A day before the 2010-2011 NBA season kicks off, A look at the teams and players that should be making headlines this year and gunning for the NBA title.
The Miami Heat – How Good Will They Be & LeBron Redemption?
Will this move, bringing LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join forces with Dwyane Wade in South Beach be like when the Celtics went for it all, bringing in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen? With James and Wade they have two of the top 4 players in the league on the same team, and Chris Bosh was the best power forward in the NBA last regular season. Question is – will the crew around them be good enough to fill in the pieces and make Miami a real scary team, a fantasy team, capable of winning over 65 games and maybe even challenge the 72-10 record of the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls? As good as James, Wade and Bosh will be and can be, having a good season from Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers and the rest is just as important. And LeBron’s attempt to climb out of the villain/quitter thing attached to his this summer? A win in Boston tomorrow night is a great way to start.
Boston’s Geriatric Park – One More Go?
Ray Allen, 35. Kevin Garnett, 36. Jermaine O’Neal, 32. Shaquille O’Neal, the NBA’s oldest player, 38. Paul Pierce, 33. Experience? Check. Title Rings all around? Check. Good enough for a last run at an NBA title? A lot of if’s, and IF they stay healthy is the biggest one. They do have Rondo, who has emerged as one of the best point guards, well actually players in the league these last two post-seasons, but too many tired bodies with too many miles on their legs, knees and backs. Still, with a little bit of luck injury wise, Boston have the talent, the defense and the toughness to make one last push at the title (they were one game short last season) before Garnett, Allen and Pierce really are too old. Pounding Miami on Tuesday would be a nice start.
Los Angeles Lakers – Still Hungry?
Well, the correct form of the question above should be – How hungry is Kobe Bryant, and how long can he keep playing at the level he has for so long? He has played over 1200 games in his career, including the playoffs, and 304 in the last three seasons. At some point, its got to start showing, but till that happens, Bryant will continue to push on getting a sixth NBA title ring, and he’s got the best supporting crew in the land to help him with that. Talent-wise, this is the best team in the NBA. They’ve also did some refreshing to the squad, adding Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff. If Artest keeps it together for another season while Odom and Gasol keep up with what they’ve been doing for the last three years, the Lakers are clear favorites for another title.
The Rest of the East – The Orlando Magic and not much else
The Magic stank up the place in the Conference Finals against the Celtics last playoffs, so why should they even be considered title contenders this year? Cause they are, on paper, as good as last year, with the potnetial of Dwight Howard getting better hovering around, while I don’t believe the Celtics will be better than last season. The battle for the East’s crown will focus on Florida this season, and Orlando, despite all its flaws, are still a very good team, maybe the best in the East.
Atlanta didn’t make any changes during the off season, at least any major ones, so anything beyond a 50+ win season and a conference Semi Final will be very surprising. The Bulls? Depends on how quickly Boozer returns from his injury and how good he’ll be returning from it, considering the Bulls were quite curios on the manner of which he got injured, maybe ruining the player-organization relationship from the start. And don’t forget about Derrick Rose, aiming to be counted right up there with Paul and Deron as the best point guard in the league. The Bucks seem to be making the right moves and might make a challenge at the Eastern crown, adding Corey Maggette this off season for more firepower. If Bogut makes a smooth return from his elbow injury and Brandon Jennings to continue his progress, the Bucks won’t be happy with just a playoff appearance this season.
The Rest of the West
Are the Thunder ready to make a challange for the title? Relax, don’t get ahead of yourself. They made the playoffs last year, and this year they’ll do it again. Challanging for the title? Not yet, although winning a playoff series should be coming this year for the Thunder and Durant, who very quickly established himself as not just one of the best players in the league right now but also an NBA cornerstone for years to come. He’s that good, and he has a better chance of winning an MVP this season than the Thunder winning the title.
The Spurs? It’s an odd year, so why not? But seriously, as Duncan continues to decline while Manu and Parker always find a way to get injured, adding Tiago Splitter to the mix won’t be enough to win San Antonio their fifth NBA title. Dallas will look good in the regular season but fold in the playoffs, the Nuggets will be praying Carmelo somehow decides to stay, The Blazers will look good only if somehow that injury bug decided to forget about Oregon this year. And not regarding any title aspirations, but just pure basketball fun – Lets hope the Suns do well with Amar’e, and I hope that Ellis-Curry Combo remains healthy for at least 75 games.