Dojo NBA Preview

Finally. It’s almost time for the 2013 NBA season to get underway. It’s time for a preview to get everyone acclimated for the new season. For those that may forget, the Miami Heat are the two-time defending champions. There are new faces in new places, an already highly anticipated 2014 draft class, tons of what-ifs, and a looming free-agent summer with too many names to mention. For a much more comprehensive and specific look at each team, look for Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose’s NBA Preview on Grantland as they countdown the season with video podcasts breaking down each team’s moves this offseason. You can find the link at the end of the page. Now without further ado, here is a short 2013 NBA Preview…Dojo style.

Note:

-Teams listed in their respected groups are in no particular order. The groupings themselves are rough rankings based on playoff chances.

The White Belts

Phoenix Suns

They just pulled off a nice trade. Giving them four potential first round picks in next years draft. This team will make more noise during next year’s offseason than during the actual season.

Orlando Magic

Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo, Tobias Harris, and Nikola Vucevic headline a very athletic and young Orlando group. Another rebuilding year is coming, but aiming for a low pick this season isn’t necessarily bad. Lets put it this way, you don’t want to be like some of the teams coming up who are shooting for the 8th seeds and losing first round.

Philadelphia Sixers

Jrue Holiday v. Michael Beasley (Photo Cred: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jrue Holiday v. Michael Beasley (Photo Cred: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

There’s a lot to be excited for with the Sixers, but the problem is some people (Philly fans) are impatient. There big move was made on draft night when the Sixers told everyone how they were going to approach the season. Blow. It. Up. They sent their best player over the past two seasons, Jrue Holiday, to New Orleans.  In return, the Pelicans sent Philly; C Nerlens Noel, a 2nd-round pick that turned into Pierre Jackson, and a 2014 first round pick. They will have some nice young talent moving forward. I like this team in three or four years.

Utah Jazz

Look for improvement from Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward, both of whom lead a young team. Once rookie Trey Burke comes back from a minor injury, they should be competitive but lose the close 4th-quarter games.

Sacramento Kings

A team that has DeMarcus Cousins leading them? We’ll see. I do like the athletic guard combo of Isiah Thomas and Ben McLemore.

The Yellow Belts

Charlotte Bobcats

I like Cody Zeller, the addition of Al Jefferson, and a maturing group consisting of Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. They will have some fight in them and I expect them to win more games than they did last year (21), but nothing higher than 30.

Boston Celtics

It’s another team looking to bottom out. Pierce, Garnett, and Terry are gone. What’s left isn’t much but the addition of Brad Stevens at head coach should show some promise if Danny Ainge brings in the right pieces. The fact that I know the Celtics will struggle makes me happy because I don’t have to stress about them making the playoffs or contending at all. Another reason why I can’t wait for the season to start so I can enjoy it without rooting for one specific team.

Toronto Raptors

The biggest rumor will be where SF Rudy Gay goes. My guess…Houston flips Omer Asik, Omri Casspi, and Aaron Brooks for Gay and Kyle Lowry. Totally not going to happen but that’s the glory of trade rumors.

Atlanta Hawks

It’s now Al Horford’s team with the departure of longtime Hawk, Josh Smith. Jeff Teague’s play at point guard will also be important to any success they may have. At the same time, Josh Smith’s departure could mean nothing, they were the 6th seed in the playoffs last year…

The Orange Belts

Washington Wizards

John Wall is the ultimate factor with this team. I like their athletic potential with Trevor Ariza, Otto Potter Jr., Bradley Beal, and Kevin Seraphin. However, potential means very little for this year, and they lack a counter punch to Wall. With Wall healthy for a whole season it’s easily believable that they will eclipse their season win total from last year (29).

Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James (Photo Cred: Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James (Photo Cred: Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Kyrie Irving returns with another season under his belt. The young sensation continues to climb the ranks of the NBA’s elite. Last season, he poured in 22.5 PPG, 5.9 APG, 3.7 RPG and shooting .855 percent from the free throw line. He’s a stud. The Cavs also surprised people when they took Anthony Bennett #1 overall. He’ll be interesting to watch. Also they brought back former head coach Mike Brown. Maybe in preparation for LeBron next summer? (Sorry I can’t resist.)

