Miami Heat: What do the Heat have to do to repeat?
• Matt: I think the better question here is what do the Heat have to do to not repeat as champions, because right now, they’re the clear cut favorite. LeBron is coming off one of the greatest seasons in NBA history, and the guy still has room to improve. Wade and Bosh are still solid, and though health concerns will always be an issue, the two will still be steady contributors come playoff time. Added bench depth means a continued reliance on small ball with the acquisitions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, which isn’t a bad thing. The Heat proved last season they can match up with any team despite the lack of traditional low post depth, and now that that monkey is off LeBron’s back, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this team top the 60-win mark.
• Brett: There is a very simple answer to this question: they just have to play basketball. Seriously. They are still the best team in the league after rampaging through it last year and still have the best player on the planet in LeBron James. The bench is much improved with the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis and oh yeah, they still have Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The NBA needs to be on lookout again because the Heat are more dangerous than last season.
Orlando Magic: Who is the most important player on the Magic now that Dwight Howard is gone?
• Matt: Last season, the Magic were an early favorite for playoff success before Dwightmares and Dwight injuries bogged down what could have been a relatively successful season. If their first-round loss to Pacers was any indication what the Magic could do without Dwight Howard, this season is already shaping up to be a long one. Right now, the most important player on this Magic squad has to be Arron Afflalo. The biggest get in the Dwight Howard trade, Afflalo has the ability to score the ball and defend either guard position, which is invaluable in a league full of defensive switch-ups and faster play on the wing. Sure, having guys like Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson will take some of the pressure off their new Magic teammates, but in the end, it might be weird to say this, but I’d argue Afflalo is the team’s best player now, and needs to play like one.
• Brett: The Magic’s roster looks so bad on paper. Like, No. 1 overall pick worthy. That’s why it’s so hard to pinpoint the player who is most important to the Magic now that Dwight Howard is in LA-LA Land. I guess if I had to choose one, it would be their point guard, Jameer Nelson. He’s a seasoned veteran who has been with the team for a long time, and the only guy that exudes any type of leadership qualities on a consistent basis. There are other names on the roster that could fit, such as Al Harrington or Hedo Turkoglu, but realistically, Nelson is the de facto leader of this team, despite the anonymity. (more…)
With the NBA season upon us, many are already jumping to predict the next champion. Will the Heat repeat? Will the Thunder look to take it one step further and win the organization’s first championship? Or will a retooled Lakers or Celtics squad step up to the plate and show that savvy veterans have what it takes to compete with the young dogs?
But just because the end goal (to win it all) remains firmly in sight, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a Sacramento Kings/Cleveland Cavaliers game, right? There are 30 teams to break down, which is why Matt Vinsko and Brett Murdock (with a little help from their friends) are here to answer the biggest questions from all around the league. So sit back, relax, and enjoy an in-depth breakdown of the NBA season prior to opening tip.
Phoenix Suns: What is the biggest challenge for the Suns in the first year of the post-Nash era?
• Brett: Looking ahead, the Suns biggest concern is their chemistry and how they will mesh. There are some pretty good pieces to this puzzle now, both in the starting line-up and on the bench. Acquisitions like Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola bring talent and namesake to the starters to go along with fan favorite (and possible face of the franchise?!) Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat. Off the bench, Wesley Johnson has impressed so far for his new team, but the rest of the back-ups have been underwhelming, including first-round pick Kendall Marshall. As it stands, there is no real floor general like Nash was, and it will take some time to find that cohesiveness that coach Alvin Gentry needs for this team to get back to the playoffs.
L.A. Lakers: Does the Dwight Howard trade put the Los Angeles Lakers back into title contention?
• Matt: If you would have asked me this question prior to last season, I would have immediately told you what a benefit Dwight Howard would be. But now, coming off a season filled with off-the-court drama and a number of injuries (compared to Andrew Bynum’s career year), it’s hard to be ecstatic. Sure, Dwight will help defensively, which is what the Lakers needed last year in the playoffs against a much-younger Oklahoma City squad. And even though defense isn’t his specialty, Steve Nash is set to rejuvenate a somewhat stagnate offense. But still, it’s hard to be excited knowing Superman can walk out the door at the end of the season if contract negotiations fall flat. With the Lakers, it always feels like a championship or bust mentality, and unless Nash, Pau Gasol, and even Kobe Bryant can channel their youth, it’s hard to see the Lakers competing night in and night out for 48 minutes. (more…)
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
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In this week’s episode, Couch Side co-hosts Wade McMillin and Craig Paul bring back special guest Sean Schoonover to preview the upcoming NFL season and dish out some Fantasy Football advice. Craig and Wade also discuss Week Seven of the NFL and handle a question about the Lance Armstrong turmoil. Click below to start steaming, downloading or subscribing to the Couch Side Podcast:
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: