NBA Off-Season Recap

The 2009 NBA season comes with a lot of big moves featuring a lot of big names. With some teams cutting back due to the economy and other teams looking to make that final push towards the finals, only one thing is for certain: it is going to be one interesting NBA season.

Perhaps the biggest trade this summer is superstar Shaquille O’Neil teaming up with Lebron James in Cleveland. On the surface, it seems like a good deal. James obviously needs a good supporting role to make a push for the title – fit is even better that supporting role is a big man. Many analysts are claiming that this new trade will give Cleveland the offensive and defensive presence it needs to contend with the tougher teams. However, not everything is as it seems. Since Miami won a championship with O’Neil in 2005, teams that O’Neil has played on have performed rather dismally compared to expectations. Who is to say Cleveland won’t follow suit?

Furthermore, Cleveland is left with literally no financial flexibility to continue building their franchise around James. They are looking for a quick fix with a washed-out superstar who has at most two years left in his career. This trade will come back to haunt them. The good that comes out of this trade? Major rivalry. Kobe vs. Shaq and Lebron? Spectators live for these kinds of situations.

Interestingly enough, the Lakers are acquiring an all-star of their own: Ron Artest. Equally interesting, analysts are quick to draw doubt on the new dynamics of the Laker team. They claim Bryant and Artest will fight for the scoring spotlight. However, when has Artest ever been renowned as an all-star scorer? When has he been the leading scorer on any of the teams he has played on? Bulls? Pacers? Rockets? Never. Even the lowly Kings could scrap out a player who scored more than Artest. The reason Artest is an all-star is for his tenacity on the court, especially on defense. If anything, Artest should be a blessing to the Lakers — he provides what the Lakers have needed for years: a defensive presence. Artest taking a load off Bryant’s shoulders on the defensive end is the cherry on top.

The next big trades came from the Eastern Conference that turned some play-off teams into real contenders. First, the Celtics, who are dangerous as it is with Kevin Garnett, acquired Rasheed Wallace. Not only do the Celtics have a staggering back court of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo — all of whom are scorers — but now they have two All-Stars in the paint as well. This team is dangerous.

The Orlando Magic, who were the Eastern Conference Champions last year, only had one thing that separated them from being a Championship team instead of a Finalist: a dynamic guard. Well, not any more. The Magic traded sharp shooter Hedo Turkoglu in a four team deal that netted them all-star shooting guard Vince Carter. Carter brings versatility to the back court for the Magic and clears the paint for Howard to work. Great trade.

While the Atlantic, Pacific and Midwest conference all have contending teams fighting for a spot in the Finals, the Southwest Conference is left in the dark. The Southwest is a literal mess: they have two veteran teams about to collapse of old age, mediocre teams inhibited with all-stars, and a would-be superstar team … without a superstar.

The Mavericks and the Spurs have been surviving on old talent for too long — how they manage to stay above 50 wins is beyond me. However, both teams just sealed their fate for a while with trades that actually make their team older — if that is even possible. The Spurs acquired Antonio McDyess and Theo Ratliff, two players who peaked half a decade ago, or more. Whatever gains the Spurs added with energetic Richard Jefferson is completely lost with McDyess and Ratliff. Remarkably, the Mavericks followed suit and traded for dinosaurs Tim Thomas and Shawn Marion. The Mavericks might earn a birth in the playoffs this year at most — that is a maybe. If not this year, next year these teams are out of the playoffs for a very long time.

Long-term problems seem to be the trend in the southwest. The Grizzlies have been struggling to develop their young players for three seasons now; to no avail. Their acquisitions of Allen Iverson and Zach Randolph completely contradict everything they have been working towards. How can their young players develop if they never touch the ball?

The shining star in the southwest? The Rockets. They have it all: energetic guards, dynamic big men and an all-star guard. The catch? No Yao Ming. With Ming, the Rockets are contenders if not favorites. Without him? Just another decent team in the playoffs. What a shame.

All in all, the season should be another one to remember. With the exception of the Southwest Conference, the league this year has some incredibly competitive contenders, the likes of which the NBA has not seen since the 1990’s. The season begins Tuesday, Oct 27.