As we look forward to the start of a new NBA season, we can also reflect on an eventful summer of transactions and signings. The summer of 2013 had it all: rumors of relocations, changes in ownership and coaching staffs, player transactions, and a surprising if unspectacular draft. Let’s take a look at the major storylines to keep track of this season.
Firstly, we can look forward to is the return of the only player other than LeBron James to win an MVP award during the last five seasons: Derrick Rose. There have been a lot criticisms aimed at Rose for his lack of mental strength. While he has been reportedly fit for four or five months and was cleared to play during the playoffs he didn’t appear for the whole of last season after tearing his ACL in the first round of the 2012 playoffs. If you add his explosiveness, skills and huge scoring potential to a Chicago Bulls team that showed huge desire and commitment when they almost beat the Brooklyn Nets last season without Rose, then you can certainly count the Bulls as a contender in the East.
The Bulls aren’t the only team that improved considerably during the off-season. The Indiana Pacers were one game away from beating the Miami Heat in the 2013 Eastern playoff finals. The Pacers are a considerably better team having added some legitimate scoring threats to their formerly average bench. The additions of impressive inside scorer and Olympic gold medalist in 2004 Luis Scola, a real craftsman in and around the basket, and Chris Copeland, one of the league’s best three point shooters who rose to prominence with the NY Knicks last season should really help them with their chances of escaping out of the east.
However, in the east, it is hard to look further than the Heat who have finally added a legitimate center in Greg Oden. The former number 1 overall pick in 2007 has had his injury issues, but if he stays fit, the Heat have found their answer to the Pacers Roy Hibbert.
The “Brooklyn” Celtics
One team we won’t be counting on to produce any playoff challenge is the Boston Celtics. General manager Danny Ainge decided to start rebuilding early by trading the big contracts of legends Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to rebuild around Rajon Rondo. With Rondo missing some games while recovering from a torn ACL, and their lackluster supporting cast, they have a shot at getting next year’s first pick which will presumably be used to select Andrew Wiggins, potentially the best player to come out of the draft since LeBron James. In Brooklyn, Pierce and Garnett will be coached by future Hall of famer Jason Kidd. The Nets have a decent team with a lot of experience and a hefty salary roll but in my opinion they won’t challenge for top spot in the East with Miami, Indiana and Chicago looking like better, more dynamic teams.
The “Dwightmare” is over
Three teams made big moves in the Western Conference: The Rockets, The Clippers and the Warriors. The most dramatic move unsurprisingly involved Dwight Howard. Since leaving Orlando last summer, Howard has taken over for LeBron James as public enemy number one. This summer, he snubbed the Lakers, and decided to move to Texas and join James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Howard automatically makes the Rockets contenders in the West, but it remains to be seen if they can seriously challenge the top teams in the competitive western conference. With Harden being a scoring machine and the emergence of sharpshooter Chandler Parson, the Rockets have enough talent to accommodate Howard’s length, strength and huge defensive potential down low. Howard has left the Lakers in a tricky situation. With Bryant still recovering from his Achilles injury that kept him out of last season’s playoffs, the Lakers filled their roster with second-rate serviceable players rather than the stars that the team would usually attract.
Lob City round 3
The other team in the city of Los Angeles created a huge buzz with their summer activity. The Clippers have always been an enigma. They always seem to have good teams but struggle miserably in the playoffs. This might not be the case this season. They attracted long-time Celtics coach and tactical expert Doc Rivers. Rivers certainly knows how to instill discipline and togetherness in a basketball club and he usually gets the best out of his players. By signing former Duke University star, JJ Reddick and Jared Dudley from Phoenix, the Clippers are a big threat from three point territory. With Rivers drawing plays to get them open, the Clippers will be high in the list of three point field goals made this season.
Golden State on the rise.
The Warriors were last season’s surprise package. With Steph Curry providing unbelievable spark and speed as well as a real big game mentality, the Warriors reached the second round and seriously threatened the San Antonio Spurs. Since then, they have added Andre Iguodala to their roster and although they have lost bench sparks Jared Jack and Landry, adding Iguodala makes their starting five one of the best and most complete in the league. Iguodala is one of those players that really make a difference on both end of the court. He is what they call “a Jack of all trades, master of none” type of player. He was instrumental in Denver’s impressive season last year and he provides the Warriors with toughness on defense and a tremendous outlet for fast breaks.
A changing of the guard in the west?
This will be an interesting season for teams like the San Antonio Spurs. I think that after last year’s heroics in the finals, and coming so close to clinching a historic title, this may be one season too many for the aging Spurs unless they can count on Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to bring some freshness and continue their impressive form. The Spurs can’t afford to rely on Tony Parker’s brilliance and Tim Duncan’s skills if they want to stay competitive. The Oklahoma City Thunder are in a similar situation. They might well do well but they didn’t really make moves in the summer other than losing their only meaningful piece of the Harden trade in Kevin Martin. However, with Westbrook and Durant being the best NBA duo in the league, they will always have a chance.
The rebuilds are finally building
There are a host of teams will surprise and should be much better this season. After years of rebuilding and trying to figure a way out of the LeBron James era, the Cleveland Cavaliers are stacked with young talents and high volume scorers. If Bynum, their new center, stays healthy, the Cavaliers have a decent chance of making a run into the playoffs. They have one of the league’s best young point guards in Kyrie “Uncle Drew” Irving. Detroit and Sacramento also did good jobs in creating rosters that could compete for playoff spots as did the New Orleans Pelicans who got former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, who should provide a scoring punch, and all-star point guard Jrue Holiday to play alongside the Anthony Davis who may be poised for a breakthrough year.
This will definitely be a very interesting season in the NBA but it’s difficult to look past the Miami Heat with their impressive roster. It might be the last season that the Big Three (James, Wade, Bosh) play together since they’re all potential free agents next summer and it’s certain that King James will want to leave his legacy in Miami intact. Don’t count on the Pacers, Bulls, Clippers or all other teams we discussed to give them an easy ride.