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The NBA 2013-14 Season Preview
The 2013-14 NBA season is upon us. And with it comes the familiar sounds echoing through the arenas. Crowds begin to roar, only to be suddenly silenced. Twenty sneakers echo off of the hardwood floor. A tattoo needle buzzes from in front of Chris Anderson’s locker. Dwight Howard bellows to a reporter about how he loves Houston, but it might be time for a change in scenery. Kobe Bryant dresses down Pau Gasol with a stream of obscenities that he only reserves for teammates, perceived enemies, beat reporters, and close loved ones. Yes, basketball is back.
LA Lakers Steve Blake and Wesley Johnson have not done well at any stage of their NBA careers, and there’s no reason why they would start now. Chris Kaman could hold it down as a backup, but he might start. That’s an issue, to put it lightly. Pau Gasol is moving back to center, and will have an uptick in production if Mike D’Antoni lets him play. But chances are his 19 million dollar contract will be moved by February. Steve Nash should do better than last season, until Kobe Bryant comes back from his injury and demands the ball. Bryant is not Superman, and will have definite regression from his injured ACL.
Sacramento Kings Jimmer Fredette is a wash already. Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins have hope of improvement, but Cousins needs a mentor. Otherwise, this guy has Travis Bickle written all over him. Travis Outlaw was a good pickup, and should work well with Carl Landry at the small forward. John Salmons hasn’t been effective for a while, and I’m unsure why the Kings picked him up in the first place. Ben McLemore has potential, but will he get experience at the two guard position this year? They need to win games, get experience and figure out who their core is.
Phoenix Suns Eric Bledsoe is a good guy to start rebuilding with. Goran Dragic will almost assuredly be traded. The question is whether it will be this year or next. Emeka Okafor will be a good veteran to teach the young guys’ defense, Alex Len in particular. Channing Frye never made sense as a three point shooting center and never will. Phoenix is actively fighting for Andrew Wiggins, and they started at draft time.
1. LA Clippers
2. Golden State Warriors
3. LA Lakers
4. Sacramento Kings
5. Phoenix Suns
LA Clippers Darren Collison should be a great pickup at point guard, and should do a better job than Chauncy Billups did backing up Chris Paul. JJ Redick should see plenty of opportunities with Jamal Crawford at getting open jumpers. Blake Griffin should continue to do well, but needs to develop a more solid shot from eight feet and out. DeAndre Jordan needs to pick up cues from Paul and move to where he needs to be in the offense. They could have finals potential if they play defense as well as the Celtics under Doc Rivers.
Golden State Warriors Harrison Barnes should take a step forward, especially playing alongside Andre Iguadala. Klay Thompson should have a good rotation going with Iguadala that alternates depending on whether D or O is needed. Stephan Curry should have a career year. Andrew Bogut and David Lee remain healthy this year they should be able to hold to get plenty of second chances for the team. But David Lee may move in an attempt to bolster their defense down low, especially if Bogut is hurt. The odds of their team improving are just as strong as the team regressing, it depends on how well their chemistry works. We could be looking at a deep playoff run. This is a difficult team to gauge.
Chicago Bulls How will Derrick Rose look after a full year off? Will his explosion be back? I think he will have a chip on his shoulder and be ready to prove everyone wrong. Of course, he could be afraid of reinjuring his ACL. If his mindset is wrong it could be a lost season for him. My gut tells me he’ll start soft, and harden as the year progresses. The rest of the team had a year of experience playing without Rose, which should be a positive for them. A huge question is whether Luol Deng or Carlos Boozer will be moved this season since it’s been known that Chicago is looking for a star power forward to play along Joakim Noah. If the team’s chemistry fits as well as it did two seasons ago, they may be able to knock off an exhausted Heat to go to the Finals.
