#1 Seattle SuperSonics – This will most likely be the year of the “Durantula”. Winning Gold over the Summer in which the ball was placed squarely in Durant’s hands has me believing that he’s prime to take that next step towards league dominance. It’s like when Neo finally “got it” in the first (and only good) Matrix. I can talk about Durant forever, but it’s not like he’s alone out there in OKC. The maturation of Russell Westbrook has me thinking, Rajon Rondo? Yes, Westbrook can be that good. Plus in order to beat LA, you have to dominate the PG position, and Westbrook had his way with Fisher for the most part. Expect even more improvement from him, as he too benefited from the World Championships’. The pool of young talent doesn’t end there for OKC, as Jeff Green, James Harden and Serge Ibaka round out their core. Each of these players will contribute substantially to the team, with Harden being the most intriguing piece. Harden has looked good in the pre-season, and if he continues to play well, watch out! It’s refreshing to see a team like this built from the ground up. No huge free agent signings, no big trades. Aside from my beloved Warriors, I’ll be rooting for this team to succeed!
#2 LA Lakers – The Lakers may finish second in standings out West by season’s end, but they’re still the best team coming out of the conference. In fact, as much as it pains me to say it, they’re still the best team, period. Only question surrounding the Lakers is health. I’ve said this all Summer long, everyone’s worried about Kobe’s knee, but what they should be worried about is that finger he fractured last season. I don’t think he’s ever fully recovered from it, nor will he ever. Andrew Bynum’s timing on electing to have his knee surgery didn’t please anyone in the Lakers organization, but they’ll hold the fort down without him. Now, can he stay healthy once he returns? They’ll need Bynum out there come money time. This might be the season in which Pau Gasol gets the credit he deserves as being the Lakers’ best player. I still can’t believe the voters robbed him of the Finals MVP last season. Kobe went 6-24 in the biggest game of his career. Just saying. Nothing else to touch upon with this team, it’s Phil’s last ride, will it be off into the sunset? Hope not. Probably will.
#3 Houston Rockets – I’m finishing up these predictions today, which means I got a chance to watch the Rockets in action last night against the Lakers, and I must say, I’m impressed. Primarily by that explosive back court! Aaron Brooks and Kevin “Drake” Martin can light it up in an instance! I still like the combination of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis a little better, but the Brooks/Martin duo can do some serious damage. Of course the concern for Houston is if Martin can stay healthy. Over the past few seasons, he’s battled Andrew Bynum neck and neck for the title of “Most Fragile”. I’d put Greg Oden in that conversation too, but I feel sorry for the guy. Speaking of injuries, Yao Ming looked solid in his first regular season action in quite some time. He moved around fairly well, and once he shakes off some of that rust, he should be able to resemble his old self. Hopefully he’s healthier than what he’s letting off, and those “set” minutes slowly increase during the course of the season, because he’s a huge asset to the Rockets. Having Luis Scola makes up for a lot though. Ultimately, good coaching, solid role players, and big upside is why I’m high on the Rockets, but I know having them atop the South West division might be a bit of a stretch.
#4 Utah Jazz – Continue reading