So here we are, the last 8 teams of my NBA preview. The league tips off tonight and with it comes the usual 7000 questions about the upcoming season. I will try answer some of them but the rest can only be answered by time and games played. Regardless of the outcome of this season it is in the running for being one of the most exciting, teams tanking for this “once in a generation” draft, Dwight Howard, can Kobe come back, are the Knicks done?, can the Nets buy a championship, can Jason Kidd coach?. There are so many questions and so many possible outcomes that any basketball fan should be drooling.
But forget all that for now. Let us talk the top 8 teams in the NBA, these to me are the teams that have a chance at making their Conference Finals.
8: Brooklyn Nets:
After Joe Johnson did this to Paul Pierce he felt so good he demanded that the Nets get him so he can train against him every day.
The Nets owner has once again thrown his checkbook wide open and laughed heartily at the Capitalist notion of “tax”. The Nets who added Pierce, Garnett and Kirilenko this offseason will pay a reported $186 million in salary and tax. The Sixers this year will pay around $30 million in total. The russian owner cares little for our notions of penny pinching.
With the additions comes a pedigree of winning. Pierce and Garnett are winners and more than that they are leaders. The Nets were beaten in the playoffs by a Bulls team that had no Rose and a broken Noah. They had no leaders. Now they have 2 of the best. Garnett and Lopez are going to be a force together. Lopez plays down on the block and Garnett is top 3 in the league at mid range shooting. The spacing they will have naturally is a weapon that Jason Kidd will have whenever his first 5 are on the court.
Jason Kidd has never coached a full game before, think about that. Its not that I think he is not smart or knowledgeable but his first full regular season game will be his first competitive game ever.
Luckily his team is stacked with scoring talent and Deron Williams is in a year where he can have no more complaints. He is surrounded by talent and has the coach he wanted. This is his season. He needs a big one.
7: Houston Rockets
The Dwightmare is over in LA and he has landed in Houston. The best place he could have landed. Small market town that is football obsessed and a media that will not jump on him for every free throw missed. This is Dwights first time to play basketball in front of people that want him there in about 3-4 years. He should step back up to 90% of 2010 Dwight.
Their preseason MVP is their GM Daryl Morey. He stock piled assets and draft picks and for a long while he looked crazy. Then he turned it all into James Harden and Dwight Howard.
Which has now become a great team on paper with a great coach..
The Rockets this year have the best center in the NBA and the best shooting guard in the NBA. James Harden showed last year that any question of his talent obliterated. There were people that thought Durant and Westbrooks made him as good as he was. That we know is nowhere near correct.
The 2 main issues at this point are the PG spot and Omer Asik. Jeremy Lin who kind of struggled last season, lost a lot of minutes to Patrick Beverely. Bev is a destructive defensive player, just ask Westbrooks knee. Lin is a player that can score and create. It is Ying and Yang. I would say that they will be subbed in and out to do with offense and defence. If you have 2 great players that play the same position then thank your lucky stars they play different ends of the court.
The Asik contract is the really interesting bit of business. I do not think him and Dwight can play together and he is too big a contract to be a back up. I see them trying to get Ryan Anderson from New Orleans to reunite him and Dwight and add another shooter to the outside of the Rockets offense. If that happens they are a much bigger threat but for now they are a very good number 7.
6: Oklahoma City Thunder
This is the first year that I have looked at the Thunder and not seen them really be a threat to the Heat. Durant is the second best players in the league, which is a much closer race than some people think. Westbrook who is injured is one of the most athletic players in the league and is just unstoppable when he is on form. Serge Ibaka is a brilliant role player on this team, he now shoots very well and protects the rim with the best of them. It is everyone else that makes me really worry for this Thunder team. Perkins is an awful basketball player, Kevin Martin was replaced with….. emmmm….. next question. Reggie Jackson is the back up point guard right now and will start the first 6 weeks of the season. Do not get me started on Derek Fisher. Haseem Thabeet is still in the NBA….
This Thunder team is going to need Durant to score 40 a game to win while Westbrook is out. Even though a lot of people think there is tension between Durant and Westbrook I dont see it. Westbrook took the most shots in the NBA last season and is very moody but him and Durant are like brothers. There is only love there and once he is back the 2 of them will dominate games and just flat out beat teams down. Still though GIFs like these are priceless
I am worried about the Thunder. The stink of the Harden trade is hanging over this team. He is now a superstar on a team that can only improve with an owner that does not mind the tax. This and next year might be the last year the Thunder are relevant if their owner does not open the checkbook. You can only draft superstars a couple of times.
5: LA Clippers
Doc Rivers jumped the Titanic for a passing yacht and now has to turn that yacht into a …..bigger yacht, ok bad analogy. The Clippers added exactly what they needed this season. Shooting. JJ Reddick and Jared Dudley. Dudley by the way is a player I thought just needed to be on a team that wins to succeed. He is a locker room guy and plays great defense and shoots. Doc Rivers will love him. Chris Paul held himself ransom if they did not get Doc Rivers and now they have him and it is time to see if Doc is the real deal or if he has just been the best motivator of great players. I think the real way to tell will be Griffin and DeAndre Jordans improvement.
