To say this lockout has been torture for hardcore basketball fans around the world is no stretch. It's crazy to think that we are supposed to be into the season right now watching the Dallas Mavericks try to make another run at a title.
Or seeing how the Los Angeles Lakers bounce back after being swept from a playoff series.
Perhaps to even to see what fate your favorite team will suffer based on a new CBA.
Anyway you put it, there is a lot to look forward to next season. It all depends on how long this lockout lasts that we have to wait.
For those of you that have lost interest in the NBA for various reasons, check out this list if you need some reminding of why you should be on edge waiting for the NBA season to begin.
Also, feel free to add your own reasons below and join the conversation.
Before the lockout ensued, we got a small taste of what all writers and fans love to hear about: A trade rumor.
Many teams are likely to inquire about the availability of the versatile Josh Smith, but none are more intriguing than the Orlando Magic. Paired with Dwight Howard, this could be the most imposing defensive front court in the NBA.
He could be the first big name to be dished post-lockout and has the talents to be an All-Star for the right team.
For the first time since the Patrick Ewing era, the city of New York finally has a basketball team worth talking about. After signing for Amare Stoudemire and trading for Carmelo Anthony mid-season, the Knicks look poised to be a factor in a stacked Eastern Conference.
Now the big issue will be just who they put around the dangerous combination to make them a more complete team.
Signing Chauncey Billups to such a large contract will really hinder what the Knicks can bring in via free agency. However, he is a solid point guard that could be major trade bait for a team looking to free up cap space next year.
With not many powerful options available through free agency this year, New York would be much better suited waiting one year to look for another possible star.
The free agent pool post-lockout isn't necessarily filled with players who will turn a franchise around. However, it does contain a few names with the caliber to be a solid fixture in the NBA for years to come.
For a list of players who could end up staying where they are, check out my article here.
Then you have the case for those players who are destined to play in another city. Names like Jamal Crawford, Shannon Brown and David West are sure names to move on from their current teams and pursue opportunities with new clubs.
Other players that didn't have success in their last jersey could look for a fresh start in their careers. These are where players like Mike Dunleavy, Leon Powe or Josh Howard fit in.
Look for the rest of the solid players to try their luck in finding a nice contract. It's going to be a frantic offseason based off the time before the actual season starts, so expect teams to scurry to pick up some significant help.
Kemba Walker. I'll go ahead and predict it.
He's on a team with no legitimate scoring threat and also possesses the leadership ability needed to be a stud in the NBA. He never takes a play off when it comes to giving it his all and is a proven winner.
He might not be the best overall player in the draft, but he is ready to make an immediate impact once the season starts.
Blake Griffin had one of the best rookie seasons of any player to date. Averaging 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds a game, Griffin quickly made a name for himself by being a pure throwdown artist with his exciting dunks.
If you need proof, just check out the show he put on the New York Knicks. Poor Timofey Mozgov....
Griffin also impressed spectators with his Slam Dunk Contest performance, beating out Javale McGee to bring home a trophy.
Expect the Clippers' star player to continue to dazzle with his ability inside.
New Orleans is in serious danger of losing Chris Paul eventually, but they could consider trading him to avoid coming up empty-handed.
Plenty of contending teams like the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers or Oklahoma City Thunder could look to propose a deal if things unravel in their favor.
If not, the New York Knicks could end up with CP3, arguably the best point guard in the NBA. Anyway you put it, it looks like Paul will play his last games in New Orleans this season.
He's shown the interest of leaving, it's just a matter of when.
Can you really sit here and tell me you don't enjoy listening to Jeff Van Gundy commentate?
He's got the right mix of analysis, comedy and ridiculous projections that keep you interested alongside the rest of the commentary crew.
He's no Gus Johnson when it comes to excitement, but I'd rather listen to Van Gundy ramble any day.
Close, but no cigar in the NBA Finals for the Miami Heat. Now with the first year hype over with, look for this team to vastly improve and focus solely on basketball.
With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade leading the way, the Heat have stars in their primes and an underrated bench when healthy.
If Chris Bosh sees an expanded role offensively, look for the Heat to open up a more fluent offensive attack.
Also expect Wade and James to continue with their instrumental offense, and maybe even learn a few new tricks along the way.
