NBA Contenders and Pretenders: Debating Who Can Win a Championship Next Season
The NBA’s current landscape is in a period marked by a perpetual state of flux. A progression that was initially triggered by LeBron James and last season’s blistering Miami Heat wave that enveloped North America from coast to coast.
The ensuing aftermath caused an ongoing continental shift that is forcing big market NBA franchises to transform themselves into super teams.
But as the Dallas Mavericks proved last season with just one superstar in Dirk Nowitzki, super teaming is not a required blueprint for success.
Bleacher Report’s debate team that includes Allen Kim (Deputy NBA Editor) and Rich Fernandes (Featured Columnist), will cross analyze the top 10 teams as projected for NBA 2011-12.
We will provide individual extrapolations that (in most cases) will reflect opposite perspectives of these teams in an endeavor to label them as either pretenders or contenders.
For the purpose of this debate, a pretender is defined as a team that in our individual and contrary opinions, have little hope of winning a championship next year, despite being good enough to make the playoffs.
What makes this debate compelling is that Allen Kim and I agree on only a few of these pretenders and contenders as our in depth arguments will illustrate.
Where do your opinions lie?
Teams that did not make this list but who will probably also make next season’s playoffs include the Clippers, Wizards, Celtics and Nuggets.
The super talented L.A. Clippers and Washington Wizards will be tremendously exciting to watch next season as they visibly continue their maturation processes towards greatness, but the young Blake Griffin, John Wall and friends are still far too raw to make it to the NBA’s endgame.
The dominant days of Boston’s Big Three are over as the inevitable retirement window closes in on them. That will leave the Celtics to face the gargantuan task of rebuilding around their lone superstar, Rajon Rondo.
It’s puzzling, however, that this team and their Big Three formation was not able to win at least two championships.
The Denver Nuggets have surprised most critics after the infamous Carmelo Anthony trade but still have much to prove before making a list like this including resigning a number of key free agents or effectively replacing them.
While we realize that the NBA lockout may impact the entire season without a single game ever being played, it’s most likely that the year will be saved in the form of a shortened season.
So without further ado, let the debate begin!
Rich Fernandes: The Orlando Magic Are Pretenders
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The Orlando Magic will continue to be pretenders as long as they are weighed down by the league’s second highest payroll which is wasted on garbage players.
After starting last season with two outstanding perennial underachievers in Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis, Orlando finally gave up on both sending them packing in a tenuous trade that brought in two more con-artists in Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas.
All is certainly not well in the Magic Kingdom and desperate Orlando is facing the impossible, yet dire task of recycling their roster (again). It’s unfortunate that getting rid of Arenas and Turkoglu is not as simple as putting them out on the curb for Monday morning pickup.
That’s because both Arenas and Turkoglu represent catastrophic cap problems for the Magic that will keep their fans violently ill for a few more years. Last year, the Magic had the second highest payroll in the league, representing three players with the top 30 NBA salaries.
After yet another early playoff exit (first round against the Atlanta Hawks), the Magic face a critical proposition. Trade their superstar and franchise player Dwight Howard or risk losing him for nothing when he walks as a free agent in 2012.
But Howard still has three major flaws in his otherwise dominant game that includes putrid “Shaq like” foul shooting as well as a propensity to completely disappear from key games for long stretches of time for absolutely no logical reason.
Not to mention his tendency to pick up an unnecessary amount of technical fouls that often have him watching the game from the sidelines.
Howard, however, is as good as gone when he becomes a free agent because he simply does not belong in the same company of such a large collection of underachievers—and he knows it.
Allen Kim: The Orlando Magic Are Pretenders
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The Orlando Magic are a franchise in turmoil.
Magic general manager Otis Smith has gambled throughout his tenure with the Orlando Magic and will have to do so again this summer if he expects the Magic to have a shot at competing for a title in the top-heavy East.
Smith’s toughest task will be to convince Dwight Howard to remain with the franchise. His contract status could very well be a serious distraction throughout the regular season.
With a bevy of putrid contracts on the roster, the team’s ability to make moves is severely limited. The team is not strong enough to compete now and is unable to make moves to improve the roster due to the awful contracts that are hampering the team makes a championship out of reach.
Howard will do his best to carry the burden on his shoulders, but he alone is not enough.
Rich Fernandes: The NY Knicks Are Pretenders
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The New York Knicks are the most valuable franchise in the NBA, yet despite being in the league since it's inception (1946), this team has only two championships to their credit, and the Knicks have most definitely lost their road map that provides instructions on how to get to the top.
