ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT MACHORHINO.COM ON OCTOBER 27, 2009
Basketball is back! The NBA is back in action tonight with great games on TNT. The TNT broadcasts are always entertaining. They have great commentators in studio and at the game. Charles Barkley usually busts out at least one gem per night during the year. Tonight they have the Cavs vs. Celtics and Clippers vs. Lakers. The late match-up would be worth watching but with word out today that Blake Griffin has a broken kneecap, it loses it’s luster. Cavs vs. Celtics is a big game to start the year. Shaq vs. Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace with LeBron James battling Paul Pierce all over the court.
This season has a lot of intrigue. Shaq is back on a title contender. Ron Artest is with the defending champion Lakers. Kevin Garnett returns from injury. Rasheed Wallace joins KG in the frontcourt on the Celtics. Do teams start to become fiscally conservative and dump their high priced players due to the economy? And the biggest topic for the entire season will be the looming free agency of so many superstars. LeBron James is the first big name who people will want to see stay or go. His decision will impact numerous players and teams. That will provide drama throughout the season. Many teams not expecting to keep their stars this offseason might deal them so we’re looking at the possibility of a major player shake-up in the NBA over the next few months.
Here’s how I see the 2009-2010 season playing out:
1. Boston Celtics – They should cruise to another Atlantic Division Championship. They’re far superior to the other teams in this division and should be able to rest their aging veterans for a playoff push.
2. Philadelphia 76ers – If Elton Brand regains his low post form he had earlier in his career, they could be a great team. They really challenged Orlando in last year’s playoffs and look to take the next step this year.
3. Toronto Raptors – A mediocre team who will be in the hunt for the final playoff spot. If they’re struggling at the All-Star break do they deal Chris Bosh?
4. New Jersey Nets – Devin Harris is a great talent but he’ll need a lot of help this year to make the Nets competitive. They’ll be better than the Knicks but still watching a lot of college games to scout for their lottery pick.
5. New York Knicks – The Knicks are a mess. Isiah Thomas wrecked this franchise for years to come. They’re hoping to land two superstars in this upcoming offseason free agent bonanza but who’s gonna wanna go there? David Lee is a very underrated player but he doesn’t have much help. Another long season in the Big Apple.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Will this be LeBron’s last season in Cleveland? That question will hover over the Cavs all year. How is Delonte West? Can he be a big contributor to this team? How does Shaq fit in? There are questions in Cleveland but LeBron James is the best player in the league and he’ll carry them over whatever hurdles they encounter.
2. Chicago Bulls - Who steps up in crunch time with Ben Gordon gone? This is a talented team and will be a tough out once again in the playoffs.
3. Milwaukee Bucks - The Bucks should be able to score but will they be able to defend? Michael Redd can keep them in games but they’ve got to get players to step up and play defense before they can make the playoffs.
4. Detroit Pistons - Richard Hamilton is still there to score and Tayshaun Prince can play defense but that’s about it from the great Piston teams of early this decade. They’ve got to replenish the talent in Detroit. A long season for fans in Mo Town.
5. Indiana Pacers - A team that still needs to find chemistry and a low post scorer to help Danny Granger. They’re headed for what could be Larry Bird’s last lottery pick.
1. Orlando Magic – Adding Vince Carter gives them another scorer but who is going to guide this team. Who will create the shots for others with Hedo gone? I don’t think Jameer Nelson is a point guard who can get them back to the finals.
2. Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks will try to break through and join the elite of the East but they don’t have it. They’ve got to improve their bench and play better defense if they want to challenge the Big 3 in the Eastern Conference.
3. Miami Heat - Dwayne Wade’s return in 2010 could hinge on how this season goes. Does Michael Beasley focus and become the player the Heat envisioned when they drafted him? Miami will be good but not good enough to get out of the first round.
4. Washington Wizards – If they stay healthy, they could be a contender. They still lack a consistent low post scorer and that is something they’ve needed now for years. A great front three will only take them so far. Should be fun to watch though with Flip Saunders running things in DC now.
5. Charlotte Bobcats – A team that has no chemistry and no player they can expect to carry them. They’ve had injuries but don’t seem to have a plan to build a playoff team. Larry Brown can coach but he’s not a mirale worker.
1. Portland Trail Blazers – Portland enters the season with big expectations for the first time in years. They have a player who can deliver big for them in Brandon Roy plus a good bunch of complimentary players. Does Andre Miller help or hurt this young team’s chemistry?
2. Denver Nuggets – I see a slight slip from last year’s performance. The magic of losing AI and gaining Chauncey Billups has faded and won’t spark them the way it did last year. Still a team that will be tough to beat but not as deep as last year.
