NBA Season Preview 2013
Boston Celtics: The Celtics are officially in full rebuild mode. President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge pulled the plug on the Paul Pierce Kevin Garnett era shipping the vets to Brooklyn. With new Head Coach in former Butler head man Brad Stevens. Boston hopes to develop its young players and pray all-star point guard Rajon Rondo buys into the new program.
Brooklyn Nets: Brooklyn is all in for 2013-14. With the trade that changed the NBA landscape Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett & Jason Terry are members of the Brooklyn Nets, giving whatever else they have left in the tank to make one last Championship run. Mainstays Deron Williams, Joe Johnson & Brook Lopez are expected to elevate their games due to the added expectations. Pierce and KG give Brooklyn new life as the Nets look forward to getting over the hump in the East. Fresh off the court Coach Jason Kidd is given the keys to a team that does not have time in its favor. There is a win now mentality in Brooklyn.
Philadelphia 76ers: Philly is taking the necessary steps toward the number one pick in this June’s draft. Trading All-Star Jrue Holiday proved they are once again hitting the restart button on the franchise.
New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony and company still carry the resentment of their second round defeat to the Indiana Pacers during last season’s playoffs. The Pacers were the better team during the series and now the Knicks have reloaded with newcomers Metta World Peace and ex-Toronto sharpshooter Andrea Barganani ready to improve on last season’s 54-win season tops in the Atlantic Division. How Head Coach Mike Woodson balances the roster will be key.
Toronto Raptors- Stuck in mediocrity the Raptors will depend on swingman Rudy Gay to lead the team along with emerging 21-year-old big man Jonas Valanciunas. With Barganani out of the picture expect Valanciunas to have a breakout season.
Winner: Brooklyn Nets- The Nets will win the division over the Knicks because they are far and away the more disciplined team. The Knicks are capable of self-imploding at any point this season. Brooklyn understands that this could very well likely is their only shot at winning a Championship as constructed.
Chicago Bulls: The future is bright for the Windy City with the return of former MVP Derrick Rose. After missing the entire 2012-13 season with a torn ACL Rose returns to a team that won 45 games and playoff series without his services. With D-Rose back Chicago reclaims its throne as the top threat to two-time defending Champions the Miami Heat.
Cleveland Cavaliers: While the state of Ohio holds out hope LeBron James returns to the Cavs in the summer of 2014 this season’s team holds a lot of intrigue. All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving is the real deal, his backcourt mate Dion Waiters showed promise during his rookie season. 1st overall pick Anthony Bennett has the opportunity to quiet the critics that did not believe he was the right choice at number one. The most intriguing question of them all will Andrew Bynum contribute at all?
Detroit Pistons: Josh Smith joins a 7-foot power duo of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in the frontcourt, forming a block party like movement to Motown. With the additions the Pistons made in during the offseason signing Josh Smith and trading for point guard Brandon Jennings the Pistons are expected to climb back into the playoff picture for the first time since 2009.
Indiana Pacers: Last season’s breakout team was one win away from the NBA Finals. Will the return of Danny Granger hinder or propel Paul George’s growth? Will the Pacers learn from last season’s success or fall off in the competitive upper echelon of the Eastern Conference? Some believe the Pacers are a legit point guard away from becoming a true Championship contender this season.
Milwaukee Bucks: Milwaukee traded mercurial point guard Brandon Jennings to Detroit for Brandon Knight to pair him with OJ Mayo. Big man Larry Sanders is expected to create havoc in the paint and is a favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year. Last season 8th seed in East is bound to struggle but is capable of shooting for a 7th or 8th seed.
Winner: Chicago Bulls– Chicago and Indiana will battle it out all season long. Derrick Rose’s health will make the difference between Chicago winning the Central, and Indiana winning the Division for the second straight season.
