depth in scoring at the same time NBA playoff experience (2004 NBA Champion).. The role of the shooting guard has been changed since Ray Allen has joined the Celtics in 2008. The Bulls were weak at the 2 spot, and Derrick Rose will have a better opportunity to have more one on ones, rather than giving the opposition the chance to double team Rose when he is hot.

    Miami Heat..
    It is early in the season. Still Lebron James is continuing right where he left off after the 2011 NBA Finals. Since the NBA finals, Lebron James HAS NOT scored more than 5 points in the 4th quarter. Lebron James is a great talent… it is wrong to say that he will not win a championship because great talents always find a way to win.. (Gary Payton).
    After watching last nights game vs the Boston Celtics (Dec 27 2011).. The Miami Heat blew a 20 point lead.. I felt like I saw a déjà-vu.. The Celtics should have won but the Heat got bailed out by a rookie PG in Norris Cole…. I was watching and said to myself… If Lebron is “the man” this is his time to step up again but he did the same thing he did for his entire career and that’s flop when it matters.

    I blame the media for hyping up Lebron James to be more talented than he actually is. The post-MJ era of basketball players were focused on establishing building a brand first, winning second. (Allen Iverson, Steve Francis, Vince Carter, T-Mac) The media helped build Lebrons brand since he was in high school. He has since been milking the media attention similar to Kim Kardashian and her sisters. When you get a tattoo saying “chosen one” before winning anything… it really tells a lot about your character…

    Steven A Smith of Espn stated, “it does not matter what Lebron James and the Miami Heat do from now until the end of the NBA Finals” and “If Lebron James wins a championship, it better be because of Lebron James and not Dwayne Wade.”

    If the Heat should win the championship this year, it will not be because of Lebron James… simply because he is not the chosen one.

  25. Scott you write “Their ceiling is a scorched-earth display of sheer dominance that will leave their staunchest haters agape as a triumphant LeBron proclaims, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

    as a gullible and naive blogger that you appear to be.. Do you seriously believe that?? Do you seriously believe his tattoos on his back?? did you seriously believe that the Heat would win “not 1, not 2, not 3″ etc

    I am atop of the “haters” list… let me know how the heat do in the nba finals in June.. get a back bone and write something that has not already been heard.

  26. I am a free agent… looking for a contract please contact me by e-mail…

    I am tired of my local station having fourth string bloggers/writers on NBA content..

    I will be showing up Scott until there is a response.

  27. Hurp de durp…

    So… the Heat are bad because you hate Lebron? Got it. Great argument.

  28. hire somebody who blogs because they want to blog rather than doing it for a pay cheque. not to mention… soft blogs.

  29. Jesus Christ there are some sad, angry people that lurk in the comments sections of these blogs.
    Please just shut off the public comments option. It’s not like anyone says anything intelligent or funny here.

    As for the predictions, I also don’t expect the Heat to be anything less than dominant this year. The pressure they experienced the first season is behind them, as is much of the bad media that followed the signing. They are now used to playing together, and any fourth quarter struggles that happened in 2011 were not present for any of the Miami stars in any other years of their careers. In fact, in any other year, James and Wade had excellent reputations as closers. There is no reason to believe they wont return to that. The Heat/OKC final is going to be a blast to watch.

  30. LMAO @ Sukdeep saying he’s a free agent. Your saying things that you can read on Wikipedia or look on the stat sheet and read. A good NBA blogger does what Scott did and it’s make a strong opinion and back it up, not take a fact and talk about a fact that I already know like Rip being an NBA Champ and Lebron being bad in the forth.

    ^^^And for Flagrant One, ya lets just shut down the comments section, thats better than actually seeing what someone has to say about something. Obviously theres going to be some random, pathetic opinions on basketball, thats life.

    Lebron has NEVER been a GOOD closer. NEVER. You saying before their Miami days, all 3 othem were excellent closers? LMAO! Only Wade has had ice in his veins in the forth quarter. Lebron has been terrible in the forth his whole career! Bosh proved to be a nervous guy in the forth with the Raptors. You can count Chris Bosh’s game winners on one hand with the Raps and he has NEVER hit a buzzer beater to win a game.

    Nice intelligent comment there “Flagrant Foul”

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