Thoughts on 2011-2012
Despite only one playoff series going 7 games this was a great playoffs with an awesome Finals. The Miami Heat were a huge story all year along with the emergence of Rose as an MVP, the star power of Durant and Westbrook, and Dirk's great playoff run. Dirk earned a ring with the Miami Heat falling short. What about next year?
My preseason favorite is Dallas. They have Dirk who is on top of his game and the best guy in the league. When he gets going on offense he is unstoppable. He can shoot from 3, midrange, or he can post up. Plus, he is automatic from the line. His post up game has improved and is the best 7 footer on offense in the league. His fadeaway is great as is his turnaround. If he develops a pull-up bank shot like Tim Duncan or a hook shot like Kareem then he will be even better next year and could extend his prime for another 2 or 3 years. He is also a pretty good rebounder (he was actually the leading rebounder in the game with 11), and a solid shot blocker. He still needs to work on passing since he will see numerous double teams next year.
Kidd and Marion will be another year older but the biggest part of their decline is over (losing their first step, and Marion losing a bit of his spring) so both will be about the same next year. Kidd hit some huge shots in the playoffs and that will still be there along with his passing and court vision. He is still a pretty good rebounder. Last night he had 9 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds which was very close to his season average. Kidd's production might drop to 7 points, 7 assists, and 3 rebounds but Jet, Barea, and a fully healed Roddy Beaubois will help pick up the slack. Getting Beaubois back will be big. Getting Caron Butler back will be bigger. He can score and defend and gives Dirk another good scoring complement. Marion will still be there and I really liked his low-post game. He had some great moves down there. He should still be an effective rebounder too. I think Tyson Chandler will stay and he is an above average center who can rebound and throw down alley-oops. A healthy Haywood is a perfect backup center. Brian Cardinal played some great minutes and he brings even more toughness and defense. He may have a lost a step (if he ever had one), but he is actually getting tougher. Reminds me of a bigger, stronger Shane Battier.
Jason Terry was incredible in Game 6. A truly great performance. He will still be a great sixth man with Barea being a killer with his drives and creative shots. Stevenson played very well and was perfect as a defensive wing man who can hit 3's off the bench. He hit 3 HUGE three pointers in Game 6 then got in Miami's head with his scuffle at mid-court.
Next year the Mavs will start Kidd, Butler, Marion, Dirk, and Chandler with Terry, Barea, Beaubois, Stevenson, Cardinal, and Haywood off the bench. That's a team that is 11 deep and they also have a decent draft pick.
The Mavs are my favorites to win it all.
Other West teams that will contend are OKC who have an emerging Big Three with Durant, Westbrook, and Harden. Those guys played well but you could tell that they were inexperienced. Ibaka played great. Perkins and Collison were servicable big men who gave them rebounds and toughness. They need another scorer off the bench and a veteran backup point guard. They can also use a low post scorer, but the pieces are there and should win the division and go deep in the playoffs. If they can find a guy to guard Dirk, a low post scorer (Big Baby Davis?), and a solid veteran point guard to backup Westbrook and hit some shots then they will be in great shape. Even if they lose to the Mavs next year it will be a 6 or 7 game series.
The race for second in the West will come down to the Thunder and the Grizzlies. Memphis has some great scoring inside with Z Bo and Gasol plus some solid wing defenders in Tony Allen, Shane Battier (who they need to resign), and Sam Young. Mike Conley Jr. is steady and improving. Getting Rudy Gay back is going to be HUGE. He's a great scorer, a great athlete who has hit some clutch shots (including a buzzer beater over LeBron). He has also played some good defense at times. If he can put it together he could be an all-star talent next year. As it is, he can get 20 points and 6 rebounds in his sleep. OJ Mayo is a good scorer and shooter and fits best as the team's sixth man. He can turn into the new Jason Terry. Darrell Arthur is a good backup power forward who can rebound and score. Hopefully they get a solid pick at 49. With a great first option in Z Bo, a great second option in Gay, along with two other first rate scorers in Gasol and Conley (both can pass too) they have one of the most complete teams in the league along with Dallas. Tony Allen can play great defense with OJ Mayo providing solid offense off the bench. If Xavier can be another good shooter then look for him to add depth. The Grizzlies have more weapons than the Thunder and a few guys who can slow down Durant (Gay, Battier, Tony Allen, and Sam Young). If everything goes right for the Grizzlies next year they could come out of the West even though they are still probably a year away from getting past the Mavs.
