Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ten Teams That Can Halt Kobe Vs Lebron (Western Conference)

There are the defending champs and the retooled giant in the industry.  It's the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.  This is starting to become a nice rivalry again.  It is too bad the Lakers have flamed out in the playoffs the past two years to ruin any Finals battle between these two clubs.  Both teams got theoretically better this offseason.  Miami made smaller moves like signing aging stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.  The Lakers made big news when it made a sign and trade with Phoenix for Steve Nash and an even bigger splash when they traded for Dwight Howard. 

So there is no point to playing this season, right?  Since the Lakers and the Heat are getting all the play that means one of those teams is going to win.  Hold up, as we know in sports anything can happen and championships aren't won on paper.  The Lakers may not be able to gel all their new players.  Lebron can have one of his "I forget I'm the greatest player in the NBA" spells again.  Dwayne Wade could get hurt... again.  Howard could get sick of the Shaq comparisons and ask to be traded.  Nash can hate playing with Kobe and ruin any possible chemistry.  Plus their is the chance of a freak Derrick Rose type injury derailing any of their seasons.

If they aren't going to get in they are going to have to play and extremely hot team who is doing everything right at that very moment.  There are ten teams at this moment who have a shot to take them down.  It won't be easy, but it is doable.

Threats to the Lakers:

Dallas Mavericks- The Mavericks have taken their share of hits since their title run in 2011.  They seemed to coast all of last season.  Their big offseason acquisition, Lamar Odom, flopped in a huge way.  They lost their point guard Jason Kidd to the Knicks and swung and missed when trying to get Dwight and Deron Williams.  They still made enough moves to be a contender.  They added Elton Brand who desperately needed to get out of Philadelphia.  They also signed OJ Mayo to give them an offensive jump.  Add that to a core of Shawn Marion, Delonte West, Chris Kaman, Vince Carter and Darren Collison and you have a team that can turn heads.  Then on top of that you cannot forget their superstar Dirk Nowitzki.  Dirk is the kind of player that can take over a game by himself, but he doesn't need to anymore.  People will say this team is past its prime, but I would argue they are just more desperate for a championship.  The Mavericks have shown they have the tenacity to take down a super team.  I am excited to see them do it again.

Memphis Grizzlies- This team has to take the next step at some point.  For the past two or three years they have been picked as the sleeper team to take down the big guns, but unfortunately they continue to come up just short.  Just by a law of averages this team has to be considered a possible giant killer.  They bring back their core of Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay.  The only thing that worries me about this team is they didn't do much to get better. However, they are a fast paced, score high team.  They are big up front which is something most teams can't compare when it comes to LA.  They have good shooters and can defend well.  They do need a little more of a spark off the bench, but those things can develop out of the blue.  Memphis will be very competitive and 2013 may be the year that they finally live up to their sleeper status.

San Antonio Spurs- This is the team that many picked to represent the West in 2012.  Some of their superstars are coming to the twilight of their careers, but they are still more than serviceable on a contender.  Tim Duncan isn't as dominant as his younger days, but he still put up a 15 and nine on the score sheet every night.  His backup, DeJuan Blair, put up 9 and 5.  When one position that isn't your best anymore is still giving you 24 points a game you have a great chance to win every night.  Add onto that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli averaging 19 and 13 points per game respectively and this team looks better and better.  San Antonio has the veteran presence and Gregg Popovich  making the calls.  If you want to see how important having a good coach is in professional sports look at how the New Orleans Saints are doing without theirs.  I also think Tiago Splitter is going to make strides forward in his progression this year.  He has the attributes to be a great center and show signs of this when he was giving any playing time.  This team we already know has impeccable chemistry, which is something of a question mark for LA.  The Spurs aren't going away, and the Lakers will figure that out quickly playing them withing the first two weeks of the season.

Los Angeles Clippers- Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford and Ronny Turaif, sounds like a halfway decent starting lineup, right?  Well those are only the players the Clippers didn't have for most or all of last year that they have this year.  Add in Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul and you could argue that the talent level on this team can match that of the Lakers.  The Clippers are one of the deepest teams in the league.  Having a bench that consists of Hill, Odom, Turiaf, Crawford, Eric Bledsoe and Matt Barnes gives you and exponential advantage on every one else in the league.  There are no breaks against this team.  The only scary thing about this team is it is still coached by Vinny Del Negro (c'mon you didn't expect Donald Sterling to do everything right).  The Clippers have a legitimate chance to take what is considered already the Lakers.  They could take over that city.  You want to be the talk of LA?  Then you have to take out the dog that has been residing there at the top for four decades now.  The Clippers are tired of being the little brother.  It is time for them to step up and take what has plagued them since their inception.  It is finally time for the Clippers to take down the Lakers.

Oklahoma City Thunder- They have the most prolific scorer in the game.  They have a top three point guard.  They have a guy who comes off the bench, but still represented Team USA in the Olympics.  They had a taste of success in 2012 that will drive them to stave off the bitter taste of defeat that it ended with.  The Thunder made the Finals and had a short lived lead in the series before losing the next four games.  This team is great at home, but needs to learn how to win better in a hostile environment.  In the postseason, the Thunder were nine and one at home and four and six going away.  The good news is that the young guns on the Thunder will learn from this experience.  Kevin Durant will learn how to lead when it matters most.  Russell Westbrook will learn how to calm down the game when it is starting to get to fast for them.  It is all a process with this team, but they have too much skill to take any kind of step back.  The Thunder have learned what they are playing for.  They were so close, but it was still out of reach.  Prepare to see a new Thunder team in 2012-13.  A team that is out for blood.  They want it this year and they won't let anyone stand in their way, especially a team that has been at the top so many times before.

So before any of you say how the Lakers are locks to be Western Conference champions look around.  There are other contenders just chomping at the bit to take down the big dogs.  They want to show that all the Laker moves were better for selling jerseys than obtaining wins.  The West hasn't been decided just yet.

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