Fans prepare for a season of excitement
The upcoming National Basketball Association (NBA) season is going to be one filled with storylines. The blockbuster trade between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers- swapping the most dominant center in the league, Shaquille O'Neal, for forward Lamar Odom, a star veteran in Brian Grant, and a young prospect in Caron Butler- is the biggest. Other storylines around the league included NBA scoring champion McGrady and other members of the Orlando Magic being swapped with Francis and others of the Houston Rockets.
The league also implemented a classification system with new divisions, because they introduced the expansion Charlotte Bobcats. The Eastern conference will have the Atlantic, Central, and Southeast divisions. The Western conference will have the Northwest, Pacific, and Southwest.
1.The central division is the strongest division in the Eastern Conference. The Detroit Pistons are expected to win this conference, as they are the defending NBA champions. The Pistons did not lose any major free agents and managed to ink in the missing championship piece, Rasheed Wallace, into a long-term deal.
2.The Indiana Pacers have always been a strong team. Any team with all star power forward/center Jermaine O'Neal playing the post always contends for the finals. The rest of the team is a question mark. Defensive player of the year Ron Artest has the talent to shut down anyone, but he may not keep his emotions in check. The team will not win this division but will definitely make the wild card.
3.The Cleveland Cavaliers will definitely show more improvement this season. LeBron James is entering his second season in the league and will look to improve on his rookie of the year season, where he averaged nearly 21 points, 5.5 rebounds and six assists. Cleveland also added athletic power forward Drew Gooden in an off-season trade. While Cleveland will improve next season, they are not going to definitely make the playoffs and would need some luck.
4.The Chicago Bulls have enough raw talent to make the playoffs, although they lack the experience necessary for the postseason. A strong draft this year has left them with Luol Deng, one of the best college freshmen last year at Duke, and Ben Gordon the starting shooting guard for the national champions, Connecticut. Add these two to the mix of Eddie Curry, Tyson Chandler and Kirk Hinrich and this team looks good on paper. Unfortunately, the team will need a few years to mature and should consider pursuing a veteran for leadership.
5.The Milwaukee Bucks are expecting the return of second year point guard T.J Ford. Although Ford is an undersized point guard at a tad less than six feet, he can run the floor as well as anyone. They have a former first rounder capable of scoring in Desmond Mason. They have one of the hottest hands in the NBA with Michael Redd, who can shoot the lights out any night. However even with all the components, Ford will have to mature into his role as point guard and the team is a few years from success.
1.The Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers look to be the best team in the realigned Atlantic division. Their new coach, Jim O'Brien, is no stranger to success. O'Brien led the Boston Celtics to many postseason experiences and should look to do the same with the Sixers. A healthy Allen Iverson will definitely help the team achieve this success and he will do much of the scoring. A strong draft this year has left them with former University of Arizona Wildcats player Andre Iguodala, who should ease Iverson's pressure to score. Iguodala won the starting spot over two-time All Star Glen Robinson and has impressed the coaches. Look for the Sixers atop the Atlantic division.
2.The New York Knicks have definitely improved themselves this off-season. Stephon Marbury, a strong point guard who lead the team to the playoffs last season, will be back and better. The off-season trade with the Chicago Bulls for Jamal Crawford will definitely give the Knicks a one-two punch. Adding Allan Houston to the mix shows that scoring will not be a problem for this squad. Second year forward/center Michael Sweetney will get more minutes and should have more production. Unless he has a breakthrough season, the team lacks a big man in the post and this will be the Achilles' heal for the team. Without the big man, they will make the playoffs as a wild card team in the East but will not advance very far in the playoffs.
3.The New Jersey Nets probably have had the worst off-season of any team. They lost one of the best forwards in the game, Kenyon Martin, for some draft picks, basically losing one of their best players for a few possible future players. Their new owner, who does not want to spend, has angered Jason Kidd. He has become a disgruntled super star is looking to leave the team in the near future. If there have been any positives this off-season, the Nets have locked up Richard Jefferson on a long term contract and former all-star center Alonzo Mourning looks to make another comeback.
4.The Boston Celtics once again will be Paul Pierce's team without any help. Paul Pierce will lead the team in scoring and on the floor. The acquisition of Gary Payton has basically just got them an old star point guard on his way down. If you look at this last year's performance with the Lakers, he was not at his best. This team might have a shot at one of the lower spots and the playoffs simply because they have Paul Pierce who always comes through in the clutch.
