2014/15 NBA PREVIEW
EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS:
Chicago Bulls 4 Detroit Pistons 1; Cleveland Cavalies 4 New York Knicks 2;
Washington Wizards 4 Charlotte Hornets 3; Miami Heat 4 Toronto Raptors 3
Chicago Bulls 4 Miami Heat 1; Cleveland Cavalies 4 Washington Wizards 3
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Chicago Bulls 4 Cleveland Cavaliers 3
Oklahoma City Thunder 4 Chicago Bulls 2
4. Atlanta Hawks 31-51 (11)
The Hawks managed to sneak in the playoffs and threw a scare into the Pacers as the eighth seed, but have done nothing to improve off the team that went 38-44 last year. The Hawks come into the season with their front office in upheaval as General Manager Danny Ferry has taken a leave of absence after questionable comments about the team's fan base. The Hawks have talent that can make the playoffs if all the pieces fall right or they can completely implode. With the off-season troubles I think the ladder is more likely.
3. Charlotte Hornets 46-36 (6)
Fans in Charlotte Bee-lieve again as the Hornets are back. In a usual swap with New Orleans, the Hornets not only got back their name they got back their history and it feels like a decade after the expansion Bobcats first hit the court that the NBA is truly back in Charlotte. The former Bobcats did make the playoffs last year but were swept and have not won a playoff game since the old team's move to New Orleans. The addition of Lance Stephenson has made the team significantly better and they can not only make the playoffs they could make some noise when they get there.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers 57-25 (2)
LeBron James is back in Cleveland and so is hope for the Cavalier championship dreams. Besides LeBron, the Cavaliers added Kevin Love building a new Big Three to go along with Kyrie Irving. While the Cavs may be the most talented and the most exciting team in the NBA, it took LeBron and the big three in Miami most of their first season to become a cohesive unit and they did not win a championship, losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers will fight with the Bulls all season, and again in the Eastern Conference Finals, but to reach the Promised Land they must first go some growing pains.
3. Detroit Pistons 40-42 (8)
Last year the Pistons were one of the biggest disappointments in the NBA, posting a record of 29-53, leading to the firing of Coach Maurice Cheeks before even finishing his first season in Detroit. Enter Stan Van Gundy a proven winner and the Pistons should get much more out of their talent this year. Expect a rebound season from Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond as the Pistons slip into the postseason, as the addition of Jodie Meeks outside shooting will help open lanes for Monroe and Drummond to dominate in the post.
5. Philadelphia 76ers 12-70 (15)
Tanking the Philadelphia way, should be the title of the upcoming season for the 76ers. The Sixers did nothing to improve off last year's team that went 19-63 and used their draft pick on a player unlikely to play this season in Joel Embid. Reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams will continue to be the bright spot, but on a team who's starting five includes Hollis Thompson and K.J. McDaniels the Sixers big fight will be avoiding 70 losses.
1. Washington Wizards 52-30 (3)
The last time fans in Washington were this excited about the Wizards, Jimmy Carter was in the White House and Leisure Suits were fashionable. Coming off a solid 44-38 season and a trip to the second round, the Wizards are in position to win their first division title in 35 years, as they could be the team that benefits the most from LeBron leaving Miami. The Wizards should get an even bigger season from John Wall who is on his way to superstar status and should benefit greatly from the addition of Paul Pierce.
2. Miami Heat 47-35 (4)
LeBron James might be gone, and another title run might be a long shot, but the Heat are still a solid playoff team that will not be anyone's pushover as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are still solid NBA All-Stars. In fact I see Bosh stepping up and having perhaps his best season as he tries to with the King's shoes in Miami. The Heat will still be a team that could make some noise in the playoffs as the winning atmosphere set over the last four years will help lift them through some of the though moments during the regular season.
