It's that time again! The moment we've all been waiting for is upon us. With NBA Media Day behind us, a new NBA season unlike any in recent history is fast approaching.
Many questions loom.
And as we gaze into our collective NBA crystal balls, I try to answer some of the questions that appear.
From super teams that rival any assembly of talent the game has ever seen, to individual questions that may have an effect on basketball as we know it, it's all here.
Ten questions for undoubtedly the most anticipated season in years!
The New Jersey Nets. The Chicago Bulls. The New York Knicks. Even the L.A. Clippers. You've heard all the rumors.
Where does Carmelo Anthony "take his talents"?
Good question. By now you've heard about the four team deal that would have sent Carmelo to the New Jersey Nets, but the trigger has obviously not been pulled yet. New Jersey has reportedly backed out of the deal due to Denver moving too slowly.
Carmelo would be selling himself short if he does sign with the Nets, even if they are going to be in Brooklyn by 2012-2013.
The Nets don't have the winning culture or necessary pieces for them to be a contender. Carmelo going there wouldn't change that.
At the end of the day, I feel the best place for him to win would be the Chicago Bulls, although they seem to no longer be potential trade partners given their unwillingness to part with Joakim Noah.
Another possibility is the New York Knicks.
With rumors circulating a few weeks ago about talks of forming a second "super team," made possible by Carmelo and Chris Paul joining Amare Stoudemire in the Big Apple, you know the Knicks have to be wishing on a star that there's some way to make those rumors a reality.
Only time will tell.
First there was Mikan of the 40s and 50s. He was followed by Russell and Wilt of the 60s.
Kareem owned the 70s and 80s, and Hakeem was the best big man of the 90s.
Shaq has peaked and faded and there is now room at the top for the next great NBA center to grab a stranglehold on the crown of the next generation of big men.
Enter Dwight Howard—2004's No. 1 draft pick.
His credentials read like the beginnings of a legendary career: four-time All-Star; four-time All-NBA Team; two-time Defensive Player of the Year; first player to ever lead the league in blocks and rebounding in consecutive seasons.
And yet for all the things that he is doing right, there are still major flaws in his game. The main one being the lack of a great post game.
Dwight can never truly be mentioned with the aforementioned greats until he develops either an unstoppable "go-to move" like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's patented "Sky Hook," or a reliable series of jukes, fakes, spins, up-and-unders, and hooks.
Both Kevin McHale and Hakeem Olajuwon were masters of these post maneuvers.
Howard has been blessed with a combination of strength, size, and athleticism that is almost unmatched in all of basketball history. But natural ability can only take you so far.
To not take the time to add "skill" to that sentence of attributes would be to sell himself short of his true potential.
My prediction is that he doesn't ever live up to his true potential because I don't see the urgency to become a better player.
There are players who are satisfied with being the best of their era and there are players that aren't satisfied until they are considered the best, period.
Unfortunately, I see Dwight Howard as the former.
Can the Bulls realistically hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy at the end of the 2010-2011 season? That's a tough one.
I will say this: Would I be utterly shocked if they did? No, they are certainly not the Clippers, Timberwolves, or Cavaliers (ha).
But do I have any confidence in them to do so at all? In short, no.
The Eastern conference is getting tougher and tougher every year. With the juggernaut Miami Heat down in South Beach, the battle-hardened Boston Celtics, and the three-point hoisting Orlando Magic all in the way, I see this team as a fourth seed at best.
The Boston Celtics were a fourth seed last year too, you say? Yes they were, and they were a couple rebounds and a Ron Artest three short of having a second championship in two years.
But they had a much more well-rounded team. Three future Hall of Famers, a quality big man in Perkins, a rising star in Rajon Rondo, and a great bench with the likes of Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Nate Robinson, and Tony Allen.
Boozer is actually downgrading in terms of point guard play, going from a consensus Top Two point guard in Deron Williams to an exciting and dynamic, but still young Derrick Rose.
