Every team has a chance to win it all before the season starts, but the reality is some teams have more of a chance than others. The NBA is like European soccer in that going into the season there is a possibility of surprise contenders. There are also sure fire contenders. Based on roster composition, and even the organization itself, we can often determine what teams are for real and which teams aren't.
Rankings such as this are always cause for controversy. At the same time, I pride myself in being as objective as possible when I publish. I'll let myself go when I'm discussing these types of things with friends and family, but even then I try to be objective. The truth is if you are not objective, keep your thoughts to yourself and don't publish. Argue all you want on blogs and with your friends, but when articles are written through the need to make YOUR team or YOUR favorite player look good, then they really don't count for anything.
Anyway, much appreciation to all who check this out, hope you all enjoy the show.
In all honesty, some teams were edged out by just pure gut. I had to make this list for teams that had the most realistic chance of holding the O'Brien trophy in June. I'm not saying these teams surely 100% won't... I just have a feeling they won't, that's all. Some were too close to call, I almost switched it up to a top 15, but what's the fun in that?
OKC Thunder - Kevin Durant is a flat out stud, he is a top 10 player, he is elite, and will be in the conversation for the best in the game soon. The Thunder are easy to cheer for. Small market, awesome fans, and young guys maturing before our eyes. Westbrook is one of the best PG's in the game already, just watch the guy play. Still the team is young and another very good player away from being a serious threat to win it all. They realistically don't have much of a chance. Don't sleep on them anyway.
Denver Nuggets - They are a great home team and a very good team overall. Carmelo is one of the most versatile offensive players in the game today. Billups is still a very good point guard but the team lacks star power. Even when Iverson was present, they still lacked that "umph" factor, if I could call it that, to get it done. They will be good and sure to make the playoffs, but adding Harrington is boosting an offense unnecessarily. They need more defense and stability. Injuries to the front court and the uncertainty of Melo will also hurt them.
Atlanta Hawks - I can see where the arguments for the most complete starting 5 in the league come from. The Hawks have a good starting 5 and a top 3 sixth man in Crawford. But when JJ is the main guy on your team, you won't get that far. They were thought to be on the rise and be a serious threat a couple of years ago. But they lack a legit star. 12.8 PPG from JJ in a huge playoff series simply won't cut it. 120 million for that? Don't get me wrong, I think JJ is a tremendous player, Josh Smith is fun to watch, and Horford has game too. Marvin is an underachiever though, and Bibby is on his last legs. Maybe they surprise everyone, but they won't do much damage in the playoffs this year.
Milwaukee Bucks - This team came out of no where last year. The Bucks are the OKC of the east. They don't have a guy like Durant, but they are young and they work. Skiles has proven coaches do indeed matter. Bogut has raised his game and if it was not for his injury last season, who knows what would have happened? The Bucks though suffer from the same problem the Hawks do, they don't have a guy (A star) to carry the load and come through consistently. Not yet at least. Jennings might be it, but it's way too early to say that. Plus Jennings had plenty of off games besides his 55 point masterpiece last season. They still need to grow but will be a tough team.
This team has been on the cusp of greatness for the past couple of years now. They have had some really bad luck though. Brandon Roy is a great player, top 15 in my book. He is a leader and enough to get your team over the hump.
The Blazers are young and have good players all around in Aldridge, Batum, Miller, Camby, Bayless, Fernandez, and Oden. Guess what? Oden's health might be the key to how great they can be. Oden has been a bust so far, not because of his play, but because he literally doesn't play. The Sam Bowie haunting continues. Oden has the potential to be dominant on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, he is one of the leaders in blocks per 48 minutes. He is the type of anchor a team can fall back on and allows the guards to take chances knowing they have oden to block shots and give hard fouls. He is also a solid post up defender.
Portland has its nucleus in place to make a run and still added Clay Matthews to the mix (Even if they overpaid). Watch out for Portland, if they stay healthy, this team will be a force.
Remember the Baby Bulls theme from a couple of years back? Well, they are all grown up, sort of. This is going to be one of the better teams of the east no doubt.
Derrick Rose is a great PG who is always in the mood to attack a defense. He has excellent speed and a decent mid range jump shot. Noah is the ultimate role player, he defends, he hustles, and he is willing to bang with the big boys in the paint. They added Carlos Boozer finally giving them a low post scoring threat. This makes the Bulls dangerous. With former Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau taking over as their new head coach, they should only get better defensively. Still, he is unproven and it is difficult to "get it" in the first year.
Deng and Gibson are nice complimentary players but they lost their best perimeter defender in Hinrich. They also lack 3 point shooting, but the hope is Krover will begin to solve that issue. The Bulls will be a fun team to watch, but Rose and Boozer are currently not the type of players that will take you to the promise land alone, so they would need the role players to somewhat better than just role players (Looking at you Deng). Maybe Rose and Boozer make each other better, if they do, it is a good reason to put them on this list.