3. Utah Jazz – The Carlos Boozer situation I think will distract this team and end up hurting it until a resolution. Paul Milsap is there and played great when Boozer was out last year. Now Boozer has to defend his starting spot over Milsap and that seems to have ruffled feathers. Jerry Sloan is a great coach and will have his hands full. He’ll find a way to get them to the playoffs but that’s all.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder – This is going to be a big year for the Thunder. I see them breaking through and making the playoffs. Kevin Durant becomes an All-Star player and leads the league in scoring this year.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves – They bungled the draft with the Ricky Rubio situation. Why you draft two point guards literally back-to-back in the draft I’ll never understand. Al Jefferson and Kevin Love are building a strong foundation but who is going to step up and help in the backcourt?
1. Los Angeles Lakers – The Lakers are far superior than the rest of their division. They should get 65 wins easily.
2. Golden State Warriors – Does this team self destruct or play Nelly Ball again all the way to the playoffs? They’ll be the most entertaining to watch because of on the court and offcourt antics. They’ll put up 125 on you but might battle on the sidelines. The division is weak outside of the Lakers so that’ll help them stay together.
3. Los Angeles Clippers – If Blake Griffin wasn’t injured to start the year and expected to miss weeks, they could challenge for the final playoff spot. They’ve got a good group of young players from the past few drafts now. Next year, the Clippers will make the playoffs.
4. Phoenix Suns – A team that doesn’t seem to know what it wants. Trades for Shaq which slows them down and brings fewer wins. Then they change coaches, thinking they need to emphasize defense more. Again, fewer wins. Then they decide lets speed it up again. More wins follow. What will they do this year? They’ve got to find bench players and hope Nash and Amare stay healthy or they’re going nowhere. I think Amare gets traded before the end of the year and the Suns are picking in the middle of the lottery.
5. Sacramento Kings – I really like Tyreke Evans and think he can become a great NBA player. He just doesn’t have much talent surrounding him. This will be the worst team in the league again.
1. San Antonio Spurs – The Spurs got the steal of the draft in DaJuan Blair. Adding him to an already strong roster puts them into a top 5 team in the NBA. If they stay healthy, they’ll challenge the Lakers.
2. Dallas Mavericks – They’ll be better than people think. Jason Kidd can still pass the ball and with Shawn Marion on the wing now, he’ll average double figure assists. Dallas is a step below the Lakers and Spurs though.
3. New Orleans Hornets – With Chris Paul you’ve always got a shot. How does Emeka Okafur do in New Orleans? I thnk putting him on the backline is going to make this a better team than last year, unfortunately not enough to get them out of the first round.
4. Houston Rockets – Is T-Mac back or will talk of retirement
5. Memphis Grizzlies – They bring in Allen Iverson but what good will that do? They need to play their young players. AI is a not a difference maker anymore. With AI hanging over their head all season, they’re headed fora top 5 pick.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers over 8. Washington Wizards in 4 games
2. Boston Celtics over 7. Chicago Bulls in 6 games
3. Orlando Magic over 6. Miami Heat in 5 games
5. Philadelphia 76ers over 4. Atlanta Hawks in 7 games
1. Cleveland Cavaliers over 5. Philadelphia 76ers in 4 games
2. Boston Celtics over 3. Orlando Magic in 7 games
1. Cleveland Cavaliers over 2. Boston Celtics in 6 games
1. Los Angeles Lakers over 8. Oklahoma City Thunder in 4 games
2. San Antonio Spurs over 7. Utah Jazz in 5 games
3. Portland Trail Blazers over 6. New Orleans Hornets in 5 games
4. Denver Nuggets over 5. Dallas Mavericks in 7 games
1. Los Angeles Lakers over 4. Denver Nuggets in 5 games
2. San Antonio Spurs over 3. Portland Trail Blazers in 5 games
1. Los Angeles Lakers over 2. San Antonio Spurs in 6 games
Los Angeles Lakers over Cleveland Cavaliers in 6 games – The most hyped NBA Finals probably ever. Kobe vs. Shaq with a fifth ring on the line. Does LeBron leave Cleveland with a departing gift of a ring?
MVP: LeBron James (Cavaliers)
ROOKIE: DaJuan Blair (Spurs)
COACH: Phil Jackson (Lakers)
COMEBACK: Gilbert Arenas (Wizards)
SIXTH MAN: Manu Ginobli (Spurs)
Check back in here on MachoRhino.com for more throughout the season! Time to tip it off!