The season is now officially underway and I couldn’t be more excited. Last season proved to be the beginning of a new era in the NBA with the revamped Celtics and Lakers, not to mention the dominance of the Hornets and Sixers and the removal of the Sonics at the end of the season. So what’s next for the NBA? Here’s my predictions for each team for the 2008-2009 season.
The Hawks defied all odds last season by sneaking into the 8th seed in the east. All of their efforts seemed in vain, however, as their first round opponent was none other than the stacked Boston Celtics. No one anticipated the Hawks winning a single game but, relying on young hustle and a superhero effort from Joe Johnson, actually took the series to a game seven. With the loss of Josh Childress to Olympiakos in Greece, I don’t anticipate a repeat appearance in the playoffs for Atlanta. But look for Johnson to continue to dominate and Al Horford to only get better (sophomore of the year, no doubt).
The Celtics filled their bellies last season with an NBA championship few will ever forget but they’re still hungry. The Big Three are may be aging but are nowhere near “too old”. There roster this season is a mirror of last season which means they still have all the pieces to grab a repeat and an eightieth banner. Rajon Rondo can only get better after the experience he gained winning a ring, and look for role players like Leon Powe and Glen Davis to play larger roles as the ever looming fear of injury plagues the minds of Boston’s management. A repeat is not out of the question, but it sure wont be as easy this time as the league adapts.
The Bobcats may not have made the playoffs last season but MJ’s team is making a push in the right direction. Any team with Jason Richardson is a better team than without. The only question is when Emeka Okafor is going to break out of his shell and become the dominant force fans believe he can be. The playoffs may still be out of reach but look for the Bobcats to make big changes in the coming years.
The Bulls seem to be the roller coaster of the NBA; one season they’re on top of the world, the next season they’re blasted into oblivion. The point guard spot has been up in the air since Kirk Hinrich decided that the 2007 wasn’t a good time to just take a good thing and run with it. Derrick Rose was proven from the time he first stepped onto the hardwood in a summer league jersey and it will be fun to see how to two mesh. If Luol Deng can keep doing his thing and Joakim Noah can learn to hit a shot from anywhere outside of five feet from the basket, then the Bulls may be able to find themselves back in the lower four of the playoff seeding.
It’s all about defense and Mike Brown’s team does it well. Fans will get to see their new look team play a full season for the first time. The midseason acquisitions of Ben Wallace and Wally Szczerbiak give more strength to the a team that was already strong, and opposing teams will have trouble getting in the paint. However, with the lack of a solid point guard, King James will have to take on a great responsibility, but who wouldn’t want LeBron to have the ball all the time? Maybe not a title contender yet, but LeBron may finally get his MVP and maybe another trip to the finals.
This is one of those teams that have almost held onto their dreams too long. Despite his incredible work ethic and ability, there is no denying that Jason Kidd will be feeling is age soon. All of Dallas’s stars from Dirk to Stackhouse are at least in their tenth year in the league. The only real promise rests in Josh Howard, the pot smoking defensive minded forward who may not see as much playing time this season. No doubt Dallas will make the playoffs, but it remains to be seen if they can make it out of the first round this time.
You would think any team the put Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony on the floor at the same time would be a title contender, but the Nuggets do a terrible job of supporting that idea. Denver is a perfect example of how offense does not win games. The scariest thing for Denver is the loss of their best defensive player Marcus Camby, so until ‘Melo and crew learn to crack down and find some stopping power, they’ll just be a load of talent on the outside looking in.
The Pistons are ageless and they do things right, however mundane a fashion they may do it in. Despite Rasheed Wallace being in his thirteenth year, the big man still gets things done. Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups never seem to run out of energy and Tashaun Prince is as consistent as they get. With the emergence of Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiel, the Pistons may be able to snatch another ring this season however slow that may be.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are in what is called a rebuilding process. They’ve ditched any kind of super talent they may have had and replaced with guys that will hopefully keep fans in the seats. Look for a huge decrease in wins from last season.
The Rockets may finally do it this year. Tracy McGrady may actually make it out of the first round. But like every season, the Rockets are bombarded with a slew of “if only’s”. If only T-Mac’s back doesn’t go, if only Yao can stay healthy, if only they can play defense. This is where Ron Artest comes in. The defensive madman in the number 95 jersey might be the factor that takes a lot of pressure off of Yao and T-Mac and turns the Rockets into a more defensive minded team.
