Moreover, the Western Conference is loaded at the top, which is why the Memphis Grizzlies can not be considered title contenders. Golden State needs Stephen Curry to stay healthy, but the Warriors made a strong addition by adding Andre Iguoadala. If the Rockets get Dwight Howard’s maximum potential, the Harden-Howard duo could catapult Houston to the NBA Finals. The Clippers made a significant coaching upgrade with Doc Rivers, but they will need Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to deliver sturdy defense in the playoffs. Oklahoma City will need monster years from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to conquer the NBA, but you should never count out an angry Durant. Finally, the Spurs continue to produce results, and Kawhi Leonard could blossom into an All-NBA player this season.
Another thing to watch are teams “tanking” the season for a better chance of nabbing a future All-Star in the 2014 Draft. The Philadelphia 76ers will feature Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young on offense, and they traded their starting point guard to New Orleans for a 2014 first-round pick and the injured Nerlens Noel. Phoenix will contend with Philly for the worst record, as they recently traded starter Martin Gortat and two role players to Washington for the injured Emeka Okafor and a 2014 first-round pick. Don’t count out either the Lakers or Celtics getting a high pick with a midseason trade — Gasol or Rondo, anyone? — and some lottery luck. A theme for these tanking teams is that they will purposefully make decisions that promote short term failure to obtain a franchise player in the draft. Oklahoma City is the model for bad teams, because the Thunder drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden and turned from a laughingstock to perennial contender.
There are numerous other teams worth mentioning, but my preview is done because the NBA action starts now!
— Dominic Kearns
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