With the kickoff of the NBA regular season just around the corner (October 26), the time has come for me to do a mass preview of the season.
In the preview, I will post previews of five NBA teams, my breakouts and busts, and my Rookie of the Year, MVP and NBA Finals picks. So read below to find out how I think the 2010-11 season will play out, and feel free to voice your opinions in the comments section.
Miami Heat: Ah, the Miami Heat, considered by many to be a championship team for years to come. With their new trio of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh at the centerpiece, the Heat are said to be the best team since the 95-96 Chicago Bulls.
But will the Heat live up to the hype? It depends on the following objectives happening.
One of the main concerns regarding the performance of Miami this season is the ability of the new "Big Three" to gel effectively as an offense. LeBron, Wade and Bosh have each had to rely on themselves to carry their former teams to success throughout their entire careers. Now they have a supporting cast and the "Big Three" have been able to surprise everyone by successfully teaming up to run a successful offense.
However, another potential problem has presented itself.
LeBron James and Dwayne Wade have both succumbed to injuries this preseason, James' being cramps and Wade's being his hamstring. James' cramps should not affect him in the regular season, but Wade could miss some season action with his hamstring which could be cause for concern for Miami.
As soon as Wade gets back from his injury, the Heat should be back to their dominant selves. Expect a maximum of 15 losses for the Heat this regular season.
Los Angeles Lakers: The Los Angeles Lakers have been overshadowed by the Miami Heat this offseason, but according to a report by Rachel Nichols that aired a few weeks ago during ESPN's NBA training camp coverage, the Lakers have seemed to enjoy a quiet offseason with minimal media coverage.
But will an offseason without media distractions translate into more success for Los Angeles?
Los Angeles is in an odd position as of now. The Lakers are treated as the "underdog" by the majority despite them being the two-time defending champions.
Los Angeles' core from the past two seasons is still intact with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher returning, in addition to key role player Shannon Brown coming back. However, there is one potentially dangerous element that could possibly plague the Lakers' core this season: age.
Bryant (32), Gasol (30), and Fisher (36) are all close to reaching the twilight of their NBA careers, and Bryant finally showed small signs of being humanized last season, a year marred by inconsistent play, primarily in the NBA Finals, which included a Game Seven performance in which Bryant collected 23 points, but on horrendous 6-24 shooting.
Expect Gasol to be his same self and for Fisher to take a sixth man role this year with the acquisition of point guard Steve Blake this offseason.
This is the make or break season for center Andrew Bynum, his career marred by knee as well as leg injuries. The point was proven by the Lakers with the drafting of dependable PF/C Derrick Caracter, who could possibly cut into Bynum's playing time this season.
Overall, expect a minimal production loss from the Lakers starting lineup, but I expect Los Angeles' depth to step up again and make a big impact this season.
New Jersey Nets: You can never tell how the Nets are going to perform over a aseason, and they can easily fool the average observer.
New Jersey, despite their 12-70 record last season, is much more than its record states.
The Nets are a team with plenty of young talent, with Devin Harris, Terrence Williams and Brook Lopez just to name a few.
Lopez was one of the most underrated players in the NBA last season, as he averaged 18.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 1.6 BPG in the 2009-10 season, finally living up to the hype when the Nets drafted him out of Stanford in 2008. Harris is right in the middle of his prime and Williams is just beginning to enter his.
Combine that with rookie PF Derrick Favors, and you have yourself a team with plenty of potential.
New owner Mikhail Prokhorov completed a high-profile personnel change this offseason by hiring former Dallas Mavericks head coach and ESPN NBA Analyst Avery Johnson to be the Nets' newest head coach.
The Nets are clearly in rebuilding mode on the front office side of things, and New Jersey is on the right track towards possibly making the playoffs this season as a number seven or number eight seed.
Washington Wizards: The Wizards are an interesting NBA team. They are a squad which boasts much underappreciated talent, but year after year they cannot seem to pull it together.