The confounding thing about the Knicks is that they had almost all the pieces of a genuine championship contender before the blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade that has plunged them back into mediocrity.
It certainly was not a surprise ending to the previously asinine Melo-drama that plagued the first half of the season.
Acquiring a center with a dominant post presence instead of Melo would have done wonders for the Knicks by also providing them with the necessary cap space to pick up some more key pieces to polish off an already set roster.
Before Stoudemire and Anthony came to the Big Apple, they played several years for top five teams (Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets), and both failed repeatedly to make it to the big show.
Mike D’Antoni, a head coach who favors outscoring opponents to win at the cost of good solid defense (or any defense for that matter), is just not going to help get the job done with two defenseless superstars.
Add to this mix of failure a mentally challenged, interfering owner in James Dolan and Knicks’ fans find themselves eating a reluctant malfunction formula that will have them pulling out their hair for years.
The new CBA may present a bigger challenge to the Knicks pursuit of key acquisitions (including Chris Paul or Dwight Howard and effective role players), especially considering the exorbitant and exponentially growing contracts of both Anthony and Stoudemire.
In fact, the Knicks have become such enormous pretenders that they don’t even warrant a place on this list. The only reason they’re here is to present an argument for all those disillusioned Knicks fans who think they have even the slightest chance of winning a title.
The Knicks were hot, but now they're not.
There is no question that Dolan should be named Time Magazine’s Fool of the Year, beating out Charlie Sheen in a landslide for the infamously prestigious award.
Allen Kim: The NY Knicks Are Pretenders
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As Amar’e Stoudemire boldly claimed last summer, the Knicks are back.
However, they’re most assuredly not on the same level as the championship caliber squad from the '90s and the title-winning team from the '70s. They’re just better than the god-awful squad put together by Isiah Thomas.
After a season filled with drama that finally ended with Carmelo Anthony landing on the Knicks, the Denver Nuggets ended up coming out of the deal the true winners. The Knicks roster was decimated and their depth non-existent.
The team’s cap is consumed by the team’s two star players, and they’ll have trouble making any significant moves.
The worst part is that the team’s two best players tend to take a possession or two—or a dozen—off on defense. If they don’t set the tone, the rest of the team will not follow suit.
With inept owner, James Dolan, constantly sticking his nose where he shouldn’t be, the Knicks will never win a championship in the foreseeable future unless they get lucky and land a third star.
They already hurt their chances when they forced Donnie Walsh to step down. Now all that’s left is a no-defense coach and a bunch of overpaid stars.
The Knicks will make noise and pester opposing teams all season long, but they’re second-round exit material at best.
Rich Fernandes: The San Antonio Spurs Are Pretenders
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After a very successful 61 win season and teasing their fans with the possibility of adding a fifth championship to their trophy case, the Spurs fizzled and were eliminated by the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.
Surly, the Spurs faith in signing Richard Jefferson to a four-year deal worth almost $40 million last summer had something to do with it. Jefferson has been nothing short of an absolute dud comparable to the likes of Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis.
But the Spurs Big Three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginoboli and Tony Parker are also in decline. You also cannot look into their eyes and see a single trace of fire anymore. In fact, against the Grizzlies, they seemed to resemble deer caught in the headlights.
Tim Duncan’s window for adding a fifth championship to his haul is on life support.
It’s almost a sad ending for a team that was able to build a strong core through the NBA draft that helped them attain a dynasty.
Now that Parker seems headed for the trading block, nothing short of picking up Tyson Chandler AND Steve Nash as well as dumping Richard Jefferson for an effective replacement (however unlikely it may be) will return to the winning circle next season.
And for the first time in a decade, the Spurs have become pretenders.
Allen Kim: The San Antonio Spurs Are Contenders
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The San Antonio Spurs led the league for most of the regular season but started to run out of gas as the playoffs approached. That became even more apparent when they were upset by the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.
I foresee a lockout-shortened season reminiscent of the one that took place in 1998.
That plays into the favor of the Spurs. As an aging team, cutting close to 30 games out of the schedule will help them maintain their health and strength for the postseason.
Tim Duncan and the core of the Spurs may be old, but they surely have enough fight in them to make one last run at a title.
Rich Fernandes: The Memphis Grizzlies Are Contenders
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The Grizzlies had a benchmark year by shocking the 61-win San Antonio Spurs in the first round and scaring Kevin Durant and Co. before succumbing to the Thunder in the second round of the playoffs.
They seem to be a very deep team comprised of youth, talent, length and newly gained playoff experience.
