NBA SEASON 2014-15 REGULAR SEASON PREVIEW
It’s that time of year again. The NBA will embark on another long, grueling 82 game season which will excite and entertain basketball fans around the world.
Below is my team by team preview with my predictions of how each division will finish. The numbers in brackets next to the teams are their regular season stats from last season.
New York Knicks
TORONTO RAPTORS – (48-34)
Big Three: Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, Amir Johnson.
Toronto surprised many last season by taking advantage of the squabble in NY to sneak up on both and take the division with a franchise win record. After a slow start they were led to success by Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan. What they lacked in star quality they made up for in consistency and I feel that will put them in good stead to possibly land another divisional title this term.
BROOKLYN NETS – (44-38)
Big Three: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez.
The Nets traded the inexperienced head coach Jason Kidd for Lionel Hollins who did wonders at the Grizzlies but they are an aging and injury prone team. With that being said, if their big three can stay healthy and they get big contributions from the likes of new signings Bojan Bogdanovic and Jarrett Jack as well as Kevin Garnett, they could push Toronto for the division this season.
NEW YORK KNICKS – (37-45)
Big Three: Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stodemire, J.R. Smith.
As usual, all eyes will be on Carmelo, we all know he will deliver points but what will his attitude be like and will he get support? The Knicks will hope the combination of new GM (since March) Phil Jackson and new coach Derek Fisher can help awaken this sleeping giant. To do that Carmelo will need the likes of J.R. Smith, Stoudemire, the young Tim Hardaway Jr and new signings Dalembart to be consistent in an inconsistent team.
BOSTON CELTICS – (25-57)
Big Three: Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Brandon Baas.
The Celtics will again struggle for me but they do show some signs of potential with a group of young talent that could benefit from a season together. Green will be the only decent support for Rondo who I suspect will continue to have less affect as the season goes on. They will however, continue to build with the likes of James Young, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, and Jared Sullinger all looking exciting for the future.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS – (19-63)
Big Three: Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Jason Richardson.
Aside from a breakout season for rookie of the year Carter-Williams, I’m really struggling to find any positives for the second worst team in the NBA. Noel is back after almost two years out due to injury, he has quality but will need to adapt. It is no exaggeration to say a lot of their hopes will rest on winning the draft pick lottery but judging by their recent luck I wont hold my breath. I expect another very long, very hard season for the 76ers.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – (33-49)
Big Three: LeBron James, Kyrie Irvine, Kevin Love.
Even with the heroic efforts of Irvine last term the Cavaliers missed out on the play offs. I’m sure it’s safe to say that wont happen this time around. With King James back in his home town they have been elevated from missing the play offs to title contenders. Love’s signing has added weight to this in what is sure to be the most exciting and explosive season Cavaliers fans has ever seen.
CHICAGO BULLS – (48-34)
Big Three: Derrik Rose, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol.
For the past two seasons I’ve said “much will depend on the fitness of Rose” That is no more prominent that this term. Rose has gradually been building his playing time over the course of the last two years, now he needs confidence of regular games to be back to his very best. The Bulls have impressed in the way they have dealt with his loss and now look to have an impressive roster with new signing Gasol, adding to the likes of Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Mike Dunleavey and Jimmy Butler in what could be a much improved Bulls this year.
INDIANA PACERS – (56-26)
Big Three: Roy Hibbert, Paul George, David West.
The alarm bells are already ringing for the Pacers with the injury to Paul George who’s expected to miss the early part of the season. That, combined with no Lance Stevenson will put extra pressure of Hibbert to perform and we all know how inconsistent he can be. Points will be a problem so they will have to rely heavily on their defensive capabilities and hope the likes of David West, George Hill, Rodney Stuckey and CJ Miles can perform.
DETROIT PISTONS – (29-53)
Big Three: Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Andre Drummond.
I think going forward the Pistons are a very good team and individually they have some very good players but defensively is where they struggle and need work. Along with their big three, Jodie Meeks could prove to be a very shrewd acquisition. Greg Monroe is another player that stood out. Unfortunately Detroit’s been labelled as a team full of individuals rather than individuals that make up a team and this is what will cause them to miss out on the play offs.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS (15-67)
Big Three – Larry Sanders, Brandon Knight, OJ Mayo.
The Bucks had the distinguished accolade of being the worst team in the NBA and I haven’t seen much that will change that, but at least they look to be building a foundation. Jabari Parker looks a great draft pick for an athletic, fast breaking team who will compliment the big three along with the defensive abilities of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ersan Ilyasova and Zaza Pachulia will also hope to make the season somewhat respectable.
