Ell’s 2013-2014 NBA Preview

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November 4, 2013 by Ell and Mike Sports

NBA Preview

new celts

New Look Celtics – Can they make it to playoffs? The team no longer has Coach Doc Rivers to lean on and long time captain, SF Paul Pierce, is now in New Jersey alongside the former Defensive Leader PF Kevin Garnett. The Celts now rely on a young team to get the job done led by PG/SG Avery Bradley and SF Jeff Green. Are they rebuilding or in transition? Is this a team that will fight hard for their playoff spot or a team looking ahead to develop their young talent and continue to add draft picks? Will they keep Rondo once he returns? Star PG Rajon Rondo is still not healthy after a torn ACL suffered last season. However, will the Celts want him in the lineup based on where they stand playoff wise or could he be a player to put them over the hump? New coach is he ready for NBA? The Celtics go with the lesser known coach, Brad Stevens, out of Butler who is known to have a bright basketball mind and is still very young at 37 years old. However, a transition to the NBA may not be easy, but how he develops at what shows in his 1st season will be key.

Lakers – Do they have enough to compete? No C Dwight Howard, SF Metta World Peace, PF Antawn Jamison, and SF/PF Earl Clark, insert PG Jordan Farmar, SG/SF Wes Johnson, C Chris Kaman and SG Nick Young. This is not an upgrade in any way in addition to Kobe’s injury, but these players are adequate role players (minus Johnson) who should find ways to contribute.  How long without Kobe? With the additions and losses to this team in free agency, the team can’t survive long without Bryant, but he must take his time after a serious injury. Everyone on the team will need to play a bigger role in his absence and make sure Kobe does not have to put the team on his back. Can they survive? This team appears to be an average team especially by standards of the Western Conference and the longer they go without Kobe the harder it will be to sustain. PF Pau Gasol and Steve Nash will find ways to win some games.

New Look Nets – Chemistry? The chemistry this team has will be the key to the season, as All-Stars all want the ball, but must learn to play together; similar to what happened in Miami. Everyone must learn their role on offense and defense, but it shouldn’t take too long based on the experience of the players and where they are at this point in their careers. Coach Kidd? Another key will be the development of former PG Jason Kidd who is now the 1st year coach of the Nets. He must learn to handle the demands of the vets and also earn the respect of the team as a coach and not a peer, as players like Pierce and Garnett have played against him. The level of coaching Coach Kidd can display in his 1st year will determine how far this team can go.   Are they ready? Coaching and chemistry appear to be the only two things outside of injury that could derail the Nets. They have a strong starting lineup full of experience and talent and a bench which gives them depth to have a solid rotation going deep into the season.

New Look Pelicans – Chemistry? With a change in PG (Jrue Holiday), SG Eric Gordon, and the addition of SG Tyreke Evans, how will the chemistry be on this young team? They played AAU basketball together, but that was a long time ago. However, for a team that needs talent they should be able to make it work. Evans off the bench might be the best move because SF Al-Farouq Aminu is a developing defensive SF who can also rebound. Despite all this offense the development of PF Anthony Davis is the key, so he must get his touches. Can they reach playoffs? The talent is there now, but the chemistry between the young players and their development will be the key for long term success. This team has good all-around pieces, but it will be a tough fight for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Unless Gordon can stay healthy all season and light up scoreboards, Davis turns into an All-Star, Holiday pulls off another All-Star season, and Evans and Rivers overpower people off the bench then they could definitely make it, but this is BEST case scenario. Hype over reality? This will be the main question all season as PG Jrue Holiday must prove his worth on the team after PG Greivis Vasquez was able to put up solid stats as a starter. Holiday is coming off an All-Star season and must continue to improve his game. SG Eric Gordon must prove that he can stay healthy and be a consistent threat to prove his worth. Also, SG Tyreke Evans must prove that he needed a change of scenery and that he will prove to be the player his potential displays.

