Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2013 NBA predictions (with predicted wins in parentheses)

The annual rite, now for a full season. Eastern Conference playoff teams: Heat (65), Pacers (51), Hawks (50), Celtics (49), 76ers (46), Knicks (43), Bulls (43), Raptors (41) semifinals: Heat over Celtics, Bulls over Hawks EC finals: Heat over Bulls Western Conference playoff teams: Spurs (60), Nuggets (57), Thunder (55), Clippers (54), Lakers (53), Memphis (48), Utah (46), Houston (42) semis: Lakers over Spurs, Thunder over Nuggets WC finals: Lakers over Thunder Finals: Heat over Lakers MVP: LeBron James ROY: Anthony Davis

Friday, April 27, 2012

2012 NBA playoff prognostications

2012 NBA playoff picks: East: Bulls over 76ers in 5; Hawks over Celtics in 7; Heat over Knicks in 5; Pacers over Magic in 5. Semis: Bulls over Hawks in 6, Heat over Pacers in 6. Eastern finals: Heat over Bulls in 6. West: Spurs over Jazz in 5; Griz over Clips in 6; OKC over Dallas in 5; Nuggets upset Lakers in 6. Semis: Spurs beat Griz in 5; OKC over Denver in 5. Western finals: Spurs over OKC in 6. NBA Finals: Spurs over Heat in 6. Ginobili named MVP. There you have it, folks - now, we'll see how badly I've missed on my picks. NBA draft post coming in a bit....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quick NBA predictions

The annual rite, abbreviated.

Eastern Conference playoff teams: Heat, Bulls, Hawks, Celtics, 76ers, Magic, Bucks, Pacers
semifinals: Heat over Celtics, Hawks over Bulls
EC finals: Heat over Hawks

Western Conference playoff teams: Thunder, Clippers, Nuggets, Mavs, Spurs, Lakers, T'blazers, Rockets
semis: Thunder over Spurs, Clippers over Lakers
WC finals: Clippers over Thunder

Finals: Heat over Clippers

MVP: Chris Paul
ROY: Derrick Williams

Friday, October 29, 2010

2010-11 NBA picks

NBA win totals – my 80-81 game picks, (no one’s played more than 2 games yet) plus the playoffs, MVP and ROY.

Explanations for the picks coming in a later post.

Eastern Conference:

Ranked by Division – first, the Atlantic
1 Boston
Prediction: 50-32, 1st in Atlantic Division, 3rd seed in Eastern Conference

2 Philly
Prediction: 34-48, 2nd in Atlantic Division, 10th in Eastern Conference

3 NJ
Prediction: 31-51, 3rd in Atlantic Division, 11th in Eastern Conference

Prediction: 28-54, 4th in Atlantic Division, 12th in Eastern Conference

5 Tor
Prediction: 16-66, 5th in Atlantic Division, 15th in Eastern Conference

1 Orlando
Prediction: 62-20, 1st in Southeast Division, 1st in Eastern Conference

2 Miami
Prediction: 57-25, 2nd in Southeast Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference

3 Atlanta
Prediction: 54-28, 3rd in Southeast Division, 5th seed in Eastern Conference (but 3rd best record)

4 Charlotte
Prediction: 40-42, 4th in Southeast Division, 8th in Eastern Conference

5 Wash
Prediction: 20-62, 5th in Southeast Division, 14th in Eastern Conference

1 Chicago
Prediction: 48-34, 1st in Central Division, 4th in Eastern Conference

2 Milwaukee
Prediction: 44-38, 2nd in Central Division, 6th in Eastern Conference

3 Cleveland
Prediction: 41-41, 3rd in Central Division, 7th in Eastern Conference

4 Indiana
Prediction: 37-45, 4th in Central Division, 9th in Eastern Conference

5 Detroit
Prediction: 27-55, 5th in Central Division, 13th in Eastern Conference

Western Conference:

1 Portland
Prediction: 55-27, 1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference

Prediction: 52-30, 2nd in Northwest Division, 3rd in Western Conference

3 Denver
Prediction: 49-33, 3rd in Northwest Division, 6th seed in Western Conference (but 5th best record)

4 Utah
Prediction: 38-44, 4th in Northwest Division, 11th in Western Conference

5 Minn
Prediction: 31-51, 5th in Northwest Division, 14th in Western Conference

1 San Antonio
Prediction: 54-28, 1st in Southwest Division, 2nd in Western Conference

2 Dallas
Prediction: 50-32, 2nd in Southwest Division, 5th seed in Western Conference (but 4th best record)

3 Houston
Prediction: 45-37, 3rd in Southwest Division, 7th in Western Conference

4 NOrl
Prediction: 42-40, 4th in Southwest Division, 8th in Western Conference

5 Memphis
Prediction: 41-41, 5th in Southwest Division, 9th in Western Conference

1 LA Lakers
Prediction: 46-36, 1st in Pacific Division, 4th seed in Western Conference

2 LA Clippers
Prediction: 40-42, 2nd in Pacific Division, 10th in Western Conference

3 Golden St
Prediction: 36-46, 3rd in Pacific Division, 12th in Western Conference

4 Phoenix
Prediction: 35-47, 4th in Pacific Division, 13th in Western Conference

5 Sacto
Prediction: 27-55, 5th in Pacific Division, 15th in Western Conference

Playoffs: East: Homecourt advantage prevails as Orlando, Miami, Boston, and Atlanta win their first round; Orlando pummels Atlanta and the Heat outlast Boston; Orlando and Dwight Howard win the all –Florida conference finals.

