Friday, September 28, 2012

Ten Teams That Can Halt Kobe Vs LeBron (Eastern Conference)

It took long enough, but it is starting to look like the Eastern Conference is catching up to the skill of the Western Conference.  Whether it is the fact the Spurs and Mavericks got old or the Knicks, Nets and Sixers all got a lot better, it just shows that dominance can't last forever.  Speaking of dominance, the Miami Heat were just that in 2012.  The year was a strange on with the lockout shortened season and back to back to backs happening all over the league.  Miami thrived on the crazy schedules.  They had bench depth and three superstars that helped each other every night.  The fact that one guy didn't have to do it on his own night in and night out had this team rolling.

Plenty of front offices took notice to the success that Miami obtained and they did their best to follow in their footsteps.  The Knicks and Nets fought each other to get Carmelo Anthony to be the centerpiece of their team.  The Knicks won, but the Nets got a nice constellation prize in Deron Williams.  Point of the matter is the Heat aren't going to roll over opponents in 2012-13 like they did in 11-12. Teams are getting smart and trying to put superstars with good supporting casts around them.  Everyone is looking at the Heat with that same bulls eye on their back that became too much to take in 2011.  The Heat are still the best team in the East, but they aren't the only contender in the East.

Threats to the Heat:

Brooklyn Nets- I have to admit this is a big maybe in regards to how much they can compete.  They added Joe Johnson, CJ Watson, Jerry Stackhouse's corpse and Josh Childress to a twenty-two win team.  Is that really that big of a jump?  Well yes, when you look at the talent they are adding it to.  The Nets are that team where you had no idea what they are going to do this year.  They could have terrible chemistry, stop listening to Avery Johnson, make Mikhail Prokhorov turn into Ironman, and have as many wins as last year.  This team also has the talent to play out of their mind, get inspired by the new arena/location, captivate the New York audience, be motivated to steal the fans away from the Knicks, and be a legitimate contender.  I predict they will be somewhere in the middle for most of the year.  They will have big wins, yet some questionable losses.  They will, however, pull it together and make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Indiana Pacers- Remember them?  This was the team people started picking to upend the Heat in the second round of the playoffs.  The Pacers took a two games to one lead on the Heat and had taken home court for the series.  That is when Miami put it into overdrive and won three games in a row to take the series.  Maybe the Pacers were too young last year to handle that kind of pressure.  The Heat were used to pressure and now Indiana has some under their belt.  Their young stars (Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough, Paul George) will mix well with the veteran presence (David West, Danny Granger) to make a legitimate run in 2013.  Don't forget what I think is one of the most underrated signings in DJ Augustine.  Any time you can get a guy off the bench who averages eleven points and six rebounds you are going to get a lot better.  This team isn't riddles with superstars, but they have the type of game that can put the Heat in a position they don't want to be in.  They have size up front and good shooters in the backcourt.  This lethal combination can help Indiana finish the job this year.

Boston Celtics- Every year this team is supposed to be too old and Kevin Garnett is going to break down and Rajon Rondo is impossible to deal with and blah blah blah.  Boston doesn't care what you have to say.  They treated Ray Allen bad and he left?  They upgraded with Jason Terry.  Can't retool a team when you're always picking late in the draft?  Jared Sullinger falls to them (whom I think is going to grow into a great player).  Can't win with this team?  They make it to the Eastern Conference Finals again.  The Celtics are far from done.  Can they beat the Heat?  Yes, I think they can.  They have veteran prowess and new toys that make them scarier than last year.  They get Jeff Green back after he lost his season with heart ailments.  This team is going to make moves again in 2013 and there going to show they are still the team to beat in the Atlantic.

Chicago Bulls- I know Derrick Rose is out, and I know that this team is going to struggle in the beginning of the season sans their lone superstar.  That doesn't make much of a difference because the Bulls are going to make the playoffs.  Once the playoffs start they are going to have Rose back.  They also brought back Kirk Hinrich and added Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli.  They may have lost the Bench Mob, but the most important part of that, Taj Gibson, is still around.  They brought in veteran Nazr Mohammed to back up Joakim Noah.  It is about the same team from last year once they get Rose back.  Remember that everyone had the Heat and Bulls as locks to meet in the ECF, but Rose's torn ACL made that impossible.  You could say we were robbed of the best match up to stop the Heat in their tracks, but injuries are part of the game.  Luckily for the Bulls, so are miraculous comebacks.  Rose has already started shooting the basketball and his recovery is going well.  The Bulls need to play well up until the all star weekend when he comes back.  The return of Rose will boost this team at the perfect time.  This team will go into the playoffs rolling and they will be the ones with the "it should have been us" chip on their shoulder. 

New York Knicks- The Knicks had a busy offseason in 2012.  They added cagey veterans, defensive specialists, and possibly some long shots (Rasheed Wallace in case you were curious).  Most of their moves look good on paper.  They may have lost Jeremy Lin, but with the additions of Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton that will probably only hurt jersey sales.  They brought back Steve Novak and JR Smith who were both key cogs in winning streaks the team went on last year.  They brought in back up big men Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby.  They have Ronnie Brewer to be a perimeter defense until Iman Shumpert comes back.  Of course, they have another year of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire trying to figure out how to work with each other.  Then there is Tyson Chandler clogging up the middle.  There would good reports coming out of the Olympics that Anthony is ready to finally make that jump into super stardom.  He has spent time watching LeBron and Wade both win rings while in the same draft class.  He is arguably the best player in the NBA without a ring (either him or Howard) and he is hearing the media when they say he can't make this work.  This team has a full preseason to work out any kinks and build chemistry.  Stoudemire is working with Hakeem Olajuwon to better his rebounding skills.  All in all this team is a lot better than last year and they will finally move up in the playoffs.  You know they want payback against the team that took them out last year.

The Heat aren't unstoppable, we know that, but everything has to go right for a team to dethrone the champs.  The Heat saw what it was like to be on top, and they want nothing more than to stay there for a very long time.  Miami is the team to beat.  No doubt in my mind, but with much less going on in the NBA than last year expect the hate from other cities come back at the Heat.  The boo birds will rain in every away arena.  Will that get to them like it did in 2011?  Or will it drive them to be better?  All I know is I love the way the 2012-13 season is shaping up.

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