Can LeBron and Chris Bosh help Miami win their 2nd title in five years?
I don't know about you, but I have been waiting for this all summer.
The 2010 NBA season tips off Tuesday and I'm here to talk about something other than LeBron James and the South Beach "Goonies". Though they were pretty much the hot topic the entire offseason, there were more juicy storylines that will have me hyped the entire week with a cold brew nearby.
Usually before breaking out my NBA crystal ball, I like to sit here and make a bunch of small talk that really no one else cares for. So with that being said, no more procrastinating: let's get straight to it.
Eastern Conference Predictions
Though the last two NBA titles have been won out West, I think it's safe to say that the Eastern Conference may the power conference this season. Not only did the defending East Champs, Boston improve their roster by adding Shaq, Jermaine O'Neal and Delonte West, but Chicago, New York and of course Miami all made upgrades of their own.
Picking Miami to win the East this year would be too easy, but I can't say I'll blame anyone who picks them. Now here goes the fun part: picking the top eight teams in the East.
Here goes nothing:
1. Miami Heat (60-22)
First thing's first, it's time to get over it--LeBron is in Miami and he is there to stay
Though LeBron received major criticism for "The Decision" and the way he pretty much smacked Cleveland in the face, you would be lying to yourself if you weren't anxious to see what will become of this experiment. James and Chris Bosh were the talk out the town all summer long, but now it's time to put or shut up.
With revenge on his mind, look for LeBron to have a scary good season. If Miami can reach at least 60 wins, look for LeBron to become just the fourth player in league history to win three consecutive MVPs
Of course the Miami trio will be running the show, but with other key acquisitions like Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Eddie House, Mike Miller and even Jerry Stackhouse will be a good supporting cast. Plenty of offense to go around, but if Miami wants to even smell success they have to do on the defensive end.
Miller is out until at least January, but once he returns look for him to be the second best, if not the best, player coming off the pine.
2. Orlando Magic (54-28)
The Magic didn't do much during the offseason, but they still have a man named Dwight Howard going hard in the paint. Is this squad good enough to win an NBA championship? No. Are they good enough to make a run back to the NBA Finals? Hmmmm maybe.
They will have a better regular season than the defending Eastern Conference champs, but we all know May and June are the Celtics' favorite time of the year. Don't be surprised if Howard becomes a front runner for MVP this year.
3. Boston Celtics (50-32)
If there is a team that the Miami Heat should be afraid of in the East it's the Boston Celtics. The defending champs out East added more size to their roster, along with another point guard to back Rajon Rondo.
This just may be the deepest team in the league, and come playoff time they will be the most dangerous team on the map. Not only does Shaq want to win his fifth and possibly sixth NBA title (so he can rub it in Kobe's face), but playing for a contender his last two years before he retires is the way he wants to go out.
Along with a rejuvenated Shaq, Jermaine O'Neal and Delonte West are also going to make great role players. Anything less than a title would be a failure for the boys in Beantown.
4. Chicago Bulls (48-34)
If all goes well with Carlos Boozer, this team could potentially become a darkhorse this season. With new head coach Tom Thibodeau, look for the Bulls to try play a little defense for a change.
Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah will have their best seasons as pros, but the additions of Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Keith Bogans and Boozer was a decent upgrade for a team that need more perimeter shooting, and in the case of Booze, more rebounding.
D-Rose an MVP candidate this season? Maybe, but I won't ruin the surprised listed below.
5. Atlanta Hawks (47-35)
Chicago and Atlanta could go neck and neck for fifth place in the East. Aside from re-signing their All-star Joe Johnson to a juicy deal, ATL did nothing else to improve their roster. And to put a small damper on things, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford isn't happy with his current contract situation.
The Hawks are still a couple of pieces away from becoming serious contenders in the Eastern Conference, but they are still playoff bound.
Best of the Rest
6. Milwaukee Bucks- Andrew Bogut returns from injury and Brandon Jennings begins his sophomore season
7. New York Knicks- Adding Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton will make them better, but finding defense in the Garden will be almost impossible
8. Washington Wizards- If Gilbert Arenas can keep his guns to himself, he and rookie John Wall could mesh well together.
Eastern Conference Winners: Boston Celtics
1. Los Angeles Lakers (55-27) subject to change
It's only right to put the two-time defending champs on top, but with Kobe and Andrew Bynum going through knee issues, the Lake Show may have to take it just a tad bit easy during the regular season.
