Tuesday kicked off what should be a very exciting NBA season.
LeBron James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the San Antonio Spurs’ quest for a sixth championship during the Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich era and Kevin Durant’s foot injury will be the dominant storylines of the season.
Let’s take a look at each of the divisions heading into the 2014-15 season:
The Atlantic Division is led by the Toronto Raptors who last season won the division for the second time in franchise history and won a franchise record 48 games. Led by point guard Kyle Lowry and All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors will repeat as division champions. The Brooklyn Nets will finish second in the division. The key to their season is whether or not point guard Deron Williams and center Brook Lopez can consistently stay healthy. If not, it could be a very long season in Brooklyn. With first-year head coach Derek Fisher and new point guard Jose Calderon, the New York Knicks will again contend for eight seed after failing to qualify last year. Carmelo Anthony will lead the league in scoring for the second straight year. The Boston Celtics don’t have enough pieces to compete this season, so they will trade point guard Rajon Rondo at some point before the trade deadline. The Philadelphia 76ers will be the worst team in NBA history and only win eight games all season.
The Central Division is a two-team race between the Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. The Cavaliers will ultimately win the division because of the additions of James and All-Star forward Kevin Love to go along with point guard Kyrie Irving. Derrick Rose will finally play a full season for the Bulls for the first time in two seasons. His return and forward Pau Gasol’s addition up front with center Joakim Noah will make the Bulls the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. The Detroit Pistons will improve under new coach Stan Van Gundy, but will fail to make the playoffs. Since All-Star forward Paul George is out for the season, the Indiana Pacers will go into full rebuilding mode and trade their frontcourt of forward David West and center Roy Hibbert. The Milwaukee Bucks are too young of a team to compete for a playoff spot at this point in time. However, forward Jabari Parker will score 20 points per game and be named the rookie of the year.
The Washington Wizards will win the Southeast Division. Veteran forward Paul Pierce’s arrival stole the headlines, but the Wizards will miss forward Trevor Ariza’s defense on the perimeter tremendously. The Charlotte Hornets will make the playoffs for the second straight year. Guard Lance Stephenson’s addition will help them finish fifth in the east. The Atlanta Hawks will finish third in the division and center Al Horford will stay healthy all season and make the all-star game. The Miami Heat will finish fourth in the division. Forward Chris Bosh’s numbers will go back to his Raptors days as he will average over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. The Orlando Magic will be one of the most athletic and fun teams in the league, but are still too young to compete for the playoffs.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will win the Northwest Division even though Durant is expected to miss the first six to eight weeks of the season. In his absence, guard Russell Westbrook will average 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds per game. The Portland Trail Blazers will look for their one-two combo of point guard Damian Lillard and forward LaMarcus Aldridge to try and take them past the second round of the playoffs this season. The Denver Nuggets will improve this season thanks to the additions of guards Arron Afflalo and Gary Harris. The Utah Jazz will have another tough season because of their lack of a true star. The Minnesota Timberwolves will be a fun team with rookie high flyers Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, but they are still years away from being a playoff team.
The Los Angeles Clippers will repeat as Pacific Division champions. Point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin wil lead them to the NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors will again be the most fun team in the league to watch because of point guard Stephen Curry. Shooting guard Klay Thompson is the best two-way shooting guard in the league and will have a monster year after his performance at the FIBA World Cup. The Phoenix Suns surprised the entire league will their impressive 48-34 record last season. They will build on that this season as they will make the playoffs. The Sacramento Kings have a frontcourt that can compete with anyone in the league, but their lack of guard play will cause them to struggle again this season. DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins will make his first all-star team. The Los Angles Lakers will be the worst defensive team in the league this season. Shooting guard Kobe Bryant will average 20 points per game and get angry at his teammates all season for their poor play.
The Southwest Division will be the best division in basketball. The Spurs will win the division. I really have no new insight on them, they’ll just continue to be the same old dominant team. The Houston Rockets missed out big-time when Bosh decided to re-sign with the Heat. Dwight Howard will have a dominant season and be named the Defensive Player of the Year. The Memphis Grizzlies will again make the playoffs and make the lives of their opponents difficult when they have the ball. Anthony Davis will lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a better season than last year, but they will fall just short of the playoffs. Dirk Nowitzki will have a great season again, but this division is too good for the Dallas Mavericks to make the playoffs.
Eastern Conference Finals: Cavaliers over Bulls
Western Conference Finals: Clippers over Spurs
NBA Finals: Cavaliers over Clippers
Toronto Raptors: 50-32 (2)
Brooklyn Nets: 43-39 (7)
New York Knicks: 41-41
Boston Celtics: 30-52
Philadelphia 76ers: 8-74
Cleveland Cavaliers: 65-17 (1)
Chicago Bulls: 58-22 (3)
Detroit Pistons: 43-39 (8)
Indiana Pacers: 36-46
Milwaukee Bucks: 25-57
Washington Wizards: 49-33 (4)
Charlotte Hornets: 46-36 (5)
Atlanta Hawks: 44-38 (6)
Miami Heat: 41-41
Orlando Magic: 29-53
Oklahoma City Thunder: 55-27 (3)
Portland Trailblazers: 53-29 (6)
Denver Nuggets: 41-41
Utah Jazz: 30-52
Minnesota Timberwolves: 25-57
Los Angeles Clippers: 58-24 (2)
Golden State Warriors: 55-27(4)
Phoenix Suns: 51-31 (8)
Sacramento Kings: 34-4
Los Angeles Lakers: 24-58
San Antonio Spurs: 58-24 (1)
Houston Rockets: 54-28 (5)
Memphis Grizzlies: 52-29 (7)
New Orleans Pelicans: 50-32
Dallas Mavericks: 45-37
Guard: Russell Westbrook
Guard: Stephen Curry
Forward: LeBron James
Forward: Anthony Davis
Center: Dwight Howard
MVP: LeBron James
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard
Rookie of the Year: Jabari Parker
Most Improved: Andre Drummond
Comeback Player of the Year: Kobe Bryant
Sixth Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford
Coach of the Year: Doc Rivers