The season has started and the hope for every city is the playoffs and a possible championship. Well if your city is not San Antonio, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Detroit, Chicago or Boston stop dreaming about a it. But it does not mean your team can’t have a very good year. The problem we rarely see predictions when it comes to selecting who will become the surprise teams in a particular year. They always seem to go with the obvious. Well, I will go out on the limb and pick some teams projected high that will struggle and I will select a few teams that will surprise.
The Heat are in trouble and some prognosticators who are picking them to do well should think twice. They tried to get young, but the youngsters they have will not play a major role and they are depending on two stars that struggle to avoid injuries. Shaq has a lot left, but he needs help and Dwayne Wade is not providing any by being on the sideline constantly. Once you get past those two, the Heat now have to count on Ricky Davis to carry the load. The Heat offensively might be one of worst teams in the league and when it’s all said and done, I predict that they will come up short come playoff time.
The Cavaliers must have forgotten that they had to exhaust every ounce of energy last year to go along with some good fortune in the first round against a depleted Washington Wizard team that if healthy would have quite possibly beaten them in the first round. The Cavaliers had the worst offseason of any team in the league and they will pay a serious price for it. The Cavs not only could not get Anderson Varejao signed, but they also failed again to make a trade for Mike Bibby or pick up a free agent like Grant Hill to take some pressure off LeBron James. They will struggle big-time to get a high level seed this season, especially if Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Larry Hughes are inconsistent.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Kobe saga will destroy whatever thought they had of making the playoffs and be competitive. The Lakers depend on Kobe in every facet of the game and the fact that he wants to move on will weigh heavily more on his teammates than anything else. The addition of Derek Fisher’s leadership will help, but this young and inexperienced team already had a tough road before this saga began. Lamar Odom and his continued struggles with injuries and the lack of a creative point guard will force Kobe to jack up 30 shots a night, which means a record close to .500. That might not be enough to make the playoffs in the difficult Western Conference.
The Nuggets have two of my favorite players in the league in Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony and I am on board as saying that Carmelo will accumulate better stats than LeBron and Dwyane Wade when it's all over. The problem I have with the Nuggets is they don’t mesh well and they are susceptible to low-scoring nights when those two are off. They have some very good talent in Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin and Nenê, but for a reason they seem clumsy and in the way of Iverson and Anthony instead of flowing well. I can imagine them losing rhythm at times this year and getting into 4 to 6 game losing streaks thus putting a good playoff seed and a division title in jeopardy.
The Hawks have some of the best young talent in the league and head coach Mike Woodson has enough to finally make a run for one the bottom seeds in the Eastern Conference. Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Al Hortford, Josh Childress and Acie Law should become one of the best young lineups in the league for years to come. Now throw in do-it -all Joe Johnson and this Hawks team should in my opinion flirt with .500 this year and move to the next level beginning next season.
Josh Smith should become an All-Star this year if he continues to stay focused.
New York Knicks
The Knicks and Isiah Thomas are at a crossroad, but they have the bodies and talent to finally get over the hump and make the playoffs. The Knicks have the best collection of talent 1 through 12 in the league. Regardless of the Knicks perception as an organization, they should be fighting for a playoff spot in March if they understand that the strength of their team will go through Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph. Perimeter players like Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson should find more clear cut opportunities if they exert patience and defend well. This could be Isiah Thomas' last opportunity to coach the Knicks unless they win close to 50 games and make a serious run for a postseason spot.
New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets have some quality offensive players and will make every contest interesting because of it. Peja Stojakovic will be the ring leader assisted by Chris Paul. But David West and Tyson Chandler will be the difference with their inside presence. The Hornets have had tough luck staying healthy and head coach Byron Scott is crossing his fingers. The Hornets are the gypsies of professional sports and it also remains to be seen if they get the fan support this year in New Orleans like they did in Oklahoma City last year. I consider them a definite threat to make a bottom seed in the West if they can make the transition.
Portland Trail Blazers
Yes, Greg Oden is out for the year, but the Blazers will win their share of games because they present problems with their length and athleticism. LaMarcus Aldridge and Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy will have a very good season. The key for the Blazers will be team defense and head coach Nate McMillan will make sure it works. The problem for the rest of the league is that they will fall short of the playoffs and have a chance to draft OJ Mayo of USC and pair him with Oden next year. Wow!