Look at everybody’s NBA season forecast and you will be hit with a barrage of repetition. The Finals match-up is widely projected to be a two-team race, despite a number of teams making improvements. I don’t have to say the two squads, because you all more than likely know who they are. I’m here to provide an alternative opinion, and it’s an opinion I feel confident in. Here it is: neither the Heat nor the Lakers will make the NBA Finals this season.
Due to that last sentence, I imagine I have lost all of the Heat and Laker fan readers. Call me delirious, delusional, demented, I don’t care. It’s what I sincerely believe. Let me tell you why before I delve into the teams I expect to play for the title.
Why the Heat won’t play for Larry O’Brien Trophy
Ever since Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, and Chris Bosh have joined forces, people have been saying they are winning the championship. This was being said even when the Heat had four players under contract, including Mario Chalmers.
Outside of the big three, this team is unproven and inexperienced. Wade, Udonis Haslem, and Eddie House are the lone players on this team with rings. James, Big Z, and Mike Miller have playoff experience. That’s about it. Bosh hasn’t gotten out of the first round of the playoffs.
This team has yet to play together at full strength. The pre-season is a time where teams are fine-tuning their roster to figure out what pieces fit and how the team’s chemistry is coming along. That is being halted by James and Wade’s leg problems. And don’t forget about Wade’s injury-proneness. Who knows if he could miss significant time during the season? Nonetheless, this is playing time that is valuable to the future success of this team.
Basketball is a team sport. A lot of people seem to forget this. The bottom line remains for this squad: how far can the big three take us? That is what they have to fall back on. There is very little talent that will make a large impact outside of the big three. They are slow and undersized down low. That will be a problem against the Celtics and Magic. People seem to brush that aside. Mike Miller will get some open shots as a result of defenses collapsing on the big three, but that’s the limit of his effectiveness. And what about their point guard play? Neither Mario Chalmers or Carlos Arroyo are starting point guards in this league. In the end, will it matter with a team that has James and Wade?
I’m not discounting the possibility of the Heat making the Finals, I just don’t think they will. You can call me a hater if you want, but I’m voicing my honest and educated opinion. The East has improved. Don’t expect these other teams to lie down.
Why the Lakers won’t play for the Larry O’Brien Trophy
The Lakers are looking to three-peat for the second time in just over a decade. The fact that they are this position is a testament to the ownership and tough-mindedness of its players. So those of you thinking I’m a Laker hater, you could not be farther from the truth. I have nothing but respect for the organization.
Many believe a three-peat is inevitable. The same roster is returning sans Jordan Farmar. They have picked up Steve Blake to back up an aging Derek Fisher, Matt Barnes to aid in perimeter shooting and defense, and Theo Ratliff to contribute interior defense while Andrew Bynum misses more time. Those additions are all well and good, but are they enough to keep up with the ever changing landscape of the West?
The Lakers have a much better shot than the Heat do at making the Finals, simply because they are proven winners. However, things often do and can go wrong during the course of a season. Let’s look at a couple of things that could alter the Lakers trajectory.
First and foremost is injuries. Bynum will be out until December yet again and Kobe Bryant’s knees are not getting any better. Kobe is still a top-tier talent in this league, there’s no doubt about it. However, I think this is the year where his injuries finally catch up to him. He most likely won’t miss many games, but it could show in his performance.
Another factor that needs to be considered is the rest of the West. Many teams can and will challenge the Lakers for the West crown. Last year they got some balls to bounce their way. This year, those could easily bounce in the other direction.
Their once intimidating frontcourt will be less of a threat this year with so many teams stacking up in that regard. Bynum won’t be around most of the time to deal with them as well. The Spurs added Tiago Splitter for interior defense. The Blazers are hoping Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla can stay healthy to pair with Marcus Camby and LeMarcus Aldridge. The Rockets are getting Yao Ming back, for the moment anyway. The Mavericks have Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood. The chips are still stacked in the Lakers’ favor, but they might not get as lucky this time around.
As much as I don’t want to believe it, the Lakers are the favorites to represent the West for the fourth straight year, but anything is possible. I’m just not ready to hand it to them right now given their current state. I think the Lakers are in for a rude awakening.
My 2010-2011 NBA Finals Match-Up
Brace yourselves, because what you are about to read is considered outlandish and boneheaded by many. I believe the NBA Finals will be a between the Boston Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs.
Now I know what you are thinking: “How could you possibly pick two of the oldest teams in the game to go all the way?” Simple! Because both of these teams are given no respect and love being in the positions they find themselves in.
Honestly, who in their right mind picked the Celtics to go to the Finals last year, especially after the train wreck that was their 54-game ending to their season. But sure enough, they made a run with their gritty defense and multiple weapons on offense. After all, this was supposed to be the year we get to see Kobe vs. Lebron! (Phooey!!!)
This year, they have added some big bodies to the frontcourt. And when I say big, I mean Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal. I know, they’re old. But you give these guys spot minutes to spell Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, and Glen Davis and you’ve got a pretty formidable bench. You can also throw them at the Dwight Howard’s of the league. Their size advantage trumps any other team in the league. You better believe it will be an advantage against the undermanned Heat. As far as defending the Heat, they can play their normal tenacious team defense to try and limit at least one or two of the big three’s effectiveness.
Another underrated addition is the Delonte West signing. He will provide some great backup minutes to Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. And don’t forget about Nate Robinson, who had a tremendous impact in the playoffs last year.
The Spurs are no strangers to proving everybody wrong. They are never the favorites to win. They have been dubbed as a boring team. They have had one of the best defenses in league history, let alone the last decade. They are too old to go far… On and on it goes.
Unlike their previous years after winning the 2007 title, the Spurs’ “old” big three have some much needed help. The Spanish League MVP Tiago Splitter has finally arrived to help Duncan down low with pick and roll defense, something that killed them against the Suns in last year’s sweep. Judging from his pre-season performances, DeJaun Blair has lived up to his nickname of the beast. He could win the most improved award. George Hill is another year wiser and has the opportunity to learn from Tony Parker. Richard Jefferson is poised to improve after last year’s dud. And, might I reiterate, nobody expects this team to be a player come May and June.
I expect a career year from Tony Parker. He spent most of last year hobbled by injuries. The previous year he averaged 22 points per game, the highest of his career. I believe he can supplant that number in a year where he is playing for a contract. He will surprise many.
The Spurs can be last year’s Celtics. A team no one expected to be relevant, but then, out of nowhere, they make a run and are playing for the championship. Who’s to say that can’t happen again with this improved team?
By now every reader probably thinks I’m an idiot. That’s okay. Maybe by June I will be proven wrong, or maybe even proven right! But for now, I like my picks, believe it or not. And believe it or not, the expected norm just might be thwarted by a bunch of grandpas with their leather belts bending over the kids to teach them a lesson.
By Josh Delp of the Sports Fan Blog Network