Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 30, 2012

KYLE HOBSTETTER: What to expect as NBA tips off tonight

Kyle Hobstetter
The Independent

ASHLAND — The sound of squeaking sneakers, the bounce of the ball and the clank of the iron.

These sounds mean it’s the time of year I love: Basketball season.

While I’m a college hoops fanatic, I always have a place in my heart for the pros, and with the opening of the NBA season tonight, I’m genuinely excited.

There is just something about the NBA that brings back memories of my childhood.

From my personal favorite player of Reggie Miller, to the brain-bending amazingness of pre-Wizards Michael Jordan, the NBA always finds a way to draw me in.

But the thing is: I’m a basketball nerd. I find things that excite me that most people wouldn’t care about.

So while others are focusing on the chances of a Heat repeat, or the Lakers’ brand new lineup, I’ll be looking at some other aspects to the NBA season.

-The Celtics are officially Rajon Rondo’s team. The Big 3 are no more with Ray Allen in Miami and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett growing older.

There is a youth movement happening in Boston, and the star point guard is at the center of it.

Rondo is going to have to help scoring, from his own hand and getting the ball to others. The ball needs to go through him.

Along with Rondo, look for rookie Jared Sullinger, guard Courtney Lee and forwards Jeff Green and Brandon Bass to highlight the youth movement.

‰Can James Harden be “The Man?” The Rockets gave up a lot in getting the league’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year.

Gone to the Thunder are reliable scorer Kevin Martin, future big-time player Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and second rounder as well.

That’s a lot for a sixth man, and now there is a talk of an extension that will keep Harden in Houston.

Harden is going to have to step up and be not only a reliable scorer, but also the go-to guy.

Either this experiment will pay off and Harden becomes a regular All-Star or Harden remains the role player he was while in Oklahoma City.

-Is Anthony Davis Rookie of the Year material? There is a very good chance that Davis will be the top rookie by the end of the year, but the Hornets’ center will have competition.

The Wizards’ Bradley Beal, if he gets adequate playing time, could have a chance with his scoring ability. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is talented and will get a bunch of playing time with the woeful Bobcats.

And Andre Drummond from the Pistons has been an absolute beast in the preseason — search for him on YouTube and just watch him dominate.

But Davis is just too good and I think he will help the Hornets get back to the playoffs alongside Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and Ryan Anderson.

-The Lakers’ 0-8 preseason record is a mirage. Both Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard were hurt or playing hurt.

Steve Nash is getting his bearings in a new system. Remember “super teams” usually need some time to click.

By January the Lakers will have the best scorer and big man in the league (Howard) healthy along with one of the most dynamic playmakers (Bryant) in NBA history.

Mix that with Pau Gasol, Ron Artest (I refuse to call him by that ridiculous name) Antawn Jamison and other role players, the Lakers should be a favorite to win it all.

-Will Brooklyn compete? When any big name free agent went on the market there was always one team by their name — the Nets.

They were able to land a great backcourt in point guard Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson.

But the frontcourt is a little lacking with center Brook Lopez and the former Mr. Kim Kardashian Kris Humphries. Not that intimidating right?

I feel Brooklyn will be a playoff team this year, but it won’t contend for a title until Jay-Z — the rapper is an owner of the team — and the front office add some depth as well as a decent frontcourt.

But the Nets should be fun to watch and they have a brand new arena to show off.

-Here is the surpise team from each conference.

Eastern: Washington Wizards.

John Wall has help this year. Rookie Beal will give Wall a dependable backcourt mate.

Nene, Okafor and Trevor Ariza will give the Wizards a potent frontcourt. The only thing that could keep them from the playoffs are injuries and a lack of depth.

Western: Golden State Warriors.

This will be the funnest team to watch in the league.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson can shoot the lights out. Andrew Bogut and David Lee give them a very reliable frontcourt.

The only things possibly stopping the the Warriors are injuries.

All four players have been dealing with injuries throughout their entire careers, and if they go down, so do the Warriors’ playoff hopes.

Predictions

-Rookie of the Year — Andre Drummond, Pistons

-Most Improved Player — Raymond Felton, Knicks

-Sixth Man —Ray Allen, Heat

-MVP — Kevin Durant, Thunder

-Conference Finals — Western: Lakers over Thunder; Eastern: Heat over Celtics

-Finals — Lakers over Heat.

KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at khobstetter@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2658.