NBA Preview

NBA Preview

The next chapter in another NBA season is about to be unveiled. After an excited offseason, it’s time to dissect which teams got better and which teams got worse, and figure out who’s going to be atop the league with hope of a Finals appearance, and who’s going to be at the bottom looking up

Eastern Conference
1. Cleveland Cavaliers– The King is back, along with Kevin Love, who is possibly the best power forward in the game right now. They also added some mentionable names such as Shawn Marion, James Jones, and Mike Miller. With the big three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love this team has more than a chance to be a great team, and I believe they will not only finish first in the Eastern conference, but they will win the NBA Championship. This city is hungry for a championship and is happy to have LeBron back.

2. Chicago Bulls– Derrick Rose is back, along with adding Pau Gasol. This Bulls team has a chance to be really good. They got a very good rookie in the draft in Doug McDermott. The key to success this season for the Bulls will be if former MVP Derrick Rose can stay healthy. Rose has not played a full season of basketball since 2010-2011. With the Bulls big three of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Pau Gasol I think Chicago has potential to do some damage in the Eastern Conference  this year.

3. Miami Heat– The heat are still a power team. With LeBron leaving, I think everybody thinks the Heat are going to miss the playoffs and have an awful year. After losing LeBron, the Heat gained two time all-star Luol Deng, Danny Granger, and Josh McRoberts. And they were able to get Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade to re-sign. I think Chris Bosh will become the leader of this team. With Lebron gone Bosh will be able to show his full potential and his numbers will go up a lot from the previous years. Another huge factor is if Dwayne Wade is able to stay healthy. Don’t sleep on the Heat this year they are definitely a team to watch.

4. Toronto Raptors– The Raptors are a young team with a lot of potential. They were able to sign point guard Kyle Lowry over the offseason. The key for the Raptors this year is if DeMar DeRozan is able to have a break out year. The Raptors finished third in the Eastern Conference last year and they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. If the Raptors are able to stay healthy they have a chance to make something happen this season

5. Washington Wizards– The Wizards are a wildcard team this year. They have potential to be a good team if they stay healthy, but if they have a lot of injuries they will struggle. The Wizards are packed with young talent such as John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Wizards added Paul Pierce this offseason, which has potential to be a pretty good pick up. Pierce is nearing the end of his career but is a possible future hall of fame player. John Wall is going to have to lead the Wizards this year if they want to have a good season. Although I think the Wizards will get into the playoffs, I don’t see them doing much damage once they are there.

6. New York Knicks– The New York Knicks have a lot of work to do this season. The Knicks added a new coach in Derrick Fisher, and were able to get star Carmelo Anthony back. There are many keys for the Knicks’ success this year. One main key is coaching. The Knicks have a lot of talent, but Derrick Fisher is going to have to be able to get all the other players to work with and around Carmelo Anthony. Amar’e Stoudemire is going to have to stay healthy and play well. If all of this happens with the Knicks, I think they will finish sixth in the Eastern Conference, and I highly doubt they will make it past the first round of the playoffs.

7. Brooklyn Nets– The Nets are a hard team to judge this year. The Nets only major loss during the offseason was Paul Pierce. The Nets have a lot of talent on their team. The problem they have is not many of their star players have played to their potential in a while. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams are going to have to lead this team for the Nets to have a good season. The Nets have potential to do a lot better than where I ranked them, but from how they have performed in previous years it’s hard to say they will reach their full potential.

8. Charlotte Hornets– New team, new beginnings. Michael Jordan (owner of the Hornets) has high hopes for this Hornets team with the huge pickup of Lance Stephenson in the offseason. With Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson, and Lance Stephenson I think the Hornets will get into the playoffs grabbing the last slot finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference. If the Hornets are able to get at least one more quality player in the next year or so I think they will be a team to watch out for in years to come.

9. Milwaukee Bucks– The Bucks have a pretty decent team this year. The Bucks got Jabari Parker as the second pick of the NBA draft and he is projected to be Rookie of the Year. The Bucks are a very young team which will be led by two 19 year olds in Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Other players that should be very helpful for the Bucks this season are O.J Mayo and Brandon Knight. I would watch out for the Bucks in a few years because they are just getting better and better. I think the Bucks will just miss the playoffs though finishing ninth in the conference.

10. Atlanta Hawks– The Hawks have not changed since last year. Hopefully they will have less injuries this year, and will have a better season. Leading the Hawks will be big men Paul Millsap, Al Horford, and guard Jeff Teague. These players are going to have to stay healthy and have a great season for the Hawks to get into the playoffs this year. The Hawks finished in eighth place last year only winning 39 games and I don’t think that will get them into the playoffs this year, and I don’t see much change from this team from last year.

