NBA Season Preview

2014/15 NBA Season Preview

By Ian Palmer

The 2014/15 NBA season tips off on Tuesday, October 28th when the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs host the Dallas Mavericks. This is the 69th season of the world’s premier basketball league and it follows an active offseason. First-overall draft choice Andrew Wiggins of Canada was signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers and then traded away in a package deal to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love. The annual All-Star Game will take place at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015 with the regular season wrapping up two months later on April 15. The postseason then gets underway on April 18.

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Here’s a look at the NBA season preview. We can see who the contenders and pretenders are and who doesn’t really have much of a chance this campaign. The current odds on winning the NBA playoffs this season come from the bet365 basketball betting lines:

2014/15 NBA Favorites

San Antonio Spurs

  • 2013-14 Finish: 62-20-1st in Southwest Division, 1st in Western Conference
  • 2014/15 Odds: 15/4
  • 2013/14 Leaders
    • Points: Tony Parker – 16.7 PPG
    • Assists: Tony Parker – 5.7 APG
    • Rebounds: Tim Duncan – 9.7 RPG
    • Blocks: Tim Duncan – 1.9 BPG
    • Steals: Kawhi Leonard – 1.7 SPG

The Spurs should be considered one of the favorites this season simply due to the fact they’re the reigning NBA champions. They’ve proven over the past few years that they should never be counted out as the franchise consists of a fine head coach, a very competent front office and excellent players such as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard. With most of last season’s squad returning, the Spurs are going to be a handful for everybody as they try to repeat as the best in the West and the league. There’s a good chance they’ll take their sixth overall title this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers

  • 2013/14 Finish: 33-49-3rd in Central Division, 10th in Eastern Conference
  • 2014/15 Odds: 14/5
  • 2013/14 Leaders
    • Points: Kyrie Irving – 20.8 PPG
    • Assists: Kyrie Irving – 6.1 APG
    • Rebounds: Anderson Varejao – 9.7 RPG
    • Blocks: Andrew Bynum – 1.2 BPG
    • Steals: Kyrie Irving – 1.5 SPG

The Cavaliers suddenly became contenders overnight once LeBron James announced he was returning to the team. They were long shots in June and became one of the favorites by July when it had sunk in that four-time MVP James was indeed back in the fold. And the odds became even shorter when forward/center Kevin Love was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Love will be teamed up with Kyrie Irving and James and the talented trio is expected to wreak havoc on the rest of the league. James more or less carried the inexperienced Cavaliers to the finals back in the 2006/07 season so fans are predicting him to do it again with this star-studded crew, especially since they play in the East.

Chicago Bulls

  • 2013/14 Finish: 2nd in Central Division, tied for 3rd in Eastern Conference
  • 2014/15 Odds: 7/1
  • 2013/14 Leaders
    • Points: D.J. Augustin – 14.9 PPG
    • Assists: Joakim Noah – 5.4 APG
    • Rebounds: Joakim Noah – 11.3 RPG
    • Blocks: Joakim Noah -1.5 BPG
    • Steals: Jimmy Butler – 1.9 SPG

The Eastern Conference Chicago Bulls improved their roster during the offseason to the point that they’ve become a solid contender for the title. General manager Gar Forman definitely earned his paycheck this summer even though he wasn’t able to land all-star forward Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks. However, Forman managed to clear up some salary cap space by releasing center Carlos Boozer, who ended up with the Los Angeles Lakers. With the money they saved, the Bulls signed guard Aaron Brooks, European star Nikola Mirotic and unrestricted free agent power forward Pau Gasol from the Lakers. Brooks, Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich give the Bulls a lot of depth at the guard position and rookies Doug McDermott and Cameron Bairstow are expected to be good additions. Head coach Tom Thibodeau certainly has a lot of talent to work with in the Windy City.

Los Angeles Clippers

  • 2013/14 Finish: 57-25-1st in Pacific Division, 3rd in Western Conference
  • 2014/15 Odds: 8/1
  • 2013/14 Leaders
    • Points: Blake Griffin – 24.1 PPG
    • Assists: Chris Paul – 10.7 APG
    • Rebounds: DeAndre Jordan – 13.6 RPG
    • Blocks: DeAndre Jordan – 2.5 BPG
    • Steals: Chris Paul – 2.5 SPG

The Los Angeles Clippers have Doc Rivers back as their head coach and the club has been on the upswing over the past two seasons. They set a franchise-record 56 wins in the 2012/13 campaign and then broke it last year by winning 57 contests. However, they definitely need to improve on their playoff performances. They had to endure the Donald Sterling fiasco earlier this year and lost to Oklahoma in the Western Conference semifinals. The club has never made it to a conference final yet and that has to change this season if it’s to be labeled a success. The Clippers have all-stars Chris Paul back at point guard and leading scorer Blake Griffin at power forward. They’ve also got ace rebounder DeAndre Jordan to round things out. If J.J. Redick stays healthy this year then Clippers’ fans should be optimistic.

