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Grading Myself: An Update on Who in the East Can Dethrone the Bucks?

Looking Back at my Summer Predictions for the Rest of the League

Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets
Is Brooklyn Still Alive? Is Miami For Real?
Photo by Jim McIsaac/2021 Jim McIsaac

Hi Bucks’ fans! Sooooo, I’m not sure how many of you remember me breaking down every other team in the NBA and seeing where things stood in relation to the Bucks, but with the Association looking pretty clear at this point, I’m going to grade myself since when we get to the playoffs, things will get pretty busy. For now, with the stretch run just about to go under way, I think it’s time I grade...myself. I’ll try to be fair, but if it wasn’t me I’d probably grade a bit harder. Here we go.

CENTRAL DIVISION

Okay, so I did each of these posts originally division-by-division, but now I’m just going to forget about the divisions like the league basically has, and do each conference at a time. This will be in order of my odds in the preseason.

Detroit Pistons

My preseason odds for Detroit were 4,000/1, and with where they are now at 12-44, I would say I was correct on the Pistons. It wasn’t a hard prediction. I mentioned the likes of Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart needing to come alive and show Detroit’s not completely foolish with their moves. Cade Cunningham, while not putting up number one pick numbers, is doing very well and proving me right there. I didn’t mention Frank Jackson, who has been a breakout player of sorts. Grade: B+

Cleveland Cavaliers

My preseason odds were 2,000/1, but I should have made a bet on the Cavaliers. Quote from September:

“I think, but I might be wrong, that Cleveland is a sleeper playoff team, even without all of this stuff happening for them. They actually do have some quality young players, and if Kevin Love can resemble his former self at all, this team could sneak in to the real postseason, not just the play-in.” -Julie

I went on to say if they can find ways for all of their front court to be productive, this would happen. Collin Sexton getting hurt hasn’t affected them, and that’s my main flaw here. Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love were playing like they were in Minnesota before Rubio’s injury, but Rajon Rondo has replaced him. Darius Garland also took a “massive step forward.” With all of this said, I think my odds hurt me, but I also said it would take all of this for them to have a chance to dethrone the Bucks. They do now. Grade: A

Indiana Pacers

My preseason odds were 200/1, and this was just a disaster for the Pacers. I mentioned Edmond Sumner, and he got cut. I said Rick Carlisle would have to run for Coach of the Year, and Domantas Sabonis for MVP. Yikes. TJ Warren also still has yet to return. The Pacers are no longer still the “Pacers,” like I said in the article, and they are rebuilding finally. They needed to, and I’m glad I didn’t bet on them. With that said, I didn’t have them having a good chance either, so I’ll give myself a bit of slack here. Grade: C-

Chicago Bulls

I still don’t really believe in the Bulls, even though they are one game ahead of the Bucks. They still don’t play defense and don’t have much depth, which is why I struggle to believe in them. However, since they are ahead of the Bucks currently, my 50/1 odds were not great. DeMar DeRozan was my third most important player here, and he is an All-Star starter. The thing they still need is a Giannis-stopper as well, and since Patrick Williams is out still, they don’t have a candidate. But, I was very wrong about them even with their flaws. Grade: D

Southeast Division

Orlando Magic

I’m very good at predicting really the really bad teams, with 25,000/1 being my prediction here. Orlando is doing better than Detroit, and we swept them 4-0 pretty handily. I said not to laugh at me when I basically made stuff up to have the Bucks lose to Orlando somehow. Jalen Suggs, like I suggested, has not been the best rookie since LeBron (although I said this stuff probably won’t happen). Franz Wagner has been a good rookie, and the better of the two. Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz have not returned. Overall, this was a stretch, and I knew it like the world did. Grade: A

Washington Wizards

My odds here were 500/1, and while they are only 9 games behind the Bucks in the standings, things in Washington just don’t look promising. I said Kyle Kuzma needed to win Sixth Man if Montrezl Harrell doesn’t, but since the latter was traded and the former has started 52 games, that was wrong. But they were good additions. They might have a star alongside Bradley Beal like I predicted they would need, but now Beal’s out. Overall, I would say I was pretty spot on about where the Wizards would end up. Grade: B

Charlotte Hornets

I gave the Hornets the same odds as the Bulls, at 50/1, because I actually believed in them. I said they might have the best Hornets/Bobcats team ever, and while that has yet to be decided, they just need to win a playoff series to do so. I doubt that will happen, but they are on a good trajectory. LaMelo Ball is an All-Star, which means he is technically close to being a top five point guard like I suggested he needed to be. Is Gordon Hayward showing he’s worth $40 million? Maybe. I didn’t mention Miles Bridges once. I stated that James Bouknight would need to be a ROY dark horse, but it would also depend on his minutes. They have shown an upgrade at center, and Kelly Oubre has been a net positive. I think I made some mistakes but got things right as well here. Grade: C+