***Note from Editor: REMINDER TO ALL READERS: email admin@thesportsdojo.com to place your bets against me (Greg) in LeBron’s 2014 destination. He’s gonna be a Cav***

New Orleans Pelicans

They will be a fast energetic team. Jrue Holiday immediately steps in as a dependable scorer and distributor. With Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and Anthony Davis at Jrue’s side, this team could do a lot of damage for the experience they have. Ryan Anderson provides some much needed veteran experience. It’s just unfortunate that they sit in the Western Conference where they are shooting for a low 7 or 8 seed in the playoffs. Consider the fact that (without spoiling anything and in no particular order), the Thunder, Grizzlies, Warriors, Blazers, Clippers, Rockets, and Spurs haven’t been mentioned, it’s tough to find them sitting in with some of these teams.

Los Angeles Lakers

Simply put, when Kobe Bryant comes back from his achilles injury determines where this team ends up.

The Green Belts

Minnesota Timberwolves

I love me some Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. The ultimate big man-little man duo. Rubio loves to dish out the assists and Kevin Love is lethal when healthy. A very entertaining team to watch that sat at the bottom of the Northwest division last season, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum headline the dangerous backcourt for the Trail Blazers. These two loves to shoot the three at the same rate that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shoot. J.J. Hickson was traded in the summer, and although many may not know about him, he was a nice compliment to LaMarcus Aldridge down low. What they lost in Hickson, they made up for with Robin Lopez. While Brook Lopez (BKN) may be the better of the two brothers, both are efficient scorers down low. The Blazers 10th pick, rookie CJ McCollum, will miss the first eight to ten weeks with a foot injury but once he returns, it will be a nice blend of guards between himself, Lillard, and Batum. Don’t forget they added Thomas Robinson, the 5th overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Milwaukee Bucks

(Fox Sports Television)

Giannis Antetokounmpo and his GIANT hands (Fox Sports Television)

Don’t sleep on the Bucks! Don’t forget this name: Giannis Antetokounmpo, their 15th overall pick last year. He’s already drawing comparisons to Kevin Durant because of his incredible athleticism and long, lanky arms. They finally gave up on the Brandon Jennings project while also giving away Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick. Brandon Knight comes in as the go to guard alongside new arrival O.J. Mayo. They have the young play of 3 year center LARRY SANDERS (out of VCU) who deserves to have his name spelled in capital letters every time you say it. I also like the guard play off the bench from Gary Neal, who saw minutes in the NBA Finals with the Spurs and Luke Ridnour, the player that everyone feels has traveled his fair share from team to team, but has only been on 3 teams  (Seattle, Milwaukee, and Minnesota).

The Blue Belts

Denver Nuggets

Ty Lawson is a top ten point guard in the league. He’s easily one of the fastest players in the league which is a reason this Denver team is always relevant. They play at a high tempo in an high altitude arena that affects teams late in games if they try to play the run and gun style the Nuggets love. Kenneth Faried is an athletic freak who is only getting better but what hurts this team is what they lost. They lost Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer, and Masai Ujiri. I’d be surprised if anyone knew who Masai Ujiri was since he’s never played in an NBA game. You may have heard of him because he recently signed a 5 year, $15 million deal to become the GM of the Toronto Raptors. Just know that he won NBA Executive of the Year last year; the guy knows what he’s doing in Toronto. Which is why Rudy Gay WILL be traded… back to the Nuggets. The lost of Iguodala hurts because they just lost their best perimeter defender. They add J.J. Hickson, which I like for defensive rebounding, but his defense is poor. I don’t see this team doing any damage because they’re missing something (aka a legitimate SF or defense in general). Dating back to the 2003-2004 season (so 10 seasons), the Nuggets have reached 50 wins 5 times, reached the playoffs 10 times, BUT they have lost in the first round 9 times. The only time they won in the first round, they made it to the conference finals, ultimately losing to the Lakers who would go on to defeat Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in 5 games.