dwight 

New Look Rockets – Can Dwight fit in? C Dwight Howard should have finally found his fit as he teams up with a young team instead of the veteran Lakers where instead of teaming up with a serious Kobe Bryant he is teaming with a young developing SG James Harden. Dwight can provide solid two-way production as they already have a dirty work center in Omar Asik and good outside players to offset in Harden, SF Chandler Parsons, and PG Jeremy Lin. This is a young developing playoff team that can benefit from a great inside presence like Howard. Will he be happy here? This will be the key thing to watch this season going forward as Dwight never really seemed happy in Laker Land and appears to be signed for the long term in Houston. If Howard can get back to having fun playing basketball again with a good young team, he will be happy here for years to come. He has a good system in place with a player coach like Kevin McHale who knows many post moves to help Dwight from his playing days. Also, Dwight has the help of former Rockets C Hakeem Olajuwon to teach him moves and develop his footwork over the summer which should help Dwight continue to reach his full potential as a player.  Are they a playoff team or championship team? This team could definitely win it all, but the chemistry with the addition of Dwight Howard and injuries pending sky’s the limit. Howard, Asik, and Harden should be able to provide consistent production for the team leading the way to at least the playoffs, but the role playing of Parsons, Lin, and PG Patrick Beverly will be the key to taking this team to another level. PG Aaron Brooks should be a solid backup providing scoring and SG/SF Ronnie Brewer should provide solid perimeter defense. The development of young player SF/PF Terrance Jones and PF/C Donte Motiejunas will be the key for the long term. Jones showed great improvement over the summer in he will be a player to watch as the season goes forward. Motiejunas has put good numbers in his initial NBA season, but he was inconsistent. Playing behind Howard and Asik, Motiejunas should continue to develop and give them a solid big body which is still developing.

Pacers – Can they make the next step with an improved bench? The Pacers added PG C.J. Watson, SF Chris Copeland, and PF Louis Scola. Rookie SF/PF Solomon Hill also showed that he could be a solid athletic addition to the team with room to improve. Watson is a solid reserve PG who can provide a little bit of everything: scoring, defense, rebounding, and passing. He will offset PG George Hill well as both will provide a similar playing style. Copeland showed last season with the Knicks that he can come off the bench and score almost at will using his wingspan to his advantage mostly as a 3-point shooter. Scola is a consistent scorer who will be able to give them another big man in case of injury and production off the bench in a 6th man role.  Paul George getting even better? SF Paul George continues to improve as the leader on this team carry them on the offensive end. If he develops a 3-point shot, then he can be a solid all around player who can really shutdown his opponents with his long wingspan. George is developing into one of the best SFs in the league and he needs to be going up against some of the best in the league like Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, and Lebron James. It will be interesting to see how far he can take the Pacers this year, especially if they meet up with the Heat again in the Eastern Conference finals with this young team a year wiser including their star.

Spurs – Can the Big 3 last another season? The Big 3 always seem ageless and should be able to last another season under monitored minutes. PG Tony Parker has been playing some of his best basketball the last two seasons and should continue to lead the team as the youngest of the trio. PF Tim Duncan continues to play smart using crafty moves and the Spurs have big men that can eat up minutes in the paint. SG/SF Manu Ginobili can still be productive in his normal 6th man role with his minutes monitored to prevent injury; however the Spurs did add SG Marco Belinelli who can provide similar scoring. Can they make it to finals again? The Western Conference gets tougher every season as all teams find ways to improve. The Spurs are one of the deepest teams in the league, but health and the continued growth of the younger players will be the key to how far this team will go as the Big 3 and coaching will always remain a constant. Will the additions be enough to put them over the top? The Spurs seemed to lack another scorer with outside ability once SG Danny Green and Ginobili went cold and SF Kawhi Leonard struggled with his outside shot leading to the addition of Belinelli. Belinelli will give them a nice consistent outside shooter who can shoot lights out even when the pressure is on. PF Jeff Pendergraph will take some of the minutes off of Duncan in the paint providing good defense and rebounding as he develops. If this team performs like last season, they should be deep enough to pull off the big one as Belinelli can provide the extra offense.