Atlanta Hawks: All that is left of the left Atlanta Hawks that we have grown accustomed to watching over the past couple seasons is point guard Jeff Teague and All-Star Al Horford. The Hawks are a team without an identity and are in danger of missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2007. When guard Lou Williams gets back from the ACL injury he suffered last season that will give the Hawks another scoring dimension they missed dearly last season.
Charlotte Bobcats: Can we just call them the Hornets now? Nothing exciting to report on Michael Jordan’s team except they will be rebranded as the Charlotte Hornets for the 2014-15 season. Maybe Al Jefferson signed with Charlotte for that reason alone. Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist lead the way for a team that might be finally finding their footing in the East but they still have a long way to go.
Orlando Magic: The team that made out the best in the Dwight Howard saga has a roster filled with upside. Rookie Victor Oladipo’s leads the youth movement in Orlando though the team is still a couple seasons away from reaping the benefits.
Miami Heat: What more is there to say about two-time defending Champion Miami Heat? LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh remain at the forefront as they strive to get to a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance, last done by the Boston Celtics between 1984-87. It will be interesting to see how they navigate through the ups and downs of another regular season. Do they keep it on cruise control throughout the regular season while preserving themselves for the playoffs or go on another remarkable run aiming to break the 1971-72 LA Lakers 33-game winning streak. The streak they came pretty close to breaking last season?
Washington Wizards: Washington is thinking playoffs, for the first time during the John Wall era. The thought isn’t too far-fetched either the Wizards have a nice mix of veteran leadership and young guys that will keep them in the hunt for seeds 6-8.
Winner: Miami Heat- Miami will run away with the division without challenge. Though the Wizards have the talent to make noise in the East they are still 2 to 3 years away from making the leap to elite.
Denver Nuggets: After another first round exit Denver fired Head Coach, and Coach of the Year for last season George Karl and replaced him with first year head coach Brian Shaw. With new faces on the roster the Nuggets have the talent to remain in playoff contention. Danilo Gallinari is expected to miss the first half of the season due to injury and Andre Iguodala has moved on to Golden State. Starting point guard Ty Lawson must improve his game to an all-star level to keep the Nuggets afloat in the West especially since they are lacking a proven wing scorer at the moment.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Is this the year Minnesota remains relatively healthy and puts an end to their long playoff drought. That all hinges on how well Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio mesh together. Hampered with injuries it seems like every season the T-Wolves have the roster and talent to make the playoffs in the West. If healthy the T-Wolves will be in the running for a lower playoff seed.
Oklahoma City Thunder: The knee injury Russell Westbrook suffered during the playoffs set the Thunder back tremendously as they were expected to make another run to the Finals but flamed out in the second round due to Westbrook’s absence. While Westbrook is expected to miss the first month of the season due to his lingering knee issues Kevin Durant and company will have to carry the load. After last season’s playoff exit Westbrook critics realized how valuable Westbrook really is to OKC.
Portland Trail Blazers: Blazers all-star LaMarcus Aldridge along with star in the making Damien Lillard lead the way for a team with a solid roster that can make things interesting in the West if they remain healthy. Lillard had a great rookie season and hopes to improve on that this season he is the bright spot for a team that can be a pleasant surprise this season.
Utah Jazz: The Jazz are essentially going into this season replacing two veterans from their frontcourt Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap with former lottery picks Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. The Jazz are still a couple seasons away from playoff contention.
Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder- OKC is far and away the best team in the division expect for them to run away with the division once Russell Westbrook returns to form.
Dallas Mavericks: After missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years the Mavericks struck out once again during the offseason not landing any big names. Owner Mark Cuban has stated he wants Dirk Nowitzki to retire a Mav but will that be possible if Cuban continues to put together lackluster rosters.
Houston Rockets: The team of the offseason Houston landed prize free agent Dwight Howard pairing him with young superstar James Harden and emerging swingman Chandler Parsons. Sure the Rockets have the pieces to win a Championship but how well will the pieces together during an 82-game season.
