The 2008-2009 NBA season has begun and the excitement is already building. This season has the potential to be one of the best in the past few years. Last season was one for the ages with the nail-biting playoff race in the stacked Western Conference and the historic finals that saw the two most successful teams in NBA history, the Lakers and the Celtics, renewing a rivalry. But this year may be even better. For one, three teams should win 60 games each this season: the Lakers, the Celtics and the Hornets.
The Lakers are the deepest and most talented team in the NBA. This is basically the same Lakers team that we saw in the second half of last season, except the Lakers will have a healthy Andrew Bynum. Not only does this give the Lakers a better starting line-up, it allows the bench, which was one of the best last season, to improve as well. With Bynum starting, Lamar Odom has moved into the 6th man role and will come off the bench with Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar and Trevor Ariza, among others. Odom will be able to use his versatility and skills to carry the bench and keep his team in the game when Bryant, Gasol and Bynum are on the bench. The Lakers should have the best record at the end of the season and the number 1 seed in the Western Conference.
The Celtics, fresh off their championship season, will be ready to defend their ring this year. Unlike past title winners, the Celtics won’t lose focus or determination this year because of the competitive nature that they play with. The “Big Three” will make sure that this team stays competitive and focused on what they do best: play defense. As long as the Celtics still play with that energy and that tenacious defense, they will be able to reach 60 wins again and be the number 1 seed in the East. Sure, the loss of James Posey will hurt them overall, but their starting line-up is one of the best in the league and young players like Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen will continue to improve and fill the gap that Posey left.
The team that James Posey left the Celtics to join, the New Orleans Hornets, should only improve upon their great season last year. The Hornets didn’t lose anyone significant besides Janero Pargo, who was a good scorer off the bench. But players like Pargo are easy to replace. With the pick and roll style of play that the Hornets use, it will be hard for any defense to stop, especially with Chris Paul continuing to get better every season. This team is built perfectly for Paul because he is surrounded by shooters like Peja Stojakovic, Morris Peterson and James Posey. And the big men, Tyson Chandler and David West, run the floor very well. Paul loves throwing those high alley-oop passes to Chandler off of pick and rolls, which is nearly an impossible play to stop, especially when it is run by this team. David West is also very underrated; he can shoot the mid-range jumper, he is an excellent rebounder and he has a great post game. The young Hornets are dangerous and their offensive firepower will allow them to win 60 games as well.
Besides the elite teams staying great, a number of teams have improved this season. The Rockets added another dynamic player in Ron Artest to go along with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. But it will be tough for coach Rick Adelman to balance a team that has so many strong personalities. The 76ers added Elton Brand to a young and talented team that almost upset the Detroit Pistons in the opening round of the playoffs last year. But the 76ers don’t have any pure shooters on their team, which was one of their problems last year. With no pure shooters, they will not be able to stretch the defense. The Cavaliers added that scorer that they have been looking for with the signing of Mo Williams. Williams is a shoot-first point-guard that will stretch the defense and hit open shots. This move really improves an already solid Cavaliers team. The Cavs have the potential to win the East this year because LeBron James continues to improve and their team is finally built well around him. He has a plethora of three point shooters to play with now. With LeBron, their great defense and all those shooters, don’t be surprised if the Cavs win the East this year.
With all these players switching teams in the off-season, the Eastern Conference is no longer the laughing stock of the NBA. Besides the Cavs and the 76ers improving, the Heat and the Bulls should be better as well.
The Heat now have a healthy Dwayne Wade to play alongside Shawn Marion and number two overall pick Michael Beasley. Expect the Heat to vastly improve upon last season and sneak into the playoffs. The Bulls landed number one pick Derrick Rose, who should transform this team into a running and gunning team. The Bulls are young but talented and no one would be surprised if they made the playoffs as the 7th or 8th seed.
With teams out East improving, the NBA is becoming more balanced. Although the West is still the better conference, the East is catching up. These few reasons are why this year’s NBA season will be one of the best in the past few years. So pay attention, because you don’t want to miss an exciting season.