The 2013-14 NBA season has officially tipped off and The Stack is here to preview the upcoming season. There is a lot to get to (storylines, playoff teams, championship pick and more) so let's get right to the NBA preview that you demand in "the stack" for today, Wednesday, October 30:
There are a number of storylines to begin the NBA season, even more so than usual or so it seems. Too many to count and get into, but some of the biggest include:
- Miami's quest for three in a row. LeBron James has been MVP in what, four of the last five years? He's the best player in the NBA and teaming up with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and company, the Heat are clearly the frontrunners to win the NBA title for a third straight year. Everyone is gunning for them. They're hated. Yet, the Heat have the talent to win a third straight NBA Finals. Few teams have ever accomplished the feat. The Heat want to make history.
- Derrick Rose is back. Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose missed the entire season last year due to a torn ACL and plenty of people thought that the he could have and perhaps should have attempted to comeback for the Bulls playoff run. Rose wanted to be sure he was 100 percent and last year he never felt fully right mentally or physically. He's worked on a lot of things in the offseasons and feels better than before the injury. He's got more jump, his shot is better and he's ready to help the Bulls challenge the Heat.
- The new look Brooklyn Nets. The Brookyln Nets made a huge splash during the NBA Draft when they traded for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics in exchange for a few guys and a few first round draft picks. The Nets are in complete win now mode. Their roster is chalk full of veterans on their last legs....with a new head coach (Jason Kidd) who just retired last year. The Nets feel like they can take down the Heat. We're about to find out.
- The Doc will see you now. Doc Rivers is now with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Celtics receiving picks for him. It may be well worth the compensation. Chris Paul seems to love Rivers and Rivers can really help Blake Griffin and the rest of the Clippers roster that seem destined to be one of the best teams in the NBA and by far the best team in L.A.
- Superman in Houston. Dwight Howard had a year to forget in Los Angeles last year as a member of the Lakers. Teaming up with James Hardin, Jeremy Lin and and a host of others, the Rockets are a definite sleeper this year.
- When will Kobe comeback? Most likely, Kobe Bryant will be back in a few weeks, maybe a month. The bigger question is though, what will he be like when he steps back on the court. Surely he won't be his same Black Momba from recent years, but just how good will Bryant be? He needs to be really good or the Lakers will miss the playoffs. The NBA anxiously awaits Kobe's return.
These are just a few of the many storylines that in the NBA early on this season. The questions undoubtably will be answered sooner versus later, but plenty of other questions and storylines will pop up as the season progresses.
It all starts with Miami. The big three are on a mission. Win three in a row. Only the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers have ever done it. The Heat are more than just the big three with good guys like Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole. They brought in Greg Oden, who if healthy, can be a big post presence that the Heat haven't had the last couple of years. Until he stays healthy though, the doubts are valid. Still, the Heat are the team to beat in the east.
Several teams are up to the challenge of challenging the Heat for eastern conference and NBA supremacy. The Chicago Bulls and their defensive minded approach are close to getting past the Heat and with Derrick Rose back healthy and everything, they have a great shot because of how they play on the defensive end. Rose is the catalyst though and the reason why the Bulls can top the Heat this year.
Don't count out Brooklyn. May as well call them the other Boston team considering KG, Paul Pierce and Terry Allen are now with the Nets. There are so many good players on this team, but the Nets success is going to come down to a few factors. One, they must stay healthy. This team is older. The average age of the roster is near the top of the league. Two, the head coach. Jason Kidd was just playing the game last year. Now he's a head coach. How will he handle crucial situations and this talented roster? He hasn't done it before. Ultimately the age of the roster and inexperience of the head coach could be the team's downfall...or it could be the beginning of a beautiful season.
Some people may forget, but the Indiana Pacers played the Heat to a game seven in the eastern conference finals last year. They could be even better this year. The team was young last year. Paul George, Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert are studs. As they continue to grow into their NBA bodies and mature more in terms of their play. The Pacers have a lot of talent and will be right up there competing up until the very end.