West: Portland, Spurs, OKC and Lakers prevail in round one; Lakers upset Portland and Tim Duncan’s injury means the Thunder get by in round two; young Thunder and old Lakers meet in the Western finals. Ron Artest body slams Durant, Bynum is healthy, and the Lakers get their act going for one last hurrah into the Finals.

Finals: Orlando meets the Lakers in a repeat matchup of the finals from 2 years ago; but the outcome is different, as Phil is denied the 4th threepeat and the Magic win the title.

MVP: Dwight Howard
ROY: Blake Griffin

Saturday, May 15, 2010

LeBron's future and NBA conference finals picks

As the playoffs started, I thought the NBA Finals would be Cavs-Suns, with the Cavs overwhelming the Magic in the Eastern finals and the Suns taking out the Lakers. Well, I have 3 of 4 correct.... but everyone else is discussing the one I (and most people) had wrong, as LeBron's Cavs are out and his free agency rumors are rampant. I suspect that LeBron will leave unless somehow the Cavs can make a dramatic acquisition to shore up the two spots they obviously have defensive/ offensive problems, PG and C. The only plausible deal that addresses what they need pre-draft and pre-free agency would be to deal Varejao and Hickson (the only two players with any desirability to other teams) along with Mo Williams and cap filler (probably J. Moon)to the Clippers for Kaman and Baron Davis. The Clippers would do it because their m.o. is to trade older expensive players for younger, cheaper ones, and a rotation of Blake Grffin and Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan plus the newcomers could actually have a nice future. The Cavs, meanwhile, could have a nice 7-man rotation of Kaman, Jamison, LeBron, Parker, and Davis as starters, with Delonte West and possibly a re-signed Shaq or Z off the bench. Of course, if LeBron would re-sign for this, one might wonder why wouldn't he just go sign with the Clippers....

Anyway, my picks: I think Bynum is hurting and will be exposed against the Suns tendency to play a 5 who moves a lot, even beyond the 3-pt line (Frye), and Phil Jax will end up going with Gasol and Odom as his primary frontcourt. That said, I think Nash vs Fisher is the key to the series; and I'm afraid this will be Derek's last rodeo, as Nash abuses his slowed defensive positions and Derek cannot make enough shots to force Nash to stay home on defense. With the series on the line, Kobe and his busted fingers will shoot 7 for 28 and the Suns will prevail in 6 games.

In the East, Orlando looks like an unstoppable juggernaut, as lost in the dismissal of the Hawks as gaggers was just how well Orlando played. Boston will face a far better coach this round, and Dwight Howard is the matchup problem Shaquille O'Neal has only a dim memory of being. Orlando in 5.

Friday, October 30, 2009

NBA picks: Western Conference, playoffs, MVP/ ROY

Still 80 game projections, as until tonight no one has yet played their 3rd game:

Western Conference (ranked by playoff seed):
1. Los Angeles Lakers 61-21 1st in Pacific
The Lakers have quality depth as well as 4 possible All-Stars as starters. Plus-minus indicates Lamar Odom may have been the team’s best or second-best player (behind Pau) last season, but he still comes off the bench; Kobe’s game has matured and he evinces a greater willingness to defer and defend, instead of constantly being a ballhog. Chemistry and injuries are their only possible downfalls; Pau Gasol is already hurt, Bynum’s health is always an issue, Ron Artest has slowed down, and no one really knows how he will respond to being the 4th or even 5th option - or how a Hollywood lifestyle may affect him. And Kobe may break eventually from heavy use. PG is the only positional question mark; Derek Fisher has slowed and his shot has degenerated as well, and Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown show glimpses of promise, but have yet to demonstrate consistent production. Even if Fisher falls off a cliff and the youngsters still aren’t ready for prime time, and even if there are some injuries, it’s hard to see this team winning less than 50-some games - in a near-worst case scenario. But I think 70 is out of reach, despite what some are saying.

2. San Antonio Spurs 54-28 1st in Southwest
The Spurs had one of the best offseason makeovers, as a very old team exchanged some of its ancient parts (Bowen, Oberto, Thomas) for relatively young blood in R. Jefferson, who gives them much needed quickness on the wings. They picked up McDyess and Dejuan Blair to help TD up front, and Tony Parker continues to be one of the most lethal offensive PGs in the league. The key issue, as has been typical lately, is the health of Ginobili. Fully healthy, he turns this otherwise merely good team into a title contender. So the real issue for the postseason is - how close to 100% will he be? Coach Pop has a history of managing minutes and being willing to lose regular season games for the greater good of playoff health, so I don’t expect a serious challenge to the Lakers for the top seed out West.

