Sure, all of those things are great for the game. They’ll make for tremendous theater, but we’ve seen the same types of storylines before, except for the Knicks-Nets thing, which is very new and exhilarating. What’s going to make this season truly great is the even playing field on which these teams will compete on.
The East’s second-best team last year, the Knicks, are suddenly thought of as a five-seed, despite losing very little of what made them so good a year ago. The Lakers, possessing one of the greatest players of all time, are suddenly on the bubble when it comes to making the postseason. Add a mix of consistently underperforming teams with newly-added young talent to 4-5 stacked teams in each conference and you get a dogfight to get into the postseason.
It will be different from Major League Baseball’s incredibly competitive regular season, because there will still be a fair amount of separation between the elite teams and everyone else. The fact remains that there are more elite teams and fewer awful ones.
Even the Toronto Raptors, who have almost made the postseason for years, could be watchable. The Bobcats at least look like they have something with Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson, whatever that will look like. And the Cavaliers, well, they could be this year’s Pacers.
After losing LeBron, the Cavs have finished 13th or worse in the East for the past three years. With a budding superstar in Kyrie Irving, and nice pieces around him, including Andrew Bynum, Cleveland could be a prime candidate to fill the presumable hole left in the East’s top eight left by Boston. Detroit could also be that team, with the addition of Brandon Jennings and a big year coming from Andre Drummond. There are maybe five or six teams that could realistically fight for two or three spots in the playoffs.
And out West, of course, Dwight Howard’s move to the Rockets gives Houston the potential to be as good as a two-seed, as I see it. Throwing them into a pot with Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver, both LA teams and Golden State is going to further complicate the playoff configuration. You also have Anthony Davis and the Pelicans going undefeated in the preseason, so who knows what else could happen?
As crazy as it sounds, I can only envision five teams having awful seasons in 2012-13. Who says this year can’t be as level as baseball’s year was? After all, it was MLB that was seen as an unbalanced league due to its omitting of a salary cap. With LeBron James in the league, one team will always have a clear edge over the others, but after that there are stars ready to emerge this year.
— Kenny Ducey
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