The time has finally come, and with the 2013-14 NBA season just hours away from kicking off, I’m here to provide our readers with glimpse into the future of what this NBA season will look like.
I’m here to provide the answer to why your favorite team will win a championship, or tank for the opportunity to hold the top ping-pong ball in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes.
I present the BlackSportsOnline 2013-14 NBA Preview:
The Return of Rose is real, and finally upon us. The Chicago Bulls must feel like they had the No. 1 pick in the draft with the return of all world point guard Derrick Rose. Rose is back with a chip on his shoulders, and a rugged group of soldiers that will happily let him lead the way. The Bulls also pulled off a savvy addition by signing the unheralded Mike Dunleavy, who immediately gives the team credibility from the three-point line. If Jimmy Butler can continue to evolve as a player, the Bulls will have the pieces to make a Championship run.
Three straight NBA Finals appearances, back to back NBA Championships, and the biggest target on in the history of sports on your back can be a heavy load to carry. At some point LeBron James and the Miami Heat must wilt under those enormous expectations right? The Heat are, and will be the team to beat throughout the regular season. After defeating the San Antonio Spurs in an epic NBA Finals, the Heat sat quiet, and reloaded by added big name talents, Greg Oden and Michael Beasley for cheap. The formula for success is the same but the teams in the way aren’t. Miami will have to survive Brooklyn, Chicago, Indiana and New York just to get back to the NBA Finals. I’m not sure they’re up to the challenge this time.
The Pacers time is now. Even with the big money extension Paul George just signed, the future is the present and vice versa. Indiana is finals or bust, and everyone on the team understands that as well. The Pacers would like Danny Granger to offer something at some point this season. The addition of Luis Scola brings versatility and added toughness to an already physical team. If Granger can offer anything offensively to go with an already stifling wave of defenders that includes Roy Hibbert, George, and Lance Stephenson, watch out.
The Nets are another team that is championship or bust, they’ve just chosen to admit. The Nets and owner Mikhail Prokhorov are fine with paying closing to a quarter billion in luxury tax, $180 million, just to trot out a starting lineup for the ages. If not for the old ages of Pierce and Garnett, this team would be hands down the favorites to win two or three chips. Instead they will focus on one at a time. Whatever difficulties Jason Kidd has as a coach will be offset by the wisdom of lead assistant Lawrence Frank. If Deron Williams can get back to his form of old, this deep Nets team will be an impossible out come playoff time.
5. New York
Another team that on paper has championship aspiration. Rings unfortunately aren’t won on paper. The Knicks suffered two heartbreak this off-season. The Brooklyn Nets signing Jason Kidd and trading for Pierce and Garnett got backpage accolades in New York papers, and also pushed the Knicks down one in the Eastern Conference pecking order. The Knicks will still maintain the larger following, but during the regular season they figure to be the second-best team in New York. While the Nets are preparing for a championship run, Carmelo Anthony another Knicks players are already preparing for free agency. I see a wasted season for the team in Manhattan.
The Pistons on paper are going to be relevant every night. They signed Josh Smith to a huge deal, and then traded for mercurial point guard, Brandon Jennings. A lineup of Jennings, Billups, Smith, Monroe, and Drummond sounds formidable, but can Maurice Cheeks coach this group out of mediocrity.
The Cavaliers are simply this low because it’s impossible to go out on a limb and predict which Andrew Bynum will show up. If Cleveland can get an inspired Andrew Bynum to go along side a healthy Anderson Varejao, look out on the boards. The cavaliers did a good job adding Jarrett Jack, No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett and forward Earl Clark to a promising core that includes Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and all world point guard Kyrie Irving.
The NBA is much better when the Washington Wizards aren’t the laughing-stock of the league, and I have a feeling the days of Wizards being a punchline are slowly coming to an end. If John Wall can remain healthy and pair with a much improved Bradley Beal, the Wizards will drive teams crazy with their backcourt on a nightly basis. The addition of Marcin Gortat right before the start of the regular season finally gives the Wizards a quality rugged big man that they can pair with Nene down low. If Otto Porter can emerge and not get swallowed up as a rookie, look out.