3. Portland Trail Blazers 52-30 1st in Northwest
Loaded and young. It’s a nice combination. The problem: it’s still unclear how many (if any) of their guys will turn into long-term stars instead of solid role players; only one is there yet - Brandon Roy - and he may have a short shelf life as a top-20 player; worries about the health of his knees and hence his longevity as a top-flight player are why he dropped as far in the draft as he did. LaMarcus Aldridge is good; but will he take the next step to all-star status? Then there’s the tantalizing promise of Greg Oden - talented, but as yet still hasn’t outplayed journeyman Joel Pryzbilla. The guards are numerous but likewise still no clear standouts; Andre Miller may not be any better than Steve Blake (esp. with defense taken into account), and Rudy Fernandez, Batum, Webster, Outlaw - all nice players, but… The Knicks a few years ago, under Isiah Thomas, began amassing a roster full of decent players but no stars; we see how well that turned out. At some point I think GM Pritchard will have to take a chance and swing a risky big trade of several of his youngsters for a major piece if he wants this team to move into title contender status. Perhaps a major 2010 free agent who wants to leave his team could do a sign and trade so his team gets something back - LeBron, Nike HQ is near Portland…

4. Denver 51-31 2nd in Northwest
Their defense continues to be excellent but disguised by their pace, with Nene being one of the most underrated players in the league, and K-Mart returning to star form. But can Nene and K-Mart stay healthy? The Birdman was a nice find as a backup, but it’s obviously risky to depend on him, and who is the 4th big? Melo’s game matured considerably last year, as he played a little more D, moving from abysmal to merely bad there, and exercised much better shot selection and passing. Funny how much of that happened after Billups arrived and AI left town. PG got a nice depth boost with Ty Lawson being drafted to back up Billups; they might even play together some, but the worry is that Billups will begin to slip and Lawson might actually be better by the end of the season - most PGs don’t age well. Other depth remains iffy, but this is clearly a good team, if fragile; but they still look a little short of the elite.

5. Utah Jazz 49-33 3rd in Northwest
Kirilenko has long hair and perhaps some peace with his role and game, and their re-signed PF combo is terrific, as is the Okur/ Fesenko international combo at center, at least on offense. Ronnie Brewer is turning into a stud, but needs a jumper; Korver gives them much needed shooting, but can’t play D. Combine Brewer and Korver’s strengths and you’d have a first-team all-star - but that’s not the way it works. Deron Williams was great the second half last year, after he recovered from his injury; he still looks like he could become a superstar, the second best PG in the league. Defensive intensity, injuries, and uncertainty over Boozer’s contract/ trade status look like the primary threats, but like Denver and Portland immediately above, this is clearly a good team that might need a trade to become one of the elite.

6. Dallas Mavericks 45-37 2nd in Southwest
Dirk remains a stud scorer and good rebounder, and JKidd showed he can still assist with the best, even if his D has slipped a lot - there’s no way he should guard quick 1s any more. JT can still fill it up off the pine, and Josh Howard needs to come back as soon as possible to solve their wing rotation issues. A flyer on Shawn Marion seems a worthwhile risk, but does he really have any chance of returning to his glory Phoenix-level days? And if he’s mediocre and comes off the bench (or simply doesn’t get many touches), will his attitude negatively affect the rest of the team? Rick Carlisle is an excellent coach, but appears to gradually wear out his welcome - when will that happen in Big D? They are old and likely inconsistent, and the long season may not be kind; they still look like an almost-sure playoff participant to me, but remain unlikely to advance to the second round.

7. Houston Rockets 43-39 3rd in Southwest
Adelman’s been a great regular season coach throughout his long career, and despite losing Yao for the season and TMc’s uncertainty in both when and how well he’ll come back, I see them sneaking into the playoffs. Their midget frontcourt may be easily shot over, but not as easily overpowered; and guaranteed is that they’ll scrap and do the little things. And Scola is a really nice player, who is used to being the primary frontcourt scorer in high-level international play for years. PG could still be an issue, but Aaron Brooks will get to try to build on his playoff run of nice performances, and Lowry’s a reasonable backup, who fits into the team ethos by being a scrapper. Ariza and Battier on the wings is another nice combo, with exquisite defense - but can they score enough points? That’s really the question for both them and the team as a whole. I think the mass of prognosticators writing them off and out of the playoffs are simply wrong; ask the world champion Lakers about how they play, even without Yao or TMc.

