I see these two teamsn back in the Finals in 2010
Looks like it's that time of year again when the NBA teams are finishing up most of their offseason moves, so here are some early predictions of how the standings are going to end at the end of 09-10 based on the teams' offseason moves.
1 Los Angeles Lakers
It was disappointing to see Trevor Ariza go to the Rockets, but the Lakers have even better potential now, because they filled his spot with forward Ron Artest. Artest and Lakers' recently re-signed sixth man Lamar Odom have known eachother since high school, and Odom and coach Phil Jackson should be able to make sure he doesn't blow up anytime during the season. Star Kobe Bryant may be able to help as well. It kind of reminds me of an old Chicago Bulls team that had Jackson as coach, with superstar Michael Jordan (who is now Kobe), sidekick Scottie Pippen (who could be either Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom), and maniac Dennis Rodman (who is now Ron Artest). Throw in some other key guys like Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar, etc. and this could be one of the greatest Lakers teams in history.
2 San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs did an amazing job this offseason of pulling in key guys that will help them alot next season. They grabbed Richard Jefferson in a trade from Milwaukee, and then signed veteran forward Antonio McDyess away from Detroit, and got a steal out of DeJuan Blair in the draft early second round. They should really get alot farther than last season, when they got knocked out of the first round in the playoffs by Dallas. I see LA and San Antonio knocking heads against eachother next June in the Western Conference Finals.
3 Dallas Mavericks
Another Texas team that made some good moves is Dallas. They snatched Shawn Marion and Kris Humphries in a trade, and signed veteran forwards Tim Thomas and Drew Gooden. All these guys smashed together have a chance at a Western Conference title, or maybe even a Championship. These three teams look the most successful to grab the WC title next year.
4 Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers just gave star Brandon Roy a contract extension for 5 years, and LaMarcus Aldridge is getting one soon. They are terrific moves for Portland to lock up their superstars for the future so they can continue to be successful. Greg Oden looks to be a little better than his rookie season, but his offensive game still needs to be established to make him a great player that the Blazers want to hold on to. This offseason, they missed out on Hedo Turkoglu, Paul Millsap, and David Lee, but then managed to grab Andre Miller away from the Sixers, which was a good and cheap move for them. The Blazers are my prediction for 4th in the West.
5 Denver Nuggets
J.R. Smith is still in a bit of a tangle after going to jail for killing his friend in a car wreck, and could hit a depression and maybe decide not to play. It could happen, but the Nuggets should be hoping it doesn't happen. If it does, it looks like former Piston Arron Afflalo is going to be getting lots more playing time. And the Nuggets could be in for a little bit of a fall from last season. But watch for them to still make the playoffs, because of Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Nene, and all those guys, so it still looks good for Denver.
6 New Orleans Hornets
I believe the acquiring of Emeka Okafor will help the Hornets & Okafor both. Okafor will be able to play beside a true point guard, Chris Paul, and next to David West inside. It looks good for both Okafor and the Hornets because he has a more established offensive game than Ty Chandler, though Chandler is for sure the better defender. NOH is in for a decent season.
7 Utah Jazz
It was a good thing the Jazz signed their future starting PF Paul Millsap, otherwise they were going to have to depend on Carlos Boozer for a season. Boozer expects to be traded before the season starts, and that's what should happen. They just need to send him away right now, even if they are only getting Udonis Haslem in return, they just need to get him off the salary books. If that happens, Millsap will be able to become a better player with more playing time, which is a huge upside for Utah. I see them finishing 7th in the West.
8 Los Angeles Clippers
The Clips have potential to be good, they did last year as well, but injuries pretty much ruined that. But this season, they have number 1 pick Blake Griffin from the draft this year, added with Baron Davis, Marcus Camby, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, and Al Thornton, looks actually pretty decent, especially for a team called the Los Angeles Clippers. They have made so many draft mistakes, like taking Yaroslav Korolev (when Danny Granger, David Lee, and Linas Kleiza were still available), Chris Wilcox (Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Luis Scola, Tayshaun Prince were available), Melvin Ely (same draft as Wilcox), Michael Olowakandi (over Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Al Harrington, and Rashard Lewis), Brian Skinner (over Harrington & Lewis), Maurice Taylor (well the picks after him are pretty week, but Stephen Jackson, Bobby Jackson, and Anthony Johnson were all available), Lorenzen Wright (instead of KOBE BRYANT, Steve Nash, Jermaine O'Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Derek Fisher, oh wow that was a bad pick), and many other bad picks all in the first round in the past. They finally have found the guy they need, big man Blake Griffin. He should really help the Clippers this season to make the playoffs.
1 Boston Celtics
I see Boston finishing 1st in the East this year, and going to the Finals with the Lakers to fight for a title. Rasheed Wallace was a spectacularly cheap pickup, and they also grabbed Shelden Williams, and are looking to re-sign Glen Davis and snatch Marquis Daniels from Indiana. The loss of Leon Powe wasn't very large, mostly because Wallace and Williams will do a ton more than just fill that role. I'm looking at Boston to be the Best of the East.