The Hawks got better by subtraction. They got Josh Smith’s huge salary, and even bigger penchant for chucking up bad shots off the books. They got the reliable Paul Milsap for a steal at $19 million over two years. Milsap and Al Horford should make life difficult for opposing front lines.
The Raptors have given off the impression this off-season that they are actually trying to improve as an organization. New GM Masai Ujiri was quiet and shrewd during his first off-season, dumping the pouting Andrea Bargnani and signing the rugged Tyler Hansbrough. With Kyle Lowrey and Rudy Gay eligible for free agency next sumer, Ujiri will find out quickly how he wants to proceed from their.
Milwaukee is another team that may have improved by subtraction. Gone are oozy Monta Ellis, and Brandon ” no pass” Jennings. In are the steady Caron Butler, O.J. Mayo, and Brandon Knight respectively. If Larry Drew can coach this group up, and get some consistency out of John Henson to go along with Larry Sanders, look out, because they’ll climb this list.
The Magic are young, rebuilding, and heading the right way. Who would have believed that the Magic would have come out the winner in the trade that sent Dwight Howard to L.A. Orlando will look to mesh their future of No. 2 pick Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless in with the declining Jameer Nelson, and Big Baby Davis.
Danny Ainge says there’s no in next years draft worthy of tanking for, but I can’t tell by all the roster moves what Ainge is actually trying to win. There’s no timetable for Rajon Rondo’s return from ACL surgery, nor should there be. Young Brad Stevens will have his hands full with a team whose best player might be Jordan Crawford.
The Bobcats are actually not in tank mode, but the basketball is so bad at times, it’s hard to generally tell if Michael Jordan truly enjoys lottery selection time. Adding Al Jefferson helps with the respectability part, but Jefferson isn’t the guy to lead your team from the depths of futility. At some point one of Jordan’s lottery picks that include Gerald Henderson (2009), Kemba Walker (2011), Bismack Biyombo (2011), Michael-Kidd Gilchrist (2012) and Cody Zeller (2013) have to provide something special right.
Uggh, my hometown 76ers are all in on the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. Allen Iverson’s retirement ceremony on opening night will only help mask what could end up being 76-80 losses this season for the Sixers. On the bright side, Michael Carter-Williams will log a bevy of heavy minutes as he learns to play point guard on the run. He won’t have a choice but to improve. The Sixers will hold Nerlens Noel out, as they work to strengthen the big man’s knee and post game.
1. Oklahoma City
Yes I know the Harden trade was a mistake, and Russell Westbrook has a bad wheel. So what. Kevin Durant is going to be even better and more efficient than ever before. Reggie Jackson will continue to get better at the point until Westbrook returns. A confident and efficient Jackson will allow Scott Brooks to feel comfortable running Westbrook at the 2 come playoff time. Hopefully Serge Ibaka is done with being a top model, and spent the summer working on his post game and jump shot. If Scott Brooks can find it in his heart to give Jeremy Lamb some significant run, watch out.
2. San Antonio
What’s there to say. The same team that made it to the NBA Finals returns with a much improved Kawhi Leonard. Greg Popovich will rest and scold this team to another 50+ win season, and a date with the Thunder in early June.
3. L.A. Clippers
Doc Rivers alone will win this group five more games, which should put them close to 59 wins. Chris Paul is going to do what he does with an even better coach behind him. Rivers total effect on the team will show in the improved defensive intensity shown by both Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. With a bench better than some teams starting lineup, Rivers has enough firepower to add a blue and red championship banner right next to those purple and gold banners he covered up last week.