The Lakers got rid of Coach Phil. This actually might be a good thing. The Lakers need to refocus. A core of Kobe, Pau, Odom, Bynum, and Artest is still formidable. Yes, they need an upgrade at point guard but I think they will spend some money to find one. Shannon Brown is a free agent and should be resigned. The Lakers are the dark horse team in the West who got beat badly in round 2 but should still be a decent contender in 2012 (unlike the Spurs who might be way to over the hill. Clips, Warriors, and Kings are a year or 2 away with the Rockets being my early sleeper pick out West who can cause some real problems if they make the playoffs). So I think the Lakers will be back. Kobe is still in search of his sixth ring to pass Magic (greatest Laker ever) and tie Jordan (greatest ever). If he wins one without Phil Jackson then that would be HUGE since MJ (and Pip) won all his with Phil Jackson. Shaq won one without Phil but he had Pat Riley instead -- the guy who maximized Showtime and turned Magic and Kareem into all-time greats and all-time winners. Oh, and a Lakers versus Heat NBA Finals would be HUGE! Mike Brown coaching Kobe and the redemptive Lakers versus the Heat and a reunion between Brown and LeBron in the Finals will be an underlying subplot to the 2012 season as somewhat of a long-shot but still a realistic Finals matchup.
Out East the Heat is still the team to beat with the Big Three although Wade, LeBron, and Bosh may have peaked. Chalmers is coming on strong, hitting big shots and scoring, and might be the starting point guard that the Heat have been looking for. Udonis Haslem is still a good player who can score and rebound off the bench. Joel Anthony is steadily improving but his game is limited to blocking shots and getting a few rebounds. Mike Miller is signed for the next few years but he had a really bad year. Not very good on defense, and his offense was streaky at best. The rest of the team might be gone, so whoever they bring in will have to get adjusted to the rest of the guys. Chemistry might be an issue next year too.
The Bulls are a step below the Heat but the Bulls core is still very young and getting better (Rose, Noah, and Gibson). Deng is refining his game. Boozer was hurt and didn't do much against Miami but he can still score some and rebound some. Asik is solid and improving. His loss early in the series really hurt the Bulls. If they upgrade at the 2 guard spot in the offseason then that would help the Bulls and would give them 3 very solid wing players off the bench in Bogans, Korver, and Brewer. The Bulls have 3 draft picks and look to improve their bench. Shelvin Mack would be a good option with his instant offense and 3 point shooting. He can also play some point guard either to give Rose a rest or to start with Rose and allowing Rose to play off the ball. With another year of experience the Bulls could end up beating the Heat to get to the Finals but right now the Heat are a slight favorite to win the East.
The Celtics are a sleeper pick. The loss of Shaq might help in that he didn't give them much and was the Big Distraction all year. If they can get a serviceable center then they should be ok since they still have the Big Three and Rajon Rondo. They don't have much off the bench but Big Baby and Jeff Green are solid and are actually two better scorers than the Bulls or Heat have off the bench. The Celtics don't need to break up the team just yet. I think they just need to retool and give it one more shot. If Jeff Green learns to play some tough, hard-nosed, Celtics-style defense he might actually be the kind of guy who can really give LeBron fits and slow him down. He is a good 6'8 or 6'9 with solid strength, athleticism, and length. He's also a solid scorer who can rebound some. Jeff Green could be the X factor for the Celtics next year if they face Miami in the playoffs. They really need a center (Jermaine O'Neal is a solid backup at best now) who can rebound and defend. Jeff Foster might be a good option. A great rebounder who can play hard. In the draft Shelvin Mack might be a good option for the Celtics too. A scorer and 3 point shooter off the bench who can play some point guard. ... then they could bring in Matt Howard as a rookie free agent who would be a scrappy, role-playing 12th man at worst, and a Brian Cardinal-style enforcer, defender, and 3 point threat at best.
The Knicks have 2 legit all-stars. Unfortunately they think they are superstars and are paid as such. They both are ball-stopping jump shooting primadonnas who don't complement each other well. Billups is an old point guard who might have something left, but he might not. Toney Douglas is a good reserve scorer but one of their few offensive threats off the bench. Shawne Williams is a versatile player who can rebound and hit 3's and can come in for either Amare or Carmelo. He could start for them but they already have two guys (Amare and Melo... Amarelo?) who do the same thing. Landry Fields is a good role player at the 2 who can rebound very well for his position. They have a big weakness at center though? How bad? The Knicks haven't been this weak at center since the night Wilt went for 100. With their payroll devoted to basically 3 guys the Knicks don't have much room to improve this year. The upside for the 2011-2012 Knicks might be a 50 win season followed by a second round loss.