Memphis Grizzlies: Memphis might have already reached its peak getting to the Western Conference Finals last season. With so many teams in the West emerging the Grizzlies might of let their best chance at getting to the Finals slip away. With former assistant Dave Joerger taking over as Head Coach and the core roster still intact the Grizzlies will be in the running for home court advantage in the Western Conference.
New Orleans Pelicans: Along with a name change the newly appointed New Orleans Pelicans upgraded their roster during the offseason adding all-star Jrue Holliday and former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans. Along with Anthony Davis and a healthy Eric Gordon the Pelicans will be a fun team to watch. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact they make in the West.
San Antonio Spurs: Up five with 28.2 seconds remaining, that close to another Championship before things began to unravel and the Larry O’Brien trophy slipped out of their grips. It’s a new season and once again the Spurs are geared for another run at the NBA crown. Yes the big 3 of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are indeed another year older so expect younger players like Finals standout Danny Green and up and comer Kawhi Leonard to carry even more of an offensive load for the Spurs in order for the Spurs to remain elite.
Winner: San Antonio Spurs: Toughest division in the NBA, the SEC of the NBA. I expect every team to have a winning record but I give the well-tested Spurs the slight edge over a new and improved Rockets team by the slimmest of margins.
Golden State Warriors: Golden State snuck up on a lot of team’s last season. That won’t be the case this year. Golden State is expected to be among the elite out West. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are arguably the best shooting backcourt in the league and adding Andre Iguodala to the fold only makes them stronger.
Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers got the offseason started with the acquisition of Head Coach Doc Rivers from the Celtics. Chris Paul followed suit signing a max contract and now expectations are higher than ever for the other team in LA. Doc did not come on board for another first round exit he is changing the culture in Clipperland. Much more will be required from big men DeAndre Jordan and superstar Blake Griffin. The Clippers have Championship aspirations, and with Doc at the helm anything less will be considered a failure.
Los Angeles Lakers: Many questions surround the Lakers heading into the season. When will Kobe be ready to suit up? Can Steve Nash endure the rigorous season going on 40? Will Pau Gasol get traded at some point this season? These questions and more will be answered this season on as The Lakers Turn.
Phoenix Suns: It’s going to be a long season in the desert this season, but a bright spot for the Suns this season is new point guard Eric Bledsoe. He gets his first opportunity to start full time after backing up Chris Paul for the past two seasons. First year Head Coach Jeff Hornacek has a lot on his plate as he leads the Suns through the many growing pains they are bound to endure throughout the season.
Sacramento Kings: New owners, new head coach and new contract for DeMarcus Cousins there is a sense of fresh air in Sacramento especially for a fan base that was in danger of losing their beloved franchise. The Kings still haven’t made the necessary adjustments to improve in the West.
Winner: Los Angeles Clippers- After never winning the division before last season, the Clippers will make it back to back Pacific Division crowns. Golden State will make it interesting but by and large the Clippers have the stronger roster and Doc Rivers will make the difference for a team that is gearing for a special season.
Eastern Conference Western Conference
Chicago Bulls Oklahoma City Thunder
Miami Heat Los Angeles Clippers
Brooklyn Nets San Antonio Spurs
Indiana Pacers Houston Rockets
New York Knicks Golden State Warriors
Detroit Pistons Memphis Grizzlies
Cleveland Cavaliers Denver Nuggets
Washington Wizards Los Angeles Lakers
Eastern Conference Finals: Miami Heat over Chicago Bulls in Five Games.
The Bulls are the biggest threat to the Heat in the East and though I have the Heat advancing to their fourth straight NBA Finals this series will be anything but a cakewalk. Expect D-Rose and company to give the Heat a battle every game but I think LeBron’s greatness will propel the Heat over the Bulls in a competitive five game series. I’m also basing this series off prior playoff meetings. During the Big 3 era, Miami has won the two-playoff series they’ve face the Bulls in 2011 East Finals and 2013 second round in 5 games.
Western Conference Finals: Los Angeles Clippers over Houston Rockets in Seven Games.
