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NBA Season Preview

In Sports on November 28, 2011 at 6:37 pm

by:  Eric Buenning

Someway, somehow, the owners and players union came to a handshake agreement over this past weekend, ending the current lockout.  The NBA miraculously has a (66 game, 48 intra-conference) season in place, starting Christmas Day.  It’s silly do not do a preview then, right?

This preview is going to be a little bit different, though.  It’s going to include a few hypothetical free-agency pickups that have not happened yet.  Other than that, allow me to present your sort-of-run-of-the mill NBA Season Preview.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

 

(1) Miami Heat

–The Heat will explode out of the gate, displaying one of the most impressive “eff everyone” campaigns we have seen in a while.  Remember, they had an incredibly bitter ending to their season, with LeBron and D-Wade “mocking” Dirk during the Finals, LeBron appearing in 3/4 of games, and Dallas celebrating the championship on their court.  That’s a lot think about during an offseason.  Also, LeBron was supposedly working on his post game with Hakeem Olajuwon all summer.  Good things are going to happen in South Beach this regular season (keyword(s): regular season)

 

(2) Chicago Bulls

–The Bulls will be a solid team again, led by reigning MVP Derrick Rose.  While I don’t think Rose will have the same season he did last year, the Bulls will be more complete.  Let’s be real for a second; Derrick Rose is a point guard, not your go-to scorer.  That’s what inevitably did Chicago in last year.  The Bulls will have to add a two-guard for this to happen.  Let’s just say they add…Jason Richardson.  He’s not a monster upgrade, but the 30 year-old veteran will take some of the heat off of Rose, and I can only imagine that Carlos Boozer will show some traces of his all-star self this season.  One player might be all da Bulls need to make another strong run to the title.

(3) New York Knicks

–This is what basketball fans, specifically New Yorkers have been waiting for since last winter.  We all will finally get a chance to see what the Amare-Carmelo combination is capable of for a “full season”.  Also consider the fact that Amare wore down last season playing the Center position.  Lets say the Knicks add…Samuel Dalembert for far less money than he’s making in Sacramento presently.  He isn’t anywhere as good as he once was, so he should probably take a huge paycut if he expects to go play for a contender.  With the remaining money the Knicks will have left over, they will more than likely pull of a blockbuster trade for Chris Paul, who has been rumored to go there since last season.  With the possibility of CP3-Amare pick n’ rolls with Carmelo waiting on the wing, the Knicks could become a serious threat come playoff time.

(4) Milwaukee Bucks

–This isn’t a homer pick, I promise.  The Bucks were absolutely atrocious on offense last season.  It was almost record-setting how bad they were.  That will improve with the free-agent addition of Jamal Crawford.  Crawford is known as kind of a ball hog, but the Bucks should take what they can get.  Crawford, teamed with Stephen Jackson on the wing, would give Milwaukee a much-improved scoring punch and would free up Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut for greater chances at easy baskets.  The Bucks are a decent team, they just need that consistent effort on offense.  With this move, they’ll have it.

(5) Boston Celtics

–Not even a shortened season can help Boston.  They are just too freakin’ old to compete consistently anymore.  Garnett, Pierce, and Allen have logged too many minutes on their bodies.  It’s a sad truth.  You saw it last spring, the more energetic Heat whooped up on Boston.  Also, the probable departure of Glen “Big Baby” Davis will hurt Boston’s bench.  Boston is sadly on the way down.

( Before I go any further, I want to make it a point to explain that this year’s Eastern Conf. 6-8 seeds will be substantially better than last year’s)

(6) Indiana Pacers

–Surprising, yes.  Crazy? Not really.  Especially if Indiana can sign a player like David West.  They would still be weak at shooting guard, but they are sneaky deep.  Take a look.  That’s a quality team with the addition of West.  It’s hypothetical of course, but don’t be surprised to see Indiana make a decent push at a solid playoff spot.

(7) Orlando Magic

–What’s left of the Orlando Magic??  Dwight Howard will have his mind elsewhere probably by the All-Star Break (coincidentally in Orlando), and the Magic will slump pretty badly.  They just aren’t…that..great..of a team??  It’s hard to be totally impressed with Magic, anymore; especially if they have a disinterested Dwight Howard.  Maybe a trade to LA is in his future?? I’ll get to that later.

