Should I be doing homework? Probably, but this is important too. On the day the NBA season begins, here’s some statements about what should be an epic campaign.
1. There are three contenders right now. I believe that the Cavaliers, Bulls, and Heat all have legitimate chances at advancing to the NBA Finals. The Cavs and Bulls are obvious choices, and most experts are saying as much. However, I think we are drastically underestimating the Heat. 2014-15 Chris Bosh is going to be more dangerous than last year’s version, as he will be a much more active participant in the offense. He was a star player before he became a deadly outside shooter, now it will be that much more dangerous for defenses to defend him. Dwyane Wade is no slouch either. We’ve seen that even at this age he’s able to dominate games. Add into that mix Luol Deng, one of the few players who can sort of guard LeBron, and you have a pretty solid team. I still have too many questions about Cleveland’s defense, cohesion, and experience to say Miami can’t beat them, and the Bulls’ success hangs with the health of their fragile point guard. Miami is certainly the least likely of the three, but I won’t be surprised to see them win the East. However, if I have to pick one, I’m going with Cleveland now simply because they have the best player in the world.
2. A fourth contender will arise. By the end of the season we’ll have one more team who could legitimately make it all the way. The most likely candidates are the Wizards and Knicks. John Wall has convinced most of us that he’s a top-tier point guard, Bradley Beal is turning out to be the real deal, and Paul Pierce can give a team with few weaknesses a legitimate clutch scorer. For the Knicks, it comes down to Carmelo Anthony. Could the Knicks end up being terrible again. Yes, but with a new regime in place and a certain level of talent still there, the Knicks could show vast improvement. Carmelo Anthony is good enough to take a team to the Finals, but he just needs the right system and the right teammates. We’ll see.
3. The East isn’t actually that bad. Almost every team in the East is as good or better than they were last year. Is the West a lot better? Yes, but the East is no joke.
4. Teams 5 and 11 will be within five games. It is going to be a furious fight for the four playoff spots not belonging to the Cavs, Bulls, Heat, and Wizards (all four of those teams will definitely at least make the Playoffs). Good luck sorting out the Knicks, Nets, Hornets, Hawks, Raptors, Pistons, and Pacers. We may even see the Bucks enter the picture. I cannot pick four out of the Knicks, Nets, Hornets, Hawks and Raptors. It’s going to be a crazy close race.
5. There are only two contenders right now. No one can, in their right mind, say otherwise (although some ESPN experts have). The Spurs and Thunder are the only two teams that should be considered contenders, and right now I’m saying the Spurs return to the Finals for a third straight year.
6. One or two teams will enter the conversation. The Clippers are the most obvious choice, as they somehow avoid the pressure and scrutiny that a team that talented should face. I just can’t take them seriously yet, but when you take an honest look at that team there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be a legitimate contender. It’s strange to me how much leeway we give them. The Warriors also have a shot this year as Steve Kerr is off to a good start in his coaching tenure. If Bogut and Iguodala can stay healthy, the Warriors become one of the most dangerous teams in basketball. Two assassins on the outside, a top five defensive player who is also a plus on offense, a great defensive center, and an effective interior scorer? That sounds like the makings of a contender. The Mavericks could also get there, as Dirk is still Dirk, Tyson Chandler is back, and Chandler Parsons adds a lot. The Trailblazers are one move away from being right there, the Rockets still have two superstars, and the Grizzlies always seem to overachieve. Will the Spurs and the Thunder still be the two best teams at the end of the season? Yes, but at least one of these teams will enter the picture as a legitimate threat.
7. The Playoff race is a three team race. I think the Pelicans, Suns, and Nuggets are the only teams that could go either way. Everyone else is either definitely in or definitely out.
8. Lance Stephenson will be an All-Star. It baffles me how many writers disregard this guy. He will be a force of nature, spurred on by Michael Jordan’s tutelage and the desire to increase in his payday in three years.
9. Anthony Davis will finish second in MVP voting. I’m hardly the first person to say it: this is the year of Anthony Davis. With Kevin Durant missing much of the season, Davis will step into the second-to-LeBron role.
10. Kobe Bryant will lead the league in scoring. If the Lakers are going to win games Kobe is going to have to score 30 every night. Who else is going to take shots? And you’re kidding yourself if you say he’s not capable #countonkobe.
11. Nerlens Noel will win Rookie of the Year. People are giving this award to Jabari Parker already but I don’t see him making the jump that quickly, especially with a lot to sort out as far as the offensive pecking order goes with Knight, Mayo, and the Greek Freak all looking for buckets. Noel will be out to prove he has a bright future after missing his first year due to injury, and being on possibly the worst team in NBA history will give him a chance to even score a few baskets.
12. Chris Paul is very good, but overrated. Chris Paul ended up second in this year’s ESPN NBA Rank after Kevin Durant’s injury (he would have been third). He’s been three or four every year since the NBA Rank started, and it’s getting a little ridiculous. Is he the NBA’s best point guard? I can’t really argue otherwise. But he still hasn’t taken a team to the conference finals. I can’t take you seriously as the third best player in the league if you can’t get a team as talented as the Clippers to the conference finals. We’re going to see this year, once again, how overrated Chris Paul is once the Playoffs role around. Again, not saying he’s not a great player, but eventually you have to face some scrutiny. We’ve waited around for Chris Paul to be Isaiah Thomas long enough.
13. Rajon Rondo will have a major part to play. Rajon Rondo will be traded this year, and he will end up somewhere that he can make a major difference. I don’t see how it makes sense for the Celtics to hold on to him, especially after drafting Marcus Smart (and the still have Avery Bradley, too). The rebuild process in Boston is going to take a while, and having an unpredictable point guard who is a much better postseason player than regular season isn’t going to get them to .500 anytime soon. Rondo is meant to play for a contender, and there’s going to be a team out there who will give up contracts, picks, and prospects to get him. Boston will be good again, but not with Rondo on the roster. They should cash in when they still can. Rondo will end up on a team that needs a top-tier point guard and that trade will be a game-changer.
Basketball is back. Get excited. Yes, the 82 game regular season is too long. Yes, much of some 48 minute games can be a little tiresome. But the NBA is in a great era right now, and storylines abound in this season. Soccer is the Beautiful Game, but basketball is still my Spiritual Game. Leggo.
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Soli Deo Gloria