With Jermaine O’Neal doing his thing up north, and little support from both Jamaal Tinsley and Mike Dunleavy, the Pacers don’t have a lot going for them. It may be a while before the navy and yellow make it to the playoffs again.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers probably wont make the playoffs this season. Sure they have Baron Davis now, but without Corey Magette or Elton Brand, and Marcus Camby suffering from injury, a losing season seems very probable.
Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe said after the disappointing and embarrassing loss to the Celtics in the finals that the Lakers needed to become a now defensive minded team. This raises the hopes of many Lakers fans who know that what Kobe says usually goes. No other team in the league has a better chance at the title than the Lakers this season. Derek Fisher is a proven leader, Kobe is a freak of nature, Pau Gasol is as solid in the post as any, and Lamar Odom has no problem cleaning up the trash. With Andrew Bynum back, the Lakers are stacked and LA fans should have something to cheer about at the end of the season.
They have OJ Mayo, Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, and Marc Gasol. Pretty soon Memphis might be looking like Portland and be loaded with promising talent. The Grizzlies have the building blocks to become a playoff contender in the coming years, but that’s if they stay healthy and management keeps things rolling.
The Heat can’t be any worse than they were last season and with the addition of Mike Beasley they will be better offensively and defensively with his contribution alone. But until they find a point guard and true center, that might not be enough.
The Bucks have been a horrible defensive team for years now. But with Scott Skiles as the new head coach, that will change immediately. The combo of Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson should bring the offense and look to see the Bucks stealing the 8th spot in the east.
The Wolves may have ditched OJ Mayo for Kevin Love, but who cares. It’s not like they could have any worse a season than they did last year.
New Jersey Nets
It seems like only yesterday that the Jason Kidd led Nets were competing for an NBA championship against the Kobe/Shaq Lakers. Nowadays the playoffs aren’t even a thought in the minds of this young team, however, with the right mindset and a healthy roster, the Nets should have the building blocks to make a push in a couple of years.
New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets have all the tools to win a championship. They have the talent, the fans, and the determination to make something out of their team. Chris Paul will likely be in the MVP race again and with the addition of James Posey their defense is that much better. All they need to do is stay healthy and find an answer for the Lakers in the playoffs.
New York Knickerbockers
Hallelujah, Isaiah Thomas is gone for good. The Knicks needed Coach Mike D’Antoni like a diabetic needs insulin. His influence may be able to stabilize the selfish disease that has plagued New York for the past few seasons. Not necessary a playoff contender yet, but that remains to be seen.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant can’t do it all, and until the Thunder can find a way to add a supporting cast for their up and coming superstar, the Thunder will leave the city of Seattle saying good riddance.
Here’s another team with a lot of promise but still a be premature. Mickael Pietrus will add some need length and size at the two guard spot and Dwight Howard will forever be a beast. But until Jameer Nelson turns into a solid starting point guard, the Magic may not make it out of the second round.
The best decision the Sixers made in the off-season may not have been signing Elton Brand but rather re-signing Thaddeus Young. But with wall the post talent the Sixers possess, they still lack a perimeter scorer and until then, the first round of the playoffs may be the only thing in their future.
Age, age, age, and more age. The Suns, just like the Mavericks, are going to lose some performance from key players due to them being at the tail end of their careers, particularly one by the name of Shaquille O’Neal. No Shawn Marion means a blow to their defense, but look to see Amare perform just as well as he ever has. Looks like the championship dreams are slipping away.
The Blazers are a young team with high hopes, as well they should be. Not only do they have Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, they now have a healthy Greg Oden. Many teams would kill to have raw talent such as this and it remains to be seen how well it all meshes together.
An utter lack of talent and a coach who doesn’t seem to be able to put it all together; not to mention a management that seems to care more about image than winning games. The Kings don’t look to be recovering anytime soon.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs didn’t do much to make their team stronger in the off-season and unless Manu Ginobli becomes a superhero and Tim Duncan remains consistent (like there’s any doubt he will), the Spurs will have a hard time competing with the Lakers and Hornets in the west.
Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh, that’s a front court to be reckoned with. But let’s see if the rest of the team can carry some weight.
The Jazz sent other players to the foul line more than any other team last season, so until they learn to play some solid defense, Utah wont make it past the second round.
Gilbert Arenas may never realize he’s not the best point guard in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean he can’t compete with the best, that is, if he were healthy and could play. Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler are still backbone of that team but they can’t do it all.