Couple that with Joakim not exactly being the picture of dominance and you have a good, but not great team.
Carlos Boozer definitely brings a new element to the Chicago Bulls. He should provide the inside scoring punch that they desperately need.
Pairing up with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, and the rest of the crew should make for an exciting year and a very interesting playoff run. But I don't expect much beyond that.
You watched him become the youngest scoring champion in NBA history last year.
You watched him represent the United States of America in the FIBA World Championships this year.
He dominated the competition, carried the team, and brought home a FIBA gold medal to the USA for the first time since 1994.
Is Kevin Durant the future of the NBA?
If all goes well, yes.
Durant is amazing to say the least. Listed at 6'9" 230 lbs but by most reports closer to 6'11", Durant is one of the most offensively gifted players the NBA has ever seen.
Unlimited range, a surprisingly quick first step, and a knack for drawing contact on drives enabled him to lead all scorers in the 2009-2010 season.
And he's just getting started.
As brightly as his offensive skills shine, he is an underrated defender. His 7'5" (not a typo) wingspan easily swipes at basketballs on the dribble and blocks or alters shots.
Bulking up a bit and adding a post game to his repertoire would make him nearly unstoppable.
This guy is for real.
With Kobe Bryant having only a few elite years left, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade having to share the ball, and Carmelo Anthony in limbo, look for this kid to add a few more scoring titles.
He will steadily ease his way into the NBA's driver seat over the next few years and may the NBA gods have mercy on the guy defending him.
With all due respect to Evan Turner, DeMarcus Cousins, and Derrick Favors, the 2010 Rookie of the Year race is a two man show.
First you have Blake Griffin, the No. 1 2009 NBA Draft pick. The best comparison I can make if you haven't seen him play before (which is entirely possible since he's never played an NBA game) is a young Amare Stoudemire that actually defends. Yeah, I know! Exciting right?
He missed all of 2009 due to a freak knee injury he received during a preseason game dunking on someone. He was drafted to the Clippers where he will immediately start and become an impact player. This kid is for real.
Then there's John Wall, the No. 1 2010 NBA Draft pick. Best comparison? Derrick Rose with a slightly toned-down offensive game but better court vision. He was drafted to the Washington Wizards and will also immediately start and become an impact player.
Interestingly enough, the Wizards also have Gilbert Arenas listed at PG, who in his last full NBA season (06-07, prior to injury and suspension) averaged 28.4 points per game. It will be interesting to see how they interact, to say the least.
My prediction? It's going to be a close race and head-to-head matchups will likely play a big part in the winner of the award.
Blake Griffin will probably do more to deserve the award (best guess: 18.5 PPG 10.5 RPG, better team record), but the trend of the last five Rookie of the Year winners being perimeter players doesn't lie.
John Wall (best guess: 18 PPG 8 APG) will be the 2010 Rookie of The Year.
The Celtics have officially replaced the Spurs as the team that's getting really old but that you can never truly count out in the playoffs until they've been eliminated.
With the additions of Jermaine O'Neal and Shaquille O'Neal, the Celtics have addressed their biggest issue (besides Father Time) in dealing with the upcoming season. Kendrick Perkins will be out until very close to the All-Star break trying to rehab an ACL torn during Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
These additions give them two serviceable big men to counter teams with punishing inside presence like the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Celtics were five points away from raising Banner 18 into the TD Banknorth Garden rafters. And with four future Hall of Famers, Rajon Rondo, and a very steady bench, they are in prime contention to succeed where they failed last year.
On a side note, if Shaq does help the Celtics win a championship, can they retire his jersey in Los Angeles? He obviously had his best years in L.A., teaming up with Kobe Bryant for the 2000-2002 three-peat. I assume that even with the less than cordial breakup in 2004, Dr. Jerry Buss would have enough sense to retire Shaq's jersey whenever Shaq calls it quits.
But, if Shaq helps the hated Celtics win a championship, especially if it's over the Los Angeles Lakers, does that change anything? My guess is that it would, but only time will tell.
Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of back-to-back titles and have to be the favorites for a third.
LeBron has taken his talents to the Miami Heat and he will be looking to make his mark down in South Beach this upcoming season.
Kevin Durant just came back from leading Team USA to gold in Turkey. He plans to rejoin his Thunder teammates and shake things up in the Western Conference.
Which of these extraordinary players is the favorite for MVP?
Simply put, it's Kevin Durant, and here's why...the media does the voting.
With LeBron's July plummet from grace, the media has chosen to shower its affections on the Oklahoma forward. LeBron, the reigning MVP, will see his scoring numbers fall due to having a better supporting cast. The only way LeBron wins this award, especially with all the animosity running rampant directed towards him, is if he does something that only one man in NBA history has been able to do.
The man? Oscar Robertson. The feat? Averaging a triple-double.
Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? Well, we'll get into that later.
Kobe Bryant will have a hard time winning over the media if he hasn't managed to do it already. Having perhaps the best supporting cast in the NBA and still managing to put up 28 points per game with a decent field goal percentage—all while being the most banged up player on the court 99 percent of the time.
If this hasn't won them over, I don't know what will. I don't see any reason the media would become any more receptive to all that this season. He will get some first place votes, but it won't be enough to win the award.
None of this is to take away anything from Kevin Durant. He is a great up-and-coming player who is already breaking records. If he does win the award, I'm sure he'll be the most deserving candidate...sort of...
James. Wade. Bosh.
Yes. We. Did.
By now you've seen the Miami Heat's 2010 season slogan. This team is a collection of talent that rivals the best that the NBA has ever seen.
But are they good enough to beat the 1996 Chicago Bulls NBA Win-Loss record of 72-10?
They have the personnel to do so. Although they have small holes in their armor at the point guard and center positions, they more than make up for it with the other three.
Dwyane Wade is a proven killer who has taken his team to the NBA Finals and notched perhaps the greatest Finals series performance in NBA history.
LeBron James is by far the closest thing to Magic Johnson that the NBA has seen since "Showtime." He was able to put a team of average to good players (but no one great) on his back and take them to 60-plus win seasons repeatedly.
And Bosh? Well, let's just say he's happy to be here. One of the premiere big men in the NBA, he's not known for banging inside but is an underrated shooter who is mobile and can take most similar sized players off the dribble with his left handed skills.
Do I honestly expect the Heat to amass 72-plus wins in their first season together? No.
But I wouldn't bet against it either.
LeBron James is a one of a kind player to say the least.
And he has the opportunity to do something this season that only one person has ever done. He has the chance to join Oscar Robertson as the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for a season.
LeBron is maybe the most physically gifted athlete to ever grace the NBA. Built like a freight train with the speed of a gazelle. Court vision to match the best in the NBA. Above average basketball IQ and a non-selfish attitude when it comes to distributing the ball. He may also be on the perfect team for this to happen.
The Miami Heat's biggest holes? Point guard and the center position.
Enter LeBron James.
We already know that LeBron will score, so the points part of the triple-double will come automatically. The lack of a standout point guard means that someone will have to step in and be the one to hit Dwyane Wade on all those screen and rolls and Mike Miller for all those corner threes. Do you think that will be enough to get him two more assists a game? Possibly?
And then we have that gaping hole in the middle.
A lack of a post presence means that there will be many more rebounds up for grabs now that he doesn't have Shaq down low or Verajao hustling towards loose balls. Bosh is by no means a "physical presence" down low and that will leave LeBron James enough room to scoop up two or three more a game.
My prediction? LeBron comes close but falls just short with a line of 23.8 PPG 9.7 REB 11 AST
Kobe Bryant is without a doubt the most polarizing figure in sports today. You either love him or you hate him.
Most would agree that he's the closest thing to Michael Jordan that we have seen.
The "Lovers of Kobe" would say that Kobe is not only in the same conversation as Michael Jordan, but that he's actually better.
