We’re back for the newest edition of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and this time we are focusing on NBA logos. This is a pretty difficult one for the simple fact that almost every NBA logo is some variation of a basketball. I’m going to have to get pretty creative with my reasons here, but it will probably revolve around the fact that I hate your teams colors. Here we go…
Miami Heat- The flaming basketball going through the hoop is totally badass. He’s on fire!
Detroit Pistons- It may be simple but it’s a classic. The red, white and blue is perfect for the city that built America. I talk a lot of trash about teams with simple basketball logos in this piece, but my hometown team gets a pass here. Sorry, not sorry.
Golden State Warriors- Not normally a fan of the color yellow, but for the Golden State Warriors it works. And the silhouette of the bridge is just beautiful.
Boston Celtics- This logo features a totally chill leprechaun spinning a basketball on his finger while smoking a pipe. I hate the team, but I love this logo.
Chicago Bulls- Another team I hate that has a logo I love. Pissed off bull with no basketball in sight. Once upon a time this was the most feared logo in sports.
Memphis Grizzlies- Imposing grizzly bear. Love it.
San Antonio Spurs- This logo turns the ‘U’ in the team’s name into a spur, which is the team’s name. Genius. And the black and silver colors are tough as hell.
Minnesota Timberwolves- That wolf looks meaner than fuck! That alone wins me over.
Houston Rockets: What’s going on here? It’s uninspired and boring. Just change it to a silhouette of James Harden’s beard already.
Utah Jazz- One of the NBA logos with mountain in the background. Nothing to do with Jazz music. Fail.
Sacramento Kings- I guess there’s a crown there, and some lances crossed in the background. And the purple makes me think of Prince, not a king.
Portland Trailblazers- I really like the colors red and black, but that’s about all I like about this thing. What is it, and how does it relate to blazing trails?
Los Angeles Lakers- Just a basketball with the name. And the colors of gold and purple are hideous. Sorry Mr Johnson but there’s no magic here.
Indiana Pacers- Hey guys, what if we make the logo the letter ‘P’ with a basketball in the middle!?! Piss off…
Denver Nuggets- Another team with a logo featuring a mountain. I think they could have done better here. Give me a grizzled old prospector holding some gold nuggets or something.
Cleveland Cavaliers- Once again, you guessed it, a basketball. But this time with a sword going through it. It’s red and yellow but they try to class it up by saying “wine and gold.” Who are they fooling?
Brooklyn Nets- The simple black and white looks pretty clean but other than that it’s another lame ass basketball logo.
Washington Wizards- The old Wizards’ logo featured this weird looking wizard. I would much rather have that than this oddly phallic current version featuring the Washington Monument.
Atlanta Hawks- The old logo was a Hawk with a basketball clutched in its talons. Not bad right? The new logo fails to impress.
Phoenix Suns- Another color scheme that doesn’t really jive with me. Plus this thing looks a lot more like a shooting star than a sun.
Los Angeles Clippers- The newest edition of the Clippers logo blows. Its a ‘C’ with the ‘LA’ inside. Great.
Milwaukee Bucks- The Buck kind of sucks. And the colors are garbage.
New Orleans Pelicans- A pissed off pelican featuring the colors red, blue and gold. They should have been called the New Orleans Dogs, because this thing is ugly. Woof!
Oklahoma City Thunder- How do you make a visual representation of thunder? I have no idea and neither do the Thunder.
New York Knicks- These colors are hideous. Enough said.
Philadelphia 76ers- Red, white and blue, and some stars. And and awful basketball team. The logo is kind of ugly but not as ugly as the product they put on the court every year.
Dallas Mavericks- Another basketball with a weird looking profile of a stallion inside of it. No thanks.
Toronto Raptors- Another team that totally fucked up by ditching their old logo. It used to be a totally rad, basketball-playing, cartoon raptor. Now, it’s a weak basketball with three claw marks going through it.
Charlotte Hornets- Sure, the old Hornets’ logo was pretty cartoonish but it was far superior to what the team has now. This attempt to looking threatening falls far short of scaring anyone. Except for those colors. Those are pretty awful.
Orlando Magic- Nothing magical here.