Miami is a great defensive team and could improve elsewhere with a few key free agent signings.
If not, this team should still be considered the favorite in the stacked Eastern Conference. My guess would be another trip to the NBA Finals, this time being successful.
Undoubtedly, Kobe Bryant was the best player in the NBA in his early prime years. He's still a deadly scorer and also possesses the best winning attitude since Michael Jordan.
Now with 15 years under his belt at the age of 33, how much longer do we have to watch the Black Mamba?
Based on his style of play, Kobe can still be a star in this league for a few more years, but a lot of that depends on how he deals with the constant nagging injuries.
Maybe the most loved and hated player during his time, Kobe will look for at least one more championship run to tie up Jordan at six (don't act like it's not in the back of his mind).
Averaging 25.3 points a game for his career, Kobe has put on some of the best single season performances ever witnessed on a NBA court. His clutch ability separates him from the average star, and his will to win only makes that gap further.
Coming from a Kobe basher, the NBA wont be the same without No. 24. However, that reality isn't approaching any time soon.
Once Steve Nash started to live up to his potential, he became one of the most popular point guards in the NBA. He's shown the ability to be a true leader on the court and has been part of some of the most high-powered offenses in the last decade.
Now that Nash is one of the oldest players in the game, it's likely he won't be a fixture in the league for long. Having won two straight MVP Awards, Nash will now look for a championship to go with his multiple accolades.
Will he retire a Phoenix Sun? It's possible, but he could look to venture with a true contender in his attempt to become a champion. Even LeBron James has teased the desire to play with the dime-dropper.
Nash can still shoot the lights out from downtown or the free-throw line, but just how long he will continue to play will be a thing to watch.
Hate him if you please, but Tim Duncan is the best power forward to ever play the game. With four NBA Championships and two MVP Awards to back his case, it's no secret that Duncan is on a steady decline.
Although he had a questionable All-Star appearance in 2011, it became the first year Duncan failed to average a double-double. Only playing 28 minutes a game, the big man put up a subpar 13.4 points and 8.9 rebounds for the season.
Based on being the "Big Fundamental", Duncan can still use his finesse ability to be a threat in the post. He is still a solid defender and a proven leader, making him an asset for the San Antonio Spurs.
After a storied career in the league, don't be surprised if Duncan has less than three seasons left as a player in the NBA.
When the combination of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett was assembled, it wasn't a question of if they would win a championship, but when and how many.
Although they only managed to squeeze out one against some tough competition, they managed to start a fad that we will see for quite a while: Stars teaming with stars.
Individually these three are going to the Hall of Fame, but it's not out of the question to say they can win one more championship.
In a shortened season, the fresher legs and experience could lead them to the promised land again.
We can't forget about all of the other aging veterans still in the NBA. Names like Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill are also getting closer to the point of retirement and will be missed by many.
While a lot of these players won't be in the Hall of Fame, they were still valuable role players or former All-Stars that gave everything they had each year they played.
It often suggests the beginning of a new generation of players, luckily we are blessed with a strong pool of upcoming talent.
Is there anything better in sports than a buzzer-beating situation late in a basketball game? If so, I haven't seen it yet.
There is no doubt that we will once again see hearts being broken at the end of games and heroes created at the same time.
Ok Cleveland, it's time to quit whining about LeBron James and embrace the consolation prize. With the first pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected a project in Kyrie Irving to lead the future.
After having a limited freshman year with the Duke Blue Devils due to injury, it's unclear just how good Irving can be. He's got the skills needed to be a pass-first point guard with a knack for scoring the ball. If Cleveland puts the right pieces around him, look for him to be an All-Star in the next few years.
Don't expect Kyrie to be crowned "King" just yet, but fans should be excited about what he can become for the organization.
They have fist-fought on the court, now Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley will be partners on TNT.
Expect a lot of "turrble" pronunciation by the duo with some of the most honest opinions you will hear anywhere.
Derrick Rose rightfully won the MVP Award for the 2010-11 NBA season, but to defend it this year will be just as tough.
While leading the Bulls to a surprising Eastern Conference top seed, Rose displayed the leadership and skills that landed him the first overall pick in the 2008 Draft. He's becoming an elite scorer in the NBA, and is putting together the talents needed to be a pure point guard. With a few more years of experience, Rose could be the best player in the game.
