Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Full Court Press 10.27.15: 2015-16 NBA Preview #NBA #NBATipOff

By @mrgroce

If you are a fan of the NBA like I am, today could not have come fast enough.

There will be three match-ups to kickoff the 2015-2016 season tonight: Detroit Pistons vs. Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Chicago Bulls, and the New Orleans Pelicans vs. the Golden State Warriors. Once again, I plan on forking over $200 for NBA League Pass to watch my favorite sport and athletes. 

Last season was as entertaining, as much as it was frustrating. The key factor to most of what transpired last year was injuries. Injuries prevented the Oklahoma City Thunder from being in the playoffs. Injuries altered the playoff outcomes for Memphis, Portland, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, and Toronto. Injuries prevented the Cleveland Cavaliers from winning a championship. None of that should take away from the unbelievable season that the Golden State Warriors had. They won it all and deserve credit for it. There are lot of different story lines that intrigue me this year, but for the sake of this article I'm going to try and cut it down to ten. 

1. Can the Golden State Warriors repeat? It has always been said that a jump shooting team can't win a championship. Despite having the best record in the league all season long, people kept saying it wouldn't last long. The Warriors were one of the few playoff teams that avoided a significant injury and rode their MVP winning point guard Steph Curry to the Larry O' Brien trophy. 

2. What can we expect from the Oklahoma City Thunder? First, can they stay healthy? Secondly, if healthy, how will Durant and Westbrook coexist? The last time both guys were on the floor together Durant hadn't played with the Westbrook that came close to winning the MVP award. Will one guy step back and let the other be "the man" or are we looking at a Kobe vs Shaq type situation? How will new coach Billy Donovan handle having two talented superstars on the floor at the same time? Will Durant and Westbrook actually listen to a former college coach?

3. Will the Cleveland Cavaliers win the championship that eluded them last season? So close we could taste it, but one by one we watched them go down. First it was Kevin Love, then Kyrie Irving, then Iman Shumpert. JR got suspended, Delly got sick. LeBron is great, but even he couldn't overcome all of that. If the Cavs can stay healthy, the Eastern Conference will belong to them. They'll simply be waiting to play whoever makes it out of the West to play in the Finals. 

4. Is Anthony Davis ready to take it to the next level? Many experts have chosen Anthony to be the first pick as the guy they'd take to start a franchise. I disagree, but he's almost there. I know that night in and night out he can battle and win against the best bigs in the game, but can he take his team past the first round of the playoffs. Can he lift his team from the bottom half of the eight playoff teams and lift them to the top four and host a playoff series. 

5. Is this it for Kobe Bryant and what does that mean for the Lakers? Kobe is one of the greats. He's always said that he would retire before coming off of the bench and being a 13-15 points per game guy. The Lakers have a good up and coming young core with pieces like rookie D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance Jr. Will Kobe take away playing time from one of these young men or will coach Scott have the "marbles" to tell him its 25 minutes a game from here on out. As a 20 year fan of Kobe I hope he knows when it's time to walk away. 

6. Will the Miami Heat look as good in real life as they do on paper? PG Goran Dragic had a full training camp to work with Wade,  Bosh, and rookie Justice Winslow. Big man Hassan Whiteside commands respect in the paint and Amar'e Stoudemire still has a little left in the tank. The question with this team is the same as always can they stay healthy? If so, this is the only team the Cleveland Cavaliers should be worried about. 

7. Has the Chicago Bulls identity changed? With the departure of Tom Thibodeau who was a defensive genius, how will be Bulls play under new coach Fred Hoiberg? The last time a truly great defensive minded team lost its coach (Detroit Pistons Larry Brown), and the team full of vets started falling off, players started getting traded away while some left for free agency. In my opinion, if Chicago doesn't win it all this season, expect to see either Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, or Pau Gasol to be traded in the offseason. 

8. Who's the favorite in the West?  The Spurs and Clippers seemed to have made the biggest improvements, while the Rockets, Warriors, and Thunder pretty much remained quiet and kept their rosters in tact. As usual it's going to come down to the match-ups, but if health is not an issue I don't see any team beating the Clippers in a seven game series. Wow, even I can't believe I just wrote that. Newly acquired players Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, and Lance Stephenson can absolutely help this team win it all. The only question is if coach Rivers can somehow contain all of those egos and get them to buy in. The key to that will be Pierce. He's well respected around the league and guys listen when he speaks. 

9. Should we care about the Knicks? Probably not, but it's a team from New York which means somebody cares, I guess. Carmelo is healthy and coach Fisher heads into his second season with limited talent on the roster. Will rookie Kristaps Porzingis be able to deal with the media in the Big Apple if he doesn't live up to their expectations? Will team president Phil Jackson turn things around? Will owner James Dolan bring back Isaiah Thomas in some capacity? 

10. Who will be this years surprise and disappointing teams? I'm not sure why, but I think I'm picking the Orlando Magic to make it to the playoffs this year as the eight seed. They have some pretty good young talent led by Victor Oladipo and a strict coach in Scott Skiles who has had success as a head coach. The team I expect to disappoint or "fall off" will be the Washington Wizards. I am not a Paul Pierce fan, but for the reasons I had him helping the Clippers reach the Finals are the same reasons I have his leaving Washington as the main cause of them falling from the 5th seed to the 7th or 8th and departing in the first round of the playoffs.

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