Upcoming NBA season brings excitement amid switch ups

October 30, 2013

Keith Allison via flickr.com

The 2013-2014 NBA season may turn out to be one of the most exciting in recent history. Both conferences have become more top-heavy, as the amount of legitimate contenders increase. But there will still be teams at the bottom that look forward to next year’s draft.

Eastern Conference

The Miami Heat is naturally the team to beat, as they look to become the fourth franchise in NBA history to accomplish the elusive three-peat. While last year’s championship core intact, the Heat acquired Greg Oden and Michael Beasley — low-risk, high-reward players. And LeBron James said his game is still developing, so Heat fans have every reason to be optimistic.

But a few other teams in the East pose real threats. Healthy, motivated Derrick Rose returned to the Chicago Bulls and is looking as explosive as ever in the pre-season. Rose’s performance matches the team’s cohesive, hard-working, defensive-minded crew helmed by rising coach Tom Thibodeau. The Indiana Pacers, a team that has given the Heat the most trouble in the in past playoff games, may be even more dangerous this year with the addition of Luis Scola, the return of Danny Granger and the improvement of new star Paul George. The Brooklyn Nets looks to factor in as well, having added Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to an already star-studded crew. The age and health of the roster though, along with the uncertainty that is coach Jason Kidd, makes this team a mystery.

A number of other storylines in the East are worth watching. Expect a drop-off from the New York Knicks, who continue to age and whose highlight from the offseason was adding Andrea Bargnani, who is stereotypically offensive-minded, injury-prone and defensive-challenged — the type of player the team does not need. Expect the media and fans to get rowdy, as well.

Look out for the Cleveland Cavalier and Washington Wizards, led by young stars Kyrie Irving and John Wall. The Detroit Pistons are also show promise since adding Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith to the imposing front line of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond to potentially emerge and battle for the lower seeds in the East.

 

Western Conference

The big stories are the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers, who made major offseason splashes by adding Dwight Howard and coach Doc Rivers, respectively.

Houston definitely has talent, with Howard and James Harden at the top of their respective positions. The question will be whether the team can develop chemistry in time to make a run at the championship. Additionally, the power forward position is a big hole that needs to be filled.

For the Clippers, anything less than the Western Conference Finals should be considered a huge disappointment, as they have now added a championship coach and a number of deadly outside shooters to play alongside Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Despite the hype, Paul has never advanced past the second round, but he has never received the criticism about post-season failure like James, so this needs to be his year to shine.

The San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder remain in the mix. Unlike Houston or the Clippers, none of the teams have made significant moves. They will rest their hope on in-house development, from players like Kawhi Leonard on the Spurs and Jeremy Lamb and Kevin Durant on the Thunder, to improve their chances to go deep in the playoffs.

The Golden State Warriors are another team that many have written in to be championship contenders, mainly because of the promising and still-developing core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala. But injuries will always remain an issue with this team, and Iguodala’s addition creates a logjam at the wing position, so optimism should be guarded.

A few other intriguing teams to watch for are the Denver Nuggets and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Denver made some questionable changes to last year’s 57-win roster, which has led to many pundits predicting a very steep drop-off. The team still has talent though, and with the fun and enigmatic Javale McGee starting as center this year, games should be interesting. Minnesota should also be enticing, with Kevin Love returning from injury to join young talents Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Derrick Williams. But staying healthy has long been — and will continue to be — a major concern for this team.

For the teams on the outside of the playoff picture, hope may lie on the horizon with the 2014 NBA draft, which many have predicted will be among the best of all time. As a result, accusations of certain teams losing to gain a better draft position will run more rampant than ever.

This season, the NBA looks electrifying from top to bottom. Make sure to stay tuned.

Anton Li is a contributing writer. Email him at sports@nyunews.com.

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