You could make a case that Randolph is a superstar power forward based on his high efficiency rating and dominant play on both ends of the court. And Randolph was one of only 11 NBA players last season to average a double-double.
You could also make a case that the Grizz have budding superstars in Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay.
Furthermore, you cannot look past the leadership and defensive contributions of one Shane Battier, who exudes qualities that are much needed on such a young and promising team.
Memphis is missing the new multi-superstar blueprint of an NBA super-team, but the talent that runs through their roster is obviously there, and perhaps more importantly, it’s evenly spread out.
What’s surprising is that the Grizzlies' playoff success didn’t include the injured Rudy Gay.
Keeping this team intact may be the only thing keeping the Grizzlies from winning a championship over the next few years. It’s important to note that both Gasol and Shane Battier are free agents.
There will be a few unsuspecting, top teams that will become victims of a Grizzly mauling next season, and that momentum will carry them deep into the playoffs.
Allen Kim: The Memphis Grizzlies Are Pretenders
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The Memphis Grizzlies fought long and hard throughout the regular season only to squeak into the postseason.
However, when they finally made a serious playoff run for the first time in franchise history, they flipped the script and turned the NBA world on its head when they upset the heavily favored San Antonio Spurs.
They fearlessly battled the OKC Thunder in the second round but ultimately fell short in their epic seven-game series.
In doing so, the Grizzlies showed that they’re not to be trifled with. They even managed to do this without—arguably their best or second best player—Rudy Gay.
While the Grizzlies showed signs of greatness, I’m going to go with my gut on this one and say that they’ll never amount to more than playoff pests—the type of scrappy team that threatens to derail the season of a contender but never fulfills that goal.
Rich Fernandes: The OKC Thunder Are Pretenders
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Kevin Durant is a true superstar, and his ability to win his second straight scoring title is the proof in the pudding. But aside from Durant, Russell Westbrook and some decent role players, the Thunder are nothing more than pretenders.
Two major problems the Thunder face include the incompetency of both Kendrick Perkins and Russell Westbrook.
Kendrick Perkins is extremely overrated, and if looks could kill, Perkins would be the ultimate defensive Medusa capable of turning opposing players into stone, but unfortunately for OKC, that’s not the way it works.
The argument that Perkins is a beast in the paint will only go so far for a center who is an extremely mediocre rebounder and scorer, not to mention injury prone.
The Thunder also face a glaring fault in Russell Westbrook’s game. He plays like the shooting guard he was in college and has shown that he’s extremely inefficient at the point.
But there is a fairly easy solution to both of these problems that would turn both the Thunder’s negatives into a positive and give them a good shot at a title.
OKC has to figure out a way to sweep the overrated Perkins under the rug and obtain a productive center or get Kevin Garnett to help bail him out.
Secondly, Russell Westbrook is indeed a superstar that is playing out of position and should be moved to the shooting guard spot. A point guard should help make his teammates better by facilitating the offense, something that Westbrook clearly does not do effectively.
Westbrook’s style of play, however, would make him one of the top three shooting guards in the league, but as a point guard, he won’t be taking OKC very far as they will remain pretenders and utterly thunderstruck in next season’s playoffs.
Allen Kim: The OKC Thunder Are Contenders
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The Oklahoma City Thunder were a trendy pick to make it all the way to the NBA Finals last season. Even though they ultimately fell short, they had a phenomenal season, and they should only get better from here.
While still young and inexperienced, they showed their mettle by battling their way to the Western Conference finals.
Led by the explosive duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder are easily one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
They have one of the most well-rounded rosters in the NBA.
Although Russell Westbrook is a playmaker, he has a scorer’s mentality, which can be a boon and a curse.
Kendrick Perkins was a surprise addition at the trade deadline. It may have cost the Thunder Jeff Green, but the trade will pay dividends in the future.
They now have a legitimate center in Perkins and one of the most intimidating enforcers in the NBA. He wasn’t very effective during his limited run with the team last season, but with an offseason to develop chemistry with his new teammates, he could round into Celtics title-run form.
Westbrook shoulders a lot of blame—whether unfairly or not—when the team struggles. When he’s too aggressive and keeping the ball out of Durant’s hands, people lob criticisms at him.
If he’s not aggressive enough, he gets blamed for not taking advantage of his physical and athletic advantages.
A new CBA could seriously hamper the organization’s ability to continue to build out their deep roster, but until the time comes to re-sign their key players, they have a squad capable of winning it all.
