2013-14 NBA Preview

Heat go for three-peat


Last season was one of the best NBA seasons of all time. The playoffs were great and it ended with a game seven between the two best teams. The Miami Heat claimed the title, while the San Antonio Spurs were left heartbroken as LeBron James hit clutch shot after clutch shot.

But, LeBron was not the reason the Heat won it all last year. In game six of the NBA finals, the Spurs were in control and they actually brought the yellow rope out to crown the Spurs. But Ray Allen hit the biggest shot of the year to tie the game and send it to overtime.

This year, looks like it could be even better. Most of the teams in the league got even better, and the standings should be much tighter this year. The Miami Heat will look to complete the first three-peat since Michael Jordan and the Bulls did it in the 90’s. But it will be a much tougher task than the previous seasons. All eyes will be on the Heat

Another interesting story line will be Andrew Wiggins. The bad teams will try to tank for the best prospect to come into the league since LeBron. Philadelphia, Boston, Charlotte, and a host of others want Wiggins bad. But, they also want the other prospects. It is expected to be one of the deepest draft classes in years. Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, the Harrison twins, Laquinton Ross, and Aaron Gordon among others will be in this loaded draft class.

There could also be a ton of speculation about the 2014 free agent class. Players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have already said they will test free agency. The entire Heat team has the potential to become free agents at the end of the season. This class has the potential to include Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Zach Randolph, Amare Stoudemire, Rajon Rondo, and Rudy Gay. Those guys could exercise their “early termination” clause. They probably will not become free agents. Instant hall of famers Dirk Nowitzki, Chauncey Billups, Ray Allen, Paul Perce, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan will also be free agents. Other all-star free agents include Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Tony Parker. That is a star-studded free agent class. That will be an interesting July.

Here is what the 2013-14 NBA season will look like

Top 5 teams in the East:

1.  Miami Heat:

Key losses: F Mike Miller (via the amnesty clause)

Key additions: C Greg Oden, F Michael Beasley

Key notes: Ray Allen picked up his option for the season, Erik Spoelstra signed contract extension.

Key player: SG Dwyane Wade

Preview: The Miami Heat might have the greatest on-paper roster of all time. Not only do they have the star power (Bosh, James, Wade), but they are the deepest team in the league. They have shooters that can space the floor in Shane Battier, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, and Roger Mason. Those are some pretty good shooters. Allen is an instant hall of famer and the greatest shooter of all time. James Jones is a veteran and has a three point contest win under his belt. Rashard Lewis has made a couple of all-star games and used to be an elite player. Battier plays great defense and does the little things to win, but as the Spurs found out he can hit some shots as well. Miami’s inside game has also gotten a lot stronger. Chris “Birdman” Anderson is back to provide energy and shot blocking off the bench. They signed oft-injured center Greg Oden this offseason. If Oden is able to stay healthy, then watch out because he could be very good. Michael Beasley is just another weapon off the Miami bench. He can score and carry the load when LeBron is on the bench. As deep as Miami is, the season might depend on the health of Dwyane Wade.

2.  Chicago Bulls

Key losses: PG Nate Robinson, SG Rip Hamilton, SG/SF Marco Bellinelli

Key Additions: PG Derrick Rose (missed all of 2012-13 season),  SF Tony Snell (rookie), SG Mike Dunleavy

Key player: PG Derrick Rose

Preview: The Chicago Bulls have a chance to be the best team in the East this year. It wouldn’t surprise me if they got the number one seed. Many people forget that the two years before last year it was the Bulls, not the Heat, who had the best record in the league two years in a row. The Bulls and Heat took their rivalry to a new level in the playoffs last year. Chicago is one of the most physical teams in the league. They are always exceptionally coached under Tom Thibadeou. Mike Dunleavy should space the floor for a healthy Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. I really like their combination of young forwards in rookie Tony Snell and third year player Jimmy Butler. Expect the Bulls to be good this year.

3.  Indiana Pacers

Key losses: PF Tyler Hansbrough, PF/C Jeff Pendergraph, PG D.J. Augustine

Key additions: SF Chris Copeland, PF/C Louis Scola, PG C.J. Watson

Key notes: Danny Granger returns from injury, David West signed contract extension

Key player: Danny Granger

Preview: The Pacers took big steps last year. They took the two-time defending champs to a game seven, and knocked out the Knicks. They did all that without star forward Danny Granger. Granger is back healthy, but the question is how he will jell with budding star Paul George. George, who broke out in last year’s playoffs, looks like he could be a part of the next generation of stars. He has all the intangibles to be great. I liked how the Pacers added even more grit then they had last year by adding big man Louis Scola and veteran guard C.J. Watson. Roy Hibbert should be better than he was last year because he doesn’t have to deal with a hand injury that hampered him during the regular season. David West is the leader of a tough Pacer squad, but they need more consistent scoring. They hope that comes from Granger. They may have found the blue print to beat the Heat. They want to be physical, and dominate the boards.

