- HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors - http://www.hoopsworld.com -
NBA PM: Which Teams Are Contenders?
Posted By Alex Kennedy On August 12, 2013 @ 5:10 pm In NBA | No Comments
HOOPSWORLD catches up with Houston Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons at the Team USA mini camp in Las Vegas.Watch More Video Here
The dog days of summer are here, which means the NBA rumor mill is quiet. The draft is behind us and the free agency pool is quickly drying up. Aside from Nikola Pekovic, just about every notable free agent has signed a contract. Because most offseason moves have been made, we have a pretty good idea of what each team will look like entering the 2013-14 season. By this time of year, it’s not too early to start identifying which teams will be contenders and that’s exactly what we’ll do today.
Miami HEAT – Miami is obviously first on this list after winning back-to-back championships, but the gap between the HEAT and the NBA’s other elite teams seems to be shrinking. LeBron James is clearly the best player on the planet, but his supporting cast is aging. Dwyane Wade has been breaking down in recent years and key contributors such as Ray Allen, Chris Andersen and Shane Battier are nearing retirement. Miami is looking more and more like a one-man team, similar to James’ squads with the Cleveland Cavaliers. And even though the HEAT have won two straight titles and made three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, they’ve looked vulnerable along the way as evidenced by the fact that the Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs each came within one win of defeating them. Miami is the favorite entering the 2013-14 season, but they certainly aren’t untouchable. It’s not hard to imagine their reign over the rest of the league coming to an end during the upcoming season.
Indiana Pacers – Last season, the Pacers emerged as an elite team by advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals and giving the Miami HEAT a tough seven-game series. Each season, Indiana has advanced further and further in the postseason. Could this be the year that they finally represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals? It’s possible, especially after having such a strong offseason. The Pacers will get Danny Granger back from injury, and they acquired Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland to strengthen their second unit. If Paul George, Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson take another step in 2013-14, as expected, the sky is the limit for this team. Frank Vogel will definitely have his team ready to contend and their defense will likely be among the league’s elite once again. Unlike some of the aging contenders on this list, it seems like the Pacers’ best basketball is still ahead of them.
San Antonio Spurs – Every year, it seems San Antonio’s window is about to close but then they win a ton of regular season games and go on a deep postseason run. As long as Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are leading this team, they have to be considered a contender. The Spurs are a well-oiled machine, always making the right play and executing at a high level. While some contenders will have to go through a transition period and integrate significant new pieces next season, San Antonio will bring back the same core that nearly hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy last season. Because of this continuity, few teams can match the Spurs’ chemistry and experience. Danny Green and Tiago Splitter should continue to improve, and Kawhi Leonard seems poised to breakout – as many players do in their third NBA season – so San Antonio may be even better than they were last season.
Oklahoma City Thunder – For the first time since the Thunder became a contender, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook won’t have a clear-cut third scorer alongside them. James Harden is in Houston and Kevin Martin is in Minnesota. Unless Jeremy Lamb or Reggie Jackson is ready to step up and fill that role, Durant and Westbrook will have to carry the offensive load even more than in recent years. Even though the Thunder will be down an offensive weapon, they’ll still be one of the top teams in the West. Durant has improved each year he’s been in the league, Westbrook remains one of the top guards in the NBA and Serge Ibaka continues to get better. Not to mention, OKC has veteran role players like Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison, who know their role and fill it perfectly. Also, much like the San Antonio Spurs, the Thunder also have an edge over most teams when it comes to chemistry since this group has been battling alongside each other for years. Oklahoma City’s 2012-13 season ended prematurely due to Westbrook’s injury, but they’ll be back in the mix this year.
Chicago Bulls – The return of Derrick Rose should put the Bulls back into contention. Chicago managed to stay competitive without Rose thanks to their excellent defense and balanced attack. However, a healthy Rose will allow the Bulls to once again join the East’s top tier. Remember, this team is just one year removed from securing the top seed in the conference over the Miami HEAT. The same core – Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer – is still in place, but they have an improved supporting cast that consists of Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Kirk Hinrich and an older Taj Gibson. With that said, Chicago will only go as far as Rose will take them. By sitting out all of last season, the young point guard endured a lot of criticism but he ensured that he’ll be 100 percent when he steps on the floor. If he can return to MVP form, look out for the Bulls next season.
Los Angeles Clippers – After winning 56 games last season, re-signing Chris Paul and adding Doc Rivers, J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison, Byron Mullens and Reggie Bullock, expectations are very high in Los Angeles. The Clippers have marked off every box on the contender check list – they have the star power, coach and depth to win it all. However, it remains to be seen how this team will come together. Just because a team is stacked on paper doesn’t mean it will translate into wins, as that other team in L.A. proved last season. With that said, if all goes as planned, the Clippers will compete for the top seed in the Western Conference and make a deep playoff run. Last year, the Clippers were a good team, but it always seemed like they were sitting a tier below the elite teams in the West and lacking the head coach to lead them to the Promised Land. Now, all of the pieces are in place and this team could be scary good if they play to their full potential.