Detroit Pistons

Don’t be so surprised. This isn’t the Pistons team that has gone a combined 111-201 in the past four seasons. Fresh off of an active summer, the Pistons have immediately leapfrogged into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The key additions to the team are SF/PF Josh Smith, formerly of the Atlanta Hawks, and Brandon Jennings, former PG of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Pistons may boast the best starting front court in the Eastern Conference this season (Indiana’s Hibbert/West/George maybe a tad better, more on them later). With Smith in the SF and two young developing big men in PF Greg Monroe and C Andre Drummond. Drummond is coming off a rookie campaign in which he averaged a modest 7.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, while shooting over 60% from the field. For Monroe, the team is there for the taking. Entering his fourth year in the league, Monroe is coming off a junior season in which he played in 81 games and averaged 16.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, and 1.3 SPG. How far Detroit can go depends on the play of their bigs. They’re easily one of my favorite teams to watch this year.

Dallas Mavericks

You always love to have Dirk Nowitzki on the team. I don’t like the shooting habits of Monta Ellis or the defense of Jose Calderon. Calderon has exceptional passing ability and averaged 7.1 assists last year so his offensive contribution is important. They can make a run to get into the playoffs but they’re bench play is key (Jae Crowder, Devin Harris, Vince Carter), which is where I lack faith.

The Violet Belts

Memphis Grizzlies

If you want to know how to play defense as a team, watch the Memphis Grizzlies. Zach Randolph and Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol return to a team desperate for some outside shooting. They have a solid defensive makeup when you combine Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince to the mix, but they lack a shooting guard or small forward with long range shooting. Mike Conley is a more than competent point guard but when your bench has names like Quincy Pondexter and Jarryd Bayless, it’s time to hit the trade market. This is one of many teams that missed their window to win a championship. Last year the Lakers were out of the playoffs, the Grizz ousted the Clippers, and defeated the Thunder without Westbrook. If you think about it, everything went right for them, but they couldn’t handle the Spurs in the end. Expect another gritty, physical Memphis team this year.

New York Knicks

You’ll hear me talk about the Knicks enough throughout the season. You have to love having Carmelo Anthony on the team but their competition at the 2-guard concerns me. J.R. Smith was god awful in the playoffs last season and simply won’t stop shooting. I like Iman Shumpert, he plays exceptional defense and he does things like this.

They’re looking at a 4 or 5 seed in the Eastern conference behind the Heat, Pacers, Nets, and Bulls.

The Brown Belts

Golden State Warriors

Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, The Splash Brothers. I love the addition of Andrew Iguodala because now you have a team that is one key player away from contending with the Heat. Don’t think I’m crazy. They have a starting five of Curry/Thompson/Iguodala/Lee/Bogut with Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green providing minutes off the bench. One of the most exciting teams to watch on any random night, this is a team to remember come April and May.

Brooklyn Nets

Without cheating, see if you can name these 5 players based on their salary for the upcoming year:

Player A: $18.4 million

Player B: $21.4 million

Player C: $15.3 million

Player D: $12.4 million

Player E: $14.6 million

(Take a minute to think)

(…)

(One more)

(…)

If you guessed Brooklyn’s starting lineup, you’re correct! (A- Deron Williams, B- Joe Johnson, C- Paul Pierce, D- Kevin Garnett, E- Brook Lopez). That is a ridiculous amount of money for just 5 players. The question here is whether or not this team can compete with Miami, Indiana, and Chicago. If you look at this graphic, I think they are pretty well rounded in all areas of offense. Don’t forget that Williams averaged over 10 assists last season. This team is one to watch for in the playoffs without a doubt.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 1.06.27 PM

One last hypothetical question here…if Brooklyn gets to the Eastern Conference finals against Miami. Honestly, who do you have winning? Would you take Williams/Johnson/Pierce/Garnett/Lopez or Chalmers/Wade/LeBron/Bosh/Oden? We’ll break down Miami more thoroughly but Brooklyn has huge advantages at PG and C so always keep that in mind; to be continued.