1. Toronto Raptors 45-37 (5)
Last season the Toronto Raptors caught some by surprise winning 48 games and capturing the Atlantic Division title. They benefited from a career year from Kyle Lowry who was playing in a contract year. The Raptors were able to keep their star player and their core team intact and should be just as good this season as they were last year if Lowry can show the same motivation he did last year. The Raptors may not advance far in the playoffs, but they are clearly the best team in the NBA's worst division and should win the Atlantic Division again.
5. Milwaukee Bucks 27-55 (12)
After last year's 15-67 disaster there is only one place the Bucks can go and that is up. The team has new owners and a new coach in Jason Kidd, and a true blue chip star to build around in Jabari Parker. The Bucks now just need a new arena, and some more talent around Parker and they can begin to move up the standings. The Bucks will not be the worst team in the NBA this season, but they will not even come close to being in the playoff chase.
4. Boston Celtics 26-56 (13)
The Celtics will not make the playoffs and could be a team that makes its move in the trade market as Rajon Rondo could be moved before the season is over if they can prove he is strong off his ACL injury. However, things are not as bleak for the Celtics as they are already starting a solid foundation to build around with a stockpile of future draft picks, which can help them up for a rapid rise back to the top of the Eastern Conference within a few years. The Celtics have a solid young front court with Jered Sullinger and Kelly Olynk leading the way.
3. Brooklyn Nets 38-44 (9)
The Nets after rolling the dice last season are taking a more modest approach this season, as they have cut their payroll. The Nets big worry has to be health and how the team adjusts to their fourth coach in three years, after Jason Kidd stabbed the entire organization in the back. Lionel Hollins is a good veteran coach, but the Nets hopes of making the playoffs will hinge on Brook Lopez and is ability to stay healthy. Early returns are not good as Lopez was already shutdown in the preseason. Without Paul Pierce and without a health Brook Lopez it is hard to see the Nets getting into the playoffs.
5. Los Angeles Lakers 28-54 (14)
In the 54 years that the Lakers have been in Los Angeles, they have only missed the playoffs five times and just once did they fail to make it in consecutive seasons, missing in both 1975 and 1976. The good news is that Kobe Bryant is back from missing nearly all of last season with a variety of ailments. The bad news is he is a man on an island. Even in his prime when he was the best player in the NBA, Kobe Bryant would have a tough time getting this squad to the playoffs. At 36 it is more likely that Kobe will break down from having to carry one of the worst, slowest teams in the league up and down the court on a nightly basis.
1. San Antonio Spurs 56-26 (2)
The San Antonio Spurs set a new standard in excellence last season as they captured their fifth NBA Championship. The Spurs are unlike any recent NBA Champion in they do not have a true superstar. Tim Duncan can be considered a superstar, but he no longer has superstar numbers. Tony Parker is likely their best player, but he too is past his prime. Instead with Gegg Popovich leading the way the Spurs are a deep team that gets contributions from as many as ten players to make them a unit that is second to none. The only thing the Spurs have yet to do is win back to back titles, and this year they will come up just short of that goal.
3. Phoenix Suns 45-37 (8)
The Phoenix Suns were one of the biggest surprises in the NBA as they just barely missed the playoffs with a record of 48-34. A record that was better than all but four teams in the Eastern Conference. No team wants to run more than the Suns, who led the NBA in fast break points. However, when slowing the game down you can slow down the Suns as they are lacking in the front court size. The Suns should still be a dangerous team, and despite winning less games they will be able to slip into the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder 54-28 (3)
Kevin Durant will at least miss the first month of the season with a foot injury. If the Thunder can withstand the reigning MVP's absence they may end up coming out the other side as a more complete team that can go all the way to a NBA Championship. When Durant returns he will need time to work up to full strength if he can do so quickly he can not only be stronger for the Thunder he can have less wear and tear for the postseason which in turn could set up for the perfect storm for the Thunder to roll to the NBA title.