(8) Atlanta Hawks

–I don’t know how Atlanta is good.  Seriously.  They have good players in Johnson, Smith, and Horford, but they all just kind of do their own thing and not really function as a team.  I would have to think that Smith will be dealt at some point as well.  The Hawks just can’t afford to keep all three.  With Smith and Crawford hypothetically, can the Hawks compete with just Joe Johnson and Al Horford.  Not with the teams ahead of them.  They’ll be good, but an 8-seed nonetheless.

PLAYOFF PICTURE:

1st round:  Miami d. Atlanta….Chicago d. Orlando….New York d. Indiana (barely, and also a rematch of some awesome playoff series back in the 90’s), Milwaukee d. Boston

Chalk pics, whatever.

Semis: Miami d. Milwaukee (surprisingly competitive)….New York d. Chicago (in a wildly entertaining series)

I chose New York over Chicago because of the star power.  Plain and simple.  They’ll be too much.

Finals: New York d. Miami (in an epic series…seriously)

It has to happen.  Miami is going to take it on the chin again.  Here’s the kicker: it’s not going to be Miami’s fault.  There will be no implosion of the team, no distractions, no nothing.  New York will just be better.  LeBron and Wade will admit that they just got straight up beat a la MJ when Detroit defeated his Bulls in the playoffs.  MJ humbly accepted defeat and came back with a vengeance.  The Heat’s duo will mature a lot by the end of this series, and we will see great things from them in the seasons that follow.

Well that was fun, but we’re only halfway done!

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Oklahoma City Thunder

–This is their year to establish themselves.  Durant is poised to take over as the league’s best player, if he hasn’t already done so.  Westbrook (I hope) will have worked himself into a complete point guard, and James Harden will fly under radar, yet be one of the most productive players in the league.  The Thunder are ready to take over this conference for a while.  Also, good luck to any team that tries to score in the paint against them.  Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka will be waiting there for you.

(2) Portland Trail Blazers

–I would imagine that one of these seasons, Portland is going to have a healthy roster for a change.  If they do, they are loaded with talent.  They also swapped Andre Miller for Raymond Felton, a solid upgrade in my opinion.  Again, this all depends on how healthy they can be.  Maybe 66 games will benefit them, I don’t know.  Seriously though, check out this roster. They have the potential to be the surprise team in the NBA this  year.  Mark my words.

(3) Dallas Mavericks

–Once again, Dallas secures a solid playoff spot.  There will be nothing new about this team, but (hypothetically) re-signing JJ Barea and Tyson Chandler, paired with a healthy (and re-signed) Caron Butler will rejuvenate this squad and give them a realistic shot at a deep playoff run.

(4) Memphis Grizzlies

–We saw it last postseason.  Memphis is really, really, REALLY good.  They did all that damage in the playoffs without potential All-Star Rudy Gay.  He gives that team a lot of offense, something they struggled with at times last year.  Teams also won’t be able to contain Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol down low.  These team is going to be something fierce this season.  They’re only going to get better, too.

(5) Los Angeles Lakers

–The Lakers got lucky in barely securing the 2-seed last season.  They would have been exposed badly by Portland and would have had a difficult time with Denver.  Point is, they would have looked a lot worse a lot sooner than they did last year.  Kobe Bryant is also on the decline, unless this mysterious knee surgery he had in Germany works wonders.  The Lakers will panic trying to figure out how to plan for the post-Kobe era, and may end up dealing Lamar Odom or Pau  Gasol in a frenzy (this is not the Dwight Howard trade I was talking about earlier, for the record…).

(6) Denver Nuggets

–Re-signing Nene is key to this coming to fruition.  The Nuggets were a scrappy little bunch of guys once Carmelo departed, and it worked.  Look for them to continue their team-first mission and be a dangerous trap team come playoff time.  Hell, I’ll call that upset now.  Denver will beat whoever they play in the first round.