Cleveland Cavaliers A great deal of success of this team will depend on how many games their bigs, Anderson Varajao and Andrew Bynam get. Anthony Bennett and Tyson Zeller would do much better to be coming off the bench and slowly building their confidence. Triston Thompson needs to step forward as the starter for a potential playoff team. Bynam played his best season for Mike Brown, but he also stirred up a lot of trouble with him as well. Kyrie Irving made a leap last year, and he seems poised to make another leap this year with a slightly more experienced team. Brown’s defensive schemes should propel the Cavs to the playoffs. That is, as long as the Princeton offense stays in Princeton, where it belongs.
Indiana Pacers Luis Scola was a great addition this summer, and he should have a Sixth Man of the Year candidacy. Hill, Granger, West, Hibbert and George are probably the best starting lineup in basketball. The only potential jag in their season is that Danny Granger’s in a contract year, and they’re already eleven million over the cap this season. It is very conceivable that he will be dealt in a sign and trade by February. This will be the most boring team to watch in the regular season, and one of the most physical and fun teams to watch come playoff time.
Detroit Pistons Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond should be a formidable frontcourt. Rasheed Wallace was hired to be an assistant coach to help bring them along, and he should do well. With Chauncey Billups and Kyle Singler in the lineup, will Kentavious Caldwell Pope get enough minutes? Rodney Stuckey should be kicked to the curb, and hopefully his expiring contract will be used as a trade to help them further down the line this season. Josh Smith is a nasty scorer, and should go into beast mode. All they’re doing is asking him to score, and he is well equipped. Is Maurice Cheeks the right coach to help them make a leap into the playoffs, though? One thing is for certain, no one will screw up the National Anthem on his watch. This team will be on the edge of making the playoffs, potentially an eight seed.
1. Indiana Pacers
2. Chicago Bulls
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
4. Miluakee Bucks
5. Detroit Pistons
Milwaukee Bucks Larry Sanders will be a finalist for defensive player of the year. Udoh should improve this season, especially from playing next to Sanders. Can Gary Neal elevate his game to the level he was at during the playoffs last year? It seems doubtful, considering who he was surrounded with last year. Carlos Delfino and Luke Ridnour should add some much needed defense to the backcourt that wasn’t present last season. OJ Mayo should provide a good punch from off the bench. Brandon Knight should improve, despite dying last season. The Bucks should be slugging it out with the Cavaliers and the Pistons for lower playoff spots.
Oklahoma Thunder The key for OKC will be whether Russell Westbrook looks as good as he did before the injury. Serge Ibake should once again hold down the defensive end, but he was exposed as a horrible shooter during the playoffs last year. How will he respond to being the third option this season? Kevin Durant will have another stellar year, but there is only so much he can do if he’s the only scorer on his team. Losing James Harden last year for what appears to be not much this year has seriously wounded this team’s chances. Perry Jones was a disappointment last year, as was Kendrick Perkins (again). Derek Fisher died three years ago, but he still dresses for games for some reason. OKC will get a high seed, but will not advance to the Finals. Scotty Brooks will be fired as a result.
Portland Trail Blazers Damian Lillard’s has looked much improved on the defensive end, and the undersized J.J. Hickson being replaced by Robin Lopez should further improve their D. LaMarcus Aldridge and Lopez should be rebounding and guarding the rim at a high rate. C.J. McCollum’s foot injury is the same that he had in college, and looks problematic for a person who’s job will be to cut on the elbow and spot up for jumpers. Nicholas Batum looked amazing at moments last year, and “amazing” at other moments. He can score efficiently, hit the three, rebound, and play both sides of the floor. But he needs, above all else, to be consistent. Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard should be able improve and contribute playing across from each other since they cover each other’s weak spots (Robinson locks down players and rebounds, Leonard attacks the rim and shoots ten footers). The Blazers will be a seven or eighth seed in the playoffs.
Minnesota Timberwolves JJ Barea, Kevin Love, and Ricky Rubio need to stay upright. Nikoli Pecovic was a good resign. He and Love should hold down the paint defensively as well as snag up boards. Rick Adelman is good at coaching young talent. But how NBA ready will Shabazz Muhammed be? Corey Brewer should help out the backcourt after losing Ridnour this season. Minnesota’s a bubble team whose success completely depends on their health.
