NBA's Elite: Keys To Winning It All

Waleed ErshadCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2009

BEIJING - AUGUST 24:  Kobe Bryant #10 (L) and LeBron James #6 of the United States celebrate during the medal ceremony after defeating Spain 118-107  in the gold medal game during Day 16 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

It sure has been a fun off-season hasn't it?

We've see the NBA's elite jump into ELITE status with a capital "E", while the scrubs have fallen into SCRUB status with a capital "S".

Most fans can generally agree on five teams that have a legit chance of winning it all:  the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, and San Antonio Spurs.

They have all made big-time moves to upgrade their roster this summer.

Unfortunately, unless your team's name is the "Dream Team", your team will always have issues and factors to address.

Here are the keys for these five teams:


Shaq-time (no, not his TV show):  Can Shaquille O'Neal stay healthy and play reasonable minutes; especially in the post-season?

No matter how you feel about Shaq, you have to admit the Cavs got the 15-time All-Star for next to nothing.

Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, and a second-round draft pick did not mean much.

Still, a lot of question marks surround the 7'1 center.

We all saw how the Diesel did not play the first of back-to-back games in Phoenix.  Is that all he will have to miss in Cleveland?

Even when he is suited up, how many minutes can he give Mike Brown?  He could play starter-like minutes (34 or so) or he could split the time with Big Z (24/24).

But the problem is that the Cavs need the "Big Witness Protection" on the court for both offensive and defensive purposes.

We are all excited for the old Superman vs. new Superman fights to come.

The Royal Court:  Can Shaquille O'Neal, Mo Williams, and the rest of the kingdom give the king enough help?

Cleveland's offensive struggles were well-documented in the Eastern Conference Finals.

While we witnessed the King dominate, his royal court withered.

Mo Williams, specifically, promised victory over the Magic.  After he choked, who could the Cavs expect to step up?  Delonte West?  Anderson Varejao?  I think not.

But give the front office credit, they went out and got several players to remedy this.

Shaquille O'Neal will help in the paint and you can add Leon Powe as well.

Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon will help on the perimeter with shooting and slashing.

Also, all these players are stellar defensively.


Gotta See KG:  Can Kevin Garnett stay on the court?

We all saw how vulnerable the Boston Celtics were without the Big Ticket last year. 

They are not an elite defensive team and lose offensive efficiency as well.  Garnett must be there to quarterback the defense and provide his post prescence.

The Celtics did get some insurance in Rasheed Wallace, but 'Sheed is not Garnett.  No one is.

Senior Members:  Can the Celtics' aged core stay healthy and contribute at a high level?

Garnett's injury was no doubt a result of how hard he worked on every single possession of every single second of every single game.

At his age, those hustle plays add up.  The same goes for Pierce, Allen, and Wallace, who are all on the wrong side of 30 and past their prime.

If a long-term injury happens to one or more of these four, Boston's chances at the 18th banner plummet.


Chemistry Class:  Can the new Magic members gel in with the team and repeat last year's success?

Orlando is the one team in this list that has actually lost one of their most important, if not the most important, member; Hedo Turkoglu.

They also lost the point guard that led them to the Finals.

Besides Vinsanity replacing him, we also have new additions in Matt Barnes, Brandon Bass, Jason Williams, and Ryan Anderson.

Jameer Nelson may not be a new player, but he did miss significant time in Orlando's Cinderella playoff run.  He was not the point guard that got them there.

Therefore, he is also somewhat of a "new acqusition".

The Magic have a lot of gelling to do.  Hey, at least they'll all be in training camp.


Run Run!  It's Ron-Ron!Can Ron Artest control himself in one of the wildest cities in the world?

Ron Artest is undoubtedly be the biggest troublemaker in the NBA.  It's bad news for Stern, but good news for the fans.

It is quite entertaining; or at least I seem think so.

With Artest's replacement of Ariza, they are looking even more dangerous.

But beware LA fans (no, not you with the Griffin shirt on), Artest has ruined the fate of contenders before.  Ask Indiana fans.


Duncan dunkin' donuts or balls?:  Can Tim Duncan keep the rust off the knees?

After all the minutes and banging Duncan has gone through in his extra-long career (thanks to his long post-seasons), Duncan's knees and body are beginning to take the toll.

As the defensive anchor and low-post threat for the Spurs, Duncan's health is a key issue.

Pop must limit Duncan's minutes in the regular season and have him ready to go in the playoffs.

More O, Less D?:  Can the new revamped Spurs keep their defensive mentality after their key defensive players have been traded?

We all know what made the Spurs an NBA dynasty.  They solidified the "defense wins championships" quote.

This was mainly due to their stellar defensive role players in Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, and the like.

Soon, it was painfully obvious the Spurs had way too much defense and way too low offense.

So they made moves for offensive players like Roger Mason, Matt Bonner, Richard Jefferson, and some that sacrificed defense for more offense.

One could make an argument that Parker and Ginobili are not that great defensively and had their holes covered up by Pop.

We saw Jose Juan Barea of the Dallas Mavericks give Parker trouble and can you imagine how many two-guards will blaze by Ginobili with his iffy ankles?

At 33, Duncan cannot always be there to cover mistakes on the perimeter.

The Spurs' defense has taken a hit for sure and it will be something to watch as the season goes on.


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