All week ESPN.com is asking basketball reporters to predict what the NBA will look like in 2010, and todays question is which top 10 team is most likely to make the lottery.
Marc J. Spears from the Denver Post actually brought up that Miami doesn't exactly look like a long term contender:
Expect the Miami Heat to go from NBA kings to lottery in a couple years. NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Dwyane Wade will be a free agent in 2010. By then, superstar center Shaquille O'Neal will be retired, as will several other key Heat players in Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton and possibly Antoine Walker. Pat Riley will be retired for a couple seasons by the time Wade's contract is up. So with all the key teammates gone, his franchise in rebuilding mode and a championship ring in hand, it will be time and also fair for Wade to be selfish in 2010 and go sign a contract with one of the NBA's premier teams.Of course, as ESPN's NBA rule, he had to throw out a 'LeBron leaving Cleveland' scenario at the end there (he threw out a 'LeBron to the Knicks' yesterday). But he's right, Miami is a really old team and in 2-3 years most of this roster is going to be old or Antoine Walker (or both).
For what Wade has given to the franchise thus far and will give by 2010, it wouldn't be fair to ask the perennial All-Star to stick around during a rebuilding period. Moreover, since the Heat have been an NBA power in recent years, they haven't been adding big-time draft picks to complement Wade. What the Heat should do is figure out a way to get Wade to convince LeBron James to come to Miami once he becomes a free agent in 2010, too. Hey, South Beach is a lot warmer than Cleveland.
Both David Thorpe and Chris Sheridan mention Cleveland as a possible team.
I know that we are all supposed to hail Bron Bron. That he is "next" -- the guy who can carry his team to great heights. I know that he has already been anointed by the vast majority of experts to be the true superstar of the next decade, and I know that it is not a question of if he will win a ring, but how many. But here's what else I know; unless he gets some serious help in the next two years, the Cavs have as much of a chance to get a lottery pick as they do a berth in the Finals.
I don't doubt LeBron's talent and drive to win. In fact, I place his 2005-06 season among the all-time best we have ever seen from any player. He averaged more points than any two of his teammates combined, and had 2.4 more assists per game than the starting point guard. On the other end of the floor, he led the Cavs in steals per game and defensive rebounds!
Asking him to keep performing the miraculous is a recipe for failure (read: lottery). Consider that the Cavs added no one who can be considered a lock to contribute, they lost super-sub Flip Murray to the Pistons in free agency, their incumbent super-sub Anderson Varejao has a mysterious leg fatigue problem, Drew Gooden just signed a new contract (not often a good omen for increased production), and it is easy to see how the Cavs can fall back to the pack in the improved East. And don't overlook the loss of Murray. The Cavs were 18-6 in the final 24 regular-season games with him, 32-26 before.
The Cavs are just one ankle twist away from a certain lottery slot.
Again, another question that assumes a drastic change in fortune, not just into the lottery, a la the recent Wolves, but all the way to the top of the lottery. Whew. The only way I could see that happening to any of these teams is through a devastating early-season injury to a superstar with a fragile supporting cast. The Lakers with Kobe Bryant and the Cavs with LeBron James obviously fit that bill, same for the Heat and Dwyane Wade a year or two from now when Shaq's decline will be even more pronounced than it was in the Finals. But if healthy, all 10 of those teams should be in the playoffs for at least the next couple of years.
I agree with both of them. If the LeBron went down, the Cavs are sunk. Like, really really sunk. Actually, I wouldn't mind a LeBron injury right now.
Now hear me out, I'm not talking a Jimmy Jackson knee injury anything like that could linger, but say LeBron broke his left (non-shooting) wrist and had to miss the bulk of the season. The Cavs would stink and get a high draft pick in one of the deepest drafts in years. Then LeBron could come back at full strength with Greg Oden anchoring the middle. That wouldn't suck. (This is basically the Spurs did to land Tim Duncan. David Robinson went down early, some other key guys got hurt and they all took their sweet time rehabbing. All while losing a ton of games. The draft roles around, they grab Tim Duncan and it's all titles and Edge Pro Gel commericals after that.)
Anyways, they both are right, if Kobe or LeBron went down (Windhorst adds Steve Nash to that list) then their teams are sunk.
However, Thorpe is a little misleading with his Flip Murray stat. Yes the Cavs were only 32-26 without Murray, you know why? A good chunk of those games were played without Larry Hughes. So that meant the Cavs shooting guards were... Sasha Pavlovic and Ira Newble. It wasn't that Murray was so great, he was just better than those two bums.