Denver Nuggets Andre Iguadala leaving hurts the only perimeter defense they had. Andre Miller has been betrayed by father time, and is another year older. Nate Robinson is very streaky, and tends to be negative in the locker room. Ty Lawson needs to improve his range to help his team. JaVale McGee can be very good, but he needs to mature and be learn to bring it to the court every night. Kenneth "The Manimal" Farried and Darrell Arthur should do well plugging the holes that McGee leaves. Brian Shaw is not a proven coach, and they will miss George Karl immensely. Denver will most likely be a lottery team.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. Portland Trail Blazers
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
4. Denver Nuggets
5. Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz Derek Favors and Enis Kantor will have an opportunity to step up and start. This will hurt the Jazz this year, but it’s necessary for future success. Losing Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap without gaining any assets in the process was two boneheaded moves that deserve their GM riding the Greyhound out of Salt Lake City. It appears they will try to bring along Trey Burke too quickly, but only after he gets back from a month long injury. The tank is in.
Toronto Raptors Rudy Gay should be able to chuck shots with wild abandon. The rest of the team is not good, and should not even be considered anything but a lottery team for even a moment. Also, did they get these guys from a European rec league? I haven’t heard of twelve or thirteen of them.
Brooklyn Nets Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett should be able to lock down anyone who comes into the paint. Deron Williams is at the moment of truth…if he cannot deliver this year, he shouldn’t expect to get a real contract again in his career. Jason Terry should do well to help guard the perimeter, but should prove a liability on the offensive end. Paul Pierce has something left in the tank, and he will prove it this season. Joe Johnson should shoot at a higher clip since he should see more open shots with Paul Pierce threatening on the wing.
Philadelphia 76ers The chances of Evan Turner getting his contract renewed are not good. Jason Richardson is now the star of this team, which is very sad. Kwame Brown is their starter until Nerlens Noel comes back from injury? Yeeech! This team was born for the lottery, and aspires to be the first pick. They’ll have to slug it out with Phoenix and Orlando.
New York Knicks Amar’e Stoudemire and Metta World Peace contracts are the biggest waist of salary cap in the league. And yes, I realize the Artist formerly known as Ron Artest is making the veteran’s minimum. JR Smith needs to provide a punch with starter’s minutes if he wants move to the next level. Tyson Chandler didn’t look right last year, and it’s hard to imagine he will regain his edge. Carmelo Anthony should have a more difficult time finding open shots since several of their scorers left the team. Bargnani makes sense playing across from Chandler, but is serious defensive liability playing center due to his inability, some would say desire, to defend. Iman Shumpert still looks like he's living in 1990, and I for one love it.
1. Brooklyn Nets
2. New York Knicks
3. Boston Celtics
4. Toronto Raptors
5. Philadelphia 76ers
Boston Celtics Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, and Jared Sullinger will get all the opportunities they need this year to improve. Kelly Olynyck could do well in his rookie season, but only if he earns a solid backup role behind Bogans, Sullinger, and Gerald Wallace. Wallace is an albatross for at least two more years with his thirty-three million three year contract. Rondo will get traded, but will the deal be good enough for this year? Or will we have to recklessly speculate for another season? Kris Humphries will have an opportunity to bounce back this season. Well, so long as he stays out of a Kardashian. This is a lottery team, plain and simple.
San Antonio Spurs They’re banking on their veterans to turn in another good year, but age and injuries can be problem after an extended playoff run last year. Tiago Splitter was a good re-sign. Manu Ginobili’s two year 5.56M contract is overpaying him at thirty-six, but it’s for a low enough amount that it’s a descent risk to take without financially crippling the team. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green will be interesting to see if they progress. I’m betting that Leonard gets better, but Green does not. My guts tell me they’ll top the regular season in the West, and make one more deep run.
Memphis Grizzlies Zach Randolph is a regression candidate. Mike Miller and Tayshon Prince have a couple rings and are a good addition to the bench of a team that could contend for a Larry O'Brian trophy. Memphis is always a contender as long as they continue to play great Defense, led by Tony Allen and Marc Gasol. The real question is whether they continue to play their hard-nosed style that Lionel Hollins preached. If not, you can write off this team immediately.
