With the NBA season a day away from tipping off, it’s time to take a peek at the teams to pay attention to in both the Western and Eastern Conference. For the east, it’s the Miami Heat looking for a three-peat, but I think this is the year the Heat organization is looking beyond this season and the possibility that their big three (LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh) may opt out and go elsewhere while the fans are holding their breath. Whether or not they leave, I don’t know, but with the new collective bargaining agreement, teams who go over the salary cap will pay dearly for it. This puts Miami in a tough spot as to who they should offer money to stay and who they wouldn’t mind going to another team. Now, in the Eastern Conference, other teams are reloading for one thing, to dethrone the Heat in the playoffs. The teams that come to mind that, on paper right now, can do this are the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, and the Brooklyn Nets. I’m not putting the New York Knicks in this category because I’m not confident on their roster at the moment.
The teams to watch out for this season in the Eastern Conference are the Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers, who have the number 1 draft picks of the last 3 years in Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett, are a young team that has nothing but potential. And as much as this may irk Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert, they may just make a pitch to Miami Heat forward LeBron James to come play for them if he does decide to opt out of his contract based on the idea that their team is young, talented, and will give James several years of opportunities to win NBA Titles. And I’m only listing the Wizards in my teams to watch based on the deal that they just struck with the Phoenix Suns late last week. They traded Emeka Okafor and a draft pick to the Suns for Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown and two other players. So, the Wizards may have gotten the better end of the deal now because they’ll probably contend for a playoff spots 5-8.
For the Western Conference, a conference that is loaded with great teams, it’s all about who will be the healthiest going into the playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs, the defending Western Conference Champions, will play their own style of game while giving their veteran players their days of rest. Why? Head Coach Gregg Popovich wants the entire team fresh for the playoffs. Now, unlike the east, the Western Conference has a ton of teams that will have a chance to make it to the NBA Finals. Teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and the Memphis Grizzlies are teams that have a great chance of dethroning the Spurs as the best in the west. And the team to watch out for in the West is the Houston Rockets. Dwight Howard had A LOT to prove after whining his way out of Orlando to the Lakers and then had a bad year in LA. To make matters worse, he angered the fans in LA when, as a free agent, turned his back on them by joining the Rockets. Now with a team that has Jeremy Lin and James Harden, he has no excuses for his performance as one of the center pieces on a team that aspires to contend in the west.