2013/14 NBA PREVIEW
EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS:
Miami Heat 4 Toronto Raptors 1; Brooklyn Nets 4 New York Knicks 2;
Chicago Bulls 4 Atlanta Hawks 2; Indiana Pacers 4 Washington Wizards 2
Miami Heat 4 Indiana Pacers 3; Brooklyn Nets 4 Chicago Bulls 3
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Brooklyn Nets 4 Miami Heat 2
Brooklyn Nets 4 Los Angeles Clippers 2
3. Atlanta Hawks 45-37 (6)
They are not flashy, they are not headline grabbers but the Atlanta Hawks are a solid basketball team. Most nights against teams that are not elite the Hawks can win, but when facing the top notch teams that task is much taller for players like Al Horford, Lou Williams and the newly acquired Paul Milsap. However, the Hawks are good enough to be one of the eight teams that make into the playoffs, but getting past the upper echelon teams they will face once they get there is another deal all together.
4. Charlotte Bobcats 31-51 (11)
The biggest buzz in Charlotte is that the Bobcats will be taking over the name Charlotte Hornets following the season, as New Orleans relinquished the rights to the name. Bobcats has never caught on in the Queen City, as the team enters its tenth season. The Bobcats are starting to put some pieces together, with the addition of Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist showing signs of improvement. Perhaps when the Hornets return next year they will be close to putting a contender together. As for now the Bobcats will still lose 50 games and finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers 38-44 (10)
Four years after LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, the Cavaliers appear to be getting back track as Kyrie Irving has taken over as the face of the franchise. Mike Brown was the coach of those LeBron teams is back on the bench and if Andrew Bynum can return to form the Cavaliers can make a serious run at the playoffs. However, it will take more than Bynum and Irving to lift the Cavaliers from 58 losses into the playoffs as there are still many holes in their lineup.
3. Detroit Pistons 39-43 (9)
After missing the playoffs the last four seasons, the Pistons appear to be turning the corner and on the verge of becoming relevant once again as Chaucey Billups a key player on their championship team in 2004 is back in the Motor City. The Pistons have also added Brandon Jennings to be the team's play maker with Maurice Cheeks a legendary point guard on the bench as the new coach. Greg Monroe is also developing nicely in the middle, but in the end the lack of depth will have the Pistons just on the outside looking in at the end of the season.
5. Philadelphia 76ers 14-68 (15)
Before last season the 76ers picked up Andrew Bynum in a four team trade. Bynum's career in Philly will be remembered by bad hair days, ugly suits and two knee surgeries as he never played a game with the Sixers. The team is now scrambling recover as Bynum left for Cleveland and the only answer is to start from scratch. This means Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner both could be on the block as the losses and frustration mounts in the City of Brotherly Love. Other than Young and Turner the team is devoid of talent and it will likely get better faster with the picks they can get in return.
2. Washington Wizards 46-36 (5)
Last year with John Wall out for the first 33 games, the Wizards dug a deep hole and started 5-28, when Wall returned the Wizards became a much more competitive team, playing near .500 basketball. The Wizards were even better in games in which Nene , Wall and Bradley Beal all played together, posting a 15-7 record. If they can get the injuries behind them the Wizards can take a huge step forward. John Wall is ready to finally ready to reach his NBA promise that made him the first pick in the 2010 NBA Draft as the Wizards make the playoffs.
1. Miami Heat 63-19 (1)
There is no debate any more LeBron James is the best player in the NBA, and among the best ten of all time. The Heat are the team to beat coming off two straight NBA Championships and they have to be considered the favorites again as regular season boredom will be their big foe until the Eastern Conference Finals. The addition of Greg Oden could be a major coup if he stays healthy, but the biggest health concern belongs to Dwyane Wade who after ten years of all out physical play is quickly wearing down and could become a weak spot if the Heat don't find away to save some mileage on his knees during the season.
