No Talk, All Game: Five NBA Teams That Will Exceed Expectations
As we enter the "boring period" that is the time after the main free agency signing period and before the start of NBA training camp, there is only one thing we can begin to analyze.
Which teams will fall where, how will past success or failure affect the national outlook, and how can teams overcome those past season woes, taking the NBA by storm (a storm of sorts).
This is a compilation of the teams capable of having a breakout season in next year's campaign.
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Yes, the Cleveland Cavaliers did just lose a very good basketball player.
And yeah, they really don't have any options to replace 'the King'.
But that all plays right into the underdog mentality.
LeBron James leaving Cleveland sparked outrage among those following the NBA, causing such a stir that the chaos may have actually caused confusion around the once-good franchise.
Right now, the Cavs are looking to rely on Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejao.
Not exactly a powerful bunch.
I personally have been guilty of marking the Cavaliers down as a bottom-five team in the league.
Plus, I have seen people mark them down as the worst team in the league.
With those low expectations, the only way you can go is up.
The talent is there on the Cleveland roster for a decent and respectable season, but still not playoff worthy talent.
I would look to see the young talent on the Cavaliers roster show their potential.
Daniel Gibson, Ryan Hollins, J.J. Hickson, and Daniel Green should improve and give the Cavs a boost of youth.
The Chicago Bulls have a tremendous amount of talent.
The additions of the underrated Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver have given this team two reliable scoring threats.
Currently, the Bulls frontcourt is among the best in the NBA. Outside of Boozer, Joakim Noah has proven himself to be more than just a role player.
His rebounding tenacity and aggressive hustle make everyone around him better. That, combined with Boozer's rebounding efficiency, should produce a potent frontline that will prove difficult to score consistently against.
Depth is another asset that the Bulls possess, especially front court depth.
Taj Gibson is expected to improve greatly and Kurt Thomas is sure to add hard-nosed veteran defense to an already stout big-man corps.
Derrick Rose is a proven asset, a constant on this roster. The Bulls can count on him to run the team and will not have to worry about him producing at an All-Star level.
As long as Luol Deng, Kyle Korver, and Ronnie Brewer can produce consistently, the Chicago Bulls will be alright.
In terms of exceeding expectations, the Bulls are in a great position to do so.
With their offseason being overshadowed by those of the Miami Heats and the New York Knicks, the Bulls' acquisitions have been widely thought of as plan-B options, making Chicago's accomplishments seem less impressive.
I have seen an estimate anywhere from fourth in the Eastern Conference to seventh.
I think they have a chance to finish higher than that.
Believe it or not, the Minnesota Timberwolves have a lot of talent on their roster.
Kevin Love is a rebounding machine and a good plug in the middle.
Johnny Flynn is a serviceable point guard with tremendous upside.
Martell Webster and Michael Beasley are proven assets and although young, they both have experience under their belts.
Corey Brewer is just 24.
The Timberwolves could very well have the youngest starting lineup in the NBA at an average age of 22.8 years and considering their age, there is a lot of room for improvement within that nucleus of players.
I'm not saying that I think the Minnesota Timberwolves will be able to make the playoffs because that is a long shot, but there is a chance to be in the picture come January and February.
Instead of being a bottom five team, I could see a transition into being a upper lottery pick squad.
Remember, high expectations are usually not a good thing. The lower the expectations, the higher your chance of surprising everyone.
It's really a crapshoot for the Timberwolves.
They can either be really mediocre or really bad; take your pick.
New Jersey Nets
I have always felt like last season's Nets roster had more talent than their record suggested.
Yeah, they were still a bad team.
And yes, they were nothing near accomplishing anything meaningful, but the emergence of Brook Lopez was enough to push any team over 12 wins.
Unfortunately, that was not the case, but I can clearly see the potential this team possesses.
And you know, we could see that potential turn into reality.
Devin Harris is the kind of point guard you could start a team with.
Derrick Favors has an incredibly high ceiling.
Brook Lopez has come into his own, proving to the league that he is a top flight center.
The talent is there.
The additions of Troy Murphy, Travis Outlaw, and Anthony Morrow only help that cause.
Really, it comes down to how well the team can gel.
Do the remaining players take last season's mentality with them into training camp or do they start turn over a new leaf?
It really depends on how well the players play together (obviously) and how they handle the demons in their heads.
There are going to be doubters and there are going to be fans turning against the organization.
If they can play to win and forget about the record they had last season, they will have a potentially successful season.
Next season will be a head game for the New Jersey Nets; mastering that is the key to their 2010-2011 campaign.
Portland Trail Blazers
I am going to be blunt.
The Portland Trail Blazers have the talent right now to battle the Los Angeles Lakers for the top spot in the West.
All they have to do is put their on-paper potential on the court, which is something that they have done once in three years.
In the 2008-2009 campaign, the Portland Trail Blazers finished in a three way tie for second place in the Western Conference.
In that season, the Blazers played without Greg Oden for 20 games, and many of those games he was playing hurt.
So the rule for Blazers success, and I mean taking the Western Conference by fire, is Greg Oden playing healthy in at least 60 games.
If Greg Oden is healthy and playing at least 25 minutes a game, the Blazers should be favorites for the second seed in the West.
Health has been hard to come by, but the depth and talented prospects allow them to skate through difficult situations in which injuries occur.
The Blazers have put themselves in position to be perennial contenders in the Western Conference, they just have to show it on the court.
I would look for the Blazers to either stand pat with their success of last season, or break onto the National scene.
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