The NBA season is almost (not really) upon us. With that revelation it would also appear time to start predicting how the NBA will shake out this season. Considering the fact that the BSotS focuses on the Suns (and rightly so), it is nice to read something that can take a look at the entire NBA.
Disclaimer, it must be made apparent that when evaluating the Suns I attempted to be as objective as possible. So please, sit back, relax, enjoy the predictions, then type out your angry responses (or positive, I don't discriminate my feedback) below.
1. Miami Heat - LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, need I continue? If you say so, they also added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to help off the bench with Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, and Mike Miller (if he isn't retired).
2. Boston Celtics - The Celtics went far in the Playoffs last year, losing Allen was a tough pill to swallow until Jason Terry signed to take his place and play the same role. Plus the Celtics drafted good players in Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo to help man the middle.
3. Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose is going to be hurt for a large portion of the NBA season (if not all), but the Bulls are solid enough to remain in heavy contention for a top spot in the Eastern Conference. Watch out for the Bulls to come into the 2012-13 season with "guns blazing."
4. Brooklyn Nets - The Nets are deeper than people think, their starting five includes; Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, and BrookLopez (not to mention MaShon Brooks coming off the bench as a 6th man). They end up with home court advantage during the first round.
5. New York Knicks - Carmelo Anthony is a chemistry killer, but his teams are normally in the Playoffs. With help from (a healthy) Amar'e Stoudemire, Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith, and Ronnie Brewer, this team can easily be higher in the rankings at the end of the season.
6. Philadelphia 76ers - With two of the most interesting picks (Maurice Harkless and Arnett Moultrie) in the draft this year and one of the best score by committee teams in the NBA, the 76ers should be a shoe in for the Playoffs. Plus trading for Dorrell Wright and signing Nick Young make this team even better.
7. Indiana Pacers - Bringing Roy Hibbert back on a Max Contract is a bit concerning for the Pacers in the future, but this team is very good. Deceptively good. Danny Granger is a fantastic "jack-of-all-trades" and Paul George is looking better every game (and don't forget about Hibbert down low).
8. Toronto Raptors - Trading for Kyle Lowry was a good step for Toronto, and pairing him with Landry Fields, DeMar DeRozen, and Terrence Ross in the backcourt could be lethal. Andrea Bargnani is a great scoring threat and newly acquired (via draft) Quincy Acy should also be a nice piece for Toronto to play with.
9. Orlando Magic - Dwight Howard is going to be hurt all season, that's what happens when you have back surgery. Plus, all the drama with Howard is going to kill chemistry, however, Howard is good enough to get past all that when he gets healthier and give Orlando a shot at the Playoffs.
10. Detroit Pistons - Greg Monroe is an absolute monster, and pairing him with Andre Drummond is going to be very interesting. Trading for Corey Maggette and simultaneously unloading Ben Gordon made this team better. Expect the Pistons to be making a push for an 8th seed.
11. Atlanta Hawks - Losing Joe Johnson is a big blow to this team. Josh Smith is good but he can't do it alone and Louis Williams isn't an answer either. The Hawks are still good but they aren't going to the Playoffs, expect them to be lower than the 10th spot.
12. Washington Wizards - Trading for Emka Okafor and Trevor Ariza really upgraded this team on paper. If John Wall can keep up his play and Bradley Beal can live up to the hype, the Wizards could (I stretch could) be in contention for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.
13. Milwaukee Bucks - Last year the Bucks acquired Monta Ellis and it didn't really appear to pay off. Without a true full-time big man on the roster, the Bucks are going to struggle for the 2012-13 season. John Henson though is going to be intriguing for Milwaukee.
14. Charlotte Bobcats - Or the ‘Cats as they have been recently dubbed. They drafted the second best prospect in the NBA draft (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), then signed Ramon Sessions, and they traded for Ben Gordon. Let's face facts, they aren't going to win a lot of games but it will be more than last season.
15. Cleveland Cavaliers - They drafted Dion Waiters, a head scratcher for NBA fans and experts. Then they traded for Tyler Zeller (courtesy of Dallas) to help out their big men. However, they didn't do much to make Kyrie Irving happy, especially without having a true SF on the roster.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder - Kevin Durant has a legitimate shot at the MVP award, Russell Westbrook is becoming a better PG, and James Harden is an absolute "killer" coming off of the bench. Down low, the Thunder also feature Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. All of this creates the perfect season for the Thunder to gain the best record in the West.
2. Los Angeles Lakers - Steve Nash is a Laker (sigh), and the Lakers did indeed get better without having to get younger. Andrew Bynum is becoming a top tier Center, Kobe Bryant is simply Kobe, and Pau Gasol is a solid offensive big man. They have a good shot at going to the NBA Finals.
3. San Antonio Spurs - Despite their age, the Spurs keep winning ball games and getting deep into the Playoffs. However, they didn't make any big moves or even add any new pieces for the season which is why they drop from the number one spot in the West.
4. Memphis Grizzlies - A surprise team during the 2011 Playoffs, the Grizzlies are now on the NBA map for the next few seasons. This is mostly due to the great play of Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph. Losing O.J. Mayo is a slight problem but his chemistry issues won't be affecting the team anymore.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves - Kevin Love is a monster on the glass and when he spaces the floor. Ricky Rubio (when he comes back) will be a 10 PPG and 10 APG player again. Adding players like Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy make this already deep team a surprise contender.
6. Dallas Mavericks - The Mavericks lost a lot of players this season and replaced them with solid, less efficient, players like Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, and Elton Brand. Chris Kaman is the only real improvement for this team, but the Mav's are still going to be contenders with this turnover because of the talent level.