Don't count D-Rose out to have another amazing season, but to be MVP might be harder in this season.
Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. That is a list of active players that have held an MVP in their careers besides Derrick Rose.
Looking at the list, you can narrow that down to three players still capable of winning the award in 2011-12: Bryant, Nowtizki and James. These three are all superstars in their own right, and they are definate threats to take the title away from Rose.
James is reaching the prime of his career and should look hungrier than ever after his Finals defeat.
Kobe has never won a championship with any other coach but Phil Jackson. He will have to be in tip-top form to keep the Lakers in true contention.
Dirk is coming off a simply amazing playoff run. After falling down the list of best players in the NBA, Nowitzki arguably put himself in discussion as one of the top five players in the league with his Finals victory.
If not Rose, these three look like they could be favorites to hoist the prestigious award at the end of the season.
Let's not forget about the players that have yet to win a MVP, but have a ton of potential. Kevin Durant is my clear cut choice to win the award with flying colors.
Durant has the talents and team necessary to do big things next season. After a disappointing Western Conference Finals exit, the Oklahoma City Thunder could come into the season with a lot of hype and gain some serious looks for the favorite to win the wild wild west.
Could one of the New York Knicks dangerous duo put on a big enough show to gain consideration?
Or how about Miami's other star without an MVP in Dwyane Wade?
Not many expected Derrick Rose to win the award at the beginning of last season, so don't be too surprised to see another young star emerge as a candidate as well.
Mike Brown helped the Cleveland Cavaliers reach the NBA Finals once with LeBron James, but was eventually looked at as a scapegoat after seasons of not returning. Now Brown returns to the bench to help coach a Los Angeles Lakers team that could be perennial favorites to make a run.
With Cleveland in his rear view mirror, how will Brown adjust in a bigger market with an established star?
Kevin Love became a statistical anomaly last season by stacking up 20.2 points and 15.2 rebounds a game, the first player since Moses Malone to do so. Now that he has put himself on the map as a promising power forward, where does he go from here?
When looking at the bottom-seeded playoff teams it's not certain a lot of these teams will make an appearance again next season, especially in the East.
Possible teams like the Milwaukee Bucks or Charlotte Bobcats could win the small necessary amount of games that would elevate them into the playoffs. Also, don't count out young teams that are developing like the Washington Wizards to shake things up.
Out West we could see the Houston Rockets blast off with new coach Kevin McHale on the sidelines, or Blake Griffin lead the Los Angeles Clippers into the big dance.
Plenty of teams have what it takes to find a way into the playoffs and steal a series or two, but throughout the history of the NBA the underdog is usually that for a reason.
He's 33 years old with worse leaping ability than a dead frog, but somehow he always ends up with a contending team.
Averaging 1.1 points a game last year, it's obvious that he's a terrible player. However, it's his bench energy and positive attitude that keeps getting him signed.
Don't act like you are not impressed by the "White Mamba".....
It's been a tale of two sides for the Dallas Mavericks during the Dirk Nowitzki era. You have the choke artists that were upset in the first round when they had the Western Conference top seed a few years back, but now we have the team that made an improbable run to knock of the Miami Heat last season.
With so many players eligible for free agency on the Dallas roster, it's going to be an interesting story to see who returns .It looks like Mark Cuban has finally put the right pieces around his German star and should consider bringing most of them back.
If Tyson Chandler enforces the middle and J.J. Barea puts up big minutes off the bench, it's crazy to count the Mavericks out for a repeat run.
However, if Dallas loses the key free agents, it could be back to the middle of the pack for Cuban and the Mavericks.
Here is a list of five stars that will breakout in 2011-12:
John Wall: Wall has some of the quickest movements in basketball and continues to improve his court vision and scoring ability.
James Harden: With an expanded role, Harden can truly give the Oklahoma City Thunder a "big three." He will compliment star Kevin Durant with his scoring capabilities and is also becoming a solid defender.
DeMarcus Cousins: He's got the talent needed to be an elite center, but can he control his emotions on and off the court?
Jrue Holiday: At just 21 years old, Holiday looks primed to become a household name in the NBA. He showed significant improvement in his sophomore campaign with the Philadelphia 76ers and is becoming a versatile player.
