Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column Regular Season Finale Edition

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Before we get to our regularly scheduled programming, there’s breaking news to announce.

L.A. Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel has been fired after three seasons. Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers and Utah’s Quin Snyder are among the candidates who could replace him.

Now, we can move along.

Every NBA team has completed its 82-game schedule. But, only 20 out of 30 have qualified for postseason contention– yes, I’m including the play-in tournament.

This is a special edition of “Diehlman at Halftime.” I will go over my power rankings predictions from October and compare them to the actual standings by best to worst record.

The headings for each section remain the same from last time. If a team in the “Actual” section is in bold, that means they lined up in the same spot in both the predictions and actual standings. Also, some teams are ahead of others because of head-to-head tiebreakers (i.e. Toronto over Denver).

Next week, we’ll go over my playoff bracket predictions.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

The Elite Teams (1-10)

Original Predictions – Brooklyn Nets, L.A. Lakers, Milwaukee Buck, Phoenix Suns, L.A. Clippers, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Chicago Bulls, and Golden State Warriors

Actual – Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzles, Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz, and Toronto Raptors

Analysis

Yeah, my predictions for the top of this list were bad.

Brooklyn is in the play-in tournament. The Lakers didn’t even qualify for the postseason!

However, I did the same thing last year. I had Brooklyn beating the Lakers in the Finals in six games. Oops.

Despite this blunder, it’s good to see last year’s conference champions, Phoenix and Milwaukee, ready to lay more damage in the postseason. Golden State did much better than I thought they would, given that Steph Curry had to do a ton of the work again before Klay Thompson returned.

As mentioned in the opener, you can basically count Denver in this section. I just put Toronto here because of their head-to-head tiebreaker. The Nuggets are still doing well, even with injuries to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.

In this list, the 76ers and Jazz have the most at stake. As a 76ers fan, I’m being objective. I just don’t know what to expect in another postseason run with Doc Rivers as head coach.

Meanwhile, Utah has been choking leads lately. It’ll be hard for them to get past the second round for the first time in the Donovan Mitchell era with a habit of choking leads late in the season.

The “You’re Getting There, But Not Quite” Teams (11-20)

Original Predictions – Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets, Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzles, and Portland Trail Blazers

Actual- Denver Nuggets, Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavs, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, L.A. Clippers, New York Knicks, and New Orleans Pelicans

Analysis

Miami and Memphis proved me wrong in the original predictions by being two of the more impressive teams this season. Ja Morant will be a force for years to come. Miami has a solid team in Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry.

As I said last week, the Pelicans did a complete 180 this season without Zion Williamson.

However, one team I might have underestimated is Minnesota. The Timberwolves’ trio of Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Anthony Edwards are young, but they have shown they’re ready to put the Land of 10,000 Lakes back on the map.

Finally, I’d like to see the Bulls and Nets break out of this middle-of-the-road ranking. They have talent galore, but they’re the sixth and seventh seeds in the Eastern Conference, respectively. Don’t be surprised if we see some upsets from these squads.

Code Red! This is Not a Drill! (21-30)

Original Predictions – New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavs, Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards, Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Houston Rockets

Actual – Washington Wizards, San Antonio Spurs, L.A. Lakers, Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, and Houston Rockets

Analysis

There were some surprises in this section, but I can’t say that about others. I’m looking at the bottom four, specifically.

Cleveland started the year out strong, but they are now in the play-in tournament. Washington looked like the top seed in the East before taking a free fall. And new reports are coming to light about how much of a toxic work environment the Sacramento Kings have.

And here we go again with the Pacers. They just run circles around themselves one year after another. Did I mention Indiana ended the season on a ten-game losing streak?

While fans of these franchises look forward to watching the NBA playoffs like you and me, these fans strive for something even more: an elite draft prospect in June’s draft. If you cheer for one of the sorry excuses of a franchise listed here, I’m so sorry for you. You are more than welcome to hop on another squad’s bandwagon for the next few weeks!

Predictions Correct 

3 out of 30            

Onward to the playoffs!

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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