8. New Orleans Hornets 42-40 4th in Southwest
Chris Paul is an offensive juggernaut and possibly deserves the MVP, and David West continues to be an underappreciated scorer and force. Emeka Okafor was a defensible pick-up in trade, as his stilted offense is still more than Tyson Chandler brought, even if he’s not quite the shotblocker. James Posey and Julian Wright remain excellent role players; but Peja is looking cooked, they collectively quit (except for CP3) in the playoffs, and their defense looks like it’s only getting worse. Worse, I get the feeling they hate Byron Scott, who might be fired shockingly early this year if they’re losing and CP3 makes the ownership coose between him and Scott. I can’t shake the feeling they should blow things up and re-create the team with youngsters who fit better around CP3, or else deal him for youngsters and draft picks and start all over; that they traded one of the few teammates he had chemistry with (Chandler) is a bad sign.

----out of playoffs:
9. Phoenix Suns 40-42 2nd in Pacific
The last stand of Nash, Hill, Stoudamire, et al. Dealing Shaq for nothing was an admission they’re going nowhere, even if they’re going there fast. They still have no credible backup for Nash, and an injury to Steve would quickly put them into a precipitous free fall - and he’s OLD - as is the elderly gentlemen playing 3, the artist formerly known as Grant Hill. (I understand he used to be a dynamic scorer and driver, back in the previous millennium). Amare looks like a shell of his old self, and is also playing for a contract, which will likely only exacerbate his selfishness. Channing Frye was released from Portland, unable to make it as even a 4th string center there; he starts for Phoenix. At 2, JRich looked a surprisingly (to me, anyway) bad fit for this style last year, and Sarver’s penury means Barbosa is the only decent bench player. So despite the appeal of their style, mediocrity looks like the best that can be hoped for, as they sprint into the sunset in 7 seconds or less.

10. Golden State Warriors 37-45 3rd in Pacific
Dysfunction, meet your team. Who actually wants to be there? Not former captain Stephen Jackson, not disgruntled and out of position PG Monta Ellis, not wunderkind but doghoused Anthony Randolph, and not even coach Nellie, it seems. Biedrins may have plateaued (and apparently is trade bait), B. Wright is hurt, Stephen Curry and Corey Maggette duplicate others, and no one wants to distribute or play D - they just all want to shoot. Despite all the offensive talent, it looks another long year in the Bay Area.

11. Los Angeles Clippers 32-50 4th in Pacific
The Clips - are they truly cursed? Fans thought definitely not this past summer, when insane ownership at Memphis took bad boy Randolph off their hands, and they won the lottery and got Blake Griffin, who profiles to me as another Buck Williams/ Al Horford/ Dennis Rodman high energy PF, but one unlikely to ever average 20 ppg - perhaps not even 15. But… Griffin gets hurt at the end of preseason and will miss 2 months, Baron Davis apparently still can’t get along with Coach Dunleavy and may be hurt or simply fading fast, and Al Thornton may be the worst starting 3 in the league. The frontcourt is stacked, probably too much so: Kaman and Camby and new addition, bruiser Craig Smith, make Griffin probably only the 4th best big on his return. I’m still not sure that Camby doesn’t remain furious at being dealt to the Clips, and both he and Baron Davis strike me as high probability mailer-inners if they remain after the trade deadline with the playoffs are seen to be a hopeless dream. They remain poor defenders, particularly on the wings, and it only seems a matter of time until last year’s discord between Dunleavy and most of the team resurfaces. This team desperately needs a new coach and a deal of frontcourt depth for a starting 3, but with Dunleavy’s contract and a cheapskate owner, you can forget it.

12. OKC Thunder 29-53 4th in Northwest
They hope their young bigs continue to develop into players rather than busts – Nick Collison looks like a journeyman, and he is their best defender. Jeff Green is a tweener F out of place trying to guard 3s, which makes keeping permanent his move to 4 and Durant’s to 3 an imperative, although they both will be physically overpowered easily by more mature players. Durant is the key to the team: despite dialing it up to 25 ppg, he again posted a near league-worst plus-minus, due to abysmal D and (intentionally or not) making his teammates play far worse on offense with him, as they subjugate their games to try to feed The Man. The hope is that he will follow the Carmelo Anthony path, from no-D overrated youngster who averages 28 to team player who averages 22 and actually helps rather than hurts his team. The NBA culture makes it difficult for prodigiously talented scorers to learn this lesson, as the reward system is out of whack with what actually helps teams win; players like Glenn Robinson never got it, and it took Kobe 10 years (and remains a work in progress there). The good news is that reports on the kid’s mindset indicate he’s willing to learn, but anecdotes are a poor substitute for actual data. The rest of the team features PG Westbrook, a talented sort who, IF he masters the outside shot, position defense, and the nuances of running an offense, could become an elite player - but that’s a LOT of IFs. The there’s Krstic the C, talented but still not the player he was pre-injury, and hence perhaps permanently slowed to a facsimile of late-career Vlade Divac. The good news for the future: youth likely to improve, more of a bench that most bad teams, lots of cap room, and their sellout home crowds mean they will get enough of a goose there (especially against road-weary teams in mid-winter) that they will easily win a few more games than the sad sack teams below:

