2014-2015 NBA Preview

Cleveland+Cavaliers+Media+Day+photo.%0APhoto++Credit%3A+slamonline.com

Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day photo. Photo Credit: slamonline.com

Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day photo. Photo  Credit: slamonline.com
Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day photo.
Photo Credit: slamonline.com

As the upcoming NBA season quickly approaches, it’s time to start thinking about the important questions concerning the premier teams and players.

How will Derrick Rose’s knee hold up? Can the Spurs repeat their title performance? How well will Cleveland do with the new “Big 3” of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and the return of LeBron James? No one knows the answers to these questions exactly, as we can only speculate, hope, and later, find out for sure when the season gets here officially on Oct. 28.

The Eastern Conference: Major roster changes took place in the east over the offseason, including the exodus of LeBron James from Miami to Cleveland, the re-signing of Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks, the Bucks drafting phenom Jabari Parker, and the big trade of Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love.

Last season, the Eastern Conference was described as weak and inferior compared to the Western Conference, but the way this offseason went, many Eastern Conference teams now stack up very nicely against the powerhouses of the West.

In Cleveland, a revamped offense with the trade for Kevin Love, the additions of LeBron James, Mike Miller and Shawn Marion, along with new head coach David Blatt, make the Cavaliers the consensus number one team in the preseason rankings. However, it’ll be interesting to see whether they regress defensively, as Love isn’t close to the defender Wiggins would’ve been.

Another team with high expectations–th Chicago Bulls–are getting a healthy Derrick Rose back from injury, a strong offseason addition in Pau Gasol, and the quick growth and development of Taj Gibson. Combined with energetic center in Joakim Noah, that makes the Bulls a strong title-contending team.

In Washington, after a very solid 2013-2014 season for the Wizards, the departure of Trevor Ariza to Houston was quickly countered with the signing of veteran swingman, Paul Pierce. Pierce looks to add veteran leadership and clutch-play to a young and rapidly improving Wizards team. Re-signing their big man, Gortat, was certainly key, as he’s a physical presence in his prime. All in all, if they can stay consistent on the defensive end, Washington looks to repeat as Eastern Conference contenders.

Charlotte is a team that will surprise many in the Eastern Conference. After a nice rebound 2013-2014 season, where many experts predicted they would struggle, they made the postseason before losing to Miami in the first round. The newly renamed Hornets are poised for a deep playoff run with the signing of guard Lance Stephenson, the cornerstones of Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker, and the coaching style of Steve Clifford.

A few other teams to keep and eye on in the Eastern Conference include the Atlanta Hawks, who get a healthy Al Horford back, the Toronto Raptors, who were able to maintain their key core group of players in the offseason, and the Orlando Magic, who have a lot of young talent and could surprise many and be enough to earn themselves a lower seed in the East.

As I see it, the playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference will be as followed, Cleveland, Chicago, Washington, Toronto, Charlotte, Miami, Atlanta and New York in that descending order. While the teams I believe to be in the Conference Finals are Cleveland and Chicago, with the Cavaliers moving on to the NBA Finals representing the Eastern Conference.

The few teams that I believe may have a rough season include the Celtics, 76ers, Bucks and Pacers, with all squads struggling offensively.

The Western Conference: As strong now as it has ever been. One could justifiably
make a case for at least seven different teams that could make it to the NBA Finals. There were many changes that happened in the offseason, including Kobe Bryant recovering from his ACL injury, Andrew Wiggins’ arrival to the Timberwolves, the Mavericks signing free agent Chandler Parsons and re-acquiring Tyson Chandler, and the Clippers handing ownership to Steve Ballmer.

In San Antonio, the question remains, can the Spurs repeat as champions?’ The Spurs are the best team in the entire NBA. They have the best coach, along with the best system. Sure, Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are not in their prime anymore, and that they continue to be written off, but they are still the favorite to win based on the concept of team.

Oklahoma City is an interesting team to watch for. They have the talent, but they never seem to have either the right system, or enough talent to get over the hump. Having the reigning scoring champion in Kevin Durant, along with stars Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, they may seem like the favorite on paper, but the highest I see them being is the second seed.

The Clippers are a team that seems to be in limbo. They have spectacular regular seasons, but Chris Paul and Blake Griffin just haven’t been able to get the proverbial monkey off their back when it comes to winning in the postseason. I like the additions of Spencer Hawes and Jordan Farmar, and believe they will be in the conference finals this year.

A team to watch out for are the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas had a huge makeover this offseason. They resigned Mr. Maverick, Dirk Nowitzki, signed swingman Chandler Parson, and acquired Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Jameer Nelson. With the combination of veteran leadership and youth, the Mavericks will make a deep playoff push.

A few other teams to keep an eye on in the West include the Golden State Warriors (though, their coach has yet to be a proven success), the Portland Trail Blazers, and the Phoenix Suns.
A few teams that I believe will struggle this year include the Utah Jazz, the Sacramento Kings and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

As I see it, the playoff rankings in the Western Conference will be as followed: San Antonio, Oklahoma City, LA Clippers, Dallas, Golden State, Portland, Phoenix and Houston. I believe the Western Conference Finals will consist of the Spurs facing off against the Clippers, with the Spurs representing the West in the NBA Finals.

Overall Predictions: The NBA Finals, I believe, will be a seven game series between Cleveland and San Antonio, and I believe that Cleveland has just enough to get by the Spurs and to finally end the forty-nine year championship drought in “the city by the lake.” My league MVP for the season is Kevin Durant, my Coach of the Year is be David Blatt, my Rookie of the Year is Andrew Wiggins, and my Defensive Player of the Year is Joakim Noah.