Javale McGee: McGee is another young Washington Wizards player with potential. He's a force defensively and one of the most athletic big men in the NBA. With a little polishing to his offensive touch, he's going to be a complete player.
Feel free to add your own via comment.
Midway through the 2010-11 season, no team looked better than the San Antonio Spurs. They were a fluent offense with veteran players staying healthy. After they started to slip down the stretch, they became the prey instead of the hunter.
Once the Memphis Grizzlies hit hot streak, they never looked back after destroying the top-seeded Spurs in round one of the playoffs.
Everyone always roots for the underdog and last year they got their money's worth.
Perhaps last year will be the same if the NBA becomes a more even playing field.
There is something intriguing about a gorilla in a basketball jersey jumping off a trampoline to dunk a basketball, but I'd rather see a roller-skating raptor faceplant.
Which do you all prefer?
Two years ago it was Gilbert Arenas that pulled a gun on teammate Javaris Crittenton over a gambling debt. This quickly became one of the worst situations in NBA history and eventually played a big factor in a Gilbert Arenas trade shortly after.
Then we go to last year where DeMarcus Cousins started a fight with Donte Green because he didn't get the last shot in a close game.
Both are examples of truly terrible teammates who put a burden on overall chemistry, Hopefully they will fight on the court next time so we can at least get some entertainment value, right?
Less than a decade ago the Sacramento Kings had one of the rowdiest crowds in the NBA. Once the greats like Vlade Divac, Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic left town, it seemed like the fans did too.
There is a major possibility that the Kings franchise could pack up and head elsewhere if a few conditions aren't met. A new arena plan must be in place and fan attendance will have to rise as well.
If not, look for the Anaheim Kings to look a lot more realistic in the following season.
Wouldn't it be great if your favorite team could rid themselves of a terrible contract without suffering much for it? Well, if a new amnesty clause is included in the new CBA, you may get your wish.
Maybe more famously known as the Allan Houston Rule, a team has the right to axe one contract without it going against the organization's luxury tax threshold.
Look for names like Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis to have their ridiculous earnings become a thing of the past thanks to this.
On the flip-side, could some of these players become hot commodities if they would sign for another team for a much cheaper price?
Once the World Series is over with, what do we honestly have to look forward to on weeknights?
Yes, college basketball is only a few weeks away, but there's no doubt that fans are happier with more games to watch. It's always great to have variety, which is why the winter season is the best time for sports.
With football and basketball both in play, there will never be a shortage of entertainment in the sporting world.
Did you notice I didn't say hockey?
While Mark Jackson recently landed his first coaching job, he comes into a organization that has a lot of current problems facing them.
Led by a lights-out shooter in Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors do not have many bright spots surrounding him.
David Lee looks like he will not make a huge difference for a struggling Golden State team.
Throw in the fact that Andris Biedrins can't stay healthy and looks to be another failed contract, and things don't look much better.
Worst of all, the team's leading scorer has been mentioned in many possible trade scenarios. Trading him might give Curry and the Warriors the role players they need to finally progress.
Don't look for the former point guard turned head coach to make an immediate impact, but he's got the basketball knowledge to really teach a young team.
The NBA has the best All-Star weekend of any professional sport in the world. It's a dreadful thought to think this lockout could end up canceling the festivities and leave us with no events.
The All-Star game is the one time of year where players have fun and we see possible legendary combinations like Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul or Dwight Howard with an actual good point guard.
Along with that, you can't forget the many highlight plays that occur and live in our minds forever.
I'll deal with losing a month of the season, but the All-Star Game is much different.
The NBA Slam Dunk Contest has dwindled in the past few years. It used to be a competition to crown the true best dunk artist in the NBA, now it's pretty much players using props and stories instead of impressing us with their actual ability.
Until we see a contest with LeBron James and many of the other elite dunkers in the league, it's never going to live up to the potential the event still has.
However, it is still a contest filled with stuff we will never see in real games. No one will come out of a phone booth or blow out a candle on top of the rim and actually be taken serious in the league.
All-in-all, it's still better than the MLB Home Run Derby and at least makes us jump off our feet sometimes.
I guess this is still worth watching. Usually it consists of a bunch of role players taking shots they normally shoot in real situations, but hey we can still gamble!
