Commentary | The NBA 2013-2014 season is almost upon us, it figures to be a great year with talent spread all across the league. The focus is health, for the last two seasons the Heat has ran away with the East due to health concerns with other clubs. Can Derrick Rose and Andrew Bynum come back from injuries? Can the Brooklyn Nets win with the Big 5? Will anyone be able to dethrone the Miami Heat? Here are my Eastern Conference picks for 2013-2014:
- 1. Indiana Pacers: The Pacers took strides the last two seasons, last year was their chance but the injury to Danny Granger cost them the Conference finals with Miami. Granger is healthy, Hibbert has matured and the Pacers have payback in mind.
- 2. Miami Heat: Will two championships make the heat complacent, or hungry for another title? Can Lebron James stay focused on the season and not free agency? How much does Wade have left in his knees, will Chris Bosh continue to play third fiddle or will he disrupt team chemistry and go for his. They can smell the other teams breathing down their necks. The run can be over.
- 3. Brooklyn Nets: On paper, the borough of Brooklyn had better get ready for a parade in June. Health, health and more health is the key to their season. How much do Garnett and Peirce have left in the tank? Will Garnett be able to teach Brook Lopez how to play defense and rebound? Deron Williams is healthy and ready for a career year in assist, Joe Johnson, just make three pointers and all is well in the universe. Can Kidd stay from swerving on the road to be a good head coach?
- 4. Chicago Bulls: The return of Derrick Rose has Chicago thinking championship this year. Rose is back, according to commercials at least. Joakim Noah has turned into an all-star center; Carlos Boozer has gone back in time to when he was a good player. Jimmy Butler is trying to become the second coming of Scottie Pippen and Luol Deng, when healthy is still a great all-purpose player. Will Rose comeback put a stop in the team’s growth, you think the Bulls care, me either.
- 5. New York Knicks: At what point is enough, enough? Always a groomsmen, never a groom, the talent is there but something is always missing with this team. Does this fall on Carmelo, as it did in Denver? The Knicks wanted to stress defense this off-season, went out and signed Andrea Bargnani, as if he is made in the mold of Tyson Chandler, go figure. They have Metta World Peace, he can, wait what can he still do, he is a rapper now, right? Another early round exit for the second best team in NY.
- 6. Detroit Pistons: You are probably thinking I am crazy right. The Pistons are on a serious come up this year. Their frontcourt is downright scary, Josh Smith, Andre Drummed and Greg Monroe, no one is grabbing rebounds over those towers. Brandon Jennings is another point guard who should have a career year in assist, playing with those towers down low. Chauncey is back for a farewell tour, he deserves it.
- 7. Cleveland Cavaliers: Will Andrew Bynum be ready to play this season, will Kyrie Irving stay healthy and will the young draft picks over the last few years continue to blossom? Anthony Bennett has probably the least expectation any #1 pick in recent NBA history. This team if healthy can make some noise this season
- 8. Washington Wizards: As with the majority of the teams in the east, it all comes down to health. John Wall, once he came back from injury the Wizards decided they wanted to make a run for the playoffs. Another year for Bradley and Wall to blend into a forceful combination in the backcourt, will pay dividends into their payoff march. Rookie, Otto Potter Jr is in a position to be a contributor and not a savior, no pressure. Nene and Emeka Okafor holding down the frontcourt puts the wizards into the playoff since the Gilbert Areans, Caron Butler and Antwan Jamison era.
- 9. Atlanta Hawks: Cleaning house and trying to stay relevant will only work for so long, it has caught up with Danny Ferry and the Hawks. Joe Johnson had to go, now it’s Josh Smith, you sign Paul Millsap in hopes that he will not launch threes like Smith did. The blocks are going to be a logjam between Millsap and Al Harford, same type of player. Lou William, healed after a season ending injury last year, resigned sharp shooter Kyle Korver and signed veteran Elton Brand. Too much roster turnover finally catches up.
- 10. Charlotte Bobcats: Do not laugh, I am a huge fan, this had nothing to do with being a fan when placing them this high. This team has potential, new defensive head coach, new low post scorer and a hungry team that is tired of losing. Kemba Walker is ready to put his name out there as one of the up and coming point guards. Al Jefferson is ready to lend some leadership and a post threat to this young squad, it is time to bring back, not only the old name but the old playing and winning ways of the Charlotte Hornets.
- 11. Toronto Raptors: The East is a weak division, plain and simple, a few breaks here and there, a few injuries and the Raptors could sneak into the playoffs. When will DeMar DeRozan decide he wants to be a player and not just a dunker, when will Rudy Gay decide he wants play like he is being paid, like a star. Amir Johnson is a beast on the blocks and Jonas Valanciunas is coming into his own. The raptors are a year away from contending for the playoff without any breaks.
- 12. Milwaukee Bucks: You let Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis go, and sign OJ Mayo, wait, I’m laughing and typing this at the same time. Unlike the NFL, this team decided to tank before the season even started. Larry Sanders is going to be a defensive force, Ersan IIyasova is still going to put up double doubles and OJ is going to continue to think that he is open and launch shot after shot. Caron butler will go back to his early Washington Wizards days where he was a factor in the offense.
- 13. Orlando Magic: Be careful what you wish for, happy to see Dwight leave, along with any chance of a successful season. Jameer Nelson, 31 years old is going to have to find a way to stay healthy and lead this team. Tobias Harris, seeing more minutes and opportunities in Orlando has become a good player, Aaron Affalo had himself an unexpected year but with a team at the bottom of the league, someone has to score. Who seen Nikola Vucevic coming, not the 76ers, they traded away him and Maurice Harkless to the Magic, Vucevic had a career year and does not look like he is ready to stop anytime soon. A team on the come up with the #2 pick in the draft, Victor Oladipo, coming off the bench, this team will improve in a few years.
- 14. Boston Celtics: First Ray Allen, last year, then Head Coach Doc Rivers, then Garnett, Peirce and Jason Terry, this year, talk about cleaning house. Rajon Rondo is the leader but is injured so someone else has to fill those shoes. Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger no longer have to be in the shadow of Kevin Garnett and prosper on themselves. Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries went from a contender to a pretender, and will come off the bench. Waiting for Jeff Green to regain his Thunder playing ways, sucks to be a first year coach with a roster like this, good luck, Brad Stevens.
- 15. Philadelphia 76ers: this is my home team, I grew watching them, I played on the Spectrum floor during my high school years, and they have my heart. Too bad they will suck this year; I do not accept that because they decided to destroy a young team with potential. Jrue Holiday for the #6 pick and reconstructed knee, Nerlens Noel, drafted Michael Carter- Williams and signed Royce White, oh yeah these are winner moves. Hey, Evan turner, time to make this team yours, but you have help in the form of Thaddeus young. Any team that has Kwame Brown on their roster has given up on the season.
2013-2014 Western Conference picks are next