I do believe I have mentioned that I love the NBA, and championship basketball is the best of all.
We've now reached the end of my NBA countdown. Today I will give you my number 3, 2 and 1 team. I will also give you my Finals matchup and winner and hand out all the other big awards. Let's get on with it.
Coming in at number three I have last years Eastern Conference champs, the Cleveland Cavaliers. First of all, they have the greatest player in the world in LeBron James. He is the MVP every season, but it wouldn't be fair if they gave it to him every season. He single handily won two games in the Finals last year, one of the games in Oakland. It goes without saying that, as long as he's on the Cavs, they will be one of the top teams not only in the East, but in all of the NBA. Kyrie Irving is still recovering from his knee injury last season, but when he's healthy, he's one of the better scoring guards in the league. He shoots a bit too much, but LeBron will get him to be more of a distributor. Kevin Love is coming back from his shoulder injury, but if the Cavs continue to use him like they were at the end of the regular season and in the first round of the playoffs against the Celtics, the Cavs "big three" could be unstoppable. Love is a good outside shooter, but is better with his back to the basket and stepping back to shoot threes. He's also the best outlet passer in the NBA and the Cavs are devastating when running the fast break. Timofey Mozgov is one of the better rim protectors in basketball and he's got semi decent post moves. Tristan Thompson still hasn't signed his offer and if he continues to hold out, it will be rough for himself and the Cavs. They need him for his rebounding prowess and he needs the Cavs because playing with LeBron makes everyone better. He's not a max contract player and the sooner he realizes that, the better it will be for all parties involved. Anderson Varejao comes back from injury, but that's becoming his story every year. He comes back in great shape and then he, inevitably, gets a season ending injury. He can't be counted on anymore. Matthew Dellavedova was a flash in the pan. He played two okay games, ESPN covered him like he was an All Star, and then Curry brought him back to Earth by crushing his soul at every moment possible in the Finals. He's a tenth man off the bench, at best. James Jones is too old and can't hit the open three anymore, Mo Williams is back, but he left last time around with the Cavs because he couldn't coexist with James for some unknown reason and Joe Harris is too young and inexperienced. JR Smith and Iman Shumpert are both back. Smith is an excellent streak shooter, but he fades in crucial moments and gripes about his playing situation too much. Shumpert is hurt, but when he gets back, he's this teams best defender by far. He can also hit the wide open three. They signed Richard Jefferson this offseason, but he's so old, I thought he was retired and out of the league. No one else on the bench really plays that much. The Cavs "big three" is one of the best in the league and when they're all healthy and playing their game, they are deadly. The problem lies within the rest of the team, mainly the bench. Smith needs to play hard every night, Varejao needs to stay healthy, Williams needs to find a way to coexist with LeBron and Shumpert needs to get healthy. The Cavs will win 55 or 56 games and be the clear number one seed in the East this year.
How the Cavs can win it all.
The Cavs will win the title if LeBron keeps being LeBron and Irving and Love stay healthy and are actively involved in the offense. The surrounding players need to contribute more and keep their heads in the game. They also need to resolve this Thompson situation before the season starts.
Coming in at number 2, I have the reigning NBA champs, the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors didn't really change too much about their roster and this is a team coming off a 60 plus win season. They caught every break they needed, stayed healthy all season long and beat the teams they were supposed to all the way to a championship. Their best offseason decision was to resign Draymond Green. He is the perfect fit with this team. Had he gone anywhere else, it would have been a mistake for him and the Warriors would've missed him dearly. Getting rid of David Lee was a good choice too. Sure, he helped them in the Finals, but he was a huge contract wasting away on their bench. The Warriors have the best backcourt in all of the NBA. Steph Curry, the reigning MVP, is a wizard with the ball and can shoot the three from anywhere on the floor. He also has the fastest release I've ever seen. Curry is the best shooter of all time, yeah I said it. Klay Thompson is a great shooter, but he excels on defense. He locks everyone down that he guards and when he and Curry are shooting well, this team is unstoppable. Harrison Barnes didn't sign the extension the warriors offered him, betting on himself, but he's finally living up to the hype that was praised on him coming out of high school. I think the put back dunk on LeBron in the Finals gave him the extra confidence he needed. He's starting to come into his own. Andre Iguodala, the reigning Finals MVP, is back and while he's older, he still contributes on both ends of the floor. Shaun Livingston is a 6'6 back up point guard and fits in very well with what the Warriors do. Festus Ezeli and Marreese Speights are a two headed monster in the frontcourt. Ezeli is a fierce defender and rebounder and Speights gets points in the paint. Andrew Bogut is still one of the best rim protectors, when healthy. Leandro Barbosa comes off the bench and he's a bowling ball that provides instant offense. The Warriors are one of the best teams in basketball, and they will win 60 games again this season. They will fight with my number one team all year long for the top spot in the West.
