With the 2011 NBA Finals set to kick off today, the entire 2010-11 season is hitting its dusk as only two teams out of the total 30 remain.
It got me wondering about next season. Which teams will have the best chance (pending free agency and the draft, of course) to win the title for the 2011-12 campaign?
Using Vegas-like odds, I will predict every team's chances for a title in the coming season.
Thanks for reading!
The Atlanta Hawks figure to have a busy offseason.
Josh Smith will be shopped, and Jamal Crawford, a free agent, will be a key re-signing. If the Hawks are unable to fulfill the latter's wishes, then these odds will become drastically worse. After all, he was their Mr. Clutch in the 2011 postseason.
After coming off a third postseason in a row that didn't produce a trophy, the Boston Celtics are quickly aging and proving that the "Big Three" experiment is waving off.
Don't expect Kevin Garnett and Company to fully diminish by next season, though. They might have a chance.
If the Charlotte Bobcats are serious about perhaps trying to reel in a superstar to North Carolina during the summer of 2012, then they must lure in solid talent to use as trade bait.
As for the 2011-12 season, there is a small hope for a title, but there's realistically no chance.
The Chicago Bulls finally came back to basketball relevance this past season by winning 62 games and finishing above the Heat and the Celtics atop the Eastern Conference.
I'd say they have a strong chance next year to avenge their loss to Miami and take their talents back to the Finals for the first time since His Airness left over a decade ago.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are still trying to find a niche in the NBA ever since King James let down the entire city and booked a flight to South Beach.
One thing is certain about the 2011-12 season: Cleveland will have young talent.
Come 2014, these odds will increase tremendously.
For now, they'll still be a cellar dweller.
They're in the Finals this year, so is there anyway I couldn't see them having such great odds?
It's not like one offseason is going to tear the Dallas Mavericks apart.
This team is going to be good post-Carmelo Anthony, but I'm not sure that a title is in store for next year.
A busy offseason will be approaching the Denver Nuggets soon, and they need to re-sign all their important pieces in order to contribute to the championship puzzle.
The Detroit Pistons are in absolute flux.
There is no chance that they contend for the 2011-12 title, hence the worst odds on this slideshow.
The new-look Golden State Warriors had a decent 36-46 season that saw them miss the playoffs by a mere 10-game margin.
If the Warriors are to improve their title odds for next season, they must learn to step it up defensively.
Even with a mediocre team and coach, the Houston Rockets managed to pull 43 victories out of their behinds last season. Did an injury-riddled roster prevent them from going to the playoffs?
A title isn't as far-fetched as it sounds for 2012.
In returning to the postseason for the first time in almost a decade, the Indiana Pacers added a "future team" tag for the coming years.
The future might just be next year.
Blake Griffin's terrific rookie season got L.A. fans everywhere wondering—do the Clippers have a title in store sometime in the near future?
They have a solid nucleus of young players, sure, but it most likely won't happen next season.
Let's not be infatuated by one sweep enough that we altogether dismiss the Los Angeles Lakers' title hopes for next season.
Kobe Bryant's career is slowly hitting its twilight, but that doesn't mean the team won't make one more magical postseason run.
The Memphis Grizzlies surpassed expectations for the 2010-11 season, winning seven games in the playoffs and nearly reaching the Western Conference finals, so who's to say they can't take it to the next level in 2012?
It all depends on re-signing this guy on the left. If they give him a high enough offer, why wouldn't he take it?
The 2011 NBA Finals commence this evening, and regardless of whether the Miami Heat win or not, they will still be big players in next season's playoff race.
They will have the best odds to take home the 2012 title out of any team in the Association.
The Milwaukee Bucks took a step back in what was supposed to be a playoff run this year, winning 35 games and narrowly missing the postseason.
After further review, there is little to no chance they will be winning this time next year.
After a hapless season that saw them win a meager 17 games, the Minnesota Timberwolves look to improve and further establish themselves as a team with a bright future in the 2011-12 season.
For now, with the right moves, they could find themselves winning the 2012 NBA Finals.
After doubling 2009-10's win total (12) the following year, the New Jersey Nets proved they were on the right track in restoring their relevance in the NBA, something they haven't found since Vince Carter and Jason Kidd left town two and three years ago, respectively.
If they are to acquire Dwight Howard in the summer of 2012, they must focus their time on preparing young trade bait to toss to the Magic. A title isn't completely out of the question, but it's not going to happen regardless.
Does that even make sense?
Chris Paul nearly single-handedly led the New Orleans Hornets to the 2011 postseason.
If David West and Carl Landry don't re-sign with the team, the chances of even that happening are slim. A title is not in the cards for the Hornets next year.
Another team that has hopes of landing another superstar is the New York Knicks.
The Knickerbockers need to develop defensively if they are to return to the NBA Finals once more, and it's not out of the question to think they could do that next season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder finally broke through this year, winning two series and establishing themselves as the owner of the league's third-best player after signing him through 2016. Even then, the Durantula will only be a 27-year-old.
Now that the young team finally knows how to win in May, title talks can now begin.
Dwight Howard almost single-handedly took the Orlando Magic to the promised land two years ago, so who's to say it couldn't happen again next year?
Now if only they could follow through and actually win.
The Philadelphia 76ers have a plethora of solid young players.
Can those players take the team to its first title in over a quarter of a century?
It's unlikely, but it could happen.
See that picture?
It's a frustrated Steve Nash, who is realizing that the Suns have a very small chance at winning the title next season.
It's a shame that Nash, one of the best point guards of all time, will likely end his career title-less.
It is now safe to say that the Portland Trail Blazers are back.
Even without Greg Oden, the team's supposed savior from four years back, the club nearly knocked off the Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
It's not crazy to consider them in the hunt for next season's title.
The Sacramento Kings finished a relatively bad season with a good stretch.
They have young talent, just not enough. There's no way they even make the playoffs next year, let alone win a title.
Much to the joy of all the other teams in the league (and dismay of others), Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs are finally relinquishing future title hopes, most recently by becoming just the fourth No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 8.
It's been a fun run, guys, and even though you most likely won't win a title next season, there is a still a slim chance of a final hurrah.
Much like the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Toronto Raptors are for now a dismal team with a bright future that involves the postseason.
That future, unfortunately for Canada, will not commence until a few seasons from now.
The Utah Jazz possess the third and 12th picks in the 2011 draft, something that will help the crew in their coming years.
For now? No, they probably won't win a title next season, but there's a glimmer of hope.
Here's my sleeper pick for the following season.
The athletic Washington Wizards are going to impress next season. While they probably won't win a title, they'll make the playoffs. I'm calling that right now.