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2014-2015 NBA Preview

by: Jason Leach
November 21, 2014

This upcoming basketball season is one of the most anticipated in recent history. There are many storylines and questions heading into this season. Will LeBron James bring a title to Cleveland? How long will Kevin Durant be out? How will the Knicks fair with first year coach Derek Fisher? Can Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose stay healthy? Lastly, will the San Antonio Spurs repeat?
Here are our NBA rankings for each division.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division-
1. Toronto Raptors – The Raptors won the Atlantic division last year but were eliminated in the first round by the Nets. Now, the Raptors are hopeful that their playoff experience and the addition of Kyle Lowry will get them past the first round
2. New York Knicks – New coach Derek Fisher will do his best to make the triangle offense run as smooth as possible. With new players and a new offense, there will be growing pains for Knicks fans. But, when all else fails, they can give the ball to Carmelo Anthony.
3. Brooklyn Nets – Injuries to Brook Lopez and Deron Williams have prevented the Nets from reaching their full potential over the last few seasons. Now, with Kevin Garnett a year older and Paul Pierce in Washington, the Nets will have to fight just to make the playoffs.
4. Boston Celtics – The good news for the Celtics is that Rajon Rondo is healthy. The bad news is the Celtics don’t have enough scoring to compete in the East. If rookie Marcus Smart has a fast start to the season, the Celtics may trade Rondo since he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season.
5. Philadelphia 76ers – The 76ers won 19 games last year and it doesn’t seem that they will fare much better this year. It will take at least another season before we can expect anything from the young 76ers.

Central Division-

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – With LeBron James now back in Cleveland, the power structure of the East has changed dramatically. The Cavs were able to make a trade to acquire all-star Kevin Love and now they have their own Big 3 (James, Love, Irving).
2. Chicago Bulls – In the offseason, the Bulls added Paul Gasol to increase scoring in their frontcourt. In the draft they added sharp shooter Doug McDermott. Now, the Bulls are hoping Derrick Rose can play a full season.
3. Indiana Pacers – The prospect of the Pacers making another deep run in the playoffs ended when Paul George broke his leg. With Lance Stephenson now in Charlotte, the Pacers will have to rely on their big front court consisting of David West and Roy Hibbert to carry them.
4. Detroit Pistons – The Pistons have three talented big men in Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. If new coach Stan Van Gundy can improve on their shot selection, the Pistons can contend for a playoff spot.
5. Milwaukee Bucks – The Bucks may have the rookie of the year in Jabari Parker, as he is a pure scorer. However, new head coach Jason Kidd will have his work cut out trying to improve on the Bucks 15-67 record last season.

Southeast Division-

1. Washington Wizards – The Wizards backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal is one of the most talented in the NBA. After making it to the second round of the playoff last season, the Wizards added Paul Pierce, believing his championship experience can take them to the next level.
2. Miami Heat – With LeBron James back in Cleveland the Heat will need for Dwayne Wade to play like the Wade of old. Expect Chris Bosh to become more involved in the offense as in his early days in the NBA when he was with the Raptors.
3. Charlotte Hornets – Slowly but surely Michael Jordan is building a contender in Charlotte. They made the playoff last season, and now with the addition of free agent Lance Stephenson the Hornets are looking to win a playoff series.
4. Atlanta Hawks – Last season Paul Mishap had a career year and made his first All-Star team. With center Al Horford returning from his pectoral injury, the Hawks frontcourt will cause problems for any team they play.
5. Orlando Magic – The Magic has a promising rookie point guard in Elfrid Payton. Unfortunately, there’s not much talent on this roster to improve on the 23 wins they had last season.

Western Conference
Northwest Division-
Oklahoma City Thunder – With Kevin Durant expected to miss at least a month of the season, the Thunder will have to rely on Russell Westbrook to carry them in Durant’s absence. The Thunder will still win around 55 games but it will not be enough to contend for the number one seed come playoff time.

Portland Trailblazers- Damian Lillard showed in last year’s playoffs that he is a superstar in the making, as the Trailblazers won a playoff series for the first time since 2000. Look for Lillard to take the next step and improve on his 20.7 PPG from a season ago and for Portland to once again advance to the Conference Semi Finals.
Denver Nuggets – The success the Nuggets have this upcoming season revolves around the health of JaVale McGee, who missed 77 games last year due to a stress fracture in his left tibia. If he’s healthy, he and his 7’6’’ wingspan can have the Nuggets contend for a playoff spot. If he’s not expect, the Nuggets to have a similar record as they did last year when they went 36-46
Minnesota Timberwolves – The Timberwolves traded the corner stone of their franchise, Kevin Love, and acquired the number one pick in this year’s draft, Andrew Wiggins. While Wiggins has a promising future, it’s not realistic to expect him to match Love’s 26.1 points per game, or for the Timberwolves to do better than their 40-42 record from last year.
Utah Jazz – It’s clear that the Jazz are in rebuilding mode. They’re hoping that their young talent consisting of Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors will continue to improve, but they’re not ready to compete in the deep Western Conference

Pacific Division
1. Los Angeles Clippers – The Clippers have as talented of a roster as there is in the NBA, led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. This team should win close to 60 games if they stay healthy. The question is can the Clippers take that next step come playoff time?
2. Golden State Warriors – In Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson the Warriors have arguably the best backcourt in basketball. The pressure will be on first year head coach Steve Kerr to take this team on a deep run in the playoffs. Under Kerr, the Warriors offense should be better, but their defense could slip a bit.
3. Phoenix Suns – The Suns dynamic pick and roll backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe help lead them to a 48-34 record and they almost made the playoffs. In the offseason, they acquired guard Isaiah Thomas who put up career highs in points and assist. With Dragic set to become a free agent in July, the Suns may look to trade him and acquire a big man sometime this season.
4. Los Angeles Lakers – The good news for the Lakers is that Kobe Bryant is back and looks close to his former self. The bad news is that the Lakers have been hit with injuries, with Steve Nash and rookie Julius Randle lost for the season.
5. Sacramento Kings – Demarcus Cousins seems to improve every year and this was on display during the FIBA World Cup this summer. Unfortunately, with the exception of Rudy Gay there’s not a whole lot of talent besides Cousins.

Southwest Division
San Antonio Spurs – With all of the major pieces back from last year’s championship team, the Spurs are poised to repeat. Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, is set to become a star in this league.
Dallas Mavericks – With Tyson Chandler back in Dallas after spending 3 years with the Knicks, the Mavericks interior defense has improved greatly.
Houston Rockets – The Rockets have a legit MVP candidate in James Harden. But with the loss of Chandler Parsons, and the Rockets unable to get another star to go with Harden and Dwight Howard, the Rockets will likely lose in the first round again.
Memphis Grizzles – If the Grizzles played in the Eastern Conference they would likely be a top three seed as they have won 50 games for two years in a row. Acquiring Vince Carter almost assures them of another 50 win season, but they’ll likely be no better than a 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs.
New Orleans Pelicans – In a few years Anthony Davis maybe the best player in the NBA. The acquisition of center Omer Asik should put the Pelicans on the brink of being a 500 team.

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