The "Haters of Kobe" would say that Kobe is at best a Top 15 player that doesn't even belong in the same sentence.
I am somewhere in between. I don't consider myself to be a lover or hater of anyone in particular. What I do consider myself to be, is a fan of great basketball and as such, a fan of Kobe Bryant.
Right now if I had to make a list of my Top 15 players of all time it would look something like this:
1. Michael Jordan
2. Magic Johnson
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
4. Bill Russell
5. Wilt Chamberlain
6. Larry Bird
7. Kobe Bryant
8. Tim Duncan
9. Hakeem Olajuwon
10. Oscar Robertson
11. Shaquille O'Neal
12. Jerry West
13. Moses Malone
14. Isiah Thomas
15. Elgin Baylor
Some may argue the details of my list, but I think that it's pretty sound and well-balanced. Kobe, with five championships, is ranked just above Tim Duncan, and just below Larry Bird.
Now here is where it gets interesting. If Kobe wins ring No. 6, he moves up dramatically. I'd have to move him past Larry Bird.
Although Bird is undoubtedly better is some areas, such as three-point shooting to name one, I consider Kobe Bryant to be better overall on both sides of the ball, and he will have doubled Bird's total of three championships.
Next is WIlt Chamberlain. He isn't really known as a winner, falling victim to Russell's Celtics on a regular basis. But what he lacked in hardware, he made up for in stats.
His statistics paint a very detailed picture of a monstrous presence in the game of basketball. Records like 100 points in a game, or averaging 50 PPG and 25 RPG in the same season, will never be eclipsed.
But taking into account the pace that the game was played back then, and the competition available for a 7'2" behemoth of a man back in the 60s and 70s, I have to give the nod to Kobe.
His 81-point outburst (shot 60 percent from the field) is at the very least equally as impressive as Wilt's 100, and having six championships to Wilt's two seals the deal.
A sixth ring would effectively put Kobe Bryant at fifth all time on my list.
Russell's 11 rings, even accounting for era played in, is hard to argue against.
The same can be said for Kareem's five rings, longevity, and most points scored.
Magic's five rings and revolutionary positional versatility still give him a slight edge on Bryant.
And Kobe's sixth would tie Jordan for rings but Jordan's laundry list of accolades still gives him the nod.
In case you were wondering, a seventh ring would put him at second on my list, with very legitimate arguments to be made for first.
At this point, ranking Kobe and Jordan would be comparable to ranking Wilt, Russell, and Kareem.
There's really no right answer; it would all be based on personal preference. Two opinions may differ, but you really can't blame the person if they rank them differently than you do. It's a toss-up.
Seven in the modern era of basketball would trump Russell's 11, much like Jordan's six-plus accolades did.
Kareem's longevity and career scoring wouldn't be enough to hold off Bryant if he secured ring No. 7.
I'm sure Magic would himself proclaim that Kobe was the greatest Laker ever if he won seven championships.
People talk about what would have happened if Jordan never retired. Many people speculate that he would have won eight championships.
As the saying goes, "that's why we play the game." Talking about "what if" is one thing. Someone actually accomplishing that in the modern era of basketball is another.
Accolades be damned, an eighth NBA championship would solidify Kobe Bryant as the greatest player the NBA has ever seen, hands down, bar none.
Talk of a lockout is much more than some bedtime story designed to scare players into taking smaller checks.
It may very soon become a cold, hard reality.
Reports come every once in a while about the Owners and Players Union's opening up negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement. Nothing is ever divulged on the progress made.
We are only to understand that the Owners feel like the players should make less money, while the players feel like they drive the market and pretty much want things to stay the way they are.
The only thing both sides agree on is that the gap between the two sides isn't closing fast enough and that a lockout is imminent.
Hopefully, for the fans' sakes, they get what they need to get in order for us to continue being able to watch the game that we love.
My prediction? I can't even dream of not having basketball, so I have to assume that they will find some middle ground before it's too late. Right? :: gulp ::