The Hawks and Magic are going nowhere. A 4-6 seed and a 7 game first round series might be it for these two teams. ... the Pacers are up and coming and have a nice core. If they can get Jimmer then he would be the scorer they need off the bench. They could move into that 4-5 series (probably against the Knicks) and might just win it. But all three teams are a step behind the Celtics and at least two behind the Heat and Bulls.
If the Cavs absolutely nail the draft and wind up with the best 2 rookies the Cavs could outperform and wind up getting the 8th seed to face the Heat in possibly the most-hyped 1 versus 8 series in NBA history. Baron Davis has the skills to keep BOTH teams in the game. Bonus points for a possible LeBron James versus Derrick Williams showdown.
I wouldn't say the Magic are going nowhere, any team with Howard and a bunch of shooters is dangerous. The Bulls will be better, and so will Miami. The west is too unpredictable, Dallas wll be good, but they will be a year older, L. A. will be good but Kobe is declining fast, so I don't have a clear picture of whats going to happen there,
IM from dallas and im a big Mavs fan
Mavs probably wont start Marion and Butler they will probably start Barea or Beaubois.
Pg-Kidd (guarding the Sg )
Sg-Beaubois(guarding the Pg)
And the Knicks will be very dangerous, and I thought there playoff sweep this year was a fluke, they could do damage in the playoffs. But come on cleveland vs miami wouldn't be very competitive as a playoff matchup.
Kobe is declining fast?..He looked pretty good this year, last year, year before. Actually he hasn't shown a fast decline at all.
I see Dallas and the Lakers fighting for first (very possible that the Lakers will get it with a new focus on defense and some added players)
Kobe looked tired against the Mavs, but maybe he was mentally tired more than anything. He is not as athletic or explosive as he once was but he is a smarter player who can play great in spurts. I think a new coach and an extended summer vacation will really help him.
I think Kobe is similar to Dirk. Both guys are great shooters who can score from anywhere and have both developed a solid post-up game. Both players can get to the line. I think Dirk and Kobe can both have extended primes similar to Jordan and Kareem. Finesse, smarts, fundamentals, a great shooting touch, clutch scoring, a great basketball IQ, and a killer instinct will allow both Dirk and Kobe to play at a very high level for a few more years.
I think the West will be a battle of the old guard (Mavs, Lakers) and the new guard (Thunder, Grizzlies). Should be another great final four out west just as it was last year.
Out east the Heat are the slight favorites with the Bulls coming in a somewhat close second. After that the Celtics are a step below both with the Magic, Knicks, and Hawks being below the other three teams. Those teams will battle for the 4-6 spots and will win one series at best.
I wouldn't be surprised if Wade and LeBron both look a step slower next year. Their explosiveness and athleticism has peaked, so they really need to work on perimeter shooting and posting up. They also need to figure out how they will play with one another. Bosh will be pretty steady and a good third option. Mario Chalmers is up and coming and reminds me of Chauncy Billups with his clutch three's, great size for a point guard, his toughness, and his ability to score. The problem against the Mavs was that the Mavs had more depth and the better overall TEAM, and the MAVS also had the best PLAYER. I see no reason why things will be different next year either.
Depending on what the Bulls do in the offseason, the eastern conference championship might be a tougher battle for the Heat to win.
I would want to say that the Mavs have one more great run left in them, so the Heat should just wait another year. But, in two years the Bulls and Thunder will be better and in prime contention for a championship. Rose/Noah and Durant/Westbrook will be vastly improved, but LeBron and Wade might not be. Over the next 3 years the Heat will have a decent shot to get a ring, but so will Chicago and OKC, and you can't count out the Mavs either. LeBron and Company might have to settle for a mini-dynasty such as the Celtics Big Three have had starting in 2008 (one title, one Finals lose, still quasi-contenders).
I don''t see anyone competin with Miami in the east. Bulls dont have enough money to sign any significant player. They will probably add something but so will the Heat and they will also have a year of playing together under their belt.
I'm Gonna keep a close eye on the Clippers with there core a year older on top of the fact that i expect them to add a very good player this offseason once they trade Kahma