Washington had a up and down season last year. First, the tragic death of owner Abe Pollin hit the Wizards, then came the arrest of three-time All-Star point guard Gilbert Arenas for carrying an unlicensed handgun, and finally some good news arrived as the Wizards drafted Kentucky PG John Wall with the number one overall pick.
As mentioned before, Washington has a surplus of underrated talent in Josh Howard, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee. But they also have excellent talent in the backcourt with Arenas and Wall.
The main problems with the Wizards are their defense, and they are also the victims of being dwarfed in the toughest division in the NBA, as the Wizards are in the Southeast division along with the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks and the Charlotte Bobcats.
Even with Wall and Arenas in the backcourt, the Washington Wizards are a team that will suffer this season, and once again, not qualify for the NBA playoffs.
New York Knicks: The Knicks had one of the worst seasons in a long time last year as New York failed to qualify for the playoffs last season, as well as losing NBA All-Star center David Lee to free agency during the offseason. I am aware that New York acquired Amar'e Stoudemire during the free agency period, but one person does not make a successful NBA team.
The Knicks do have excellent depth with three-point sharpshooter Roger Mason, Anthony Randolph and Timofey Mozgov, but their depth will not be able to bail out New York, and the Knickerbockers will once again miss the playoffs, which I believe will lead to the firing of head coach Mike D'Antoni.
Breakout Players and Busts
Kelenna Azubuike (New York Knicks): Azubuike has been sliding under the radar during his career and the majority have missed something special. Kelenna is a three-point sharpshooter as he has a three point FG percentage of 40 percent. The main elements inhibiting Azubuike from becoming well-known across the NBA landscape could be attributed to both the small market of Golden State as well as his limited minutes.
Azubuike only logged an average of 25.7 MPG mostly because of Stephen Curry stealing the rest of those minutes. In those 25.7 minutes, Azubuike averaged 13.9 PPG and 4.6 RPG, very respectable numbers for a sixth man.
Now in New York, Azubuike has a much bigger market to work with and will also get around 30 MPG with Wilson Chandler being the only other reasonable contender for minutes.
All of this creates a recipe for success for Kelenna Azubuike, so do not be surprised if you hear his name called a lot more this season.
LeBron James (Miami Heat): Now I know you think I am crazy for listing LeBron's name here, but all I ask is for you to hear me out for a second.
The "Bust" label attached to James means that he will see a drop in production.
Over his past seasons with the Cavaliers, LeBron had to carry the team on his back the entire time, thus inflating his statistics a bit.
Now in Miami, LeBron has an excellent supporting cast in Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, meaning he will not have to score every point, collect every rebound, et cetera, for the Heat to win every night.
So expect a statistical drop for LeBron James this season, however he will still be a reliable player.
Rookie of the Year
Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers): Griffin is officially a rookie as a result of his season-ending injury last year, so Blake is in the running for this award.
Blake Griffin is in the middle of a phenomenal preseason, as he is averaging 17 PPG and 12 RPG so far in his three game campaign, and more importantly, it looks like Griffin is one hundred percent healed from his season-ending injury last season.
Griffin is also showcasing the number one priority in order to win the Rookie of the Year Award: consistency.
Griffin has displayed consistent numbers throughout his preseason (see second paragraph of this section) and all that he needs to accomplish now is to keep that up through the regular season. Griffin could be well on his way to hoisting the 2010-2011 Rookie of the Year Award.
NBA Finals Matchup, Prediction
Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Miami Heat: Los Angeles vs. Miami, if it were to actually happen, would be one of, if not the most hyped NBA Finals matchups in NBA history.
The series would boast the new "Big Three" of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh against Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and company.
Los Angeles' depth easily conquers Miami's, but the question comes on the starting lineups. Will the team of Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest be capable of containing the Big Three?
Ultimately, I think it will be a close, tightly contested matchup, but I believe the Miami Heat will pull it out in six games, assuming no major roster changes are made to either team in the time being.
So there you have it, my 2010 NBA Season Preview is complete! I hope all of you enjoy the 2010-11 NBA season and I wish that your favorite team, no matter who it may be, tastes success this season.