Men of the hardwood return

Max Petrunya

With the NBA season less than three weeks away, here are six teams to watch in the 2006-2007 year.


Miami Heat

With the return of head coach Pat Riley and the same line-up that won the championship last season, things will surely be on fire in Miami yet again this season. Shaq and D-Wade return, along with Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning and a cast of others that should make for exciting games and another potential championship team. Look for last season’s world champs, who led the league in rebounds per game and averaged nearly 100 points per game, to shut down teams on defense and keep the fire going offensively. Boasting the fifth highest point differential in the league, at four points per game, Pat Riley and the Heat return with another championship in their sights.

Chicago Bulls

After the playoff performance the baby Bulls had last season, Scott Skiles and Chicago return with another year’s experience under their belt and a dangerous frontcourt. The Bulls were already littered with young talent at guard with Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich and Andres Nocioni, who worked together to give the Bulls the league’s fifth-highest three-point percentage at 38 percent. In the off-season, they added center Ben Wallace and forward P.J. Brown, which should give this line-up the added boost they need to rise to the next level in the NBA. Also, when Tyrus Thomas develops, he should fit into this new Bulls lineup perfectly and help the team get even more power in the paint.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Last year, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers showed great teamwork and maturation after the All-Star break and gave the defending champion Detroit Pistons a run for their money in the second round of the playoffs. If LeBron progresses like he did last season, when he finally proved he has the ability to take control and win games for his teams, and returning teammates Eric Snow, Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskus play well, the Cavaliers have a good chance of going even further in this year’s playoffs. The Cavs, who averaged 97 points per game last season, should increase that number this season on the shoulders of LeBron. This season, look for King James to win the MVP title he so rightly deserved last season.


Dallas Mavericks

Coach of the Year Avery Johnson brings the NBA’s runner-up back with some new additions that should help to make sure this team from Texas does a two-step to the NBA Finals again this year. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse return alongside new Mavericks Anthony Johnson, Austin Croshere and Devean George. These new additions should help shut down opposing teams and get Dallas back into the top three for point differentials for the season, like last season when they were third at an average difference of nearly six points a game. Look for the Mavericks to dominate in the West this season and capture the No. 1 seed in the postseason.

Phoenix Suns

Suns fans should be excited for this season, as Amare Stoudemire returns to the line-up after being sidelined all last season with a knee injury. The Suns, led by MVP Steve Nash, were able to make a deep playoff run last season, despite missing Stoudemire for the entire regular and post-seasons. The Suns have arguably the best starting five in the West, with Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Shawn Marion, Amare Staudmire and Kurt Thomas. The Suns, who led the league last season with the most average points per game at 108, should be putting up numbers as good if not better than last season.

Minnesota Timberwolves

After the summer season that Randy Foye had for the Timberwolves, where he won MVP of the NBA Summer League after putting up multiple 30 point games, fans in Minnesota have something to be excited about, as the team finally has a point guard that can help put the T-Wolves over the top. Kevin Garnett, while extremely talented, has had trouble in the past producing because Minnesota has lacked a point guard who can create his own shot. Teams were able to consistently double-team KG game after game and make him somewhat of a non-factor. With Randy at the one, the T-Wolves have a point guard who can pass and shoot, and who will draw the double team away from Kevin Garnett. Couple that with the defensive power Randy brings to the team, and we could finally see Minnesota climb up from the bottom of the Northwest Division of the Western Conference.