Thunder – Can they return to finals? Once PG Russell Westbrook shows that he is 100% after last season’s injury, then this team will definitely be able to contend for a championship. The offense that Westbrook and SF Kevin Durant can provide off each other which could lead to 60+ points of offense combined. The development of the role players will be the key as they need help when they struggle and it always takes a solid team to win it all. The development of the bench will be the key. Do they have enough to continue to grow outside of Westbrook and Durant? The players to watch on this team and their development are SG Jeremy Lamb, C Steven Adams, SF Perry Jones, and PG Reggie Jackson. Lamb should provide good offense and rebounding as he is a solid shooter with long wingspan. Adams is a big body with good defensive presence and shot blocking he should help when C Kendrick Perkins is struggling or foul trouble. Jones is still a raw prospect learning the SF position at the NBA level, but eventually he should be able to put his athleticism to use on a young running team. Jackson has shown that he can be a high volume scorer and can learn a lot from Westbrook as their games similar.

Bulls – Return of D-Rose, Is he ready? After sitting out an extended period of time, PG Derrick Rose is as ready as he can be taking time to add muscle to his frame to prepare for a long year. Rose had made it through a preseason where he lit up the stat sheet showing his usual explosiveness and appears ready to return. He has been working on his 3-point shot which has been shown with the increased number of outside shot and appears to feel comfortable knocking down a spot up jumper. If he can hit these with consistency, it will help offset the inside play of PF Carlos Boozer and C Joakim Noah. The Bulls always needed help spacing the floor and if Rose can help in that department that will be even better.  Can they go to the next step? The Bulls have consistently made the playoffs while keeping their core intact, but making it all the way is the key to their season. The main goal in this process will be keeping Rose healthy, but overall they must get better play from the role players and bench as depth is always good for a long season. SF Mike Dunleavy was brought in to space the floor and he will offset the loss of SG Marco Belinelli. Rookie SG/SF Tony Snell will provide quality minutes spacing the floor and filing the stat sheet and rookie PF Eric Murphy will provide a scoring touch inside. They are expecting an improved effort from backup 2nd year PG Marquis Teague, who played well over the summer. If these players can noise off the bench for the Bulls, then sky’s the limit.   Will they miss PG Nate Robinson n his heroics? PG Nate Robinson could have been the type of x-factor this team needed like he was in the playoffs. However, as mentioned above the combo of Rose and Teague is expected to produce on the offensive end, as well as, setting up others to make plays. If Dunleavy can light up the scoreboard off the bench like he did last season for the Bucks, then he could be a dangerous asset. Deng/boozer on the way out? One thing to watch for this season could be any trade rumors involving SF Luol Deng or PF Carlos Boozer. With the big contracts, the Bulls could want to make a move to lessen the luxury tax blow. Deng is in his final year and contract talks have stalled if they don’t want to lose him for nothing he could be moved. However, he is the perimeter defensive stopper and always steps his game up for the playoffs. Boozer the 2nd highest paid player on the team and his play is inconsistent at times and the Bulls have a lot of big bodies on the team.

bobcats

Bobcats – Are they growing or Same Ol’ Bobcats? Are the Bobcats going to be the same bottom of the barrel team or will they finally make a push in the Eastern Conference. The team added versatile PF/C Cody Zeller who should prove offense, rebounding, and shot blocking. Also, veteran PF/C Al Jefferson gives them a legit scoring option inside for the 1st time ever. Will Al Jefferson make a difference? Jefferson is a proven scoring threat in this league and when he is healthy he can light up the scoreboard. He averaged 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds last year and 16.4 PPG and 9Rebs for his career. This would be a solid addition to a Bobcats team that never had a real post presence and he should match-up well with PG Kemba Walker. However, Jefferson’s struggles will appear on the defensive end, but they have a few big men to pair with him as they find their rotation. Can SF/SG Jeffrey Taylor, PF Bismack Biyambo and Zeller play like they did in Summer League? These players really showed development in the summer games and Zeller put up solid numbers, despite being a rookie. Taylor really surprised me as the go to scorer on the Bobcats Summer League team as he lit up the scoreboard scoring from all spots on the floor. If he can provide any type of offense off the bench to spell Kidd-Gilchrist or Henderson, then he will be a much needed offensive weapon for them going forward. Biyambo really showed his defensive potential over the summer, but he must continue to grow on offense. However, it will be interesting to see if he can co-exist with Al Jefferson. Another new coach how will he do? After a long search of bigger names, the Bobcats go with Lakers Assistant Coach Steve Clifford. He is known as a brilliant basketball mind and he has a long track record as an assistant coach on some good teams. He is an unknown for now, but he does have a better roster to work with than some of the Bobcats coaches before him. It will be interesting to see how many wins they can pull off this season.

