The countdown to the NBA season is heating up ! The preseason is done and we’re in the final few days before the start of the regular season. I’ll be honest - I’ve not been a huge fan for long. The 2013-14 season was the first one that I followed closely, and that was because I wanted to know the best teams to ask for transfers to in NBA2K14 MyCareer. But I was smitten by the NBA bug, and I was following developments in the season.
Now that it’s just a few days before the start of the 2014-15 season, I thought I’d take a shot at reviewing the rosters of all the teams, and give my opinion of how I’d expect them to perform.
(And it’s almost 2 weeks into the season by the time I finished this post. So I went ahead and also reviewed the teams’ start to the season.)
I’ll go conference and then division-wise. Starting off.
THE WESTERN CONFERENCE.
- LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
LOB CITY FTW ! \m/ (Sorry if I seem biased here) The onus will be on these three guys. If you ask me, the Clippers’ performance will be directly dependent on the output they get out of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The effect of having Doc Rivers already showed last season, with improved defence and Griffin improving as a shooter. If CP3 stays healthy throughout the season, the Clippers are sure playoff contenders. Griffin looked threatening as a shooter during the preseason and that should make things very interesting. The wild cards here though will be Jamal Crawford and Spencer Hawes. Crawford has been a consistent contributor off the bench, and if that continues, it will be raining heavily from deep. Hawes is a brilliant off-season signing for the Clippers, and he has turned out to be a very efficient rotation player for DJ. My heart wants them to win the title, but my mind says they will be conference semifinalists, or finalists, if things go very well.
- LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Oh, Lakers. Things have been bittersweet for them. Kobe returned, Nash went down again. [UPDATE: Julius Randle too. The rookie must be heartbroken. Definitely not the debut he pictured.] But I think the team can move past at it and focus on the season ahead. The effectiveness of the Boozer-Gasol trade will be on display. The wild card for the Lakers will be Jeremy Lin off the bench. If Linsanity strikes LA, it’ll be huge for the Lakers. Will they reach the playoffs ? Depends on if Kobe lives up to the hype of his return.
- GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
It’s their time ! I really do believe that. The Splash bros can really take this season by storm. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson at their peaks are unstoppable. If they hit their peaks, this will turn out to be a very, very interesting season. Iggy/Barnes-Lee-Bogut in the frontcourt adds a lot of fire power to the already explosive team. Expect them to go deep into the playoffs. Also, it’s very interesting to see this budding Clippers-Warriors rivalry.
- PHOENIX SUNS
Expect some entertainment here, with Gerald Green. Some fun dunks ahead. Eric Bledsoe holds the key to their performance. In my opinion, he’ll have to be the one carrying a major part of the load. It’ll be fun to see two pairs of brothers in action here - the Dragic brothers and the Morris twins. Goran and Zoran Dragic had a good FIBA World Cup - the Suns would love for them to carry that on here.
- SACRAMENTO KINGS
Don’t expect much here. This team doesn’t look like much of a playoff contender. Looks more like a team that’ll be struggling to not be at the bottom of the conference. [UPDATE: And now I’m laughing, because after I said that, they beat the Clippers.] Personally, the only reason to follow this team will be to see if they give Sim Bhullar a game. Also, I’ll miss Darren Collison. The Clippers comeback against OKC in the Conf SFG4 will be remembered.
- SAN ANTONIO SPURS
THE CHAMPS ! I don’t think this is the kind of team that’ll succumb under the pressure of trying to defend the title. They can really hold their own during the regular season, and have a great playoff run. With the Big Three of Parker-Ginobili-Duncan still performing at a high level, the focus will be on their newfound game changer - Kawhi Leonard. Once he returns from injury, he’ll have a lot to prove this season - proving that his MVP-performance at the Finals was no fluke.
- HOUSTON ROCKETS
Hopes were high last season, but they ran into Damian Lillard breaking the Horry Scale. The focus remains the same this season - James Harden and Dwight Howard do the majority of the heavy lifting. Howard is a beast on the boards - being a double-double machine always makes the player a huge asset for the team. What I’ll be really interested to see is if losing Chandler Parsons hurts the Rockets. But nonetheless, a playoff berth seems pretty certain.
- DALLAS MAVERICKS
The Mavs are all about the class of Dirk Nowitzki. Monta Ellis has had a lot of hype surrounding him since he joined the Mavs - he’ll have to step up the performances if he has to make a real impact on the team. Kick up that 19.0 PPG average, and Ellis will be the difference maker. Getting Chandler Parsons is huge for them. He’s coming off a good season where he played a major role for the Rockets - the Mavs will really look for him to continue that.
- MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Marc Gasol is going to be the focus of this team. Mike Conley and Zach Randolph in support. I don’t know what to expect here. If the Grizzlies come up huge, it’ll mix up the West a lot more. I think I’ll just sit back and look forward to some Vince Carter moments.
- NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again - the Brow is going to be the breakout star this season. Anthony Davis is going to make a huge mark this season. He’s had a great run of late, especially with Team USA. He made the most of his increased minutes last season, putting up double-doubles at will. If his form continues throughout this season, I’d say that the Pelicans are in for a great season. Also, MJ was #23, LeBron is #23 and Davis is #23 - are we seeing a trend ?
- OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
They are in a bad, bad state. With Durant and Westbrook out, this team looks ridiculously depleted. Serge Ibaka will have to be the man carrying this team till they return. But what’s really exciting here is the output they can get from the younger players till then - Andre Roberson, Perry Jones and Steven Adams. Adams was pretty impressive during the last postseason, and I think it’ll do him wonders if he carries that forward.
- MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Personally, I think this is one extremely exciting team, with all the young players in the mix. I mean, the fact that 4th-year Ricky Rubio is one of the team’s most experienced players proves how young this team is. With Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett joining Rubio, the Wolves have a great framework for building a grand team for the future. As the experienced campaigners, there will be pressure on Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Thad Young to lead this team. I think if this young team can make it to the playoffs, it’ll be a huge boost for them, and will help the Wolves establish themselves as a force in the league.
- PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS
After what was quite possibly the best moment in Rip City history, they bumped into a Spurs team that didn’t look like it was going to stop. But they had a brilliant season, nonetheless, and it was primarily because of this guy. Damian Lillard had an unbelievable season last year. To prove it, look at his All Star weekend - Rising Stars Challenge, Skill Challenge, Three-pointer Contest, Dunk Contest and the All-Star Game. 5 events over a weekend. You don’t end up with something like that unless you really killed it over the entire season. Lillard had an amazing season, and I think if he carries that forward, the Blazers are in for a great season and possibly, postseason too.
- DENVER NUGGETS
The difference maker. The Manimal is going to have to lead this team forward. Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson will be the ones leading the charge for the Nuggets. But I don’t think this is a playoff team. I may be horribly wrong, but I don’t think they can make it. I’ll be really surprised if they make it to the playoffs.
- UTAH JAZZ
I’m putting up this part of the post right after this happened. Gordon Hayward is fast becoming the icon player for the Jazz. It’ll be interesting to see how much of an impact he has on the team this season - will he be able to guide them into the postseason ? Also, I’ll be really interested to see how much of an impact Dante Exum has. He had a lot of hype coming into the league. Have to wait and see if he’ll live up to it.
So here’s my prediction for the 8 teams in the playoffs from the West - Clippers, Rockets, Warriors and Spurs are sure shot playoff teams. The other spots will be a toss between Pelicans, Suns, Wolves, Grizzlies, Blazers, Mavericks and Thunder (after KD and Westbrook return). I’ll go with Grizzlies, Pelicans, Blazers and Thunder/Wolves (depending on KD & Westbrook’s returns).