Doc Rivers changes the culture in Clipperland leading the Clippers to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Not having home court advantage comes back to haunt the Rockets as the home team wins every game in this exciting series.
Miami Heat over Los Angeles Clippers in Six Games.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company know they cannot take these trips to the NBA Finals for granted. After watching the first one completely slip away in 2011 and coming very close to losing in 2013 the Heat understand that when you make it to the big stage you need to leave everything on the floor. Miami is the veteran team aware of what to expect while the Clippers have never played a game during the month of June. Chris Paul’s leadership along with Blake Griffin’s powers can win the Clippers a game or two. The Miami Heat are far and away the superior team overall and are primed to three-peat.
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James- Miami Heat
Big surprise the best player in the NBA wins his fifth MVP Award. It’s safe to say I’m not going out on a limb by picking LeBron to win MVP once again.
Coach of the Year: Jason Kidd- Brooklyn Nets
Coach Kidd will do a wonderful job managing his veteran players while guiding the Nets to a top three record in the East. Kidd has surrounded himself with a strong coaching staff lead by one of his former coaches Lawrence Frank. Positioning himself well to succeed in his first year as an NBA Head Coach.
Rookie of the Year: Victor Oladipo- Orlando Magic
The rookie of the year race will be a three-man race between Oladipo, Kelly Olynyk of the Celtics and Kings guard Ben McLemore. The Magic, Celtics and Kings aren’t expected to win much this season so these first year players will have many opportunities to showcase their talents during the season. Oladipo is the better all around player between the three and that is why he is my choice to win rookie of the year.
Defensive Player of the Year: LeBron James- Miami Heat
LeBron wants to be known as the greatest ever. Michael Jordan has a defensive player of the year award on his resume now it’s LeBron’s chance to improve on his second place finish from last season. LeBron has the ability to completely shut down the opposition. If LeBron wants to be remembered as the greatest ever having this award on his resume can only enhance his status.
Sixth Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford- Los Angeles Clippers
Crawford was the favorite to win the award for the majority of last season until eventual winner JR Smith surpassed him during the latter stages of the season. Crawford could start for many teams in the league but he is the perfect complementary piece for the Clippers and is expected to be on the court during crunch time. Crawford already has a sixth man of the year award on his mantle and another one in his sights this season.
Most Improved Player: Jimmy Butler- Chicago Bulls
This will be the first year Butler plays alongside Derrick Rose in the starting line up and I expect Butler’s numbers to rise in all categories. If the Bulls plan to overtake the Miami Heat Butler will need to raise his overall game to give Rose another scoring threat on the wing. Butler is capable of reaching all-star status this season.
All-NBA First Team
Chris Paul (LA Clippers), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Kevin Durant (OKC Thunder), LeBron James (Miami Heat) & Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)
All-NBA Second Team
Russell Westbrook (OKC Thunder), Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls), Kobe Bryant (LA Lakers), Blake Griffin (LA Clippers) & Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs)
All-NBA Third Team
Stephen Curry (GSW Warriors), Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat), Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks), Paul George (Indiana Pacers) & Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzles)
All-Defensive First Team
Chris Paul (LA Clippers), Tony Allen (Memphis Grizzlies), LeBron James (Miami Heat), Serge Ibaka (OKC Thunder) & Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)
All-Defensive Second Team
Avery Bradley (Boston Celtics), Iman Shumpert (New York Knicks), Paul George (Indiana Pacers), DeAndre Jordan (LA Clippers) & Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)
All-Rookie First Team
Victor Oladipo (Orlando Magic), Ben McLemore (Sacramento Kings) Anthony Bennett (Cleveland Cavaliers), Cody Zeller (Charlotte Bobcats) & Kelly Olynyk (Boston Celtics)
All-Rookie Second Team
Trey Burke (Utah Jazz), Michael Carter-Williams (Philadelphia 76ers), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Detroit Pistons), Otto Porter Jr. (Washington Wizards) & Alex Len (Phoenix Suns)