2013-14 NBA Season Preview


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Is it really basketball season again? Did summer come and go that fast? This might have been the fastest NBA off-season of all time. Just yesterday, we watched LeBron hoist his second consecutive NBA Championship, after a long seven game series with the San Antonio Spurs. Will we be looking at the first three-peat in the league since 2002? Who will emerge as the surprise teams, and which mainstays will fade to black?

Let’s gaze into our NBA crystal ball.

Eastern Conference:

The East has steadily improved over the last couple seasons. In addition to Miami, real power houses have emerged and look to challenge the defending champions and put the rest of the league on notice. eastern conf nba

1. Miami Heat
LeBron and company is coming off another deep run into June, where they barely escaped with their lives. With the Eastern Conference getting stronger, this will be the toughest task yet for the Heatles. I still believe they can three-peat though. Achieving this rests solely on Dwyane Wade’s knee, and continued production from their bench. If Greg Oden can provide quality minutes, Miami can hold Indiana at an arm’s length for now.

2. Indiana Pacers
Despite losing to Miami in seven games this past spring, this Pacers squad believes it can not only play with the defending champs, but also beat them. Their bench has improved greatly with additions of Luis Scola, and CJ Watson. Couple that with Danny Granger, and their playoff problems from a year ago are solved. And then there’s Paul George. He’s on a path to stardom, similar to a young Kobe Bryant. Look for him and Roy Hibbert to do major damage this season.

3. Chicago Bulls
“Reunited, and it feels so good.” Derrick Rose has finally returned to the court after more than 17 months on the shelf. He’ll be stronger, faster, and a better jump shooter. His teammates have also gotten better since his absence. Jimmy Butler has emerged as a solid shooting guard, while Joakim Noah has carried the team on his back. Chicago and Indiana will beat each other to a pulp, while trying to dethrone Miami. Can’t wait to see those match-ups on TV.

4. Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn is officially in the house. With new additions in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry, the Nets will put a starting lineup on the floor that combines for 35 All-Star appearances, five NBA Finals appearances, and 3 NBA Titles. Provided that the older guys stay healthy, and Andrei Kirilenko adds productive minutes, new head coach Jason Kidd can take this team far.

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5. New York Knicks
The return of Metta World Peace to New York is the thing I most look forward to seeing out of this group. Carmelo will get his usual gaudy scoring numbers, but it won’t translate to any substantive improvement. I expect the Knicks to finish fifth, simply because they’re not consistent enough. When the 3-pointer is dropping, they’re the second best team in the East – when it’s not, you get another second round playoff exit.

6. Atlanta Hawks
The only reason I’m putting Atlanta this high, is because the two teams below them are unproven, and coming up in the ranks. The Hawks are bringing back Lou Williams, who averaged 14.1 PPG last season in 39 games. Combining him with Jeff Teague at point guard (14.6 PPG, 7.2 APG), gives the Hawks a pretty nice backcourt. The additions of Elton Brand and Paul Milsap will fill the void of Josh Smith, and with Al Horford manning the middle, Atlanta can squeeze out a sixth seed.

7. Cleveland Cavaliers
Look at this season as a “try-out” of sorts. With next summer’s free agency period looming, the Cavs will put their best foot forward to get you-know-who back (LeBron James, just in case you might’ve been confused). Kyrie Irving is one of the game’s best point guards, and with the development of Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, Cleveland is ready to get back to the postseason. If Andrew Bynum gives them a healthy season, this team could do even greater damage.

8. Detroit Pistons
The fans at the Palace will finally have something to be exited about again. General Manager Joe Dumars has provided the team with a much-needed influx of talent via last season’s lottery pick in Andre Drummond, and the key off-season signings of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. Trying to drive the lane in Motown will prove difficult, as the front court will look to clog the middle.