I would have to say that overall, I think most NBA logos kind of suck. There’s just too many basketballs. We know you’re a basketball team, why don’t you be more creative with your logo. Props to those teams that do have something cool going on, and feel free to tell me why you think I’m full of shit down in the comments section.
The NBA is in its prime. The Magic, MJ, Bird, Bad Boys era was incredible. But right now, the NBA is just as good and the proof lives online.
In general, can we all wrap our heads around the notion that things are not better right now than they will be? I know it’s popular to prep for doomsday, but that’s just one possible scenario. Can we try to band together to project a positive outlook regarding the innovations and changes taking place throughout our lifetime and beyond? The Earth might be a literal garbage dump, but it’s not too late to turn it around. Instead of lamenting about the so-called “Good Ol’ Days” of the way things used to be during “simpler times,” let’s realize now that life evolves. So when this generation of millennials ages, we don’t sound bitter and shortsighted. Just like Oscar Robertson talking about Steph Curry:
“He’s shot well because of what’s going on in basketball today, In basketball today, it’s almost like if you can dunk or make a three-point shot, you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread.
There have been some great shooters in the past. But here again, when I played years ago, if you shot a shot outside and hit it, the next time I’m going to be up on top of you. I’m going to pressure you with three-quarters, half-court defense. But now they don’t do that. These coaches do not understand the game of basketball, as far as I’m concerned.”
Barring a dystopian future (which is plausible, especially if Trump 2016 happens…), life could and should get better. All aspects can progress positively: technology, convenience, our attitudes toward improving the environment, our treatment of one another, quality of entertainment to distract us in case none of the above comes to fruition. When platforms like Vine and Snapchat dropped, I was very Oscar Robertson about them. Didn’t get it. Didn’t care. Bitched about them. Felt old and simply dismissed them. A few years removed from their inception, I can admit I was wrong. Vine has made my favorite sport, basketball even more fun and accessible.
However, the old guard of the NBA loves to bitch about the state of the game. Lots of NBA Hall of Famers complain about the lack of defense due to rule changes and the focus on the league’s public relations making the game and players “soft.” Charles Barkley and Shaq, two of the game’s most entertaining players, both on and off the court, are also culprits of being such old timers who whine about “how much better the game used to be…” The game done changed. Just get on (hover)board so you don’t seem so dated.
I’m not saying The Diesel and Round Mound Of Rebound need to become the equivalent of a middle-aged white dude named Noah in a backwards hat and board shorts, calling everyone “Bruh,” attending Coachella year after year as he suppresses stories of Woodstock ’94 so he seems relevant. Noah’s old school buddy Dean still wears a 2012 AC/DC tour shirt unironically regaling anyone who will stand close to him about the “hey-day of culture” peppering in critiques of everyone having their nose in their phone, how computers ruined music and how rappers only rap about money. That’s what Shaq and Charles sound like when they bitch about guards not getting nearly paralyzed when they drive the lane and the league lacking “True Centers.” Hopefully one day people will be able update the way they operate easier than downloading the latest version iOS.
Shaq and Charles
Fuck ESPN, they’ve jumped the shark (a term that itself has jumped the shark). ESPN is totally corporate and thus becoming obsolete, but it’s not going anywhere for the time being. Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Reddit and Podcasts give everyone instant highlights, genuine coverage and access to all our favorite players, coaches, teams, plays and behind-the-scenes discourse. Social media, more than rule changes, player safety protections and PR concerns have revolutionized sports overall. With the NBA being the biggest benefactor. Go ahead, bemoan “everyone being on their phones all the time” instead of engaging in the moment, but maybe you’re the one who isn’t engaging in this moment. You can cry about how “defense just isn’t the same” so players like Steph Curry wouldn’t be able to light it up in the past the way he does now.
Shout it from the rooftops how no one talks to each other face to face anymore. No one will hear you because you don’t have a relevant outlet/wifi signal. Regardless of whether you’re right or wrong, you’re wrong because your time’s expired. Society changes. Sports evolve with it. Games are watched in their most important 6-12 second increments on people’s phones without having to hear Stuart Scott-knockoffs make bad puns and bastardize current slang. Isn’t it convenient that there just isn’t that much footage of what Oscar Robertson is talking about is supposedly missing from the present day game of basketball? Cool grainy highlight of the Big O literally running circles around a bunch of dudes who would get cut from teams in China if they played today.