Rich Fernandes: The Chicago Bulls Are Pretenders
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LeBron James exposed Derrick Rose in the Eastern Conference finals and completely owned this year’s MVP award winner.
And during that series, the only thing more silly than Rose forcing his offensive game through a brick wall by shooting 30 percent or less on a ridiculously high amount of low percentage shots (while being double teamed) is the fact that he is a point guard.
With the exception of the first game against the Heat, Chicago was MIA and only once—Carlos Boozer (23 points and 17 rebounds in a Game 3 loss)—did any Bull show up to play in any of the remaining games.
But unfortunately, Boozer has always been a terribly inconsistent, underachieving, discombobulating enigma in the playoffs and is not a player who can be counted on.
It was a sobering experience to witness the major weakness of Chicago’s big star. Derrick Rose doesn’t know the difference between games where he should be the main point of distribution and games where he must step it up and take over the offense out of sheer necessity in a way only Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Deron Williams know how.
In addition, a point guard as the No. 1 scoring option of a team is a contradiction in terms, especially when taking into account the definition of a point guard.
And Roses’ selfish play can be likened to Tom Brady of the New England Patriots calling rushing plays for himself on every down, despite knowing that he’ll be facing a linebacker blitz all night long as a result of his obvious predictability.
Rose falls into the very same superstar conundrum as his clone, Russell Westbrook, and like his counterpart, would be far more effective as a shooting guard, because after all, he’s more of a shooter than a facilitator.
In fact, only Kobe Bryant and Monta Ellis shot the ball more than Rose last season—not to mention that there were nine other point guards who averaged more assists than Rose.
As a result, the Bulls lacked the collective fortitude of their team as well as an effective offensive strategy, and that inevitably stalled their rudderless ship’s engine.
With their present offensive dynamic, the Bulls are pretenders and will only stampede themselves.
Allen Kim: The Chicago Bulls Are Contenders
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The Chicago Bulls were the surprise story of the 2010-11 season. Led by the league MVP Derrick Rose they put together the most successful campaign of the post-Jordan Bulls.
However, Rose can’t take all the credit as rookie head coach Tom Thibodeau masterfully directed the Bulls on his way to winning Coach of the Year.
They had the best record in the league, a suffocating defense and a more than potent offensive attack.
The Bulls did have a glaring void in their roster, which was at shooting guard. There are a number of rumored players linked to the team, but all the talk hasn’t amounted to much. When the lockout is eventually lifted, their top priority should be on filling that position.
Chicago is a well-rounded team. Rose leads the attack and orchestrates the offense, Luol Deng plays the do-it-all sidekick, Boozer occupies the low post and Joakim Noah anchors the defense.
After a full season, a crushing playoff defeat and a summer to work as a unit, the Bulls should come back stronger next season.
Rich Fernandes: The Portland Trail Blazers Are Contenders
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The Portland Trail Blazers are a group of gritty fighters who just don’t know when to give up. They certainly didn’t after the no show of Greg Oden or after the tragedy of Brandon Roy, whose bone-on-bone knees will prevent him from reaching his unlimited potential.
But even without Oden and Roy, the Blazers look like an extremely balanced team on both ends of the court. And they are an offensive team with a very solid and gritty defensive game.
LaMarcus Aldridge has proven that he is one of the best power forwards in the game and he should have been on last season’s All-Star ballot. Gerald Wallace is a driving force of talent and sheer determination.
Marcus Camby is still a defensive force among many on this team, including Wes Mathews and Nicolas Batum.
The latest acquisition of point guard, Raymond Felton, came extremely cheap from the Denver Nuggets. Felton represents a huge upgrade at the point with above average distribution skills and the ability to quarterback an up tempo game.
Even without Oden and Roy, the Blazers look scary. But if Oden and Roy are able to contribute as effective role players, then the word scary to describe the 2011-12 Blazers would translate to scary as hell.
The Blazers have the will and determination to overcome the worst bad luck situations imaginable, a characteristic of a true champion.
It would be an erroneous proposition to count these fighters out, because they certainly have it within themselves to blaze a scorching trail.
Allen Kim: The Portland Trail Blazers Are Contenders...Sort Of
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The Portland Trail Blazers have been a scrappy team despite the constant cycle of injuries that have decimated their roster and playoff hopes.
Greg Oden was a big blow but nowhere near as large as Brandon Roy’s recent health issues.
Roy showed flashes of brilliance during the playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks, but there are still lingering concerns over his ailing knee.
Can he stay healthy? How limited will his minutes be? Has he been robbed of his explosiveness?
