The NBA season is nearing ever closer, and the excitement is reaching a fever pitch. We have seen LeBron James leave the Miami Heat and return home to Ohio to re-sign with boyhood club the Cleveland Cavaliers. Whilst the Oklahoma City Thunder – one of the favourites for the NBA title with Betfair have been rocked by the news that 2014’s MVP Kevin Durant will be out of action for the next eight weeks after fracturing his foot.
Will the return of LeBron see the Cavaliers win their first ever NBA title? How will the Thunder be able to cope without Durant? Could the San Antonio Spurs start a new reign of dominance and hold onto their NBA crown? Or is there a shock contender that is about to enter the mix?
So, who is in with a shot of winning the 2015 NBA title?
The Rockets are outsiders to win the 2015 NBA Championship. Last season the Texas outfit finished with a 54-28 record, before being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Portland Trail Blazers – a side that aren’t expected to do much this season.
However, last season was a transitional phase for the Rockets. The partnership between Dwight Howard and James Harden was still in its infancy. After a year of getting to know each other, both these powerful attacking players should have an intrinsic knowledge of each other. You can count on both of them being deadly this season.
But, the Rockets have lost some keys players. Jeremy Lin has moved to the LA Lakers, Omer Asik has been allowed to go to New Orleans and Chandler Parsons moved to Dallas in a big money move. Houston spent too much time and energy in their failed pursuit of the Heat’s Chris Bosh, who opted to remain in Miami, and ultimately had to turn to Trevor Ariza, who had become a free agent after leaving the Washington Wizards.
Kevin McHale is coaching a weaker team than he did last year. He has a side that will make the playoffs, and who knows, from there winning a third NBA Championship is certainly not untenable, but it will be nothing short of a miracle.
Last season went okay for the Bulls. They finished fourth in the Eastern Conference to make it to the playoffs, but once there they were humbled 4-1 by the Washington Wizards. This time around, they will be looking to avoid making the same mistake twice.
In the summer market the Bulls have strengthened well. Pau Gasol – who joins from the Lakers – and Nikola Mirotic – who has moved to the States from Spain – appear to be astute signings for the franchise. And then there is Doug McDermott who came in on Draft Day. The Creighton man was the NCAA scoring champion in 2014 and was also named the Big East Player of the Year. If he lives up to his billing then the Bulls could really be onto something.
The fitness of Derrick Rose is going to be the determining factor behind whether the Bulls are successful or not. Chicago are not the same without Rose, that was evident last season when the 26-year-old tore his right knee meniscus, an injury that ruled him out for the entire season. How Rose’s surgically repaired knee’s hold up is unknown. If it is the Rose that won the 2011 MVP award who shows up this season, then the Bulls have to be fancied to do well.
As previously mentioned, the injury to Kevin Durant is the worst possible start for the Thunder. Durant has topped scored in the NBA for four of the last five seasons and this year looked like it would be his time to finally get a championship ring. A fracture is not the worst injury to comeback from as it requires rest, not surgery. Nonetheless, it will still take some time for Durant to get back up and running when he does return, although there is a lot of time between now and the playoffs.
In more promising news it looks like the Thunder will have a fully-fit Russell Westbrook. Last season he had to undergo surgery on his right knee, twice. Luckily, the Thunder managed to stay competitive thanks to the red-hot form Durant found himself in. Touch wood, injuries will not blight Westbrook this season – as when he and Durant are both fully fit and playing their natural game, they are unstoppable.
There haven’t been many ins and outs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, it’s clear that Scott Brooks is pretty happy with what he has got. It will also be interesting to see how Mitch McGary gets on. The draftee was touted to be one of the earlier picks back in 2013 before doubters started questioning his mentality. If the concerns about his mental aptitude are ill-founded then the Thunder may have unearthed a diamond.
Durant is the best player in America right now, not LeBron. A fully fit Durant-Westbrook partnership could easily result in a NBA Championship.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs quite rightly won the NBA Championship last season. They won 62-games, including the ones that mattered most. Last season we saw how Coach Gregg Popovich set them up in a way that made them nearly impossible to defend against – they were rampant in front of the basket.
It’s true that the “Big Three” are not getting any younger. Tim Duncan is now 38-years-old, Manu Ginobili is 37-years of age and Tony Parker is 32, but you know what they say… things do get better with age. That certainly goes for the Spurs attack.
The Texan side will certainly make it the Western Conference playoffs, where they will likely meet the Thunder. Trying to decide who will prevail in that is by no means easy, not easy at all.
It is rather incredible that a side that won just 33 of 82 games last season can be favourites for the season. However, when you see who they have added to their roster it is nowhere near as
startling. LeBron’s return is well documented but you cannot understate the acquisition of Minnesota’s Kevin Love, who averaged 26.1 points per game last season – he’ll get even more points this season when paired with a playmaker like a James.
The Cavs now have a really exciting mix of youth and experience. LeBron has got his championship rings and now wants to simply play for the club he loves; he will nurture the young talent in the squad and take all the pressure off them, thus allowing them to play their natural game.
Kyrie Irving is going to shine this year, due to the spotlight being shone elsewhere. The 22-year-old has already shown America how much of a precocious talent he is, and now the pressure is off his shoulders he is only going to get better.
Granted, this is a very new look Cavs side but they have had time to amalgamate into a cohesive unit, and when they do, it looks they will be far too strong offensively for any side in the United States of America.
The Cavs have to be considered the favourites. They have the perfect melange of youth and experience, however, if there is one team that will stop then it will be the Thunder. Kevin Durant is
the best player in in the NBA right now, and he has enough about him to upset the odds.