Nevertheless, coverage of every aspect of life has changed, it’s not so easy to hide mistakes, for better or worse. The way the NBA is played and consumed now is not perfect. Nothing is. The implications on our own personal entertainment being a distraction from the miserable, violent, unjust (and hopefully temporary) present state of the world has its pros and cons: the speed and efficiency of how we consume Steph’s latest 35 foot swish or Kristap Porzingis’s putback slam happen so rapidly we don’t get a break from our timelines of watching to think or do anything about who and what are hurting the world. That’s a cause I wouldn’t mind hearing retired sports legends speak out about. Ya know, those who lived through protests that brought about change.
They’d rather criticize DeAndre Jordan’s free throw percentage. Bill Russell gets overlooked for his on court talent because he absolutely annihilated inferior competition, but his contribution to activism gets overlooked along with it. Bill Russell dwarfed his competition the way social media is dwarfing Sportscenter. However, he didn’t have as much of a platform to spread his message to fix inequality during an era when people were more proactive about causes that meant something to them. Yeah, LeBron and some other players wore that t-shirt because their publicists told them to stand with Freddie Gray.
Nobody really remembers or cares because the media cycle revolves too quickly. Today, you don’t like the way cops treat black people. You tweet something self righteously or post something indignant on Facebook and get to feel like you’re part of the solution. You want to try to make a difference today? Your message has to be constant, but ya know, don’t mess up your endorsement deal. There are always drawbacks, holes to be poked in the innovations by those who have lived to witness the change, but not ready to accept it. Sometimes those flaws are very real, but the criticism is hard to take seriously when it’s served upon every stand-out player.
Way back at the beginning of this decade, before Snapchat, LeBron moved from Cleveland to Miami so he could play for a team with his best friends and win. Not a single NBA alumni even remotely encouraged LeBron to do what made him happy. That’s indicative of the difference between the old versus new guard: the old guard doesn’t understand or appreciate millennial’s choice to do what makes us happy.
James and Wade
Say you have a buddy from college, the kind of guy who partied his ass off but still managed to get all A’s. Charismatic, friends with everyone, the kind of guy who could stay up for two days on a bender then go to brunch with your parents and charm their pants off before acing a test he barely studied for. This guy graduates, but moves back to his hometown to work for a notoriously fledgling local business that has potential to turn it around now that he’s there, but has organizational problems that no one man could turn around on his own no matter how focused, talented or committed.
Then one day, this guys gets an offer to be a partner at a hot new start up, run by his college drinking buddies who still party, but are more mature now. The salary is comparable, company HQ is in a cool city with great weather, social life and no income taxes. If you’re this guy, what would you choose? We know what his parents and their friends would think. The older generation loves to glorify their loyalty, the same loyalty that makes them miserable. Romanticize sacrifice, suffering and hard work in the same breath exhaled with carbon monoxide-like sentiments.
That’s why old timers can’t let go of the notion that their way was better. They’re haters. Generally, most people over 47 can’t and won’t wrap their minds around today’s conveniences and innovations in both technology and lifestyle choices. Why? They’re “stuck in their ways,” which is old people code for “refuse to accept the possibility of an easier path.” Too tired out from doing what they didn’t want to have to do most of their lives. Sacrificing joy and satisfaction for “security.” I get it, it’s hard to change once you’re used to a routine, but what if that routine suddenly got way easier and more enjoyable, but just took a litttttttle bit of effort to figure out?
With all this said, when we as a generation hit middle-age, let’s all agree to examine the way things with an open mind. Realizing most things get better, not worse. Or at least let’s pretend to get on board so we don’t age faster than we need to. Being someone like Noah with grey hair and saying shit like “stay woke” while Snapchatting might seem like it’s trying too hard.
Albeit, that’s immensely less sad than not knowing how to text message on your LG Flip Phone as you lament how sports were better when athletes were slower and way more barbaric to each other, when it wasn’t even broadcast live over the medium of terrestrial radio. Maybe the sound bite goes viral, but the person saying it doesn’t even know what that means. “Going Viral,” whether you get it or not, is the most significant way to convey a message today. The How and Why of Going Viral is still puzzling. I’m rocking the White Van’s trying to get everything I do to Go Viral. Damn Daniel! Tomorrow will be different. Get on board or bundle up to suffer through the winter in Cleveland.