MIAMI HEAT – (54-28)
Big Three: Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng
The post King James era will begin for the Heat and no doubt it will be a rocky start. An aging Wade will need to stay fit while Deng, who I think is a good acquisition will need to come to terms with never being able to replace Lebron. The silver lining could be Bosh. Often the third man, he will now have an opportunity to lead, much like he did to good affect at Toronto. He will also receive good support from the ever improving Norris Cole and the likes of Chalmers, Anderson, and draft pick McRoberts. Although a conference final might be a stretch.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS – (44-38)
Big Three: John Wall, Nene, Paul Pierce.
Make no mistake, The Wizards, one of my dark horses will push Miami all the way and quite possibly could pip them to the post. I like the look of their team with young talented players alongside strong, solid experienced ones. To compliment the big three, they have a trio of Brandan Beal, Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries along with Martell Webster in a team with depth and talent, led by Wall who will drive the team forward and excite the fans.
CHARLOTTE HORNETS – (43-39)
Big Three: Al Jefferson, Lance Stephenson, Michael Kidd Gilchrist.
The Bobcats …..Opps I mean the Hornets have a very athletic team and have made some very interesting acquisitions that is sure to strengthen the squad. Make no mistake, they will push the Wizards all the way, thus pushing Miami in what will be a tight division. Stephenson will compliment Jefferson but I will be interested to see how Kidd-Gilchrist’s potential develops along with the likes of Marvin Williams, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and Cody Zeller.
ATLANTA HAWKS – (38-44)
Big Three: Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap
Make no mistake lol – well yes, I do believe the Hawks can push the three teams above them all the way which will make this division the tightest it has ever been, but this does depend on the fitness of Horford. If he stays healthy then it will be full steam ahead, if he has an injury hit season like last term then it will be another struggle. The Hawks are one of the few teams I consider to have a big four with Kyle Korver also making huge contributions.
ORLANDO MAGIC – (23-59)
Big Three: Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris
The third worst team in the NBA last term will have to go a long way to better that this season. A lot of talk’s been about the youngest GM in the league Rob Hennigan who’s been making some shrewd acquisitions for the future. Along with the big three they have the likes of Maurice Harkless, Elrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, Ben Gordon and Channing Frye who all may not mean much now but maybe, just maybe they will in the future. Watch this space.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Portland Trail Blazers
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER – (59-23)
Big Three: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka.
Will this be the year OKC emerge and take a well deserved NBA title? Sadly I highly doubt it although they will again go close. The NBA’s perennial bridesmaids for me still have not added ample help for Durant and Westbrook. Although Perkins will do his best as well as newly acquired Anthony Morrow, who will provide support along with Reggie Jackson, Nick Collison and Steven Adams. OKC will still be too strong for most but again I feel they will fall at the final hurdle.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS – (54-28)
Big Three: LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Robin Lopez.
Portland are one of my dark horses and a team that have increasingly impressed me. The duo of Aldridge and Lillard really excites the fans along with now, not one but a couple of 7 footers in Robin Lopez and Chris Kaman to add physicality. I really love the chemistry of this team which Wesley Williams and Nicolas Batum also contribute to. With not much transfer activity they have a settled squad who may just surprise OKC in this division and maybe the conference.
DENVER NUGGETS – (36-46)
Big Three: Ty Lawson, JeVale McGee, Danilo Gillinaro.
Denver really disappointed last season and was far away from the plays offs. I don’t really expect them to miraculously make the play offs this season but I do expect an improvement. They will be happy to get Gillinaro back from injury and will need big contributions from their big three. They will also need the likes of Aaron Afflalo, Nate Robinson, Timofey Mozgov, Wilson Chandler and Kennith Faried to fulfill the potential this team looks to have on paper.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES – (40-42)
Big Three: Ricky Rubio, Nicola Perkovic, Andrew Wiggins.
The Timberwolves have not made the play offs in ten years and sadly I doubt that will be changing anytime soon. Fortunately they do seem to be building a bright future with some talented youngsters such as Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad and Glenn Robinson. If you add to that the likes of Corey Brewer, Thaddeus Young, Kevin Martin and Anthony Bennett the future looks bright, even though the present is bleak.
UTAH JAZZ – (25-57)
Big Three: Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter.
The Jazz were the worst team in the Western Conference and I doubt that will change. They seem to be constantly building for the future with a younger squad every year. This term is no different with Trey Burke (21), Dante Exum (19), Derrick Favors (23), Gordon Hayward (24), Enes Kanter (22), Alec Burks (23), Rudy Gobert (22), Rodney Hood (21). The Jazz will hope this squad can grow together and finally progress but I wont hold my breath.