4. Sacramento Kings 30-52 (13)
The Kings showed signs of improvement last season behind the play of DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. The hope for Sacramento is that the Kings will be relevant again by their new arena opens in two seasons. This year as the season begins the Kings will be breaking ground for that arena, while they hope to remain somewhat competitive despite playing in the stacked Western Conference without a deep talented roster.
3. Memphis Grizzlies 46-36 (7)
The Grizzlies are not a very exciting team, but they are a good solid defensive team that every team in the NBA hates to play. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are two of the most physical players in the NBA and help keep the Grizzlies in the playoff hunt despite their lack of a big time scorer. Once in the playoffs they are threat to make a long run as their attacking defensive style that is used in 82 games is the same style even the flashiest teams try to become in the postseason when things get tight.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves 35-47 (12)
The Timberwolves are going to be a lot better than people think. Sure they traded away their best player Kevin Love, but in return they got number one overall pick Andrew Wiggins in return and in the long term Wiggins is going to be a better player than Love. Kevin Love is an All-Star, but not the type of player to build around. Wiggins is the type of player you can build a team around and that starts for Minnesota right away. They do already have some solid pieces in Ricky Rubio and Thaddeus Young. The playoffs won't be in reach this season but a good player added in next year's draft and the Wolves could quickly become a contender.
4. Houston Rockets 43-39 (9)
A scout in the NBA told Sports Illustrated that the Rockets are the easiest team to scout because they have the most uncreative playbook in the NBA. Add this to the loss of Chandler Parsons and in Houston you got a problem. Individually Dwight Howard and James Harden may be two of the best players in the NBA, but together they can't make their teammates better, and with Kevin McHale's uncreative offense you have the makings of a very disappointing season for the Rockets, who by January will have a new coach and will be playing catch up all season.
2. Portland Trailblazers 53-29 (5)
Last year was a break trough year for the Trailblazers as they won 54 games and won their first playoff series in 14 years. This year they have a legitimate shot to challenge for the Northwest Division. With players like Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge leading the way the Blazers have a good young nucleus that can be a player or two away from making them one of the elite teams in the Western Conference and a NBA CHampionship contender. The second round is likely their ceiling with so many top notch teams already in the West.
2. Golden State Warriors 53-29 (4)
Nobody is more deadly from downtown than Stephan Curry as the Warriors starting lineup is among the best in the West when they are at 100% health. Staying healthy has been the biggest issue for the Warriors in recent years especially with David Lee and Andrew Bogut in the frontcourt, Their bench is also solid with the addition of Shaun Livingston, who could be among the top sixth ment in the league joining Harrison Barnes. They should develop a nice rivalary with the Clippers as they battle for Pacific supremecy once again.
5. New Orleans Pelicans 40-42 (11)
The more experience he gets the better Anthony Davis will be, as he enters his third NBA season. This should be his senior year in college and for the youthful 18 year old that left Kentucky after leading them to a NCAA Championship in his freshman year the future is certainly bright in New Orleans, Sadly they are in the Western Conference and in what may be top to bottom the best division in the league. The playoffs will be out reach this year but the Pelicans are just one player away from becoming a solid NBA team.
5. Utah Jazz 13-69 (15)
Just how out of tune are the 2014/15 Jazz? Musically they are an off key recorder concert played with peoples noses. The Jazz are also very young as 15 players invited to their camp were under the age of 25. Sadly none of those players is a player the Jazz could call the foundation for the future. The only race the Jazz will be in this season is one with the Philadelphia 76ers for the most balls in the upcoming draft lottery as it will be a miracle if this team can even reach 20 wins.