The Bulls are going to need more than they currently have on paper. They have a small shot this year, but they certainly have a bright future.
Losing Carlos Boozer hurts. But when you replace him with Al Jefferson, the blow lessens. Deron Williams ia arguably the best PG in the league right now. Jerry Sloan is one of the greatest coaches ever even though he has yet to win a ring. The way he designs his offense to function is a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, he just has not gotten that allusive championship ring yet. The Bulls were in his way in 90's, and during the past decade his teams have simply not been able to get it done.
Change is good. Boozer was not enough to take this team to the finals. This allowed them to let him walk, and acquire AJ. Big Al can actually play Center and PF unlike Boozer. He also gives the Jazz added muscle in the middle, scoring in the post, and good rebounding. Paul Millsap is a solid PF, and Okur is a good long range shooting big man who can stretch the floor. AK47 is still a good player as well who I believe brings good energy to the team.
They also added a defensive presence in Raja Bell, which is definitely going to help them. Bell gives them a player who can defend the opposition's best scorer. He is also an exceptional 3 point shooter. The Jazz have a different look this year, and these changes just might pump this team up to go deeper into the playoffs.
There is no question the Mavs have an all around great roster. Dirk is one of the best big men today. He can hit any shot from any spot on the court. On top of that, they have Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, and Brendan Haywood.
They also added Tyson Chandler who should be better off with a PG such as Kidd. We saw what Chandler can do with a great PG. Chandler also gives the Mavs more defense down low although he is inept on offense.
Ever since 2006, the Mavs have been unable to get back that swagger that took them to the finals that year. In 2007, they had the best regular season in the league and got shocked by the Warriors in round 1 losing in 6 games. They have been getting better since then, but do not seem to have what it takes to get to the grand stage again. The talent is there, the question is what else is missing? Is it that Kidd is too old? Is Dirk, Butler, and Terry not enough to get passed the elite teams? It would seem that the answer to both of those questions is yes. Also Marion does not excel like he did in the run-n-gun system when he played for the Suns.
They have one of the best rosters in the West in my opinion which gives them a chance every year. Dirk has to gather his team come playoff time and make sure the guys are ready to step up and play at the top of their games. If the Mavs come together and the whole team is feeling it, they can battle with anyone.
Whoa! The Rockets? You better believe it. I was exposed to the Rockets this past season quite often because a good friend of mine is a Rockets fan. So when ever he watched his Rockets game, I usually sat down and ended up watching the game along with him. Don't mistake the fact that I watched this team a lot as persuation for me to put them here.
Aside from the fact they won 42 games last season without a real all star, they get Yao Ming back this season. The Rockets were the best non-playoff team in the league last season and played without Yao and T-Mac (But a couple of games) the entire season. Kevin martin only played half of the season and struggled at first to find his comfort zone on the team.
They resigned Scola and Lowry this off season. Kevin Martin has chemistry with his teammates and now can get Yao Ming back in the flow of things. They also added Brad Miller for front court depth and as insurance incase Yao goes down. The twist is obviously Yao's health. He must stay healthy and get back to the level of production he was at pre-injury. If Yao comes back strong, the Rockets will be very, very good. Brooks is a star in the making, Lee is a decent replacement for Ariza, Martin can score, Battier is a top notch defender, and Budinger should improve this coming season.
I like the Rockets this year. Look for them to make noise in the playoffs if they do stay healthy.
To some, this may be a bit too high for the aging Spurs. They were somewhat of a disappointment last season and Tim Duncan was starting to really show signs of his age. They also had some injuries last season that impeded them from creating a consistent chemistry with RJ, who was also a big disappointment.
They say that it takes a season to understand and get used to the Spurs system. Everyone knows Greg Popovich is one of the best coaches around, maybe the best. He knows how to make teams work. Duncan may be declining, but he is still Mr. Fundamentalist. They can ride the Duncan pine for at least another year. He is still a double double player, a leader, and a good defender.
If Manu and Parker stay healthy unlike last season, the spurs will be back in business. RJ is still a good scorer as well so if he gets into a groove, they can be a better team scoring wise while already being a good defensive team. Blair and Hill give them good depth, so I expect a bounce back year for this squad.
Do not be surprised if this team makes a serious run, they have the pieces to pull it off, and they do like odd numbered years.
Shaq used to say he was the LCL (Last Center Left). Not since Dwight Howard burst onto the scene. The new Superman is the most dominating inside presence in the game. He blocks shots at an astonishing rate and is a physical freak. He rebounds better than any player in the game. He actually bullies practically all other big men because of his strength and athleticism.
That said, Howard still lacks in his offensive game. He is inconsistent and is bothered by length at times. Perkins showed everyone that Dwight can be guarded if you match his physicality. He also has trouble guarding jump shooting big men who like to go out and hit the mid range shot. Howard does not like to go out that far away from the hoop, showing he rather protect the basket and grab rebounds.
