With all the blockbuster trades this off-season, we are bound to see unfamiliar teams, but also exciting match ups. The most exciting for most of us is probably Dwight Howard the Rockets verse Kobe and the Lakers. With all the fights, yelling, and unfollowing on twitter, there is bound to be dislike, or even hatred between the teams (or more specifically, Dwight Howard and Kobe).
Then there's the new look Warriors with Andre Iguodala added to the team. That was more of a peaceful leaving, but I can't wait to see how the star studded shooters, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, will interact with Andre Iguodala.
In New York, we have the Nets adding legends: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Will this team use their great talent and wise-being to gain success, or be like the Lakers and be a complete catastrophe?
The Pistons brought in Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith this year. These two are going to have an interesting experience as both are used to being the first option on their team.
And there's the biggest and most prolonged story this off-season - and the past season - and the season before that. This story is Derrick Rose. His return video came out a bit too early-only a year and half ago. But now, Rose is ready. He's better than ever and this huge rest from the game might have just caused a monster to explode. The past four off-season games he's had more than 20 points (22, 32, 24, and 26). Each game he has looked great, quick, and powerful. There's only one thing I see happening this year:
A BULL BEING UNLEASHED FROM HIS CAGE
Not only has Rose been doing well in the off-season, but there's been more swagger and confidence to Rose. He claimed he is the best player in the NBA earlier this July, he says his vertical has increased 5 inches, and his explosiveness is extremely quicker.
Finally, even other players in the NBA are claiming he's better than ever:
"A lot of people criticized him for it and really were upset about him not playing, but it was the best thing for him. I can tell because he looks better." - Kevin Durant
"Same Derrick Rose from two years ago." - Roy Hibbert
I'll have to agree more with the side of Kevin Durant. He's just been looking like a monster in the off-season and I'm expecting great things from him and the Bulls. With that said, I'm expecting the Bulls to go from the 5th to possibly the top spot. Here's how I see the Eastern Conference Standings:
1. Miami Heat - Dwyane Wade, Lebron, and Mario Chalmers swore to lose 10 pounds and this will help with both their explosiveness and quickness (In guarding Derrick Rose). With the addition of Greg Oden, the Heat hopefully can improve their inside.
2. Indiana Pacers - This will be the Pacers 3rd season with George Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, and Roy Hibbert. Their chemistry as its highest and with the addition of outside shooting, they are quietly coming into the 2014 season with a monstrous team.
3. Chicago Bulls - The Bulls finished 5th last season in the Eastern Conference without Rose, and with Rose, their offense and defense will only become better (With Rose in 2012, the Bulls had the 7th best defense in the NBA. Without Rose in 2013, the Bulls had the 15th best defense). Finally, like the Pacers this team has some experience together - This is the 3rd season with Rose, Boozer, and Noah on the team.
4. Brooklyn Nets - The Nets have made huge off-season moves with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry. They now have a possible hall of famer/current all-star at every position: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez. I don't see them imploding like the Lakers from last year, but I don't see them exploding out of the gate like the Heat in 2010. If they keep this team together, they'll be great and going to the Finals in future years.
5. New York Knicks - This was the worst year for the Knicks to come together and get Metta World Peace. The East is now growing into a monster conference with more mature teams and better players. I can't see them getting past the Heat, Pacers, Bulls, and the Nets are up for grabs. The Heat are too talented, the Pacers are too big, the Bulls are too big and have Derrick Rose, and the Nets are in the first year so they have a chance to take the 4 seed.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavs have recent pick ups of Andrew Bynum and Anthony Bennett. With this and Kyrie Irving, they will hopefully be a playoff team. Like the Nets, this is their first year together and I don't see them exploding in their first year. If Andrew Bynum inherits Dwight Howards mentality, the Cavs will implode and might not even make the playoffs. Its all up to Andrew Bynum this year.
7. Detroit Pistons - The Pistons are coming in with new additions of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith. Just by adding these players, they add themselves into the playoffs. With Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond continuing to be down low, I'm seeing the Pistons have a pretty good year.
