Wednesday , Nov , 02 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Simply Six NBA Teams

NBA previews amuse me.

My amusement owes to the fact that the majority of the time the predictions in these ?previews? are wrong, and secondly because the ones that end up being correct are sure things and uninspiring. Four different ?Power Rankings? with San Antonio on top and Charlotte on the tail end seems a bit redundant, doesn?t it? And division break down, team-by-team, previews interest me about as much as a Dancing With The Stars reunion episode; that is to say, I need a break down of the Bobcats roster like I need to see Evander Holyfield bust a move.

So rather than attempt a tedious analysis of each team and each division, I find it more productive and concise to offer up a quick glance at what I feel are the top three teams in each conference. That makes six teams total (hence the title), listed by conference (and in no other specific order), for your speculative reading pleasure.

Simply Six NBA TeamsMiami Heat
The hype noise this summer was sufficiently dominated by Miami. And really, how could it not be? When you bring in an all-star caliber carousel that includes Antoine Walker, The Glove, and Whit Eboy, you?re bound to get the ink flowing. The cast is colorful to say the least, volatile if I was being honest, which I am. The simple truth is the Heat would be the favorite out East with or without their much touted off season acquisitions. Last time I checked, the Miami solar system still revolved around the Big Super Nova himself. And so long as he is healthy, Shaq is still head and shoulders above all but a few guys who hang around the paint. Now on top of that consider that the number ?3? in Miami has got a game about as ill as the guy rocking that digit in Philly and you?ve got some serious title hopes emanating from South Beach. The only factor that can prevent Miami from becoming a well oiled 60+ wins team is chemistry, and for me to speculate on that would be more presumptuous than insightful. Time will tell whether or not the Heat hoist the O?Brien in June, but don?t expect any less than the Conference Finals.

Detroit Pistons
If the Heat drew attention during vacation months due to their additions, Detroit did the opposite, drawing the attention of most of the basketball world when Larry Brown did his thing and skipped town, leaving the two time Finals participant for the rebuilding Knicks. So coach Brown left, we knew it would happen eventually, anyone who knows his record knows Larry Brown has the staying power of a fox terrier at a Frisbee convention. It?s not like the Pistons don?t retain the best starting five in basketball. They played team ball offensively and suffocating defense under Rick Carlisle so don?t count on the philosophy changing any time soon. Flip Saunders may not have the experience of his predecessor, but he brings stability and what should be a lengthy, and hopefully successful, tenure. The cast is still in place in Detroit, the pieces they?ve had the past two season are the pieces they have going into this one. Additionally, with LB now opposing rookies in the Big Apple, perhaps Darko Milicic can get a chance to flourish, because the league really needs more seven footers with highlights. With or without Darko?s emergence, however, expect Detroit to be slated for a steep battle with Indiana for the Central Division crown.                 

Indiana Pacers
Jermaine O?Neal believes this Pacers team can win a championship. In fact, he believes they should have <i>already</i> captured a league title, and that this is the year when it all comes together. Truth be told, I?m inclined to believe him. The Pacers aren?t a ?sleeper? team, not by any means. Right now the Pacers are the popular upset pick, or secondary pick. Even if someone picks San Antonio or Miami, they?ll likely throw in a begrudging, ?but the Pacers are right there, too.? Some are even bold enough to take Indy as the squad to go all the way. Those folks aren?t far off either. Lets not forget, when the Pacers are focusing their attention on basketball and not rap albums or arena brawls, they?re a 60 win team and JO is a legit MVP candidate. I believe they will – and he will – regain that form this season. Provided Ron Ron and Stephen Jackson play like all-stars and don?t implode mid way through, we may be looking at the best team in the Eastern Conference.

Houston Rockets
Now here me out first, I?m sure some would argue the Rockets not worthy of being considered a top three team in the West. I?m rather confident a person or two will fervently pound SEATTLE or DALLAS on their keyboards in bold letters to express their dismay. Be that as it may, Houston is still that good. Tracy McGrady is still one of the top two small forwards (for the love of God already, 6-9/225 is not a shooting guard) in the league. Mac is set to put on his fifth consecutive 25, 5, and 5 season and could easily end up far surpassing even those lofty numbers. ?Just digits,? you say, ?one man show,? you argue. To some extent this would be true, but when you?ve got a player of McGrady?s caliber, all that?s required after that is players to fill the gaps. Rafer Alston, Bob Sura, David Wesley, Derek Anderson, Stromile Swift, Juwan Howard, Yao Ming. Yeah, that?ll do. I haven?t the slightest idea if or when Yao Ming is going to have that breakout season we?ve been waiting for, but regardless, it isn?t essential to the Rockets chances of a deep playoff run. If Yao manages something similar to last season?s output, the Rockets will have gotten all they need from their big man. Also, Stromile Swift is great acquisition, if anyone cares. Acquiring Swift may have been the most underrated move this off season. Athletic, versatile big men aren?t something to be scoffed at; Stro?s defensive capabilities and energy around the basket are going to be a huge lift for the Rockets this season. If the rest of aforementioned supporting cast can play some defense and provide some outside shooting, Houston could surprise some people with an impressive playoff run. 

Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets ended last season on a tear that had them finishing a decent 49-33 overall and a comparatively incredible 25-4 under George Karl. To best summarize my expectations for the Nuggets this season would be to say this: if Denver picks up the pace they finished with last season, then we?ll see Carmelo ball like one of the top ten players in the L, Marcus Camby will make a case for Defensive Player of The Year, and coach Karl will have the group as a whole running and gunning with the best in the league. Rookie Julius Hodge joins the crew to add some depth to the backcourt, and I wouldn?t be surprised to see him steal some additional minutes as the season goes on. Position wise, I?m not sure why Earl Watson comes onto a team that already boasts the best point guard combo in Andre Miller and Earl Boykins. Skills wise, we all know why he?s there, Watson?s a tough defender, unselfish playmaker, and not too shabby a shooter. This group as a whole in Denver is up and coming fast, and should be around for some time to come, so keep a look out.

San Antonio Spurs
If you keep up with basketball at all (and what would you be doing here if you didn?t?) then you already know the story with the Spurs. All they did was add two proven veterans to their already deep and talented roster. All they are is the New England Patriots of basketball. They win constantly and dismantle their opponents in a tremendous systematical fashion that is at times almost eerie in it?s efficiency. In addition to that, they?ve apparently become the place to be in the NBA. Where as once guys traveled to LA to pick up a ring, now the Spurs are the place to be for anyone focused solely on winning. It?s why Robert Horry and Brent Barry came, and it?s why Michael Finley and Nick Van Exel have followed in their path. Tim Duncan is still in place as the franchise?s cornerstone, and until someone proves otherwise, his team always beats your team. Ginobili, Parker, and Horry are all around, ready with a timely three or big game whenever needed. Gregg Popovich is still the best coach in basketball even if Coach K gets the Olympics job and Phil Jackson?s return to a playoff bubble team gets all the ink. The Spurs, regardless of how redundant and boring them may appear at times, simply do damn near everything better than anyone else. Until someone can knock them off, the Spurs have to be favored to win it all.