Window of Opportunity: Which 5 NBA Playoff Teams Are on Their Final Legs?
Age is attributed to everybody, NBA players are no different. Teams such as Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas, and San Antonio all have veterans who are much past their prime. So how much longer do these teams have to muster all of the championships that they can possibly obtain? Their window of opportunity is closing. I will discuss how much longer each team has before the door is shut and they have to rebuild.
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Kevin Garnett (34), Ray Allen (35) and Paul Pierce (33) headline a team that features seven players in their thirties, and one Shaquille O'Neal that is nearly 40. After trading the young and talented Kendrick Perkins, the future rests squarely on Rajon Rondo, who is a sub par shooter with great speed and superb passing abilities. The time is now for the Celtics, though. Even with their recent struggles, they still have a winning record against the Heat, who are likely to rise as the second-round opponent for the Celtics, assuming Boston prevails over New York. If the Celtics can pull a few close games off in the playoffs, don't be shocked if their experience carries them passed the East and into the NBA Championship.
Window of opportunity: Now. This year could be the final chance for the aging Celtics, who will have no formidable big man down low after the O'Neals likely retire, even though they weren't there most of the season anyway. With the upcoming emergence of Chicago, Miami and New York, the Celtics reign over the East could be coming to an abrupt end.
Los Angeles Lakers
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Let's face it, LA, Kobe doesn't have the same legs under him that he once had. A spectacular player, still no doubt, but not the same. The Lakers have a whopping total of four players on their team who haven't hit their thirties yet: Shannon Brown, Andrew Bynum, Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks. Bynum's career in Hollywood may be soon coming to an end as a growing frustration has emerged due to his proneness to injuries. Unless the Lakers pick up a large free agent in the coming years, they are quickly descending in the ever-talented Western Conference.
Phil Jackson retiring at the end of the season isn't doing them any favors, either. A strong team needs a strong coach and I'm not sure if Kobe can respect a new coach and get along with them the same way he does with Jackson.
Window of opportunity: Two Years. Unless a big name such as Chris Paul or Dwight Howard make their way to California, Kobe's crew is quickly being outdone by quicker and stronger competition. They still have a good shot this season if they pull their typical stunts during playoff time, but struggling with the San Antonio backups is not a good sign.
This isn't necessarily due to age, it's due to relying heavily on a superstar who may not have the mutual feelings that the owner may expect. Dwight Howard wants to be a superstar, on and off the court. Orlando doesn't give that to him. A city such as Los Angeles does, who just so happens to have a couple of basketball teams there, specifically, the Lakers. Howard's contract is due to expire at the end of the 2012-2013 season, and that's just when Orlando's immediate championship hopes end.
Window of opportunity: Two Years. Without Howard's leadership, presence on the boards and ability to change a game around, I'm not even sure Orlando makes the playoffs this season. Other than the Bulls relying on Derrick Rose, the Magic could rely on a single player more than any other team in the Eastern Conference. When he leaves, their hopes go with him.
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With Kidd on the verge of retirement at age 38, and Nowitzki past his prime, time could be running out for Dirk to win a championship. Surely Mark Cuban will find a way to bring a title home to Dallas, but his time with this bunch is running out. Shawn Marion is now 32, while Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic are both a year older at 33. Currently, this team doesn't have the resources to replace all of these players.
Window of Opportunity: Three years. Dirk should have a few more good years left in him and he can carry his team to the playoffs. It will be up to Cuban to find the players needed to change this team from solid to great.
San Antonio Spurs
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Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili may be entering the final phase of their careers, but the Spurs seem ready to reload their core. Tony Parker is still in his twenties and DeJuan Blair has had a fantastic season. Nobody on the roster can replace the stellar careers that Ginobili and Duncan have had, but this team should be in the playoffs for years to come.
Window of opportunity: Two years, closed for a year, and back open again. Duncan and Ginobili should be able to play a few more years of good basketball before handing off the reigns to the younger guys. It will take an adjustment period for the younger players to rise up to the challenge and learn to play without their elders, but it should take only a year or so to get it down.