Yes, the above statement by Josh Hill is dead-on correct. And I might add, this is a transitional year for the NBA. The next 5 years, the NBA champion will be led by a core of younger players: Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin and company, who are nipping at the heals of the established NBA elite players.
The older teams (Celtics, Lakers, Mavericks, Spurs) will not be apart of the champagne celebration in June 2012. The past 4 years have seen younger teams getting closer and closer to the finals, only to have a more experienced team deny them the next level. Well, the young guns have caught up - learning from their past mistakes - and this will be key to becoming a champion..
For the last two years, the Oklahoma Thunder was booted by a more experienced Lakers (2010) and Maverick (2011) teams. The Thunder's talented Kevin Durant along with his teammates, Kendrick Perkins and Russell Westbrook, will need to follow this template if they want to represent the Western Conference in the NBA finals:
1. Perkins - bring his defensive toughness and a championship mentality from his Celtic days.
2.Westbrook - accepts his role as a facilitator and shed that reputation as just a scorer.
3. Let Kevin Durant be Kevin Durant.
The returning champions Dallas Mavericks had good chance to repeat but (curiously) they did not resign their defensive presence(Tyson Chandler) who played a major factor in winning it all last season. I'm predicting the absence of Chandler will make them too soft defensively to repeat.
My Los Angeles Lakers (yes guilty, I am a homer) are "old" and Kobe Bryant's great hereoic performances are gone - so barring a blockbuster trade (Dwight Howard) the Lakers will finish as just barely a playoff team.
The LA Clippers' Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will be just Sports Center highlights, not a threat (and folks, the Lakers still own LA). Why? Not enough fiirepower in the low post.The Memphis Grizzlies grew up last year in the playoffs, but they are where the Thunder were two years ago: still learning. The San Antonio Spurs' core of Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are good but father time is against them.
The operative word for the Miami Heat is blend. Nice guy Lebron James will come to terms that he has a flock of haters who do not like him and he will use that as incentive to create the unstoppable Lebron we have been waiting to see for 7 years. After one year together, the dynamic trio of James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh have figured out how to incorporate each other's game into making the Heat Eastern Conference champions. No one can beat these guys since they will have figured out all of this.
The New York Knicks will be the Heat's biggest challenge. They have a superstar who can take over a game, Carmelo Anthony; a superstar who is comfortable as the second best on the team, Amaire Stoudamire; and the added defensive presence of Tyson Chandler to protect the basket. They will have great team chemistry which is needed to compete for a title.
Chicago Bulls and Derrick Rose will challenge, but he still needs another superstar for help. Boston is old - but I would not bet against them. To make a playoff push, I can see them making a youthful upgrade via a trade (bye Ray Allen). Finally, the Dwight Howard/Orlando Magic off season trading fiasco was/is too much of a distraction. He may be on another team by season's end (Lakers?) - to be more precise, the magic is gone in Orlando.
The NBA Champion
The Miami Heat made the finals only to have a better defensive and team "minded" Mavericks embarrass them. The Heat pretty much made the finals on talent alone, but now they are one year older and wiser. They have learned how to blend their talents together to begin their first of multiple championships. King James will be crowned.