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Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 at 11:16 am  |  28 responses

2013-14 NBA Preview

We think there are 10 teams that could be considered title contenders. Who’s gonna end up on top?

Originally published in SLAM 173

by Ben Osborne / images courtesy of NBA 2K14

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Pacers, 58-24

It seems like people forget how close the Pacers were to dethroning the Heat last year. And now they added Luis Scola, get Danny Granger back, and should see Lance Stephenson and stud Paul George get even better. My only question with Indy is at point guard, where neither George Hill nor CJ Watson do much for me.

2. Heat, 56-26

I really hope this is not interpreted as a slight of LeBron. He is easily the game’s best player, and I say he’s fully on track to be in the best-ever convos. But how much does DWade have left? Will Miami’s bench do anything? We’ve seen what happens when LeBron has to do it all on his own: His team loses in the Conference Finals.

3. Bulls, 54-28

There should be zero questions about this team’s motivation (high) or coaching (the best), and by the time you read this, any D Rose doubts will probably have been assuaged. A title by the Bulls seems only slightly less likely than the preceding two teams; Indy and Miami just happen to be a smidge better.

4. Knicks, 52-30

Something tells me this might be the most-beefed-with prediction. Yes, the griminess of the Knicks’ front office may portend a return to lower-division status as soon as next season, but this season’s games will be won and lost on the court. And, frankly, I like the players the Knicks will be trotting out there. Melo is still in his prime, and players two-eight all strike me as above average. I think this team will score, be fun to watch and be a very tough out in the Playoffs.

5. Nets, 43-39

Another pick that may go against conventional wisdom. If BK gets off to a 20-6 start and smells the chance to win a title, I will sing a whole different tune. But if they take time to gel and are clearly not in the upper echelon of the League, what will KG and Paul Pierce be playing for, exactly? And who’s the leader of this team? The old Celtics? The young coach? The occasionally passive-aggressive Deron Williams? The six-time All-Star Joe Johnson? That’s a lot of questions…

6. Hawks, 42-40

Sadly for Lang Whitaker, the OG of SLAM pre-season previews, “#ATLshawty” has come to mean “boring franchise” in NBA speak. Signing Paul Millsap and re-signing Jeff Teague keep the Hawks firmly in the Playoff mix, but it’s hard to see them doing much once they get there.

7. Pistons, 42-40

Accuse me of having no respect for proper shot selection if you must, but I will be watching a LOT more of the Pistons’ 42-40 campaign than I will be of the Hawks’. Look, I like watching Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith play. And if that’s a guilty pleasure with little upside beyond entertainment value, well, the Andre Drummond-Greg Monroe duo is one that has real-life upside. I think in 12 months we’ll be projecting these guys to finish a lot higher.

8. Cavaliers, 40-42

Yes, the city seems cursed and the last couple of seasons have been dreadful, but this is a franchise back on the right track. New coach Mike Brown should straighten out some of the defensive issues while Kyrie Irving and the young talent around him will take care of the O. A Playoff berth would be a nice accomplishment for this group.

9. Bucks, 37-45

Oh, Milwaukee. The BJ Era came and went without a whole lot happening, and the Monta Era won’t even be remembered. Now OJ Mayo is in town to help deliver more mediocrity. Larry Sanders is fun to watch but this is just a team in purgatory. Meanwhile, Tobias Harris—oh, nevermind.

10. Magic, 36-46

While I hope for their sake that Bucks’ fans don’t read this entry, supporters in O-Town are only too happy to study up on Tobias. The versatile forward from Long Island teams up with another versatile forward from Long Island (technically speaking), Maurice Harkless, to give the Magic one of the more intriguing young starting lineups in the L. Our Advertising Director, Dave Schnur, doubles as the president of the Tobias Fan Club and even thinks this will be a Playoff team.

11. Wizards, 34-48

I may be John Wall’s biggest supporter in the media. I love his speed and skill set, and I think 80 games and sick across-the-board numbers are in the offing this year. So he’s not the problem. It’s the rest of the roster that does little to inspire, hence, the 34 wins. How long does Ernie Grunfeld get to turn this thing around?

12. Raptors, 33-49

I actually like Andrea Bargnani for the Knicks, but I’m sure the Raptors and their devoted fans are happy not to have the specter of “failed No. 1 pick” around any longer. A new foreign big man, Jonas Valanciunas, should ultimately be better than Bargnani was and, with promising GM Masai Ujiri on board, will get the Raps back in the Playoff picture before long.

13. Bobcats, 28-54

Defensive snobs can hate on Al Jefferson all they want. For an outside-in team like the Cats have been, getting one of the game’s best offensive low-post weapons was a no brainer. Kemba Walker, who went from most-known college player to little-known NBA player, is quietly becoming a top-shelf point guard, and MKG and Cody Zeller give Charlotte some nice young forwards. I wouldn’t be shocked if MJ cajoled 30 Ws out of this team.

14. Celtics, 27-55

No one knows if Brad Stevens will turn out to be a great NBA coach, but I absolutely loved the hire. This rebuilding team wasn’t going to the Playoffs if Red Auerbach was coaching them, so why not let the former Butler wunderkind see how his approach translates in the League? Jeff Green will provide steady numbers, Rajon will be Rajon once he’s healthy, and the rest of the squad will be on a year-long audition.

15. 76ers, 16-66

As a firm believer that Nerlens Noel should have been the first pick in the Draft, I have no choice but to give the Sixers some props for their long-term outlook. This season, however, will be for Fantasy NBA junkies only. Someone has to get stats, right? Fantasy and the Noel watch aside, the biggest thing to look for in Philly is how Michael Carter-Williams plays. If he proves to be a responsible enough ballhandler, the Sixers have a really nice weapon in their backcourt. If not, this team may be headed for less than 20 wins in 2014-15 as well.

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  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    <– still doesn't understand why everyone thinks the Pacers are going to win so many games.
    .
    I agree that they will be one of the top 4 teams in the East bar none. And do think they should win more than 50 games, but I don't see them winning 9 more than last season just because they had a good playoff run. They still don't have an isolation scorer that can carry the team through it's lows. And those are the guys who normally insure a team never goes through those week or two week stretches where they just can't play up to their potential.

  • http://soundcloud.com/tray-8 T-Ray

    I think the reason for that is that people are so high on Paul George that they believe he will be that iso scorer you mentioned. I for one think it’s a bit premature to think he’ll be that type of scorer but I guess we’ll find out soon.

  • Alexander Green

    Lol, you know somebody had to go in to Donald Sterlings office and say

    ‘sir, if we spend a bit of cash this year… we can win a championship’

    to which he replied

    ‘you’re fired… and what the hell is a champ-ee-un-ship?’

  • Smits#45

    What do you think Scola will bring to the table? I know he’s going downhill but I still believe he’s good addition. Scola and Granger (depending how he recovered) could significantly improve the team from last season in my opinion.
    But, like you said I don’t know if they’ll win 9 more.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Scola helps. Let me preface what I’m about to say by saying that. Because this isn’t going to sound like a positive.
    .
    He’s a terrible defender. I mean like what in the world is that guy doing level of terrible. —- I’m afraid for Roy Hibbert’s foul count that they added Luis Scola and Chris Copeland. Too many matadors on the court at once and you will end up with a very foul prone rim protector.
    .
    But I do think he helps, the offense needs that boost off the bench, I just don’t know if they will really win that many more games than last year. I have them finishing at 54-28

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    East:

    - 1)Chicago (63-19)
    - 2)Miami (60-22)
    - 3)Indiana (54-28)
    - 4)Brooklyn (48-34)
    - 5)New York (46-36)
    - 6)Washington (43-39)
    - 7)Atlanta (42-40)
    - 8)Cleveland (40-42)
    - 8A)Detroit (40-42)

    West:
    - 1)Clippers (58-24)
    - 2)Spurs (56-26)
    - 3)Thunder (55-27)
    - 4)Rockets (52-30)
    - 5)Warriors (49-33)
    - 6)Grizzlies (47-35)
    - 7)Pelicans (45-37)
    - 8)T’Wolves (42-40)
    - 8A)Blazers (41-41)

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    Never done this in all my years covering hoops. Very curious how it will all turn out.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    Obviously my Nerlens enthusiasm is mitigated slightly by the news that came out since I wrote this several weeks ago, but it’s not like the Sixers can finish worse than 15th and I still believe in him long-term.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    this is the first time you’ve done team predictions? for real?

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    With any paper or digital trail attached, yeah. Lang did them a bunch of years in a row, and I think Michael Bradley did them before him.

  • Enigmatic

    Dude I got absolutely slammed (ha) on here for saying I thought the Bulls would win more regular season games than the Pacers and would win the Central Division. I guess we’ll see though.

  • Caboose

    Yall know I’m like the only Orlando fan here. The Magic are not going to be winning that many games. Not even close.

  • http://soundcloud.com/tray-8 T-Ray

    You probably got slammed because everyone knows you’re a Bulls fan so they thought it was your bias oozing out lol. I believe they will finish with the best record in the NBA.

  • LakeShow

    We have similar methods.

    Method in madness haha.

    Well done though, I like the gall.

  • LakeShow

    I’m that guy.

    Plus, Granger can score 1 on 1. West can. Scola can. Lance Stephenson can. PG is only getting better at it. As is Roy.

    They good.

  • http://soundcloud.com/tray-8 T-Ray

    Really? I mean Paul George is my dude one of my favorite players to watch but I just think he’s about 1 more full season/playoff run away from being “the guy”. I think the Bulls & Pacers will battle all year long in a tough race for that Central Division title with Chicago edging them out for the crown.

  • Enigmatic

    True, true. But those that know I’m a Bulls fan should know by now I’m one of the most rational fans of any team out there. Hell, I don’t even hate LeBron! lol

  • http://soundcloud.com/tray-8 T-Ray

    Well I know that and all the regulars do too but to most of the stragglers you’re thrown into the irrational bunch by default lol

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    ahh yes, now i remember this was a part the The Links throughout recent years

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    LOL, everyone just thinks Chicago people are rampant Bulls/Rose homers, it’s pretty funny.

  • Junkie

    Man every year, they never get Kobe’s face right.

  • Caboose

    I guess I should have posted my actual record predictions somewhere….
    EAST
    1. Miami (61-21)
    2. Indiana (56-26)
    3. Chicago (54-28)
    4. Brooklyn (50-32)
    5. New York (44-38)
    6. Detroit (42-40)
    7. Washington (41-41)
    8. Cleveland (39-43)
    9. Atlanta (38-44)
    10. Charlotte (30-52)
    11. Boston (28-54)
    12. Toronto (27-55)
    13. Milwaukee (26-56)
    14. Orlando (25-57)
    15. Philadelphia (12-70)

    WEST
    1. Los Angeles Clippers (62-20)
    2. Oklahoma City (59-23)
    3. Houston (55-27)
    4. San Antonio (54-28)
    5. Golden State (51-31)
    6. Memphis (47-35)
    7. Minnesota (44-38)
    8. New Orleans (42-40)
    9. Denver (40-42)
    10. Los Angeles Lakers (40-42)
    11. Portland (38-44)
    12. Sacramento (35-47)
    13. Dallas (33-49)
    14. Utah (29-53)
    15. Phoenix (18-64)

    MVP (runner up): Chris Paul (LeBron James)
    DPOY: Dwight Howard (LeBron James)
    6th Man: Isaiah Thomas (Harrison Barnes)
    COY: Doc Rivers (Frank Vogel)
    MIP: Andre Drummond (Evan Turner)
    ROY: Victor Oladipo (Cody Zeller)

    Finals:
    LAC over MIA

  • no one

    Sorry to hate on your article man but couple of things i have to disagree with. Personally your rankings are so far off base to me, here’s a few things that stuck out:

    1. You seem to dismiss several teams without much thought (ex. trailblazers because LA doesn’t seem to want to be there?). Other teams I feel that were ranked way too low spurs, twolves, pelicans, mavericks, and wizards.

    2. Gave way too much credit to teams that probably do not deserve it. Pacers winning that many games.. Nuggets (a 7th seed) /Detroit/clippers (1st seed)/ knicks/ and the cavs (8th seed).

    3. side note…you think dwight is on his decline…i just can’t see how you write that and then think…ya that sounds right.

    Thought if I’m going to knock your list I should put up what I think:

    East:
    1. heat
    2. bulls
    3. pacers
    4. brooklyn
    5. new york
    6. atlanta
    7. detroit
    8. wizards

    West:
    1. Spurs
    2. Thunder
    3. Clippers
    4. Rockets
    5. Warriors
    6. Grizzlies
    7. Blazers
    8. Twolves

  • Mars

    OK, sleep on Washington if you want, because, someone has to pick up Boston’s spot. New York will surprise come playoffs time but hope they don’t meet Toronto. Everyone is too hyped on Indiana and Chicago. Those two teams equally do more damage to their selves than any other teams in the league. Why are the worse teams gonna be the most fun to watch this year? (Cleveland, Detroit, Orlando, east…Minne, Houston, GASP…LAL)

    On a side note who else would love to see project OKC decoded where KD goes to the Bulls, Russ to the Lakers, and Serge to the Knicks?

  • shannon

    Bulls cant score(enough) sorry, last year Pacers couldnt neither – we”ll see if thats changed or not this season

  • LangWhitaker

    #ATLSHAWTY

  • LangWhitaker

    Also, FWIW, I got Heat/Clips in the Finals.

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