“I feel healthy, I feel strong. I feel ready.” Kobe Bryant. Is he implying trouble for the rest of the league?
Where did the summer go? Better yet, what players went where? With so many players swooping teams this season should be more exciting than years past. No discussions of a lockout, no Collective Barraging Agreement worries and a full 82 game season slated, waiting for this season has add a few more gray hairs.
Let’s start with the Western Conference. Last season showed us that Kevin Durant and the Thunder will be title contenders for years to come. Will they represent the West in the NBA Finals over the next few seasons? The way they stomp over the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, it’s not a bad guess. If they sign James Harden, there’s no earthly reason why they shouldn’t, this team will be great for years to come.
Speaking of the Spurs, Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker are far from spring chickens but one thing is for certain their productive will be there. Coach Greg Popovich will once again develop a solid bench to offset the scoring power once had by the Spurs version of the big three.
With two major signees, Nash & Howard, the Lakers once again leap to the top of everyone list of title contenders. Even with those two future Hall of Famers there are questions, of course. What will the chemistry be like with Kobe and his new teammates? Will the bench be strong enough? Teasing but, will Phil Jackson need to come coach this team to win a ring? One thing is for sure the Lakers will once again be must see TV, and yes I see them being there at the end battling the Thunder.
Another team out West on the come up is the Memphis Grizzlies. Their two-man frontcourt of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will give teams nightly nightmares. Having a healthy Rudy Gay will be an additional benefit. Can you say second round in the playoffs? I can.
With the Lakers once again returning as L.A’s favorite team, the Clippers will take their familiar place as the “other” team in L.A. Chris Paul and Blake will lead the NBA in highlights on Sports Center. Yes, that’s a stat. If Billups is healthy and with the addition of Duke great Grant Hill, and the return of Lamar Odom the Clippers will be prime to make a deeper run in the playoffs.
Speaking of running, the Denver Nuggets will do a ton of that. Coach Karl’s brand of basketball with this team is run-baby-run. They never saw a 3-pointer they didn't like and with Andre Miller running point there most certainly will be 3-pointers available. JaVale McGee has a bright upside. Having a defender in Iguodala should help on the defense side of the ball. First round playoff team but I don’t see anything beyond that.
Remember the good ol days when Dirk was the best player in the league? Yes, those days are long gone. Also, gone is the talent that Mark Cuban Mavericks once had. Dirk and a host of role players will only get them so far unfortunately; it’s nowhere near the top of the Western Conference. The best thing about this season after playing 88 games (that’s 82 regular season and 6 playoff games) Dallas will have plenty salary cap space for a big-time free agent this summer.
David Lee and the Golden State Warriors will bank on Bogut returning strong from his injury last year. Having Bogut as the anchor in the middle the Warriors defense will be much improved. Stephen Curry will hold down the scoring, and with support from Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack the Warriors will have a solid team.
Don’t be surprise but the Minnesota Timberwolves will be in the middle of the playoff race again this year…barring any injuries. Rubio is back. Kevin Love will continue to be the most consistent power forward in the league. If Brandon Roy has anything left in the tank this Timberwolves team will win enough games to earn Coach Rick Adelman coach of the year.
You know what you’ll get in the Utah Jazz. Now will it be enough to push them pass the first round of the playoffs. Their defense will again be their strength, last year only allowing 97 points per game, offense will need a boost. Their young cats Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward will be a key ingredient to their success.
In the ‘Big Easy’ easy victories won’t be the story line for the New Orleans Hornets. However, they have a very bright future with Anthony Davis, who will be the favorite for rookie of the year, and a solid guard in Eric Gordon. No playoffs this year or next year, but I’m sure their bandwagon will grow when they begin to win.
Jeremy Lin we have a problem Houston. The Rockets are young and Jeremy Lin will bring some excitement but it won’t equivalent to enough wins for a playoff spot.
The Sun has already set in Phoenix even before the season starts. The Suns will also have sufficient amount of salary cap space after this year. The big question is will they have the surrounding parts to draw a ‘big name’ free agent to the land of the Sun.
Portland is a solid team all around. LaMarcus Aldridge is a bon-a-fide star, with wing players in (Nicolas) Batum and Wesley Matthews they will in the hunt once again.