Been a long time since I last posted something. No time like the present to start it up again. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about an NBA season before. So many changes, so many exciting storylines: the Superfriends, the Lakers 3peat aspirations, the maturation of young teams like the Bucks and Thunder, the refusal to concede of veteran championship squads like the Celtics and Spurs, vindication mixed with a pinch of revenge for the Cavs, and of course Blake Griffin.
Here’s an interesting thought. If Andrew Bynum really will be out until December, a Lakers squad sans the soon-to-be 23-year-old is not nearly “faraway best in the west.” In fact, without Bynum, Dallas has a much deeper, bigger team and suddenly Portland has the size advantage and the Thunder no longer is too small.
On a quick side note, I honestly think expectations are too high for OKC. First of all, while the team has extremely talented bigs, all of them are really power-forwards, except for Cole Aldrich who’s big, but also a rookie. In addition, the Thunder have never won a playoff series and they’re a young team (average age was 24 last season). The last Finals team whose best players had never won a playoff series before that season was the Shaq/Penny Magic in 94-95. And as good as Durant is going to be this year, not sure he’s at 94-95 Shaq level. Shaq, because of his sheer size, caused massive adjustments on both ends of the floor. Durant’s awesome, but he still lacks defensively, and in three seasons he’s never averaged three assists. Even Melo averages more than three assists. Hell, a third-year Shaq only had 16 less assists (in three less games) than a third-year Durant. So, yeah, Durant’s got a ways to go before he impacts entire games like young Shaq. End, somewhat long “quick side note.”
All that to say, if Bynum is out? Yeah, definitely I can see the Thunder beating the Lakers.
And, I really, really like a healthy San Antonio team. Especially if Richard Jefferson learned anything at all from Greg Popovich over the past month in their one-on-one time. A Jefferson closer to his 08 self, a healthy Tony Parker (who, for whatever odd reason a lot of people seem to be overlooking), and 2010 MVP of the Spanish League Tiago Splitter, along with Duncan, Ginobili and Pop—that team is Lakers-with-Bynum good.
So, I’m not convinced that the Lakers are far and away favorites in the West. On a similar line of thinking, I don’t understand how people believe the Heat are going to automatically roll to the finals. Could they win 70 plus games? Absolutely. In fact, if they don’t, it’s going to be somewhat disappointing. I mean, come on. They’ve got arguably the Association’s top two talents and arguably the league’s best power-forward. I know Pau Gasol is widely considered the best power forward. And I think he’s a wonderful player. Top-15 for sure. But he’s playing with Kobe Bryant! Who’s Nowitzki played with? (Okay, Nash, but he’s no Bryant). How about Chris Bosh?
Forget Bynum, Artest, Odom, and Phil’s HOF coaching, Bosh has never even played with one other great player. I mean, Vince Carter…Sure, VC had MJ talent, but without the MJ drive to go with it, the former Tar Heel high water marked at all-star/best dunker of all time—which is sadly poetic considering VC stopped doing the dunk contest because he didn’t want to be known as a dunker.
But, I again digress. Back to Bosh. While he never has played with much talent, he’s also never been coached by the best. No offense to Kevin O’Neil, Sam Mitchell, and Jay Triano. O’Neil has an NBA record of 33-49 to go along with his 187-194 career college record. Mitchell won coach of the year, but in four full seasons, his teams only had one season over .500, a 41-41 season, a 33-win club and a 27-win club. Triano’s 65-82 for his career.
I know Spoelestra (career 90-74 record) is no veteran coach, but he did a phenomenal job with last season’s team that finished second in opponent FG%, second in opponent points per game, and seventh in defensive rating according to basketball-reference.com while ESPN’s John Hollinger had them rated as the fourth best defense. That’s all the physical evidence I need to accept that he truly is Pat Riley’s disciple. Whatever you may think of Pat Riley, there’s no denying his ability to win. And in terms of quality of NBA coaches, Riles walks closest to Red Aurbach.
So, it will be interesting to see how the storyline concerning Bosh’s status in the NBA goes and how people’s view of Gasol as the best power forward will change now that Bosh is playing with Kobe-Bryant-level talent, under the direction of a Hall of Famer.
Remember, Bosh shot 77 percent during the 2008 Olympics. He also led the team in rebounding and as a roleplayer, he was free to play tenacious defense. With Lebron and Wade this season, I could easily see a healthy Bosh shooting over 60 percent from the field and averaging 11 plus rebounds while leading the team in scoring and being a beast on defense.