The quest for Banner 18 is in its very infancy. Preseason not even starting, but there is a buzz that I did not feel last year. The 09 team did not get better then the 08 team. If anything with the loss of James Posey, they got worse. However, this year they got a lot better. There is that buzz of 08 back and there is no championship hang over this year. Instead there is a clear mission capable of coming to fruition because the parts are there. This 2010 team has added size, scoring and defense off the bench in Daniels and Sheed. This will keep the starters fresh and should keep them healthy. Before the Garnett injury they were playing all right and still kneck and Kneck with Cleveland without a solid bench. Now with Daniels, Baby, Sheed, and House off the Bench this team is dangerous. I truly feel only injury can stop them and I view that as unlikely with the ability to ration minutes now. However, here are the main threats to the Celtics title hopes and where I rank them.
1. LA Lakers. The defending Champs got better with Artest. You got Kobe Bryant, Farmar or Fisher, Gasol, and Bynum, to go with Walton and Odam. I will be interested to see how the starting fives and bench matchup during the regular and hopefully post season.
2. San Antonio Spurs. Deep team. Duncan, Parker, Ginobli, Jefferson, Mason Jr, Mc Dyess, Finley, Bonner, Hill, and even Ratliff. They can matchup and create mismatches on anyone.
3. Orlando Magic. Even if the Vince Carter experiment does not work they still can use Jameer off the pick to try to replace Hedo. They have the best big man in Dwight Howard and a lights out shooter in Rashard Lewis. They added Bench size and scoring. They will be a tough series for anyone.
4.Cleveland Cavs. LeBron James is a true Beast. However, I do not like the Shaq trade. He is old and slow on Defense. I also do not like the fact they did not get a great running mate for him. ( Shaq or Mo Williams are not that guy. Solid, but neither should be the number two). Delonte West is a head case and it is starting to rear it's ugly head. However, despite all this the team won 66 games last year through James's will. With him they are capable of winning any series.
5.Dallas Mavericks. Dirk is a great scorer and will again carry the load. Kidd still has life left. Marion and Howard provide added scoring punch and length on D. Terry, Dampier, Barea, Thomas, and Gooden are great role players. However, I do not like Gooden. There is a reason the man despite solid stats wears out his welcome and is traded so much. If the team commits itself to Rick Carisle's D, they wiill make some noise come playoff time.
6.Portland Trailblazers. This team is my team to take the next step. Brandon Roy is a future superstar, if not already. LaMarcus Aldridge is a great running mate for Roy that can score from anywhere. Greg Oden should emerge as the presence in the middle defensively that they envisioned. Andre Miller will take the PG Heat off Roy. Outlaw, Blake,Fernandez, and Webster are solid role players. If the team can buy into McMillan's Defense, they will be formidable come playoff time.
7. Denver Nuggets. Any team with Chauncey Billups is going to contend. The man just wins period. Carmelo Anthony is just begining to scratch the surface of his tremendous talent. Nene is developing into a decent Center. Kenyon Martin brings toughness. Jr. Smith and Chris Andersen bring energy to the offense and defense. Ty Lawson should be a decent rookie back up learning from Billups is a great oppertunity. However, the team sometimes does not play in control of their emotions and that hurts the team come playoff time.