The Magic have other good players as well though. Jameer Nelson has entered his prime and is a good PG for the Magic. He lacks size though and it becomes a disadvantage on the defensive side of the ball. Lewis is a good shooter but he starting to look more overpaid than ever. He had somewhat of a down year and did not show much in the playoffs this year. Barnes is gone, so that won't help their bench. They did keep JJ Redick though, and he showed he is coming into his own by being more than just a shooter. VC also showed he still has game but has yet to shake the choke artist label.
Howard is so good though, he makes this team a contender anyway. He draws so much attention and SVG may be rough, but he knows what he is doing out there. The Magic need everyone to play at the top of their games as well to be a serious threat. But If the whole team finds a flow and learns how to play smarter in the playoffs, they could potentially beat anyone in a 7 game series mixing good offense and good defense.
The Celts showed everyone last season that age ain't but a number. They saved their best play for the playoffs and took the entire league by surprise. They took care of Miami in 5, shocked Cleveland, and shocked Orlando. We could be talking about the defending NBA champions right now if Perkins played in game 7 at LA. Then again, they did have a 13 point lead.
They did it with defense. They might have gotten older but other players got better as well. Perkins improved his game and Rondo is also becoming an elite PG. Even Nate Robinson contributed to the cause and helped the Celtics win games. The group is back together again to take one more run at it and Doc Rivers is still on the bench.
They also added Jermaine O'Neal who was awful in the playoffs but probably had his best season in 2 years. He shot career high FG% this past season and was healthy for the most part in comparison to recent seasons. It is not known whether or not Rasheed wil opt to return, but if he does, he can still help this team.
KG will be 2 years removed from his surgery come playoff time, Pierce is still as good as ever, and Allen has the same hop in his step that he did when he played for the Sonics. The good thing about the Big 3 is they can rely on each other, and Rondo controls the game to make sure everyone gets their touches.
Boston has no reason to not make another run this year even with age a concern. This may be their last shot but they will surely try to go out with a bang.
How many nick names can this new Big 3 have? Miami Thrice, Three Kings, Beach Boys, etc. Miami hit the jack pot in this year's free agency period by signing the top 3 free agents in the biggest free agent class in history. Pat Riley thought he could do it, many doubted him, and he proved them wrong.
Some how, some way, Dwyane Wade (28), LeBron James (25), and Chris Bosh (26) are all on the same team and in their primes. All 3 of these players are elite. James and Wade are in the argument for the best in the game. Bosh might be the best PF in the game along with Gasol. It can be said there is a talent overload on this team, but coaches will always say that you can never have too much talent. With all 3 players taking discounts, it allowed the Heat to keep Mario Chalmers, resign Udonis Haslem, resign Joel Anthony, and sign Mike Miller. They then proceeded to add Big Z, Juwan Howard, and Carlos Arroyo.
They have the best core in the game by far, but it is not known if the role players will be able to come through. Chemistry still comes into question because they are a brand new team. To some, egos may be a concern, but that was obviously dealt with before they decided to play together. Coach Spoelstra also must find a way to make the team mesh together and design a system where the big 3 can take advantage of their talents best.
They are still unproven so nothing should be given to them yet. But if they do find a groove fast, which is possible, they will be hands down the best team in the league and be in line for multiple titles.
The Lake Show once again proved what talent can do for a team. The Lakers repeated as NBA champions to give Kobe his 5th ring and Phil his 11th. This team is stacked. Kobe was joined by fellow all star PF Pau Gasol. Ron Artest is a defensive specialist that can score and was able to come through for the Lake Show when it counted as well. Lamar Odom is one of the best versatile players in the game. He has nice ball handling skills for his size to play the point forward role, but is also an ideal sixth man. Your team is pretty good if Odom is on your bench.
They added PG Steve Blake in the off season, and Andrew Bynum is one of the top centers in the league. They have leadership in Derek Fisher and he can run the show while also coming through in the clutch. Shannon Brown also provided explosive plays here and there.
But Fisher has trouble staying in front of his man and Bynum is an injury waiting to happen. Kobe has a lot of mileage on him and is starting to often have nagging injuries that show signs of wear and tear. At 32, Kobe is not old by any means, bu the NBA game mileage is what takes a toll on the body.
The question is are they hungry? Kobe will make sure that they are hungry because you KNOW he will be. He knows with all the movement in the league, the Lakers are the team that everyone wants to take down. This team has insane talent though. They are the most complete team in the league with good talent at each position. They have a big front court and good chemistry in the back court. Phil Jackson is also proven to say the least. Until further notice, it is only fair that the Lakers are the number 1 contender for the title in 2011, but we shall see if that changes when the season starts.