Well the 2009-2010 season starts tomorrow, and after my “fantasy” draft held tonight, I can’t be any more excited to get this damn thing started! So now is the time to hit you with my “Westside” predictions, before I get so caught up in the season that I forget!
Carmelo Anthony is the superstar of the bunch, there’s no bones about that, but the most important cog to this Nuggets machine has to be Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups. It was truly amazing to see the turn of fortune both the Nuggets and Pistons had when the huge Billups/Iverson trade went down. Denver became the favorite in the West at one point, and were poised to take down the Lakers minus a few bone-head plays, including the inbound pass stolen by Ariza. Over in the Motor City, that team fell apart, and now they have completely rebuilt their unit.
Denver is now the hunted in their division, but I believe they’re game for it, and despite not making any huge off-season acquisitions, they’re still the second best team in the conference with San Antonio nipping at their heels. If you take a quick peek at their roster, they didn’t really need to change anything. They are solid top to bottom, all that’s needed to run this team, is the proper motivation. As much as the world would like to see either another epic Lakers/Celtics Finals, or the highly anticipated Kobe/LeBron Finals (now feat. Shaq), I’m going to go out on a little limb here and say Denver represents the West in the Finals … and Tupac wouldn’t mind it one bit.
I would really, really like this young team more if they hadn’t had so many key injuries to their cornerstone pieces. I know outside of Kevin Love, they are all back and healthy, but how ready are they? Recovering from major injuries are never a guarantee. Al Jefferson is worthy of being the franchise player of this team, and if he can get back to what he was prior to that devastating leg injury that cut his year short last season, than Minnesota can’t be over-looked. With Jefferson, and eventually a healthy Love in the front court, Ramon Sessions, Ryan Gomes and my sleeper, Corey Brewer filling out the other positions, Minnesota has a great young nucleus that can start to make a splash this season. Add Wayne Ellington and Johnny Flynn, and this team might be serious contenders sooner than later. They may not make the post-season this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t at least in the thick of things come season’s end.
Similar to Minnesota, this young team is on the verge. Kevin Durant is knocking on the door of super-stardom, and he just might break through it this season. Russell Westbrook is a fine young guard with tremendous speed, and is lethal in the open floor. Jeff Green has great balance and compliments Durant well, and watch out for the rookie out of Arizona State, James Harden. He has a little bit of Brandon Roy to him, his game is very smooth, and most importantly, it’s more refined and mature than some of the raw talent that other rookies have. He could start producing for this team now. Once again, as in Minnesota, the Thunder have some nice pieces in place, just wish they had a solid front line, Nick Collison isn’t really doing it for me.
The Thunder will fall short of the playoffs — maybe next year.
Had Portland made it past Houston last year, the Lakers might not have been champions. Not saying the Trailblazers would have won themselves, but there’s just certain matches that seem to favor one team over another, similar to how Dallas didn’t really want to see the Warriors back in ’07, the Lakers wanted no piece of this young Blazer team. Steve Blake ran this team very well, but I think the addition of Andre Miller gives this team a little boost. Unfortunately, not enough though. I truly believe the success of this team hinges on the development of the “40 year old” 21-year-old Greg Oden. Despite the array of young perimeter players the Blazers have, and they have an abundance, championships are truly won from the inside out. Oden and Aldridge have to have dominating years for them to be real contenders.
Another team that didn’t make any moves during the off-season, well they made moves but not changes … that sounds more like it. Chris Paul > Deron Williams. It’s true, but hey being the second best point guard in the league isn’t too shabby. On his team, Deron is second to none though, and it’s time for him to step up and become the leader this team needs. They have talent all-around, and yes, enough talent to win a championship. But they need Deron to be to the Jazz, what Chauncey is to the Nuggets, and was to the Pistons. Deron has kind of settled on being a great player on a pretty good team, he needs to now, flat-out be “the man”. Okur, Boozer, Millsap, Kirilenko round off the front court (solid) and Brewer is a pest along the perimeter, amongst the league leaders in thefts last season. The Jazz are somewhat of my sleeper team this season, all though they are not a secret, no one really expects them to have a title push, I’d like to steady monitor their progress then get back to you.
The Jazz are a 4th seed right now, but that could easily change.
MORE TO COME!