Christmas is right around the corner and what better gift to open on Christmas day than a huge helping of NBA basketball? There has been a lot of movement in the NBA in the past couple post-lockout weeks. Some teams look like they have gotten better, others haven't made a ton of changes and others tried like hell but maybe headed towards mediocrity (Hello Lakers!). To preview the NBA season all three STOB writers are here to give you their thought's on some of the pressing questions surrounding the upcoming season.
The NBA lockout sucked, your thoughts?
Ben - Yeah it did. Especially as a Wolves fan, we had/have so much to look forward to this year and it was painful to see it be delayed and have the possibility of having to wait an additional year to see what we got in Ricky Rubio. Glad it's over.
Derrick - Meh, football season is still in full swing and bowl season is just around the corner. Don't get me wrong, I am stoked to see the new looks Wolves, but generally I don't get too into the NBA until football season is over.
Ken - Yeah, it was brutal. I'm sure people remember me saying on a few of our podcast shows that the NFL lockout pissed me off, this was even worse. Not to mention, the deal wasn't all that great for the players in the end and they were the ones crying the most.
Who has had the best short offseason?
Ken - It would have to be the Timberwolves. Bringing in two, hopefully stud, rookies in D-Will and Ricky Rubio. Not to mention, a coach that has actually coached a team before.
Ben - It would be easy to say the LA Clippers. Getting Chris Paul and retaining DeAndre Jordan were two very nice moves. Yet, I think a team that may have locked themselves into a Finals spot in the East is the Miami Heat. I don't like all the moves they made, I just like the signing of Shane Battier so much. This team was already amazing defensively last year. The addition of Battier is the perfect fit for this team and will make them even more lethal defensively and Battier can spread the floor offensively with great three point shooting.
Derrick - As much as it pains me to agree with Ben on anything, I have to say the Clips had the best offseason (even though he decided to then pick Miami). Picking up both Paul and Billups only proves more, that the Clips will be the team to beat from LA.
Which team has had the worst offseason so far?
Derrick - The NO Hornets. They lost their best player and really did not acquire any big names.
Ken - The Lakers to me had one of the worst. They lost out on CP3 and pissed off Kobe by letting Odom go to the Mavericks. They haven't brought anyone in that will be a factor. Could this be the end of Kobe and the Lakers?
Ben - NJ Nets have really not gotten anything done to surround Deron Williams and make him happy enough to sign an extension with them. They are still possibly going to pull a deal to get Dwight Howard, but that is looking like it could be a long shot. The Nets had a ton of steam with their new owner but at this point don't look that much better.
Which team will surprise everyone and be much better than last year?
Ben - While I'd love to say the hometown T-Pups I have to say I am not sure their improvement will show as much in the win column as it will other places. My pick is the Indiana Pacers. Nothing on this team is outstanding, but they are just solid all over the place and have depth. They made a nice addition in signing David West to pair with the always seemingly improving Roy Hibbert. On the wings Paul George and Danny Granger with another nice pick up in George Hill from San Antonio and Darren Collison running the point. I see Indiana giving Chicago a run for their money in the Central Division in the Eastern Conference.
Derrick - The Washington Wizards. Shocking, I know.. but with Wall coming back for his second season and McGee and the other talented young players coming off of a terrible season, the only direction is up for this team.
Ken - The Timberwolves. Hands down. Ok, maybe not hands down, but they will be a lot better. It's almost hard not to be. They have a nice team and I think K-Love, D-Will and Beasley will shock a lot of people and be able to play on the floor together a lot....and well. Add Rubio and Wes in that mix and you have a nice thing going. Again, don't forgot about them maybe having the best coach to ever sit courtside at the Target Center.
Who will win MVP this season?
Ken - I think CP3 has a good shot at doing it. If he can get the Clippers into the playoff mix all season and eventually sneak in and win a game or two, you will be calling him MVP3.
Ben - I see Kevin Durant making the run to the MVP this year. I think OKC will finish with the #1 spot in the West and Durant should be close to, if not the league leader in scoring. Only thing getting in Durant's way will be if his teammate Russell Westbrook steals too much of the spotlight. Sleeper- Kevin Love...if they Wolves win enough the guys numbers will make him impossible to ignore. He is also super skinny this year, which looks weird but should help him.
Derrick - Lebron. I hate to say it because I hate him, but Lebron has something to prove this year after pissing himself in the playoffs last year.
Who will win Rookie of the Year?
Derrick - Of course Ben goes with an Ex-Dukie. Rookie of the year will go to Derrick Williams. Other than D Rose, it is very difficult to win rookie of the year from the PG spot. With the Wolves in rebuilding mode, I think Williams will have a chance to shine with the large minutes load he will get.
Ken - Again, going off of someone with hype (See CP3 winning MVP), I think Ricky Rubio has a great chance to win it. People have already called this kid a bust, so if he can be a solid fixture for the Timberwolves and bring them some life, he will be rookie of the year....even if he doesn't put up the best numbers.
Ben - After seeing what Kyrie Irving did in his first preseason game (21 pts, 6 rbs, 3 asts) I have to give him the nod. It also helps he is on a team that has pretty much no other talent. He will have the ball in his hands a ton this year and will be looked to create all of the small amount of offense this terrible team can. Ricky Rubio with his Blake Griffin-esque hype he'll get on ESPN and other outlets will probably give him a run for his money if he is solid and the Wolves win games.
Will the Lakers make the playoffs? If so, are they a title contender with the team as it is now?
Ben - I think the Lakers still make the playoffs but will be on the bottom half (5-8 seed) and will probably not be much of a title threat. They could easily screw up a top seeds year in the first round, but I don't see them having enough fire power with Kobe no longer being able to carry a team. Yet, if his body allows him, Kobe will do all he can to shut up all the critics and Clipper lovers and remind them he is the best player of his era and that era isn't quite over.
Derrick - Yes, much like Jordan, Kobe tends to win with whatever cast is around him. I think the Lakers will make it to the playoffs and actually win the first round. After that however, I predict Kobe will be inviting over some ladies to watch a little NBA action from his couch in early April.
Ken - No. I have a feeling Kobe and friends are done. They are old and will have the CP3 hangover all year.
Who will represent the east and west in the Finals?
Ken - From the West I'm going to take Clippers. Why not, it's their year! From the East I'm going with the Knicks. How fun would that be? Griffin over Amare....I like the sound of that.
Ben - Miami from the east and OKC from the west. Predictable? Yes. Easy answer? Definitely. Probably correct though? I think so.
Derrick - This is a toss up between Chicago and Boston, but I have to go Boston and Dallas. I think this is the Celtics last chance with the old "big three." They still have a talented lineup with Rondo at the helm. Dallas has tasted the championship. They know how to get there. Dirk and company will be back to the Finals this year.
Finally, who wins your Finals matchup?
Derrick - Dallas. Dirk. Cuban. Championship. Ish, that is an ugly prediction.
Ken - I will go with the Clippers. If I'm going to put them in the Finals, I'm going to have the slipper fit. But, this prediction will be a pumpkin soon enough I'm sure.
Ben - I gotta say the Heat. As I previously stated, the Battier signing maybe the key to the entire season. Now Battier can match up with the best guard/forward from the opposing team all playoffs and allow Lebron and Wade to guard lesser players and focus more on offense and save their legs in a shortened season. This season is short, but more intense and this little difference could really help the two stars out. So in the OKC Finals matchup, Battier chases Durant around and harasses him enough that the Heat win in 5.
STOB'ers comment with your answers to our questions, and tell us whose predictions are the best!