- The continuing journey of the Miami Heat "Dream Team", who came up short in the finals last year.
- The Dallas Mavericks are the defending champions, but lost a few key pieces(JJ Barea, Tyson Chandler) from last season
- The "Lob City" tandem of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin for the LA Clippers
- The continuing maturation of the Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who both had great seasons a year ago, but failed to make the finals.
- The "Up and Coming" teams like the Indiana Pacers and the Memphis Grizzlies.
- The "Old and Grizzled" veteran teams like the Lakers and the Celtics. Can they continue to stay competitive in a strike shortened, compressed, 66 game schedule?
I actually used to be a much bigger college basketball fan than I was of the NBA. But that started to change a few years ago. Having had numerous discussions with many of friends about this, I thought I'd lay down my case as to why I now prefer the professional game.
1. The 24 second shot clock. I know there's a shot clock in the college game, and it works fairly well, but the shorter shot clock in the NBA contributes in a couple of ways. First, it puts a premium on offensive execution. When you only have 24 seconds per possession to get a shot up, you have to execute your options quickly and adroitly. Secondly, it puts pressure on the defense. You've got to be up and ready to play defense immediately, there's no backing off or dropping back into a lazy zone to take some time off.
2. The level of play is much higher. How many times have we seen guys who were just dominant at the college level (Adam Morrison and Michael Beasley come to mind) who struggle to even play in the NBA. Guys who own the court in college, just can't get their own shot off in the NBA. You had better be able to defend one on one, and you had better be able to knock down an open jump shot (yes, even post players).
3. The officiating is much better. And yes, I know all about the Tim Donaghy scandal, and I know that there are quality officials working NCAA games. I'm just saying consistently, game after game, night in and night out, the quality of the officiating is much higher in the NBA. A personal complaint about the college game is that the coaches are the superstars. Coach K gets upset and starts riding the refs, and Duke starts getting a bunch of calls. And to be fair, as I'm a Carolina fan, Roy Williams gets away with the same thing. It's common at the college level. In the NBA there are very few officials who are swayed by coaches.
4. The deeper 3 point line. It actually helps shooting. How many times have you seen a big college post drift out and pick up a loose ball and throw up an ugly looking jump shot and knock down a 3 pointer? In the NBA, the guys that are shooting 3's are the guys that should be shooting 3's. It's simply better, and the college game should look into moving their line back to NBA range. You have your better shooters shooting the tougher shot, and it spreads the floor out more leaving more space for posts and penetration.
5. The Playoffs are better. It's a much better way to choose your champion. Anyone can beat anyone on a given night, especially when you are playing at a high level. When you have to win a 7 game series, the better team is going to win a much higher percentage of the time. One thing I would change about the NBA is to change the first series of the playoffs back to best of 5 games. That was more efficient.
So, there are a few thoughts on why I enjoy NBA basketball more than NCAA hoops. Not that I don't enjoy college hoops mind you, I still do, I just find the professional game more satisfying.