Despite being the planet’s most-talented and well-recognised basketball superstar, it would be difficult to call LeBron James the Lord of the Rings. Yes, he certainly has Finals experience and has appeared in six NBA Finals (only one less than megastar Kobe Bryant), but he has only emerged victorious on two of those trips.
But alas- a new season brings new beginnings. Here at Exeposé we have taken a look at some of the big contenders from both of the NBA Conferences, as well as some of the stars set to shine brightest this year. And of course, we’ve made our pick to win it all.
Best of the East
Cleveland Cavaliers – the aforementioned LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers are once again favourites to win from the Eastern Conference (2/1 according to Westgate Las Vegas Superbook). After falling short at the final hurdle last year, the Cavs have added backup PG Mo Williams and veteran Richard Jefferson to an already loaded roster and, matching up against the comparative wasteland of the Eastern Conference, it is difficult to make a case for them not reaching the NBA Finals.
- Exeposé predicts: NBA Finalists
Miami Heat – If going on sheer talent, the Heat have a realistic shot at the Finals this season (but they did last year and didn’t make it to the playoffs). Ageing superstars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh don’t have many years left but, aided by renewed motivation and the hugely talented PG Goran Dragic and big man Hassan Whiteside, some are predicting they can go all the way. We don’t think they’ll go quite that far (health is a major factor), but don’t surprised if they meet their former prodigal son, LeBron James, in the conference finals.
Exeposé predicts: Eastern Conference Finals
Other teams in the mix – the Chicago Bulls look to be firing on all cylinders under new coach Fred Hoiberg, and his new fast-paced offence looks tailor-made to explosive Guard duo Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. The Atlanta Hawks mirror the same hugely impressive team as last year that won a franchise-best 60 games, but seem to lack a real presence on the perimeter at both ends, after the departure of DeMarre Carroll.
Best of the West
San Antonio Spurs – in the Wild West, the weak get eaten. Usually by the San Antonio Spurs; their regular season last year was something of a formality, but they were then knocked out in Round 1 of last year’s Playoffs. So are they on the decline? No such chance- they’ve signed the former Portland Trailblazer and Power Forward-extraordinaire LaMarcus Aldridge. If he can slot into their pass-first offence and still hit his lethal midrange jump shots, we cannot see this team being beaten easily, or by many.
- Exeposé prediction – NBA Champions
Golden State Warriors – last year’s winners will look to continue their epic form into this year, with the prolific Stephen Curry the cornerstone of their franchise. The issue that arises is they are no longer an unknown quantity, and their 3-PT shooting is likely to be more closely guarded in the brutal Western Conference and therefore fall slightly. They also have made no notable offseason additions- that said, nobody can stop Stephen Curry and/or Klay Thompson if they get hot.
- Exeposé prediction – Western Conference Finals
Oklahoma City Thunder – Despite possessing two of the league’s best players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, injuries, KD’s kryptonite (LeBron James) and questions over whether the two of them will stay on when their contracts expire, means they haven’t lived up to the hype yet. We’re unsure they can this season either- without any of the aforementioned issues, we’d pick them to win it all. But these have clouded the franchise over the last few seasons and look to continue to do so.
- Exeposé prediction – 2nd Round of the Playoffs
League MVP – Stephen Curry. Despite stiff competition from LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and James Harden , we think Steph Curry is only going to get better. A lethal shooter from outside and just as deadly a finisher under the basket, nobody can guard him. Just don’t expect his points to equate to his team’s prizes.
One to watch – Anthony Davis. The freakish athlete from the New Orleans Pelicans has seen increases in virtually all statistical measures since his debut in 2012. Expect the 6 ft 10 Power Forward to continue to dazzle opponents with an unnatural sleight of hand and jump shot, or just smash them into submission in the post.