NBA's Top 10 Storylines to Watch Throughout the 2011-12 Season
The 2011-12 NBA season is less than a week away and there hasn't been a shortage of interesting storylines this offseason, thanks in part to the lockout which created a shortened free-agency period.
Storylines like the Clippers' acquisition of Chris Paul, the Lakers trading away Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom and Dwight Howard's indecisiveness, are sure to keep NBA fans' interest peaked throughout the season.
I'm sure there will be storylines that pop up throughout the 2011-12 NBA season like retired free agents finding their way onto NBA rosters or players requesting trades from sub-par teams. Those kind of storylines will come and go without fans giving them a second thought.
On the other hand, here are 10 storylines that are guaranteed to endure throughout the entirety of the 2011-12 NBA season.
Spanish Sensation Ricky Rubio Finally Makes It to Minnesota
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The Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the NBA's most interesting teams this season. They are one of the youngest teams in all of the NBA with an average age of 24.6 years.
More interesting than their youth though, is the entrance of highly touted Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio who stayed in Spain for two years after getting drafted in 2009 with the fifth overall pick. .
In 2009, Rubio was considered to be one of the next best point-guard prospects in the NBA. Some analysts were even throwing out the "Pistol" Pete Maravich comparison.
The two extra years in the Spanish league will undoubtedly help Rubio's development, but only time will tell if he's put in enough work on his jumper and perimeter offense to truly become an elite point guard.
Keep your eye on the development and production of Rubio in 2011-12 . It will be fun to see how the T'Wolves 2009 lottery pick and the T'Wolves' 2011 lottery pick, Derrick Williams, work together.
Who knows? They could be the next best dynamic PG/PF duo since Karl Malone and John Stockton.
The Health of Aging Veterans
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2011-12 is a big year for a majority of veterans who are the brink of being in the "too old" category in the NBA.
Veterans like Tim Duncan (35), Ray Allen (36), Kevin Garnett (35), Vince Carter (34), Manu Ginobili (34), Derek Fisher (37), Steve Nash (turns 38 in Feb.), Grant Hill (39) and Jason Kidd (38).
While a majority of those players don't have anything to prove, after already having won NBA championships, they still undoubtedly want to prove they still have what it takes to be elite in the NBA.
This could be the last "prime" year in all of those players' careers, or this year could prove that their careers are already on their way out.
My guess is that these players still have some gas left in the tank, but only time will tell. Either way, it will be something to keep our eyes on, and it surely will be interesting to watch as it unfolds.
The Battle for Los Angeles Wages On
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If you saw the 2011 film, The Battle for Los Angeles, you'll understand the story line for the Clippers and Lakers 2011-12 NBA season.
A group of aliens invades the earth for it's resources in hopes of taking over the planet, much like Chris Paul's invasion of Los Angeles with the Clippers in hopes of taking over the Staples Center and the city of Los Angeles.
With the Clippers' acquiring Chris Paul, the Western Conference and the Pacific Division got a whole lot more interesting. The Clippers and Lakers only play three times in the 2011-12 season, but those three games will be the most hyped up games of the season for both teams.
The Clippers and Lakers face off for the first time on Jan. 14, after that we'll have a better idea of which team will win the regular season series.
My money is still on the Lakers, but one thing is for sure, it is going to be really fun to see who wins the 2011-12 Battle for Los Angeles.
Can Derrick Rose Repeat as NBA MVP?
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Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls got a major upgrade at the shooting guard this off season by acquiring SG Richard "Rip" Hamilton off the amnesty clause cutting floor.
Will the acquisition of Rip Hamilton be the key to a Bulls championship or will it take too many offensive touches away from D. Rose, resulting in a decrease in production for the league's reigning MVP?
I like to think that Hamilton will be the missing piece to the Bulls championship they've been longing for since the Jordan days, but something tells me it might not work out that well.
We will learn more about Derrick Rose and his elite talent this year than we did last year, and that is something that I am undoubtedly going to keep my eye on, as should any NBA fan.
Does Derrick Rose have what it takes to repeat as NBA MVP?
The Development of Solid NBA Draft Class for Lottery Teams
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The 2011 NBA draft brought potentially elite players like Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Brandon Knight, Jimmer Fredette and whole bunch of international talent into the NBA.
Some talent fits better for teams than others. Kemba Walker on the Bobcats is a perfect fit for him to display his explosive skill, whereas Jimmer landing in Sacramento isn't the best fit. No matter where players landed, it will be fun to watch how they develop during this shortened 66-game season.
