The NBA season ended nearly three weeks ago and basketball talk is still dominating the sports airwaves. With the 2013 NBA Draft behind us and being in the midst of the free agency period, basketball news still leads most sports newscasts. After all of the free agent movement and blockbuster trades, next season will be one of the most anticipated campaigns in quite some time. However, when it is all said and done, it will come down to the same three or four teams that will be battling for the NBA crown.
Despite all of the roster changes that have taken place over the past three weeks, I still believe that the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs will be the teams that will be in the Conference Finals next June. The Rockets landed the biggest free agent fish when they convinced center Dwight Howard to bring his talents to Houston. Some feel that he left Los Angeles because the lights were too bright for him. But the truth of the matter is that Houston is a better fit for Howard in the immediate and distant future. They have the talent to compliment him and cover his faults. James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons provide the outside talent to open up the lane for the big man. Howard can learn some pointers from his new head coach, Kevin McHale and former Rockets great Hakeem Olajuwon. This move definitely catapults the Rockets to the upper tier of the Western Conference. However, it does not put them at the head of the class.
The same can be said of the move that the Clippers made when they brought in Glen “Doc” Rivers to be their head coach. Doc inherits a lot of talent in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. But unless Rivers can get Blake to do more than dunk and Jordan to hit his foul shots, the Clippers are going to make a quick exit in the post season.
I still feel that the Thunder will be the cream of the Western Conference. Russell Westbrook should return to his dominant form and teamed with the second-best player in the League in Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City should be the favorite coming out of the West. The Spurs still have something in the tank, and the addition of Marco Belinelli should give San Antonio insurance should Manu Ginobili reach the end of his rope.
In the East, the Boston Celtics continued their garage sale when they sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. It was not a shock that they traded the two stars, but it was a shock that they traded them to a team within their same Division. This move might give the Nets the best starting lineup in the Association but it does not put them above the Heat or the Pacers. In order to get the Boston Duo, the Nets gave up most of the talent off of their bench. The way the team is constantly constituted, they will have to play Pierce and Garnett heavy minutes, which will wear them down come playoff time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the moves that the Rockets, Clippers and Nets made thus far. I just don’t think that they are enough to get them over the hump. Therefore, expect to see the usual suspects in the Conference Finals and NBA Finals next year.