The most wonderful time of year…if you are an NBA geek like me. New teams, new faces in new places is what the NBA offseason is all about. Big Stars moving to big towns over the summer is the equivalent to women and gossip columns. And with the season full of hope for many teams, set to begin on Oct. 29th, here is my take and predictions on how this NBA season plays out.
Eastern Conference (Playoff Predictions)
1. Miami Heat
Maybe the most consistent pick from any NBA insider’s predictions (Not saying I am one…yet) there’s good reason to why this holds true. acquiring sharp shooters Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen were the two biggest moves this offseason by the Heat to go along with an already strong bench with Norris Cole, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller. And oh yeah they have this guy LeBron he’s the best player in the world as he enters his prime to go along with Top 10 NBA players in Chris Bosh and D-Wade, the only thing stopping Miami from being the Beast of the East is injuries and age. A possible Championship hangover could lead to a slow start, but other than that, Heat are poised for another run, Sorry America.
2. Boston Celtics
You said what? Yeah that’s right you read that. Once thought to be too old and not deep enough the Boston front office did what they needed to do this offseason to give KG and the Truth another crack at the Title, Ray Allen and the Heat. They signed most notably Jason Terry to take over the bench production of Ray Allen (6th Man of the year candidate?) savvy vets in Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa to solidify scoring off the Bench. Drafted Big Men Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger strengthening a front court that lacked Depth after Garnett. Jeff Green and Avery Bradley are expected to have big years after injuries plagued both last year (Green sat out the whole year with Heart problems) The key to Doc Rivers’ club is Rajon Rondo who now will be relied on every night to be the man who makes this team go. I expect big things out of Boston. Upsetting the Heat this year, Possible.
3. New York Knicks
It’s Melo’s team now. No more overnight sensations here (Except Hometown hero and Glenbard West Grad John Shurna I’ll be rooting for you all year, unless you’re playing the Bulls) Long gone is Lin and in is aging vet Jason Kidd who still has game even at 38 years young. Raymond Felton is back who thrived in Pick & Roll offense with Amar’e Stoudemire and says he’s in the best shape of his career. Melo will carry this team through tough times and good ones as well. This team is more than enough talented to play with any team in the NBA offensively. The Key is if Mike Woodson can get his team to play defense. God speed, Mike.
4. Philadelphia 76ers
Acquiring big man Andrew Bynum in the Howard blockbuster gives this team a great inside-outside threat with Jrue Holiday. A now solid selection of big men in Bynum, Hawes and Allen who can all score and protect the paint. Evan Turner has improved and will be relied on heavily from the outside both offense and defense. Will still struggle with depth especially now with leading scoring Lou Williams gone. Still can’t find a way to beat the Heat or the C’s and will remain in the middle of the pack until they prove they can. Doug’s got his work cut out for him, just the way he likes it.
5. Atlanta Hawks
The most boring team in the NBA. Every year they end up being the 4 or 5 seed and lose in the first round. Gone is Joe Johnson and his ridiculous contract and so is his offensive skills. But, they bring in cheaper and younger Lou Williams who is a proven scorer. Horford coming back will give this team a big lift. Look for Josh Smith to step up and be the man this year with JJ gone. If Smith averages a double-double don’t be surprise if they seed higher. But still this group has lacked postseason success.
6. Indiana Pacers
They brought back arguably the best center in the game in Roy Hibbert and the core is back. Granger is in his prime and will lead this team offensively night in and night out. If he can average a career high 25 a game this team is dangerous. Budding star Paul George will continue his early career success and David West will continue his late career success. One reason to have doubts about this team, No bench and what if a guy like Hibbert or Granger get hurt? Still a young close-knit squad when at their best can beat anyone.
7. Chicago Bulls
Same old same old. How do the Bulls respond with Rose hurt. They will have to rely heavily on Noah, Deng and Boozer for the first part of the season or until Rose comes back. Hinrich and Robinson will run the offense and have to carry the burden together as well until Rose comes back. Gone is Korver, Watson, Asik and Brewer. In are Mohammed, Belinelli, Butler and Robinson. statistically the Bulls are actually better with Bench Mob 2.0. Thibs strategy will be to grind out games defensively and if they play like they have the past two years they should be just fine. When Rose does come back, Beware top seeds, you’ll be getting a well rested former MVP and one of the best defensive teams in the league. No gimme’ first rounder by any means.
8. Brooklyn Nets
Will the flashy offseason translate to wins? Spending money is not always the answer but Jay-z and Prokhorov think it is. With a new Stadium, new town and new fan base the Nets will be relevant once again. They signed Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Derron Williams to long-term deals as well Gerald Wallace. After that the best word to describe the Nets bench is “Sketchy.” Still they will make the playoffs and will be one of the most talked about teams all year-long.
Sleeper Pick: Cleveland Cavs
With young stud Kyrie Irving who already looks like a seasoned vet will lead this team in scoring every night. His supporting cast was upgraded as Tristan Thompson got better and drafted young Dion Waiters to come in and score and become a great tandem with Irving in the back court. The young Cavs are closer than you think from becoming a team on the rise.
It would be foolish yet bold to say that the Heat would not be coming out the East this year but who knows how LeBron responds after winning his first, does he get complacent or is he hunger for 7 and 8? One thing is true, Boston is much tougher this year and the possibility of playing the Bulls in the first round with most likely Derrick Rose playing again will also be extremely difficult. But if he is going to be the best that has ever played, he will have to do so.