NBA season preview
Last year the Boston Celtics created shockwaves all around the NBA after sealing the dual acquisition of mega-stars, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett - a move that ultimately brought the championship back to its most regular home. This year the off-season has been a little quieter. The Seattle Sonics have been rebranded as the Oklahoma City Thunder, the New York Knicks have a new chief with actual managerial ability and the New Jersey Nets are planning carefully for their 2010 move to Brooklyn by off-loading their best talent. Other than these events there have been several interesting trades whilst any number of teams look capable of walking away with the NBA Championship crown.
The Eastern Conference was dominated by the Boston Celtics last season and it could well be the same this year. The one doubt for the Celtics is the loss of James Posey's on-court leadership after the small forward left for New Orleans, however, the Pierce, Allen, Garnett partnership is still very much intact and that should be enough to see them easily through to the play-offs.
The biggest threat to Boston could come from LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are still over-reliant on James but they are steadily building a team around him that looks stronger every year. The acquisition of guard Mo Williams could prove to be an inspired signing as he will look to run offence from the point while they need Ben Wallace to find his best form in order to provide defensive stops.
Other teams in the East that could be in the running are the Detroit Pistons and the Orlando Magic. The Pistons are always strong and have been unlucky not to translate their fine regular season form into Championships over the past few years. The one worry for the Detroit fans is their ageing roster. While the Pistons are showing signs of weakening, the Magic are improving every year. The 'man-child' Dwight Howard is the most intimidating figure in basketball both offensively and defensively and will dominate inside. If Orlando can produce a good outside shooter then they could be great.
One team to look out for is the Atlanta Hawks. They finished last season as strongly as anyone and even managed to take the Celtics to game seven in the first round of the play-offs. With that experience under their belts they should be even stronger this time around.
The Western Conference has far more strength in depth than the East and as we saw last year there are so many teams capable of winning through to the play-offs. Last year it was the Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles Lakers that produced when it mattered and they will no doubt be strong once again (any team with Bryant in can never be ruled out). However, with the acquisition of James Posey from the Celtics it is hard to look past the New Orleans Hornets.
The Hornets were the surprise package last year, largely thanks to the emergence of 'CP3' Chris Paul. Paul was instrumental in everything the Hornets did as he ran the point better than anybody else in the league. Now, with the experience of Posey, plus the presence of David West they look set to breeze to home-court advantage come the post-season.
One team that may struggle this year is the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs team of the past 10 years has become a dynasty but they are heavily reliant on experience and may not be able to compete with some of the more athletic teams in the West. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are awesome but Tim Duncan is a bit past his prime. They do not seem to possess the same swagger that carried them to three championships in the past six years.
Elsewhere in the West expect strong challenges from the Phoenix Suns, the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz. The Suns will hope Amare Stoudamire has improved on defence and if he has, he could force his way into MVP reckoning. The Rockets signing of Ron Artest could prove to be a masterstroke as he is one of the greatest defensive players in the modern era. Finally, the Jazz have great youth that, if it works out as well as some people are suggesting, could combine with the likes of Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams to create something special.
All season long William Hill will be offering daily lines for all NBA matches as well as NBA outright betting. Make sure you check out the action before the action begins on Tuesday 28 October!