Cohen Courtside: Storylines vs. Heat
December 31, 2012
Josh Cohen’s Analysis: Will the Magic try and imitate what the Heat accomplished in 2010 when they masterfully persuaded LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to unite and form arguably the best compilation of talent in NBA history? After trading Dwight Howard this past summer and purposely not accepting any encumbered contracts, Orlando will likely have a plethora of salary cap space in the next two to three years to also attempt to form a star-studded anthology. Remember, back in 2000 the Magic nearly became the first team to congregate a trio of superstars in free agency when they acquired Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill and almost sequestered Tim Duncan away from the Spurs. If one team in Florida can do it, there is no reason why the other can’t.
Cohen’s Analysis: It’s not water cooler chat yet, but if the Heat fail to win back-to-back championships this season, you can be assured it will become the most popular topic of discussion in all social circles among NBA fans. Will LeBron James decide to, first off, exercise his early termination option in 2014 and become a free agent again and, second if he does, opt to leave Miami? There have already been rumblings that James would consider the unimaginable and return to his roots, Cleveland, and there have also been rumors that he would consider becoming the next superstar to reposition to Hollywood and join the Lakers. It’s going to get really interesting if Miami falls short this season.
Cohen’s Analysis: How good can Nikola Vucevic eventually be? Many thought when he was acquired in the Dwight Howard trade that Nik was essentially a toss-in. But as we have discovered, he is a legitimate big man with an excellent set of offensive skills and rebounding ability. He set the franchise record with 29 boards on Monday. Since he is only in his second NBA season, we can only project what his numbers will be in three years when he enters his prime. Can he become a 20-10 guy? Can he become more aggressive and defensive-oriented? Is he the type of player worthy of being one of the main components to the foundation and underpinning in Orlando?
Cohen’s Analysis: Arron Afflalo must be considered a top five shooting guard right now. After Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, James Harden and Manu Ginobili, Afflalo must be on the radar for next best. Joe Johnson has struggled this season since joining Brooklyn, Monta Ellis is All-Star caliber but sometimes unreliable and inconsistent and then you have a handful of guys, like Klay Thompson, OJ Mayo and Eric Gordon, who are still extremely young and developing. After his 28-point performance vs. Miami, there are many more national spectators raving about Afflalo.
Cohen’s Analysis: It’s a continual problem in the NBA that probably needs more examination and repair. For teams that make the playoffs, great – they are in position to either compete for championships or are at least closer to that ambition. For teams that are revoltingly bad, they at least get a higher percentage chance of landing a franchise player in the draft. But for those few teams that are good enough to win a healthy share of games but too pedestrian to claim a playoff spot, it’s often a dead end street. No league in any sport should ever reward losing. How about the NBA adopts a single elimination tournament to decide who the No. 8 seeds in each conference will be (photo of a bracket to illustrate concept)? This way, even if a team is out of the “standard” playoff picture in January, there is still enough reason to try and improve in the standings (home-court advantage in the tournament). We saw what Charlotte attempted last season to try and net Anthony Davis. It failed, but it’s likely that more and more teams will try to put themselves in the best position to secure a No. 1 draft pick.
Cohen’s Analysis: His scoring and shot attempts are faintly down and he doesn’t appear quite as explosive. Has Dwyane Wade, who according to some is the third best shooting guard in NBA history (Michael Jordan & Kobe Bryant ahead), lost a step and if so, how will it impact the Heat’s quest to win the title this season and in subsequent years? Nagging injuries have always impeded Wade from being “unstoppable,” but yet he still manages to be an acrobat. We will learn a lot about Wade come playoff time.
Cohen’s Analysis: When Glen Davis injured his shoulder and was ruled out for several weeks, the immediate inquiry was: who should start at power forward? There are four options; Gustavo Ayon, who has started in a handful of games since Big Baby’s injury, Andrew Nicholson, who started twice including Monday’s game vs. Miami, Josh McRoberts and Hedo Turkoglu, who returned Saturday and can unconventionally play at the four. It probably makes most sense, unless matchups determine otherwise for a specific game, for Drew to get as much opportunity as possible considering he is likely to be part of the long term plan in Orlando.