The NBA season is nearly here,so it is time to roll out my second annual NBA Preview. Enjoy! You might be surprised!
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (61-21) Kevin Durant and company were boatraced in the Western Conference playoffs last year by the Grizzlies, but that was mainly because of the injury to Russell Westbrook. The Thunder still have hopes of winning a championship, but it is going to take everybody being healthy to do it, including Westbrook. This team looks to contend for many years to come for an NBA title. 2. Los Angeles Clippers (58-24) The Clippers are looking to be more than a playoff team, they are looking to be contenders. Some thought they would be just that last season with their early season surge, but they faded down the stretch as the year went on. Coming aboard is new head coach Doc Rivers,who won a championship with the Celtics in 2008,also coming aboard is 37-year-old Antawn Jamison to provide some veteran presence and shooting off the bench. Chris Paul is also back after signing a multi-year deal with the team. This team has a very deep bench as well and of course they have Blake Griffin. Look for the Clippers to be in the title conversation this year. 3. San Antonio Spurs (56-26) The Spurs came so close to winning their fifth NBA championship,but the Heat got the better of them in the end. Tim Duncan is getting older as is Tony Parker,but San Antonio does have young guns in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to rely on to help carry them forward in years to come. I am really not sure if the Spurs will get back to the Finals but they do have the best coach in the league to take them there in Gregg Popovich. 4. Houston Rockets (53-29) The Lakers loss is the Rockets gain. Dwight Howard is in Houston now and fans have hope that he will help take them deep into the playoffs. The Rockets did return to the playoffs last season but it was a short trip in what was a great series with the Thunder. Howard joins a talented squad who has James Harden, Jeremy Lin,and Chandler Parsons. Many are saying the Rockets could go to the NBA Finals and that prediction might not be far off, it all depends on Howard and how well he can lead this team. 5. Golden State Warriors (51-31) One of the big surprises of the NBA last season was the success of the Golden State Warriors. Golden State was able to get to the second round of the playoffs. Stephen Curry became a nationally known name during that postseason run. Curry along with Andrew Bogut, David Lee,and new addition Andre Iguodala look to go deeper into the playoffs and I think it can certainly happen. 6. Denver Nuggets (48-34) The Nuggets are now without George Karl and seem to almost be rebuilding. Andre Igoudala is now in the Bay Area,but Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried are still with the team and Denver seems to always find ways to win. I do think they will make the playoffs this year, but it is a cautious pick here,even in the sixth spot. 7. Memphis Grizzlies (44-39) Wait,this is the same team that made it to the Western Conference Finals last season,right? Yes,they are. But Lionel Hollins is no longer coaching the team and I think that decision to let him go will not benefit the Grizzlies. Yes,Marc Gasol, Mike Conley,and Zach Randolph are still there,but getting to the Conference Finals was the Grizzlies’ ceiling. I don’t see how this team with a different coach other than Hollins will be a step-up. I do see them making the playoffs this year,but not next season if they fail to get beyond the first round. 8. New Orleans Pelicans (41-41) This is my wild and crazy pick for a team who did not make the playoffs last year to do so,and it is the newly renamed New Orleans Pelicans. While this team was awful last season,I think they will be better with Tyreke Evans coming over from Sacramento and Anthony Davis comes into his second year. Also coming over is Jrue Holiday from Philadelphia who has been an All-Star and an exceptional point guard. The big key to it all is keeping Eric Gordon healthy. If that happens, I think the Pelicans can make some noise and win the eighth seed in the West. 9. Minnesota Timberwolves (40-42) Okay,so I picked this team to make the playoffs last season and that did not happen. I want to put them there this year,but I am afraid that guys like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will be hurt again and out for the year. If that doesn’t happen, this team will be pretty good,especially with the addition of Kevin Martin. They still have the great Rick Adelman as coach and he is definitely the guy who can get the Timberwolves back to the postseason. 