8. Washington Wizards - At this point in the standings, you're just trying to find a team that has a chance of making the playoffs. The Wizards fit this and I also have a reason for taking them at the 8 seed: John Wall and Bradley Beal are going to explode this season. John Wall averaged nearly 19 PPG and this is only going to increase this season. Beal is in his second season and played great in his first season (14 PPG and a 38% three point percentage). Now, his minutes are going to increase and the Wizards will have a great guard duo.
Since I'm predicting the eastern conference, I might as well give you my western conference predictions:
1. San Antonio Spurs - Every year is, "They're too old, they can't stay at the top." Well, every year they prove us wrong and I'm thinking of putting them as the number 1 team for the western conference for the next 100 years. The Spurs signed key players back: Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter. They still have their center pieces (Timmy and Parker) and now they have great young players (Kwahi Leonard, Danny Green, DeJuan Blair, and Boris Diaw). I'm expecting Kwahi Leonard to have the ball more this season and grow into a superstar in the future. YES. A SUPERSTAR. He has the potential and Poppovich will coach him up to let him become one. For now, Leonards talents, mixed with the talented and legendary Timmy (and Parker) will lead the Spurs back to the top of the west.
2. Golden State Warriors - This Andre Iguodala move was the best move the Warriors could have made. The season before the Warriors were great on defense, but lacking the defensive power house at the guard position. Andre Iguodala brings great defense and great passing to the Warriors - Both what the Warriors need to accompany Curry and Thompson. The best part of the trade with Andre is he doesn't want the ball too much. Last year he only shot 11 field goal attempts per game. This still lets Curry, Thompson, and Lee shoot the same amount of shots as last season. Basically, the Warriors great offense becomes an even better offense, and their already good defense becomes a great defense.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder - You can't go wrong with Kevin Durant on your team. However, when you only have Durant and take away two of his best surrounding players, things can slip a little. The Thunder no longer have Kevin Martin and Russell Westbrook is now injured for the first 4-6 weeks of the season. Even after his knee surgery, there's no gurantee Westbrook will be the same. I don't see Durant and Ibaka leading the west this year, but I do see them heating up near the end of the season to gain the 3rd spot.
4. Los Angeles Clippers - With the signing of Chris Paul, the Clippers signed their way into the playoffs. Now its up to Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford, and the surrounding cast to get them high in the standings. The Clippers outstanding teamwork will only increase with the addition of Doc Rivers, Darren Collison, Jared Dudley, and JJ Redick.
5. Memphis Grizzlies - I've loved this team since day one, but I don't see them getting past the teams ahead in the standings. They're missing that one player that is just super star status. I consider Zach Randolph a star, but they're no where near Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker, Lebron James, Danny Granger/Paul George, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, and Carmelo Anthony. You see? Every team in the top 5 for east and west has a super star, but the Grizzlies! Look back at all the NBA Champions and you'll see every team had one player that was just, "oh yea, that's him" (With 1-2 exceptions). However, they are still a great team who deserve recognition.
6. Los Angeles Lakers - Kobe is back - And even better....without Dwight. Losing Dwight Howard might have been the best thing for the Lakers as I could never see that combination work after last season. Now, they can go back to simpler times with Kobe taking the shots, Gasol chipping in, and Steve Nash distributing. The only reason they are this low is because they lost Metta and they lack a big man. Metta fit with that team perfectly and now the Lakers will suffer with less spread of the floor (3 pointers are gone) and less of a defensive presence (No stopping Durant, Lebron, Melo). How are they going to play the center position? Put Gasol at center? That could work, but it won't work nearly as well as when they had Andrew Bynum. Kobe is back, but the Lakers will still struggle.
7. Houston Rockets - This team scares me, and not in a good way. We have Dwight Howard and James Harden playing along together with a point guard that loves picks and rolls. First off, Dwight Howard demands the ball and cries over any game he doesn't get the ball. Second, the Rockets love the pick and roll and Dwight Howard has complained constantly about the pick and roll. I think this team can become great, but it will take A LOT of time for this set up to sink in.
