For those of you who know me, it goes without saying that I am a huge Warriors fan. I bleed blue and yellow. And after the incredible playoff run at the end of the season and the heartbreaking loss to the Jazz in the second round last year, I am happy that the NBA season is finally upon us. It represents not only an opportunity for redemption, but also an opportunity to show that last year was no accident. Does that mean I think the Warriors are good enough to win the championship this year? No. But I will definitely have the best time of my life watching them try. Well, having given my cheeky Warriors connection for life, I’ll now turn my attention to the teams that are most likely to win the championship.
The Wild West is likely to live up to its name this year. There is so much talent that any one of the 6 or 7 teams could make it to the NBA Finals.
1. San Antonio Spurs: This team may be a bit dated and boring to watch compared to some of the racing and gun teams in the West, but with Parker, Duncan and Ginoblli all healthy, the Spurs are going to be tough.
2. Phoenix Suns – After receiving his second NBA Most Valuable Player award in as many years, Steve Nash appears poised to orchestrate another deep run in the playoffs. Perhaps this year the Suns will not be fooled into a Western Conference championship by Robert Horry’s low shots.
3. Denver Nuggets – The return of Kenyon Martin will reinforce this team’s championship opportunities. With four star-caliber players in the starting lineup, Melo and Co. are doing well. I just hope they can transform into the team that they are capable of being.
4. Dallas Mavericks – The Mavericks had a record year in 2006-2007, winning 67 games and losing just 15. So the question is whether or not Dirk can live up to his potential, leave the boy group and ultimately win. – in the playoffs that is.
5. Houston Rockets – Two words – Yao and McGrady. If these two can stay healthy, the Rockets could go all the way. They have a decent supporting cast. Now it’s up to the stars to act.
6. Utah Jazz – The Utah Jazz are a well-balanced team. They play well on defense and can score. With Boozer and Deron Williams becoming perennial star types, it’s possible the Jazz could equal the spot in last season’s Western Conference Finals.
The East is a different story. There are a host of good teams, but only a few notable teams that could possibly challenge the Western powerhouses for the title.
1. Detroit Pistons – The Pistons epitomize talent and experience. They have a deep lineup with all the hallmarks of a championship team. It’s true that Rasheed Wallace is getting a bit older and didn’t play his best last year, but with Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton by his side, the Pistons are as good as anyone at both conferences.
2. Boston Celtics – Can the Celtics go back to their winning tradition? If you think of anything else, you are a complete buffoon. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are the most skilled trio in the league. All they have to do now is create a little team chemistry and they have the NBA Finals written all over it.
3. Chicago Bulls: Ben Wallace, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni and Joakim Noah. Enough talk. The Bulls are a deep, talented, young and dangerous team. And with the rumors that Kobe Bryant could head to Chicago, the Bulls have every chance in the world to win this year.
The NBA boasts a plethora of talented teams, all of which could potentially win the championship. Today there is so much talent in the league that the dynasties of yesteryear are dead and gone. My prediction is this: The NBA Finals will feature two teams desperate to win championships; Steve Nash and the Suns against Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and the Celtics. Personally, I would love to see the Big Ticket finally get its fair share. But Nash with a fat championship ring on his finger wouldn’t be a bad sight, either. However, if I were a gambling man, I would bet money on the Suns until the end this year.