Rookie of the Year: Andrew Wiggins Minnesota Timberwolves
Most Improved Player: Ricky Rubio Minnesota Timberwolves
Coach of the Year: Stan Van Gundy Detroit Pistons
Sixth Man: Taj Gibson Chicago Bulls
Defensive Player of the Year: Joakim Noah Chicago Bulls
NBA MVP: LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers
Coaches Who Will be Fired
Brett Brown-Philadelphia 76ers
Mike Budenholzer-Atlanta Hawks
Kevin McHale-Houston Rockets
Quin Snyder-Utah Jazz
Jacque Vaughn-Orlando Magic
Frank Vogel Indiana Pacers
1. Chicago Bulls 59-23 (1)
The stars are aligning for a Bulls run in Chicago, as the addition of Pau Gasol has fans dreaming of a title run. However, the best news for the Bulls is that Derrick Rose is looking like his old self again after missing much of the last two years with a knee injury. During the Basketball World Cup, Rose looked explosive. Adding Gasol helps strengthen a Bull front court that already was one of the best in the NBA, as Joakim Noah is the best defensive player in the NBA. The battle in the Central with the Cavaliers will carry into the playoffs as the two division foes are the clear teams to beat in the Eastern Conference.
1. Los Angeles Clippers 61-21 (1)
The time has come for the Clippers as they are ready to rise to the top of the Western Conference. Last season was a major breakthrough as they reached the second round of the playoffs and won 57 games despite Donald Sterling's potential team destroying comments. Sterling is now long gone and the Clippers have an owner who is stable and committed to winning, The fact they won a playoff series while the Sterling controversy broke is a great testament to the team's focus and their coach Doc Rivers. Add the fact Blake Griffin is becoming a more complete player and the Clippers can be on the way to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
2. Dallas Mavericks 52-30 (6)
Last year the Mavericks pushed the Spurs further than anyone in the postseason, losing their first round series in seven games. After a few off seasons after winning the NBA Championship, 2014 was a comeback season for the Mavericks as they won 49 games. This year they should be even better after luring away Chandler Parsons from the Rockets, Another Chandler is also back in Dallas as the Mavs reacquired former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler who was a key player in their 2011 title run.
2. New York Knicks 42-40 (7)
While he won't be on the bench, Phil Jackson is already having a positive influence on the Knicks. Early indications are that Derek FIsher has gotten a firm grip on the team and is already working in Phi's triangle offense. The Knicks also made positive moves to upgrade the team, picking up Jose Calderon who is well suited for the triangle system. I see the Knicks possibly struggling early, but as they begin to get used to their new offensive system they could be a team that finishes strong and sets themselves next season for a big move forward as they slip into the playoffs this year.
5.Orlando Magic 20-62 (14)
It will take Magic for Orlando to win this season, as this team has no true stars. The Magic have been unable to get a big name player despite finishing at the bottom of the standings. They have some nice talented players but they are the type players that are good secondary players that would excel around a superstar but left to fend for themselves they don't have enough to win many games as the Magic will once again be one of the worst teams in the NBA.
3. Denver Nuggets 42-40 (10)
Injuries took apart the Nuggets last season, as Danilo Gallinari missed the entire season. Gallinari's return should help the Nuggets get back in the playoff race. However, with so many strong teams in the Western Conference they are likely still going to be on the outside looking when the season is over. However, the up tempo style of play will make them a nightmare for any team especially when they play at home in the Mile High City.
4. Indiana Pacers 35-47 (10)
Nobody had a worse summer than the Pacers who have gone from the Eastern Conference Finals to a team that looks like it has not shot at the playoffs. The first hit came when Lance Stephenson left to play with the Charlotte Hornets, than they lost Paul George to a devastating knee injury in the lead up to the Basketball World Cup for Team USA. No team can withstand such losses. The only question is when the dust settles on this season what changes will be made in Indiana moving forward.
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Predictions made October 27, 2014 at 12:15 am, ET
WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS:
Los Angeles Clippers 4 Phoenix Suns 0; San Antonio Spurs 4 Memphis Grizzlies 3;
Oklahoma City Thunder 4 Dallas Mavericks 2; Golden State Warriors 4 Portalnd Trailblazers 3
Los Angeles Clippers 4 Golden State Warriors 3; Oklahoma City Thunder 4 San Antontio Spurs 3
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Oklahoma City Thunder 4 Los Angeles Clippers 2