End of the drought
In the midst of football and the baseball playoffs, NBA basketball has crept up, and now, it is upon us.
It's a new season with new storylines and new questions that need to be answered.
Do the Warriors have what it takes to repeat? Can LeBron James and the Cavaliers grab the title this time around?
Well, Cleveland looks to have an easy path to a second straight NBA Finals appearance. As the case in the past decade, the Eastern Conference is still pretty soft.
The Bulls have the talent and potential to challenge the Cavs, but I've learned my lesson when it comes to picking Chicago at the beginning of the year.
You just can't bet on the health of Derrick Rose. They can only win the East if he is 100 percent, but far too often, he's sitting on the bench with an injury come playoff time.
The Hawks have a very talented and versatile roster, and they did big things last season.
However, I remember them getting demolished by the Cavaliers in last year's playoffs. I doubt they'll turn that corner just a season later.
So, with the Cavaliers cruising to the Finals, who will be there waiting for them?
This is where it gets tricky. There are so many loaded teams in the Western Conference that could legitimately get it done.
Of course, you have to start with the defending champion Warriors. They have all of the key players from last year's title run coming back.
That includes reigning league MVP Stephen Curry, reigning Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, 3-point specialist Klay Thompson, defensive stalwart Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes.
They'll certainly win a lot of games and make another deep playoff run, but I think they'll fall short of another title.
As great as they are, it's still a fairly young team that's being led by a second-year head coach. I don't know if they'll be able to handle the pressure of a repeat.
There are many that are back on the Thunder bandwagon, but I'm staying away from it.
Oklahoma City made their one and only Finals run in 2011. That year, they had this bearded fella named James Harden. Ever since Harden left, they have not been back.
They just don't have a third scorer to compliment Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It's a two-man show, and as seen in the past, when one gets nicked up, things fall apart.
Their margin for error is just too small.
There is a lot of excitement forming around the Spurs after the off-season acquisition of LaMarcus Aldridge, but the rest of the roster is just too old to compete for a title.
Tim Duncan is 39, Manu Ginobili is 38, David West is 35 and Tony Parker is 33.
The Rockets made a run to the Western Conference Finals last year on the shoulders of Harden and Dwight Howard, but I still feel they're a big roster addition away from winning the West.
The Grizzlies have plenty of talent and balance with point guard Mike Conley and a front court that contains Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, but there always seems to be a glass ceiling with them. They're just never able to get over the hump come playoff time.
I think that this is finally the Clippers' year after being dropped in the Western Conference Semifinals last season.
They have a great coach in Doc Rivers, and they have arguably the most talented roster in the league.
Paired with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan continues to improve as a hard-nosed force down low with rebounding, scoring and shot-blocking.
They have one of the league's best point guards in Chris Paul and a 3-point assassin in J.J. Redick. They have great complimentary players in Jamal Crawford, Josh Smith, Austin Rivers and Paul Pierce.
So, I think it will be the Clippers vs. Cavaliers in the Finals, and I'm taking the Cavs.
I think Cleveland's big three of LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love is following the same exact formula of James' big three in Miami.
That first year, the Heat struggled to start the season, then surged to the NBA Finals--just to lose to the Mavericks in six games.
The next year, they made it back to the Finals and won it all.
Despite both Irving and Love being injured, the Cavaliers came just two wins away from a championship last season.
If those two can stay healthy, James and Tristan Thompson can all combine to do something very special this year--bring Cleveland its first sports title since the Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964.