There is little doubt in my mind that the Boston Celtics will repeat as NBA champions. They decisively beat each team they played during the playoffs in each of the games they won.
Yes, they were beaten and taken to seven games by both the Hawks and the Cavs, but they began to play the stifling defense that made them so great during the regular season as the postseason wore on.
Detroit and Los Angeles, both of whom it could and should be argued are better than the Cavs and the Hawks, struggled to find ways to beat the cohesive team defense of the Celtics. All season long, Doc Rivers preached to his squad that the offense would come naturally, which it did. When they really buckled down and played great D, no one could penetrate.
The addition of Andrew Bynum to the Lakers, many would argue, would have changed the way the finals went. Some even go so far as to say that they would have won the championship with him. Considering his gaudy numbers in his breakout season, this outwardly seems to be a reasonable argument.
However, Bynum has not developed into a true offensive force. In a few years, I believe that he could be the best big man in the league. His footwork is crucial to that development. Going up against a seasoned veteran like Garnett would cause a young player like Bynum a lot of difficulty. Throw in a little bit of hack-a-Bynum with strong, hard, and frustrating fouls from the likes of Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Leon Powe, and I can’t see Bynum becoming the difference-maker he has the potential to be.
This year, with Powe, Davis, Gabe Pruitt, and Eddie House having more familiarity with the schemes, it appears there is really no one in either conference that can challenge the Celtics.
Throw in any sort of contribution from the exciting and athletic rookies J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker, and the loss of James Posey will be all but forgotten. The big three are another long year older and slower maybe, but Tony Allen has also regained some of his spring, Rajon Rondo is ready to shoulder an even bigger scoring load.
The Lakers were favored last year because many pundits assumed their bench would perform better. The Celtic's bench has gotten younger and better, while the Laker's bench has gotten older and worse. Who is going to lead the offensive charge of the Lakers? Derek Fisher, then Sasha Vujacic, and then Sun Yue?
The Celtics command moves from Rajon Rondo to a much improved (over this past summer) Gabe Pruitt, then Eddie House, and perhaps an old Sam Cassell.
Where’s the competition?