By JOEY MERKEL and NICK NELSON
Even if most of the autumn sports-commotion descends upon the National Football League, it’s hard to ignore that the National Basketball Association was live and in full effect Tuesday night.
Some teams stayed the same, some teams got big additions (including a new city), but one thing is for sure: at the beginning of the season, everyone is sent back to 0-0.
For those not up to speed on all the off-season additions, subtractions and scenery changes, here’s a recap and prediction for each division.
Atlantic Division: Boston Celtics
It’s hard to vote against the defending champions to win their own division, so let’s not. “The Boston Three Party” is back; one year older and one year wiser, but the fact is that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are still all-star caliber players.
The Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors will be in the playoff mix for sure but may not have the experience to take down the Celts.
The Sixers saw Thaddeus Young and Andre Miller have breakout seasons and with the veteran leadership of Andre Iguodala and recent free-agent acquisition Elton Brand, they will pick up where they left off last season; the playoffs.
The Nets are getting better, trading for second-year player Yi Jianlian and getting rid of Richard Jefferson’s contract was a good move. Could they possibly be gearing up for a big name free agent signing? Possibly someone with a name rhyming with Kabron Bames?
Central Division: Detroit Pistons (Nick)/ Cleveland Cavaliers (Joey)
At least one if not both of the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers will be playing in thhe Eastern Conference finals. Though, the Pistons have the experience, the Cavaliers have youth and experience, not to mention someone named “The King.” That’s right, Lebron James will lead lead the Cavs to the third Eastern Conference Finals of his career.
Mo Williams is definitely the best point guard that James has ever played with and he should definitely improve an already excellent team.
The Bulls will hang around all-season, like they always do, but it will depend on how rookie Derrick Rose adapts to the league .
Southeast Division: Atlanta Hawks
Dwight Howard and the Magic definitely appear to be the front-runner to repeat in the Southeast, but don’t forget the Atlanta Hawks came one game shy of knocking off the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. Al Horford, Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith are as solid as anyone in the league. How well the team does may revolve around the continuing development of Marvin Williams.
The Wizards are already behind with Gilbert Arenas out until December, but look for the Miami Heat and a pissed off Dwayne Wade to stir up the division. Remember, they still have Shawn Marion, and drafted Michael Beasley this past year.
Northwest Division: Denver Nuggest (Nick)/ Utah Jazz (Joey)
Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson of the Denver Nuggest should win this division every year but because they are both ball hogs, they won’t show the same results as Deron Willams and Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz. No one else in that division is quite ready to contend, but the closest to that point are the Portland Trailblazers.
The Blazers have Lamarcus Aldrigde, 2006 Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy and solid point guard in Steve Blake. They also two potential Rookie of the Year candidates in Greg Oden and Spain’s Rudy Fernandez, who has been playing professional ball over seas for the past seven years. Look for them to get it together later in the year and continue their progress in the 2009 seaon.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, previously the Seattle Supersonics, have Kevin Durant. Unfortunately, that’s about it. They are probably another few years away from doing a whole lot.
Pacific Division: Los Angeles Lakers
Hate it or love it, the Lakers will be back and healthy. Fans will finally get a chance to see Kobe Bryant work with multiple seven-footers in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Don’t forget about Lamar Odom (6’ 11”), who appears to be coming off the bench this year most likely securing him an NBA Sixth Man Award.
Like always, the Suns will make the playoffs and probably get knocked off in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs. “The Big Cactus,” Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Nash are both on the extremely ugly side of 30 and are starting to decline right before our eyes.
Do not, I repeat, do not count out the Clippers this season. Yes, they lost Elton Brand after he went back on his word and signed with Philly, but they gained both Marcus Camby and top point guard Baron Davis. Do we dare say that two Los Angeles teams could be in the playoffs?
Southwest Division: New Orleans Hornets
CP3. Is there any other argument worth discussing? The Southwest is chock full of potential playoff teams in the Spurs, Mavericks and Rockets, but none of those teams have Chris Paul.
The Spurs and Mavericks are getting older, while the Rockets don’t have a team that can stay healthy all year. Last year, a potential breakout player of the year award could have gone to the Hornet’s David West or Tyson Chandler. That’s not changing.
CP3 for MVP?
Eastern Finals: Pistons over Celtics (Nick) /Cavaliers over Celtics (Joey)
Western Finals: Hornets over Lakers
NBA Finals: Hornets over Pistons (Nick)/ Cavaliers over Hornets (Joey)