3. Toronto Raptors 42-40 (8)
If only they could get players to stay in Toronto, the Raptors may have made a championship run by now, but management continues to do its best to keep fans in the great white north interested despite big name players shying away from playing North of the Border. New General Manager Masai Uji had some of the same problems when he was with the Nuggets and managed to build a contender, and it looks like he is well on the way to doing the same in Toronto. With Rudy Gay on the team for a full season and Jonas Valanciunas poised for a breakout season, the Raptors will slip into the playoffs.
5. Milwaukee Bucks 30-52 (12)
The Milwaukee Bucks are the preverbal tweener team with no definitive star, but some good pieces that would be better off as the final piece on a contender. This often is the worst position to be in for a NBA team. They are not bad enough to be a strong lottery team and they are not good enough to even come close to the playoffs. This is how teams that have long playoff droughts are built, and with an old building ownership questions, and Seattle looking for a team the future in Milwaukee is not looking to dear for the Deer.
4. Boston Celtics 25-57 (14)
The Celtics went as far as they could with the Big Three a championship, two trips to the Finals and heartbreaking seven game loss in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012 is a success story, but the decision to rebuild may one day look like a wise one, as Rajon Rondo could be the next to leave if he can bring back more cap space and draft picks. Though this year it will be tough to sell that to fans in Boston, as the Nets make their run, while the Celtics just have to hope the balls bounce their way in what looks like a loaded draft class next summer.
1. Brooklyn Nets 59-23 (2)
In 2010 while the Nets were in the midst of a 70 loss season, their eccentric Owner Mikhail Prokhorov stated that within five years his team would win a NBA Championship, at the time most people laughed. Nobody is laughing now, as the Brooklyn Nets have landed three veteran championship players and have all the pieces along with Deron Williams and Brook Lopez to make a serious run at the Heat in the Eastern Conference. However, as it was with the Celtics the health and durability of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will be the only question. If they are fresh come the postseason, Brooklyn could be hosting a championship celebration.
3. Los Angeles Lakers 42-40 (8)
Any other player would have been written off, as Kobe Bryant recovers from a torn Achilles, tendon. It's hard to know when Kobe will be back, but it's hard to bet against him still being one of the best players in the league. The drama of last year is gone as Dwight Howard lifted off to Houston. However, the Lakers are hardly a top contender as for the first time in years the future is a big question in LA. Still by Kobe's will alone you have to imagine the Lakers will again make the playoffs though their stay is likely to be a short one.
2. San Antonio Spurs 50-32 (4)
What becomes of the broken hearted? Is the question the Spurs need to answer this season. Just five seconds from a NBA title the Spurs watched helplessly as Ray Allen tied Game 6 and allowed the Heat to comeback to win the NBA Championship. The Spurs are a veteran laden team so recovering mentally is not a question, but can they have enough physically in the tank. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobilli are a year older and clearly in the twilight of their Hall of Fame careers. Long playoff runs like the Spurs had last season can take a lot out of teams and with the improved Rockets winning the Southwest again will be tough.
5. Phoenix Suns 20-62 (15)
The desert will have no oasis this year as wins will be as rare as finding water in Sahara for the Phoenix Suns. On the eve of the regular season, the Suns continued to tinker picking up Emeka Okafor from the Wizards for Marcin Gorat. The Suns likely are not done trading as this is going to be a year of stripping down the walls and finding out what is needed as they hope to land a blue chipper in the coming NBA draft.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder 52-30 (3)
The biggest question for OKC is the knee of Russell Westbrook. Last year in the playoffs, the loss of Westbrook crippled the Thunder, as it robbed them of their quickness and closed up open shots for Kevin Durant. Westbrook will at least miss the first month of this season, and the key will be not getting buried. If Westbrook can quickly return to All-Star form there is no doubt that the Thunder will once again be one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant should again battle for the scoring title and be in the MVP picture.
