2013-14 NBA Preview: The year of the Super Teams

The 2013 NBA season will be historically polarized. Never has the league so lacked parity, as the superstar-laden top 10 teams are as tightly-packed as ever, and the league’s weakest 10 teams are all hoping to bottom out in order to attain a high pick in the especially strong 2014 draft. The few teams fighting for a lower playoff seed have never been irrelevant, for even if an upstart team such as the Cavaliers or Wizards squeeze their way into the postseason, a round one matchup with the Heat or Bulls presents a taller order than low seeds traditionally face.

For the sake of brevity, let’s ignore the team’s whose sole hope for this season is landing enough ping poll balls to give them a reasonable shot at Andrew Wiggins, and focus one the nine teams, four in the East and five in the West, with a legitimate shot at taking home the horribly named O’Brien trophy come June.

Eastern Conference Favorites

Brooklyn Nets— The now HOVA-less organization received much scrutiny for hiring Jason Kidd as its new head coach less than two weeks after his retirement. One may have their doubts about Kidd’s total absence of coaching experience, but Brooklyn also boasts the most accomplished assistant in the NBA in Kidd’s own former head coach Lawrence Frank, and the two of the league’s most trusted veterans in Boston-imports Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The “too many cooks in the kitchen” argument loses validity due to Garnett and Pierce’s previously established relationships with Frank and their reputation for getting along famously with Kidd. Add a rejuvenated Deron Williams and a still-developing Brook Lopez, Brooklyn can go as far as Garnett and Pierce’s aging legs take them.

Chicago Bulls— The reports that Derrick Rose looks better than before he tore his ACL in the 2012 playoffs suggest that LeBron James’ third consecutive MVP award may be in jeopardy. Given the tenacity of the Rose-less Bulls in last year’s playoffs, it’s hard to imagine this team falling short of the Eastern Conference Finals. Due to Rose’s return, a more mature Jimmy Butler, and the joyous goofiness of Joakim Noah’s free throw shot, the Chicago Bulls are my pick to break up the monotony of the Miami Heat and win the 2014 NBA championship.

Indiana Pacers— The primary reason that the Pacers lost to the Heat last year was the embarrassment that was their bench. The return of Danny Granger should help remedy that, but my doubts remain about a team that plays D.J. Augustin as much as the Pacers do. Unless George Hill learns to play on the road, the Pacers will suffer from improved Bulls and Nets teams and fail to make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Miami Heat— There isn’t much to say about the defending champions. I urge everyone to bury your hatred of LeBron and enjoy the prime of one of the greatest athletes you will ever see. You’ll be a happier person for it, I promise.

Western Conference Favorites

Golden State Warriors— The most fun team in basketball, AKA the team that plays the most offensive and the least defense, should only improve as Harrison Barnes continues to develop into one of the league’s most unique players. His potential is underrated; a player as big as Barnes developing a post game at such a young age is just not something one sees in today’s NBA. Combined with some Stephen Curry heroics, Barnes will be the key to the Warriors’ making the leap and making the 2014 NBA Finals.

Los Angeles Clippers— As a Celtics fan, I find it difficult to talk about this Clippers team without flying off the handle about the way Doc Rivers abandoned Boston. Having said that, Chris Paul’s first career chance to play for a top five coach should be something to behold. The way Zach Randolph demolished Blake Griffin in last year’s opening round matchup is worrisome, and his development into something more than an athletic freak will determine their fate.

Memphis Grizzlies— The West’s grittiest team shows no signs of relenting this year. Randolph and company should continue to engage conference favorite’s in grueling seven game series’. Memphis is the same team; however, the rest of the West is better, which spells out yet another admirable playoffs loss for the Grizzlies.

Oklahoma City Thunder— I’m going to try to get through this without mentioning the name of that current Rockets Shooting Guard who formed a triumvirate with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that could have easily been the basis of a dynasty. An improved conference and an ailing Westbrook make it unlikely that the Thunder will scale the same heights they did two seasons ago.

San Antonio Spurs— Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker are all a year old, but so is Kawhi Leonard. It’s hard to predict the fate of the league’s most reliable team when the health of its stars in anything but.

I apologize to the Knicks, Nuggets, and Rockets for omitting them from this list, but I don’t trust J.R. Smith to repeat his 2013 season, I don’t trust Ty Lawson as the best player of a championship contender, and I don’t trust Dwight Howard in any shape or form.

2013-14 should be a landmark season; the West is as loaded as ever and the Heat-Bulls Eastern Conference Finals which we could be graced with has the potential to be the most exciting series you’ll ever see.