This NBA season has proven to be as unpredictable as any season in recent memory. Going into the season, the buzz was around the Los Angeles Lakers and their new acquisitions, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
The Western Conference has dominated in terms of team records for a number of years now. The San Antonio Spurs—whom everyone thought was just a group of old men—are still doing their thing.
“As long as Tony Parker is still playing point, Tim Duncan is still steadily getting his double-doubles, and Ginobili can still give us something off the bench, Greg Popovich will always find a way for us to win,” says Tayo Sofela, a third-year molecular biology student and Spurs fan.
The Memphis Grizzlies currently have the best record in the West at 11–2. Grizzlies games aren’t the most exciting to watch, but they always seem to win, especially at home. They play a hard defence and get production from every position in their starting five; they will not be easy for any team to beat.
The Los Angeles Clippers are another reason the West is so competitive. They have added the enigmatic shooting guard Jamal Crawford to their lineup, and with all-star power forward Blake Griffin still dunking the ball like he has a beef with the rim, the Clippers are going to be tough in the playoffs.
The Lakers acquired Howard in a four-team trade that saw shooting guard Andre Iguodala end up in Denver, and centre Andrew Bynum in Philadelphia. Howard was supposed to be the second coming of Shaquille O’Neal for LA, but that hasn’t been the way so far.
“With Dwight on the team, I expected us to be blowing out teams—or at least winning comfortably,” says Jeremy Michael, a third-year chemistry student and lifelong Lakers fan. “I have only seen one game, which was against a useless Mavericks team, [where] we have actually blown out a team or won convincingly. I am not happy at all.”
As a member of the Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal led the team to three consecutive NBA titles and was named the NBA finals MVP all three times. He was put on the all-stars team seven times, averaging 27 points and 11.8 rebounds in the regular season over his eight seasons with the team, and was named regular season MVP once. It’s no wonder expectations for Howard are high.
The Lakers got off to a 1–4 start that saw head coach Mike Brown lose his job. Speculations started swirling that Phil Jackson would once again take the helm on the Lakers’ sideline, but the Lakers front office surprised everyone again by picking Mike D’Antoni.
D’Antoni is currently 5–4 as the Lakers’ coach, and the Lakers are still playing unconvincing basketball. For a championship team, a record of 7–8 and a bunch of losses to less talented teams is not what the fans want to see.
The Oklahoma City Thunder made a big trade a few days before the season started; they traded James Harden, the 2011/12 Sixth Man of the Year, to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb, and future draft considerations.
The Thunder weren’t willing to give Harden the max contract he felt he deserved, but Houston, who were without a main scorer, were willing to spend. “The trade worked out well for both teams,” says James Thorne, a third-year biology student. “Harden gets his minutes and his money, and OKC gets a player in Kevin Martin, who is a proven shooter. It’s a win-win situation.”
The Lakers, Rockets, Nuggets, Warriors, and Jazz should make up the remaining playoff teams. “The Dallas Mavericks look like they’re going to have a below-par season with Dirk Nowitski out for the foreseeable future. I don’t know what Mark Cuban is going to do to save this team,” says Jahangeer Manpreet, a second-year physics student and Mavericks fan.
The talent of the Eastern Conference has never been able to match that of the Western Conference. The East has a few teams that can do some damage, including the Miami Heat, the reigning league champions. They have added shooters to their team, picking up Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis from free agency. It’s hard to see the Heat not wining the title again this season.
The New York Knicks and the newly moved Brooklyn Nets came out of the gate running this season. For the first time in years, the Knicks have emphasized their defence, they’re a better team without power forward Amar’e Stoudemire in the lineup. The Nets essentially revamped their whole team and franchise. It helps that they have money coming in from owner Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, and minority owner and entertainer Jay-Z sitting courtside every now and then.
“Both teams are 10–4 right now, and even though it’s still early in the season, I can confidently tell you that apart from the Heat, these are the two next best teams in the eastern conference,” says James Dean, a second-year statistics student and Knicks fan.
“The Boston Celtics are not the team they once were anymore.They’re not as tough as before,” says Adedeji Faseye, a fourth-year health sciences student and Celtics fan. “It feels like anyone can go into TD Garden and win these days.”
The Celtics have certainly lost their “it” status, and with their best players aging, point guard Rajon Rondo can only do so much to hold the team together.
The Chicago Bulls are without superstar point guard Derrick Rose, leaving them a very mediocre lineup. The Milwaukee Bucks, with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, look like they’re going to cause trouble this year; they probably won’t go far in the playoffs, but neither will they be an easy out. Finally, the Atlanta Hawks—who are currently 9–4 and arguably have the best power forward and centre combination in the NBA—are definitely going to make the playoffs again this year.
With the NBA playing games almost every night, this season is going to be a must-watch, as always. Here are my bold predictions for the season:
NBA Champions: Miami Heat
Finals MVP: LeBron James
MVP: Carmelo Anthony (Knicks)
Defensive Player of the Year: Serge Ibaka (OKC)
Most Improved Player: Andre Blatche (Nets)
Coach of the Year: Erik Spoelstra (Miami Heat)
Sixth Man of the Year: J.R Smith (Knicks)
Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard (Portland)