Oklahoma City Thunder
This is simply a no-brainer. Without possibly the best point guard in the league in Russell Westbrook, the Thunder lacked direction and were still shockingly ousted in the playoffs by a good Memphis Grizzlies defense and a hounding and offensively effective Zach Randolph.
Even though point guard, Reggie Jackson, cemented himself as a legitimate offensive threat for the Thunder; he’s no Russell Westbrook. Serge Ibaka’s game contains many intangibles, but offense isn’t one of his strong suits. The Grizzlies double and triple teamed Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City was helpless.
In this case, one player does make a difference plus the Thunder will be gaining an extra draft pick next season. Oklahoma City might be overlooked and underpriced by NBA odds makers due to the terrible ending of their season this year.
Los Angeles Lakers
You’ll get great odds on the Lakers because even before Kobe Bryant’s injury, they were a major disappointment. I don’t see Bryant going out that way; he’s as competitive as Michael Jordan. The keys to this team will be Bryant’s injury and Dwight Howard.
Bryant has never suffered an injury like this before, but when he’s able to return, he might come back fresher. This is a player that’s logged a lot of miles on those knees and legs.
Dwight Howard definitely wasn’t a superhero in L.A. this past season and it’s a make or break year for him. He’s not a great shooter but has all of the gifts to compliment an offensive talent such as Bryant.
The Lakers are a big question mark. Pau Gasol is a much better player than what he showed this past year also. There’s no doubt that this team needs another star player, but in my opinion and at the long odds that you’ll see in the future, the window hasn’t closed on this team. I’m not expecting much, but wouldn’t be surprised if they turned it around.
Now why would I add the Miami Heat to this list? They have a 4 time NBA MVP in Lebron James who’s the best player on the planet and he’s not even 30 years old yet.
The Heat also have a legitimate offensive threat at the center position in Chris Bosh that knows his role. Dwayne Wade has started to look a bit old, but he’s “D. Wade”. This means that he always has a great game in him, has good size for an off guard, and is athletically gifted. Wade might not be looking so great in these playoffs, but we have to remember that he’s been hampered by injuries and he still has a lot of shelf life left to his career.
Derrick Rose is the question here. He had an opportunity to play in this year’s playoffs and bypassed it. Is it a matter of heart or fear of re-injuring himself? If Rose regains his old form, the Bulls are one of the 3 or 4 best teams in the league.
They beat a good Brooklyn team in the playoffs without Rose. Guys like Deng, Boozer, and Noah are still in their prime. Joakim Noah really shined in this year’s playoffs. This is a team that you can’t count out. They gave Miami a tough time in the playoffs without Rose. When Lebron James has to guard a 5 foot 8 reserve point guard in Nate Robinson, you know that this team is tough.
San Antonio Spurs
Everyone keeps saying that this team is getting older, but they keep winning. They’re still playing in this season’s playoffs and will be a tough beat for any team with the combination of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Bottom line is they have multiple championships and that speaks volumes.
New York Knicks
Even though the Indiana Pacers are leading their playoff series with the Knicks (3-2), I don’t think that the Pacers have the offense or go to guy to compete with these teams. However, Carmelo Anthony can put on a show at any time.
The Knicks have to figure out what to do with Amare’ Stoudemire. Injuries have plagued this team and Tyson Chandler has looked lost on the court, but I see potential here as a longshot with the backing of the MSG crowd. The Knicks dominated the Miami Heat this year; it’s a good matchup from New York’s perspective.
We obviously can’t include the Minnesota Timberwolves or Detroit Pistons, but any assistance from Phil Jackson will make the Pistons a much better team and with Kevin Love back in the lineup, the T-Wolves vwin total will improve greatly.
Stand by for future odds and updates when this year’s playoffs end to get a head start on NBA Futures Picks.