The NBA saw one of sports greatest turnarounds this year. The Boston Celtics pulled some strings and managed to formulate a team around Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. After finishing last in the league the previous season the once glorious Celtics found themselves contending for a title against old rivals The LA Lakers. Within one year the Celtics have gone from zeros to hero's but what happens in 5 years time? KG, Pierce and Allen will be on the brink of retirement, Kobe wont be nearly as dominant and the Spurs will most likely all be enjoying life away from the league. So whose next in line to take the throne? Here are my top 5 future contenders.
Cleveland Cavaliers (Lebron James)
Any team with a player like Lebron James on the team has to make the top 5. This is a guy who got his team to the NBA finals pretty much single handedly (maybe with a little help from Big Z and Booby Gibson). Not a single Cav has averaged more than 17 ppg since Lebron joined the Cavs and now finally he has some help with point guard Mo Williams. The Cavs are the biggest one man show in the league and if that one man can get to the NBA finals at only 23 years old with pretty much no help then the team he's on is going places. The Cavs are known to make bad off season moves though, sending Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes away for a useless Ben Wallace wasn't the brightest move. Then there's the fact that Lebron is a free agent in 2010 and if Cleveland let Lebron go its back to the bottom of the league for the Cavs.
The Hawks have had a bad summer. Letting Josh Smith almost slip away and then letting Josh Childress escape to Greece the Hawks took a blow but that doesn't change the fact that they still have a bunch of talent to develop. Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson are in or have already passed they're prime so the chances of them developing considerably further are slim, but they're presence isn't something to be ignored they are still two of the best guards in the league and with the amount of talent they have around them they should help the rest of the team grow. Marvin Williams was an awful pick for the hawks in 2005 at number 2, regardless he is still a good talented player whose stats continue to improve and he could develop into a fantastic contributor for the Hawks. Josh Smith is back (only just after nearly signing with the grizzlies) and he could one day become the face of the franchise. He is freakishly athletic with a huge defensive presence establishing himself as one of the leagues top shot blockers and rebounders. If he can tighten up his offensive game with more scoring awareness he could become a similar player to Dominique Wilkins. Finally Al Horford, another great inside presence for the Hawks, a phenomenal rebounder in his rookie season with 10 rpg per game which may not sound spectacular but for a rookie its quite something. Similar to Josh Smith if only he could develop his offensive game he averaged 10ppg in his rookie year which is fairly average considering he was the third overall pick. If all of the hawks can develop into scorers then the future looks bright in Atlanta.
Unlike the Cavs this is not a 1 man team with Dwight Howard. Superman has 3 decent players supporting him but 2 of these players are in they're prime and they're chances of further development are limited. Rashard Lewis was an overpaid signing for the magic paying $118 million for a guy who averages 19 ppg was not a good move especially since Hedo Turkoglu had a breakout season and happens to play the same position as Rashard. Still Lewis was a good contributor and his signing definitely took the Magic to the next level if he can begin to fit into Stan Van Gundy's offence and begin to play the 4 spot better he could contribute more. Hedo Turkoglu was the man last year having a HUGE season. He should of won the MIP award simply for hitting the game winner against Boston. He showed great improvement under Stan Van Gundy but at 29 can he improve even further. I wouldn't bet against it but don't expect him to be putting up 25 ppg after a 19 ppg season. Jameer Nelson had a tough year, with the death of his father affecting his play he was dropped from the starting line up for a short while, although towards the end of the season his play increased dramatically and he had a brilliant playoff series against Detroit. If he can find more ways to score and assist Superman a little more he could turn into one of the leagues most respected point guards. The signing of Mikael Pietrus was much needed, after having a season of switching between Mo Evans and Kieth Bogans the Magic needed a defensive minded and respected 2 guard. They get that with Pietrus, he's showed phenomenal defense at Golden State and he could be the key to beating Detroit whom the Magic have fallen to for the past 2 season in the post season. Finally Dwight Howard. What is there to say, he's athletic on a godly scale, he has post moves, imagine a more mobile Shaq and there's Dwight Howard. Of course there's the dreaded free throw line that haunts Superman but anything inside of that free throw line is his, regardless of who you are he will haul in rebounds, dunk on you or just send your shot into row Z. If he can overcome his fear of free throws he could turn into a prolific scorer. The Magic have great potential and after a fantastic season i cant see them getting worse, Detroit and Boston should keep an eye out for Superman and his sidekicks.