Brooklyn Nets – The Nets were one of the busiest teams this offseason and they should be significantly better in 2013-14. Every member of their starting five has played in at least one All-Star game, and they’ve handed out over $100 million in guaranteed contracts. The Nets are loaded with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez in the starting lineup, and Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche, Jason Terry, Reggie Evans, Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson among others on the bench. It’ll be interesting to see how first-year head coach Jason Kidd manages all of the talent on this roster. Garnett and Pierce bring veteran leadership and championship experience to Brooklyn, and the former should help improve the team’s defense. The Nets are all-in next season, and they’re capable of making some serious noise if this star-studded group meshes and stays healthy.
Houston Rockets – Adding Dwight Howard changed everything for the Rockets. Last year, as one of the youngest teams in the league, they were just happy to lock up James Harden and make the playoffs in the Western Conference. With Howard, they’ve accelerated their plan and entered win-now mode, which is why they added veterans like Marcus Camby, Omri Casspi and Reggie Williams around their young core. While there’s no question that Houston’s window is wider than many of the teams on this list, they hope to hit the ground running and make a deep postseason run this year. Howard joined the Rockets because he felt that they gave him the best chance to win a championship, starting with the 2013-14 season. While it’s tough to gauge how good this team will be before they’ve played their first game, it’s clear they have contender potential since they have arguably the best shooting guard and center in the NBA. They also have assets to make further moves before the trade deadline, which is always a possibility with Daryl Morey at the helm.
Memphis Grizzlies – The Grizzlies are coming off of an embarrassing showing against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, but they’re still an extremely tough match-up and legitimate contender. They will bring back their entire starting lineup of Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Tayshaun Prince, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, which means they’ll once again be one of the top defensive teams in the league and boast one of the best frontcourts in basketball. However, their second unit should be better next season with the additions of Kosta Koufos, Mike Miller and Jamaal Franklin (not to mention another year of experience for Ed Davis). The only significant change that Memphis made this offseason was hiring Dave Joerger as the team’s new head coach after letting Lionel Hollins’ contract expire.
New York Knicks – The Knicks are a talented team, but it’s hard to imagine them hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy as currently constructed. They may be better than last season with the additions of Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Beno Udrih, but is that enough to compete with the league’s elite teams? It would take some incredibly efficient play from Carmelo Anthony, a more productive Amar’e Stoudemire and a breakout third season for Iman Shumpert for this team to come out of the Eastern Conference over teams like the Miami HEAT and Indiana Pacers.
Golden State Warriors: The addition of Andre Iguodala is intriguing, but it still seems like the Warriors are a year or two away from contending. Golden State is relying on a number of young players (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, etc.) who still have some growing to do. The Warriors will be an exciting team and they’ll win a lot of games, but it doesn’t seem like they’ve earned the elite label just yet.
James Decides Not to Run for NBPA President
After giving it some thought, LeBron James won’t be running for president of the National Basketball Players Association after all. Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports reports that James has decided he doesn’t want to take on that role or the position of first vice president.
James called Miami HEAT teammate and NBPA secretary-treasurer James Jones on Monday and told him of his decision, according to Zillgitt.
James had considered running in order to correct the state of the union, and the NBPA’s leadership was excited about the possibility of his involvement. However, from the start, the league’s best player was unsure if he’d be able to dedicate the time and energy to the position, and it seems that’s what ultimately kept him from pursuing the presidency. James has made it clear that he wants to be involved with the NBPA and do what he can to help, but that will be in a much smaller role.
According to Zillgitt, the NBPA plans to meet in Las Vegas next week and vote for a new president and NBPA executive committee vice president Roger Mason Jr. has emerged as a strong candidate. Mason Jr. would be replacing Derek Fisher. Chris Paul, who also served as a vice president on the NBPA’s executive committee, had been mentioned as a possible candidate in the past, but he’s another superstar who may have difficulty holding down such a large role within the union.
The union is also looking to replace former NBPA executive director Billy Hunter and will take steps toward making that change in Las Vegas. Reports have identified Isiah Thomas, Stu Jackson, Steve Mills and Fred Whitfield as possible replacements.
Article printed from HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors: http://www.hoopsworld.com
URL to article: http://www.hoopsworld.com/nba-pm-which-teams-are-contenders
Copyright © 2013 HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors
Part of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group.