Houston Rockets

There is a lot to like about this team. To get the big guys out of the way (no pun intended), Dwight Howard gets his second fresh start. The Rockets were more of an up-tempo team last year, but with the arrival of Howard, things may slow down. They have great ball handlers in Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, and Terrence Jones. Which will only create space for Dwight down low because if you leave any of these shooters open to double team Dwight, the Rockets will make you pay. Besides the pending trade of Rudy Gay, similar to Bill Simmons, I think that the Rockets other center, Omer Asik, will be traded. He is a great player, don’t get me wrong, but both him and Dwight shoot below 50% from the free throw line…you tell me if you want both of them on the court in the last 5 minutes of a game. Hack-A-Dwight will turn into Hack-A-Rocket. A side note, Chandler Parsons may be one of my top ten favorite players to watch this year. More on this list later.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Two years ago they were in The NBA Finals duking it out with the Heat, but it’s been a long time since then. James Harden is still gone and they received another gut punch when they got rid of Kevin Martin this past offseason (Martin was apart of the deal that sent Harden to Houston). Not to mention Russell Westbrook is going to miss at least four weeks with his knee injury (Update: maybe only two weeks). It’s Kevin Durant’s time to shine. He’s the #2 player in the league behind LeBron, which is how it has been for the past year or so, but it’s time to grow up. Durant needs to carry the Thunder until Westbrook comes back to lighten the load. I’m expecting Sam Presti (GM) to make some sort of move to help bolster the roster during the season. They won’t be making any Finals trips without a little more offensive help from players not named Durant and Westbrook.

Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul and Doc Rivers. The team’s success hinges on these two factors but the play of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin is also imperative. While I love “Lob City”, they falter in the playoffs every year because of an inability to run a half court offense. Will it happen again? Whatcha got, Doc?

The Black Belts

Indiana Pacers

My pick to win the Eastern Conference this year. Paul George will be a top 5 player this year if he competes like he did in last years playoffs. I boasted about the frontcourt of the Detroit Pistons (Smith/Monroe/Drummond) but like I said before, Indiana’s may be a tad better. George/West/Hibbert all played quality minutes during their bout with the Miami Heat last year, which is why I give the edge to them because of experience. Detroit’s frontcourt is extremely talented, but very young as well. Another Indiana themed pick of mine is Roy Hibbert for Defensive Player of the Year. I guess we’ll see.

Chicago Bulls

Hey, did you know Derrick Rose is back? Well he’s back and better than ever; or so it seems. On paper, they have one of the best defensive units in the league. You could talk me into a debate between them and Memphis. They show off a combination of Rose/Butler/Deng/Boozer/Noah and Taj Gibson off the bench and laying crunch time minutes, I’d be legitimately afraid of seeing this team in the playoffs. People make a huge deal about the Bulls and the Heat. Rightfully so because the Bulls are good, but I won’t say they can compete for the East until after I see Rose play in the regular season. People already forget about how the Pacers took the Heat to seven games in the conference finals last year. As of now, if there was a rankings for who would beat the Heat this season, I’d go with 1a. Pacers followed closely by 1b. Bulls.

San Antonio Spurs

My pick to come out of the Western Conference for a second straight year, the Spurs bring back the majority of the core that were 20 seconds away from winning the NBA Finals in Game 6. We all know the story…Chris Bosh was finally in the right place…Ray Allen did his thing…LeBron gets ring #2. It hurt to see a Spurs team go out like that. They are the old veterans boiling with experience but just because its one year later doesn’t matter. NEWS FLASH: The Western Conference is up for grabs. Top to bottom the West has the better teams compared to the East. What is weird is that the Spurs can essentially walk into the playoffs. Kobe isn’t returning for a couple months, and Westbrook is out for a couple weeks. The path to the playoffs may seem easier for the Spurs with injury plagued teams surrounding them. The Warriors can expose them with their speed and outside shooting, but then again the Spurs trumped Golden State in the playoffs last year so I wouldn’t put it past Tim Duncan to be able to do it again. The Clippers will falter one way or the other like they have in the past, leaving me to believe the Spurs have an excellent shot of making it back to the finals.

