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The Vault is a place for all the Blogs By Fans bloggers to post their predictions to. As a group, we'll revisit these predictions throughout the season, to see who knows what they're talking about, who thinks with his heart and who's just crazy.

Here's the inaugural post to The Vault.

Since the All Star break is the psychological mid-point of the basketball season, we're going to call the 30ish games left the second half. Here are some predictions for what's to come as the push for the playoffs (or the lottery) unfolds. I'm going to stick to what I know. I'll give a detailed prediction for the Atlantic Division and general playoff/award predictions for the entire league.

Atlantic Division: The Atlantic is pitiful. There's no denying that. The division's cumulative record is 50 games under .500. This is probably going to change, not drastically, but it will change. The Celtics will play better down the stretch purely because Paul Pierce is back. The Sixers have been playing better since Iverson left (5-19 before, 12-17 since), they also have 17 of their last 29 games left at home. They should improve. Toronto has shocked me so far, and I don't see any reason why that won't continue. The team that's going to suffer the most from a somewhat resurgent Atlantic Division is the Knicks. They've been motivated by the media's attack of their coach, but that motivation won't be enough down the stretch. This team isn't going to make the playoffs and when Crawford, Marbury and Curry realize that, they're going to turn back into pumpkins. Look for them to have a disappointing second half. The Nets will either make the playoffs or completely tank the season, and it all depends on Jason Kidd. If he goes to the Lakers, forget the season. If he stays, they have enough talent to grab the 8th seed, maybe the 7th if they're lucky. Their schedule looks pretty easy from here on out. Here are my predictions for final records:

Sixers: Currently (17-36), Final Record (27-55).
Celtics: Currently (13-38), Final Record (23-59).
Nets: Currently (25-29), Final Record (40-42) [If Kidd doesn't leave].
Raptors: Currently (29-25), Final Record (46-36).
Knicks: Currently (23-30), Final Record (34-48).

Other predictions: Steve Nash as MVP for the third consecutive year. The caveat being that he doesn't miss another significant stretch due to injury. Honestly, the only reason he wouldn't win it is because the sportswriters are tired of writing his name down. The Suns are 37-9 with Nash, 2-4 without him. He's averaging nearly 20 points per game and 12 assists. His presence makes that team a legitimate contender for the title, without him on the floor they're a first-round exit. Here's a mini-stat for you to support my case. In the past three games that Nash missed Amare Stoudemire shot 42%, 43% and 44% from the floor, in the last game he played with Nash, 76%.

No matter how hard Marc Cuban politics for Dirk Nowitzki, he's just not as important to the Mavs as Nash is to the Suns. The Mavs surround Nowitzki with top-level talent. Nash takes guys off the scrap heap and makes them play like all stars.

Coach of the Year: Sam Mitchell. He's not a great coach, and the GM is really responsible for the turnaround in Toronto, but the development of that team is going to turn enough heads to get him the nod.

Rookie of The Year: Andrea Bargnani, the 7-foot euro got off to a slow start, but his minutes and production have increased recently and I see him flourishing as the year comes to a close. Brandon Roy is everyone's favorite for this award, but I'm going with the euro. Roy is a 43% shooter, 30% from 3 and his ancillary stats are nothing to write home about.

Sixth Man: Ben Gordon. I don't like his game, but he's the most productive off the bench. I'd actually vote for David Lee, but he won't win it.

The Draft: The Grizzlies will have the most balls in the lottery, but the Sixers will get a pleasant surprise come draft day because they're going to have a few extra balls of their own. Denver will not make the playoffs and the first round pick they sent to Philly for Iverson will turn into a lottery pick. Pairing Iverson with 'Melo was a bad idea, and Denver is going to be looking for the ejector seat within a year.

This is probably just wishful thinking, but I'm going to guess that Memphis will get the number 1 pick, Philly number 2. Memphis will take Durant, and the Sixers will get Oden.

UPDATE, FEB. 22: Orlando Magic, 41-41, 7th seed in the East.

by Brian on Feb 19 2007
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