My prediction is that Kemba Walker will lead the Bobcats to the playoffs, earning himself the 2011-12 Rookie of the Year honor. Players like Kyrie Irving and will have too much pressure to revitalize their respective franchises and their play will reflect their inability to handle that pressure.
It's going to be fun to see how these young rookies handle the pressure of the NBA, and how far they can carry their respective teams.
Success of Mavericks Without Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler
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In one of the strangest moves of the 2011-12 NBA offseason, the Lakers sent PF Lamar Odom to their Western Conference rival, the Dallas Mavericks and didn't get anything truly valuable at least immediately in return.
Lamar Odom was the 2010-11 Sixth Man of the Year, and the Lakers were very foolish to send him away and to try to replace him with Josh McRoberts.
The most interesting part of this trade will be watching how it works out for the Mavericks, who are now without Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler. I think by adding Vince Carter and Lamar Odom, the Mavericks actually made an upgrade at both positions, but only time will tell if that is true.
This will undoubtedly be an interesting year for the Mavericks, with their core talent getting much older with Dirk Nowitzki (33), Jason Kidd (37), Vince Carter (soon to be 35) and Jason Terry (34).
Keep your eyes on the Dallas Mavericks and whether adding Lamar Odom and Vince Carter will be the key to winning another NBA championship.
The Heat Gets Turned Up in Miami
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The pressure that LeBron James and his compadres on the Miami Heat felt in 2010-11 is nothing compared to the pressure that they will feel in 2011-12. LeBron failed to win his first NBA championship in 2010-11 and if he fails again this season the LeBron hate will be in even more full gear than before.
It goes without saying that this is LeBron's first "must-win" title year, and if he falls short, so will his NBA legacy.
With a year under their belt and another offseason to build team chemistry, it will be interesting to see how the Miami Heat, with free agent acquisition Shane Battier, respond to the expectations placed on them.
My prediction is that the Miami Heat will win 56 or more games, earning the best record in the NBA with only 10 losses for the entire season.
Will the Miami Heat win the 2011-12 NBA championship and begin the Heat dynasty? Only time will tell, but it will surely be fun to watch.
The Dwight Howard Saga in Orlando Continues
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Dwight Howard has been like an indecisive girl this offseason, making it clear that he doesn't even know what he wants.
One day rumors will come to the forefront about Howard wanting a trade, only for the next day to bring us rumors about Howard being okay in Orlando as long as the Magic add talent around him.
The only constant in all of this Howard trade talk is that Dwight Howard is absolutely indecisive and that will continue well into the 2011-12 season.
It will be interesting to see if Howard forces the Magic into a mid-season trade with the Lakers or the Nets, or if he waits out the season in hopes of moving elsewhere in the summer free agency of 2012.
My money is on Howard being traded; that way, the Magic can at least get something for him instead of losing him to free agency. Whatever happens, it will be fun to watch. Keep an eye on this one throughout the 2011-12 season.
Can Clippers Live Up to the Hype?
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It goes without saying that the hype surrounding Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the 2011-12 Los Angeles Clippers is completely out of control.
Once the Clippers traded away a majority of their roster for Chris Paul, the sports world was ready to move the Lakers out of the L.A. spotlight and replace them with the Clippers.
Blake Griffin is in the driver's seat of the Clippers hype train, saying: "It's going to be Lob City" when asked about the acquisition of Chris Paul.
There's no doubting that there will be some highlight-reel alley-oops in the Staples Center this year, thanks to the Griffin and Paul connection, but that doesn't mean they are going to win. It will be interesting to watch the Clippers this season to see if they can live up to the hype.
My prediction is that they won't live up to the hype, but that is why the play the games. it's going to be fun to watch the Clippers this season, especially early on when they will still be developing team chemistry.
The Pressure Mounts in the Big Apple
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If you thought there was a lot of pressure on the Knicks to win an NBA title last year with Carmelo, Chauncey and Stoudemire, get ready to be amazed. The pressure for an NBA title that will undoubtedly be on the Knicks in the 2011-12 season will be hard for them to handle.
After cutting Chauncey Billups to clear room for center Tyson Chandler, the Knicks created a new "big three" that undoubtedly will feel the pressure of New York City's title hopes on their shoulders.
Knicks fans aren't the most forgiving and if the Knicks new "big three" don't produce at least an Eastern Conference Championship, they will feel the wrath of those fans.
It's going to be very interesting to see how the Knicks season turns out and whether adding Chandler will turn out to be the missing piece to a Knicks championship. No matter what they outcome, the Knicks season will be one to keep an eye on.