13. Minnesota Timberwolves 28-54 5th in Northwest
The Wolves went 32-50 three years ago with Garnett, and finally realized they had to blow things up. Year 3 shows little progress but some cause for hope. They have an offensively gifted but defensively lacking frontcourt duo of Kevin Love and Al Jefferson, but health for them both (Love’s already hurt) is key, as the reserves aren’t pretty. They intelligently gave up on Foye and Mike Miller, but still need legit players at both guard spots and defensive help – perhaps Corey Brewer can become a stopper, but he’s another returning from injury case. Rookie Jonny Flynn and intelligent signee Ramon Sessions will man the point, but they foolishly drafted Rubio instead of using the pick for more help. At least they have some hope for the future – but for the time being, especially with a porous defense, they will continue to suck. But not as much as the last two:

14. Sacramento Kings 24-58 5th in Pacific
The Kings have a good offensive player – Kevin Martin – and Tyreke Evans will probably lead all rookies in scoring, as a huge, physical guard that will start and have license to shoot at will, and has a slashing game that should generate lots of foul shots, even as a rook. But he’ll be lucky to shoot over 40%, and the team is VERY young; the Thompson and Hawes have some promise but still look at least a couple of years of development away from being legit NBA starters, and the bench is pathetic, as usual for bad teams. They at least realized they should be building for the future by dealing Brad Miller to open up PT for Spencer Hawes et al.; now they should continue that realization by dealing Nocioni for more young pieces or draft picks.

15. Memphis Grizzlies 20-62 5th in Southwest
Gasol the Younger can bang, Rudy Gay can score and sky (and watch his man go by), and OJ Mayo is hyped - ball skills, ability to get off his shot, strength, and a little athleticism - and no clue as to how to make his teammates better; he reminded me, as a rookie, of what a selfish Kobe would look like if he’s still playing at 40. The young PG Conley has some promise, but it remains as yet unfulfilled, and he still has trouble with hitting 3s; and in the most bizarre move, they brought into a group of impressionable youngsters two of the worst reps in the league, Z-Bo and AI, black holes on offense, matador defenders, and difficult (to put it mildly) off-court. It’s not clear anyone but the PG and the center (Gasol) will ever pass the ball! They will almost assuredly play no defense, they remain in a brutal division, and look like the worst team in the league.

Playoffs: Lakers, Spurs, Portland and Denver all defend home court in the first round. In the second, the Lakers again overwhelm Denver as Artest clamps down on Melo, and Portland’s young legs defeat a Spurs team that likely has at least one of TP, TD, and Manu hurt. In the West finals, the Lakers cruise past a young Blazers squad, as Gasol and Bynum score easily and often inside and Oden/ Pryzbilla/ Aldridge don’t.

Finals: The hype will say Kobe vs LeBron – although it will be Artest guarding the King and shutting him down, as the Lakers win a second straight title.

Regular season: MVP – Dwight Howard. ROY- Blake Griffin can’t overcome missing 20 games and the Clipper froncourt depth; Tyreke Evans will lead the rooks in scoring, but at a low pct for a terrible team; so my surprise pick is Ty Lawson, who I think may be starting for a solid playoff team by the end of the season!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NBA predictions 2010 - Eastern conference

NBA predictions 2009-2010
NBA preseason predictions (well; 80-game predictions- no one’s played more than 2 so far…):
Eastern Conference (ranked by playoff seed):