New Look Hawks – Can they work their way into playoffs again? The Hawks made the playoffs last season off of solid play by SF/PF Josh Smith (now with Pistons), C Al Horford, and PG Jeff Teague. However, the problem will be replacing the athleticism, defense, and rebounding Smith provided from the PF position. Now, PFs Paul Milsap and Elton Brand have that task of replacing Smith. Milsap has good scoring capabilities as a SF/PF, but is best used as a PF; he is inconsistent at times with his rebounding. Brand at this point in his career can provide a few good big man minutes at the PF position. The Hawks are hoping that C Al Horford gets even better along with PG Jeff Teague, while SG Lou Williams and SF Kyle Korver can repeat their previous success; however there is a new coach. New coach, how will he do? Mike Budenholzer was an assistant coach under Coach Greg Popovich of the Spurs for 16 years and spent 18 years in the organization total. As an assistant to one of the best coach’s in the game Budenholzer could be successful in his 1st stint as a head coach in the league. The direction he leads this team in will also be the key to them making it to the playoffs with the roster as is.

Knicks – Can they finally make it to the finals? The Knicks have a talented roster and can score almost at will behind SF/PF Carmelo Anthony; however the defensive play and PG play will be the key. They did add some good pieces in SF Metta World Peace, PF Andrea Bargnani, and SG Tim Hardway Jr. MWP might be able to provide some much needed defense on both the perimeter and post game. Bargnani should be able to stretch the floor and give them another talented big body in the paint.  Hardaway Jr. should provide a little bit of everything off the bench and should fill-in well while SG J.R. Smith is out. It will be interesting to see how far they make it. Will Melo be on fire like last year? Carmelo seems intent on winning a ring and has been training hard to do so. He is still a lights out scoring machine and that should continue. His growth as a consistent rebounder will be the key and he must learn to work on his defense; especially going up against bigger bodies in the paint which probably led to his injuries. Bargnani, Can he stay healthy/How will he mesh? Bargnani’s health will be the key again this season as he is just coming off of injury, however all signs point to him being ready to go. He should be very effective this season as Coach Woodson plans to use him as a 6th man which should not only make him productive, but healthier. Bargnani should be able to score from many spots on the court and really stretch the court in lineups with the defensive C Tyson Chandler. The different lineups he can be used in will really help this team and they needed more size after going up against big C Roy Hibbert from the Pacers last season.

Wizards – Can PG John Wall stay healthy? As usual, the health of Wall is the key to this team going anywhere this season, but after a great Team USA showcase and the ending to last season, this should finally be the year Wall stays healthy. He has put up stats and made moves to show that he is finally 100% and ready to earn his big contract.  Is he finally ready to lead them into playoffs after his new deal? Making it to the playoffs, is currently and has always been the goal for the Wizards for a long time. Everyone believes that a healthy Wall is all this team needs to finally make it over the hump again, but it will definitely take a greater effort from the rest of the team also. However, this could be the year. Do they have enough on the roster? This young team is a year older, SF Otto Porter and SG Glen Rice Jr. were added through the draft, PF Al Harrington was added, and C Emeka Okafor was traded for C Marcin Gortat which was an upgrade. The way this team gels together and the production they receive from the younger players will be the key. If the connection between Wall and SG Bradley Beal heats up as expected, then they could make noise in the Eastern Conference. This team is full of wing men and that depth will be the key going forward as they try to figure out which rotations will produce.