10. Los Angeles Lakers (38-44) So let me get this straight…Chris Kaman is the better option at center than Dwight Howard? Okay,okay I know Howard was a total disaster for this team last year,but so was getting all of these old superstars together to try and get a title. Yes,Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant are still there, but they are getting much older and I think getting younger talent would have benefitted this team and brought them back into any form of playoff conversation. I just cannot see it happening. I might be wrong,but this year I doubt it. 11. Sacramento Kings (37-45) The Kings are here to stay and are looking to make some noise in the West and in the standings. Ben McLemore was the fifth overall pick in the draft and the Kings made a steal by selecting him. DeMarcus Cousins has now been deemed the main guy to help lead the Kings back to the postseason since 2006. Jason Thompson and Marcus Thornton will man the front court while the battle for point guard is between Isaiah Thomas, Greivis Vasquez,and Jimmer Fredette. I think this team will be better and will thrive from playing in front of sell-out crowds once again. 12. Portland Trail Blazers (35-47) The Blazers are a young team with their best years in front of them. With Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge leading the way along with a young core of players and rookies Allen Crabbe and C.J. McCollum, Portland has a bright looking future. I expect this team to be in the playoff picture in a couple years if the talent on the team develops well. 13. Dallas Mavericks (33-49) The Mavericks are a couple of seasons removed from being champions and last season they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2000. Dirk Nowitzki is still around,but is now 35 years old and his best years are behind him. Shawn Marion and Vince Carter are also in their twilight years. A big bright spot for Dallas is the acquisition of Monta Ellis from the Milwakuee Bucks who should provide a spark in the backcourt. 14. Utah Jazz (29-53) After nearly making the postseason last year,the Jazz look like they are rebuilding after letting Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap leave to Charlotte and Atlanta respectively. Derrick Favors is the de-facto superstar of this team which has some veteran presence like Richard Jefferson and Andres Biedrins,but also young guns like Gordon Hayward. Utah will definitely be rebuilding this season. 15. Phoenix Suns (24-58) The Phoenix Suns have been rebuilding for a few years now and will continue to. Suns fans are hoping that rookie center Alex Len and newly acquired Eric Bledsoe will lead their team back to winning ways. This team is a definitely a work in progress,though. Eastern Conference 1. Miami Heat (60-22) The two-time champs once again have a talented roster and no reason to believe they won’t be able to do it again. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade,and Chris Bosh are still together to try and get it done. Ray Allen is back for this 18th NBA season. While former second overall pick Michael Beasley re-joins the team to provide help on the bench. Also joining the team is Greg Oden, who last played in the league in 2009 and has been trying to get back in the game. Overall, this teams looks to be dominant again and also an interesting group of talent. 2. Indiana Pacers (58-24) The Pacers are looking to prove that they can beat the Heat in the playoffs. They took the champs to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals and you can bet that they are looking to be in the conversation to represent the East in the Finals. Roy Hibbert,Paul George,and Danny Granger will help lead the way for Indiana. I think this Pacers team is the best team that can beat the Heat and is maybe the only other contender in the Eastern Conference that could win it all. Yep,they are that good! 3. Brooklyn Nets (55-27) Last year the Nets made it to their new home in Brooklyn and back to the postseason. This season they are looking for a little more. On draft day, they traded for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the Celtics adding to their line-up of Brook Lopez,Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson. The Nets have the best starting five in the NBA in my view and although I have mixed feelings about them being considered a contender in the East, they do have a talented bench in addition to their starters. Brooklyn has a team that will excite many fans this season. 