It’s that time of year. Against the conventional wisdom, I’m going to opt for the Brooklyn Nets. They have an excellent front line, a very good starting five, and a deep bench. Garnett and Pierce still have something to prove, although my hypothesis does require an attitude upgrade from Deron Williams. They are more like some of the old Pistons teams than a “single best player team.” A healthy Miami Heat is a stronger contender but Wade is already being rested for back-to-back games, which does not augur well for a long playoff run. Chicago needs a more creative offense and Indiana doesn’t seem quite ready to win a title, though they may knock off Miami in a playoff series.
The most overrated team is the Los Angeles Clippers (Griffin is more a spectacular player than a great player and Chris Paul is bad for team morale). So who will win the West? When in doubt, and when it seems no one deserves to win, ask these two questions: a) does the team have world-class defense? b) which is the team with the single best player? That leaves you with San Antonio and Oklahoma as the two units with the best chances. Each seems too weakened to take home an entire title.
By the way, here is a new study of where NBA players come from, note this: “Growing up in a wealthier neighborhood is a major, positive predictor of reaching the N.B.A. for both black and white men.”