It seems pretty reasonable that Miami, Chicago, Brooklyn and Indiana are the elite teams in the eastern conference. New York is good and will make some noise, but ultimately, they don't have the talent the previously mentioned teams do. Carmelo Anthony will take too many shots and they won't be efficient. Boston is in complete rebuilding mode after trading away pretty much their entire roster. Have fun this year Brad Stevens. Anything is possible with Rajon Rondo, but with this roster, I don't think so. Orlando should be better getting Victor Olidipo. But they're a few years away. Charlotte and Washington have optimism they haven't had in years. Borderline/sleeper playoff teams. Philadelphia may be the worst team in the league. Detroit may be back in the playoffs thanks to the additions of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. The eastern conference is going to be interesting.
Elite: Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers
Close: New York Knicks
They'll be there, but don't take them seriously: Atlanta Hawks
Rising: Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks
Better luck next year: Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers
Eastern Conference Playoff Projection
1. Miami Heat
2. Chicago Bulls
3. Brooklyn Nets
4. Indiana Pacers
5. New York Knicks
6. Detroit Pistons
7. Atlanta Hawks
8. Washington Wizards
While the western conference may not have the great teams like the eastern conference, it is still really compelling. The Los Angeles Clippers have a new head coach in Doc Rivers and based on what he did in Boston, expect the Clippers to take that next step. Chris Paul is an MVP candidate, Blake Griffin is an all-star (at least an all-star dunker) and the team has a compliment of other good players like Jamal Crawford who is a sixth man of the year candidate. The Clippers have made the playoffs each of the past couple of seasons, but haven't really taken that next step. They hope that Rivers can take them to that next step.
How will the San Antonio Spurs respond after that devastating finish in the NBA Finals. They had a championship in their grasp, but thanks to a couple of missed free throws and some fantastic three point shooting by the Heat, the championship was stolen from the Spurs. They are an old team mixed with some young talent like Kawhi Leonard. After what happened last year, was that the Spurs last real chance to make an NBA Finals run?
The Oklahoma City Thunder have plenty of questions surrounding them? There has bee talk in recent weeks that Kevin Durant may leave them to go team up with James Hardin in Houston, feeling that the Thunder haven't done enough to win a championship. No question that losing Hardin in the offseason last year hurt the Thunder last year. Couple that with the Russell Westbrook injury in the playoffs last year (he's expected to miss a few weeks of the regular season) and the Thunder find themselves in a precarious situation. It's going to be really interesting to see how this team responds and if Durant will be able to put the team on his back and lead them as one of the top teams in the western conference. My guess is yes.
The Houston Rockets are a very compelling team adding Dwight Howard to the mix along with Hardin and Jeremy Lin. They have some other young talent as well. Hardin was sensational last year. Some of his performances were stunning. Imagine him with a guy like Howard. It might take a little time, but the Rockets will form that chemistry and make themsevles a serious threat in the western conference this year.
The Los Angeles Lakers are compelling just because you don't know how they're going to do this year. How will Kobe Bryant play when he comes back from his ruptured Achilles? Do the Lakers have enough talent outside of Bryant that they can stay afloat until he comes back? Even when Bryant comes back, how will he play? Will he be a shell of himself? Should the Lakers just make the playoffs this year, I feel as though it would be a tremendous achievement. There are plenty of other good teams in the western conference. Will the Minnesota Timberwolves with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio finally make the playoffs? Will Memphis be just as good as last year? What will the Golden State Warriors do for an encore performance after last year? The west is unsettled and it will be a race until the very end.
Elite: Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs
Close: Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies
They'll be there, but don't take them seriously: Los Angeles Lakers
Rising: Portland Trailblazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks,
Better luck next year: New Orleans Pelicans, Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns
Western Conference Playoff Projection
1. Los Angeles Clippers
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
3. Houston Rockets
4. Golden State Warriors
5. San Antonio Spurs
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
7. Memphis Grizzlies
8. Los Angeles Lakers
Finals prediction and awards
Eastern Conference Finals
Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat
Western Conference Finals
Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Miami Heat
Coach of the Year
Sixth Man of the Year
The NBA season has officially tipped off. Should be a fantastic season. Enjoy the basketball everyone.
Coming up Thursday: TNF preview, World Series recap and more.