Legitimate NBA Title Contenders

Golden State Warriors

  • 2013/14 Finish: 51-31-2nd in Pacific Division, 6th in Western Conference
  • 2014/15 Odds: 28/1
  • 2013/14 Leaders
    • Points: Stephen Curry – 24.0 PPG
    • Assists: Stephen Curry – 8.5 APG
    • Rebounds: Andrew Bogut – 10.0 RPG
    • Blocks: Andrew Bogut – 1.8 BPG
    • Steals: Stephen Curry – 1.6 SPG

Golden State said goodbye to former head coach Mark Jackson and were able to acquire the services of rookie Steve Kerr as his replacement, even though the New York Knicks were also in hot pursuit of the former guard. Kerr has plenty of talent at his disposal though and the team should do well in the West and easily make the playoffs. The Warriors could have possibly acquired Kevin Love from Minnesota, but didn’t want to trade away Klay Thompson in any potential package deal. That could be a decision that general manager Bob Myers end up regretting. However, it also means the has one of the top backcourt tandems in the NBA in Thompson and Stephen Curry. The Warriors need Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala, and David Lee to remain healthy and have good seasons if they hope to challenge for the league crown.

Miami Heat

  • 2013/14 Finish: 54-28-1st in Southeast Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference
  • 2014/15 Odds: 35/1
  • 2013/14 Leaders
    • Points: LeBron James – 27.1 PPG
    • Assists: LeBron James – 4.8 APG
    • Rebounds: LeBron James – 6.9 RPG
    • Blocks: LeBron James – 1.0 BPG
    • Steals: LeBron James – 1.8 SPG

The Heat will certainly miss King James, but they’re not just a one-man team. Head coach Pat Riley still has a lot of fine players to work with and the Heat did a decent job of replacing James. They signed free agents Danny Granger, Luol Deng, and Josh McRoberts during the offseason and they will join returnees Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Since the Heat platy in the weaker Eastern Conference they should have enough skill and experience to cause some damage if they can all stay healthy and play to their potential.

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • 2013/14 Finish: 59-23-1st in Northwest Division, 2ns in Western Conference
  • 2014/15 Odds: 13/2
  • 2013/14 Leaders
    • Points: Kevin Durant – 32.0 PPG
    • Assists: Russell Westbrook – 6.9 APG
    • Rebounds: Serge Ibaka – 8.8 RPG
    • Blocks: Serge Ibaka – 2.7 BPG
    • Steals: Russell Westbrook – 1.9 SPG

The biggest news out of Oklahoma City is the injury suffered by reigning league MVP Kevin Durant and how his absence will affect the Thunders’ chances this season. Without Durant in the lineup for the first several weeks of the campaign it means Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are going to need to play as well as possible. They’re still one of the best teams in the West and if they can remain near the top of the standings while Durant’s on the sidelines they should gain a lot of momentum and confidence. Once he returns they could get on a roll and be a legitimate title threat.

Indiana Pacers

  • 2013/14 Finish: 56-26-1st in Central Division, 1st in Eastern Conference
  • 2014/15 Odds: 40/1
  • 2013/14 Leaders
    • Points: Paul George – 21.7 PPG
    • Assists: Lance Stephenson – 4.6 APG
    • Rebounds: Lance Stephenson – 7.2 RPG
    • Blocks: Roy Hibbert – 2.2 BPG
    • Steals: Paul George – 1.9 SPG

The Indiana Pacers had a fine 2013/14 season, but met their match in the playoffs and were knocked out by the Miami Heat. They need to stop turning the ball over when they’re on the attack as they were 19th in the league in turnovers at 15.1 per game on average. The Pacers have a good defense, but were only able to force the opposition into an average of 13.7 turnovers per outing, which ranked them 26th in the league. If they can improve on this trend they should be able to replicate last year’s regular-season performance and go deeper in the playoffs. Leading scorer Paul George is back, but top rebounder and assist man Lance Stephenson left for the Charlotte Hornets.

Long shots

Toronto Raptors

  • 2013/14 Finish: 48-34-1st in Atlantic Division, tied for 3rd in Eastern Conference
  • 2014/15 Odds: 35/1
  • 2013/14 Leaders
    • Points: DeMar DeRozan – 22.7
    • Assists: Kyle Lowry – 7.4
    • Rebounds: Jonas Valanciunas – 8.8
    • Blocks: Amir Johnson – 1.1
    • Steals: Kyle Lowry – 1.5

Unlike the rest of Toronto’s professional sports teams, the Toronto Raptors had a decent 2013/14 campaign and look poised to enjoy another one this year. The Raptors appear to be a team on the rise at the moment and last year’s showing should provide the players with much-needed confidence and experience. Head coach Dwane Casey managed to get the squad into the Eastern Conference playoffs by winning the Atlantic Division and they played well before going down in defeat to the Brooklyn Nets in seven games. The team has a good backcourt duo in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry and down low we see Jonas Valanciunas as an ever-improving player. If the Raptors can win the Atlantic again they’ll be guaranteed at least the third seed the postseason’s first round.