Miami – Can they repeat (3peat)? The Big 3 still remains intact and while LeBron is in his prime and getting even better, SG D-Wade appears to be on a slight decline and PF Chris Bosh appears to have been maxed out and is becoming more of a jump shooter. However, the front office continues to find interesting gambles to take on players for minimal financial risk, like PF/C Chris “Birdman” Andersen. This year it’s SF Michael Beasley who is still capable of reaching his potential at only 24 years old and C Greg Oden who hasn’t played in a game since 2009 before appearing in a preseason game with the Heat; he is still only 25 years old. Everyone knows what the Big 3 will bring mostly carried by SF LeBron James who continues to prove he’s one of the best raking up MVP awards; however, the key will be the continued development and production from the bench and role players. Will the Beasley & Oden gambles pay off? Only time will tell, in the cases of Beasley and Oden. Beasley came out with so much potential which has been derailed by off the field trouble; to the point where no one else wanted him this season after his release from the Suns. Beasley can learn a lot at this point in his career on a talented Heat team fresh off a championship which will provide a total change of scenery for him. If the Big 3 can’t keep Beasley’s mind on basketball then he is a lost cause as this team truly is a championship contender. Oden has really struggled to remain healthy and after 3 seasons out of league, the hope is that he is finally healthy enough to contribute. The Heat will ease him along in his return while giving him limited minutes, so his progress is something to watch going forward. He could be a key piece if he is able to contribute around playoff time. Is this the year they finally break up the 3? The Big 3 continue to eat up a huge portion of the salary and the Heat are currently over the luxury tax threshold. If this team does not win it all again, will it be time to move in a different direction? Will all the players exercise their options again or decide that they no longer want to stay in Miami? LeBron is the clear cut star and must decide if this is where his best chances lie as Wade and Bosh are getting older. Would the Heat move Wade if it was in the best interest of the team? With the need for a true big man, could Bosh be on the move? There are many things to watch as this season unfolds.  Can Wade stay healthy and continue to be D-wade? Wade has admitted that he is not where he wants to be health wise and continues to have problems out of his knees. He continues to be explosive and one of the best guards in the league; however, he has played with a lot of wear and tear and the Heat need him to remain healthy. Coach Spolestra will have to limit Wade at times until the playoffs to get the best efforts he can out of him. He might have to be rested on some nights where he will feel obligated to play, but the long term goal of a championship is the key. Can LeBron continue to get better? LeBron is an all-around player who can fill up the stat sheet. He is the only player in the league who could play and defend all 5 positions, if needed, and it seems like there’s not much he needs to work on after improving his jumper. However, all analysts point out that his free throw percentage needs improvement so expect that to come next. He is an absolute work out warrior so expect LeBron to be even stronger than before and his jumper to improve that much more, especially from long range.

warriors

GSW – Difference that Iguodala makes? After signing a big contract with the Warriors, SG/SF Andre Iguodala will be expected to continue to be a perimeter defensive stopper. Last season with the Nuggets, he one-handedly improved their defense and he can also provide scoring and passing on the offensive end with his athleticism. Iggy is a player who can play well without the ball even rebounding despite being only 6’6 and that would make him a good glue player for a team of shooters. Expect him to also be a defensive/veteran leader on the team expecting an increased defensive effort from the rest of the team. Are they a playoff team or championship team? The Warriors were a dangerous young team last season making it into the playoffs going out in the 2nd round. This year the young Warriors are a year wiser and add Iggy and combo guard Toney Douglas to replace PG Jarrett Jack. Iggy should shore up the defensive holes and keep the ball moving, SF/SG Klay Thompson is a year better, PG Steph Curry continues to improve, and the bench is a year wiser coming off a good summer league session (SF Draymond Green and SG Kenny Bazemore). This team is deep and if they can find an X-factor and remain healthy they can go very far behind the good coaching of Coach Mark Jackson. Was last year what’s to come for many years or a great season based off Curry’s health? Curry is definitely the leader of this team, but they have a good nucleus in place with Thompson, SF Harrison Barnes, and C Andrew Bogut. The addition of Iguodala only makes them even deeper and they are a legit team with a good mix of young players and young vets. Expect this team to be exciting under a young, improving coach and a great roster.

