One’s excitement and overall exuberance for the nearing proximity of the new NBA season can only be summed up in the words of the much maligned WWE superstar Daniel Bryan: “Yes!, Yes!, Yes!”
The start of the 2013-14 NBA regular season is just weeks away (Tuesday, Oct. 29) and is worthy of a plethora of “Yes!” chants from fans worldwide.
With that said, it still seems like an eternity until the first tip, but while we all wait, let’s try and rank the top ten teams entering this upcoming NBA season.
#10. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets won the sweepstakes for the services of Dwight Howard this offseason.
Congratulations! Your franchise’s chances of winning the NBA Title just vanished like vapor into thin air, nowhere to be seen, ever again.
I’m just kidding, that’s harsh, but the Howard hoopla over the past year(s) has been exhausting. “I wanna’ play here. Wait, naw. Amnesty Kobe!, (insert Stan Van Gundy impression, somewhere), and yeah, I meant to get tossed in a close-out game for my team…on purpose.”
That attempt at a Dwight Howard impression was as confusing as Dwight himself. I’m trying not to hate on the big guy, but it’s hard not to when looking back at all the embarrassing antics and unneeded press coverage.
Yet, through all the controversy, he now has a fresh start and a super young team to act as a centerpiece up front for.
Adding his talents with the likes of James Harden (best beard in sports/sports entertainment after the aforementioned Daniel Bryan: YES!), Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin gives the Rockets a legitimate chance to contend for the top spot in the West. If Howard can somehow bring a stable focus and effort to his new team, the sky is the limit.
#9. Los Angeles Clippers
Lob City better move quick or else their reign as the better team in LaLa Land will take a nosedive like a drunk David Hasselhoff attacking an unclaimed cheeseburger on the floor.
Wait a second, I take that back– Jim Buss is still the Lakers’ owner and Hasselhoff is reportedly off the hooch and cheeseburgers?
Anywho, the Clippers look to build on what was a pretty productive offseason for them. They signed star point guard Chris Paul to a 5-year, $107 million contract, added sharpshooting guards J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, and acquired a solid backup point guard in Darren Collison for an extremely cheap rate.
Pretty good offseason, right?
Yes, indeed. But, the team really went in the right direction when they snagged head coach Doc Rivers from the Boston Celtics for an unprotected first-round draft pick in 2015. Rivers is undoubtedly an upgrade over previous head coach Vinny Del Negro not only in the X’s and O’s department of the game, but he brings a championship pedigree.
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan’s games must evolve if this team wants to rule the West. Expect Rivers to hammer this into the big guys and turn the Clips into a true contender from their previous role as an exciting, dunking novelty act.
#8. Golden State Warriors
How can so many’s new favorite team manage to build on the comeback season they had a year ago?
Insert defensive guru Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup.
Iggy gives the Warriors a much needed lockdown perimeter/wing defender, an area where guards Steph Curry and Klay Thompson really struggle. He will also use his pristine athleticism on the wing offensively for the team which will further enhance their already potent offense.
There’s a lot to love about this Warriors team: The Splash Brothers, a talented frontcourt, the best fans in the NBA, fiery head coach Mark Jackson and a deep bench. Many expect the Warriors to make the biggest leap this regular season and find themselves as a top-three seed in the Western Conference–I like that prediction, but can’t seem to shake them as possibly being the leagues biggest disappointment, as well.
They’re young, hoist a ludicrous amount of threes and all of the sudden have a lot of pressure to succeed.
Leadership will be the key to success for this Warrior’s squad. Having veteran starters like Curry and David Lee and young, tough bench players like Draymond Green who are already vocal is a huge positive looking forward.
In the end, it’s difficult not to love this team’s overall versatility and like their chances.
#7. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets were the key beneficiary of one of the strangest, out of nowhere trades in recent memory. They acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics in return for three future first-round draft picks and some overpaid glorified role players.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov wasn’t messing around this offseason and doesn’t want to wait for a title. KG, Pierce and Terry are all savvy, veteran players that can still contribute mightily, and that’s what Prokhorov and new head coach Jason Kidd are banking on.
Adding these three into the mix with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez make the Nets as exciting as any team in the league and put added pressure on the other New York franchise to get their act together.
Once this deal went down and projected lineups came out, everyone immediately jumped on the Brooklyn bandwagon and declared the Nets as the team that would take down the Miami Heat.
This very well could be true if all the pieces fit and age/injuries don’t become a factor, but it’s much too early to tell. So remove an extra seat off the bandwagon, because for now, they’re a top-three to middle of the pack team in the East with the potential to be good…real good.
#6. Oklahoma City Thunder
Will the James Harden trade forever haunt the Thunder? Is there a new Curse of the Bambino or Bobby Layne?
The Curse of the Blasphemous Beard?
Alright, I’m done now. Definitely looking too far ahead on this one. In all seriousness, the Harden trade really didn’t make much sense and the Houston Rockets really cashed in.
Let’s remember, though. If Russell Westbrook doesn’t go down in the first round of the playoffs, who knows what happens. This will be the team in the league that people start looking past, and this works emphatically to the Thunder’s advantage.
Expect Serge Ibaka to have a bounce back year and assume his role in the Thunder Big Three. Westbrook, whose game is much better than his fashion sense, hopefully won’t lose any of his ankle-breaking quickness following his surgery. And most importantly, Kevin Durant as usual, will compete for MVP and try and carry the team back to the Finals.