The city of Houston has an NBA buzz again, and it’s not because James Harden enjoy two dollar Tuesday’s at Onyx. Say what you want about Dwight Howard, but when he’s happy and has something to prove, he’s a walking double-double machine. I expect Harden and Howard to gel quite nicely. Howard should improve the Rockets on defense and create space for their offense. The only thing that can stop Houston is inadequate point guard play.
4. Golden State
We have a tie for fourth on this list. The Warriors are flat-out loaded. Nothing could be more frightening than Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, and Klay Thompson coming at you in waves, all able to play two or three different positions. The health and consistency of Andrew Bogut and David Lee will determine how far the Warriors move up this list.
Don’t fret Grizzlies fan. A Sixth seed is not the end of world, it just tells you how good the Western Conference is from top to bottom. The Grizzlies are loaded with two dominant post players in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Those two will be expected to mesh into a Grizzlies team that plays at a faster pace this season. Tony Allen and Mike Conley will still hold down the perimeter, and watch for Mike Miller to make a splash early on with this team if he’s healthy. The Grizzlies couldn’t make a three in the ocean during last years playoffs.
It’s hard to feel good about a group that jettisoned away the reigning coach, and GM of the year, along with losing Andre Iguodala to a top Western Conference contender. In steps Brian Shaw who will have to get Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, and Danilo Gallinari to make shots and play some defense. This should be a defining season in JaVale McGee’s career as well. Part of the reason Karl was fired was due to his unwillingness to play McGee important minutes.
8. New Orleans
Monty Williams got himself some new toys, and if everything falls into place, the Pelicans could play at a Oregon Duck like pace on the hardwood. Williams is going to enjoy sending four talented guards out in waves at opposing teams. Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Austin Rivers should drive teams crazy with their abilities to get into the lane, and display versatility.
The Blazers are another solid club that suffers from being in the loaded west. The Blazers bolstered their bench by adding Mo Williams, CJ McCollum, Thomas Robinson and Dorell Wright, to an already loaded roster. Damien Lillard and LeMarcus Aldridge give the Blazers star power and they’ll need every bit of it.
Mark Cuban did his best to surround Dirk Nowitzki with shooting and scoring when he acquired Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon. The good news stops right there. Those additions do nothing to help the Mavericks defensively, and an aging Shawn Marion and Vince Carter offer nothing as well.
11. L.A. Lakers
I know what you’re thinking. The Lakers only 11th best out West. Yes give it time, and be patient. The Lakers won’t rush Kobe back to simply make the playoffs, and this team could get a few games behind before the black Mamba returns. This team with Nash and Gasol would still be a top five team in the NBA if it was 2006. It’s not, and Nash is a bad back away from retirement. I’m sure the sight of Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry jacking up threes with help the blood pressure of Lakers Nation.
Who would have ever thought that Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter go from prospects to starters. Gordon Hayward would be the face of the franchise. The Jazz will suffer growing pains, but seeing a lineup of Trey Burke, Hayward, Alec Burks, and Favors should be fun.
Minnesota spent a combined $117 million in re-signing Nikola Pekovic and Chase Budinger and adding Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer. I’m not sure if it spells playoffs, but they are trying. Everything starts and ends with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, and the T’Wolves will need both players healthy to compete.
The Kings are getting better. I’m not sure where that leaves them, but they are improving. There’s a new downtown arena deal, a new ownership group headed by Vivek Ranadive, a new general manager in Pete D’Allesandro and a new coach in Mike Malone. Gone is the shoot first point guards of before, and in comes the steady Greivis Vasquez. All these new moves spell love for DeMarcus Cousins who should get the fed the ball on every trip down court. Look out if Ben McLemore can speed up his learning curve.
The Suns are competing with the 76ers in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. They finished with the worst record in the Western Conference last season and they won’t be any better this time around, having lost three of their top six scorers. In comes Eric Bledsoe, but this season will serve as a brutal learning curve for later years. he Suns are going to experiment with a two-point guard lineup that highlights Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, who led the team in points, assists and steals last season. It will be the Bledsoe and Dragic show as the Suns race Philly to 75 losses.