4.Sacramento Kings 27-55 (13)
The people have spoken and the Kings are in Sacramento to stay. Despite the best efforts of the Maloof brothers to tear up a deal worked out with Mayor Kevin Johnson and sell to interests in Seattle, the ground swell to keep the team put was too much to overcome. Now the Kings still are a far way from being back in the playoff picture, but with their future secure in Sacramento they can focus on building a team for the future, which they hope will be ready in time for them to move into their new arena in three years.
3. Memphis Grizzlies 47-35 (6)
It has become popular to write off the Grizzlies, with the departure of Coach Lionel Hollins. However, the team that made the Western Conference Finals last season is still one of the best eight teams in the West this year. New Coach David Joerger was an assistant to Hollins and won't change much as the Grizzlies still remain one of the best defensive teams in the league led by Marc Gasol. However, with the top teams in the West getting stronger it may be hard for the Grizzlies to make another long playoff run.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves 45-37 (7)
As with all teams health is the biggest key for the Timberwolves, as they have not had their full lineup in place since the early part of the 2012 season. However, with Ricky Rubio getting back to full strength and Kevin Love quickly becoming the best rebounder in the league the Timberwolves should be able to get back into the playoffs for the first time in a decade as the addition of Kevin Martin will give them the perimeter presence they have been missing.
1. Houston Rockets 54-28 (2)
All systems are go in Houston, as the Rockets are ready to launch themselves into the elite level of the NBA. Dwight Howard's one year in Los Angeles was nothing short of a disappointment as he never quite fit in with the Lakers. However, as the main attraction he fits perfectly into the Rockets lineup. Jeremy Lin is also a perfect set up for Howard as James Harden should continue to develop into a star, as Howard will open up shooting lanes and allow Harden to become one of the top scorers in the league as the Rockets will be among the best teams in the West come playoff time.
3. Portland Trailblazers 38-44 (10)
If it was not for bad luck the Portland Trailblazers would have none at all. The Blazers have drafted blue chip prospects like Derek Roy and Greg Oden only to see their careers short circuited by injuries. Now C.J. McCollum has joined that list breaking his foot in the summer league. The Blazers have some talent but they do not have enough talent to get into playoffs, especially with McCollum likely to miss at least six weeks. However, if Damian Lillard is able to build off his first season things could be close to turning around in Portland.
2. Golden State Warriors 48-34 (5)
Last year was a breakout season for the Warriors who made it into the playoffs with their inside out game. Living by the three is usually the best way to get a coach fired, but the ability Stephen Curry has beyond the arch gives the Warriors the ability to beat just about anybody on any given night. The Warriors could be even better if they can keep David Lee and Andrew Bogut healthy, as there two men in the middle are important to open up shots for Curry and to bring down the boards when he is off target. Look for the Warriors to make the playoffs for a second straight season.
5. New Orleans Pelicans 35-47 (11)
There is a new name in New Orleans as the Hornets are now the Pelicans, demonstrating a long term commitment to the crescent city. The Pelicans have also added some talent picking up Tyreek Evans and Jrue Holiday in the off-season. However, they are still likely a player away from being able to get into the playoffs. Second year Power Forward Anthony Davis should benefit from the addition of Evans and Holiday but he also needs another year of development as the Pelicans is moving in the right direction but needs another piece to become a contender.
5. Utah Jazz 26-56 (14)
With the departure of Free Agents Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson the Jazz are singing the blues, as they lost their best scorer and top rebounder. Chances are in the long term losing Jefferson and Millsap will be a good thing for Utah, as it allows them to start from scratch, as they have gone from the dreaded tweener team to a top lottery team that can perhaps get a blue chip piece to build around in what is looking like a deep talented draft class next June.
