It’s finally that time again. The 2009-10 NBA season officially tipped off this week with much-awaited anticipation.
There are several intriguing stories around the league. Right here in Cleveland, fans are captivated by LeBron James’ free agent season and to see how much new arrival Shaquille O’Neal has left in the tank. A revamped Washington Wizards squad as well as Rasheed Wallace joining the Celtics will affect how the East plays out.
Staying in the Eastern Conference, where I expect the Wizards—with the acquisitions of Randy Foye, Mike Miller and a healthy Gilbert Arenas— to join the upper echelon of teams.
The Cavs should be tough again, with the additions of O’Neal, Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker and rookie Danny Green.
Shaq claims his goal is to “win a ring for the King,” and that is highly possible.
The Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic expect to put up a fight as well. Boston signed Rasheed Wallace in the offseason, giving them a much tougher defense in addition to providing excellent outside shooting when he is motivated.
Orlando will be looking to improve on their surprise NBA Finals appearance from last year. They lost Hedo Turkoglu to the Toronto Raptors, but they were able to bring in Vince Carter to help fill the void and complement superstar Dwight Howard.
The Western Conference is shaping up to be ultra competitive this year.
On paper, the Los Angeles Lakers look like the best team again, despite the departure of Trevor Ariza to the Houston Rockets. They did pick up the fiery Ron Artest, who they hope will provide them with a significantly tougher defensive presence than they had last year.
Other than the Lakers, the Spurs seem to have a legitimate shot at making a run again. They traded for Richard Jefferson—one of the most underrated players in the league. They also acquired Antonio McDyess and got what many experts consider to be steal in the draft by snagging Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair in the second round. With Tim Duncan turning 34 this season, the window to win another championship in San Antonio could be closing.
The Denver Nuggets are another elite team. They feature a strong cast of Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, J.R. Smith and the “Birdman” Chris Andersen.
This team plays a highly up-tempo transition offense and should be very entertaining to watch.
Don’t count out the Mavericks though. Dallas still has Dirk Nowitzki along with Josh Howard, who will start the season on the injured list.
Dallas always seems to win a lot of games in the regular season, but they are consistently good at failing to advance very far in the playoffs.
Some other young and exciting teams include the Portland Trailblazers with Brandon Roy and the New Orleans Hornets with Chris Paul.
The Phoenix Suns will be returning to their high-pace offense which made them one of the most enjoyable teams to watch for the past five years, excluding 2008.
I like the Golden State Warriors as well with rookie Stephen Curry. Golden State who should be an excellent fit for him, as he is a fantastic shooter and will be able to put up as many shots as he wants there. He is my pick to win Rookie of the Year.
Ultimately, when it is all said and done, look for the 2010 Finals to include a match up of the Lakers and Cavs.
LeBron should be on a mission this year after the excruciating defeat by Orlando in the 2009 Conference Finals.
Shaq should help LeBron and have a great year, as he is rumored to be desiring a new two-year contract.
Kobe and LeBron will have their first battle on Christmas on ABC.