NBA Season Preview

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We are under a week away from some NBA basketball!

It feels like just yesterday when Lebron James and the Miami Heat were celebrating their second championship in two years.

A lot has changed over the summer. From players getting injured, to players returning from injuries, to free agent changes of scenery, to trades, the NBA looks dramatically different. There is a great balancing of talent across the league. Who will be some of the surprise teams? Can the Heat win a third championship in a row? Lets break the NBA down picking the top eight teams from each conference, and the teams that are on the rise.

Since this is a website based in New York, I don’t know if there is a better place to start than with the Brooklyn Nets.

Sorry Knicks fans? (I am a Knicks fan myself)

The Nets had a HUGE offseason. In a blockbuster trade, they brought in future hall-of-famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn. Along with that they added Jason Terry and Andre Kirilenko. These are some grown man additions to an already talented roster. This was a huge gamble giving up draft picks, and a ton of money into this deal. This was the epitome of “we are all-in to winning a championship within the next 2-3 years.” This could work. The players they received, while old, are extremely talented. If they can keep these players healthy into the playoffs then they have a great chance to do something great. That is a big “if” though. The Knicks tried something similar last year, and it did not work.

The new look Brooklyn Nets

The new look Brooklyn Nets

Speaking of the Knicks, what is going on over there? The Knicks didn’t change too much. They saw Jason Kidd leave for a head coaching job with the Nets, Rasheed Wallace retire, Marcus Camby and Steve Novak traded…nothing too serious. The core of the Knicks from last year is intact. Amare Stoudemire looks to be somewhat healthy (I don’t know if he will ever be fully healthy again), and J.R Smith is working to come back from a knee surgery in the off-season. They added Andrea Bargnani, a former first overall pick that did not really work out in Toronto, Metta World Peace, and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr, amongst some other moves. I like the way Bargnani fits this team. He will give you something that was really working when Rasheed Wallace was healthy. He is a 7-footer that stretches the floor with the above average ability to knock down the three-point ball. This takes an enormous amount of pressure off of Carmelo Anthony, with a big man having to leave the paint to guard Bargnani giving him an easier track to the basket, with the option to pass the ball out if double-teamed to a more than capable Bargnani. Metta World Peace gives you defense. He is an exceptional defender, and he is very loud on the court calling things out to the other players defensively. This could really help the Knicks.

Carmelo Anthony in the new orange jersey for the 2013-2014 season

Carmelo Anthony in the new orange jersey for the 2013-2014 season

Now that we looked at the New York teams, lets look across the NBA.

The Clippers and Pacers did a lot of bench building. These went from being teams with decent-bad benches, to teams with some of the best benches in the league. Both of these teams are extremely talented, and now they have the ability to still hurt you while their star players are taking a breather. The Bulls are getting former MVP Derrick Rose back from injury, and if the pre-season is any inkling on what he will do this season, he will be in the talk for MVP this year. The Warriors, who surprised a lot of people in their breakout season last year added veteran star Andre Iguodala who will really help this young team.

Then there are the Boston Celtics. I’m sure there is nothing more satisfying for New York basketball fans than to see the Celtics finally struggle. They traded 2 of their 3 superstars to the Nets, and their one remaining star in Rajon Rondo, is recovering from a torn ACL. They also lost their head coach, one of the best coaches in the league, Doc Rivers, to the Clippers. This off-season was a clear sign that they are deeply into re-building. With next years draft being the most talented NBA draft in a long time, they picked a good time.

So lets get to some picks!

We’ll start in the Eastern Conference. I’ll put my 8 playoff teams in order.

1. Miami Heat

2. Chicago Bulls

3. Brooklyn Nets

4. Indiana Pacers

5. New York Knicks

6. Toronto Raptors

7. Cleveland Cavaliers

8. Orlando Magic

I like the Chicago Bulls a lot this year, but I cannot pick against the Heat. They are too good. With Greg Oden and Michael Beasley joining the team looking to revitalize their careers, there is no better place to do that. The Bulls with Derrick Rose are amazing. They play tough physical defense, are deep on the bench, coached well, and can score at will. I wanted to pick the Knicks over the Nets to win the Atlantic Division, but the safer bet is the Nets. The Knicks are banged up and not nearly as deep as the Nets. The Pacers would have been my number 3 team, but the division winners have to be the top 3, and the Bulls will win the division. The last 3 teams in the division are dicey. These are some young teams that I think are ready to start playing some great basketball. The Raptors traded for Rudy Gay last year, and they should really see it pay off this year. The Cavs have superstar young point guard Kyrie Irving, who will pair with Andrew Bynum and Dion Waiters to do some great things. The Magic looked like they were lost as a franchise after losing Dwight Howard, but choosing the right young players has worked, and I think these young guys work together to sniff out that last spot.

Now lets look at the Western Conference.

1. Los Angeles Clippers

2. San Antonio Spurs

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

4. Golden State Warriors

5. Houston Rockets

6. Memphis Grizzlies

7. Denver Nuggets

8. New Orleans Hornets

Just writing this I noticed how fun the West is going to be. These teams are so good! I had to leave teams like the Mavericks, Timberwolves, and Lakers out! The Clippers are the frontrunners. With Doc Rivers coaching them, and all the additions they made they will be tough to beat. The Spurs are the most well-coached team in the league, and they will always find a way to be great. The Thunder are hurting with Russell Westbrook out for several weeks, and the loss of Kevin Martin. Kevin Durant is so good that he can definitely shoulder the load. The Warriors, although young, are ready to play some basketball. Andre Iguodala and an extra year of maturation will raise this team up. The Rockets added Dwight Howard, and it looks like he is finally comfortable and ready to play at the high level we became used to. With Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, and Dwight Howard, there are few teams with such a good starting 5. The Grizzlies still have their core in tact, and that will be good enough for playoffs. The Nuggets are another young deep team that will be able to win. The Hornets are even younger, and with the additions of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, it is a very new look team, but talented enough to make the playoffs. As this team matures, I think they have a shot at a championship, but it may be too early.

This is going to be one fun season! So many good teams! We are going to see some fast-paced, high action, high energy basketball this year. The race for playoffs in the West is going to be so exciting!

Another thing to keep in mind will be the race to be the worst. Next year we should see Andrew Wiggins ready to enter the NBA through the NBA draft. There hasn’t been a more hyped player since Lebron James, and the teams at the bottom will really be fighting to land the first pick.

Future NBA star Andrew Wiggins

Future NBA star Andrew Wiggins

Leave a comment and let me know what you think! Post your rankings too!

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About Nick Cocchiaro