7. Los Angeles Clippers - The Mav's and Clippers are easily interchangeable in the Power Rankings. Adding Grant Hill and Lamar Odom help add depth off the bench but don't make this team better than the top five teams in the West. The Clippers are still "Lob City" but they aren't going to be part of "Ring City" this year.
8. Denver Nuggets - The deepest team in the NBA, by a couple of strides. The biggest problem with the Nuggets manifests itself in the fact that they do not have a Superstar leading this team. On top of that there is not a dependable every night scorer on the roster either, expect a fight for the 8th seed.
9. Golden State Warriors - Golden State only lost Dorell Wright and Nate Robinson coming into this season. Andrew Bogut should be back (and hopefully healthy) and be a big contributor. Stephen Curry is a good scorer and giving other options like Harrison Barnes and David Lee make this team very intriguing.
10. Portland Trail Blazers - A lot of people are picking the Blazers as a potential low seed in the Playoffs, however, they really don't look the part. Not having a NBA ready starter at Center, having no NBA ready starter at PG, and a bench that is mostly average. Portland will be okay but they aren't a Playoff team with this roster.
11. Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins is going to become a great Center and pairing him with Thomas Robinson was a great move by the Kings F.O. Isaiah Thomas looks the part of a solid NBA PG and if Tyreke Evans can get back to the play of his rookie season this team could be in the running for an 8th seed late in the season.
12. Utah Jazz - Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are great players, but they are wasting away in Utah. Not to mention that Utah has both Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter who both could end up being solid if not good players. Outside of that the Jazz are at a disadvantage for this season.
13. Phoenix Suns - Roster turnover is the theme of this year's Suns' offseason. With an all new team expect some chemistry problems and other difficulties for a majority of the season. That does not mean the Suns won't get it together but it might be too late when they finally do start to mesh.
14. Houston Rockets - Jeremy Lin is going to be a good player (maybe not Superstar but he will be good). Outside of Lin though, the Rockets are looking to be pretty bad. Lin was able to turn the Knicks around last year but it seems unlikely he will be able to get this team off the launch pad.
15. New Orleans Hornets - With two picks in the first 10 selections the Hornets came away with Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. While Davis looks like a fantastic player, Rivers looks like a potential bust. The Hornets also managed to degrade their team by trading away both Trevor Ariza and Emka Okafor. Look for the Hornets to end up at the bottom of the NBA standings.
Kevin Durant (Thunder)
LeBron James (Heat)
Kevin Love (Timberwolves)
Deron Williams (Nets)
Kobe Bryant (Lakers)
The race for the NBA MVP this year should be really exciting. While it is almost absolute no matter who is picked a group of people will emerge and say somebody else deserved it, Kevin Durant should secure the award at the season's end. It will be the NBA Final's loss that will propel Durant to a new level of unconscious play.
Rookie of the Year:
Thomas Robinson (Kings)
This season should be a really entertaining season when it comes to the new rookie class. Featuring such players as; Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, Thomas Robinson, Dion Waiters, Andre Drummond, even Jared Sullinger. Anybody can win the ROTY this season, but Robinson has the best chance to win the award. Robinson is going to play Robin to DeMarcus Cousins' Batman, which should allow him to get some good looks at the basket and enable him to grab a few extra boards with teams focusing on Cousins. As a bonus, the Kings finish in contention of a Playoff spot and give Robinson points for the voting.
Bradley Beal could also easily win this award if he is able to play at the level his hype currently has him at, which he can do without any real scoring options after John Wall being present on the Wizards' roster.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Josh Smith (Hawks)
Josh Smith's defensive ability has been overlooked for a while now in the NBA because of players like Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler. With Howard injured and Chandler sharing time with Marcus Camby, Smith should start being mentioned in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion. In addition, without Joe Johnson being on the team Smith should be getting more attention for his overall contribution to the team as well.
6th Man of the Year:
Jason Terry (Celtics)
The 6th Man of the Year award is an incredibly difficult to predict because bench players are an unpredictable bunch. The reason these players (normally) come off the bench is because they are not all that consistent, however, Jason Terry is usually an assassin coming off the bench. Plus, being in the madhouse that is Boston, Terry should receive a whole new side of fanfare and media attention while he fills the role of Ray Allen when he comes off the bench.
Western Conference Champion:
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder first face the deep Denver Nuggets in round one and decidedly do away with the competition in four straight for a sweep. Round two features a Western Conference Finals rematch of San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City, the series is tough and heatedly contested but the Thunder win in six games and move on. In the 2013 Western Conference Finals, Oklahoma City squares off with the Los Angeles Lakers. In a nasty matchup of top Western Conference foes the Thunder advance at the end of seven games.
Eastern Conference Champion:
Round one of the Eastern Conference features the number one Miami Heat vs. the 8th seeded Toronto Raptors, a series in which the Heat dominate an inferior team in four games that had previously shocked the NBA world. In the quarterfinals, the Heat face the 76ers who happened to get the best of the Bulls for the second year in a row, but the Heat beat the 76ers in five games to advance. The 2013 Eastern Conference Finals is a rematch of the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics, in a gruesome series the Heat capture their third Eastern Conference Championship in seven games.
Picking the top two teams from each conference to go to their respective Conference Finals isn't exactly a classy thing, however, all these teams are the best in their conference and it's not crazy to think they all belong in the championship games. Moving on, this series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat will be even more closely contested then the 2012 NBA Finals. In a back and forth series, with each team defending their homecourt admirably, the Heat end up as back-to-back Champions of the NBA. Why? Because LeBron James now knows how different winning and losing feels in the Championship game. He won't be losing another Championship anytime soon, even a young-deep-fired up team won't be able to contain him while also trying to stop Dwayne Wade and even Chris Bosh (and don't forget Ray Allen coming off the bench).