The NBA is upon us, Dustin takes a look at the early front-runners for the 2013 NBA Title.
Did you miss us these last few days? No? Well, I’m going to pretend you did for the sake of self-esteem.
Regardless, let’s discuss an important matter at hand here, the uninterrupted, lockout free and scheduled start of the 2012-2013 NBA Season!
The NBA is a league that both Cameron and I are very passionate about, we love the sport of basketball and we couldn’t be more excited to see it back. There have been a few shocking moves made leading up to the start of the season, the most obvious and recent, is the Oklahoma City Thunder shipping reigning Sixth-Man of the Year James Harden to Houston, pairing him with marketing sensation Jeremy Lin in a talented backcourt that still has quite a lot to prove.
But we’ll have plenty of time to analyze every move from every team as well as offering some good old fashioned fan-bias opinion towards the teams we cheer for.
For now though, let’s kick off our 2012-13 NBA coverage with a look at the five teams most likely to contend for a title.
Miami Heat- Let’s face it, they added Ray Allen and still have Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James. In the Finals last year, we all witnessed LeBron “Man, when will he realize he’s a brick shithouse’ James finally become LeBron “Brick Shithouse” James as he dominated the Thunder in route to his much-coveted first ring. A solid offseason of rest and recovery should have Dwayne Wade playing at a far higher level than most of last season where he struggled to stay on court at times. Really, the only potential hazard for the Heat besides further injury, could come from Wade not wanting to simply be the sidekick to James or even James simply deciding he’s got his ring, he’s silenced his critics, so why not just phone it in, fill up the stat sheets and become the most statistically dominant player ever. Neither of those scenarios seem too likely though, so look at the Heat to spend most of the season front-running the Eastern Conference like the Mon-Stars.
Oklahoma City Thunder- Yes, they just shipped almost all of their bench productivity to Houston, but in return they were gifted Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, players that could easily fit into the role of bench leaders or even starting SG in Martin’s case. Imagine the length and athleticism in a starting five of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Martin, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. Word has also spread that Durant has added weight in muscle to his still-lanky frame in an attempt to get stronger in the post to avoid man-handling by the likes of “Brick Shithouse” James. The Thunder proved last year that they were one of the best teams in the league and despite massive changes to a few of their biggest conference rivals, OKC is primed to represent the West once again in the Finals.
Los Angeles Lakers- They added Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to the starting lineup, added Antwan Jameson to the bench and continue to see young players develop. Oh yeah, and they have Kobe Bryant. To say the hype is high in LA is an understatement and while the excitement is certainly justified, it should be noted that it is possible for things to go south. Kobe is listed as questionable for the first game of the year, a scary reminder that this is not the Baby-Fro Kobe we remember dunking all over people and scoring 81 on the hapless Raptors. He is nearing the end of his career and he’s acknowledged it himself, we could see a shift in Kobe’s mindset as he fights to last a few more years to try and tie or even pass Michael Jordan’s 6 NBA Titles. Then there’s Dwight Howard; he held the Orlando Magic hostage last season, acted like an all-around child as he tried to get his way, ultimately finally being shipped to LA. There’s also the age game to take into consideration- Kobe, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace aren’t really the epitome of youth. The core of this team are all rapidly nearing the end of their careers’ which can easily blow up in the organization’s face should they struggle to have the cap space to sign new core players. It’s an exciting time to be a Lakers fan, but the next few years will certainly be interesting.
Boston Celtics- Yes, they’re a bit older with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett but Rajon “Triple Double” Rondo is the direction this team is headed. They’re a solid blend of youth and experience with Jason Terry as their sixth man, rookies Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo as well as role players like Avery Bradley and healthy Jeff Green. They create mismatch nightmares for most teams with the sheer variety the team has. They remain one of the best defenses in the league and are looking to ramp up the scoring a little bit. I hate to say it but the Celtics are definitely the team that could stand up and punch the Heat in the mouth and steal their lunch money and no matter if the Lakers are my team, the NBA fan in me would love to see that.
San Antonio Spurs/Indiana Pacers/Philadelphia 76ers- It’s a bit of a sad realization, but those really are the teams that have a serious chance at the title this year. Those superteams are just too stacked for smaller market and one-star teams to challenge them. That said, there are a few dark horse teams that, while unlikely to go the whole way, they can still manage to give these teams fits.
The Spurs looked every bit their age in last season’s playoffs as the Thunder all-around dominated them and Tony Parker almost lost his eye in the offseason, still, the Spurs are the team that seem to win 65 games a year no matter what sort of tribulations or doubts people have. It sucks.
The Pacers looked primed to stake their claim as the next Thunder; a team with a bunch of young talent looking to take the leap to national attention and become superstars. Suffice it to say things didn’t go according to plan but Danny Granger, Paul George, George Hill, Roy Hibbert and Psycho T haven’t gone anywhere, the youth, length and sheer bravado of this young team can stand toe-to-toe with anyone in the East, it’s just a matter of the team finding an alpha player to go to in crunch time be it Granger, George or someone else, someone just has to step up for them to seriously contend.
It’s time for a little 76ers math equation; Healthy Andrew Bynum= Solid season for 76ers. The departure of Andre Iguadala takes a lot of defensive prowess and offensive facilitating away from the team and it puts more pressure than ever for Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday to step up. They also need to start scoring, like the Celtics, they can shut teams down defensively but no one has ever been “that guy” when it comes to taking a game over. Lou Williams led the team in scoring and he was the sixth man, worse for the 76ers, he’s in Atlanta now. Still, even if those two make the move, Bynum remains the lynchpin to this teams’ playoff hopes and dreams. Bynum when healthy can be a dominant center, but his attitude can sometimes get in the way of his talent. Coach Doug Collins will probably have his hands full with such youth and a potentially childish star center, but he’s shown a knack as a coach for keeping a handle on the situation and being able to get players to put the team first, so if he can continue that trend then the 76ers will be good for a long time.
Stay tuned to HefferBrew all season long for all things NBA and enjoy the games!
Dustin Brewer is co-creator of HefferBrew. He’s optimistic for the upcoming Lakers season but if you’re interested in hearing his hesitations and concerns, follow him on Twitter @dstnbrwr