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By Will Korn 

Talking Sports - One man's view: 2014-15 NBA season preview

 


Here’s how I see the 2014-15 NBA season playing out. For the sake of brevity, I’ve listed only teams that I think will make the playoffs, followed by my playoff predictions.

EASTERN

CONFERENCE

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cleveland Heat? Might as well be. LeBron James came home and is now teamed up with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to form by far the league’s most talented starting five. They’re the favorites for now. Can they put it all together in year one? Stay tuned.

2. Washington Wizards: A very hot pick in the east this season, the Wiz are quietly loaded and can come at you from all angles with a complete offensive attack. Nobody will want to play them in the first round.

3. Toronto Raptors: The Raps were a trendy pick in the playoffs last season, but ultimately fell to Brooklyn in six. They lost Rudy Gay, but did enough to replace him offensively. The verdict: about the same as last year.

4. Chicago Bulls: By dumping Carlos Boozer’s burdensome contract and signing Pau Gasol, the Bulls have potentially revived themselves after three years in purgatory. The key is Rose – if he can stay healthy, this team could very well win the east with the league’s stingiest defense.

5. Miami Heat: LeBron is gone and perhaps now Heat fans feel betrayed? No matter, this squad is no longer elite. Shannon Brown and Luol Deng will help soften the blow of LeBron’s loss and Miami is still a playoff team. But they look more like the 06 Heat team rather than any of the last four years.

6. Charlotte Hornets: Look out for the Hornets – one of the east’s most improved squads coming into this year. They signed the polarizing but talented Lance Stephenson away from Indiana and kept the rest of a 43-win team from last year together. This team could challenge for home court in the first round.

7. Atlanta Hawks: There’s not much improvement this season from last year’s 38-44 squad. The Hawks did make an excellent draft choice in Adreian Payne from Michigan State and also signed defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha. This is a playoff team – but not by much.

8. Brooklyn Nets: The Paul Pierce-KG trade with Boston had already turned into a disaster. Brooklyn started off 10-21 last year and ended up 44-38 with the east’s sixth seed. With Pierce gone to Washington and Deron Williams seemingly in decline, the Nets will squeak into the playoffs.

WESTERN

CONFERENCE

1. San Antonio Spurs: They didn’t add anyone of note to last year’s title team – unless you count Austin Daye or draft picks. But did they need to? This team will continue to dance with who brought them until it can’t and has to reload. We’ve been pulling the plug on them for years, but they keep showing up in conference finals series. For now, they’re the favorites in the west until proven otherwise.

2. Los Angeles Clippers: The circus is back for another season and never has there been more pressure on Doc Rivers and Chris Paul to hold everything and everyone together. For years, there were too many clowns in this wagon and there might still be. This squad has become the Mavs of old, but they’ll hold off the Warriors for the pacific crown

3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Losing Kevin Durant for any length of time will definitely hurt this team and I see it costing them the second seed out west. OKC has proven that it has trouble without the league’s leading scorer. The bench is deep enough and the homecourt advantage rowdy enough to keep them ahead of most of the conference though. KD will be back in six to eight weeks.

4. Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the league’s deadliest backcourt. David Lee provides a nice punch inside and this is a lethal offense. But can the “Bay” boys stay healthy and continue to get stops on defense? My money says yes.

5. Dallas Mavericks: The west’s version of the Wizards. They pried away Chandler Parsons from Houston and brought back Tyson Chandler. Monta Ellis has become a more willing passer and the living legend Dirk Nowitzki is still a top 15 player in the league. Watch out. If this team clicks, it could make a deep run.

6. Houston Rockets: They didn’t want to pay Parsons, but decided to pay Trevor Ariza $8 million for four years instead. This team has the talent. But it will come down to offensive chemistry. How will James Harden and Dwight Howard get along? Can or will Harden play any defense this season? Can Houston find a better answer at point guard than Patrick Beverley? Questions everywhere, but they’re in comfortably.

7. Portland Trailblazers: The Blazers are the west coast’s version of Memphis plus another cup or two of talent. Steve Blake and Chris Kaman are nice additions to a team that led the league in rebounding and had the fourth best offense in 2013. But does Rip City still rely too much on Damian Lillard and Lamarcus Aldridge? Still, they’ll be a tough out in the first round.

8. Memphis Grizzlies: Their reputation as a scrappy, do-whatever-it-takes-to-win team is well-documented. The Grizz added savvy veteran Vince Carter, but that’s about it. Their hustle will get them to April, but a date with the defending champs in the first round could very well be their reward.

PLAYOFFS

East first round: Cavs over Nets, Wizards over Hawks, Raptors over Hornets, Bulls over Heat.

East second round: Bulls over Cavs, Wizards over Raptors.

East finals: Bulls over Wizards.

West first round: Spurs over Grizzlies, Clippers over Blazers, Thunder over Rockets, Mavs over Warriors.

West second round: Spurs over Mavs, Clippers over Thunder.

West finals: Spurs over Clippers.

NBA Finals: Bulls over Spurs.

 

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