8. Denver Nuggets - This team had possibly the worst off-season among all NBA teams. They lost their coach, star Andre Iguodala, and Corey Brewer. Now they're left with Danilo Gallinari and its surroundings. I don't see these players leading a surge past super stars like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Kevin Durant. I'm giving this seven spot, because they have good players, but they won't make it far this season - just like the Grizzlies, they need to go out and get a super star.
Now that's how I see this season shaping up. Let me know what you think by putting your thoughts in the comments below. I'm really interested on how you think LAL and Houston will end up and how the new look Nets will look with the return of Rose.
In the playoffs, its going to be crazy like last year. There's going to be games coming down to the last shot, there will be crazy 20-0 runs and comebacks (Hopefully not against my Knicks again. I broke my iPad watching the end of game 6.....). This is how I see the playoffs shaping up.
Eastern Conference First Round:
Miami Heat vs Washington Wizards - Heat in 5 - Do I seriously need to explain this one?
Indiana Pacers vs Detroit Pistons - Pacers in 5 - The Pacers big men will dominate the Pistons younger big men, and the Pacers Granger and George will be unstoppable.
Chicago Bulls vs Cleveland Cavaliers - Bulls in 6 - A great match up between Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving. In this, I got the Bulls great big men (Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer) winning the defensive rebound battle against Cleveland (Andrew Bynum and Anthony Bennett). The Bulls Luol Deng and Derrick Rose will be let loose against Cleveland's loose guard defense. The Bulls great defense will be able to hold Kyrie to less than an explosion of greatness.
Brooklyn Nets vs New York Knicks - Nets in 7 - This could kick off the rivalry. Sure they can play in the regular season, but its useless unless its in a big situation. What's more intense for these teams than a 7-game series? Anyways, the Nets veterans and wonderful surrounding cast just outnumbers and outplays the Knicks line up. Deron Williams > Raymond Felton, Joe Johnson > JR Smith, Paul Pierce > Iman Shumpert Paul Pierce < Carmelo Anthony (exception), and Brook Lopez > Tyson Chandler. I also don't see JR Smith having a great season (in fact I see him having a horrendous season), and I see him breaking some teams chemistry. Finally, other than individual players, the Knicks have worse bench and less depth than the stacked Nets.
Western Conference First Round:
San Antonio Spurs vs Denver Nuggets - Spurs in 6 - The Spurs are aging and the Nuggets are a young team. I see this advantage for the Nuggets as a chance for them to sneak past them in a couple games. However, the Spurs are the more mature, ready, and plain old, the better team.
Golden State Warriors vs Houston Rockets - Warriors in 5 - The Warriors match up well against Houston. Stephen Curry vs Jeremy Lin is a great match up, but I'd give the upper hand to Curry. Andre Iguodala could hold Houston's number one scorer: James Harden. Andrew Bogut is a very good defender who could help contain D-12. Finally, David Lee would by left to be guarded by slower Dwight Howard or Omer Asik, or inexperienced power forwards on the Rockets.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs Los Angeles Lakers - Thunder in 6 - Kevin vs Kobe. Two of the clutchest players in a playoff situation seems like a fantasy, but in this series, it could come to life. However, I'd give the upper hand to OKC for being a better team and having the favorable match ups again: Russell Westbrook would destroy the aging Steve Nash, Kobe vs Thabo Sefolosha would be an interesting great defense vs great offense match up, Durant vs ??? (Metta's gone, will Kobe have to guard Durant!?), Serge Ibaka vs Pau Gasol (Great defense vs good offense), and finally Kendrick Perkins vs ??? (Lakers future center). The Thunder have all the match ups in their favor with possibly the exception of Kobe and Thabo, and I know Kevin Durant will not allow the Thunder to be out in the first round. The Thunder have better chemistry, more will to win, and the better match ups.