In spite of their bad luck, one of the few good things to come out of the 2010-11 season was the emergence of LaMarcus Aldridge. He finally broke out of his shell, and if he hasn’t already, he’s knocking on the door of the league’s elite.
To back up their new centerpiece and to add to their depth, they managed to find a gem when they signed Wesley Matthews last season and picked up Gerald Wallace at the trade deadline.
However, I believe the team’s X-factor next season will be their offseason acquisition, Raymond Felton.
They snagged Felton from the Denver Nuggets during the draft, and he’s the playmaking point guard who may finally get the Blazers over their playoff hump.
I can confidently claim the Portland Trail Blazers as dark horse contenders for the 2011-12 season. I don’t expect them to win it all, and I certainly wouldn’t bet on them, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they hoisted up the Larry O’Brien trophy at season’s end.
Rich Fernandes: The L.A. Lakers Are Pretenders
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The Lakers were heavy favorites during NBA 2010-11 to make it to the NBA Finals and beat the Miami Heat in the much anticipated showdown that was referred to as the Heat-or-Three-peat.
But they were a no show for that highlighted engagement and the philosophy behind the cliché, hindsight is 20/20, tells us that the Lakers (who were swept in the second round of the playoffs) were pretenders and not contenders.
It’s not that the biggest payroll in the league (which is some tens of millions of dollars more than most other NBA teams) are not capable of winning it all, because they definitely are—despite a plethora of problems that include Kobe’s left knee, as well as their need for a competitive point guard.
After all, the Lakers have the most dominant team when you look at overall talent and experience. That includes superstars in Kobe Bryant (one of the NBA’s leading scorers) and Pau Gasol (the NBA’s fifth most efficient player according to NBA.com). They also have the second best center in Andrew Bynum and the best sixth man in Lamar Odom.
Lakers fans and analysts alike are pointing at potential trade scenarios that could help their resolve next season, including superstar acquisitions of either Dwight Howard or Chris Paul.
But that analysis represents a major oversight in a clear and present danger crisis that defines the Lakers as a top prospective team hindered by extremely poor chemistry.
In fact, it will be a huge undertaking for the Lakers to overcome the lack of maturity displayed by all their star players which has led to their current array of trust issues. The process of injecting some sense of synergy into their collective and decaying mental composition will not be an easy task.
Kobe Bryant may be one of the few NBA Lords of the Rings, but while in the twilight of his career, it won't be enough to carry the Lakers to a title.
Allen Kim: The L.A. Lakers Are Contenders
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As the two-time defending champs, the Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2010-11 season as title favorites. While they had their fair share of troubles throughout the regular season, many expected the Lakers to get their act together and play like the championship-level squad they were seen as.
When the Lakers were swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, it made waves in the sports world. Everyone in Los Angeles immediately went into panic mode and started calling for changes. People started to suggest practically everyone not named Kobe Bryant get traded.
Phil Jackson retiring certainly didn’t make things any easier.
The Lakers coaching staff has been revamped with Mike Brown taking over as head coach. His hiring signals a shift toward a defensive-oriented team. The problem, however, is that the team is aging and lacks the athleticism to match up against younger and faster squads.
At this juncture, Derek Fisher isn’t much of a factor on both sides of the ball. He still brings leadership and a veteran presence to the table, but that alone does not win ball games. Robert Horry was right when he called for a change at point guard.
Kobe, while still one of the best in the game today, is no longer—depending on whom you ask —the best at his position. Not to mention, with the injuries mounting, there are growing concerns over his longevity,
Despite all this, the Lakers are still arguably the most attractive franchise to play for, they have one of the deepest squads in the league and one of the greatest players to ever play the game is leading the way.
Not to mention, they have deep pockets—those are all reasons enough to make them serious contenders to the throne.
Keep in mind that the very same back-to-back championship squad is mostly intact. Drastic changes are not needed in Tinseltown. They just have to find an identity under their new coach, trust each other and get back to playing championship-level ball.
Rich Fernandes: The Dallas Mavericks Are Contenders
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If hindsight is indeed 20/20, it certainly did not apply to the Dallas Mavericks last season. These perennial contenders and playoff flameouts were, for all intents and purposes, left for dead by NBA fans and analysts alike and absolutely nobody took them seriously.
Dirk Nowitzki has greatly improved his legacy with his first title and is now widely considered as the best European import to ever play the game. He was a dominating scorer that proved to be extremely clutch in the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat in the Finals—the antithesis of James.
