By: Aly Somani
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 Western Conference
The West has been dominant for so long, but with all the off-season movement in the East, many of the teams that generally garner attention have slipped off the radar. Some for more obvious reasons than others (refer to OKC).
The Los Angeles Lakers
The CHAMP IS HERE!! The World Champion, L.A. Lakers, literally only lost one piece this summer, Jordan Farmer and they picked up two studs, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes. Legitimately the second best move, after the Heat, in the off-season. Blake, will fit in perfectly to the triangle offense, he has a high basketball IQ and is a great distributor. He will a get ton of open looks, after the wings penetrate and dish. Barnes, is a defensive beast, who won’t back down from anyone, not to mention his passion for the game makes him one of my favorite players in the league. I think he slots under that same, no holds barred - die hard mentality that Noah has on Bulls.
Then there is the MAMBA, who deserves a paragraph all to himself. This guy is the most lethal basketball player in the league, as his name suggests. Mr. Bryant is 32 years old and has mastered the balance of what his body is physically capable of doing and his sheer skill. Working at the NBPA, I frequently ask my bosses, if the Kobe Bryant rumors about his dedication and commitment to the game are legit – To all the haters and Kobe die hard’s out there – THEY ARE TRUE.
This guy wants to be the best he can be, he pushes his body in ways that will not be appreciated till he retires. Has been counted out repeatedly throughout his career and is infatuated with the struggle of climbing to the top of the mountain each season. His insatiable appetite to be the best is far from dead. Kobe comes back year after year, with a new repertoire of moves to use on the puppets in his play, also known as the players in the NBA. Least to say, I am a fan of his work ethic and his game in general. There is no other snake you want shooting the last shot of game, then the MAMBA himself.
That being said, I believe the Zen Master (Phil Jackson) will be very strategic as he allocates minutes to Bryant through the season, to ensure his body is well rested for a fourth straight run to the finals. Yes, the Lakers are going to the finals, again!!
The Oklahoma City Thunder
This team can beat the Lakers in a track a field meet any day of the week, but are literally one or two seasons away from dethroning the Lakers in the West for a trip to the finals. Westbrook and Durantula are a deadly combo. They are quick, efficient, and have an uber talented supporting cast.
The Thunder didn’t make too many noteworthy off-season adjustments, aside from the additions of Mo Pete, and Cole Aldrich. I expect this team to perform very well this season, as they compete against the Utah Jazz for second seed in the West. I guess my true thoughts are: when you are the new kid on the block and you surprise everyone with your skills that’s great, but when you come back around and people have expectations of what you can bring to the table, they prepare for you, not to mention the added pressure that you have to produce. Thus, I’m really curious to see how they fair. Hopefully their game wont be as discrete as Durant’s contract extension tweet (“I just resigned, shhhhh”), but for real this Kid is nasty and his game has been even more refined since he catapulted his name into superstardom this summer at the Olympics.
The Utah Jazz
The Boozer less Jazz, are actually going to do better without him. For the past two years Mr. Boozer has been a straight up distraction to the team. Unsure of his level of commitment, Deron was probably just as unsure if he should pass him the ball to him or not.
Well, worry no more, Deron, Al Jefferson has arrived, lol (that was a joke). Big Al, is not going to be a huge factor on the score sheet to be honest, its more the comfort and maturity of the rest of the team that will really be exhibited in their success. Deron will flourish and will arguably be considered the ‘best point guard’ in the game. I expect the Jazz to place within one of the top three seeds and make a push for a spot in the Western Conference Finals in the playoffs.
The “Minus One” Category
Dallas, Portland, Phoenix, San Antonio
I have categorized the following teams in “The Minus One” category. The Mavs, are missing pieces (plural, not singular) and need to rebuild around someone other than Dirk and Kidd. Mr. Cuban needs a new GM, seriously if you are reading this Mark, contact me, I have some ideas that can help you contend for championship.
Literally, there is no reason why the most dedicated and forward-thinking owner in the league is not attracting the best players.
The Blazers, need to rid themselves of the plague known as Greg Oden’s knee, I feel bad for the guy, but it’s a business and I really hope he is able to stay healthy this year. Nonetheless, Brandon Roy is one of my favorite players and is a ridiculously good guy. The team all around is under great management, committed to building a solid contender, with or without Gren Oden.
The Suns, will miss the playoffs this year, without Amer’e and considering Nash is getting older, I expect them to make some serious changes after they realize how ineffective Turkoglu will be for them. The Spurs are all but done, I really don’t care what Coach Pop thinks about Duncan’s fitness. He can shoot those bankers all day, but if he cant defend, its game over.
The Eight Seed
The Los Angeles Clippers
Personally, this team may not be the eight seed, but I am going to enjoy watching them. Which is something that may have never been said before about this team. Yes, I am actually looking forward to seeing the L.A. Clippers. Wow, that felt weird. First and foremost, rather, the only point I really want to make here is, the return of Blake Griffin (Hallelujah!). Mr Griffin will make the ugly adopted sister of the Lakers, bearable, bordering desirable to watch. This guy is a beast, who is going to make a serious run at John Wall for Rookie of the Year honors.