4.  New York Knicks

Key losses: SF Steve Novak, SF Chris Copeland, PG Jason Kidd, PF Rasheed Wallace, PF/C Marcus Camby, PF/C Kurt Thomas

Key additions: PF Andrea Bargnani, SG Tim Hardaway jr. (rookie), PG Beno Udrih, SF Metta World Peace

Key notes: JR Smith signed contract extension and will miss the first 5 games of the regular season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, Carmelo Anthony will opt out of his contract at the end of the season.

Key player: SG JR Smith

Preview: The Knicks had a great year last season. But, they lost a ton from last year’s roster. They don’t have veteran point guard Jason Kidd, or veteran big men Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace. The Knicks just don’t have the it-factor. I thought they made a bad trade when they dealt sharp shooter Steve Novak, Camby, and a first round pick in exchange for the disappointing former number one overall pick Andre Bargnani. They still have the talent in Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, JR Smith among others. But, it’s not a good sign that ‘Melo is already talking free agency. This team can be good, but there will be a lot of expectations for a team that lost some leaders in the locker room. I like this team, I don’t love this team.

5.  Brooklyn Nets

Key losses: PG C.J. Watson, PF Kris Humphries, G/F MarShon Brooks

Key additions: SF Paul Pierce, PF Kevin Garnett, SG Jason Terry, SF Andrei Kirilenko,

Key notes: Hired Jason Kidd as their head coach, they will have the highest luxury tax bill and payroll of all-time. Second season in Brooklyn

Key player: Brook Lopez

Preview: The Nets made a huge splash this offseason. They acquired future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. They also acquired veterans Jason Terry and Andrei Kirkilenko. This team has the potential to be the best team in the league. Talk about a loaded roster, they have the second deepest roster in the league. The big boys inside will be strong. They have Garnett, but they also have two of the most underrated big men in the league in Andray Blatche and Brook Lopez. Brook Lopez’s success will be measured when he goes against Joakim Noah, Chris Bosh and Tyson Chandler. If Lopez develops into an elite center, then this team could be holding the golden trophy at the end of the year. Or, they could end up like dream teams of the past (Lakers) and fizzle out to a disappointing season. They’ll have to jell quickly, but I trust Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to get it done. Deron Williams will have to be healthy, too. I don’t believe he was last season which contributed to his poor season. The Nets will, at the very least, run New York this year.

Eastern Conference Finals prediction: (2) Chicago Bulls vs. (1) Miami Heat   


Top 5 teams in the West:

1. Golden State Warriors

Key losses: SF Richard Jefferson, PF Carl Landry, C Andreis Beirdins

Key additions: SG/SF Andre Iguodala, PF/C Jermaine O’neal, SG Seth Curry, PF Mareese Speights

Key notes: assistant coach Mike Malone left to take a head coaching position,

Key player: C Andrew Bogut

Preview: Is the Klay Thompson-Stephen Curry combo the best shooting tandem in NBA history? The Warriors think so. They also have Seth Curry, who was a pretty good pick-up considering he can shoot almost as well as Stephen. The Warriors added even more defense to their team. They signed swingman Andre Iguodala away from Denver after flirting with Dwight Howard. Add Iguodala to a team that already features of the best defenders in the league in 7-foot center Andrew Bogut. They can shoot, they can defend, they can rebound, and they can score. That is a good combination. But, can they stay healthy? Stephen Curry’s ankles have hampered him in recent years. Andrew Bogut has had a rash of injuries over the years and David Lee got hurt in the playoffs. Adding a veteran like Jermaine O’Neal, who has had his own health problems, was a great move for this team. I like this team to get the top seed in the west, given they can stay healthy.