How the Warriors can win it all.
The Warriors will win the title if they do exactly what they did last year. They would also need every break to go their way again. It's hard to repeat in the NBA, but the Warriors could and, may do it.
Coming in at number one I have the San Antonio Spurs. This team got the premiere free agent, and they don't even really need LaMarcus Aldridge. They have an older version of him in Tim Duncan, but this feels like a passing of the torch. Duncan has been the face of the franchise for over a decade now, but when he retires, Aldridge will slide right into his place. The naysayers will say that they're too old, but that doesn't matter with the way Poppovich regulates minutes. Everyone should be fresh come playoff time. The back court still has Tony Parker and Danny Green. Parker, when healthy, is probably the smartest player in the NBA. He knows when to shoot and when to get guys involved and he runs the Spurs offense to perfection. Danny Green is an elite defender and he can hit the open three. Besides Duncan, the frontcourt has the best young small forward in Kwahi Leonard. He's an excellent offensive player, he's a great rebounder and he's the only guy that can shut down LeBron James on defense. He, along with Anthony Davis, is the next big superstar in the NBA. Duncan is Duncan. He may be playing on one leg and can barely get up and down the court, but he's one of the better low post scorers, and still protects the rim and rebounds at a high rate. Aldridge will join Duncan and Leonard in the front court and they will be an unstoppable force. Leonard will lockdown the opposition and score in double figures, Tim Duncan will do Tim Duncan things, and when Aldridge fully figures out the Spurs system, watch out. Aldridge will be an MVP caliber player in a year or two. The Spurs bench is elite. It's the best bench in basketball. Manu Ginobli, while getting older, is still a wizard with the ball, and still hits clutch shots. Boris Diaw has had a major resurgence with the Spurs and he's one of the best passing big men in the game. Patty Mills comes in the game and he can put up 20 points in 10 minutes. David West left a ton of money on the table to come and compete for a title with the Spurs. His addition is almost as big as Aldridge, but for different reasons. West is a veteran who loves to play defense, rebound and score when needed. He's a perfect fit with San Antonio. The Spurs look really, really good going into this season. Once Aldridge gets acclimated to the Spurs way of basketball, they will be dominate. I expect the Spurs to win at least 62, maybe 64 games and be the one seed in the West.
Why the Spurs will win it all.
The Spurs will win the title once Aldridge and West figure out Spurs basketball and the rest of the pieces continue to do what they've done for a decade. This team is the best coached team in the NBA and they now have, if they didn't already, the most talent in the NBA. I love this Spurs team.
That's my countdown, all 30 teams. I will revisit later in the year, but this is how I see the NBA looking right now. As for my predictions, my Finals matchup is the Spurs-Cavs and I have the Spurs winning in 6(Sorry LeBron). My MVP is Anthony Davis and he will also win Defensive Player of the Year. Coach of the year will be Erik Spoelstra simply because the Heat will be the most improved team in the NBA. And finally, Rookie of the Year will be Emmanuel Mudiay. I love the way he plays the game and while the Nuggets will be bad, he will get a ton of playing time and I think he will be good immediately.
Ty is the Pop Culture Editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man podcast. He once drained 25 straight threes with Shawn Kemp on the Seattle Supersonics in a game of NBA Jam. Follow Ty on twitter @tykulik.