The Mavs simply outplayed their opponents this past postseason as they beat LaMarcus Aldridge and the Portland Trail Blazers, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Thrice and the Miami Heat in efficient succession.
Caron Butler will be returning from injury and the Mavs should continue to be the deepest club in the NBA, with a bench that will boast Shawn Marion, DeShawn Stephenson and Jason Terry.
Two key players entering free agency include Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea—both have proved that they are forces to be reckoned with at their respective positions. Keeping both will increase Dallas’ chances of repeating next season, and it’s unlikely either will leave a favorable situation in Dallas.
Allen Kim: The Dallas Mavericks Are Contenders
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The Dallas Mavericks first shocked the world when they swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. They rode that success past the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals and into the NBA Finals where they defeated the Miami Heat.
As Rich stated, retaining Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea will be pivotal to their title hopes. However, Dallas will be entering the 2011-12 season over the current cap and with limited room to work with. Mark Cuban will have to work his magic to keep the core of the title team intact.
Caron Butler is a free agent, and since they managed to win a title without him, it’s doubtful they’ll attempt to bring him back at his likely high price tag.
They acquired Rudy Fernandez through a draft day trade, who brings a bit of youth and athleticism to an aging team that certainly lacks that explosiveness.
He also happens to be an excellent shooter, which should make him a useful weapon on a team that focuses a large part of their offense on surrounding their centerpiece Dirk Nowitzki with sharpshooters.
Despite their age, the Mavericks certainly have as good a chance as any of the top contenders at winning a title next season. As the defending champs, they’ll have a bullseye on their backs all season long, but they’re battle tested and finely coached.
If Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd want to add another ring to their resume, their best chance will be the 2011-12 season.
Rich Fernandes: The Miami Heat Are Contenders
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It had to have been an extremely nerve-racking season for Miami Thrice while they tried to live up to their lofty and self publicized dynasty proclamations.
The enormous pressure for them to win was directly on their shoulders from the very beginning, and both LeBron James and Chris Bosh made the Heat’s predicament much worse by persistently putting both their own feet in their mouths.
It’s a wonder that Dwyane Wade didn’t catch the foot and mouth pandemic shared by his costars.
Despite early struggles, the Heat overcame adversity on several fronts last season. They proved they could play together and beat winning teams when critics said they couldn’t.
They proved that they could overcome their weakest links that included the bench, the center and point guard positions, as well as an inexperienced head coach.
And the symbiosis of Miami Thrice is simply undeniable as they have shown just how dominant they can be.
LeBron James is clearly the NBA's best player and Dwyane Wade is a top-five player, who has replaced Kobe Bryant as the league's best shooting guard.
Las Vegas has favored the Heat to win it all next season after a year of playing together, and you would be foolish to bet your house against them.
Can the Miami Heat fulfill their promise of a dynasty in the coming years? Here is a list of the teams that have a chance to stop that dynasty from ever happening.
Allen Kim: The Miami Heat Are Contenders
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The Miami Heat didn’t exactly live up to the massive expectations placed on them in the regular season, but once the playoffs started, they got their act together and showed the league how dangerous they can truly be.
Outside of the two-and-a-half men, the Heat were surrounded by a group of aging veterans and minimum salary role players. While many questioned whether or not this could be a winning formula, the Heat’s success clearly proved that they are more than capable of reaching the top, even if they ultimately fell short of taking the crown.
As Michael Jordan once said, “I've failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”
The Heat failed multiple times throughout the regular season and faced their biggest failure when it mattered most. On top of all the hatred, nearly reaching the pinnacle and falling short should only make the Heat even hungrier than ever before.
I fully expect the Heat to come back stronger next season as they’ve had a full season, a deep playoff run and summer to work out the kinks and really come together as a unit.
To me, it’s not a matter of if they’ll win a championship—it’s a matter of when.
About the Authors
Allen serves as the Deputy NBA Editor for Bleacher Report. Since coming on board, he has witnessed incredible growth in the company and writers and is privileged to be a part of B/R.
Born and raised in New York, he naturally grew attached to the Patrick Ewing-era New York Knicks. However, despite a decade of futility under "he who shall not be named," he's looking forward to a new chapter in Knickerbocker history.
Rich is a resident of Toronto, Ontario and is an avid sports nut. Rich’s favorite sports include: NHL Hockey, NFL Football, NBA Basketball and Ultimate Fighting. Rich also loves playing the game of squash and loves to go downhill skiing in the winter.
Rich has found Bleacher Report to be an enjoyable experience as well as the ultimate platform for the serious sports fan.
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