We definitely won't be seeing Kobe play as many minutes during the regular season as he did last year. But despite winning two consecutive titles, the Lakers did upgrade their roster by adding swingman Matt Barnes, point guard Steve Blake and old man shot-blocker Theo Ratliff.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (54-28)
Depending on the kind of year Miami has, the MVP is Kevin Durant's to lose. The Lakers won't run away with the top seed in the West, and this team poses the biggest threat to L.A. in the regular season.
3. Dallas Mavericks (52-26)
The championship window may have closed for Dirk Nowitzki's Mavs, but they are guaranteed to win 50 games every year. This could potentially be a darkhorse out West, but not good enough to contend with L.A. or even OKC.
Dallas added Tyson Chandler to their frontcourt and this will be Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood' first full season in Big D, so the chemistry has fully developed.
4. Denver Nuggets (50-32) subject to change
Barring any trade involving Carmelo Anthony, Denver is still a playoff contender, but don't expect anything major from these guys.
5. Portland Trailblazers (50-32)
They still have injury woes in the frontcourt, but this Brandon Roy led team will still fall in playoff contention.
Best of the Rest
6. Utah Jazz- They lost three key players to Chicago, but at least they added Al Jefferson
7. San Antonio Spurs-Maybe the last run for these guys?
8. Phoenix Suns-No Amar'e, but Hedo Turkoglu will fit in nicely with Steve Nash
Western Conference Champions: Los Angeles Lakers
Three Bold Predictions
1. The top five MVP candidates this season will be Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki and Derrick Rose with Durant coming out as the winner.
D-Rose? You got it.Chicago was already a playoff team, but with Boozer, Brewer and Korver added to the mix this team can make a little noise in the Eastern Conference. I'm not quite ready to say he will average 20 and 10, but 20, 7 and a top four seed in the East could put him in the race.
The former MVP Dirk is going to put up MVP type numbers, but if Dallas has an amazing regular season--which they most likely will, then Dirk will be in the MVP discussion.
As for Superman, this could be his best season thus far if his offseason workouts with the great Hakeem Olajuwon turn into something worth talking about. Not only that, but Howard, much like LeBron, will be playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Even though LeBron has joined his "Superfriends "down in South Beach, should Miami have a 60+ win season, he could almost run away with it.
But my winner is KD. He averaged 30 points last season with not many expectations held for Oklahoma City. If OKC somehow clinches the best record in the West there is almost no way Durant could lose this race.
Do you think LeBron James can gain back some of his former fans?
2. LeBron James will gain back some of his fans not living in Cleveland
The city of Cleveland may never forgive, but those of us outside the city may be willing to give him a second chance.
LeBron is now a super villain, and if you're like me you love to love villains. Aside from the heartbroken fans in Cleveland, watching a motivated, angry and disturbed LeBron James is going to be fun to watch.
If Miami lives up to the high expectations they are receiving now, then trust LeBron will start to gain back of the same fans that gave him hell all summer.
3. Carmelo Anthony will not be traded
Look, Denver doesn't want to end up like Cleveland and lose their franchise player for nothing. But trading him during the regular season would be almost stupid. As long as their head coach George Karl is there in good health, this team is a legit contender in the Western Conference.
If he is traded it won't be until February
MVP: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau (Chicago Bulls)
Rookie of the Year: John Wall (Washington Wizards)
Sixth Man of the Year: Udonis Haslem (Miami Heat)
Defensive Player of the Year: Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls)
Most Improved Player: Michael Beasley (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Five headlines heading into Tuesday
1. The Miami Heat
Of course the new "Big Three" will be the hot topic heading into Tuesday's opening night. But can we stop all of the LeBron bashing already?
I've done my share of bashing, and it's time to come to the realization that he is in Miami and he's there to stay. No matter how much hell this guy has caught, we will all be tuned in tomorrow when they tip-off against Boston. So just shut it down.
How well will the role players fit in? Can this team become an defense orientated one? Can they live up to the hype? That's what we need to be asking
2. The Los Angeles Lakers
Can L.A. three-peat? Will Kobe's knee hold up the entire season? Can Andrew Bynum make an impact once he returns? Will this be Phil Jackson's last season as a head coach?
3. New look Celtics
Can Boston make it back to the Finals? Can Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal help Boston win their second title under Doc Rivers?
4. Owners vs. Players
Will there be a lockout after this season?
5. Carmelo Anthony
Will Melo be traded? Of so, where to? Being that it is a contract year, will Melo play out of his mind?
Michael Whittenberg is a NBA Community Leader for bleacherreport.com