New York Knicks: Best Team in the NBA?

 

            The New York Knicks have started out the NBA season on a five game win streak; their longest start to a season without a loss in almost two decades. Most experts picked this team to finish in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference playoff race. So are the Knicks for real? Or is this an early season fluke? The Knicks added several key additions this year including: Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Ronnie Brewer, Marcus Camby, and Raymond Felton. Felton and Kidd have played surprisingly well off of each other so far considering they both play the point guard position. The true test to the Knicks’ success will be how they gel together once Amar’e Stoudemire comes back from injury. The Knicks signed Amar’e to a 5 year, $100 million dollar contract before last season but have struggled with him on the floor. The Knicks also traded for superstar Carmelo Anthony last season hoping to match Miami’s star power. However, Anthony and Amar’e have clashed when playing together. The Knicks have looked better and more cohesive when Amar’e has been out. But can the Knicks afford to pay a star player $100 million dollars to sit on the bench because the team is having success without him? More than likely when Amar’e is healthy he will be inserted back into the starting lineup. Until this happens, we won’t know if the Knicks are a serious contender or not. The Knicks have one of the most talented teams in the NBA; but how deep they make it into the playoffs will depend on how their team chemistry develops when they have all their key pieces at full strength.

2012-13 Predictions

Pre-Season Playoff Predictions

Western Conference Playoff Predictions: 1) Thunder 2) Lakers 3) Nuggets 4) Clippers 5) Spurs 6) Grizzlies 7) Mavericks 8) Timberwolves

Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: 1) Heat 2) Nets 3) Celtics 4) Pacers 5) Knicks 6) 76ers 7) Bulls 8) Bucks

Finals Match up: Heat & Thunder

Finals Winner: Miami Heat

Pre-Season Award Predictions

MVP: LeBron James- Yes, this will be his 4th MVP the last five years. But who can stop him? Kevin Durant is the trendy pick for this award, but does anyone else remember a few short months ago when LeBron was unstoppable in the Finals?

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard- D12 is clearly the most dominant defensive player in the NBA today. He is more of a force on the defensive end than on the offensive end and has potential to set a career high in blocks this season with all penetration due to Steve Nash’s defense ( or lack there of).

Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard- This rookie from Weber St. has done nothing but turn heads since filling it up in summer camp. The Blazers are trying to rebuild and don’t have much firepower minus LaMarcus Aldridge. Look for Lillard to have the ball in his hands often, and be the leading scorer for all rookies this season.

Sixth Man of the Year: Ray Allen- When most people think of Ray Allen, they don’t think sixth man of the year. All indications point to Erik Spoelestra sticking with Mario Chalmers starting, and bringing Ray off the bench (and probably closing out games). Allen has the potential to have a MONSTER year. With LeBron and Wade slashing to the basket, what better guy to knock down open shots than the NBA’s all time leader in 3PFG’s?

Most Improved Player: Patrick Patterson- This first round pick of the Rockets will finally get a chance to prove himself this year. Patterson has been on the bench the past couple seasons behind veteran forward Luis Scola. With Scola gone and the Rockets trying to develop young talent, Patterson has the potential to have a 15 point 10 rebound line for the year.

Coach of the Year: Avery Johnson- Mikhail Prokhorov finally opened his checkbook for the Nets. The Nets feature an all star lineup that has potential to make a deep playoff run. Although I don’t see the Nets coming out of the East, I think they will make the Eastern Conference Finals. All this hinges on Avery’s ability to manage different personalities and develop team chemistry.

Opening Night NBA Predictions

 

            The 2012-2013 NBA season tips off Tuesday, October 30 with three games. The first game of the night is between the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers. Both of these teams have struggled in the past couple seasons but have young talent and are looking to make a playoff run this season. The Wizards have a young, dynamic backcourt with Bradley Beal and John Wall, alongside a veteran frontcourt with center Nene and Emeka Okafor. The Cavs have rebuilt that past two seasons after losing LeBron James and have stockpiled young talent.

Cavs 100

Wizards 89

            The featured game opening night are the Celtics visiting the Heat. The Heat courted ex- Celtic Ray Allen over the offseason to help bolster another championship run. The Heat have all their key pieces back from last season’s title run and added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. The Celtics replaced Ray Allen with guard Jason Terry from the Mavs. They also have Jeff Green returning who missed all last season with heart issues. The Celtics are relying heavily on older veterans, and young, unproven rookies going into this season. They have a lot of unknowns, but potential for another title featuring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Heat 99

Celtics 93

            The final game Tuesday night is between the new-look Lakers and the Mavericks. The Lakers feature a star studded cast who many are picking to make the Finals. Although, entering the season, Kobe Bryant is nursing a leg injury and Dwight Howard is still recovering from offseason back surgery. The Lakers may have the most talented roster in the NBA, but they have had little time to develop chemistry which will be crucial to a team with many different personalities. The Mavs just lost all star forward Dirk Nowitzki and will likely struggle to start the season. They also lost point guard Jason Kidd over the summer to the Knicks. The Mavs are relying heavily on aging stars this season and are not likely to make a deep playoff push.