Miami Heat

This is a preview for the upcoming season, so even though both of my predictions to represent The NBA Finals have already been mentioned and I stated at the beginning of this piece that the teams aren’t in any significant order, the Heat have to open at the number 1 spot. People (and by people I mean Bill Simmons) ranked the Bulls ahead of the Heat in their preseason rankings. I love the Bulls don’t get me wrong, but you can’t leap frog the two-time defending Miami Heat in any power ranking poll. I don’t care what star player is returning from injury. Miami will be in the thick of things like always, but I don’t think they will have the energy to three-peat.

LeBron after his first title (Photo Cred: David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

LeBron after his first title (Photo Cred: David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

The season will be filled with ups and downs, so expect the unexpected. Enjoy the buzzer beaters, the comebacks wins, the unexpected losses, the big games, the big names, and above all, enjoy the 2013-2014 season. The Heat have won two championships in a row, so the league is against them. Your move, LeBron.

2013-2014 Predictions

MVP: Kevin Durant…All bias’ aside, for this to happen, a couple things need to align the right way:

1) He needs to post another 50-40-90 line for the second consecutive season: For those that are unaware, a player enters the 50-40-90 club by shooting above 50% from the field, shooting above 40% from three, and shooting above 90% from the free throw line…to give people an idea of how hard this is, it’s only occurred 10 times EVER, accomplished by Steve Nash (4 times), Larry Bird (2), Mark Price (1), Dirk Nowitzki (1), Reggie Miller (1), and Durant (1) last year

2) He needs to win the scoring title

3) Keep OKC in the top 3-4 of the Western Conference…what I really mean is that he needs to show he can play without Russell Westbrook

4) Continue to show growth: every year we see Durant, similarly to LeBron, improve on a different facet of his game. With Westbrook out, his distribution of the ball needs to be on point to involve other teammates.

Defensive player of the Year: Roy Hibbert

Rookie of the Year: Victor Oladipo

He decides if he wants it or not. There aren’t many rookies being thrusted into a starting guard spot besides Trey Burke.

Sixth Man of the Year: Iman Shumpart

This assumes the Mike Woodson starts J.R. Smith, but Shumpart is the better player and it will be clear this year.

All-NBA first team:

G: Chris Paul

G: James Harden

F: LeBron James

F: Kevin Durant

C: Dwight Howard

East #1 Seed: Miami Heat

East team to remember: Indiana Pacers

It’s funny that I say this after the Pacers straight up fought to the death with the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The Heat will be the Heat, people are going to religiously follow the Derrick Rose comeback tour, and Brooklyn’s new core will be fun to watch. Clearing the way for the Pacers to possibly coast under the radar until the playoffs once again.

West #1 Seed: Los Angeles Clippers

They are built to win many regular season games, remember that the Spurs will give teams wins to rest starters late in the season and the Thunder are going to be without Russell Westbrook, meaning KD carries the workload until then and they won’t start out as hot as they have in recent memory.

West team to remember: Golden State Warriors

Don’t take their run last post season as a fluke. The Warriors added veteran guard Andre Igudola to the mix, giving them the ability to match up well defensively against teams with dynamic shooting guards or small forwards (aka LeBron, KD, Melo).

Eastern Conference Finals: Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers (Pacers in 7)

Western Conference Finals: San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Clippers (Spurs in 6)

Finals Pick: San Antonio vs. Indiana Pacers (Spurs in 6)

2013-2014 Champion: San Antonio Spurs

Duncan, Ginobili, Parker, and Coach Popovich go “Ray Lewis” on everyone; they easily get into the playoffs without caring for their seed, win each round with their years of experience, and go out on top like all greats should.

Links:

Grantland 2013 NBA Previews: http://www.grantland.com/nbapreview2013

Joe Meola

Twitter – @brosephmeola

E-Mail – senseimeola@gmail.com

**Feel free to email me with questions and comments and have a chance to be mentioned in an upcoming article**

 

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