Monday, September 17, 2007

Top 5 NBA stories to watch

There will be plenty more then 5 to watch for this year, but let me try to narrow down the top one's
In no particular order...

1) The battle for the West - As we saw last year, having the best record in the conference at the end of the regular season means very little, so this story will be told in the playoffs and it will involve 4 teams, the Spurs/Suns/Mavs/Rockets (and maybe the Jazz). The Spurs has the most success of these teams, with 4 championships in 9 years.Last year the Mavs had one of the best regular seasons since the 96 Bulls. The Suns should be full of piss and vinegar based the the body check from Robert Horry. The Rockets lack the experience the other 3 teams have, but as we saw with Golden State/Dallas last year, never say never. Bottom line is that the West is still the best, even though the difference in quality between the confrences has shrunk compared to last year. And the number one goal for any franchise is a championship, so watching these western confrence teams battle it out is one of the top things to watch for this upcoming season.

2) Kevin Durant - What can we expect from him this year? Now with Oden out of the picture, Durant will have the spotlight to himself to show if he has the potential to be a franchise player or not. Again, Seattle will lose more then they win this year, but as we saw with the T.V. networks fighting over the coverage of Portland and Seattle games, the interest generated by Oden/Durant is high. Just because one of the two is gone for a while, does not mean that the interest in the healthy one has lowered.

3) Which team will be the next Toronto Raptors - Last year the Raps made a huge turnaround, who this season will be that team which suprises everyone? What caused the turnaround? It could be from a hot free agent pick-up (Orlando) or a rookie doing it big (Seattle) or just having a healthy team (Memphis, Milwaukee). Of course, it could also be via trades (Boston). This year, we will see at least one team take a giant step up in the standings, but who will be that team that blows everyones mind?

4) Injuries - Last year it seemed like everyone missed time due to injuries or suspensions. Ming, McGrady, Carmelo, Kobe, Bosh, Shaq, Wade, Iverson, Redd, Joe Johnson, Arenas, Iguodala, Pierce, Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, Okafor, Gerald Wallace, Ben Wallace, Randolph, Gasol, Stojakovic, Camby. And already it has started for 2007-2008! Elton Brand is out for most of the year while Greg Oden won't be in consideration for rookie of the year this season. Remember when players usually had no problem playing 82 games in a year? And last season, more then one team dropped into lottery territory due to injuries (Memphis, Milwaukee). So I think it's almost safe to assume that teams in 2007-2008 will be affected by injuries, and some of the teams that are expecting big things will be left in the dust due to key players not playing. As in story number 3 we were watching for the next Raptors team, this one is about watching for the next Memphis team.

5) Ref scandal - Will 2007-2008 produce any side effects from Refgate this past summer. We know that the refs are going to take some more verbal abuse this season, but what other changes will we see? Will be see the calls become tighter? Will we see less emphasis on star players getting everything? Will there be any difference at all? Any changes to the method used by refs will alter the game. Part of the reason that fast break basketball has been used by a large percentage of the teams (Warriors, Suns, Raptors, Nets, Nuggets for example) is because of rule changes made a few years ago with hand checking and things of that nature. It became a lot easier to be an offensive type of player. So if we do see changes, it's possible that it can have an effect long term on what style teams use. Then again, it's just as possible that nothing changes. It's just one of those things that we are going to have to wait and see.

(Bonus story line)
6) Warriors vs Mavs - I am just really interested in seeing if the Warriors own the Mavs. That first game of the year between these teams is one of the games to watch this season IMO.

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