Los Angeles Clippers
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS – (57-25)
Big Three: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordon.
I feel the Clippers have amassed a team that’s definitely capable the winning at least a conference title. They are coming off a great season, have a settled team and with the Donald Sterling fiasco behind them it is onwards and upwards. To add to a big three that could grace any team in the NBA, they also have the likes of JJ Redick, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Glen Davis who make the Clippers look like a very capable outfit.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – (51-31)
Big Three: Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson.
When you think GSW you think tremendous three-point shooting. That’s what got them all their success last season with Curry and Thompson performing heroics. Add Iguodala to the mix and you have a very competent trio. If you also add to that David Lee, Andrew Bogut and Shaun Livingston, then you have a squad that’s room for improvement but going places and I’m sure new coach Steve Kerr will be very happy to acquire this squad.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS – (27-55)
Big Three: Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Carlos Boozer.
Amazingly, the Lakers were the second worst team in the Western Conference. I’m willing to bet that wont be the case this season. It will be interesting to see how far Kobe can carry them with his on-going injury issues but a half decent Kobe is still too much for many to handle. Boozer was a shrewd acquisition and will lift some of the pressure, as will Nick Young and newly acquired Jeremy Lin who seems to be a perfect fit. A play off spot will still be a stretch but still possible.
PHOENIX SUNS – (48-34)
Big Three: Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Isiah Thomas.
The Suns are a team where you never quite know what you’ll get. They surpassed expectation last season being there or there bouts, only to miss out on the play offs on the very last day. Rather than motivate, I feel that might hinder the Suns and I doubt they have recovered yet. Newly drafted Thomas will make up their big three but the Morris brothers will also contribute as well as center Miles Plumlee, although I feel they may just miss out again.
Big Three: Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, Carl Landry.
I really feel sorry for Cousins, an excellent player but he’s just not getting any joy with the Kings. With that being said, Gay is also a competent player but aside from that, they have not much else. It’s coming up to ten years since the Kings have been in the play offs and I can’t see any change. The likes of Landry, Jason Thompson and Derrik Williams need to deliver big to stop them finishing the season lower than third worst in the West as they did last term.
San Antonio Spurs
New Orleans Pelicans
SAN ANTONIO SPURS – (62-20)
Big Three: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili.
After destroying the Heat dream team in five games in last year’s final, the Spurs are still the team to beat for me. Even though I don’t expect them to have the best regular season record, Parker and co just know how to get it done when it really matters. Along with the big three, they have Tiago Splitter, Danny Green and of course Kawhi Leonard making them a talented and now experienced outfit who could go all the way again. The team that beats them will probably be the champions.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES – (50-32)
Big Three: Zack Randolf, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley.
I am expecting the Grizzlies to do what I expected them to do last season but didn’t quite. Two season’s ago they were the surprise package but couldn’t handle the higher expectations last year. This time I feel they are ready…Hopefully. Led by Randolf, they will be the same, physically, strong defensive team with Conley who’s for me underrated, adding much in offense. Newly acquired Vince Carter will also try to add to that offensive along with Tayshaun Prince and Courtney Lee. I feel Memphis could roll back the years and again be a surprise package this season.
HOUSTON ROCKETS – (54-28)
Big Three: James Harden, Dwight Howard, Jason Terry.
I thought the Rockets were one of the most promising looking teams last season. Harden really did it all and looked unstoppable at times with Howard finally fitting into a team and looking comfortable. The loss of Parsons and Lin could have upset the apple cart, even with the acquisitions of Terry and Jeff Adrien, along with the likes of Trevor Ariza and Terrence Jones I still feel their losses will hurt them more than their gains. Although I fully expect them to be up there.
DALLAS MAVERICKS – (49-33)
Big Three: Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, Chandler Parsons.
The Mavs finished fourth last season but such was the talent in this division, they still made the play offs. I’m not sure they can afford that luxury this time around. Despite putting up good numbers Nowitzki is not getting any younger or healthier so Chandler and Parsons will really have to pull their weight. Monta Ellis is an exciting young upstart and could have easily made this a big four. They look like a declining team but with contributions from Brandan Wright and Raymond Felton they might just sneak the play offs again but that’s a big might.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS – (34-48)
Big Three: Anthony Davis, Eric Gordan, Omar Asik,
Though they finished bottom of the division, it wasn’t quite a bottom of the league season with Davis looking like a real superstar. Unfortunately he’s playing in a big one and cannot do it all himself. Asik will hope to give him some help with the likes of Gorden, Tyreke Evens, Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson looking to give him some sort of support in a quest to push for an outside play off spot.