2. San Antonio Spurs

Key losses: PF/C DeJuan Blair,

Key additions: SG Marco Belinelli

Key notes: Massively overpaid Tiago Splitter over the offseason, their top assistant coach left to take a head coaching job, lost NBA finals, Manu Ginobili signed contract extension

Key Player: Kawhi Leonard

Preview: I love veteran teams and the Spurs are definitely a veteran team. Tim Duncan looked good as ever last season. That will be key, but a star was born in swingman Kawhi Leonard. He is a 6’-7” beast. Other than a missed free throw that allowed the Heat to tie the game in game six, he had a magnificent NBA finals. Manu Ginobili did not. Manu looked old and turnover prone, but more importantly he looked like couldn’t get to the hole anymore. That’s not good for San Antonio. However they are still among the deepest teams in the league. Former Suns star Boris Diaw is back, Danny Green also had a breakout NBA finals, and Gary Neal is still one of the best shooters in the league. Tony Parker is a MVP candidate, but he has not shown he can stay healthy. He was a no-show in the second-halves of the NBA finals. San Antonio coach Greg Popovich is still the best coach in the league. That gives them a big edge.

3.  Los Angeles Clippers 

Key losses: F Lamar Odom, F Ronny Turiaf, PG Eric Bledsoe, SF Caron Butler,

Key additions: F Antawn Jamison, SG JJ Reddick, SF Jared Dudley, SG Reggie Bullock (rookie), PG Darren Collison, C Byron Mullens

Key notes: Acquired Doc Rivers from Celtics to be their coach, Blake Griffin could miss some time early in the season with an injury to his hip

Key player: PF Blake Griffin

Preview: The Clippers re-shaped their roster this offseason under head coach Doc Rivers. Interestingly enough, Doc said that LA will always be Laker town. The thing I like about LA is that they are no longer lob city. They added some toughness to this team. Antawn Jamison, Darren Collison, and Jared Dudley will help them win games. Doc should make LAC an interesting team this year. They definitely have the sharp shooters in JJ Reddick, Reggie Bullock, and Jared Dudley. But their defense also remained strong by re-signing Matt Barnes. The Clippers success will be measured by their scoring inside. If Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan can finally get some moves in the post, this team will be tough to beat. If not, then they will be a first round out.

4.  Oklahoma City Thunder

Key losses: SG Kevin Martin

Key additions: C Steven Adams (rookie)

Key notes: Russell Westbrook will miss the beginning of the season due to a torn meniscus

Key player: PG Russell Westbrook

Preview: I don’t want to disrespect Kevin Durant, he’s a superstar, but he looked lost without Russell Westbrook in the playoffs. They lost to the Grizzlies in five games in the second round after Westbrook tore his meniscus against Houston in the first round. To make it worse, Westbrook’s surgery was not successful and he will miss the first month of this season. The real problem is that the Thunder did nothing to upgrade a team that lost in the second round. While everybody else upgraded their team in the west, the Thunder got worse. Especially, since they lost the prize of the James Harden trade, Kevin Martin. I bet the Thunder are having second thoughts about that trade. If they had to do it all over again they would definitely trade Serge Ibaka instead. Once Westbrook is back, the Thunder should be just fine. Expect them to compete for an NBA finals once he comes back.

5. Houston Rockets

Key losses: SF Carlos Delfino , F Royce White

Key additions: C Dwight Howard, C Marcus Camby,

Key notes: Omir Asik has demanded a trade, so we will see what happens

Key Player: PG Jeremy Lin

Preview: Dwight Howard is a spoiled brat. After everything that happened in Orlando, he wants his jersey number retired. That might be the most ridiculous thing Dwight Howard has ever wanted. And this is the same guy that told the Lakers he would sign with them if they fired Mike D’antoni, traded Pau Gasol, and amnestied Kobe Bryant. Dwight Howard will never win an NBA championship. This team will go as far as James Harden takes them. Houston’s big three consists of Harden, Howard, and Chandler Parsons. If Chandler Parsons is in your big three, then you probably have a big two. It will take time to jell, but this team will still be good. Howard is a dominant presence on defense and James Harden might be the best offensive player in the league. They added a veteran in Marcus Camby. I like that move. Camby is a shot blocking presence with playoff experience. They will have to keep Asik happy, but Houston has a chance to win the west and go to the NBA finals. Howard’s immaturity will be detrimental, but James Harden is a baaaad man.

Western Conference finals prediction: 4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 1) Golden State Warriors

MVP: PG Stephen Curry (Warriors)

Comeback player of the year: PG Derrick Rose (Bulls)

Sixth man of the year: JR Smith (Knicks)

Most improved player: SG Jimmy Butler (Bulls)

Rookie of the year:  PG Denis Schroder (Atlanta Hawks)

NBA Finals: 2) Chicago Bulls vs. 4) Oklahoma City Thunder

Champion: Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls are legit this year. They will finally get over the hump. I think they beat Miami in the East finals, and beat the Thunder in six games in the NBA finals. Derrick Rose is healthy and he’ll put the entire league on notice.

Finals Most Outstanding Player: Derrick Rose