2014-15 NBA season preseason-preview.
As we wind down summer and thus the NBA off-season who have time to reflect on the crazy off season that was the summer of 2014. The off-season was, to be put simply, dominated by the Cleveland Cavaliers. First, the won the highly coveted #1 pick in Junes draft, than they landed the coups of all coups and got Lebron James to come back to Cleveland four years after he took his talents to South Beach to win two NBA titles, and just yesterday they acquired Kevin Love.
The Cavs will also dominate the NBA regular season as well. They may not dominate on the court, though that is highly likely, but they will dominate in the media; they also have the best odds to win the 2014 NBA Championship. The eyes of the world will be on the Cavaliers and the trio of Lebron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. With all the big acquisitions that the Cavs have made they have also quietly assembled a solid core of role players.
The 2014 Draft is also likely to have a sizable impact on the 2014-15 NBA season. The Cavs drafted Andrew Wiggins #1 overall but sent him to Minnesota in the deal that got them Kevin Love. The Timberwolves acquiring Wiggins could be a huge moment in their franchise history. Wiggins has a unique skill set and even though he will be in the rookie of the year conversations this year he still has a lot of maturing as a basketball to do. The second overall pick was Jabari Parker who went to Milawaukee. Parker and the Bucks have a young core and Parker gives the Bucks their first potential superstar player in several years. Other rookies who will make a first year impact will be Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, and Doug McDermott. The third overall pick, Joel Embiid, will most likely not see any minutes this year due to an injury but teammate Nerlens Noel, who was the sixth overall pick last year, will play this year. I don't expect a lot out of the 4th and 5th overall picks in last Junes draft. Both Orlando's Aaron Gordon and Utah's Dante Exum are really raw and will need time to develop. I like Exums talent and potential but Utah has other young talents in Trey Burke and Alec Burks who will get more minutes than Exum.
The Western conference will once again be the stronger of the two conferences in the NBA. The 2013-14 Champion Spurs have kept their team of ageless wonders intact and even added a solid contributor in Kyle Anderson.
Oklahoma City and 2013-14 MVP Kevin Durant will also be a force to be reckoned with again in the West, and I think they are the best team in the west and my pick to win the west. Of couse, this is all pending on a healthy Russell Westbrook. If Westbrook stays healthy the Thunder have the best roster in the NBA.
The Los Angeles Clippers will have another strong year now that the cancerous circus sideshow that was Donald Sterling is finally removed from their ranks. Sterling's racial tirade during the playoffs nearly cost the Clippers their young roster, but now it looks like the Clippers curse might be finally broken.
The rest of the Western playoff bracket will be filled out by the Warriors, Blazers, Grizzlies, Rockets and Mavericks. The Warriors and Blazers will be shoe in's to make the post season as both have really talented rosters. The Warriors may even be able to challenge the Clippers for the Pacific crown depending on how good of coach Steve Kerr is and if Steph Curry and Andrew Bogut stay healthy. Houston is a team I have a lot of reservations about. They traded away a lot of talent in a failed gamble to get Carmelo Anthony. They still have James Hardin and Dwight Howard but lost Jeremy Lin, Omir Asik, and Chandler Parsons.
The dominance of the west is it's depth and once again the teams that miss the playoffs will have better records and more talent than the lower seeded Eastern conference playoff teams. I expect that the New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns will both have winning records and miss the playoffs by only a few games. Denver, too, might make a surge for the post season.
The worst teams of the west will be the Timberwolves, Lakers, Kings and Jazz. The Wolves are rebuilding after the Love trade and need a few more years. Kobe Bryant will not be the same player we are used to and the age and lack of depth of the Lakers will hurt them. Their defense is going to be astonishingly terrible this year as well. The Kings have talent but I still have trouble trusting DeMarcus Cousins and his attitude. He has made leaps and bounds over the summer with the US Men's National Team but until he consistently shows he has matured he is going to hurt the Kings. The Jazz have the youngest roster in the NBA and didn't add any play makers from a 25 win team from a year ago.
The best team in the NBA will come from the East; the Cavaliers. But after the Cavs there will be a significant drop off. I think the second best team in the East will be the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls added Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott and should have a healthy Derrick Rose. If all this can come together right the Bulls will have a pretty good team who might be able to threaten the Cavs for Eastern Supremacy.
No team has had a worse four months than the Indiana Pacers. Last April the Pacers were seen as a serious threat to Miami's supremacy in the East and now some wonder if they will even make the post season in the very weak East. They lost Paul George to a horrific leg injury, Lance Stephenson to Charlotte, and Roy Hibberts desire is a huge question mark going forward. I think the Pacers will have a decent season and end up with the 4th best record in the East.
If anyone has had as bad of off-season as the Pacers it would be the Miami Heat. The two time champion and four time defending Eastern champion lost the best player in the league in Lebron James and a lot of role players. Miami does have two things going for it in that Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade re-signed. Those two, if healthy, will give the Heat enough talent to win a lot of games and compete in the East.
The 5-12 spots in the East are a mess of below average teams who will benefit from playing other below average teams. I expect Charlotte and Atlanta to both be near to top of the pile in the East. The Hornets got a new name and some luck when Cleveland jumped 7 spots in the draft lottery and forced Detroit to convey their pick to the Hornets. A core of Michael Kidd-Gilcrest, Al Jefferson and Kimba Walker got the than Bobcats to the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history and should get them back there this season. Atlanta with a healthy Al Horford will be a much improved team from the 8th seed Hawks of last season but they are undersized upfront with Horford and Millsap and lack depth.
The Knicks retained Carmelo Anthony but beyond him their roster isn't all that impressive. They traded Tyson Chandler, and Amare Stoudemire's knees are always a huge question mark. I don't think the Knicks make the post season again and there will be whispers of the Knicks rebuilding following the season.
Brooklyn should make the playoffs with all their talent but the decline of Deron Williams should be a concern for them. He is making max player money when he isn't a max player and having traded away all their assets last season the Nets don't have a lot going for them. Their depth is made up of mostly high level D-league players and NBA outcast.
One team I really like but have reservations about is the Washington Wizards. They made the playoffs last year and have a young core but they lack consistency. I have them making the playoffs again but near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Toronto is likely going to win the Atlantic Division by default. This is the worst division in basketball and Raptors are going to be a 500 win team at best. They won 48 games last year but the East has slightly improved and Toronto didn't add anyone that will really help them this year.
The Pistons, Celtics, and Magic will all be improved from last year but don't expect anything from them. All will win under 30 games and will be preparing from the draft come December. Milwaukee will be in that group as well but may get some more wins as they have a lot of young talent who is going to surprise a lot of people this year.
The bottom of the East will once again be brought up by the Sixers. The Sixers will be hard pressed to win 15 games this year. They keep making trades for the future and drafting injured big men which will hamper them now but have made them at least interesting for the future. One bright spot for the Sixers this year will be Anthony Bennett who they acquired for Thaddius Young. I expect Bennet will be in the conversation for MIP and will fit nicely along side Noel.
4. Raptors(By virtue of winning the Atlantic)
MVP: Lebron James
ROTY: Andrew Wiggins
6th Man: Jamal Crawford
MIP: Anthony Bennett
COTY: David Blatt
DPOTY: Tim Duncan
Bold predictions of the year:
1) The Nets will start breaking up their team at the trade deadline and they will find a taker for Deron Williams and his contract.
2) Derrick Rose will be in near MVP form, but will miss a lot of early games due to precautionary reasons.
3) This will be Tim Duncan's last season in the NBA and following the playoffs the Spurs will dismantle their team.
Cleveland vs Oklahoma City with the Cavaliers winning their first NBA title.