9. Washington Wizards

10. Boston Celtics

11. Toronto Raptors

12. Milwaukee Bucks

13. Orlando Magic

14. Charlotte Bobcats

15. Philadelphia 76ers

western confWestern Conference:

Out west, the usual suspects are at the top of the list, while some new up and coming squads have made the climb up the mountain. Classic teams that have been on top for a decade plus have fallen by the wayside, for a new regime of young and fresh talent. While the East has really improved, the better teams are still out West.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder
Despite Russell Westbrook’s recent setback on his knee, the Western Conference still belongs to OKC. They’ll struggle for the first month with Westbrook’s absence, but the team will finish strong and retain their position atop the conference. The gap has significantly closed however, with the Clippers, Rockets, and Warriors making serious improvements over the past two seasons. The departure of Kevin Martin doesn’t help either, which will leave Kevin Durant to do most of the heavy lifting.

2. Los Angeles Clippers
No, this isn’t a typo. The Los Angeles Clippers are for real. They’ve locked up their franchise cornerstone in Chris Paul, and have gotten better with the additions of J.J Reddick, Antawn Jamison, and Darren Collison, these additions have made the Clippers one of the deepest teams in the NBA. Doc Rivers will provide a change in defensive culture and brings with him from Boston a championship pedigree. If Blake Griffin can make the next step, Los Angeles can find itself in the Finals come June.

3. San Antonio Spurs
It seems that every year, we’re playing “the Spurs are old and washed up game”. Well not this time. Gregg Popovich’s team has received an influx of new talent to keep the Spurs at an elite level. They’ve done an exceptional job drafting talent in Kahwi Leonard, and Tiago Splitter to continue the front line dominance once Tim Duncan retires. Danny Green has emerged as a talent, with a lot of upside playing under Popovich. Tony Parker is playing at an MVP candidate level. The only question left is, can Manu Ginobili push this team over the top?

4. Golden State Warriors
The sky is the limit for this improving ball club. Mark Jackson has this team believing in themselves, and playing like a family. Stephen Curry is a star when healthy and Klay Thompson can erupt at any given time. These two form the most dangerous backcourt in the NBA. Harrison Barnes has shown flashes of brilliance and will continue to develop, especially now that he’ll learn from Andre Iguodala. It’ll be a real dogfight between the Warriors and the Rockets for the fourth seed.

5. Houston Rockets
Houston has catapulted from barely making the playoffs last season, to legitimate title contender in just one year’s time. Adding a happy and healthy Dwight Howard will pay dividends for the franchise, as coupling him with James Harden, will give Houston a one-two punch that will be a force to be reckoned with. Young talent including Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, and Patrick Beverly will give Houston the supporting cast it needs to make some noise.

6. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies window of opportunity continues to close with each passing season. To make matters worse, they’ve severed ties with defensive guru Lionel Hollins. This personnel move will prove costly, as Memphis’ defense will take a step back. The upside, however, is a developing Marc Gasol, who will compete for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, and a consistent Zach Randolph. Mike Conley has stepped up as a floor general for this team, and that should be enough for Memphis keep from sliding further.
7. Denver Nuggets
Despite losing George Karl, Andre Iguodala, and General Manager Masai Uijiri, the Nuggets have a chance to compete in the West. They still have combo guard Ty Lawson, super productive Kenneth Farried, and the raw, but talented JaVale McGee. They’ve also added Brian Shaw to replace Karl, and spark plug Nate Robinson to the mix, which will allow them to still run the high-octane offense they’re accustomed to in Denver. Once Danilo Gallinari comes back form season ending knee surgery, this group will be in good shape.

8. Minnesota Timberwolves
This was the sexy pick for the eight seed last season, but injuries completely derailed the Wolves push for the playoffs. Barring serious injury, the duo of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will finally give this team the push it needs to get back into the postseason. Kevin Martin adds a third scoring option, something he provided in Oklahoma, and will open the floor up for Rubio. Don’t expect much from this team past a playoff berth this season, but it’s a good starting point.

9. Los Angeles Lakers

10. New Orleans Pelicans

11. Sacramento Kings

12. Dallas Mavericks

13. Portland Trailblazers

14. Utah Jazz

15. Phoenix Suns

MVP: LeBron James
Defensive Player of the Year: Marc Gasol
Rookie of the Year: Victor Oladipo
Comeback Player of the Year: Derrick Rose
Coach of the Year: Frank Vogel
Scoring Title: Kevin Durant

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