Los Angeles Clippers vs Memphis Grizzlies - Grizzlies in 7 - These two teams will meet for the third straight time in the first round, and also for the third straight year will be these two teams going to seven games. This series has been, and will be, all about toughness. This is grit vs grind. However, although the game and series will be close, I have to give the series advantage to the Grizzlies this year. Last season, they fit perfectly with Tayshaun Prince and with that settled, will be able to force the Clippers to slow the game down and play in favor of the Grizzlies style of play. This will come down to great team chemistry vs great team chemistry with the Grizz winning out because of toughness and grit.
Eastern Conference Second Round:
Miami Heat vs Brooklyn Nets - Miami Heat in 7 - From Boston to Brooklyn the former Celtics verse the Heat would be an amazing series. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett would never allow the series to be less than 6 games. Saying that, I would have to go with the Heat for the fact that one team has Lebron James and the other one does not. This might be the final run for the Big Three and I see Lebron taking them farther than just the second round in the playoffs. Finally, this is the Nets first year, with an inexperienced coach. The team has not played together, and Kidd is in his first year. The Heat are in their 4th or 5th year together and they have experienced coach, Erik Spoelstra.
Indiana Pacers vs Chicago Bulls - Pacers in 7 - This series would be my dream series. Two tough, grind-it-out teams going head to head for a chance to face the defending champions. However, in the end, I have to go with the Pacers. They have the best front court in the NBA combined with returning Danny Granger and rising super star, Paul George. The Bulls have a great front court, but every game last season were out rebounded by the Pacers. The Bulls do have returning Derrick Rose, but since George Hill joined the Pacers in 2012, Derrick Rose has only averaged 16 PPG with 36% shooting from the field. The Pacers seem to know how to slow him down, and I'm expecting the Pacers to figure out how to slow down Rose. I got the Pacers vs Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Western Conference Second Round:
San Antonio Spurs vs Memphis Grizzlies - Spurs in 6 - Both these teams haven't changed much and I believe the Spurs will beat the Grizz for the second straight year. The Grizzlies have a great front court, but the Spurs have a great defensive front court. In last years series, the Spurs held Zach Randolph to 11 PPG. With Randolph not scoring, there was no one there to pick up his scoring. All the Spurs had to last year, and in the future, is stop Randolph. The offense revolves around him, and since they traded Rudy Gay and didn't pick up another scorer, all teams have to do is stop Randolph. With the Spurs, there is Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and now Kwahi Leonard to give the ball to. The only reason this series would go to six games is because of the Spurs age. They can't just sweep through teams anymore.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs Golden State Warriors - Warriors in 7 - This season I am expecting great things from Stephen Curry and his Warriors. Steph Curry showed masterful play last season and would've gone to the Western Conference Finals if it wasn't for one three pointer (Manu Ginobili hitting game winning three) and David Lee's health. Now, if all stays according to plan, the Warriors will be a monstrous team. They have the size to play with any team (on defense and offense), the guards to play with any team (on defense and offense with Iguodala), and they have cemented a great coach and great chemistry with its team. The Thunder won't be able to stop the Warriors great guards, and with Andre Iguodala, the Warriors can defend Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. I don't see the Warriors rolling through the Thunder since they do have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but I see the Warriors as the better team.
Eastern Conference Finals:
Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers - Pacers in 7 - The Heat going out to get Greg Oden was a good move to play against Indiana and Chicago, but it was not good enough. The Heat's biggest players other than Oden (Who are actually going to play) are 6'10 and around 230 pounds. The Pacers have 6'9, 240 and 7'2, 280, pound giants named Roy Hibbert and David West. It's proven from last year that Bosh and Anderson cannot stop Hibbert and West, and getting Oden is not a huge improvement. The most he will play this year is about 20 minutes per game. I'm betting that Oden gets injured before we get to Christmas! The Heat made a mistake not going to get a big man that will last and it will cost them. Finally, Danny Granger coming back will match the aging Dwyane Wade coming back. Indiana is back in the Finals.