11. Indiana Pacers– From first to 11th. The Pacers are going to have a very rough season this year losing Lance Stephenson in the offseason, and losing Paul George to a devastating season ending injury. I could be over exaggerating how bad the Pacers are going to be without two of their key players from last year, but I don’t think I am. Roy Hibbert struggled in the postseason last year and will need to have the season of his life for the Pacers to even think about getting to the playoffs this year. The Pacers addition of Rodney Stuckey was a nice pick up but they have no depth behind him at shooting guard. George Hill will also need to get healthy also for the Pacers to contend. I think the Pacers have a really rough year ahead of them and will finish 11th in the Eastern Conference. If this team manages to get healthy by next year there is no doubt in my mind this is a team to watch out for.

12. Boston Celtics– Boston is a very young team with only one player over thirty. The team has a lot of potential… in a few years at least. The Celtics led by point guard Rajon Rondo are going to struggle this year like last, but I think they will be better. I think over time this team will be back to being a power team in the NBA. The Celtics chose to draft Marcus Smart in the first round this year which, let’s be honest, was not very smart. Why would you draft a point guard when the best player on your team is a point guard? That just doesn’t make sense to me. Anyways the Celtics do have some talent other than Rondo including Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger. The Celtics are looking to have a rough year ahead of them, and even a rough next few years as well.

13. Detroit Pistons– The Pistons don’t have a bad starting group, but there bench has no help to bring whatsoever. The Pistons look to be led by Brandon Jennings and Andre Drummond in hopes of a decent season. As much as I would like to say this team has some potential it doesn’t really look like that’s the case. The Pistons need to do something quick to help get this team on track. The Pistons are going to need a few years to get back to being a good team in the NBA.

14. Orlando Magic– The Magic have a rough year ahead of them. With their best player Victor Oladipo being injured there is not much hope for this team this year. The team does show some promise with their new point guard Elfrid Payton who seems to show some promise for this upcoming season. The Magic really don’t have much hope to leave any type of a mark this season other than being bad. I don’t see the Magic winning more than 20 games this season, and it looks like it will be a long one.

15. Philadelphia 76ers– After an embarrassing season last year being the worst team in the NBA it’s looking like it’s going to be the same this year. The 76ers the past two years have used their first draft pick on injured players, hoping they will turn out to be great players. After being led by Michael Carter-Williams last year and having him be hurt its not looking like there is much hope for the 76ers this year. Hopefully the 76ers will not end up being one of the worst NBA teams of all this year, but it’s looking like that’s the case and they’re going to finish dead last 15th in the Eastern Conference.

Western Conference
1. San Antonio Spurs – The defending champs come into this new season looking almost identical, not straying away from the recipe of success they’ve had for years now. Winning their fifth championship last season (all under coach Gregg Popovich), the Spurs look to play fundamental basketball using one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. With Duncan, Manu, Parker, Leonard, and Green, the Spurs are once again favorites in the Western Conference.

2. Golden State Warriors – After the controversial firing of Coach Mark Jackson after the Warriors failed to meet expectations last season, the Warriors look to bounce back and make 2014-2015 their year. Guard Stephen Curry leads the high powered Golden State offense, which features himself and Klay Thompson as the notorious “splash brothers”. Thompson was just paid big money at the beginning of the season, and put to rest the trade rumors that plagued the team in the offseason. The Warriors believe they have all the pieces to the puzzle with Curry, Thompson, former All-Star David Lee, veterans Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala, and young guns Harrison “Black Falcon” Barnes and Draymond Green, and under new coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors are destined to make a run this year.

3. Houston Rockets – James Harden insists he’s a top three player in the league, and this year he has the chance to prove himself in Houston. Although the Rockets lost Parsons and Asik, they gained Trevor Ariza and Jason Terry this offseason. There is an elephant in the room, however. Dwight Howard is one of the biggest players in the league, but has quite a record of drama in years past in Los Angeles and in Orlando. If Coach Kevin McHale and the Rockets organization can keep Dwight happy and playing hard, the Rockets are amongst the top favorites in the west.

4. Portland Trailblazers – The Portland Trailblazers are one of the dangerous teams in the West with their explosive offensive lineup with Damian Dillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batumi, La Marcus Aldridge, and Robin Lopez. The Blazers struggled last season with their depth, and adding veteran Center Chris Kaman and guard Steve Blake should help take some of the pressure off of the other Portland players. Fans in the Rose Garden have a lot to look forward to upcoming season.

