Now that LeBron James finally has his ring, who is the next superstar to finally get his hands on one? There are plenty of candidates, and all of them are hungry for it. The question is, who is starving the most?
Looking at the rosters heading into training camp, who has the early edge?
Kevin Durant: After just falling short last season, there is no doubt the Thunder will be back in the mix. Everyone with value is returning, and they have another year of experience, development and one of the best home-court advantages in basketball. The core group in Oklahoma City are clearly capable of winning a title, and they can do it with the second-best player in the league leading the way.
Dwight Howard: Standing in Oklahoma City's way, will be the four-headed monster that is the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe and Gasol return, but the additions of Nash and Howard should make them the favorite in the West. Dwight knows this is his best opportunity to win a championship. The four stars should have plenty of time to get used to playing together.
Carmelo Anthony: Though he is perceived to be a selfish, offense-only player, Carmelo is anything but. He may choose to be that player at times, but he has shown in the past two Olympic games that he can be the all-around player the Knicks need him to be. He is going to need some help, but that may be coming via free agency in the next year or two.
Derrick Rose: Assuming he gets back to his old self, there is no doubt Rose is one of the best players in the game. His importance to the Bulls franchise was evident last year when they lost in the first round of the playoffs without him. This team has one of the best defenses in the league, and with Rose at full strength, they are a legitimate title contender. They may be missing one more piece though.
Chris Paul: He is often viewed as the best point guard in the game, and for good reason. Not only is he an elite offensive playmaker both scoring and distributing, but he is also one of the best defenders at his position. He has an incredibly deep team this year, and his future is wide open, as he will be a free agent next summer. With how the league operates now, the possibilities are endless.
Deron Williams: At times Deron can seem like the most unstoppable player on offense, but his consistency is lacking. That could be attributed to the fact that most of the scoring load has always been on his shoulders. Enter Joe Johnson, the perfect solution for Deron's game. With a super team beginning to take form, Deron could have a lot of success in the coming years in Brooklyn. The question is, will any of these guys get there before his team reaches that level?
Kevin Love: Although he started out as just another underrated player, Love has evolved into arguably the best power forward in the game. The ultimate double-double machine has stressed his importance of winning to the front office in Minnesota. With how players are teaming up these days, you have to assume that is a warning that they need to surround him with talent now, or watch him take the Kevin Garnett route out of town.
It's pretty obvious the two front runners for this choice are Durant and Howard. The Lakers and Thunder should be two of the three best teams in the league next year. It will be hard for anyone to get by the Heat in the East, then having to face either L.A. or Oklahoma City.
My prediction is Howard gets it this year, but Durant will get more than one of his own over the next five seasons.
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