Rookie of the Year: Victor Oladipo Orlando Magic
Most Improved Player: Jonas Valanciunas Toronto Raptors
Coach of the Year: Doc Rivers Los Angeles Clippers
Sixth Man: Jamal Crawford Los Angeles Clippers
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard Houston Rockets
NBA MVP: Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder
Coaches Who Will be Fired
Brett Brown Philadelphia 76ers
Rick Carlisle Dallas Mavericks
Tyrone Corbin Utah Jazz
Mike D'Antoni Los Angeles Lakers
Monty Williams New Olreans Pelicans
1. Chicago Bulls 56-26 (3)
After sitting out all last season, with a knee injury Derrick Rose is ready to go, and the hope in Chicago is the Bulls are ready to run past the Heat. However, after missing an entire season it will be unfair to expect Rose to regain his MVP form right away. Part of the reason for sitting out all last year was a uneasiness in his legs that may have been more psychological than physical. That being said Derrick Rose has too much talent not to get the Bulls back towards the top, as they win the Central and will be one of the top teams in the East.
1. Los Angeles Clippers 60-22 (1)
I hope the Devil has some good snow shoes because hell is about to freeze over. The team to beat in the Western Conference is the Los Angeles Clippers. For the last few years the Clippers have been the most exciting team in the NBA, but could not get over the hump as they did not have the coach to focus all their talent. With Doc Rivers on the bench that has all changed as Chris Paul has a long term deal and there already is a new atmosphere as Rivers ordered all the Lakers banners covered up during Clipper games, as the Clippers are no longer the matinee act, with LA about to become Clipper town.
4. Dallas Mavericks 39-43 (9)
Owner Mark Cuban had the cash, but he was unable to bring in the splash, as the Mavericks again failed to bring a big name free agent to Dallas. The Mavericks did a good job bringing in some second level free agents like Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon, but in a loaded Western Conference it won't be enough to bring back the glory days. When Dirk Nowitzki won the title two years ago he souled out and now is a shell of his former self. He can still be among the best scorers but the Mavericks have many holes on defense and will come up short again in the playoff chase.
2. New York Knicks 44-38 (7)
Last year may have been the Knicks best chance to return to the NBA's elite level as they had a strong start, won the Atlantic and gave the Heat trouble all season long. However, in the playoffs they came up short against the Pacers and enter this year with more problems the answers. One player who should not be an issue is defending scoring Champion Carmelo Anthony who already is looking forward to free agency, if Melo is more focused on himself than the Knicks it could be a long year in the Garden, especially with the Nets stealing the attention in the Big Apple.
5.Orlando Magic 27-55 (13)
There is not much to look forward to once again in Orlando as the Magic in their second season without Dwight Howard have not found a star player to build around. The best outcome for them will be to deal away some of their bigger contracts like Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis to start clearing cap space and landing more draft picks so they can begin building a foundation. However, they did not get much help in last's year less than stellar draft class and have a long way to go before they can win.
4. Denver Nuggets 36-46 (12)
The Denver Nuggets are another team dealing with a key player starting the season with an injury as Danilo Gallinari recovers from a knee injury. However, the biggest loss may be the oos of the two men who built the team as both George Karl, Coach of the Year and Masai Ujiri, executive of the Year are no longer with the team. The Nuggets won a lot of games with Karl's coaching and though Brian Shaw is considered a bright prospect, it's hard to follow up the job of George Karl especially with a key player starting the year on the sideline.
2. Indiana Pacers 55-27 (4)
The Pacers don't come to mind as an elite NBA team, but they did come within one game of the NBA Finals last year and have one of the most physically tough lineups in the league. Led by Roy Hibbert and David West in the front court, and Paul George in the backcourt the Pacers can give problems to even the best teams. With Danny Granger returning from injury the Pacers once again could be a sleeper team that makes another deep playoff run, as they will battle the Bulls all season in the Centrals and will be among the top teams in the Eastern Conference once again.
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Predictions made October 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm, ET
WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS:
Los Angeles Clippers 4 Los Angeles Lakers 1; Houston Rockets 4 Minnesota Timberwolves 3;
Oklahoma City Thunder 4 Memphis Grizzlies 2; Golden State Warriors 4 San Antonio Spurs 2
Los Angeles Clippers 4 Golden State Warriors 2; Oklahoma City Thunder 4 Houston Rockets 2
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Los Angeles Clippers 4 Oklahoma City Thunder 3