When you have a talent like Durant leading the charge, there’s always a chance to win it all.
#5. Chicago Bulls
Dear Windy City,
Your perennial All-Star, former MVP point guard is back.
Derrick Rose is back and the rest of the league better take notice. Pre-injury, the Bulls were shaping into an elite force in the East, and even during his absence managed to win 45 games and make it to the second round of the playoffs.
What hurt the Bulls so much last year without Rose was the offense. The Bulls were 29th in the NBA in scoring (93.2 points per game) whereas the year before his injury they were 18th in the NBA (96.3).
The most consistent factor of this Bulls team is the defensive emphasis coach Tom Thibodeau has installed. Last year they were third in points per game allowed (92.9) and the year before, with Rose, were ranked first only giving up a remarkable 88.2 points per game.
What these stats prove is obvious: Rose’s presence makes this team better on both sides of the floor. The Bulls can only hope that Rose can mentality move past his injury and re-establish himself as a top three player in the league.
#4. San Antonio Spurs
The rugged, veteran, Popovich-led Spurs are always in the picture for the NBA Title and this year will be no different. If Ray Allen didn’t go all Jesus Shuttlesworth on them last year, we’d be talking about how the other 29 teams in the league are supposed to try and knock the Spurs off the top of the Association.
The question with the Spurs is: do they have enough gas left in the tank?
This thought has been brought up year after year because of the aging players on the roster who are the staples of the franchise. Last year, they proved that they have a whole let left in the tank taking the powerful Miami Heat to a Game 7.
Tim Duncan was outstanding throughout the playoffs, and in particular, the NBA Finals. Not only was the play of Duncan so key, the evolution of young players like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green gave this team a much needed spark.
The one area of the Spurs that seemed to really hurt them was the play of 36-year-old Manu Ginobili. Ginobili’s play in the Finals was abysmal and really cost them. It’s hard to put down a player who’s done so much and is one of the greatest Euro-born players in NBA history, but he has to play better next season and really earn his newly awarded 2-year, $14 million deal or his role must diminish even further.
#3. Memphis Grizzlies
Any team that can assemble a frontcourt as big and talented as the Memphis Grizzlies has the make up of a squad that can challenge the reign of the Miami Heat.
I don’t think many basketball fans expected the San Antonio Spurs to manhandle the Grizzlies like they did in the Western Conference Finals last postseason, but expect this team to really bounce back and learn from what happened.
Re-signing Tony Allen was a great move by the Grizzlies and ensures them of having the best perimeter defender in the league back in their lineup. They traded for Kosta Koufos which gives them yet another talented big in their frontcourt and further depth.
Nothing the Grizzlies did this offseason really jumps off the map, but they managed to improve a team that was already a contender and not lose any key pieces. This team will be nasty defensively and should improve offensively under new head coach Dave Joerger, who wants to pick up the pace a bit more and spread the floor with perimeter shooters.
And hey, the Grizz were just named the best overall professional sports franchise among 122 teams in the four major North American sports leagues by ESPN.
What’s not to like about that?
#2. Indiana Pacers
Many may not agree with this one, but I can’t think of a team more deserving of the two spot than the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers showed so much grit and toughness in their series with the Miami Heat last postseason that it’s hard not to slot them in the two spot. Head coach Frank Vogel has changed the attitude and culture in Indiana and expect this franchise to only improve and contend year after year in the East.
The Pacers are very similar to the Memphis Grizzlies in the sense that they are bullying up front. The Pacers also have stronger wing play with the likes of Paul George and the returning Danny Granger.
The only worrying part of the Pacers lineup is guard play. It’s not deep and inconsistent.
George Hill is a capable point guard, but can he lead the Pacers to a title? Hill needs to assume an almost Mario Chalmers-like role. Is he an awe-dropping talent? No, but he will go off in a crucial playoff game for 25 points.
The biggest key working in the Pacers’ favor is the team’s overall balance. They are very similar to the Detroit Pistons’ title team in 2004 on the grounds that they don’t have a superstar, play outstanding defensively, deep in the frontcourt and aren’t afraid to smack you in the mouth.
For those reasons, that’s why I believe the two teams with the most legitimate shot of knocking off the Miami Heat are the Pacers and Grizzlies.
#1. Miami Heat
It’s obvious who the number one team heading into the 2013-14 NBA season is. They’re not just number one because they’re the defending champs, or because they have the best player in the world in LeBron James, it’s because they have these things and they further improved their team during the offseason.
How can you possibly better a two-time defending NBA title squad?
Well, how about adding a former No. 1 overall pick in Greg Oden and former No. 2 overall pick in Micheal Beasley? That’s how.
Yes, it’s true, both players carry a massive amount of baggage. Oden, 25, has already had five knee surgeries (FIVE!). Beasley has successfully garnered more attention for his off court shenanigans, particularly for his preference of marijuana, than his actual on court game.
But, when you’re the back-to-back champion Miami Heat, you can make these bold moves. What do they have to lose? Basically nothing.
If these two players can conquer their hindrances, the Miami Heat could be unstoppable to the point of contending for the all-time regular season wins record held by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
The only thing on King James and the Heat’s mind is a three-peat and the only thing that will stop it from happening are themselves.
Miami Heat vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Heat win series in six.
And onward to The Decision: Part Deux.