All the hate thrown at Blake Griffin is outrageous. He is what he is. What he can improve on is his defense. Doc Rivers will bring in defensive schemes that will emphasis team movement and with that comes clear weaknesses. Blake and DeAndre will need to play hard and learn the system because if they dont they will be major holes in his system and then the media has every right bring up issues. What will the Clippers line up look like in crunch time is also a question. Jordan can not shoot free throws and Griffin is a terrible passer out of double teams and even just out of the block. It will be interesting to watch how Doc figures out his team. If he can figure out the system he will bring a top level defense to this club and the sky is the limit for a Chris Paul run offense.
4: San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs can not come back this year and win it all, they cant get to the Finals, they are too old, Duncan is too old, Parker will drop off this year……. I legally can not make any of these arguments any more. I thought at least one of those things every year since they won in 2007 and I finally get it now, they are immortal. Pop is immortal, Duncan is immortal, Boris Diaw’s hunger is immortal. The Spurs will win 55-60 games and they will trot into the playoffs with little fanfare because people think they are boring. Which is not true in any way. I have them playing the Clippers in the West Finals. Why will they be there again? Well the only change this year, other than Marco Belinelli, will be Kawhi Leonard.
He is ready, he is following the plan that Paul George used. This is his 3rd year and this is the leap. He will become an 18 point 10 rebound player this year and will soak up every bit of productivity that the Spurs will lose from Duncan and Ginobli. He can be 3rd All NBA this year and will push for most improved.
Just incase you thought I was joking about the immortal thing, look at Duncan take 8 years off Ginobli’s age…
3: Indiana Pacers
I love the Pacers, I love Larry Bird, I love Frank Vogel. It is all love from me. The team they have built is part misfit part genius. Roy Hibbert’s twin brother Playoff Roy Hibbert needs to take his brothers spot on the team. Roy Hibbert in the playoffs is a monster that plays most of the game. Regular season Roy is a guy that fouls himself to the bench and only 30 mins a night. Roy can score and defend. He is a game changer and needs to start to understand that about himself. If he can stay at playoff level then he is an all star and 2nd All NBA. Look at this picture of him during preseason, by the way that is Tim Duncan beside him.
Indiana had a terrible bench last season and it cost them the Miami series. They needed a change and with Larry Bird coming back he swung the axe and has brought in a new bench. CJ Watson, Chris Copeland and Luis Scola have been brought in to right the bench that has got to play better to challenge the Heat.
What makes them the 3rd best team in the league? They can beat anyone in a playoff series. They have something that people can not guard in Hibbert and someone that can stop any wing player in Paul George. Then you have scorers off the bench in Scola and Copeland and I have not even mentioned the Granger return / Granger trade for Rudy Gay or someone else. This team in the playoffs will terrify everyone. You think Noah or Bosh is happy to see Hibbert warming up on the other side of the court? No, nobody is.
2: Chicago Bulls
Im Bullish on the Bulls
I think the Bulls are really really good at basketball. They are a team that got past the Nets in the Playoffs with Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli as there guards against Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Oh and Noah was injured. Oh and I forgot the former MVP was injured in Derrick Rose. Now Rose is back and he has some new toys at his disposal. Firstly I see Boozer being traded for anything this season but back to the team Rose is running. Jimmy Butler was a breath of fresh air last season. He came on slowly and finished with playing full games on the regular….in the playoffs….. while marking Lebron James. He was an animal. He guarded Lebron brilliantly and then went down the other end and played offense on a team that could not score in a normal set.
This season Rose will run the show and open up the offensive game of Jimmy Butler. We will see a healthy Noah again, which is a joy because he truly does everything on both ends. Taj Gibson will lead the bench which has added Mike Dunleavy and his brilliant range. The Bulls did not make many moves because they did not need to. They have Derrick Rose back and he will be as destructive as ever. Watching him in preseason he looks great. His stroke looks the same and he is jumping off both feet with the same anger and explosiveness we know and love.
I think this comeback year will bring them to the Eastern Finals and will allow them to really take it to Miami. I think it will be close but when they send Boozer packing for another piece to put around Rose they will close that gap even more. Boozer is the key and needs to be sent packing…
1: Miami Heat
The Heat are champs because Tim Duncan was not on the floor to get a rebound in game 6. Oh and they were the best team in the NBA last season. Champions do things like that alot, they score baskets when they shouldnt and they punish mistakes. The whole “Miami didnt win the championship, the Spurs lost it” headline is pitiful. The Heat are balanced perfectly for their style of play. Their big men are systematically perfect with Bosh, Anderson doing things the other can not. Wade is much better than Wade’s body is allowing him to be but he will put in the effort one every 3 games and Chalmers and Ray Allen will contribute whenever they have their chance. Then they went this strange route and signed 2 players that are proven issues that walk. Greg Oden and Michael Beasley. I do not get the 2 signings, I think part of it is ego. These 2 guys are trouble, they can not really play basketball for physical(Oden) and mental (Beasley) reasons. I think the Heat might secretely think that they can gamble 2 roster spots away and still win just like they did with Birdman. Birdman was signed towards the end of the season and worked out perfectly for them, I fear these 2 signings are wastes.
Thankfully they have a guy names LeBron James. Who is the best player on the planet right now. He does it all and will do it all again. It is a joy to watch him and he is the face of basketball globally. I spent the summer with 4 guys that do not watch basketball and they either knew him or I explained that he was the Messi of basketball. That explains it all really. He is the King
The Heat are the target for all of the basketball world and you have to aim at them to claim silverware this year.
Let the games begin.