Well the new NBA season is finally upon us and fans are excited about new possibilities and what chances their favorite team has to dethrone the current defending world champion LA Lakers! Some teams got better (best ex: Miami Heat, of course) some teams got worse (best ex: Raptors & Cleveland without Bosh & James, Suns without Stoudemire, etc.) But there are 5 teams in particular who have the best chance of winning it all this year! So here are my top 5 NBA teams for the 2010-2011 season!
5. Oklahoma City Thunder – They have the youngest player ever to lead the NBA in scoring last year in Kevin Durant (25.3 pts & 6.2 rebounds for his short but impressive career so far) and an explosive pt. guard in Russell Westbrook (15.8 pts., 5 rebounds & 6.7 assists for his career so far) that make quite a tandem! This dynamic duo showed a lot of heart versus the eventual champion Lakers in the playoffs and took them to a tough game 6 in a series that had basketball fans taking notice! They will still need continued growth and consistent good play from role players like Jeff Green & Thabo Sefolosha, in order to excel to the next level. Only time and more playoff experience will tell for sure!
4. Orlando Magic – It was a close one between the Magic and the Chicago Bulls to make this list, but the injury to power forward free agent pickup Carlos Boozer gave the edge to Orlando in my book. Orlando is 2 years removed from the NBA Finals, and just 1 year removed from the Eastern Conference Finals. So we know they’re a force to be reckoned with. Center Dwight Howard is the most dominant defensive player in the game today (career stats 17.5 pts & 12.7 rebounds) and has led the league in rebounding the last couple of seasons! If his work in the offseason with Rocket legend Hakeem the Dream, pays off he will also add a nice growing array of offensive post moves to his arsenal as well!
Point guard Jameer Nelson is the sure and steady captain that runs this ship and if he stays healthy (career stats 12.4 pts. 4.6 assists), can assist Dwight toward brining the Magic towards another title run. The true key lies with Forward/Guard Vince Carter needing a bounce back year (after being a somewhat struggling disappointment throughout most of last season), if he can summon some of that Half man, Half amazing offensive dominance (not necessarily with high flying dunks, because I realize he’s older, but atleast having a consistent offensive presence that commands more of the defenses attention) they could make things really interesting this year. Let’s just hope that spanking the Heat served them on Thursday (Oct.29th) was just an off night and not a sign of things falling apart!
3. Miami Heat – The thing that makes these guys so scary is that Wade, James & Bosh are all coming together to join forces in Miami and they are barely in the prime of their careers yet (D. Wade 25.4 pts, 4.9 rebounds, 6.6 assists, LBJ 27.8 pts., 7 rebounds, 6.9 assists Bosh 20.1 pts & 9.4 rebounds)! Having said that I think their season opener game against the Celtics proved it’s not just about slapping talent together and throwing them out together to play (no matter dominant and frightening they may potentially be), you have to have team chemistry, hard work ethic, attention to detail, and a commitment to defense to be a successful team in this league. And 3 all star caliber players a championship team does not make! It takes a whole team of players knowing their roles and playing them well. It may take some time for them to gel (mainly because D Wade was out hurt during the preseason) but as also proved by the Heat’s game vs. Orlando on Thursday (Oct. 29th) when they get it together and find their groove, they will be down right frightening!
2 time MVP LeBron James is still one of the most strongest, athletic, quick and multi-talented forwards in the game. And D Wade is nightmare matchup for any other guard with the combo of quickness, strength, agility & clutch performances few can match! Bosh is a talented and skilled big man who has a reliable mid range jumper and agility for his size. The Heat did a nice job adding shooters like Mike Miller & Eddie House to the fold, and Carlos Arroyo will do a solid job at the point! Reliable guys like Haslem (the only guy left along with Wade from the championship Heat team a few years back) will also put in solid numbers and work hard for the team.
The only problem lies with depending upon unproven role players to step up and deliver during the times when the stars need a boost (the way guys like Big Baby Davis, or Nate Robinson steeped up for Boston, or the way Shannon Brown & Ron Artest step up for the Lakers, etc.) They will also be without ace shooter Miller till atleast February which could be rough if consistent outside shooting becomes an issue. And with only aging but solid vet Ilgauskas as their 7 footer, more size is a must to compete with the Lakers & Celtics of the league! Time will tell if Miami Thrice and rest of the Heat have what it takes to take the crown!
2. Boston Celtics – With the addition of the Oneal’s (Shaq & Jermaine, no relation lol) the Celtics have the big man depth that should solidify the paint till center Kendrick Perkins comes back from injury around mid season. And with coach Doc Rivers secured for 2 more seasons, the team should be focused & hungrier than ever to get back at LA & win their 2nd ring in 4 years! The big 3 is back and looking better than ever with a slimmer Paul Pierce, still deadly shooting Ray Allen & healthy Garnett! But the continued high caliber play from point guard Rondo (who recorded 27 assists in their season opener vs. the Heat & 24 assists vs. the Knicks) makes them a tough out for anyone come playoff time!
