NBA Preview: Garnett and Allen Pivotal to Celtics
What better time for an NBA season preview than when the season is one-tenth over?
In the Eastern Conference, there really are not too many teams with a chance of winning it all. Boston, Detroit, and Chicago (if they can make a move for Kobe Bryant without giving up too many other pieces) all have a realistic shot at the Finals.
Boston is simply the best team in the East. Chicago could take that title depending whether or not it trades for Kobe, but as of now, Boston is better after its amazing off-season acquisitions.
Detroit is a great team, but I just don’t think it is better than the Celtics. It has been virtually the same team for years now, and changed so little in the off-season that I don’t see any room for improvement. The team will be there all season, but it just isn’t better than Boston.
Chicago is hard to evaluate because of all the speculation surrounding Mr. Bryant. Its slow start won’t help either, as fans are already pushing for a Kobe trade.
But at what cost will the trade come? If the Bulls can get Kobe and keep some of their young stars that the Lakers seem determined to have, they will have a shot of being a Finals contender. Otherwise, it’ll be a struggle for the Bulls to beat the Celtics.
Even if Detroit takes a huge step forward, and even if Kobe starts wearing red and white, Boston is the best team in the East.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen represent the best “big three” in the league. On any given night, one of them could catch on fire. The problem for other teams is that, on any given night, all three of them probably will. But even on nights when one of them struggles, the other two will lift the Celtics to victory.
Critics have said the Celtics have no bench, but that is simply not true. Veterans signed on with Boston for a shot at a ring, and they still have some good young talent in Glen Davis and Tony Allen.
The Celtics should cruise through the regular season to the tune of around 62 wins and win the Eastern Conference playoffs for a trip to the Finals.
The West still has more top tier teams, and five of them have serious shots at meeting up with the Celtics in June: reigning champion San Antonio, Phoenix, Utah, Houston and Dallas.
Houston will be the first to get eliminated (from Finals contention) in my mind because Tracy McGrady (who already has an elbow injury) and Yao will both miss a decent amount of time this season. Because of that, the Rockets will have a lower seed in the playoffs. The other four teams are just too good to lose a series at home.
I also question Dallas’ mental ability in the playoffs. The team choked in the Finals two years ago and got upset by an eighth-seed last year. Also, the other three teams are simply better.
There is little separation between the remaining three teams, but I think Phoenix tops them all. In the playoffs last season, the Suns were the only team to push the Spurs to six games.
This year, though, I see the Suns taking on any challenger. Amare Stoudamire is looking better then ever and they have the best point guard in the league. The Suns may not play the best defense, but Shawn Marion and Raja Bell do supply good defense on the perimeter.
Also, although Grant Hill is not the player he once was, he will still add a lot of experience, savvy and depth to the Suns’ bench.
San Antonio and Utah are right there, but I see Phoenix as just a hair better. When you factor in the chip they will have on their shoulders come playoff time, especially after losing Amare and Diaw to suspension in the Spurs series last year, the Suns will be the powerhouse in the West.
Suns and Celtics: You can put money on the fact that this year’s Finals will be better than last years sweep.
The Suns will win this one in seven because they match up defensively with Boston. I know it’s the Suns, but hear me out.
Marion will be a match-up nightmare against Pierce and Bell should be able to slow Ray Allen. It’s not that they won’t get points, it will just be way harder for them; KG should have his usual productive nights, but with Amare on the other end, he may get into foul trouble.
The Suns just have too many weapons, and as a result of this, will win the 2008 NBA Finals with Steve Nash winning Finals MVP.