NBA Goes Awol: The Contenders

The regular season is for teammates to get accustomed with each other and coaches to form a well-oiled machine. You can separate the contenders from the pretenders and if you take the blinders off, you notice that some teams are just good during the regular season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because you have to start somewhere, to enter the championship contenders realm. With that said, what I usually do is point out the teams that have something to prove in the playoffs. I don’t ignore the storylines through the roller coaster season, but for some teams the only way to evaluate them is in the postseason.

This trend is for teams that have proven themselves to be mentioned in the same sentence as championship. That includes: Lakers, Thunder, Spurs, Heat, Celtics, and Bulls.

The obvious paper championship matchup and deservedly, has the Heat taking on the Lake Show. 

But that’s why you play the game. There are overachievers, underachievers, and those that do what’s expected of them. Keep in mind, there can only be one champion so there’s always more than a fair share of heartbreak.

The Lakers and Celtics remain constants, they could struggle throughout the year but for the most part you know they’re going to be one of the last teams standing. San Antonio and Chicago for obvious reasons, they’ve also tasted success and have notched the top seeds the past couple seasons. OKC has been to the last two Western Conference Finals, and fell short against Miami in the Finals last season. And as you know, the Heat are defending champions after a disappointing finish in the previous year when Dallas got the best of them.

Basically, nothing they do or don’t do in the regular season will make me waver in terms of expectations when all is said and done. The Bulls have an interesting scenario without their M.V.P. Derrick Rose, but he will return and they are still a well-oiled machine with championship hopes. Boston never left the elite category contrary to the overreaction of their age, and they certainly reloaded in the offseason. There is more pressure on Miami to repeat, in part for opening their mouths but also the fact that they can legitimately be a dynasty…keyword: could.

Since we touched on the Mavericks a little bit, that is another team on the list. They got a ring a couple seasons back and revamped their lineup. They surround former Finals M.V.P. Dirk Nowitzki with Chris Kaman and Elton Brand, while boosting the backcourt with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo.

I’m telling you right now, in the end I expect the Dallas Mavericks to be the 2nd best team in the West.  

Indiana should be in this group but I’m still not a believer. Granted, I was impressed and hyping them up after the contested the Bulls in a tough playoff series 2 years ago, I just don’t think they have what it takes to take the next step. We’ve seen teams fill that description such as the Hawks, Nuggets, and Grizzlies.

A team I will throw in there is Lob City. The Clippers have the personnel and experience together under their belt. I’m higher on Vinny Del Negro as a coach than most, and I love the new additions as well as getting Chauncey Billups healthy. His contributions are greater than  advertised.

No, I’m sorry an early season 4-0 start for the Knicks isn’t going to sway me, not by any means. These are all expectations going into the new basketball year and the beauty of seeing it all unfold will be exciting as it usually is. Philadelphia and Brooklyn have some work to do. They have to separate themselves from the likes of Milwaukee. The Bucks aren’t the best team in the league or anything like that, just a very underrated team that can be the next Bulls/Pacers team to grind their way to relevance.