4. New York Knicks (53-29) I may be picking the Knicks a little high this season,but they still have Carmelo Anthony,at least for this season they do because he is becoming a free agent after this season. Will he stay? Who knows! I do know this, this team wants him and Tyson Chandler to be successful for them for more years to come. What may hold them back is their not-so impressive bench. I think it’s an okay bench, just not the best one for a playoff team. I do think they will still be good enough to be in the top four in the East. 5. Chicago Bulls (50-32) Derrick Rose is back for the Bulls,albeit a half a season too late as I am sure his teammates would have loved having him play in the playoffs because, that’s what healthy players do is they,well…they play! I am sure his teammates hope his passion for the game comes back as well as they were outplayed by the Heat in the playoffs last season. Along with Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, this team looks to get back to be called contenders before Rose got hurt in 2012. It can happen,but it’s all about how bad they,including Rose,want it. 6. Atlanta Hawks (47-35) The Hawks are on the downward slide a little with Josh Smith leaving for Detroit, but I think they have enough to get in a playoff appearance this season. Al Horford needs to stay healthy in order for that to happen. Paul Millsap comes over from Utah to provide front court help and Jeff Teague is there at the point. I don’t see them getting any better or any worse this year. 7. Detroit Pistons (43-39) For the last few seasons, the Pistons have been one of the worst teams in the NBA. I think a lot of that changes this season as they loaded up on talent by signing Brandon Jennings from the Bucks and Josh Smith leaves Atlanta to lead this Detroit team that already has young talent in Andre Drummond,but they also have the ageless one,37-year-old Chauncey Billups has returned to provide some veteran leadership on the bench. I think this team is good enough to be in the playoffs this year. 8. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-41) The Cavaliers have been reloading since the departure of LeBron James in 2010 and this could be the year they put it all together and get back to the postseason. Leading the way is Kyrie Irving who is in his third year, Andrew Bynum who came over via free agency from Philadelphia (where he never played a minute), and first overall pick Anthony Bennett. I also think the bench is pretty decent. The big question mark is how well Bynum plays and also gels with this team. If that can happen,this team will be alright. 9. Washington Wizards (38-44) Could the Wizards actually make the playoffs? They might, but I think they fall short this season. John Wall leads the way with young guns Bradley Beal and rookie Otto Porter, Jr. Also there are Emeka Okafor and Nene. The way I see this team is that they will either try and make the playoffs or be their regular lottery selves. I see them improving this season and working on getting to the playoffs, but falling just short. 10. Toronto Raptors (36-46) The Raptors are a team that is just there. Not really any good and not really going anywhere forward. Their best player,Jose Calderon,is now in Dallas. They did bring over Rudy Gay last season in a trade with Memphis and they still have DeMar DeRozan,but it isn’t saying much for them going into this season. It just doesn’t look good. 11. Boston Celtics (35-47) Doc Rivers,Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are gone and so are the Celtics as an Eastern Conference powerhouse. GM Danny Ainge has made it clear that this is a time of rebuilding for Boston. Yes,they still have Rajon Rondo,but it is going to take time for this team to redevelop and get better again. I would be surprised if this team was as good as they were with the Big Three present and so would the rest of the sports world. 12. Milwaukee Bucks (33-49) Last year,the Bucks made a cameo appearance in the NBA Playoffs and have since lost their best player,Brandon Jennings,to the Pistons and Luc Mbah a Moute to Sacramento. They did bring over O.J. Mayo from Dallas and Brandon Knight is now there,but who else is? This team overachieved last year and have lost the guys who helped them do so. Look for a bad year from Milwaukee. 13. Philadelphia 76ers (29-53) Last year I had this team going far in the playoffs,but that was before any of us knew that Andrew Bynum would not be playing for the 76ers. Now this team is in dire need of help. Jrue Holiday was traded to New Orleans for rookie Nerlens Noel. Evan Turner will lead the way in the hopes of turning Philadelphia around. 14. Orlando Magic (25-57) Remember when Dwight Howard was here? Pepperidge Farm remembers! The Magic were not very good last year,but hope in the form of Victor Oladipo is on the way. This kid looks to be an exciting player and I think he will definitely help Orlando along with Glen Davis and Jammer Nelson. The Magic will probably be a lottery team but Oladipo will bring some excitement to the fans. 15. Charlotte Bobcats (21-61) The soon-to-be renamed Hornets are still rebuilding and will keep rebuilding. Nothing pops out at me that says that this team is getting better. They did sign Al Jefferson and did draft Cody Zeller (who I think will be great),but it will take some time before Charlotte becomes any good.