New Orleans Hornets.
This team was phenomenal last season. Its tough to call them a young team as they have many veterans on the roster such as Peja and Posey but they have a fantastic nucleus of talent which exploded this season. Tyson Chandler is just 25 years old and is one of the leagues most dominant centers. As long as CP3 keeps throwing those passes Tyson will be up there throwing them home (as long as Jason Maxiell isn't in the way) he may of only averaged 11 ppg last year but hes a huge defensive presence and will shut other big men down, if he can get his point average up he could become one of the best centers in the league. David West was a force this year. He was almost as valuable to the Hornets as CP3, offensively he shows shades of Tim Duncan, hes a pure power forward with a fantastic scoring touch and i cant imagine him getting any worse. Defense isn't a problem for West either he has the ability to stop players when needed and cleans the glass well, no doubt next year he will improve into an even more dominant scorer. The only problem visible with West is his age, hes 27 which is a players prime age so in 5 years time will he still be as good as he is now? Only time will tell. Chris Paul. Possibly one of the greatest point guards to ever live. At 23 he's mentioned with the likes of Isiah Thomas, John Stockton and Magic Johnson. He pretty much carried the team to the 2nd place in the West just behind Kobe's Lakers and only just missed out on the MVP award to Kobe. Averaging 20.1 ppg and 11.g apg he put the Hornets straight past the like of Jason Kidd and the Mavs only to be knocked out by the Spurs (whom had some rather generous referee decisions come they're way in game 6 and 7). All this and he's only been in the league 3 seasons. Imagine what next year brings. 22 ppg and 15 apg is my estimation but don't hold me to it. No doubt he shall dominate the point guard position until he is way past his prime. With David West's scoring, Tyson Chandler's defence and potentially one of the greatest point guards ever in CP3 the Hornets are huge contenders for a championship in the future
Now before you hail me with 1000s of comments complaining as to why the Blazers are holding the top spot just hear me out. The Blazers have an absolutely RIDICULOUS (the good kind of ridiculous) team in terms of talent. Jerryd Bayless just completely tore up the summer league and although the summer league is an NBA reject area i can still imagine him contributing with the big guys. He's a scoring point guard but still has great awareness and can assist the ball when needed to players such as Roy and Oden. I think he could potentially be a candidate for ROY but don't hold me to that as we wont know until the season starts in November. The Blazers other rookie is Greg Oden (still technically a rookie) he was a college giant and a defensive god so people expect big things from old Greg weather he can live up to the huge expectations is something only time will tell. Every Dynasty is built around a center (except the Bulls) and Greg Oden is a center you build a franchise around which they have done. Lamarcus Aldridge was a force last year, his play exploded from a rookie season of 9 ppg and 5 rpg to 17 ppg and 7 rpg which is a huge improvement especially on the offensive end. Hes only going to get better and at a young age he should become more dominant hes a great building block for the franchise and will play a huge part in the Blazers future success. He shows similar comparisons to David West although he doesn't quite have the same shooting touch as West and is more of a physical player. Brandon Roy is a fantastic player one of the best 2 guards in the league winning the ROY award two seasons ago and continuing to improve. He has phenomenal scoring awareness and shows good ability to find his team mates and i can only see him improving into a superstar. This team is on the way up they have 4 potential All Stars (one of which already is an All Star) and they have all the building blocks needed to win a championship in the next 5 years give it time and Blazers could be top, as long as injuries don't hurt them.
The truth is in 5 years time we cant know for sure who will be topping the league many changes could happen to the squads in the top 5 catapulting other teams to the top. Only time will tell.
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