For example, I give you the following prognostication: The Toronto Raptors will be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference in 2008-09 IF Jermaine O'Neal stays healthy, IF O'Neal's left knee is back at full strength, and IF Andrea Bargnani starts playing like a No. 1 pick.
See? Now tell me how that prediction could turn out to be inaccurate.
After reaching the playoffs for the first time in five years in 2007, the Raptors, young and on the rise, were expected to take a step forward last season. But they fell six games in the standings and didn't put up much of a fight in the First Round of the postseason, losing in five games to the Orlando Magic.
"We felt last year that we had improved our team," Toronto President Bryan Colangelo told NBA.com before training camp opened, "felt that perhaps the depth of the team was better. But we seemed, for whatever reason, to lack the chemistry that we had in my first year here."
The overachievers of '06-07 were the underachievers of '07-08.
Part of the problem was a point guard controversy. T.J. Ford was the incumbent starter, but Jose Calderon was more deserving of being the primary floor general. And even though Calderon played his best basketball while Ford was out for 24 games in the middle of the season, Ford was back in the starting lineup down the stretch and in the postseason.
And as a result, the issue continued to linger. Ultimately, the Raptors limped into the playoffs and were eliminated quickly.
Clearly disappointed with how his team took a step back, Colangelo didn't hesitate to shake things up, reaching a deal with the Pacers on draft day to send Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Maceo Baston and the No. 17 pick to Indiana in exchange for O'Neal and the 41st pick.
"There was value in T.J. in the trade market," Colangelo said. "And we ended up making a deal for Jermaine, of about four or five deals that were out there, that we feel was the best deal to propel us forward."
On paper, O'Neal has what the Raptors need.
"Overall, we were not a very good rebounding team last year," Colangelo admitted. "By bringing in someone who's historically averaged double-digit rebounds and put him alongside Chris Bosh, who does the same, we've already dramatically improved our rebounding capabilities."
And this isn't a Randolph-Curry situation, where two bigs have overlapping skills and little ability to adapt to a frontcourt partner. Bosh does his best work in the high post, O'Neal does his thing down low and neither is a black hole. Further, O'Neal's ability to score inside gives the Raptors, who finished 27th in the league in points in the paint last season, more offensive balance.
In turn, O'Neal's new teammates' ability to shoot from the perimeter (they were second in the league in three point percentage last season) should give him room to operate.
It's a great fit... on paper.
But Colangelo realizes that games are won on the court. And in addition to his team staying healthy, they also need to develop chemistry in order for this move to pay off.
"It's going to be up to our coaching staff to figure out how to best utilize the two individuals," he said, "and incorporate everybody else into the picture offensively."
Add that to the list of ifs.
-- John Schuhmann