That said, there are a few players, teams and situations which will be very interesting to see grow and develop, and quite a few will be in their prime when the Miami 3 are over the hill. So here's a quick rundown of the 23 things I'm looking forward to in the next six years in no particular order:
- Tyreke and Cousins era:These guys have the potential to be Kobe/Shaq of this generation. Reke is already amongst the best closers in the game and Cousins has an air of dominance on the offensive end which puts him amongst the top scoring centres before the season even starts. Seeing these guys grow and develop for 6 years until they are in their primes and ready to get some rings is going to be awesome.
- Kobe's Last Dance: This coming season will be the toughest test Kobe Bryant has ever had to face; it is also likely his last chance to win a championship with Phil Jackson. Despite being a Laker Hater, I've got the utmost respect for Kobe Bryant the basketball player and if anyone in the League today can will his team to victory against a stacked team like Miami, it'll be the Black Mamba.
- Brandon Roy and the Blazers:
The Blazers are one of the teams which have managed to build a very deep, very talented team through the draft. If only they could get it on the court. While Roy is too old to simply wait out the Miami 3 for his chance at a ring, the Portland squad will be able to keep the game close, and Roy is arguably the best closer on either team. This comes down to whether or not Oden, Roy and Batum can put together 70+ games as a unit, but give them a year or two to come together and develop and watch what happens. Look for Roy to be in MVP discussions soon.
- Kevin Durant:
This kid has so much potential that he needs his own number, because while the Thunder are promising, Durantula has already delivered. I honestly think KD has a chance to enter GOAT discussions before the end of his career for a couple of reasons; his stroke is pure, his scoring comes within the flow of the offense, he has great rivals and competition to hone his skills against. If he were able to sneak even a couple of rings away from Miami in the next 6 seasons it would be miraculous; but even if he doesn't, he'll be 27 when those contracts expire and at the peak of his basketball playing abilities. In contrast, LBJ and Wade will be 31 and 34. Let the rings flow.
- OKC Thunder:
Exciting young team laden with talent. We all know what Durant can do, Westbrook is a freak athlete and Ibaka has the potential to be one of the best shot-blockers in the League in a few years. The battle between the Thunder and Portland for top seed in the West in a few years will be a sight to behold.
- Western Conference Finals:
The NBA Finals aren't the main attraction for me anymore; the WCF are. Portland, LA, Denver, OKC and Memphis are all young teams looking to rise up and challenge Miami.
- Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics:
My regulars will know I love Rondo and the Celtics. But they are pretty much prehistoric these days and are still the best chance to beat the Heat in a 7 game series. When the Boston Three Party ends though Rondo will be left with the keys to a team which will need to be rebuilt from scratch. I hope he'll stick around and let them build around him, and a core of Rondo, Glen Davis, Avery Bradley could make the playoffs in the East.
- Wall vs Rose vs Westbrook:
Three big, freakishly athletic point guards with a team in their hands. The sheer number of quality PGs in the League and who will be in the next 6 years will be awesome to behold, but expect these three to rise to the top in 6 years time.
- Wall and the Wizards:
Wall has been hyped liked crazy, and followed in the footsteps of DRose to be drafted 1st overall. However, despite the ghost of Arenas hanging around, Wall has a solid young frontcourt around him in McGee and Blatche who could reach the playoffs as early as this season.
Ridiculous athleticism and hops like a young Vince Carter. If he stays loyal and they build around him, Bargnani and Davis they could make the Raptors a force to be reckoned with in time.
- Boston vs Miami, 2010:
The first game of the regular season couldn't be more fitting; the old 3 vs the new 3. Throw in Shaq facing off against "the King" and you've got one hell of a matchup. Boston to win in a blowout (haha I wish...).
- Durant vs Beasley:
Now, a lot of you will be scratching your heads about this one, but I honestly believe that Beasley can be a star to rival Durant with enough minutes and responsibility. Minny might just be desperate enough to give them to him. Two offensively gifted, scrawny SFs? Yes please.
- Gilchrist vs Barnes:
Both of these guys have similar height and characteristics; they work hard, have great all-round games and are only separated in age by a year. Wherever they end up, they'll be given big minutes and the reins to the team; I can't wait.
- Kentucky vs Duke 2010/2011:
Both teams have a bunch of highly touted recruits coming in headlined by Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving. Both have brilliant coaches in Coach K and Coach Cal. Expect them to meet up in the NCAA tournament at some point and have a great rivalry in the League too.