Miami Heat

Okay, the Heat are the best in the East, while I didn’t (and still don’t?) think they were the best in the division. I said I was intentionally not trusting them, because they just didn’t really seem that good as other people suggested. I said that someone on the deep bench would need to show up, and we had a few with Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent. PJ Tucker is actually being productive with statistics. Tyler Herro is doing more than shoot. Duncan Robinson isn’t, and has struggled there, but that’s okay. Kyle Lowry is still a quality point guard. I frankly just didn’t see this coming this well, but I also think giving them 10/1 odds was pretty good for what this roster looks like. Max Strus getting 11 PPG? Really? Caleb Martin, Gabe Vincent and Omer Yurtseven? Give me a bit of a break, and since I gave them the fourth best odds, I will do that. Grade: C

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks didn’t get the “slight internal improvement” like I suggested with my 3/1 odds. I was stating the whole season things such as “I don’t believe the Hawks are this bad,” and right when it appeared like they were turning the corner, they lose two in a row. They are 26-30 and still in the mix (and in a dangerous spot for the Bucks and a first round matchup), and let’s remember how hot they were at the end of last season. But, it looks like I’m wrong here, and I’m going to be harsh with this grade. Grade: D-

Atlantic Division

Toronto Raptors

I think this says it all: My Odds were 5,000/1. Worse than Detroit’s. Toronto is 3-0 against the Bucks this season, and are one half game behind Boston for the six seed. I did say they wouldn’t be as good as Cleveland, but I expected them both to have rough years. I said that Goran Dragic would need to make the Heat regret giving him up. I said Pascal Siakam would need to be like an MVP. Scottie Barnes would need to push for Rookie of the Year. I said this team is reliant on youth development. I didn’t mention Fred VanVleet pushing for an All-Star selection, that was Siakam and OG Anunoby. I can’t anymore. I really messed this one up, but they are NOT close to the Kawhi Leonard team even with all of this. Grade: F

New York Knicks

My odds were 50/1 here, same as the Bulls and Hornets. I said that they would likely finish above .500 and tread water this season, although many believed they would take a step back and I disagreed. They did take a step back. After the hot start, Julius Randle took a bit of a step back. Their center tandem is doing well, as well as their off-ball-guard tandem. I think it comes down to Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose not being “vintage” like I suggested they needed to be. Along with Julius Randle not being a real MVP candidate (or All-Star). With that said, it’s not like I thought they would be great. Grade: C-

Boston Celtics

I think I was pretty spot on with Boston. I said Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown would need more help, and they got it. My odds were 25/1, and I still think that’s pretty much in the ballpark of where they are now. Al Horford and Robert Williams III played above average like I said they needed to. Grant Williams, and Romeo Langford when here, stepped up. Dennis Schroder has not been better than Kemba Walker last season, but maybe Derrick White will? Josh Richardson was useful-ish, like usual. Quote:

I personally don’t think Boston is good enough to stop the Bucks, but I am willing to admit that this team has a real chance.”

I think that’s still pretty spot-on. Grade: B+

Philadelphia 76ers

Does the Simmons-Harden trade veto everything said? My odds here were 5/1, and I think that is still about right. Everything I said was irrelevant due to the Harden trade, aside from saying that Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris need to play great. I said that Philly team beating the Bucks wouldn’t be a stretch, and I think with James Harden, it still isn’t. I’ll go with my version of an “incomplete” grade. Grade: B-

Brooklyn Nets

This was the team that I thought would be better than the Bucks. My odds were 1/2, but who really saw this coming? The losing streak is now at 11. Here is my redeemable quote “If they stay healthy, they will be hard to beat.” Kevin Durant has missed 20 games (and third leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge), and Irving has only played in 14. Same with Joe Harris. James Harden missed 10-12. Covid-19 derailed them. At one point, they were 29-16. But, we remember how good the Spurs were when Patty Mills was their most consistently good player, and not just a good role player. So, that’s kind of where Brooklyn is at I’m not going to be hard on myself for predicting what everyone else did, but I definitely think that without Harden and a vaccinated Irving, Brooklyn isn’t a favorite anymore even with a healthy KD. Grade: C

Okay, so what do you think? Here’s a summary of my grades:

  • A: Cleveland, Orlando
  • B+: Detroit, Boston
  • B-: Washington, Philadelphia
  • C+: Charlotte
  • C: Brooklyn, Miami
  • C-: Indiana, New York
  • D: Chicago
  • D-: Atlanta
  • F: Toronto

I only had 5 out of 14 in the A and B range, and that includes Philly whom is technically my “incomplete”. Maybe I was harder on myself than I thought I would be? What do you guys think?

Poll

What is your grade for Julie overall based on her preseason predictions?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    A (she was too hard on herself)
    (10 votes)
  • 45%
    B (it would be better if not for injuries)
    (36 votes)
  • 28%
    C (giving good grades for Orlando and Detroit is easy)
    (23 votes)
  • 8%
    D (you didn't give Toronto and others enough credit)
    (7 votes)
  • 5%
    F (Just no. Not good)
    (4 votes)
80 votes total Vote Now