And as if there was any real surprise here, my choice for the number 1 NBA team is…….
- L.A. Lakers – It’s good to be the King(s)! Sorry LeBron & the rest of Miami Thrice (as some of the folks in ESPN & NBA TV land has started to tag them), but the road to the championship still runs through Hollywood, not South Beach! Key additions like Steve Blake (a tough & solid pt. guard to help spell Fisher and add some athleticism to the position) & Matt Barnes (a tough & gritty defender who can hit open 3’s & makes a lockdown defense on the perimeter with Ron Artest & Kobe that much more formidable) an excellent chance at another three peat!
They still are waiting for center Andrew Bynum to come back healthy, but Odom is playing some inspired ball since his stint with Team USA & a well rested Pau Gasol should help shoulder the big men’s load. And then there is number 24. Off season surgery and age may have slowed down his explosiveness or highlight reel dunks, but make no mistake about it Kobe Bryant is still the most dangerous and feared clutch performer & closer in the game! I’m not even going to insult the intelligence of your sports fans by listing the stats on his career resume (and for those who have been under a rock the last 14 + years, Google them for yourself lol.) His desire to win ring # 6 (which would also tie him with another high flying legend from Chicago hint, hint) is higher than ever, and the Lakers are probably poised enough, and prepared with enough experience, talent & toughness to get it done!
And now I want to mention a few teams who may not be title contenders but could definitely make things interesting and be in the mix to make the playoffs, or improve within them.
- Chicago Bulls – are really like 6 right outside this top 5 list. I would have listed them in Orlando’s place as mentioned earlier if not for the injury to Carlos Boozer! I like their toughness & rebounding with Noah, defensive mindset with new coach Tom Thibodeau, outside shooting with newly acquired Kyle Korver & lights out quickness, athletic ability and versatility of all star guard Derrick Rose. So when Boozer gets back Chi town will be a serious problem!
- Milwaukee Bucks – Any team taking on the hard nose tough minded defense firsat no nonsense mindset of Coach Scott Skiles is bound for success. This squad has a load of talent from steady role players like Carlos Delfino & John Salmons, newly acquired Corey Maggette a recouping Andrew Bogut and of course phenom guard Brandon Jennings! And did I mention there’s a strong chance former All-star guard Michael Redd will be back in time for the All-star break? This team could be dangerous indeed!
- Dallas Mavericks – they have never quite been the same since their loss to the Miami Heat in the Finals, but this team can still match up well with the best of them. Mainstays Dirk Notwitzki (still one of the most versatile shooting big men in the game), Jason Kidd (a walking triple double who now has 3 point range late in his career), and Jason Terry (a former 6 man of the year whose always dangerous and can light up the score board in a hurry). It will take strong productive years from role players like talented Caron Butler & swingman Shawn Marion to truly help them compete at a high level. Newly acquired Tyson Chandler should definitely feel rejuvenated with a point guard like J. Kidd who can feed him the rock just as well as CP3 did in New Orleans!
- New York Knicks – Before all of you crucify me for going crazy with this pick, I’m not saying the Knicks are a tremendous force to be dealt with because of picking up Stoudemire! But there is one thing I think having Amar’e @ MSG does give them something they haven’t had since the days of #33 (Patrick Ewing), a dominant big man who gives the team credibility to be respected! In a league filled with superstar talent, phenomenal athletes and amazingly gifted players, if you don’t have that premier all-star caliber player(s) or franchise worthy talent, your bound to be a forgotten laughingstock!
Which is what the Knicks have been for years since Ewing was shown the door in 2000 when Knicks management decided they would rather focus the team on Allan Houston & Latrell Sprewell than on one of the 50 greatest players (albeit an aging one) of all time! So with Stoudemire (career stats 21.4 pts & 9 rebounds) and a solid supporting cast with Raymond Felton, an upgrade from Chris Duhon the last 2 years (ex: Felton 13 pts & 6 assists, Duhon 7.7 pts & 5.1 assists) Wilson Chandler (whose had a steady climb upwards from 7.4 to 14.4 to 15.3 pts a game the last 3 years) who maybe due for a breakout season.
Forward Danilo Gallanari has struggled a bit during the first 2 games with confidence in his shot, so he will have to find a way to break out of his slump. With injuries to forwards Anthony Randolph & Kelenna Azubike (both received in the David Lee trade from Golden State), it is imperative that Gallo get off to a strong start! Turiaf (also acquired in the Lee trade) is a solid and hard working forward who should provide some defense and hustle. But the key gems for the Knicks hopes may also lie in 2nd year guard Tony Douglass & rookie guard Landry Fields who had a very impressive outing for the preseason and even in the Vegas summer league play. He so far is averaging 11 pts and 7 rebounds in the young season. If that type of promising play can continue, the Knicks may see their first playoff birth in 7 years. Only time and a continued effort of hard work, focused team play and a commitment to defense will tell.
So enjoy sports fans, and let’s see if one of the teams on my list are holding the trophy in June of 2011! Stay tuned.