1. Orlando Magic 60-22 1st in Southeast
They lose two key contributors, Hedo Turkoglu or Courtney Lee, and also Rafer Alston, who played better than expected as a fill-in PG. But Vinsanity has gone from overrated to severely underrated and is almost certain to be an upgrade on Turkoglu, who was a terrible defender and a mediocre marksman. R. Lewis may be due to get hurt/ regress, but two good seasons in a row and vastly improved defense impress. J. Nelson took a major step forward at PG before he got hurt, and apparently will be all the way back. Pietrus/ Redick should manage at 2-guard, or they can go big and play Vince there, Lewis at 3, and Bass/ Gortat at 4. But more than anything, D. Howard is a beast - the closest thing to vintage Shaq - and either he or LeBron will be MVP. They should edge out Boston for the top seed.
2. Boston Celtics 58-24 1st in Atlantic
The Big 3 are ever older, but the rest of the team is even better; Rondo continues to improve, assuming negotiations and team relationships don’t torment his fragile psyche. Kendrick Perkins is a defensive beast who fortunately doesn’t need to score. And adding Sheed makes their defense even awesome-er, assuming they get a more consistent effort out of him than the going-nowhere Pistons of last season did. Marquis Daniels should help their guard depth, and pairs up well with Eddie House in switching assignments from offense to defense. Only injuries, to KG, but also to Ray Allen or especially Rondo (perhaps their best, and least replaceable, player), appear possible to submarine things. The battle with Orlando and Cleveland for best in the East should be quite a battle royal.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers 55-27 1st in Central
Anthony Parker is a nice role player, and LeBron will start his second would-be MVP campaign with an improved jumper, but in re-fighting the last war (the playoff loss to Orlando amid Dwight Howard’s detonation of their D) by acquiring Shaq, they initially will likely disrupt the offensive and defensive rotations that resulted in 66 wins last year. Shaq changes their offense in ways better and worse (still a low-post terror, but he’s also a turnover machine and needs to be surrounded by capable passers and jumpshooters), and is notoriously inconsistent in his defensive effort. Add to that that Mo Williams will almost certainly regress, Varejao is a bad offensive match with Shaq up front (in that neither can hit a jumper, so teams can zone them; teams that play more than one person at a time who cannot hit a jump shot tend to have poor offensive efficiency), and the contract years / jealousy that having 2 supernova personalities makes the other 10 players resentful, in a way just one doesn’t… to say nothing of Delonte West’s troubles. So there will be some growing/ adapting pains. But come the playoffs…
4. Atlanta Hawks 47-35 2nd in Southeast
Last year I, unlike most prognosticators, correctly picked them fourth in the East - most people had them missing the playoffs. They should slightly improve this year, but the gap is far too large to catch any of the East’s top 3. Their bench is still iffy, with a rookie and/or ballhog Jamal Crawford as backup guards, but Mo Evans, Joe Smith and Zaza Pachulia are nice backups up front, and the starters (except for Mike Bibby) remain young and getting better, not worse. If Bibby gets hurt, or loses his offensive efficiency while continuing his horrid defense, things could fall apart; but most likely the Hawks will enjoy another solid season and a good shot at making it to the second round. The conference finals, though, will have to wait.
5. Toronto Raptors 46-36 2nd in Atlantic
They have taken a page from the Euro/ D’Antoni playbook and have a team full of ballhandlers and shooters, with suspect defense. Chris Bosh has struck me as overrated, but has every incentive to play his best in a contract year. Bargnani has improved, Turko should fit in well on offense, but Jose Calderon remains the key – he must stay healthy and distribute well. Jarrett Jack was a nice pick-up, but he’s probably better playing 2-guard alongside Calderon than being a fulltime distributor. The offensive firepower should usually overwhelm the defensive lapses and make them a solid playoff team.
6. Philadelphia 76ers 44-38 3rd in Atlantic
An enigma. How much does Elton Brand have left? Two years after a major Achilles injury, with last year lost to an unrelated injury; his age alone guarantees the 76ers won’t be getting the near-MVP Elton Brand of a few years back – 18 and 8 seems more like the upper limit, rather than 24 and 10. They continue to lack accurate 3-point shooters, increasingly a liability in the ever more sophisticated defensive era played now. Lou Williams is a talented driver in the Monta Ellis mold, but can he really play PG, even in a Princeton offense? Relatedly, how much will they miss Andre Miller? (On defense, probably not at all). And how good is Iguodala really - are his tremendous plus-minus numbers a mirage, or testament to him being a hidden gem? The bench remains ugly (except for Mareese Speights) if anyone important gets hurt.

7. Miami Heat 43-39 3rd in Southeast
Again, the Heat are an tough to predict this year, with the health of one Dwayne Wade the most crucial variable, but the maturity and emergence of Michael Beasley and PG Mario Chalmers running close behind, and the health of J. O’Neal following close - Udonis Haslem remains a fine role player who’s overmatched playing center. Their bench is laughable. If Wade stays healthy and the rest of the variables go well, they might even slightly outstrip this prediction; but if even a few things go wrong, I seriously doubt they make the playoffs.