Western Conference Finals:
Golden State Warriors vs San Antonio Spurs - Warriors in 6 - I am true believer in the Warriors this year. Last year, the Warriors lost to the Spurs in a 6 game series. They should have pushed it to a seventh game, but they blew the first game due to Manu Ginobili's three pointer. Finally, there was one major reason the Warriors didn't win that season - THEY WERE MISSING THEIR BEST PLAYER, DAVID LEE. Now, with basically the exact same Spurs, the Warriors will beat the Spurs as long as they stay healthy.
Golden State Warriors vs Indiana Pacers - Pacers in 6 - This is probably not what most people would think of the Finals. However, I have given my reasons in the past explanations and I believe this is a good possibility of happening. If this series does occur, I have to give the advantage to the Indiana Pacers. Last year, the main reason Indiana lost to Golden State in one game was because of poor defense against the Warriors great guards: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. However, this year, the Pacers have finished off their roster to fit perfectly on defense and offense. George Hill provides a tough and physical match up which can slow down Curry. Paul George is bigger and tougher than Thompson which will slow down Thompson - especially since Granger is back and George won't have to focus on as much offense.
Speaking of Granger, the Pacers were 1-1 without him against Golden State. If they were one and one without their best scorer (debate-able) and best player (again, debate-able), imagine what they will be like with him. He provides an unstoppable force to the Pacers that the Warriors can't stop.
Finally, the big men of the Pacers will be huge in this series. When the Pacers beat the Warriors, they out scored Golden State by 18 points in the paint. However, when they lost, they only out scored them by 6 points in the paint. If Hibbert and West get going in the paint and push the Warriors around, they win. I believe this year, along with Hibbert only getting stronger this off-season, that the Warriors will force the ball in the paint and win the NBA Finals.
Finally, the Pacers know how to slow down opposing teams. The Warriors love to run and when they do, they usually win. However, when they slow down and have to play slow, their guard combo slows down and they aren't as dynamic. When the game slows down, the Pacers dominate and win. The biggest part to this series is the Pacers slowing down the game. Look at the Eastern Conference Finals from last year: The Heat only had 10 fast break points per game and the Heat had to force the ball in the paint (almost 40 points in the paint per game). The Pacers slowed down the game, and came one game from going to the Finals. Now, the Pacers will slow down the game, use Granger to his advantage, and win the NBA Finals.
NBA Finals Champion: Indiana Pacers
This year there will not be King James winning his 5th MVP. In 2013-2014, Kevin Durant will win his first MVP of his career. Lebron is getting a healthy Wade and Bosh back which means he won't have to do every little thing in every part of the game. Durant, on the other hand, is losing Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin. He's basically going to have to score on about every trip down. If he can lead the Thunder to a 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd place finish in the west, he will be the MVP.
I have other surprising players going for the MVP. Stephen Curry, Derrick Rose, and Chris Paul will be going for the MVP. Last year we saw Curry at an absolute graceful dominance. He's only getting better and he will be in the MVP race. Derrick Rose is Derrick Rose, and now he's better than he used to be. If he is as he claims (higher vertical, best player in the NBA, more explosive than ever), he will definitely be in the MVP race. Finally, Chris Paul is going to have to be big this year. The Clippers are a great team, but yet have still to make the Finals! He has to prove his team is great and that starts with him taking over.
However, I got KD winning 2013-2014 MVP.
That's how I see this year shaking up. There are some different suggestions and predictions, but I'm sticking to them. I want to see how you guys see this year going. Comment in the section below what you agree/disagree with and I'll take into consideration what you believe. Thanks.
1. Miami Heat
2. Indiana Pacers
3. Chicago Bulls
4. Brooklyn Nets
5. New York Knicks
6. Cleveland Cavaliers
7. Detroit Pistons
8. Washington Wizards
1. San Antonio Spurs
2. Golden State Warriors
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
4. Los Angeles Clippers
5. Memphis Grizzlies
6. Los Angeles Lakers
7. Houston Rockets
8. Denver Nuggets
Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers
Golden State Warriors vs San Antonio Spurs
Golden State Warriors vs Indiana Pacers
NBA Finals Champion: