Who will be the 9th seed in each conference?
In the Olympics, it is constantly said that finishing in fourth place is the worst place to finish. You can see the podium, and no-one was closer than you, but it wasn't close enough.
They say that coming second is simply being the first of the losers.
In the NBA, this is what applies to being the 9th seed in either of the conferences.
You aren't in the playoffs, your season is over. You only get to watch NBA action for awhile.
Not only that, but at least the other teams have the lottery to look forward to, whereas you've got lower chances than anyone.
(Plus, if you're in the 9th spot, then you're probably enough of a team to not have a starting spot open for a rookie any lower than the 5th pick, especially if you are in the West)
So, who is going to have this prestigious spot this year?
Let's look at who is there today, and who I think will be there at season's end
The Jazz have been one of the more solid teams the past couple of years, only losing in the playoffs to the eventual Western Conference champions, they have always been at the top of the Northwest Division.
This season however, the Jazz have been struck by injuries to their two key players in Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, as well as controversy surrounding Boozer's contract situation and the great play of Paul Milsap.
I still see the Jazz as a great team, they just need health and time to build that great chemistry they'e always had. They will improve and start taking down the bigger teams once more, and will definitely be going to the playoffs.
This is an extremely hard choice, it is almost impossible to choose between Dallas and Phoenix, and you could probably throw a lot more teams in there as well. But if I have to choose it has to be the Mavs.
I actually quite like this year's team (which is very rare for me with the Mavs), with Dirk leading them, Josh Howard having a successful return from injury soon and Jason Terry's incredible scoring off the bench. But at the end of the season, I don't think the Mavs are going to be able to keep up with the rest of the West down the stretch, especially if one of the the three players I mentioned goes down with an injury.
I'm taking the Mavs to be this year's Golden State Warriors, which is actually pretty ironic.
Today: Chicago Bulls
Though they are still nothing like the Bulls of two seasons ago, they are also still a long way from last season's trainwreck.
Though they are still not owners of a winning record, and not one of the better teams in the East, they are much improved from last season and should at least contend for a spot in the playoffs. Ben Gordon is scoring at a decent clip once more (most likely something to do with this being a contract year) and Vinny Del Negro has turned out to be a very capable coach.
They have dealt with various injuries to Hinrich, Gooden and Thomas and could either get to the 8th or 7th or fall back into old ways.
Since Micheal Redd has returned from injury, the Bucks have been half decent and approaching 500. I really like Andrew Bogut as a player at the moment and Richard Jefferson has settled in very well. The Bucks have improved under Scott Skiles but I still do not see them making the playoffs.
I'm confident the Nets will make the postseason, so I see the race for the 8th spot between the Bulls, Bucks and Sixers. The Sixers should really take the spot with Andre Iguodala picking up pace and Thaddeus Young coming into his own.
The Bucks simply don't have what it takes to make the postseason just yet, and let's face it, they would just be battling for who gets to be swept by the Celtics.
By Joe Buckley
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