The NBA is better now than it’s ever been. I stand by it. NBA basketball might have been better 25-30 years ago, but it didn’t have a constant flow of memes and Vines. Who knows if Steph Curry would be as prolific against MJ, Isiah or John Stockton? I do know this: Spudd Webb would be global phenomenon if Instagram was around in the 80s.
Final Note: I’m doing my best to swallow my own pill and adapt to the future, but the old timer in me still gets ornery observing that anyone under 16 only knows Michael Jordan for crying and his shoes, they think Kobe is better then him, the OJ Simpson Murder Trial is a comedy series on FXX and everyone who retired from pro sports before 2000 is a whiny old fart. Instead of diminishing today’s stars, we all should just focus on ourselves.
Post Script: can Turner Broadcast turn TNT into an all sports network? ESPN is like a dumpster behind a Trading Card shop: there might be a treasure in there, but contains mostly flammable garbage. Fox Sports 1 is that dumpster on fire. How awesome would a Turner Sports channel be headlined by Charles, Shaq, Ernie and Kenny The Jet?
I’m just writing it here so when it happens I can claim to be ahead of my time.
I never thought that David Blatt was the right man to lead the Cavaliers and LeBron James. Sure, he had a ton of coaching success in the Euro League and Israeli League, but in the NBA world of superstars, it’s hard to see a team with arguably the world’s best player falling in behind someone with zero NBA experience. It just never made sense to me that Cleveland would go to such great lengths to bring ‘King James’ back to town and not give him a coach that would command the team’s respect.
He had won hundreds of games and championships and even an Olympic Medal before he ever set foot inside the Cleveland Cavaliers locker room, but none of that mattered. Once he arrived in the NBA, he was a rookie again, to fans and players alike. Never mind his 22 years as a coach. That was meaningless. The NBA is the premier basketball showcase in the world and all those other coaching jobs may as well have been children’s little league.
So when the Cleveland Cavaliers fired Coach Blatt last week, I can’t say I was entirely surprised. Anyone who has watched the Cavs over the last year or so could see that the team didn’t really have a ton of respect for the guy. Often times during breaks in the action, the team would look to LeBron James for strategy or advice, leaving Blatt to hover around the circle of players like the wimpy kid who didn’t get picked for the backyard football game.
Since the time that he announced he was returning home to bless the city of Cleveland with his presence, it’s been clear that this team was LeBron’s team. From top to bottom, his word was law and the ownership was going to back him up 100%. You have to think that was the understanding and one of the main reasons he was even entertaining the idea of going back to Ohio. So when early on in the relationship, I saw the lack of respect that James showed Blatt in regards to coaching the team, I knew the clock was ticking on the poor guy.
Despite leading his team to the NBA Finals last season, and sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-11 record, David Blatt got the axe and it seems to be LeBron James’ fingerprints on the handle. The firing of Blatt has caused some people to wonder if James is a ‘coach killer’ and I think that is a valid question. Gregg Popovich even made a subtle reference to it in a postgame interview. Most people associate LeBron with the firing of Mike Brown, who had similar success to Blatt in Cleveland but was never seen as the one responsible for that success; that distinction always went to James.
It’s not really fair to blame the firing of Mike Brown on LeBron because it happened in the same offseason that he took “his talents to South Beach.” That team had just collapsed in the second round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs and technically LeBron wasn’t under contract. So it really doesn’t have anything to do with him, but you can bet your ass that if LeBron said he wanted Brown back and that would make him re-sign that he wouldn’t have been fired.
There are also unfounded rumors that during his time in Miami, LeBron wanted head coach Erik Spoelstra fired. There isn’t any way to confirm this, but it doesn’t sound particularly far-fetched. Spoelstra was young, with no head coaching experience and I always found it hard to believe that he would be able to wrangle the best player in the world. But one big difference between Cleveland and Miami was the presence of Pat Riley, and there’s no way that Pat Riley would let a player run his team, I don’t care how big of a star he is.
