A once top-heavy conference has now gotten some depth. Yet it is still far behind the Western Conference in terms of depth of good teams, these are more “no-brainers” if you will. By the way, did you check out LeBron’s new commercial? I don’t hate the man as much as I used too but what happened to the edgy “what should I do” commercials he had a few years back? Anyways, bravo to Nike, they surely are repairing this man’s image quickly, or is it the MVP’s, gold medals, or championships? I’m stumped. Regardless, if the Heat are dreaming of a Miami “Thrice” the road will be much more difficult because of two words, Derrick Rose. As always, I’ll try not to be biased here.
8. Washington Wizards
Everybody do the John Wall! John Wall! John Wall! If you haven’t heard the ridiculously addictive song by Troop 41, go give it a listen, because that’s all D.C. fans will be doing this winter. The Wizards will make the playoffs on two reasons, John Wall is focused, matured and ready to take the reins. Two, he finally has a supporting cast that will actually support him. Yep, that’s all you need to be an 8th seed in the East these days. The emergence of Otto Porter Jr. a very underrated Rookie out of Georgetown will feed off of Wall and 2nd year guard Bradley Beal. Don’t forget about Nene in the post, who is still amazingly doing work. Finally Playoff Basketball in Washington, Now about those politicians…
7. Detroit Pistons
These aren’t your fathers Bad Boys, but they aren’t whatever Lawrence Frank was coaching for the past five years. The Pistons have been in the gutter of the NBA for quite a while now and I shouldn’t be feeling bad for a team that picked on the Bulls for so long but I do. With Mo Cheeks as the new coach and a plethora of young new faces in Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Rook Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to go along with Greg Monroe and budding All-Star Andre Drummond, scoring in the post will be the name of the game for Detroit. The only way they don’t make the playoffs is if Josh Smith keeps thinking he is shooting guard.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers
Credit the Cavs, when LeBron left, there wasn’t a half decade of oblivion. Instead, just one bad, really bad season. Kyrie Irving is now the face of the Franchise in Cleveland and he has a better team than what LeBron left. Coach Mike Brown is back with Andrew Bynum, which was also the last time Bynum played and played productively. Anderson Varejao is dominant on the boards when healthy and they also spent their 1st overall pick on power forward Anthony Bennett adding even more to their what should be dominant front court. The most underrated pick up here may be Jarrett Jack from the Warriors who thrived as Stephen Curry’s backup and now switches teams and is behind another dynamic point guard in Irving. Don’t doubt this team, they’re young, hungry and will make a statement.
5. New York Knicks
The Knicks didn’t make the most of their season last year. With injuries to Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo, the time to win or at least make a deep run in the postseason was last season and once again they failed to do that. A five seed may be underrating them too much but then again it is the Knicks and until Amare Stoudemire wants to stay healthy they will be a middle of the road team. The addition of Metta World Peace will bring defense the Knicks need on the wings and big man sniper Andrea Bargnani will benefit on the outside with Chandler in the post. If all else fails, give the ball to Melo and ride your hopes on him.
4. Brooklyn Nets
Apparently $183 million in luxury taxes is just a small dent in the Russian owner and Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s wallet. Besides, who needs that money anyways? Give the man his credit, he has the biggest you-know-what’s for spending an absurd amount of money on an aging but extremely skilled and experienced roster led by Jason Kidd now as head coach who I think will be one heck of a coach for decades to come. Only thing that scares me about this team is lack of depth and age, but nonetheless the starting lineup of Lopez, Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams will fill plenty of seats and win 50-plus ballgames.
3. Indiana Pacers
One of the best off-seasons by any team was conducted in Indiana with the additions of C.J. Watson, Luis Scola and do-it-all Rookie Solomon Hill. Let’s not forget their core though, Paul George and Roy Hibbert are going to give plenty of teams headaches when they come to Indianapolis, add in some December weather in the Hoosier state and you got a migraine. I think George can catapult his way to superstar status this season but the success of the team will lay with the health of Danny Granger. Once the heart of the franchise, he is struggling to get back on to the court and will miss the first three weeks with a calf injury. Yet, this team will be physical and make you earn every point on every night. Speaking of teams like that…
2. Chicago Bulls
The most anticipated season since the fax in ’95 from Michael Jordan proclaiming “he’s back.” This time around, it’s all about the return. Derrick Rose looks primed to take on any challenge that will face him this season with a new knee and new determined attitude. Not that he didn’t have that before. Of course this team will need to stay healthy come May if they want any shot at June. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Bulls took the #1 seed though, as when Rose has been healthy the Bulls are at the top of the East. Lookout for Jimmy Butler to show the rest of the league that he could be the guy the Bulls so desperately needed at shooting guard. BTW as I write this, less than 17 hours till tip-off.
1. Miami Heat
When you have the best player in the world along with one of the best players of the last ten years, what you get is a couple of trophies and that’s exactly what is happening in South Beach. Determined as ever, the Heat will look to make it three in a row and maybe go for a 30 game winning streak if they feel like it. The only concern is Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, can both stay healthy and provide All-star level of play alongside James? If not they could see a dip in the standings, but leave no doubt, this team is built for May and June, not December and January.
In case you wanted to see the James commercial…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IX1n7QPXO3E