New Look Mavs – Can the offseason moves make Dirk happy? The additions of SG Monta Ellis, PG Jose Calderon, SG Wayne Ellington, and C Samuel Dalembert should help keep them competitive, but the loss of SG O.J. Mayo will be tough to replace as a younger scorer with potential and PF Elton Brand who provided an interior presence while Dirk was hurt. Ellis and Calderon should help Dirk on the offensive end, but it will be tough for them to carry the load all season, along with SGs Vince Carter and Wayne Ellington off the bench. Defense will remain a question despite the efforts of Dalembert, SF Jae Crowder, and SF Shawn Marion. PF/C Dejuan Blair has always been inconsistent it will be interesting to see what he can do. PG/SG Devin Harris is injured and not expected to return until Dec. or Jan. Can they squeeze into the playoffs? It would be tough for the Mavs to make the playoffs in the Western Conference as Dirk would have to really be able put this team on his back and use everyone as role players. Ellis could be a good sidekick as the 2nd go to scorer and Calderon knows how to dish out assists. Crowder and Carter could provide plays off the bench, but all of this is BEST case scenario. Do they have enough young bodies or is this a rebuilding team in transition? It seem from the moves that this is a rebuilding team in transition as Owner Mark Cuban knows that he must build a competitive team around PF Dirk Nowitzki. However, they must provide more young pieces to go with PG Shane Larkin (injured) out of Miami University and SF Jae Crowder who could be the only ones with a long term future with the Mavs.

New Look Clips – Is Clips basketball finally ready to start a winning tradition? With the return of PG Chris Paul, the Clippers appear to finally be headed in the right direction with a franchise PG in place and a post player to offset him well in PF Blake Griffin. The Clips also traded for Coach Doc Rivers from the Celts giving them a championship caliber coach really opening the door for the next few years. The development of the young players will be to long term success of this team, but with Paul, Griffin, and young C DeAndre Jordan in place this is a team ready to win now.  Can Rivers make this team even better? Coach Doc Rivers is the key reason CP3 returned and the reason there is even more optimism around this time this year. Rivers has led teams both young and old to the playoffs and won a championship with the Celtics while keeping them playing at a championship level whether it involved managing minutes or covering for injuries. Rivers is a great coach who is one of the best in the league and knows how to adjust his game plan accordingly. He will demand the most out his players, but as a former player he is also a player’s coach that the players can really relate to. Rivers is a good fit to try to turn this team from a playoff team to a championship team. Do they have enough on the roster?  The additions of SF Jared Dudley, PG Darren Collison and SG J.J. Reddick are good complementary pieces along with rookie SF Reggie Bullock. They are all good players for Coach Rivers’ style of basketball and should help the core players. Dudley has been one of the most consistent outside shooters and plays good defense. Collison has struggled, but returns to his role as a backup to CP3 and should regain his usual form as a good defender and passer in this system. Reddick is coming off his best season and should provide good outside shooting to space the floor offsetting Jordan and Griffin. Bullock is a solid all-around player who can do a little bit of everything and should complement 6th man Jamal Crawford well off the bench.  

New Look Pistons – Are they ready to return to the playoffs? It appears that after years of struggling, that the Pistons are ready for a playoff run (maybe more?). With the addition of SF/PF Josh Smith, the Pistons add a key defensive player in the league coming off a great season in the ATL. Smith will fill out the SF position where he can make stop on the perimeter and in the post, while PF Greg Monroe and C Andre Drummond control the paint. PG Brandon Jennings provides a good combo of slashing to the basket and making smart passes. Rookie SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be able to space the floor off the bench. Veteran PG/SG Chauncey Billups will also provide good veteran leadership, as well as, solid minutes which will help this young team mature quickly. The starting lineup this team has now should be able to push for a high playoff spot (injuries pending) as no one in the Eastern Conference can really contend with Smith, Monroe, and Drummond on both ends of the floor. Is Smith a good fit for this team? Smith appears to be a good fit for this team as he brings defense and toughness to a team that needs a wakeup call. At this point in his career, Smith is a veteran in his prime who really wants to win. He can defend the perimeter and the post and should excel with a move back to the SF position; as long as he doesn’t decide to take a lot of jumpers, but he should be more mature in that aspect at this point. Is Mo Cheeks the right coach 4 this team? Coach Mo Cheeks appears to be a good fit as he has the experience and as a former player allowing him to relate to these young players which will also be a key to the chemistry. As a former PG, Cheeks could help Jennings take his game to another level as he will be the x-factor need to take this team to another level. After a poor rotation of coaches and rosters, the Pistons appear to have this one right. Jennings for Knight good or bad? This trade appears to be a good move for both teams as Jennings needed a change of scenery and appears to be in a good place ready to lead a good young team. While Brandon Knight can continue to grow and lead a young rebuilding Bucks team as a key piece going forward. Knight has the potential to be special and is a very smart player, but the Pistons needed someone who was ready to contribute immediately; the Bucks can wait on him to grow. While Jennings is a player who has shined when he is happy and pushing to win, the Pistons are hoping to provide that environment for him to thrive.  