(7) Houston Rockets

–They finished 43-39 last  year, narrowly missing the playoffs.  The Rockets aren’t a bad team.  Also, their highest paid player is Kevin Martin at $11 million/year.  Two thoughts should come across your mind when you hear that:

1. Who is Kevin Martin (to which someone will offer you an explanation, followed by you still having no idea who Kevin Martin is)

2. 11 million?  That’s not awful, maybe they could make a few key signings to improve their roster.

It’s true, the Rockets really could make a move at any of the free agents I have or have not mentioned so far.  They will be a solid, scrappy, contending team.  Maybe they will even have a little fight in them during the playoffs.  I’m cheering for Houston this season.  They’re my underdog of the West.

(8) Los Angeles Clippers

–I must be crazy to think that Dwight Howard would agree to a trade to the Clippers.  But maybe I’m not.  What if Dwight Howard wanted the big market, too?  Imagine the divide it would create in LA.  Kobe and Dwight would share the Staples Center.  You could even go as far as calling yourself #teamkobe or #teamdwight, if you felt so inclined.

..

Wow, how have I not mentioned this  yet.  Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin could share the front court.  That is ridiculous to even begin thinking of.  They would have to dump some quality players to get Howard, but if the Clippers could get a nucleus of Howard-Griffin-and Eric Gordon going forward, good things will happen to them.

(Note: The Clippers would be an 8-seed only because the Howard trade would come too little too late for them to make a serious playoff run.  They would however, make a full season’s worth of dunking highlights in no time).

You also may notice that the San Antonio Spurs did not make the playoffs in this article.  That is because I think Tony Parker will be gone in one way or the other (trade, overseas, sleeping with every NBA player’s wife/girlfriend).  Truth is, I think their time is done.  I also believe that at least one of the following this will happen, if not all of them:

a. Manu Ginobili’s fearless play will catch with him, and he will miss a large part of the already shortened season.

b. Manu Ginobili’s nose will explode, causing him to miss the whole season.

c. Tim Duncan will die of natural causes.

d. With the team then led by Richard Jefferson and Dejuan Blair, the Spurs will be too embarrassed to continue playing basketball, leading to their forfeiture of this season.

PLAYOFF PICTURE

1st round: Oklahoma City d. LA Clippers (barely, frightening bloggers that praise OKC everywhere..)….Portland d. Houston….Denver d. Dallas….Memphis d. LA Lakers

Denver has the chops to knock off the champs.  That OKC-LAC matchup would be so amazing to watch, too.  I’m going to quietly hope that this happens for the foreseeable future.

Semis:  Oklahoma City d. Memphis (again)….Portland d. Denver

It would suck for Memphis to lose to the same team again, but at least we’ll have a neat little rivalry in the Western Conference a la Heat-Knicks and Pacers-Knicks from the 90’s (minus the mild bloodshed and total chaos, hopefully).  Again, watch out for Portland, I’m tellin ya.

Finals: Thunder d. Blazers (in again, an epic series)

Yeah, so much for my admiration for Portland, I guess.  I do like the Blazers, but I get the feeling that the Thunder have something to prove this year.  They have made a statement in both of their playoff performances.  Two years ago it was “watch out for us”.  Last year it was “we’re not going anywhere but up from here, so get ready”  Where does that leave them then? Glad you asked.

NBA FINALS:  Thunder d. Knicks

Small market beats Big Market.  Here’s a few reasons why that’d be awesome.

1.  The owners would be jacked that their new campaign for a  “fair” playing field is commencing with the Thunder winning their trophy.

2. The “Thunderknicks” series is a super sweet title for the Finals.

3. Just the thought of Kevin Durant going bananas in Madison Square Garden gives me chills.

4. Small market champs are awesome (whatup Packers).

Side note:  I love it when the Thunder play teams that, when you match up their names, make a killer combination.  For example, we could have Thundernuggets, Thundergrizzlies, Thunderbucks, Thunderhawks, Thunderrockets, and so many more possible awesome combos.  Hell, I’m just glad I think of any team playing any other team this year.  Christmas Day can’t come soon enough.

 

 

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  1. All i want for christmas is another NBA lockout! Please please please

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