As we set to embark on another season of NBA ball, there are no shortage of questions and problems that still surround a few NBA clubs. Many of them have to do with trade demands and others …well let’s just say there is no easy way out for others. This off-season was a busy one as we saw many teams load up in the hope of contending for the playoffs, with one team in particular (Boston) accumulating all-star talent in hopes of winning the big prize. These are the three biggest questions or stories surrounding various NBA teams as they open up training camp:
1. Will they stay or will they go?
Never have so many high-profile players made trade demands in one off-season. Kobe Bryant wants out of Los Angeles, Jermaine O’Neal wants out of Indiana, Andrei Kirilenko wants out of Utah and Shawn Marion wants out of Phoenix. It’s easy to see why Bryant and O’Neal would want to leave their respective clubs. The Pacers are not going to make the playoffs this season and the Lakers are not a good team, no matter what anyone says. The Lakers are Kobe Bryant, it’s that simple. He hardly has a surrounding cast and he is going to break down one of these years because of it.
The Kirilenko and Marion situations are a bit more interesting. Kirilenko is not happy playing under Jerry Sloan as the system is more suited for a defensive player. He was also not happy with the minutes he received during stretches last season. The problem is, like many all-star calibre players, his contract is so huge that it is hard to find a team with cap space to take his contract on while getting good quality players in return. Marion likes Phoenix apparently, he likes the team, he just doesn’t like the way his name was rumoured about in the Kevin Garnett discussions prior to him being traded to Boston.
2. Boston: Contender or Pretender?
There is no doubt in everyone’s mind that the Celtics are a much improved team over the one that took to the court last season. The additions of bona fide superstars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett make them a force to be reckoned with. There is no doubt they are a contender, it’s just of what magnitude. Are they a playoff team? Of course. Are they capable of winning the Atlantic Division? Yes, along with the New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors. Are they a championship contender? Not quite. These three players are all-world, don’t get me wrong, but let’s not put them in the class of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Denis Rodman just yet. The three from Boston haven’t won much of anything yet.
It’s a long season and the Celtics can finish anywhere from first to eighth in the Eastern conference. We all know that Garnett, Allen and Pierce will all bring it night in and night out, so it’s going to depend on two things for the most part. The first being injuries and the second being the play of point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo has been thrown into the fire here in only his second season of NBA ball, it would’ve been nice if they could’ve acquired some more help for Rondo and the team as a whole but they have really been tied up by the salary cap. All in all, I am expecting some monster games by the GPA, it is the rest of the team that will determine where exactly they are come playoff time.
3. East no match for West
The Eastern conference boasts some good looking teams that should be contenders for years to come. But there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the best teams at the moment are from out west.
Phoenix is always everyone’s favourite pick yet their time is running out with Steve Nash getting older and Shawn Marion set to become a free agent at year’s end. Dallas has a good amount of depth as well as the reigning regular season MVP, Dirk Nowitzki, in their back pocket. San Antonio is the reigning NBA champion and they look as good as ever, there are few teams who can match their depth, especially with Manu Ginobili coming off the bench. Utah has loads of talent up front as well as a point guard in Deron Williams who broke out last season, the big question with them as stated before is whether or not Kirilenko stays.
After that there is also Houston and Denver; however they are not in the class of the above four yet. So before you can even name a team from the East in a discussion for “who is the best team in the NBA?” you name four teams from the Western conference. That in my opinion seals the fate of the East, but it just means that the road for the Western conference champion is going to be all the tougher.
Predictions (East on left, West on right)
1 Chicago – Dallas
2 Toronto – Phoenix
3 Detroit – San Antonio
4 Washington – Utah
5 Boston – Denver
6 New Jersey – Houston
7 Cleveland – Golden State
8 Orlando – New Orleans
9 Miami – LA Clippers
10 Milwaukee – Memphis
11 Atlanta – LA Lakers
12 New York – Sacramento
13 Indiana – Portland
14 Philadelphia – Seattle
15 Charlotte – Minnesota
Awards (Winner on left, Second place finisher on right)
MVP – Steve Nash, Tim Duncan
NBA Championship – San Antonio, Phoenix
Rookie of the Year – Kevin Durant, Luis Scola
Coach of the Year – Greg Popovich, Jerry Sloan
Sixth Man – Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni
Executive of the Year – Danny Ainge, No 2nd place
Any comments or questions can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org