New Look Cavs – Can they make the playoffs? The Cavs really improved their roster over the summer and guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are a year older; their health and growth are the keys to this season. Rookie #1 pick Anthony Bennett will have time to learn off the bench as free agent SF/PF Earl Clark will start providing defense and athleticism as a glue man. The health and ability that C Andrew Bynum provides will also be much needed as a solid two way post presence. PG Jarrett Jack should solidify the bench, but it is up to Irving to lead them to the playoffs. Bynum? The production of Bynum will be heavily watched this season after he sat out all last season with the 76ers dooming their team as he waited to get healthy. If he gives them the interior play to offset the outside shooting of Irving, Waiters, Jack, and SG C.J. Miles then sky’s the limit. A healthy Bynum would give the Cavs long term hope of being a good Playoff team in the Eastern Conference. He is a serious upgrade over C Anderson Varajeo when he is healthy and he still has good years ahead of him which is why the 76ers took a chance. #1 overall pick is he ready? Anthony Bennett has a learning to go through as he learn the SF position which he played only at times while in college at UNLV; it also doesn’t help coming from a smaller school. However, Bennett has the athleticism to contribute now and should help off the bench. Coming off the bench allows him to play both, SF or PF as needed which allows him to come along gradually. His height at only 6’7 restricts him from playing PF full time in the league.

Nuggets – Is Coach Shaw ready to lead this team? Brian Shaw finally gets his chance as a NBA coach after a successful stint as a player in the league. He spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach for the Pacers helping them go deep in the playoffs both seasons. Before that he spent 7 years as a Lakers assistant coach and one year as a scout. Shaw has a good basketball IQ after years in the league as both a player and assistant, now he will have a chance to implement his own system with a good group of players. However, will they miss Coach George Karl who always got them to the players and was one of the better coaches in the league? On the other side, Shaw could give them long term stability as a young developing coach. Can they improve despite losing Iggy and Brewer? The team is depending on SF Jordan Hamilton to provide more athleticism and production off the bench on both sides of the court after some people wrote him off as a bust; however, he did show improvement over the summer. Also, SF Quincy Acy is believed to be similar to SF Paul George from the Pacers in the eyes of Brian Shaw and is another player to watch. The Nuggets also added PFs J.J. Hickson and Darrell Arthur to provide athleticism and hustle plays which will also help. Hickson is coming off a big year with the Blazers. Is this a playoff team or championship contender? This team will go as far as new Coach Brian Shaw can take them as they have a deep roster (injuries pending) and young players with playoff experience. This team will now lean heavy on their core players to carry them: PG Ty Lawson, SF/PF Wilson Chandler, SF Danilo Gallinari (injured), and PF Kenneth Faried. These players are all solid players, but must raise their games to the next level if they want to be a championship team. The development of the role players will be the key because an x-factor could push them over the top, like the addition of PG Nate Robinson who is always a solid offensive spark off the bench. SG Randy Foye was solid for the Jazz last season and could provide consistent numbers as a starter or off the bench. The development of young players like SG Evan Fournier, PF Anthony Randolph, C JaVale McGee, and Hamilton will be the key.

*If you feel that your team has been left out, please comment and I will make an addition.

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