Houston Rockets Dwight Howard should immediately boost the team’s defense and rebounding, but he brings question marks as well as his talents. Will Omer Asik accept his role an off the bench defensive stopper, or will he demand a trade? And if he forces a trade, who will the Rockets bring in? Jeremy Lynn regressed last year. Will they run a pick and roll with Howard so that he can regain his explosiveness? James Harden should benefit from Howard, and get a lot of open looks. Aaron Brooks should benefit by having Harden and Howard to look to, but if he doesn’t his veteran minimum contract may be the largest contact he ever sees for the rest of his career. This team could place at virtually any playoff spot. I’m betting it takes a season to gel, and they will be fifth or sixth.
Dallas Mavericks They’re one year older. Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter couldn’t have too much left in the tank. Monta Ellis should take some burden off of Nowitzki on the offensive end, but he’s a real liability on defense. Jose Caulderon is a good addition to the team, and should fit in well in the Jason Kidd role. This team feels high lottery pick bound to me.
1. San Antonio Spurs
2. Memphis Grizzlies
3. Houston Rockets
4. Dallas Mavericks
5. New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans They want to be an immediate playoff team, but this isn’t in the cards this year. Anthony Davis needs to show he can be a defensive presence, and not be shoved around. He also needs to show he’s durable enough to play at least seventy games. Jeff Withey, the second rounder that they plucked in a trade, will play great defense backing up Davis, but needs loads of work offensively. Austin Rivers seems to be a lost cause, racking up some of the worst stats for an NBA player ever. Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holliday should make the team better than they were last year. But getting to the playoffs depends on Eric Gordon leading the team. He has shown no indication that he can do that yet.
Miami Heat LeBron James played a legendary season last year, and all signs point to having another one this year. Chris Bosh excels at playing the third banana, but shrinks away when he needs to step up. This could be a problem with Dwayne Wade having so many knee problems, and coming off a third straight Finals run. Many are hoping that Greg Oden will take some burden off of the big three in limited minutes, but his injury history suggest that this won’t happen. Ray Allen will most likely be more dangerous knocking down open jumpers since he’ll be more comfortable with his role. The real question's whether Birdman and Mario Chalmers can keep up their play from last year. This division, as well as conference, is Miami’s to lose.
Atlanta Hawks Al Hortford is back and nearing his prime. He should dominate down low, especially with Paul Millsap who is now firmly in his prime. Paul Millsap will be asked to score a lot, which is a task he is up to. The rest of Atlanta’s roster is vanilla, as usual, but they should find a way into the playoffs. They always do
Washington Wizards This team is loaded with talent, and they have the right amount youth and veterans. The bench has Trevor Ariza and Eric Maynor who don’t light the league on fire, but are very solid performers. Washington will hope that Glen Rice Jr. is a big scoring punch, as well as Martell Webster off the bench. They will also hope that Bradley Beal will continue to develop. But the real success depends on John Wall and Nene staying healthy. If they can put in a combined 140 games, they should be in the playoffs. Joe Namath has said, it should be noted, “If…such a big word.”
1. Miami Heat
2. Washington Wizards
3. Atlanta Hawks
4. Charlotte Bobcats
5. Orlando Magic
Charlotte Bobcats Michael Kidd Gilcrest is on a mission to get the team to play better defense. This should be immediately thwarted by Al Jefferson joining the team. Long term he will hurt the team’s chances of becoming solid defensively. But short term he will hurt the team by adding seven to ten wins, assuring that they don’t have the best chance in the draft lottery. Way to go, Jordan. If there’s one name synonymous with losing in basketball, it’s Michael Jordan.
Orlando Magic Glen Davis and Aaron Afflalo should play well. The tragedy in their backcourt is that they’re going to play Victor Oladipo at point guard, which he seems to have no handle on. This was a Rookie of the Year candidate. They also have the corpse of Hedo Turkalu on their roster. They are going to tank, and they will lose more games than the Bobcats. Way to go, Jordan.
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