If indeed LeBron James did want to get his head coach in Miami fired, he should be thanking his lucky stars now that Riley knew better than to succumb to the wishes of his biggest star. He has two rings to show for his time with the Heat, and that is due to the efforts of everyone involved, including coach Spoelstra.
The only other coach to be fired while LeBron James was on the team was Paul Silas when James was just 20 years old and in his second NBA season. That team missed the playoffs and was in the midst of an ownership change, so even if James did have an impact on the decision, it was probably coming either way. So is it fair to label LeBron a coach killer? Probably not, but he does wield that kind of power, especially since it seems as though Cleveland is willing to do whatever it takes to have him in town. Including axe his own head coach.
Fall is by far my favorite time of the year. We get football, the October Classic in baseball, and now NBA Basketball. What’s more is that we’re only about 2 weeks from Opening Tip Off! Last season was great in terms of team play and the evolving spread-the-floor/”3 and D” tactics. Although there was no major shifting of power between the two conferences, the Eastern conference hierarchy changed with the relocation of LeBron James from South Beach to Cleveland. The conference was also hit hard with injuries to their stars in comparison to the West. Assuming everyone is coming back at full health, here are my preseason Power Ranking for the Eastern Conference.
*Note: This is not an indication of playoff seeding
15. Philadelphia 76ers
Coach Brett Brown has his work cut out for him but will be given time to make it work.
“Trust The Process” is the slogan in the City of Brotherly Love. The team began that process roughly three seasons ago, trading away All-Star PG Jrue Holiday. Since then the team has drafted big men in three consecutive drafts, while acquiring draft picks to build their team cheap, while staying away from free agency. With Joel Embiid on the mend, the team drafted Jahlil Okafor 3rd overall in the 2015 Draft. Paired with Center Nerlens Noel, Okafor stands to see significant time at the power forward position. With a “replacements” cast around him and Noel, they will be a sub-20 win team for yet another season. Coach Brett Brown has a long leash that many coaches don’t get due to the rebuilding process. Hopefully, the process ends sooner than later for all parties involved.
14. Orlando Magic
A lot of young talent on this team with no coaching to spearhead their development. Shooting guard Victor Oladipo came out of college with Dwayne Wade comparisons. He is a good player but has to take his game to the next level for the team to crack the top 8. Elfrid Peyton meanwhile has the make up of a young Rajon Rondo, sans the attitude. This team will be competitive in many games and may even win 30. However, coach Scott Skiles must take advantage on his 3rd opportunity to lead a team. With no veteran presence I think this is a bad fit.
13. Brooklyn Nets
Will the Nets continue to squander Joe Johnson’s talent?
The fire sale is just getting started. With PG Deron Williams gone, the team must decide what to do with SG Joe Johnson. He has thrived in great offensive systems in Atlanta and Phoenix but has struggled in Brooklyn. He is not a clutch player and is too mild mannered to lead a team. Center Brook Lopez has struggled to stay healthy and most of his work comes underneath the basket. Coach Lionel Hollins of Isley Brothers fame (ok, I couldn’t resist! He does look like he will do a spin and sing ‘For the loveee of you!’) is a good coach but he needs his own players. When in doubt pass the ball to Andrea Bargnani, said no one ever.
12. Charlotte Hornets
When an injury to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist during the preseason is breaking news it says a lot about the lack of talent on your roster. Think about this; the Hornets acquired Jeremy Lin this summer. I could end my analysis there but I digress. Center Al Jefferson has been a solid player in the league since coming out of high school. He is an offensive force and I would argue that if he had not gotten hurt last season, the Hornets would have made the playoffs. I do like the addition of Nicholas Batum and the draft pick of Frank Kaminsky. It does not help to have Kemba Walker as your starting point guard and I think that will keep them out the postseason.
11. New York Knicks
With Carmelo at the helm, this ship will continue to sink.
I’ll make this one brief. Unless Phil Jackson can turn water into wine, make that roster into the 12 Disciples, and make Carmelo Anthony into a person slightly interested in defense, this team will be taking trade inquiries for Anthony by Christmas. There’s no way this team, as currently constructed, will make the playoffs with Anthony as the primary player.