- The return of the Blakers:
The second time in recent history that a number 1 pick has been cut down by injury (see: Greg Oden). Having suffered a stress fracture myself this year I can tell you they are no fun. But if Blake is anything like me he'll have learned a lot and come back raring to go. While the Clippers aren't going to compete for a playoff spot right away, give Bledsoe, Gordon, Aminu, Griffin and Kaman a few years to gel and you've got yourself a starting lineup which could make the Lakers the second best team in LA.
- The Knicks experiment:
STAT made a big move in leaving to the Knicks before anyone else, but they've surrounded him with a fairly capable team. Unfortunately, STAT will likely be forced into playing C, but this should suit the D'Antoni system well. Starting lineup of Felton, Chandler, Gallinari, Randolph and Stoudemire is not too shabby.
- Carmelo Anthony:
I won't add "and the Nuggets" here because I'm not sure if he will stay. However, with LeBron sharing the ball and going ring-hunting, Melo has his best chance yet to win the regular season MVP. He is still a better scorer than Durant and much more physically imposing. Also, every time he and LeBron face off I get tingles. This dude is going to be fun to watch no matter where he goes/stays.
- Cleveland Cavaliers:
I gotta admit, I'm curious. They have a coach known for overachieving in Byron Scott and a reasonably talented team still remaining. I expect a commitment to team play and D which could see these guys be the Houston Rockets of next season. However, they need to build around their younger players like Sessions, Moon, Hickson and Varejao. Don't be surprised if these guys end up around 9/10 in the East.
- New Jersey Nets:
I have a lot of respect for a coach who can get his team to the Finals (see above) even if they don't win. Despite the lack of huge names, they actually have an intriguing lineup for the future. T-Will and Damion James have the potential to be a devastating wing combo in a few years, almost like Jordan/Pippen Zero. Although they have something the JP classic didn't - a legitimate scoring C. However, with recent acquisitions at the 2 and 3 in Morrow and Outlaw it remains to be seen whether these guys will get the minutes to grow and develop. Definitely a young exciting team to watch in the future.
- Charlotte Bobcats:
A lot of people are writing them off as rubbish, but I see them making the playoffs this year in the East. But the real reason I'm looking forward to seeing them is because I'm a huge Jordan fan and I want to see how he steers this team long-term. If Larry Brown actually commits and sticks around for an extended tenure, then these guys might just go somewhere. Henderson was impressive in the SL and should be ready to take the reins from Jackson at the 2 in a few years. Wallace is a dynamo and Tyrus Thomas could be a superstar if he ever got it together. Augustine will finally get the starting spot and also has potential. I disagreed in the move to get rid of Chandler, but what can you do. Don't forget that they signed Shaun Livingston, who is still young and talented enough to bounce back from his injury. The Bobcats have made the playoffs now, but Jordan needs to think long-term; the team is aging and in the current climate the 'Cats are no chance of winning a title in the next 6 years. Embrace change, develop the youngsters and build through the draft. Hopefully things will all pan out.
Collison was a brilliant acquisition and Paul George will probably be a starter at the 3 in 6 years. Hibbert has the requisite size to dominate most other Cs in the League. So as you can see, they've got intriguing prospects for the future. However, none moreso than Lance Stephenson. Now, I know he has gotten some bad press lately and is facing criminal charges, but I'll wait until the judge's decision before I make a ruling of any sort. That he was released without bail is a good sign. From a purely basketball perspective, Lance could very easily become the star of this team and allow Granger to be second option as he ages. I hope Lance can pull a Kidd and fly straight after this latest offence.
I always thought Philly were a pretty rubbish team, and last season sorta proved that. I am of the opinion that a running, up-tempo team probably won't win a championship without the ability to play the half-court game also. That said, if Turner is as good as advertised and Holiday expands on his SL performance then Iguodala might not have to be 1st option on offense and the team might actually make the playoffs again. Holiday, Turner, Iguodala, Young, Brand, Speights... these guys can ball. Its up to Collins to bring it all together.
- DRose and the Chicago Bulls:
The Bulls had to be #23. Rose has amazed me this past season in his quiet confidence and unwillingness to back down. Add to the fact that the Bulls solved a lot of their problems this off-season and the Bulls have a chance to top Miami in a few years. Rose is a legit superstar, Noah is that hustle guy every team needs, Deng can score as a 3rd option and Boozer is a low post presence they've been after. Brewer brings D and Korver shooting at the 2 with Gibson and Johnson coming off the bench you have a deep team with a proven playoff performer in Rose at the helm. If anyone can bring a ring back to Chi-City it'll be Rose and his Bulls.