What hurricane? Huh? How does this effect the Brooklyn Nets?
Yes, the long slog of a basketball-less year finally comes to an end this week, and unlike last year when I was having a verifiable meltdown over the NBA player’s strike, this season will start on schedule with as much intrigue built up as I can ever remember. After all, I’m the guy who, during the St. Louis Cardinals’ historic playoff comeback was sitting in the bar mostly watching a pre-season Milwaukee Bucks game.
I’m also well aware that if I was watching Google Analytics, I’d understand that Off the Markley readers pretty much revolt any time I take to writing about basketball, but you know what? F*** them. Stupid readers.
Here are some thoughts, predictions, and things to keep an eye on this coming NBA season.
LeBron Wins 4th MVP: This is barely even a question. Barring injury, LeBron James will be MVP again because right now he’s playing on his own level somewhere in the stratosphere. Now that he’s moving down to the post more often he’s become that virtually unstoppable offensive threat that bitter Cavs fans yearned for. He’s also the best on-the-ball defender in the league and one of the best weak-side shot blockers. He’s easily the best player of his generation, and the only real question going forward is how close he will come to unseating Michael Jordan as the best to play the game. I’m betting this season is going to be a resume-topper.
D-Rose Should Sit, Bulls Should Rebuild: Let’s say it’s January and the Bulls, without Derrick Rose, are somewhere in the fifth or sixth slot in the East, hopelessly behind Miami, and Carlos Boozer is barely clearing a Dixie cup when he jumps. Why rush Rose back? As I have been repeating for a year, the Bulls, as currently constituted, are not going to get past the Heat. They are overpaying mediocre former stars (Boozer, Rip Hamilton) and though they’ve made some solid additions (Nazr Mohammed, Kirk Hinrich), it ain’t gonna win you a championship, at least not with Rose on the bench half the year. At best they’re looking to be a pain in someone’s ass in the post-season. Tank the whole season, get in the lottery.
Damien Lillard for Rookie of the Year: Though Anthony Davis is the consensus shoo-in for Rookie of the Year, all the pre-season hype was about the Portland Trail Blazers’ phenom point guard. Davis will still be the favorite, but New Orleans is an atrocious team outside of him, and the Blazers, with Lamarcus Aldridge, could actually sneak into the playoffs. Keep your eye on Lillard to pull off an upset (or at least get some votes).
The Predictable East: The Eastern Conference is pretty simple. Miami is going to beat Boston again to go to the championship, and everyone else is more or less a pretender. The hype around the nascent Brooklyn franchise is wildly overblown, the Knicks are a team of basketball black holes like Carmelo Anthony and overpaid veteran scrap metal like Jason Kidd, and the Atlanta Hawks have a reasonable shot at finishing second or third in the conference. The Celtics stole Jared Sullinger in the draft and, though they lost Ray Allen, they still retain Paul Pierce, who will get you a bucket any time you need one, and Rajon Rondo who’s still a top five point guard in the league. Perhaps the Celtics will give the Heat another nail-biting run for their money, but in the end LeBron James now understands how to put his shoulder down and get his team into the endzone, as we saw with some legendary playoff performances last season.
The Unpredictable West: Meanwhile the West is nuts. James Harden moving from Oklahoma City to Houston along with Jeremy Lin means, in theory, that I should like Houston to surprise its way up the ladder, but look at the rest of the conference: The Lakers’ eugenics experiment with Kobe-Nash-Dwight-Pau, the still-deadly Thunder, the everpresent San Antonio Spurs, the tough Memphis Grizzlies, and the overrated but talented Clippers. Why Harden couldn’t get a deal made with OKC, a team that had just been to the finals, is beyond me. It came down to a million dollars, which, come on, Jimmy, in the grand scheme of things isn’t going to matter as much as the fact that Houston will likely never come close as long as Durant and Westbrook stay together.