10. Detroit Pistons
Coach Stan Van Gundy is making this Pistons team in the image of the Orlando Magic team that he led to the NBA Finals with a young Dwight Howard at center. Andre Drummond has unlimited potential as a defensive force in this league. Whereas Howard had limitations offensively that were masked by putback dunks, Drummond will have time to develop as Van Gundy places offensive weapons around him. Van Gundy still has to acquire more 3-point players to create the spacing needed to have the team where he would like it. PF Marcus Morris is capable of shooting mid range shots but Van Gundy must get a true stretch 4 in the mold of a Ryan Anderson. This team is on the cusp of being in the playoffs this season with some more roster movement.
9. Indiana Pacers
Can Paul George coexist with Monta Ellis?
There’s a lot to like about this team. Small forward Paul George will come back a more efficient player after that devastating leg injury. Although there’s speculation that he will play more 4 this year, he is best suited to defend the 3 position, as well as facilitate the offense from the perimeter. The team drafted Myles Turner but it will take time for him to develop into a solid center. I have never liked George Hill as the primary ball handler and point guard. He is not remotely close to a competent point guard and the team has failed to address that position. The addition of SG Monta Ellis will give the team another scoring option but how will that mesh with George’s touches? This team can be supplanted by The Pistons or Hornets if it fails to address the point guard and power forward positions.
8. Toronto Raptors
Despite having one of the best fan bases in the league this team will take a fall in the hierarchy of the East, but I still feel it’s a good team. The problem is that all their star players have reached their ceiling. PG Kyle Lowry is what he is now, a pitbull defender and an emotional leader. There is no improvement on the offensive end of the floor and I think the ball is glued to his hands at times. SG Demar Derozan is another player that has reached his peak far too early in his career. He is a solid 20 point per game player but does not offer much more than that. Outside of a 51 point game last season, SF Terrence Ross is merely a slasher. Collectively, this team has had chances the past two seasons with injuries on opposing teams to make a charge for the Finals and failed to do so. Coach Dwane Casey has to be exasperated with the lack of talent he has to work with. Anytime you trade one number 1 bust pick (Bargnani) with another (PF Anthony Bennett) you are in a world of hurt.
7. Milwaukee Bucks
Jason Kidd has a very young and talented team. Now he just has to lead them.
Coach Jason Kidd has to be the luckiest son of a gun ever. He walked in to an abundance of riches in talent and potential. His starting lineup last season had an average height of 6’6″, best in the league. The average age of his team is 25. This is without having arguably his best player in SF Jabari Parker. With his team intact, I think they can land from 3 to 8 in playoff seeding. They’re scary good. In a league where offense is the focus, his team was near the top in several defensive rankings. The length of his team starting with PG Michael Carter-Williams, SG Giannis Antetokounmpo (6’11”), and the addition of C Greg Monroe will make this team a tough matchup. Monroe is an underrated low post passer who will create more opportunities for the offense. Overall, if not for inexperience I’d have them in my top 4. They’ll be that good this year.
6. Boston Celtics
This team’s ranking is because of one man, Brad Stevens. Making the playoffs last year, albeit with a losing record, says a lot about the coaching of this young team. Whereas the Bucks have a talented roster and sufficient coaching, the Celtics have great coaching and decent talent. Acquiring PG Isaiah Thomas was a good pick up and the ongoing development of PG Marcus Smart will make for an interesting pairing in the back court. I am curious how Stevens will foster a good front court between PF Jared Sullinger and C Kelly Olynyk. SG R.J. Hunter is an intriguing draft choice and he fits Stevens profile for a scorer. If this team makes the playoffs it will be a credit to the coaching staff as there is no Alpha Dog on the team speak of. Maybe Evan Turner can truly blossom this year and live up to his 2010 2nd overall draft pick status.
5. Chicago Bulls
Jimmy Butler is making the Bulls his team.
I prefaced this article by stating my rankings depended on players remaining healthy. At time of publishing, former league MVP PG Derrick Rose will be on the mend from an orbital fracture injury. SG Jimmy Butler benefited most from former head coach Tom Thibodeau’s tutelage and he’s a hard nosed two way player. There’s reports that Butler is not enthralled with Rose’s work ethic. Butler is primed to become the unquestioned leader of new head coach Fred Hoiberg’s team. Center Joakim Noah is the same kind of grit and grind player and will eventually become his counterpart over Rose. Hoiberg will allow young players to do what they do best. SF Doug McDermott and PF Bobby Portis will get enhanced roles on the team and will likely lead to the departure of fan favorite PF Taj Gibson. This team will go as far as Butler will take it. Hopefully, Rose will follow.
