Hello, fellow NBA fans and followers. A new NBA season is upon us and while we may have 66 games to look forward to, we'll all be glued to our couches and even our laptops keeping up with latest scores and trades.
Now that basketball is back, it's time to present my bold predictions for the 2011-2012 NBA season.
As long as there's a Dwyane Wade, a LeBron James and a Chris Bosh in South Beach, consider the Miami Heat as a lock to win not only the Southeast Division but also the Eastern Conference for a second time. Of course, with teams like Chicago, Boston and an emerging New York, Miami will have some competition headed their way but come playoff time, the Heat will be an immediate lock for the Eastern Conference finals.
The question will be which one of the three aforementioned teams will face Miami?
The Oklahoma City Thunder have impressed me from the moment Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook stepped on court to when coach Scott Brooks put together a formidable team that consists of Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and James Harden.
Make no mistake, the Western Conference is an intense conference with tough teams such as San Antonio, Dallas, the Los Angeles Lakers and even emerging teams like Memphis and especially the Los Angeles Clippers (yes, the Clippers). Kevin Durant will lead his team right into the Western Conference finals (where they should have won last season) and make it to the finals.
No longer are the Los Angeles Clippers a team everyone makes fun of and considers irrelevant in all things basketball. Now that Blake Griffin has Chris Paul to lob passes and alley-oops all day long, it's time to take the Clippers seriously as they look to reinvent themselves as one of the many teams to watch, but also, as the team that can replace the Lakers as the team all of Los Angeles should now take notice of.
Sure, the Lakers attract celebrities because they are the more well-known team with their illustrious history and championship banners, but now that the Lakers are losing their popularity, the best thing that season ticket-holders such as Jack Nicholson and Dyan Cannon can do is buy some Clippers tickets and enjoy Chris Paul and the Blake Show.
This is the season where John Wall make the transition to All-Star. With big names in the Eastern Conference like LeBron, Wade, Carmelo, D-Rose and Boston's Big Four, expect John Wall to be amongst those names come All-Star Weekend.
Wall could be a reserve for the Eastern Conference All-Stars behind potential starters Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo. It's only a matter of time before Wall elevates his game and is mentioned amongst not just Rose and Rondo but also Russell Westbrook as conversation fodder for best point guard in the NBA today.
There has been a lot of talk about Jimmer Fredette and how he will be the one guy to shape things up in Sacramento. While I could mention guys like Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and even Ricky Rubio, you knew there was something about Jimmer from the first time you heard about him at BYU up to now.
Jimmermania is already in full swing in the NBA and with Fredette playing alongside Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and J.J. Hickson, the Kings look to at least make a slight push to mediocrity in the NBA and in the long run be a lot better. So, to those reading this and saying that Jimmer may or may not be Rookie of the Year, I ask you this: What are you going to do when Jimmermania runs wild on you?
We've been hearing talks about Dwight Howard looking to be traded away to another team but for now things may be in neutral as far as D12 goes. There have been many teams that have thrown their hats in the ring to win the services of Howard, including the L.A. Lakers, New Jersey and New York.
Orlando's best bet is to try to keep Howard happy, of course that could be easier said than done had there not been a request to be traded. The Magic need to set up a pitch to not only keep Howard but also make a midseason move. If they can't do that, by February Howard could be calling another team his home.
Much like Dwight Howard, Steve Nash could be sent to a new team no later than the midseason. Unlike Dwight Howard, however, Nash is putting his team, and the organization for that matter, on the hot seat.
The Phoenix Suns missed out on the playoffs despite having a winning season and most of it came from the fact that Nash put the team on his shoulders. Whether or not the Suns will keep Nash and bring in new additions to make the Suns relevant again is unknown at the moment, but if Nash leaves, the teams most interested in signing him should be those that need a solid point guard (L.A. Lakers, this means you).
I like the San Antonio Spurs but it seems like this team isn't getting any younger—at least in the case of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. While I wouldn't put it past the Spurs to be a playoff contender, right now things in the Western Conference are starting to shift focus on Oklahoma City and the L.A. Clippers.
Duncan is looking down at retirement in another two years and so are Ginobili and Parker. Don't get me wrong, however—the Spurs do have something left in the tank but they also will have to look to Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard and James Anderson to be the new "Big Three" and secure San Antonio's place atop the Western Conference once the era of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker is finished.
I have no doubt that Kevin Durant will be the next NBA MVP. Durant will have continue to have an elevated game like season and will continue to be the top small forward in the league. Durant will win the award and will keep Oklahoma City on top of the Northwest Division and the Western Conference.
If I was a free agent looking to play for a team, it would be the Oklahoma City Thunder not because of their small-market venue but because they have a team worth rooting for and a college-town atmosphere when you play there.
It didn't happen last season but guaranteed, 2012 will be the year of the Miami Heat. Case closed.