2 Orlando Magic
The defending Eastern Conference champions did a great job of filling the void that Hedo Turkoglu left after joining Toronto, by getting dunk maniac Vince Carter from New Jersey, and getting Marcin Gortat re-signed, plus Dallas big man Brandon Bass and Matt Barnes. They more than just filled the void, they now have so many possible lineups they can use, which is a great thing for a team to have. I will look for Orlando to go second in the East next season.
3 Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs are also another have-team that added even more talent. They added Shaquille O'Neal, Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, Leon Powe, and Darnell Jackson. Great pick-ups, but Shaq is getting older. He still has some left in the tank, but he won't be an amazing superstar who posterizes Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, and Amare Stoudemire, or the one who swats away Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, or Carmelo Anthony's shots out of bounds. He will mainly just be a guy that can muscle up with big men, throw in a few hard dunks, and score around 17 points and 9 rebounds a game. LeBron is the star of the show in the Cleveland, and Shaq will be his sidekick. It will be fun to watch them play together, but I really don't think they'll bring a title to Cleveland this year. I am looking for them to go 3rd in the Eastern Conference.
4 Washington Wizards
They will be the 4 seed in the East when Gilbert Arenas gets healthy. He really is the player that turns them around and makes them a contending team. They have Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, but they need Arenas to complete the puzzle, that's what makes them good. They also have some other guys that will compliment the Wiz, such as Andray Blatche, Brendan Haywood, Mike James, and DeShawn Stevenson, plus newly acquired players Mike Miller and Randy Foye. The Wizards have potential to be pretty good this season, they just need to play out that potential and make it happen.
5 Toronto Raptors
The Raptors and Wizards are both teams that look to make a big turnaround from last season. I see them going 4 and 5 in the East next season, mainly because of their big offseason pick-ups. Washington gave up their lottery pick (who ended up being Ricky Rubio) for two great role players in Miller and Foye, while Toronto drafted DeMar DeRozan from USC, and signed Hedo Turkoglu away from Orlando. They also grabbed center Rasho Nesterovic and point guard Jarrett Jack from Indiana, acquired Antoine Wright from Dallas, and Marco Belinelli from Golden State. With a roster including Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, Hedo Turkoglu, DeRozan, Jack, Jose Caledron, Antoine Wright, and all of those other guys, it is easy to look at them as a #5 or #6seed in the East.
6 Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks and Raptors could be swapped, but it just depends on how hard each team plays every game, and I can see Toronto playing harder than Atlanta. But the Hawks still could finish 5th, or maybe even 4th. They have the potential to be that good. Though they need much more depth at the center & power forward slots, the backcourt looks pretty good, after the Hawks acquired both Jamal Crawford and Wake Forest star guard Jeff Teague this offseason. It just adds to Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby, and Maurice Evans. They have a pretty good backcourt, they just need to work on the frountcourt a little more. They have Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Zaza Pachulia, Al Horford, and Randolph Morris (who most likely will get cut in training camp), all in the 2 forward spots and the center spot. That's a dangerously thin frontcourt. They need to get that taken care of, and then they can actually make a push to make the 4th, 5th, or 6th spot. If they leave it as is, they might not even make the playoffs.
7 Detroit Pistons
The Pistons probably spent a little too much on the signings of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, but they will help the Pistons. Detroit lost most of it's roster, and only Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton remain from their 2004 NBA Championship. Well, actually they signed center Ben Wallace, who was a big key of Detroit's championship run with his ability to muscle up with huge guys, grab rebounds, and swat away shots. He won't be in the same hardworking form as he was in '04, but I still think he can help contribute to the Pistons. Rodney Stuckey could be their future point guard, but the Pistons might have both Ben Gordon and Rip Hamilton in the lineup, which means Stuckey is coming off the bench. I like that idea better, so it doesn't cause any chemistry problems with Hamilton & Gordon. But, Gordon played 6th man in his rookie season and was the only rookie ever to get 6th man of the year. So, that could also work out, plus give Stuckey time to turn into a better team player. But for now we will just have to watch and see what happens with Detroit.
8 Indiana Pacers
This final 8th seed spot could go to either Indiana or Philadelphia, and in my opinion it depends almost entirely on the case of Elton Brand. If he can come back and return to his amazing and dominant form, then this spot goes to Philadelphia (or maybe even the 7th one). But, for now I am going to go with Indiana to claim this place. They made good decisions in picking up defensive-minded players like Dahntay Jones, Earl Watson, and Solomon Jones. They could have made the playoffs last year, but injury struck them. Danny Granger, T.J. Ford, Mike Dunleavy, and Troy Murphy all were injured at one point in the season. But if they can all stay healthy, the Pacers could be pretty successful. The draft pick-ups of Tyler Hansbrough and A.J. Price were also strong, and will help them. I'd like to watch this team play next season.