The Lakers are coming off a great year in which they won the NBA championship. So, the question that all NBA fans are asking is: who is going to win the title next year?
I have chosen three teams per conference who I think could win the championship, plus two dark horses per conference.
East: Orlando, Boston, and Cleveland
These three teams are no-brainers. I would have a hard time seeing any other team winning the East.
The Celtics are running out of time to win a second ring. KG, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce are all getting old as is new free-agent signee Rasheed Wallace. Wallace was a nice pickup, but because of that, either Glen Davis or Leon Powe will probably not re-sign.
Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo showed flashes of brilliance last season. Expect them to have career years. Because of Rondo, there is still hope for the Celtics, but I don't see them playing late into June.
Key Player: Rajon Rondo
The Cavs need to make one more move until they will win the trophy. King James is the most likely MVP player next season, and Shaq can be an improvement.
He will help them until they face Orlando in the playoffs. Dwight Howard beats you with quickness, agility, and power. Shaq only has power left in him.
The Cavs could be the favorites in the East if Mo Williams can blossom into a more all-around player. If that happens they are my pick for the East, if not Orlando is still in that spot.
Key Player: Mo Williams
Orlando has all the talent they need to win a title. They have a great three-point shooter (Rashard Lewis) and the best big man in the league (Dwight Howard).
The addition of Vince Carter was nice, but they lost Hedo Turkoglu, who was brilliant at times last year, Courtney Lee, who will develop in to a great shooting guard, and Rafer Alston who was a solid PG late last year. They welcome All-Star Jameer Nelson as a starter after he missed time last year. They also have another great young star in Mickael Pietris, expect him to shine.
Key Player: Jameer Nelson
West: L.A., San Antonio, Dallas
It was tough to pick Dallas before Denver, but I wanted to do it, so I did. L.A. and San Antonio are easily my top two.
The Mavs had a nice off-season, where they got Shawn Marion. The Matrix adds to an interesting core of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, and Josh Howard. That starting five would work very well for Dallas, and this might finally be Mark Cuban's year.
Also keep an eye on J.J. Barea, just watch him evolve.
Key Player: Jason Terry
It surprises almost everyone that the defending champs are not my favorite to win the West, but, I have reasons.
The addition of Ron Artest could help win a second title or it could be a bust. Trevor Ariza was not a one-time wonder, in my opinion, so his loss really hurt LA. If they do not re-sign Lamar Odom, which is very likely, the Lakers will have a void to fill.
One last thing, Andrew Bynum has to be the guy that he was early in '07-08, that would help L.A.
If Odom returns, they are my favorite. If not, they are not.
Key Player: Andrew Bynum
The Spurs made a couple nice moves this offseason. They acquired Richard Jefferson from Milwaukee in exchange for virtually nobody, they signed Antonio McDyess, and they decided not to rebuild. Instead, they maintained there core. They didn't try to deal Duncan, before probably his last season in top form, and Parker and Ginobili are still in the backcourt.
For now, they are my favorite, but, L.A. is right behind them.
Key Player: Manu Ginobili
Eastern Conference Dark Horses
1. Miami Heat
The Heat might be able to sign Lamar Odom, who would join a talented team that is also trying to lure Carlos Boozer away from Utah. If both acquisitions work, they will once again be an elite team.
2. Washington Wizards
Coming off a terrible year, the Wizards are trying to regroup. Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood are back from injury, and Randy Foye and Mike Miller should make instant contributions. If the big three stays healthy, the Wizards can be a threat to some top seeds.
Key Player: Gilbert Arenas
Western Conference Dark Horses
1. Denver Nuggets
One season after a birth in the conference finals, the Nuggets should be ready as ever to make a splash. But, unlike the other teams in the conference, they made no huge moves. Denver should be good, but don't expect another conference final appearance.
Key Player : Chris Anderson
2. New Orleans Hornets
As soon as New Orleans acquired Emeka Okafor from Charlotte, I knew I had to put them here. He can rebound, block, and score very well, he should play well.
Chris Paul is an elite PG and he should only get player. He, Okafor and David West should carry most the scoring load for a good NO team.
Key Player: Emeka Okafor
Thanks for reading my article. We'll have to go back to it in June!
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