Lakers 105

Mavs 94

Lin-Sanity to Ignite Rockets?

 

            Jeremy Lin was one of, if not the most talked about story lines during the NBA last season. Lin took over the Knicks starting point guard position after devastating injuries hampered the Knicks back-court. Jeremy Lin instantly took over the NBA. He came onto the scene with 25 points and 7 assists against the Nets. He followed that performance by dropping 38 points on the Lakers in a win at Madison Square Garden. Later that week, he capped a 27 point, 11 assist night with a buzzer beating, game winning shot to beat the Raptors. Lin would finish the season averaging 14.6 points per game and 6.2 assists per game. Although he missed the playoffs, Lin’s breakout season earned him a 3 year contract worth approximately 25 million dollars with the Houston Rockets. But is Jeremy Lin the long term solution in Houston?  The Houston Rockets have been in basketball “purgatory” the last several seasons. They have barely missed out on making the playoffs, but also missed out on the draft lottery. The Rockets had a busy off-season trying to entice Dwight Howard to land in Houston. This attempt was unsuccessful and left the Rockets looking elsewhere for answers. Although Houston didn’t land the superstar they were after; they accumulated three first round draft picks, Lin, and promising center Omer Asik from the Bulls. Once again, the Rockets might be struggling to make it into the playoffs again this year but at least they have young players with star potential that can propel them for future success.

LeBron’s Legacy

 

            “We didn’t come here to win one championship, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…” LeBron James may not only be the most scrutinized athlete in the NBA today; but the most scrutinized in sports history. LeBron has had to live up to unrealistic expectations since playing basketball in junior high. Before he had graduated high school, he already made his way onto the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine who proclaimed him, “The Chosen One.” Before having a high school diploma, he was already expected to be the next Michael Jordan. From the time he was drafted with the number one overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003, LeBron immediately made an impact in the NBA becoming an instant fan favorite and all star. In the summer of 2010 during NBA free agency, LeBron James made a decision he will regret for the rest of his life. It wasn’t that he was leaving his home state of Ohio to go chase a title in Miami with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. It was the way he went about it. He threw his fellow Ohio natives under the bus on national television without any warning. Suddenly, LeBron wasn’t one of, if not the most popular player in the NBA anymore. He had to adjust to his new role as, “The Villain.” From this point on, James would hear an arena full of rowdy fans letting him know their disapproval of his “decision.”

 LeBron’s first year in Miami was a failure not only for the Heat but for himself. The two-time MVP, who already had been criticized for disappearing in critical playoff games as a member of the Cavs followed that theme by being virtually nonexistent in the fourth quarter of the finals against the Dallas Mavericks. Disappointed in himself, LeBron hit rock bottom. He had become the most hated sports figure over night; followed by an embarrassing performance on the biggest stage in basketball.

Looking to avenge himself, LeBron came out in the 2011-12 season on fire. He led the Heat into the playoffs as the number two seed in the East behind his third MVP in the last four seasons. James then put together one historic performance after another during the playoffs to propel Miami into the NBA Finals for the second consecutive year. That’s when LeBron James really started to shine. One year after being mocked in the NBA Finals, he truly dominated the Oklahoma City Thunder to finally capture his first championship. By the end of 2012, LeBron joined Michael Jordan as the only player in NBA history to win a Regular Season MVP, Finals MVP, an NBA Championship and an Olympic Gold Medal in the same year. LeBron James has had many peaks and valleys in the last couple years; but is well on his way to becoming the best basketball player of all time.

How Good are the Los Angeles Lakers?

 

            There has been much activity during the NBA offseason this summer. The prize acquisition over the summer was Dwight Howard to the Lakers. Howard is without question the most dominating center in the league when healthy. But how good does this move really make the Lakers? According to Metta World Peace, he thinks the Lakers have a shot at setting the record for most wins in season held by Michael Jordan’s Bulls in 1995-96. The Lakers also acquired 2-time league MVP from the Phoenix Suns in a sign and trade deal. Nash, now 38, is in the latter part of his career but figures to be a major upgrade at the point guard position for the Lakers. With these new stars, the Lakers projected starting lineup is Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard, all of which have been all stars during their career. However, does this automatically make the Lakers the favorites to make it to the NBA finals? The answer is simply, no. The Oklahoma City Thunder had the fifth youngest roster in the NBA last season on their way to the NBA finals. And, OKC’s core players are below that average and just now entering their prime. For my last point, just take a look at what happened two short years ago in Miami when the “big three” came together. Before the season nearly everyone picked the Heat to have a cake walk to win a championship and look what happened. So let’s just hold off on crowning the Lakers NBA champs, or even champs in the West.