8. Detroit Pistons 42-40 2nd in Central
Now that the AI nightmare is over, Dumars attempts to reinvigorate the franchise and arrest the slow decline of their non-Tayshaun starters by letting Sheed go and spending their cap room on Villanueva, a sweet shooting, no D ‘stretch 4’, and the ‘fire when ready or unready’ Ben Gordon. Rip Hamilton barely fits here, and that’s not even considering the fact that Stuckey is a 2 masquerading as a 1, and Will Bynum could be their best guard and barely see the court. The frontcourt defense will be far worse than before (even with the return of Ben Wallace’s semi-corpse), and they could easily fall out of the playoffs to one of the teams immediately below. But at least they should score more and be more entertaining to watch.
----out of playoffs:
9. Washington Wizards 39-43 4th in Southeast
Arenas is back and playing team ball, and Caron Butler continues to be an excellent swingman. But Jamison is already hurt, and the parade of injured figures to continue. They likely will outscore a number of teams and be in the playoff race the first half of the season, then slowly fade.
10. Chicago Bulls 39-43 3rd in Central
Del Negro still has a lot to learn as a coach, much like his young team. Derrick Rose may score in the 20s, but until he learns to distribute and defend better, his value will be far less than his rep. Noah and Thomas continue to tantalize, but remain problematic when playing together, as neither can hit a J (see Cleveland comment above). Luol Deng’s health is huge, but I can’t shake the feeling he peaked a couple years ago, despite his relative youth. Hinrich is a nice piece but seems better suited as a 3rd guard on a contender; I still see a trade as a real possibility for both he and Brad Miller, assuming the Bulls are not solidly in the playoffs come the trade deadline. I wonder if Cleveland would give up Z (and his expiring contract) and Gibson for them both…
11. Indiana Pacers 38-44 4th in Central
The Pacers still have a slow roster with trouble defending and with turnovers; TJ Ford will help for the 30-50 games he’s healthy, but… the backup PG is a problem with Jack leaving. Dunleavy’s health and shot are both in question, and Dahntay Jones is not a solution for what ails them. Danny Granger remains the only player who’s both reasonably young and good and improving, and his defense needs work. I like Jim O’Brien, and Indy will be competitive most nights, but they still look like a mediocre team that’s not quite good enough.
12. Charlotte Bobcats 35-47 5th in Southeast
A bizarre squad, defensively ept and offensively inept; Tyson Chandler is a defensive force when healthy, but his only offensive move was dunking a perfect pass from CP3 on a pick and roll. They STILL don’t know who their PG is, GWallace is a walking advertisement for the need for NBA players to wear headgear against concussions, and it’s not clear anyone on the team can consistently hit a jumper. Look for lots of 77-65 losses.
13. New York Knicks 33-49 4th in Atlantic
D’Antoni can’t solve everything, especially if almost all your players know that they’re only there for this season, and management wants the two vets with longer contracts to be gone for cap room, so they all are playing selfishly for their next contract and team. Nate Robinson may be the worst offender, but practically everyone on the team will be less invested in team than personal success. Although David Lee is a great fit for D’Antoni’s system, his D was sorry last year and he can’t shoot; the guards remain subpar, the defense even more so, and even a slimmed down Eddy Curry or a healthy Jared Jeffries have no real role in a D’Antoni offense. Gallinari may be the only keeper, and his health remains a huge question mark. Next summer, the Knicks face the reality of the tendency of major free agents to stay with their current teams, so like previous desperate suitors, they look likely to throw big money at middling players, which may simply continue Knick disappointment indefinitely.

14. New Jersey Nets 30-52 5th in Atlantic
The good: Devin Harris and Courtney Lee make a decent backcourt, and Lopez has promise as a scoring big man. The bad: most everything else. Yi (the bust) will play rotation minutes and continue to kill them, and the other forwards don’t offer much of an alternative. Like the Knicks, the team seems to be more focused on summer 2010 than this season, with the infusion of Russian oligarch money making somewhat more plausible the hoped-for LeBron and Brooklyn sightings. I’d pick them lower, but the coach works hard and the last team looks truly dysfunctional.
15. Milwaukee Bucks 25-57 5th in Central
Whoa. Sessions comes out of nowhere to become a decent PG, but instead of paying him, he and Villanueva leave and instead you pay - Ersan Ilyasova? Carlos Delfino? What the hell is going on out there? Skiles screams at teams until they defend, and it worked to a degree last year; but the screaming gradually quits working and makes a team quit on its coach. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him gone by midseason. Bogut is decent, and Redd can hit 3s (but can’t defend or pass). That’s the best you can say. Pain awaits.

Playoffs: Orlando, Boston, Cleveland and Atlanta win the first round. Orlando and Cleveland win the second round (as KG limps and the Cavs hit their stride), and in a seven game masterpiece, King LeBron beats the defending Eastern conference champs from Orlando in the East finals.

Coming next: Western conference and playoofs, MVP and other awards...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Agency and quantum computing

Agency and quantum computing

There are several threads to this post, which I will link together at the end.

First, the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness, according to David Chalmers, is subjectivity, or subjective experience – i.e., there is something it is like to be me – and all current explanations of information processing leave that unexplained. Quantum mechanics leaves an odd gap in the physicalist project, in that it apparently requires causally nonlocal and/or nondeterministic information processing in order to fully explain quantum phenomena, a problem which goes under several names, including ‘the collapse of the wave function.’

An illustrative quote from Chalmers, from his “Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness”:

“Perhaps the most popular "extra ingredient" of all is quantum mechanics (e.g. Hameroff 1994). The attractiveness of quantum theories of consciousness may stem from a Law of Minimization of Mystery: consciousness is mysterious and quantum mechanics is mysterious, so maybe the two mysteries have a common source. Nevertheless, quantum theories of consciousness suffer from the same difficulties as neural or computational theories. Quantum phenomena have some remarkable functional properties, such as nondeterminism and nonlocality. It is natural to speculate that these properties may play some role in the explanation of cognitive functions, such as random choice and the integration of information, and this hypothesis cannot be ruled out a priori. But when it comes to the explanation of experience, quantum processes are in the same boat as any other. The question of why these processes should give rise to experience is entirely unanswered.

(One special attraction of quantum theories is the fact that on some interpretations of quantum mechanics, consciousness plays an active role in "collapsing" the quantum wave function. Such interpretations are controversial, but in any case they offer no hope of explaining consciousness in terms of quantum processes. Rather, these theories assume the existence of consciousness, and use it in the explanation of quantum processes. At best, these theories tell us something about a physical role that consciousness may play. They tell us nothing about how it arises.)

