No Type: Contenders vs. Pretenders (Pt. 1 of 3)

By: Andrew Porter

Spring has faded away and the flowers have died. The trees are bare, and the time on the clock has rolled back.  The cold, dark days of fall are upon us, and with that, so is the presence of NBA Basketball.

Yes folks, basketball is back. The offseason went by relatively quick, considering we stayed captivated by LeBron James’ “Decision Pt. 2” until the middle of July. Moves have been made and teams have been set.  The show has already gotten underway and the red carpet is laid for teams to duke it out for that prized Larry O’Brien Trophy.

This year, the league is wide open, and depending on what type of team you are, this could be the year to get over the hump. With that being said, there are three types of teams you should know about this year.  I’ve categorized them as “The usual suspects”, “The Teams with Something to prove”, and “The Sleepers”.

The Usual Suspects

The “usual suspects” is the term I’m giving to the teams who the media and sports fans are ready to crown champions, pretty much as of yesterday. They are as follows:

  1. The San Antonio Spurs

As of right now, the Spurs appear to be the favorite to repeat this year. The Big Three of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan are poised to make another run this year.

The emergence of Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, and Boris Diaw is really what makes San Antonio one of the league’s most dangerous teams.  Each of these players provide an additional punch to the team that makes opponents have to play defense on each and every player, and to not only focus on the Big Three.

The Spurs were also able to keep their core intact and chemistry has improved within the team.  The role players know their role, and they play it well. The only question is whether or not the Spurs can ride the preverbal wave they’ve been riding for the past few years.

The Spurs are looking to make this year the 16th year in a row with 50 plus wins. As the true model of consistency, one must make the case that they are the most consistent franchise in pro sports, and are the odds on favorite to repeat—maybe because of a lack of proven competition throughout the league.

Tim Duncan

  1. The Chicago Bulls

Not exactly used to being a “usual suspect”, the Chicago Bulls emerge this year as another team everyone is expecting big things from. Everything the Bulls do starts and ends with Derrick Rose. If he is healthy, the team is a contender and can match up against any team in the league.

For starters, Chicago—under the leadership of Joakim Noah—has found ways to adapt its game with or without Rose. Noah is the best defensive player in the league in my opinion, and is a great anchor. When you combine the additions of Pau Gasol in the post, Aaron Brooks as a solid backup point guard with forwards Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls are primed to have a great year.

Gasol not only gives the Bulls another body on the front line, but he also is a very solid low post scorer—something the Bulls have been void of for years.  The team also finds consistency in the form of role players Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Kirk Hinrich. Some would even go as far to say that the Bulls reserves are more explosive than the starters.

Once again, the bottom line is simple: it starts and ends with Derrick Rose. If his body proves to be as frail as fellow athlete Robert Griffin III, the Bulls will be another   good team that just couldn’t get over the hump.  If Derrick Rose returns to the player that will dunk on your momma if she is in the paint, then watch out, the Bulls could be dangerous.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers

The moment the words “I’m Coming Home” were written in LeBron James’ now famous letter to the world, the Cleveland Cavaliers once again became a “usual suspect”. Much like Shaquille O’Neal during his time of hopping around the league, it seems that the winning equation is LeBron plus insert any team in the league = championship contender.

The media have already proclaimed it, SportsCenter has begun making the route for the parade, and you really can’t tell a Cleveland fan anything right about now. But wait, the Cavs don’t look too hot so far.

The Cavs added Lebron, Kevin Love, and a myriad of other role players—Matt Dellavedova, Shawn Marion, and Mike Miller; however, in the first few games, you can see some of the glaring problems in the team. Getting Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and LeBron James to gel is clearly going to take some time. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving occupy a lot of the same space on the floor, and that is evident in the offense. Spacing is going to be paramount for the Cavalier’s success.

Another issue that was seen in the Portland game, which resulted in a loss, was the bad shot selection by Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.

“A lot of bad habits have been built up over the past couple of years,” LeBron said, after the loss to the Blazers. Waiters and Irving are used to having to carry heavy roles in the offense. But, with the addition of Love and LeBron, neither are the first nor second options. Have no fear though. I believe that the Cavs will figure it out, simply because they are too talented not too, and LeBron’s legacy rides on it.

When you have three players that are all arguably top five in their position, you have no choice but to do great things. The Cavs aren’t going to win a championship this year. I think they’ve got to iron out some wrinkles and fight through the growing pains. However, once they do figure it out, look out world, the league may never be the same.

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