5.The Toronto Raptors should expect another season at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They have another disgruntled and oft injured star in Vince Carter, who wants to leave the team. Carter actually wants a chance to advance in the playoffs and demanded a trade during this off-season. The team will not have a problem scoring because Jalen Rose and second year player Chris Bosh should be able to average nearly 20 points a night. Regardless, this squad will have yet another horrible season. Sorry Carter.
1.The Miami Heat will be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference and are just about a shoe-in for the postseason and possibly a championship. They acquired the most dominant force in the entire league in O'Neal. Moreover, O'Neal is more focused than ever in his career. He lost weight in the off-season and weighs in at 330 pounds, more than 25 pounds less than last season. Dwyane Wade is entering his second year and will look to improve on his last season's performance. For this team, the sky is the limit.
2.The Orlando Magic were another large off-season story. They traded the NBA scoring champion McGrady and a few others for Francis and company. They also drafted high school phenom Dwight Howard with the first pick of last year's draft. In my mind, while Howard has the potential to be one of the greatest, they still passed over on a sure thing in Emeka Okafor. Once again, there are rumors that Grant Hill will be making another return. If he and the newcomers can produce and keep away from injury, they will make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference, which is a big turnaround from last season.
3. The Washington Wizards have enough talent to make the playoffs this season. If the team can stay away from injuries, they stand a chance. The addition of Antawn Jamison will definitely provide more scoring and leadership. More discussion of the Wizards can be found here.
4.The Charlotte Bobcats are the NBA's newest franchise, and at this point they do not have the personnel to win a lot of games. Besides Okafor, the second pick in last year's draft, there is no one who has been an all-star in the league. Wait for a few more off-seasons for this team, as they will pursue more trades and free agents.
5.The Atlanta Hawks are going to be horrible and in my mind the worst team in the league. Talent is not a question for this team as they have Antoine Walker, Al Harrington, and a good draft pick with Josh Childress from Stanford. However, Childress is too young and inexperienced to help his team much, Walker has never been much of a player as he takes too many three pointers for someone who is 6 foot 9 inches, and Harrington was used more often as a bench player in Indiana so he will have to make an adjustment to the minutes.
1.The Denver Nuggets had enough parts last season to make the post-season after an abysmal run two years ago. After an active off-season, expect the team to get better. They acquired Nets star forwards Kenyon Martin and have another scoring option and an excellent post defender. Second-year forward Carmelo Anthony will just continue to improve on a rookie season averaging 21 points a game. Others, including Marcus Camby, Andre Miller, Voshon Lenard and Nene will be back and ready for the postseason.
2.The Minnesota Timberwolves have finally solved their first round exits and expect to see more postseason action. This team had very few, if any, changes during the off-season and will return MVP Kevin Garnett, star guard in Sam Cassell, and a true scorer in Latrell Sprewell. Last season when they faced the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals, they were without Cassell due to an injury. While the team has a strong bench, the team cannot succeed without those three players for anytime during the season.
3.The Utah Jazz will look to return to their postseason successes of the past, but it will be difficult. The Western conference is not a place for mediocrity and that is just what the Jazz are. The Jazz are still reeling from the effects of the loss of Karl Malone and John Stockton in the same season. Since they added Carlos Boozer and have Andrei Kirilenko, the Jazz will have some success and see improvement from last season. They should finish near .500 because of the talent on their roster, but this is just not good enough for the playoffs.
4.The Portland Trail Blazers are in the same boat as the Jazz. The Trail Blazers have a roster filled with talent such as the NBA's most improved player Zach Randolph, Darius Miles, who has finally seemed to find his place, and a solid point guard in Damon Stoudemire. The Trail Blazers have also seemed to get rid of their Jail Blazers title through dealing Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells. Regardless, this team will have a season similar to last year's and will be in playoff contention the whole season. At the end, they will have the ninth spot in the west and barely not make the playoffs.
5.More of the same is the story for the Seattle Supersonics. The Supersonics have a good point guard in Ray Allen and an excellent scorer in Rashard Lewis, but that is where the team's veteran and proven talent ends. The rest of the team will just follow the lead of these two, which does not give the team enough options.
1.The Phoenix Suns will have a massive turnaround this year after not making the playoffs last season. The main difference is the acquisition of Steve Nash, one of the best point guards in the team. Nash will improve the entire team just as he did in Dallas. Nash's Dallas teams never played any defense, while the Suns can and will play defense. Amare Stoudemire is a force on both sides of the glass and has always had the work ethic required to become one of the best in the league. The Suns, who had money in the off-season, also acquired Quentin Richardson from the Los Angeles Clippers, who will provide more options on the offense. Look for a very good team that can get quite far in the playoffs.