It is still much more watchable than the Skills Challenge or Shooting Stars Competition.
Yes, another All-Star weekend event, and possible the most intriguing of them all. It's two All-Star teams filled with rookies and sophomores showcasing how good they can be and how far the elder team has progressed over the last year.
Once again, this contest is a high-scoring affair with many exciting plays and not many events surpass it in entertainment value. I'll go ahead and predict a huge sophomore victory by double-digit points for next year.
Whether it's LeBron James chasing you down on a fast break for a block or Dwight Howard using his athleticism to deny opponents, a blocked shot is arguably the most exciting play in basketball.
To rise and throw a ball 45 feet after a bad shot attempt looks plain silly while watching, and hurts a lot of feelings if you put the attempt up.
Check this out to refresh your memory of why you should love blocked shots too.
We know he is the greatest player to ever play the game, but it will be interesting to see if the same man who drafted Kwame Brown with the first pick in the 2001 draft can make the Bobcats elite.
After gaining Kemba Walker on draft day, Jordan once again took a chance on a risky choice to build a team around. The main difference between Kemba and Kwame would be Walker has shown he can be a true leader.
Jordan has been active on the trading block during his time in Charlotte, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him have a busy offseason post-lockout.
Most importantly, Charlotte needs some serious scoring options after trading Stephen Jackson. Walker will most likely take time to develop into his potential and Corey Maggette dropped off considerably last season for Milwaukee.
The Bobcats have a few options for trade bait including D.J. Augustine, Gerald Henderson and Boris Diaw that could come up in possible deals.
Other than that, consider the Bobcats a project that could be a disaster or success depending on how things are run.
Don't lie, you know you get some satisfaction out of declaring a player a bust before it actually happens. It always makes for an interesting watch to see if these players reach their full potential or decay in the list of stacked players in the NBA.
I'm guessing most fans called these two before draft day even happened.
It's never a joy to watch players fall to injury or fail to translate to the big leagues, but everyone gets a little excited by saying "I told you so."
If you are like me, one of the biggest things to look forward to on holidays are the marquee NBA games that take place. Besides, after you open presents and devour a turkey what else is there to do?
Spend time with family and friends?
Not when a NBA Finals rematch is taking place on Christmas Day.
But in all seriousness, it's still a great watch while enjoying your day.
I'll put these two in the same slide based off the fact that they often go hand-in-hand.
If you have never tried your luck at fantasy basketball I highly recommend it. While football receives most of the attention when it comes to fantasy sports, any chance you have to build a complete team full of stars is well worth the opportunity.
If it's not your cup of tea, there is always the popular aspect of gambling on the games. If you have friends like mine, they will always tell you their "lock of the night" which usually ends up being a disaster.
However, throwing around a little money here-and-there can make games much more interesting considering the possibility of winning some cash.
We all remember the reception the 2010-11 free agent group received. Expect the same after next season with the highly coveted Dwight Howard. While it's possible the best center in the NBA could be traded mid-season, it's guaranteed to be the biggest story in the league after the Finals.
Howard is an athletically built near seven-footer with the leaps and talent to make him a force inside. He's won multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards, and is also a serious choice for the league MVP. With a little work on his offensive post play, it's a scary thought to think about just what type of numbers he could put up.
Many teams will start rebuilding post-lockout in attempts to sway Howard, but only one can grab him. It's safe to say the team that grabs him will turn into instant contenders.
Could the Los Angeles Lakers be the big market team Howard might want?
Or could he be the face of a new Brooklyn franchise along with Deron Williams?
Plenty of teams makes sense for Howard, but look for a crazy number of off-season rumors to ensue once he is available.
Last year's NBA Finals didn't disappoint the common fan as far as basketball was concerned. It involved some of the best players in the game along with many dramatic games in the series.
No matter who plays, it's always one of the most watched sporting events in the world for a reason. Usually, we are treated to a competitive series that determines what teams play all year to find out who is the best.
You can make a case for plenty of teams being serious contenders to win it all based on how stacked the NBA has become, but by looking at my picture you can guess my prediction.
The title and video say it all. The NBA is truly an amazing organization that keeps fans coming back year after year.
I for one cannot wait for the NBA season to start, and expect nothing but an amazing one.