Los Angeles Lakers

  • 2013/14 Finish: 27-55-last in Pacific Division, 14th in Western Conference
  • 2014/15 Odds: 65/1
  • 2013/14 Leaders
    • Points: Nick Young – 17.9 PPG
    • Assists: Kendall Marshall – 8.8 APG
    • Rebounds: Pau Gasol – 9.7 RPG
    • Blocks: Pau Gasol – 1.53 BPG
    • Steals: Jodie Meeks – 1.44 SPG

If the Los Angeles Lakers could have signed any of the offseason’s big-name free agents they might be contenders for their 17th overall NBA title this season. However, they weren’t able to do it and also lost Pau Gasol while they were at it. The Lakers play in the tougher Western Conference and a lot will depend on the state of Kobe Bryant’s knees. They also have 40-year-old Steve Nash on the roster, but he’s having problems staying healthy too. They did manage to pick up Carlos Boozer from Chicago as a free agent and Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill will be returning. Still, the Lakers will be hard pressed to make much noise this season.

Dallas Mavericks

  • 2013/14 Finish: 49-33-4th in Southwest Division, 8th in Western Conference
  • 2014/15 Odds: 25/1
  • 2013/14 Leaders
    • Points: Dirk Nowitzki – 21.7 PPG
    • Assists: Monta Ellis – 5.7 APG
    • Rebounds: Samuel Dalembert – 6.8 RPG
    • Blocks: Samuel Dalembert – 1.2 BPG
    • Steals: Monta Ellis – 1.7 SPG

The Dallas Mavericks had a good 2013/14 season under head coach Rick Carlisle and he proved what he can do with a good squad of players. The Mavericks took the eventual NBA champions San Antonio Spurs to the limit of seven games in the playoffs before bowing out. They gave the Spurs all they could handle and should be better for it this season. The club added a couple of impact players during the offseason in Tyson Chandler and Jameer Nelson and will be relying on big seasons from last year’s top scorer Dirk Nowitzki, top rebounder and blocker Samuel Dalembert and Monta Ellis, who led the club in steals and assists.

Brooklyn Nets

  • 2013/14 Finish: 44-38-2nd in Atlantic Division, 5th in Eastern Conference
  • 2014/15 Odds: 65/1
  • 2013/14 Leaders
    • Points: Brook Lopez – 20.7 PPG
    • Assists: Deron Williams – 6.1 APG
    • Rebounds: Kevin Garnett – 6.6 RPG
    • Blocks: Brook Lopez – 1.8 BPG
    • Steals: Deron Williams – 1.5 SPG

The Brooklyn Nets managed to take the Toronto Raptors out in seven games in last season’s playoffs before succumbing to the Miami Heat in five. General manager Billy King went for a more youthful look during the offseason and tried to cut down on the overall salary of the club at the same time. Former head coach Jason Kidd was also traded away for a pair of second-round draft choices to the Milwaukee Bucks and he’s been replaced by Lionel Hollins, who’s the former head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. The Nets took Markel Brown in the draft and made a trade with Cleveland for Jarrett Jack to replace free-agent departure Shaun Livingston. They also lost Paul Pierce to free agency and this could end up hurting the team more than they realize.

The Rest

The remainder of the NBA’s 30 teams consist of good, mediocre and poor clubs. Some of the better squads this year should be:

  • Houston Rockets (12/1)
  • Portland Trail Blazers (33/1)
  • Memphis Grizzlies (60/1)
  • Washington Wizards (35/1)
  • Phoenix Suns (60/1).

Teams on the outside looking in:

  • Charlotte Hornets (65/1)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (150/1)
  • Atlanta Hawks (100/1)
  • New York Knicks (40/1)
  • New Orleans Pelicans (80/1)
  • Denver Nuggets (80/1).

The Longshots include:

  • Milwaukee Bucks (300/1)
  • Philadelphia 76ers (300/1)
  • Orlando Magic (200/1)
  • Utah Jazz (200/1)
  • Boston Celtics (125/1)
  • Detroit Pistons (150/1)
  • Sacramento Kings (200/1).

2013/14 NBA Leaders:

  • League Champion: San Antonio Spurs
  • Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant-Oklahoma-(32.0/7.4/5.5)
  • Rookie of the Year: Michael Carter-Williams-Philadelphia-(16.7/6.2/6.3)
  • PPG Leader: Kevin Durant-Oklahoma-(32.0)
  • RPG Leader: DeAndre Jordan-Los Angeles Clippers-(13.6)
  • APG Leader: Chris Paul-Los Angeles Clippers-(10.7)
  • WS Leader: Kevin Durant-Oklahoma-(19.2)

2014/15 Award Winner Predictions

  • Most Valuable Player: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Rookie of the Year: Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks
  • Sixth Man: Taj Gibson, Bulls
  • Coach of the Year: Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks