NBA Preview: Who’s Going To End Up On Top?

Well, we’ve made it to here.  The NBA’s finest teams end up here.  When were ready for the Playoffs in April, these will be our top three teams, in each conference.

As you can imagine, the Eastern Conference will look drastically different at the top.  The Cleveland Cavaliers are a sure bet to be a great team.  Indiana, who lost two of their best players from last year, shouldn’t even be in the Playoffs, unfortunately.  It was a really tough summer for them.

The Western Conference, also has a shakeup at the top.  Just over two weeks ago, Kevin Durant broke a bone in his foot, and will be out at least the first 20 games of the season.  The consequences of that, I will get into later.

East

Cleveland Cavaliers

Again, this is pretty obvious.  The Cavaliers had a huge summer, with the return of the kindg and their savior, Lebron James.  Once he landed in Cleveland, he became GM, and demanded that the Cavs go get Kevin Love, to help add some leadership and more pure talent to the team.  The team traded Andrew Wiggins, and Anthony Bennet to Minnesota to get him.

I wasn’t a fan of trading Wiggins.  I believed that, if Wiggins lived up to expectations, they could win a title with him.  However, LeBron doesn’t have the time for Wiggins to develop.  He wants and really needs to win now.  That’s why they made the move.

Anyways, Cleveland is the favorite in this conference.  Their my pick to win it.  There is no way you can tell this team isn’t going to finish outside of the top two in this conference.  They’re going to dominated close to everyone their conference.  That’s a fact!  This conference still sucks!  Someone is going to win 40 games and get in!

Once Cleveland finds their rhythm, it’s possible they start streaking.  Like winning 20 games at a time.  This is a monster team.  They’ve got a offense that looked incredible in dress rehearsal (pre-season) and a front-court which nobody will get passed.  Really, I’ve got no concern with them.

Chicago Bulls

No, I’m not jumping on the Cleveland bandwagon.  I feel that the Cavs are the better team, right now.

Honestly, I don’t even want to judge this Bulls team until we see how Derrick Rose preforms.  The Bulls are going to be lucky if he is 75% of what he was his MVP year.  After two knee surgeries on both knees, it’s highly unlikely he’s going to 2011 Derrick Rose.  He has looked good this Summer, in the World cup and pre-season for example.

Here’s the thing though: This team is still a lot better than last year’s, even if Rose were to go down again.

They added Pau Gasol from the Lakers.   This gives them even more rim protection, and good luck getting past him and Jokiam Noah.  Chicago also signed the foreigner Nikola Mirotic.  Mirotic was a hot commodity this summer, as multiple teams tried to sign him.  The 23 year old is super promising, and after spending six years with Real Madrid, he’s experienced with the game.

However, it may not be all smiles at first.  He’s got some serious adjustments to make.  It will take time, but the Bulls feel he can contribute during that process.

This Bulls team will be competitive this season.  With or without Rose.

Getting carried away again.

This team got the 4th seed without him last year.  They did fine during the season, but lost to the Wizards in the first round.

Rose isn’t a Jenga piece, but is a x-factor when it comes to where this team ends up.  If he’s 80% of 2011, they’ll get the 2nd seed, at least.

Washington Wizards

Another team where a injury may majorly affect their final seeding, the Wizards are looking to advance even farther this year.

I fell in love with them last year.  When Indiana collapsed, I put them in the Eastern Finals.

This year, Bradley Beal will miss around the same time as KD, and they lost Trevor Ariza to Houston.  They took hits, but like other teams, they play in the Eastern Conference.

I’m sorry that I keep bringing up the Eastern Conference thing, but it’s leaves such a huge impact.  

The Wizards have pure talent on their team, featuring John Wall and Marcin Gortat.  Gortat got PAID this summer, possibly a little too much.  He’s great player who scores and defends the rim.  He may not have been worth everything, but he’s definitely close.

Washington added Paul Pierce from Brooklyn, to solidify the wing, and replace Ariza.  Pierce may be older and won’t play many minutes, but he will contribute and will do anything you ask him to.

The front-court is pretty dang good.  With Gortat, Nene provides scoring and rebounding also, but will block shots.  He’s a pain to get around.  Teams should be scared of driving against them, but the defense along the wing is a little concerning.  John Wall is solid defender himself, but isn’t a wing guy.

The team has some great depth.  With Drew Gooden and Kris Humphries to back up the big men and the dicey guards, it’s not a concern.

This team is set.  They have a great opportunity this year to do something that they haven’t, in a long time.

West

San Antonio Spurs

The reigning champions come into this season the favorites again.  After dominating the Heat in the Finals, the Spurs didn’t add or minus anyone, expect the draft.  They’re a team who keeps their guys.  They all fit together.

This year, there is no doubt they’re going to be up here again.  San Antonio’s style of play is just unbeatable, and with a coach who has figured it out in Gregg Popovich, it’s not inconceivable they win over 60 games again.

Though, Pop is reluctant about starting guys in certain games.  Late in the year, he’ll rest his older guys, for example Tim Duncan, because he’s so confident they’ll get the job done, without their stars.  It’s a great example of how deep they are.

It takes a darn good team to be able to do that.

Honestly, there isn’t much to talk about with them.  Their the defending champions.  Nothing should change with this team.

Los Angeles Clippers

Another team that didn’t do a whole lot in the offseason (on the court, at least), the Clippers have one of the biggest opportunities a team could ask for.  KD’s injury affects the Thunder greatly, and could open up this spot for Clippers.

 LA has their dynamic front-court with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin.  They are dominate.  Absolutely dominate.  Jordan, the rebounder and bruiser, is the complement to Griffin.

People have suggested that Griffin had been working on his jump shot more, and possibly three point shooting.  He’s an animal.  Nobody can really stop him, because he does everything. you could ask.

Maybe that why everyone hates him so much.

If Griffin’s game has improved drastically, then maybe trading Jordan could be thought about.  It’s a contract year for Jordan, and the Clippers wouldn’t want to lose him for nothing.  He’s not a max guy, but would get a decent sized contract.

The counter to that, would be if Griffin’s game didn’t really improve.  You keep him, then negotiate after the season.  Blake is a great player.  No matter what.  It’s matter though, of how it affects your future.

The Clippers would have to have something go terribly wrong for them not to grab this spot.  Chris Paul was injured for part of last year, and it did have a affect, but the team still did fine without him.  A fall this year would be the result of a Blake Griffin injury, for example.  There would be no reason this them to not grab a 4th seed, at least.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Let’s put it this way:

If KD is out more than 20 games, the Thunder may be in bigger trouble.  If he returns around 17-20 games in, they will be fine.

The Thunder concern me without Durant.  I’m not sure Russell Westbrook is a kind of player who can lead a team, literally all by himself.  The Thunder don’t really have anyone besides Durant and Westbrook. Serge Ibaka is a good player, but he’s not someone you build around, or rely on.

I highly doubt that Westbrook is going to be allowed to take how many shots he wants during KD’s absence.  He’s a good shooter, but is still learning the differences between high and low percentage shots.  However, his shots might be better than other people’s shots on this team.

Jeremy Lamb I’m staring right at you.

Coach Scott Brooks is know for his funky plays and offensive strategies.  Nobody really knows what he’s going to let Westbrook do or not.  It’s going to be a wait and see.

The Thunder’s placing this year won’t be altered by more than two spots.  That’s the farthest they could possibly fall.  As you’ll see tomorrow, in the prediction column, there is really only one team that could surpass them.  The KD injury sucks for him and the team, but won’t have a massive impact if he returns in time.

Prediction Column coming tomorrow, right before season tip-off!

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