With the first NBA exhibition game only a week away, there are several reasons to be thrilled about the 2013-2014 NBA season. The landscape of the NBA is undergoing major transformations this season, ranging from the retirement of commissioner David Stern to the birth of a dynasty in Miami. This season will play a big role in determining the legacy of LeBron James, the fall of past powerhouses — Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks
— and the rise of others in the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors. With that said, let’s see how the Western Conference will play out this season.
1. San Antonio Spurs- Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Calling the Spurs too old to compete, saying Tim Duncan is too old to be an elite power forward, and counting the Spurs out season after season is nothing but insanity. The Spurs will once again show why they are the class of the NBA Western Conference.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder- The Oklahoma City Thunder was an outstanding team last year. But they never seemed quite the same after the departure of now-superstar James Harden. Will general manager Sam Presti’s financially conservative decision to let go of Harden backfire on the surefire championship contender? We can only wait and see.
3. Los Angeles Clippers- There are only four coaches in the NBA today who have won a championship- Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstera, Rick Carlisle and Doc Rivers. The Los Angeles Clippers now have one of them. With a championship-worthy coach in Rivers, Chris Paul and the still-improving Blake Griffin, the Clippers are primed to take the next step in the playoffs.
4. Golden State Warriors- The acquisition of Andre Iguodala was arguably the best steal of the NBA offseason. With the entire free agency revolving around Dwight Howard’s arrival in Houston, a bigger story was missed. The Warriors, NBA Western Conference semi-finalists of last year, have acquired an elite wing stopper and much needed veteran leadership. The maturation of superstar Stephen Curry and the health of Andrew Bogut should determine how far this team can go.
5. Houston Rockets- Dwight Howard has landed in the perfect spot. He is being coached by arguably the best post player of all time — Kevin McHale. He is mentored by one of the greatest centers of all time — Hakeem Olajuwon. He is alongside the best shooting guard in the NBA — James Harden. If Howard continues to whine or not take the Rockets deep into the playoffs, expect it to be a disappointing season in Houston.
6. Memphis Grizzlies- This team can play defense. Marc Gasol anchoring the defense and Tony Allen on the wing is certainly a recipe for defensive success. However, the Grizzlies can go for long stretches without an elite scoring punch.
7. Dallas Mavericks- It’s hard to believe the Mavericks won a championship just two years ago. The Mavericks of last year resemble nothing of the 2011 Mavericks that had mastered the art of flow offense and zone defense. However, with a healthy Dirk Nowitzki ready to prove himself and the additions of Monta Ellis and Samuel Dalembert, the Mavericks should sneak into the playoffs.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves- Health is the biggest problem here. If Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic are healthy for whole season, there is no doubt the Timberwolves will finally make the playoffs.