4. Atlanta Hawks
Owners of the conference’s best record last year, the Hawks will take a step back to familiar territory this season. The Hawks have been a perennial playoff team but not contenders. Coach Mike Budenholzer impact has San Antonio Spurs written all over it. The team spreads the floor and plays unselfish ball. They were the first team to lead the conference in wins without a 20 PPG scorer. Absolutely amazing results last year. This year they’ve added some role players to a team of role players. PG Jeff Teague and C Al Horford will lead this team to playoffs again but there’s no player that can match wits with the top three teams of the conference. Coach Bud caught a lot of teams by surprise last year sadly by just playing team ball. This year with several roster changes and players coming back from injury the Hawks will go back to what they know best, a team that’s good but not good enough to win it all.
3. Washington Wizards
John Wall and the Wizards will pick up where they left off last season.
The back court of this team can rival any in the league. PG John Wall and SG Bradley Beal are growing together and I think will come to fruition this season. Beal was hurt for an extended time last year which led to some losses that otherwise would have propelled them to a better seeding in the playoffs. SF Otto Porter is turning the corner from being a potential bust to a solid contributor on this team. Having former teammate Paul Pierce for a year seems to have stoked his competitive fire and may lead him to a better role on this year’s team. Coach Randy Wittman has to demand more front court depth. The East isn’t deep with prominent front court players but having the depth may put the Wizards over the hump. Definitely keep an eye out for SF Kelly Oubre Jr as he gets minutes behind Beal and Porter.
2. Miami Heat
The Heat are by far the deepest team in the Eastern Conference. They’ve kept most of their team intact from their championship run. This year PF Chris Bosh will be healthy after a life-threatening blood clot ailment. PF Josh McRoberts is coming off a season ending injury. C Hassan Whiteside has gained nearly 15 pounds of muscle over the summer. PG Goran Dragic signed a new contract over the summer and the team still has SF Luol Deng, C Chris Anderson, and PG Mario Chalmers. Add the addition of draft pick SF Justice Winslow and you have a very deep roster. The success hinges on the health of SG Dwayne Wade. He showed flashes of “Flash” last year while playing a good number of games. If he can remain healthy and if there is any slippage of the #1 team in my ranking, the Heat will advance to the NBA Finals. They have one of the most underrated coaches in the league in Erik Spoelstra. He has done a phenomenal job of working with the talent he has regardless of the circumstances. If he has a healthy team come June then he has the tools to shock the world.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
It’ll be Lebron’s conference to lose once again.
The Cavaliers returning to the Finals has everything to do with one thing, chemistry. The same core players are set to return. The competition shouldn’t differ much from last year. The underlying issue at hand is the chemistry and cohesiveness of it’s Big Three. LeBron James, PG Kyrie Irving, and PF Kevin Love have been great when on the floor together. Although Love has griped about his role in the offense, he can contribute in other ways than he’s accustomed to. Love is an excellent spot up shooter. When LeBron played with Bosh, Bosh was better when he expanded his game outside the paint. It provided LeBron more opportunities near the basket and allowed Bosh to pick and pop for easy 18 footers. It would behoove Love to follow that model. Irving simply has to remain healthy. Many people are quick to write him off as injury prone. Those detractors said the same about PG Stephen Curry when he battled ankle ailments early in his career. Irving must also facilitate the offense and not hog the ball. LeBron is better as a primary decision maker but Irving is a better ball handler. Add in PF Tristan Thompson, SG J.R. Smith, and PG Mo Williams and you have a championship quality team. They have a championship caliber coach in David Blatt (albeit with only international experience) and would be wise to trust in his in-game strategy. If James and Blatt can marry their philosophies they will win the championship this season.
The Eastern Conference will go through Cleveland, Ohio again. Maybe some Heat and Wizard-ry can derail a James 7th Finals appearance.