Mini NBA season preview
BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor
With the NBA season ready to to tip off Sunday, it’s time to actually start thinking about basketball again.
The season, which was cut short due to labor disagreements, will jam pack 66 games into 124 games and test every single team more so than the regular 82-game campaigns. It may be hectic on the professional hardwood this season, but hoops fans should be excited about the shortened schedule because it’s sure to provide a playing field that is more equal.
Young teams that can come out of the gates blazing could end up winning the title this season with the advatages of young legs. Teams with larger cores of veterans may struggle because breaks will be short, off days will be erased and fatigue will hit harder than ever before.
This season should be one to remember. And there should be a plenty of curve balls thrown at the fans. But do not fear, Couchsideshow.com is here to prepare you for what should be a season full of surprises. We don’t have quite the resources to preview all 32 teams, but here’s a look at the top sixsquads and how each one could win the NBA Finals crown in 2012:
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
* Last season: 55-27 (1st place in Northwest Conference, Fifth in West). Defeated in Western Conference Finals by Dallas Mavericks, 4-1.
* Starting five: C. Kendrick Perkins; P.F. Serge Ibaka; S.F. Kevin Durant; S.G. James Harden; P.G. Russell Westbrook
* Preview: The Thunder are at the top of our list for good reason. Oklahoma City has one of the youngest rosters in the league and that will only payoff during a 66-game season. The Thunder will also see what they can do with Kendrick Perkins as their starting center for an entire season. That position has been lackluster at best for this team in the past. But now that they’ve found that guy to go a long with Durant and Westbrook, the sky is the limit for this very young squad.
* Last season: 58-24 (1st place in Southeast Conference, Second in East). Defeated in NBA Finals by Dallas Mavericks, 4-2.
* Starting five: C. Joel Anthony; P.F. Chris Bosh; S.F. LeBron James; S.G. Dwaye Wade; P.G. Mario Chalmers
* Preview: Mark my words, the Heat will be the No. 1 team in the East this season. And that’s all because of experience. The BIG THREE (James, Wade and Bosh) finally have that year of chemistry under their belts and Miami should only feel the benefits. Each player is at their best, still in their prime and they’re dead set to win a title. The Heat are week at center and point guard as usual, but that really doesn’t matter when the trio is on top of their games.
* Last season: 62-20 (1st place in Southeast Conference, Second in East). Defeated in Eastern Conference Finals by Miami Heat, 4-1.
* Starting five: C. Joakim Noah; P.F. Carlos Boozer; S.F. Luol Deng; S.G. Richard Hamilton; P.G. Derek Rose
* Preview: It should be a god fight between the Heat and Bulls for who can claim the best record in the NBA or the East Conference is a monster from the West emerges. But Chicago does have a bit of age in the starting lineup with Hamilton and Boozer and if those two can’t hack the sort season, it could hurt the Bulls. Also expect Rose to perhaps repeat and MVP season after his giant contract extension.
* Last season: 57-25 (2nd place in Southwest Conference, Third in West). Defeated Miami Heat for franchise’s first NBA title, 4-2.
* Starting five: C. Brendan Haywood; P.F. Dirk Nowitski; S.F. Shawn Marion; S.G. Jason Terry; P.G. Jason Kidd
* Preview: The Mavericks definitely are an older team, but the formula for success is deeply instilled on this squad of crafty veterans. And although Dallas lost Tyson Chandler in the offseason, they did make some nice additions by trading for Lamar Odom and signing Vince Carter. The Mavericks are just so solid one through 12, I believe they’ll either record the best record in the West or finish barely behind the Thunder.
* Last season: 57-25 (1st place in Pacific Conference, Second in West). Defeated by Dallas Mavericks in Conference Semifinals, 4-0.
* Starting five: C. Andrew Bynum; P.F. Pau Gasol; S.F. Metta World Peace; S.G. Kobe Bryant; P.G. Derek Fisher
* Preview: The Lakers will remain one of the top team’s in the NBA because of Kobe Bryant. He will have a bigger role this season with Mike Brown as L.A.’s new coach and Kobe could prosper from a bigger leadership role. He won’t have Lamar Odom, pushing him even harder to take more shots and score more points. And when Kobe does that, the Lakers win. Plain and simple.
* Last season: 32-50 (4th place in Pacific Conference, 13th in West). Did not reach postseason.
* Starting five: C. DeAndre Jordan; P.F. Blake Griffin; S.F. Caron Butler; S.G. Chauncey Billups; P.G. Chris Paul
* Preview: I don’t know if the Clippers are top six, but this wouldn’t be a very good season preview if the other L.A. team wasn’t included. The addition of three new starters (Paul, Butler and Billups) definitely makes them a top eight team in the West and the Clippers should find their first playoff birth in a long time. And for those additions only, the Clips make the list while the Celtics and Spurs get left off. Sorry, but Boston and San Antonio are just too old to hand with these super teams filled with players in their prime.