With the Lakers bowing out in Phil Jackson's final campaign and the Boston Celtics showing their age versus the Miami Heat, the torch is in the process of being passed on to the new generation of the NBA.
This new generation is fast. They are athletic. And they are incredibly young. This group is led by 2011 MVP Derrick Rose, two-time MVP LeBron James and two-time defending scoring champion Kevin Durant. Their respective ages are 22, 26 and 22.
Their run has been incredible over the last 15 years. Garnett and Bryant became the pioneers by traveling from high school straight to the pros. Paul Pierce became one of the best players in Celtics history, which is no small feat. While Tim Duncan did the seamlessly impossible by filling the very large shoes, literally and figuratively, of David Robinson. Between those four alone, they claim 10 rings among them (Garnett and Pierce share one).
It is a period of mixed emotions for NBA enthusiasts. On one hand, we will miss the presence of the incredible talents we have watched for nearly two decades. Yet, on the other, this new group entails everything a fan could possibly want. They are exciting, full of alley-oops and blistering fast breaks.
So while we anticipate the imminent decline of Los Angeles and Boston, which teams will benefit the most and step up in to the bright NBA spotlight?
This is the new rivalry. An extremely unlikely one of that. Basically the chances of this being the future of the league was the 2.1 percent chance that the Bulls had of getting that fateful No. 1 pick three years ago. Similarly, the Thunder were not supposed to be this good when they left Seattle.
But this is what the NBA now looks like. The Heat and Bulls in the East and the Thunder in the West are the new elite. They are followed by the Magic, Hawks and Knicks and the Nuggets, Trailblazers and Grizzlies.
With that, here is what I am saying: The Bulls and Thunder will be battling for the championship over the next five to seven years much like the Lakers and Celtics did. The funny thing is that Oklahoma and Chicago are built completely differently. Here is how they break down:
Chicago Bulls 2.0
Derrick Rose is a very special talent. His humble attitude and ferocious competitiveness are similar to a young Kobe Bryant.
Like his Lakers counterpart, Rose's game has gone from a streaking, athletic guard to a complete player with more weapons than a Swiss army knife.
The key, however, is the way the organization has built around their franchise player. With the incumbent role players of Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, the Bulls added bruising big man Carlos Boozer, sharpshooting Kyle Korver and defensive specialists Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer. This is a team that is built to compete for the short and long term, which is extremely hard to do.
Oklahoma City Thunder
With the drafting of Kevin Durant and the additions through the draft of Russel Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden as well as acquisition of Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder have the makeup of a perennial title contender.
We all know the scoring prowess of Durant, but the emergence of Westbrook was fairly unexpected by the basketball community. His presence alongside of Duranchula has been unavoidable for opposing defenses. In addition, the midseason trade of Perkins has provided them the inside force they have been lacking for a very long time.
These two teams, along with the Miami Heat, will be in the forefront of basketball for the majority of the next decade, as indicated recently by Derrick Rose's MVP award. So whether you like it or not, that's the way the cookie crumbles.