Now that the pre-season is over, the start of the regular season is officially upon us. The offseason will be remembered for many things, most notably the Miami Heat free agent acquisitions and the play of the Americans in the FIBA World Championship. Below we break down the top storylines followed by predictions.
Never have we seen a team assembled like the Miami Heat in NBA history. In case you haven't heard yet, the Heat signed Chris Bosh and LeBron James to pair alongside Dwayne Wade. Analysts critical of the Heat questioned whether or not the three all-stars will be able to co-exist on the court. We were supposed to get that concern addressed in the pre-season but due to injuries the Heat didn't get the chance build any chemistry. So it will be interesting to see how the Heat "gel" as a team on the court because off the court they seemed to have meshed very well together.
As we are officially in the day and age where the player determines how his team is run rather than the management, Carmelo Anthony is now filed in the category of Superstar Divas. With the NBA power shifting to Miami, Anthony wants out of Denver. Since he feels that Denver has no shot of competing in the future, the star whose contract expires at the end of the year has expressed his interest to be traded. Chicago seemed to be the perfect fit for Anthony but Chicago seemed very reluctant to include Joakim Noah in any package, which now leaves Anthony with two likely spots – either the New York Knicks or the New Jersey Nets. It will probably come down to who has more pieces to give up which seems like it will be the Nets. But in order for any trade to occur many teams will be involved so don't be shocked to see a four or five team trade.
It is safe to say that Commissioner David Stern's comments stating that the owners want player salaries to be reduced by 30-35 percent is a clear indication that there will probably be no season next year. Asking for such a large reduction is going to produce a large stalemate for the next year that will most likely result in a lost season. Players such as Clippers Center Chris Kaman have advised others to start saving up money in anticipation of a work stoppage.
Can the Lakers Send Phil Jackson out as a Champion?
With this being Phil Jackson's last season, can the Lakers send him out with his fourth three-peat? The Heat will have plenty to say about that but the Lakers have one of their deepest rosters in quite sometime. This Lakers team is better than the previous two championship winners. Something interesting to note is that many have stated if the next season is shortened because of a lockout, some have said it wouldn't be a stretch to see Phil Jackson return due to the shortened season.
Durant used the opportunity at the FIBA World Championship to showcase himself as one of the top two players in the league and it worked to his advantage. The American team was filled with a bunch of role players and no true star of the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, etc. Durant scored a US record 38 points in the semifinal game against Lithuania. If Durant's play in the FIBA World Championships translates to the NBA, the Thunder will easily challenge the Lakers for the top spot in the West.
Referees Calling Games "Tight"
Usually the NBA conducts polls amongst fans in the offseason to see what they like or dislike about the game. One thing that stood out was the fans dislike of all the bickering of players following calls. In the preseason, the officials have left the players no mercy by calling technical fouls for the smallest things including complaining following a foul call. The rise in fouls called is alarming; in one preseason game between the Bucks and the Timberwolves there were a total of 63 fouls and 6 technical fouls called. How referees call games in the preseason and the regular season are usually two separate things but it will be interesting to see if this year is any different.
Rookie of the Year Chase
First overall pick John Wall entertained many while at Kentucky with his freaky athleticism but even though he was the first pick he isn't the favorite for the Rookie of the Year Award. Don't forget that Clippers Forward Blake Griffin, who missed all of last season due to a knee injury, can still win the award.
- MVP (Most Valuable Player): Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
- Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)
- Eastern Conference Division Winners:
- Central: Milwaukee Bucks
- Atlantic: Boston Celtics
- Southeast: Miami Heat
- Western Conference Division Winners
- Northwest: Oklahoma City Thunder
- Pacific: Los Angeles Lakers
- Southwest: Dallas Mavericks
- NBA Finals Predictions: Los Angeles Lakers over Miami Heat in 7 games