Aly Somani is a student of the game of basketball and the business of sports. Originally from Toronto, Ontario, Aly decided to “take his talents” to New York City, where he pursued and completed his Masters degree at Columbia University in Manhattan. Aly has experience working with the National Basketball Players Association in a Career Development capacity with players and is now working on an entrepreneurial endeavor. He has a ‘Kobe’ like determination, and an immense passion for the game, we are delighted to have Aly join the NBA Breakdown. Check him out at http://www.alysomani.com/
The Eastern Conference
The Miami HeatWhat are known as the “Kings of South Beach” created more offseason buzz than Jordan and his failed attempts at becoming a Baseball player. I guess we can thank LeBron for that. Now, unlike many other critics of LeBron’s decision (MJ, Magic, Bird, Barkley), I have no beef, aside from the length of the show itself (unnecessarily long, but his (Maverick Carter’s), choice nonetheless).
In short, if someone was to tell me I could get paid doing what I love with two of my boys, and compete to become the greatest team assembled, measured by our potential success – I would take it. With the addition of Mr. Bosh, and a relatively legit supporting cast and Coach, this team will have a Beetles like following as they go from city to city selling out stadiums (Yes, even in Cleveland and Toronto). Couple that, with the mammoth expectations and the fact that they will be criticized for anything less than perfect, this team had better make it to the Eastern Conference Final at the very least.
Let’s be honest here: you are talking about 3 of the six leading scores from last season, not to mention two of the most feared athletes in the open court, all of which are willing to do “whatever it takes” to win. But for real - that’s commentator talk!Personally, I predict this team to experience some growing pains as they acclimatize themselves with each other and the Miami Heat style of play. I have but one concern for this team – inside presence. I’m not sure if Magloire, Big Z, Joel Anthony and Pittman, have the ability to d-up Kendrick Perkins, Shaq, or Dwight in the East (rebounding will be the X factor for this team).
In the end, they should find themselves in an Eastern Conference classic against the self proclaimed “Big leprechaun” and the rest of team green (the Celtics of course), who are all aware that this might be their last real run at a championship.
The Boston CelticsThat being said lets take a look at the new “Green Giant” (Shaq) and the Celtics, a very diverse and determined team. It seems to me that the Celtics have found the most unique and talented players in the NBA and have found a way to get them all on one team. You have KryptoNATE, who is famous for his dunk over the body building machine Dwight Howard and of course his reference to being like Donkey and Shrek with teammate Glen Davis (classic post game interview by the two) and then you have, arguable the best shooter the game has seen, in Ray Allen, and the most intense player in the game, Kevin Garnett who is more intense sitting on a bench than most are playing.
And of course, Mr. Pierce himself, whose game is not pretty at all, but time and time again he gets the job done (except on the pool table – If I didn’t scratch on black during All Star Weekend in Dallas, I would have had him cleaned out).
Last but not least, the real glue and engine of this team - Mr. Rondo. I would assume he has worked on his mid range shot over the summer, which should leave him with a legit tool belt of potentials that he could use to penetrate and abuse any defensive scheme.
This obviously is just a taste of the talent this team really has, add on the other O’Neal – Jermaine and probably the only guy in the NBA that has never smiled in his life, in Kendrick Perkins and you have a solid team. Well coached to pace out their energies throughout the season, this team will wait patiently for an Eastern Conference Final battle in the playoffs, winning no more than 60 games in the regular season.
The “MINUS ONE” Category
The Chicago Bulls + Orlando Magic
I will put the next two teams: Chicago and Orlando in the same category – “The Minus One” category. Both of these teams are missing one piece, or in Orlando’s case you have one dysfunctional piece (I am from Toronto – you have been warned). Time and time again, Vince Carter has disappointed his fans due to his lackadaisical approach to his fitness and the season itself. I really don’t know if that can change, although he has preformed well in the pre-season. He is getting older and it takes that much more of an effort to contend against the young guns in the league who play the 2-guard position and have limitless energy. To be honest, I really think Vince lacks the mentality of a Champion, he thinks this is a game, OH it’s more than game baby, especially if you want to be a Champion.
Furthermore, I am not sure if J.J. Riddick can hold down the fort to fill in for Vince on the days he decides to go MISSING,
but if he can, or if VC miraculously gains a disciplined work ethic, this team can cause damage throughout the season and in the playoffs because of the beast they have down low, named Superman seriously, that’s nasty!.
The second team in “The Minus One” category are the Bulls. They made a great move by re-signing Joakim Noah, but even with the addition of Carlos Boozer, Ronny Brewer, and the Ashton Kutcher look alike they need a strong wing that can contribute and be available for fast break dishes from Rose.
I’m not sure if Luol Deng can effectively play that role. I see them making it to the final four in the Eastern Conference. They will put up an amazing fight, circa 2009 type classic against the Celtics (I love this play by Noah), but inevitably will fall short.
The Eighth Seed
I won’t go in-depth with the mid level class of teams, but I would like to hit on the 8th and final playoff seed.
The New York Knicks
New York, New York, my adopted city. I think Amar’e was a great pick up for the Knicks, regardless if he was the next best thing available after the “Super Friends” combined forces in Miami. Management had to do something to temporarily quite the dedicated, yet very vocal New York fan base.
I am not sure a $100 million contract was necessary; nonetheless, I think Amar’e has heard the criticism and will be ready to produce like a franchise player should. Hopefully, he doesn’t get too distracted living in NY, he already thinks he’s a male fashionista, with his new desire to be on the cover of Vogue Magazine.
Raymond Felton should fit right in to the Nash type facilitator role that Stoudemire had in Phoenix, which should make them a very quick, pick and role team.
Lastly, unless, the beloved Knicks pull off the ‘Melo’ deal, this team will be competing for one of the bottom two playoff seeds. The brand of basketball will be a definite upgrade to what NY fans have grown accustomed too since the run they had in the mid 90’s, but by no means Championship or even Eastern Conference Final caliber.
The Toronto Raptors
Personally, I think it’s going to be an uphill, but overall entertaining season for the Raptors. They will put up a strong fight for a playoff spot, but I don’t think they will have enough to fend off the revitalized talent of the Eastern Conferences elite teams.
Their on court chemistry is deceptive and can end up biting teams that don’t do their homework.
There is some legit talent on this team: Barbosa, Klieza, DeRozen, Jack (please don’t over dribble) and their new big man from Memphis, Dorsey (he better get minutes, because he is a beast). I still think Bargnani is a 1st round bust (HUGE BUST!), I truly hope he plays up to expectations this year, but more and more it feels like as a fan of the home team, I take pretty much anything he does and consider it an achievement (how depressing).
I’m looking forward to an exciting year in Raptor land, with some players who will definitely have breakout seasons like Klieza and DeRozen, but that could be easily misinterpreted for the same talent a looter has in riot (is it really talent based on ability of talent based on relativity).
In the end, I have hope for the Raps, they are well coached and have a great GM who will surely sneak in a couple of key pieces by the trade deadline. Unfortunately, being north of the border and in a very cold climate, doesn’t help attract the best talent, not too much Raps fans can do about that, except put their trust in Colangelo.