At the end of the day, the same criticism applies to any purely physical account of consciousness. For any physical process we specify there will be an unanswered question: Why should this process give rise to experience? Given any such process, it is conceptually coherent that it could be instantiated in the absence of experience. It follows that no mere account of the physical process will tell us why experience arises. The emergence of experience goes beyond what can be derived from physical theory.”

Next, I turn to David Darling’s argument for reality of parallel universes given the reality of quantum computing. To simplify, Darling asserts that we have already built quantum computers, and computation always requires a substrate - something on which to compute. But quantum computers are nonlocal - they cannot have a causally closed substrate in 4-dimensional space-time. Hence, on Darling’s view, they can only sensibly be said to be computing across multiple parallel 4-dimensional spacetimes - aka ‘parallel universes’.

So quantum computing - which is already being done - proves the existence of parallel universes, Darling asserts. The usual way of interpreting these multiple universes is via Hugh Everett’s ‘Many Worlds Intepretation’ of quantum mechanics. The wave function in quantum mechanics never in fact collapses; instead, every possible probability distribution is actualized in a separate universe: so there’s a universe in which you read this post to the end, another in which you quit reading now, another in which you ceased existing 5 seconds ago, another… and so on. And all are equally real; but you are only aware of this one, because the information carried by the rest of the quantum wave(s) is now invisible to you - the act of observation guarantees it is in another universe.

Third, philosophy has a perennial problem of rational free will, or as we often call it, agency – the problem is, what is it? Our concept of it appears clearly incompatible with determinism (despite the valiant but vain efforts of legions of compatibilists) – to have freedom, it cannot be the case that one could not do otherwise. To be an agent is to have at least two logically, physically possible futures open to me right now: one in which I choose to do X, and one in which I do not.

But agency is also incompatible with causal indeterminism – uncaused events are simply not the same as an act due to agency. If my hand begins flopping around for no apparent reason, I do not believe that proves my agency - instead, it makes me call the doctor. To be an agent, I must be in rational control of which of those possible futures comes into existence. There are (at least) two futures, and ‘it is up to me’ which occurs.

So agency must be conceived as a causal power, but not one that is physically determined by antecedent events. So agency, in conception, is a nonphysical causal power in addition to typical physical causal nexus. But exactly what is this mysterious causal power? Does it really exist, or is agency merely a massive, species-wide delusion, borne of our ignorance of the fine-scale causal structure of our brains and bodies and the world?

Recall Chalmers’s Law of Minimization of Mystery: consciousness is mysterious and quantum mechanics is mysterious, so maybe the two mysteries have a common source.

Perhaps the collapse of the wave function in QM, as several interpretations insist, is associated with the consciousness of a physical state. Perhaps the solution of the collapse of the wave function has to do with mind/ agency?

But without some further account, this is simply to replace one mystery with another; and an appeal to mystery is no real explanation at all, but simply an admission of ignorance.

But…. what if biology/ minds can access parallel universes in way that standard 4-dimensional physics cannot, in order to do computations or whatever conscious thinking is?

Suppose that Agency is thought of as the rational examination of (deliberation upon) nearby possible worlds/ parallel universes, and then deciding between them in terms of which one to bring about; to make sense of this, we would need a (non-4D-physical) mental causal power of accessing and deciding between parallel universes to determine which one your mind is to be in after one’s choice.

Such an account could make sense of why there is no causal closure of the (4D) physical, but nonetheless there is always causal closure when agency is included.

So on this hypothesis, agency is an ability to access and decide between various counterfactuals, understood as parallel universe(s), in order to single out one to experience.

Some Questions: is this additional causal power to access parallel universes only possible for biology? Implication of Darling’s argument – no, computers / electrons/ photons already do it.

Where am I as agent? If separate parallel universes are 4-branes (4D space-time), then an agent must be in at least a 5-brane in order to choose which to experience.

Some Implications: 1. We have some kind of existence beyond our observed 3D physical body in time. 2. Robots with agency are possible, if they can do quantum computing. Such quantum computing will be needed to move from simulated agency to real agency.

Comments welcome.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Finals pick

Which Kobe will show up - the good teammate and great defender who can break down any defense and make the perfect pass, drive, or jumper, and lock down the opposition's best perimeter defender? Or the selfish Kobe who breaks the triangle to go 1 on 5, won't pass to open teammates, and will get lazy and go for steals and refuse to rotate and help on defense?

Kobe realizes his legacy is at stake; after a bad loss in which he scores 40+, Phil will explain this to him and he'll mend his ways. Lakers in 6.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Conference finals

The Lakers have home court, and as we've seen, they appear to turn it on when needed. I've underestimated Denver all year, but even so, I see the LA express sweeping the first two, splitting in Denver, and then finishing it back home. Lakers in 5.

As for Cleveland - holy moley. Will Orlando win a game? Their defense has been terrific, so I think so - but only one. Cleveland in 5, and the NBA gets its Kobe-LeBron finals matchup.