The 2008-09 NBA season is upon us, and for fans of David Stern’s league it could not come soon enough. Elton Brand is in the East again, Baron is still out West although he is a Clipper now and the World Champs are from the city with the most NBA titles in the games history. This year promises to be exciting with no clear cut favorite to win it all. Vegas odds would suggest the Lakers are the boys to beat and rightfully so but they are not the 96 Bulls.
Scott Skiles is coaching again this time in Milwaukee, and Terry Porter got a gig in Phoenix. The most recent Sun coach now has the dubious job of following after Isiah "No Doze" Thomas as Knicks head honcho. Last season’s #1 overall pick Greg Oden will be making his much anticipated NBA debut and the # 1 pick in this seasons draft Derrick Rose will attempt to guide the Bulls back to the off's after a 1 year hiatus. There is some debate as to who is the game’s best player. Some say that player resides at the Staples Center while others say to find that player you simply need to frequent Bourbon Street down in the Bayou State. For my money the best player in today’s game can be seen at a Cleveland Indians game wearing a New York Yankee cap. Here is all you need to know for the upcoming season (note remember this is REALITY, for FANTASY analyses see someone else)....
Teams to Watch:
1. Portland Trailblazers.
Many pundits, experts and anyone that knows anything about the game of basketball expects this young Blazer squad to compete for a playoff spot in the ultra competitive West. I will watch Portland to witness the emergence of what is one of the games most underrated stars. Yes he was an All Star last season but Brandon Roy may already be a top 10 player in terms of impacting his team’s wins. He is clearly the leader of his team and he has not come close to reaching his peak as a player. In 3 years as Kobe draws closer to mortal-ness look for Roy to be the best shooting guard in the West.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers.
Two words King James ... nuff said.
3. Los Angeles Lakers.
Andrew Bynum is healthy and looks to pick up right where he left off (13 ppg and 10 rpg) last year before a knee injury cut his season short. He will make a huge difference in whether Phil Jackson can preserve the great Kobe Bryant for the playoffs. Bynum and Pau will form the best 1, 2 low post punch in the entire NBA. This team will certainly be tough to defeat for any team with championship aspirations.
4. Boston Celtics.
The World Champs will be as intense and focused as ever to prove that last year was not a blip on the radar but an all out assault. P squared, Ray Shuttlesworth and the Big Ticket are the best trio in basketball today and Doc Rivers gave evidence that he is an excellent head coach. The only question mark for this group: is Tony Allen healthy/capable of
holding down new Hornet and former Celtic James Posey’s spot?
5. San Antonio Spurs.
Remember them? Well most experts do not all are handing the title to Boston or L.A. The upstart but frail Rockets have gotten more love than this aging bunch. But I tell you do not count them out. As long as the legendary Timothy Duncan is holding down the middle this team can beat anyone 4 out of 7. The disclaimer * Manu is hurt and they have several unproven players who will have to pay huge dividends for them to go all the way. They are under the radar with no pressure and Pop can still coach. Watch out.
Lebron James, F. Cleveland Caveliers.
With Mo Williams now the starting point guard, the Cleveland Cavs will be a better team than they have been at any point in King James early career. Look for a focused Lebron to improve on other worldly 30, 7 and 7 numbers and impact more wins for his team. He is only 23 years old and already has been to the Finals and has an Olympic Gold Medal. He is without a doubt one of the most unstoppable forces the game has ever seen. The roster as it stands today if injury free is good enough to compete with ANYONE in the entire league.
NBA Rookie of the Year:
Greg Oden C, Portland Trailblazers.
The Trailblazers (if they can remain healthy) should make the playoffs this season. If that happens Greg Oden will be the reason why. An already talent laden squad will get the push over the hump by this man child who is still not old enough to drink. His impact should be mostly felt on the defensive side of the ball. Look for 9 + boards and 2 +
blocks right out the gate.
Coach of the Year:
Rick Adelman, Houston Rockets.
Coach of Year in the NBA is NOT awarded to the coach that has done the best coaching job with his team but rather to the team who's coach guides them to a BUNCH of wins. Last season Byron Scott won the award mainly because he had one of the top 3 players in the league playing for him, but did he do a better job than Moe Cheeks who led a surprisingly competitive bunch in Philly without a single All Star on his roster? I thinks not. Rick Adelman finished 3rd last season and won 22 games in a row with his team despite injuries to its two best players. He wins it this year as the Rockets are a top 3 team record wise out West.
All NBA 1st Team:
G. Chris Paul
G. Kobe Bryant
F. Lebron James
F. Tim Duncan
C. Dwight Howard
All Rookie 1st Team:
G. Derrick Rose, Chicago.
G. OJ Mayo, Memphis.
G. Russell Westbrook, O.K. City.
F. Michael Beasley, Miami.
C. Greg Oden, Portland.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
3. New Orleans
7. San Antonio
NBA Finals Match-Up:
Boston Celtics vs. San Antonio Spurs.
I believe if the C's remain injury free for the season they get back to the NBA Finals. Detroit is just way too erratic, Cleveland may still be another year away and Philly is a contender but have yet to be tested in the playoffs. This leaves the Big 3 with a familiar road to defending their trophy.
Out West it is a little tougher. N.O., L.A., Dallas (yes Dallas, I love Carlisle as a coach), Houston and S.A. all have legitimate shots at winning the conference. It all comes down to match-ups. I believe in a 7 game series Dallas can't beat Houston, S.A. cannot beat L.A., L.A. cannot beat N.O. and N.O. cannot beat S.A. ... and so forth and so on ... L.A. has to be the favorite, they went to the Finals last season and add missing young stud center Andrew Bynum to the rotation after he missed their entire post season run. But something about L.A. does not seem right to me. Kobe spent a lot of himself over the last year trying to win an NBA title and leading his country to a Gold Medal in the Olympics. Bynum and Pau Gasol in the starting line up together early on does not seem to be getting rave reviews and Derrick Fisher is still the team’s starting point guard. I have not even gotten into the Lamar Odom disaster area. This team has played a lot of ball in the last year and its best player may be wearing down. MAYBE! But even at 80% Kobe is still 90% better than 97% of the NBA. N.O. will be better as well. After last season’s magical ride to the 2nd round and going 7 games with the defending champs this team has to be super confident. Throw into the mix a two time Champion in James Posey and they may be on to something. In a year or 2 though not now. Houston is the West X-Factor. They have an experienced coach, 2 superstars and a key all around do-it-all perimeter player, problem is NONE of them have ever won a thing. Can they all put it together this year and have a dream season, YES. Will they? Most likely NOT! Dallas will be well coached and should be a tough team for any of the other 4 teams to beat in a 7 game series. Dirk is Dallas best player and Kidd is their best playmaker ... not the recipe for 3 tough 7 game series so that counts them out for the long run. That leaves the Spurs. The Spurs have all the experience and coaching the free world has to offer. They are the only team in the league with 2 Finals MVP's on the roster. They return all starters from their most recent Championship team (2007) and added a couple of young backcourt and wing players. Now remember San Antonio has won a title every other year since 03' (03, 05 & 07) so it may just be a formality. I think if star guard Manu Ginobili comes back healthy and plays on the same level as he did last season you can add 2009 to that impressive resume of title years.
99’, 03’, 05’ and 07’ could 09’ be next?