2.The Sacramento Kings will make the playoffs because they are the Kings but not much else. They have always had the talent to win it all, but since that devastating game seven loss to the Lakers they have never looked the same. The Kings will continue their success at home and during the regular season, but come playoff time they choke each year. All-star forward Chris Webber, stellar point guard Mike Bibby, the best point guard on the bench Bobby Jackson, defensive stopper Doug Christie, sharp shooter Peja Stojakovic, and dominant big man Brad Miller all return to the team, although this team could be the worst one in a while. The presence of Vlade Divac will be made up with the play of Brad Miller. The team has lost depth for the last few years and fans in Sacramento are beginning to get frustrated. The team will not disappoint over the regular season, but do not expect much come playoff time.
3.The Los Angeles Clippers seem to lose more and more of their players each year. Odom last off-season, and now Quentin Richardson this off-season have both been lost in free agency. Add this to the fact that we are talking about the Los Angeles Clippers and expect another season of disaster.
4. The Golden State Warriors have never had the talent, and now they have a new coach. Mike Montgomery from Stanford will take a few years to adjust to the NBA system and he has not been gifted with the best team. The team's only true star is Jason Richardson, who is more known for his stunning dunks than his play on the court. The Warriors should expect to have a worse record than last season, but just because their coach and players are both adjusting to new systems. They should stick with Montgomery and give it a few years before we make an assessment about their progress.
5.The Los Angeles Lakers are going to make the playoffs but do not expect another dynasty. Kobe Bryant will probably lead the league in scoring and will look to carry the team. He will receive help from Odom, Butler, and Grant, the replacements for Shaq. However, without the most dominating force in the league, this team cannot expect to advance too far in the playoffs. The team will make the playoffs because Bryant will come through in the clutch and will be playing the best basketball over 82 games of his career. However, a player's success is measured with the amount of rings he owns, and Bryant will soon regret having Shaq leave town.
1.The San Antonio Spurs will look to earn another NBA title to prove last year's postseason was a fluke. Anything below this will be an underachievement for this team because they have Tim Duncan. The Spurs also got sharpshooter Brent Barry, who will make open shots that he will get quite often with most teams double-teaming Duncan. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have one more year of experience under their belts and can just expect to improve.
2. The Memphis Grizzlies, coached by Hubie Brown, were one of the surprise stories in the league last season. The Grizzlies made the playoffs as a result of team effort and fundamental coaching. Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, and Jason Williams along with others seem to play well as a team. Brown one of the premier basketball minds of all time teaches the team the fundamentals using a strict approach. This approach has worked miracles for the team who have gone from a horrible franchise back in Vancouver to a team to beat in the Western conference.
3.The Houston Rockets will make the playoffs this season and might even have a chance of advancing once they get there. With McGrady and Yao Ming, they have the best center and guard combination since Shaq and Bryant split. Ming now two years into the NBA has definitely understood the system. McGrady will be even more motivated to score in Houston, as he wants to win. McGrady did not think he would get anywhere in Orlando but still, single handedly carried the team. That effort on the same floor as Ming could produce dangerous results.
4. The New Orleans Hornets struggled in the Eastern Conference last season and this year they have changed conferences. They have a disgruntled superstar in Baron Davis, who wants a change in place and will not give his best effort. New coach Byron Scott will definitely be an improvement from Tim Floyd last year but a coach can only thrive if he has the players. If Scott can make Davis change his mind, the Hornets have a slight chance to compete in their new conference.
5.The Dallas Mavericks are one of the biggest losers this off-season, despite the efforts of Mark Cuban. They lost one of their best players last season, Nash, to the Phoenix Suns. They also traded away both Walker and Jamison. Jamison departed to the Wizards and the Mavs got an old Jerry Stackhouse and a rookie point guard from Wisconsin, Devin Harris. Harris will take some time to mature before he becomes anything close to what they lost in Nash. The team still has Michael Finley, Dirk Nowitzki, Marquis Daniels and got Erick Dampier in free agency. The team is too good to not make the playoffs but it seems they will need some luck, as the conference is simply too good.
Adith Sekaran. Adith Sekaran is finally a senior at Blair. Adith is a man who is a big time sports fan and can spend any day to its' entirety watching sports or ESPN. Football season is his favorite, which he spends cheering on his ‘Skins to no … More »