5. Los Angeles Clippers – The Clippers have worked hard rebuilding in years past, and they finally have a team to be proud of. Blake Griffin, Chris “CP3” Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford lead this Clips explosive offense. The biggest question surrounding this Clippers team is not if they can do it the first 82 games of the season, its can they do it come summertime in the playoffs, where they have failed in the last few years.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder – Entering his eight season, star Kevin Durant has become one of the faces of the league, and many are questioning when he is going to take the next step to get his team a championship. Suffering a fracture in his right foot, KD is looking to miss at least another month, and he’s only at the top of this Thunder’s injury list. Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, Anthony Morrow, and Mitch McGary also join Durant and will be projected to miss some time. The team will have to rely on veterans Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and Kendrick Perkins to carry the load in OKC, and the Thunder hope to be at 100 percent health well before the All-Star break and keep their championship hopes alive.

7. Dallas Mavericks – Dirk Nowitzki has been leading the Dallas Mavericks for it seems 100 years now, but he still has it. After taking the championship Spurs to seven games in last year’s playoffs, the Mavs have picked up some huge piece in the offseason that they think will take them to the next level. Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler are the newest members of D-Town. Together with Ellis and Dirk, the Mavs have an extremely dangerous team.

8. Memphis Grizzles – When your centerpieces are Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, you’re going to play physical basketball, and that’s exactly what the Grizzlies have done season after season. Adding Vince Carter should help the perimeter play of the Grizz with Conley Jr. and Tony Allen. The Grizzlies have proven that defense can indeed win games in the NBA, and they want this to be the year they take the next step into winning the west.

9. Phoenix Suns – The most surprising team in the league last year was the Phoenix Suns, who many thought were going to “tank” the season to acquire a high draft pick; they only missed the playoffs by a few games. Led by the Slovenian Shooter Goran Dragic and Kentucky graduate Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix has the ability to play solid basketball under former NBA star Jeff Hornacek, who has the team moving in a positive position.

10. New Orleans Pelicans – After years of rebuilding, New Orleans not only have a new name and mascot, but have built a team that they believe can compete in the West. With centerpiece Anthony Davis becoming one of the fastest growing stars in the league, the Pelicans have surrounding the young center with a plethora of talent. Veterans Tyreke Evans, Omer Ask, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and John Salmons joined together with young stars like Austin Rivers and Rue Holiday, the Pelicans have a real opportunity to make noise in the west for the first time since Chris Paul took his talents to Los Angeles.

11. Sacramento Kings – The stubborn yet talented center out of Kentucky, Demarcus Cousins, has emerged as one of the best big men in the league. With the rumors surrounding the re-location of the franchise, if there was ever a time for the Kings to win, it’d be now. Bringing in veteran Rudy Gay and having drafting young talent like guard Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas, the Kings seem to be bringing in the right pieces to become a winning team. As long as the Kings continue to play tough, physical basketball surrounding Cousins, the Kings should be able to compete for a playoff spot.

12. Minnesota Timberwolves – After shipping Kevin Love off to the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland, the Timberwolves received what it looks like to be their future in Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. Wiggins, the former Kansas star, was selected number one overall in the draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but was just a pawn to bring in All Star Love. Wiggins and Bennett have sought out to prove their worth, and with the help of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin, the T-Wolves have the beginnings of what looks to be a team that could compete in a couple seasons.

13. Utah Jazz – The Jazz have set up for a rebuilding year it seems. Drafting the impressive European Dante Exum, and with the multitude of young talent they have, after this season if the Jazz could pick up one maybe two free agents and have a successful draft, they could be looking at winning season down the line. But for now, the Jazz might have to settle for the bottom of the barrel in the west.

14. Denver Nuggets – Kenneth Faried, or better known as his nickname the “manimal”, is one of the most exciting players in the league. His ability to run the floor and finish with a thunderous slam is worth the watch in Denver, but it is doubtful that the Nuggets will be able to make the playoffs. There are truly too many good teams that the Nuggets have to compete with and play night in and night out.

15. Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe Bryant refuses to call it quits in L.A., but after this season, he might have to. The Lakers are not a good team after losing Paul Gasol to the Chicago Bulls, losing Steve Nash to injury for the year, and now losing their first round pick Julius Randle for the season in his first career NBA game. Yikes. The Lakers now have to rely on Kobe coming off an injury and Carlos Boozer, not exactly ideal if you’re a Laker fan. But thinking positively, the Lakers have a legitimate shot at the number one pick in next year’s draft.