With the new season just over a month away, we tackle the biggest questions facing the NBA in 2014-2015. Will LeBron James lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a title? Will the Houston Rockets regret letting Chandler Parsons get away? Will Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher help the re-built New York Knicks to the playoffs? Find out the answers to those pressing queries and more with our 10 biggest questions entering the 2014-2015 season.
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Can LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving win a championship this year in Cleveland?
The summer of 2014 will be remembered forever in the NBA. King James has returned to his home in Ohio and has brought a fury of talent along with him. However, talent doesn’t necessarily guarantee a championship. Kyrie Irving will have to adjust to being the second or third scoring option after being the go-to-guy in his first two seasons. Irving needs to become a better spot-up shooter, as he only averaged 3.1 points per game last season on catch-and-shoot opportunities. Irving has battled multiple injuries and will need to stay healthy this season. Kevin Love will be able to put his talent on display as an excellent passer and could be a great pick-and-pop player alongside Irving and James. More importantly, championship teams must play at both ends of the floor. Love and Irving are not known for their defense but will need to become better defenders if they plan on winning a championship this season. Much has been made of Irving and Love having never played in a playoff game, but with players such as James, Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, James Jones, and possibly Ray Allen, I don’t see it being as big as an issue as some may think. Cleveland’s new big three will have to learn to mesh together, and the surrounding pieces will need to learn their roles on the team. The Cavaliers may be the favorite on paper, but they must adopt James’ championship demeanor if they want to be crowned champions in 2014.
Will Derrick Rose stay healthy?
Derrick Rose was solid in the FIBA World Cup, but after two season-ending injuries in back-to-back years, Rose’s health is a major question. The Chicago Bulls went and got a scoring big man in Pau Gasol and added some stretch forwards to help spread the floor for Rose. With a great foundation built by Gar Forman and Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls have the roster to make a championship run in the East. With that being said, Chicago will finish middle of the pack for another season if Rose goes down yet again. Rose must stay healthy and get back to MVP form if he wants to bring a championship back to Chicago.
How does Indiana replace Paul George?
Realistically, Indiana probably can’t replace Paul George’s productivity. Losing Lance Stephenson to Charlotte and PG13 to a gruesome injury leaves Indiana with just about zero go-to scoring options. George and Stephenson led the Pacers in almost every offensive category last season and there isn’t much on the roster to make you believe they can pick up even half of their productivity. For a team that has been to the Eastern Conference Final back-to-back seasons, they will be lucky to reach the playoffs in an already dreadful Eastern Conference.
Can the Miami Heat still be a championship contender despite losing LeBron James?
Chris Bosh returning to Miami was crucial for the Heat to continue contending for championships. However, Bosh will play a much bigger role on both ends of the floor this season in Miami with the loss of James. Josh McRoberts, Luol Deng and Danny Granger were also brought in to give Miami some veteran depth to lessen the blow of losing James. With that being said, the Heat’s season will come down to the play of Dwyane Wade. Wade has battled injuries his whole career and missed 28 games last season. In 2011-12 he only played in 49 games. If Wade can’t stay healthy, Miami will be without a true scorer and a player who can create his own shot. If Wade can stay healthy, Miami still has a very good chance of winning the east.
Will the Rockets regret letting Chandler Parsons walk?
The Houston Rockets were a team on the rise last season, finishing fourth in a very tough Western Conference. This offseason, Houston struck out on every free agent they targeted. The biggest strikeout this offseason for Houston was losing Chandler Parsons. Parsons, a rising young talent, averaged 16.6 points, 4 assists and 5.5 rebounds a year ago for the Rockets. Entering his fourth season in the NBA, Parsons has progressed each year. Houston claimed they were looking for a “third superstar” this offseason and James Harden and Dwight Howard made it clear they did not think Parsons was of that caliber. In a conference full of playoff quality teams, Houston took a step back and the loss of Parsons will only diminish their championship hopes.
How good is the 2014 NBA Draft class?
The start of last year’s college basketball season was buzzing with a list of top freshmen. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle highlighted what was hyped to be the best group of incoming freshmen in years. NBA teams were allegedly planning on “tanking” to position themselves to draft one of these top prospects in this summer’s draft. However, as the college basketball season marched on, analysts began thinking that the class of 2014 was overrated. With Wiggins now in Minnesota and Parker in Milwaukee, this draft class will be under heavy scrutiny. The 2013 NBA Draft class had almost no impact on the league last year despite a few players that were on terrible teams. This season I expect one of these rookies – Wiggins, Parker, Dante Exum and Aaron Gordon – to lead their team to the playoffs. It has been quite awhile since a rookie has come in and had a major impact right away in the league. This year might be the year we see that change.
Can Kobe Bryant bring the Los Angeles Lakers back to the playoffs?
Kobe Bryant is 36-years-old and coming off a season-ending knee injury. He recently just signed a big two-year contract with the Lakers that many criticized the franchise for agreeing to due to the lack of flexibility it gave Los Angeles to sign players in free agency. The Lakers missed out on signing Carmelo Anthony and failed to bring back Gasol. Instead the Lakers added a bunch of role players to surround Bryant with Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer, and drafted Julius Randle from the University of Kentucky. At age 36, it will be tough for Bryant to be able to carry the Lakers back to the playoffs with the talent surrounding him. The Black Mamba might face his toughest task in years as the Western Conference is stronger than ever and Bryant just simply is running out of gas. If there is anyone who can overcome this adversity, it’s Bryant, but Mamba may have seen his last NBA postseason already in his Hall of Fame career.
Which team in the West will dethrone the San Antonio Spurs?
The Western Conference has been dominated by the San Antonio Spurs the past two years, representing the West in the NBA Finals both years. This year the defending champions bring back the same roster and the same coach, just one year older. NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is a rising star and age doesn’t seem to affect Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
The number one contender to the Spurs to win the west is the Oklahoma City Thunder. The league’s reigning MVP Kevin Durant is hoping that the Thunder can go a postseason without an injury to one of their top players (Russell Westbrook in 2013, Serge Ibaka in 2014). The Houston Rockets took a step back this offseason after losing Parsons. The Memphis Grizzlies will hope to have a healthy Marc Gasol all season and added some scorers to help their 27th ranked scoring offense. The Clippers have gotten deeper with the additions of Jordan Farmar and Spencer Hawes. Golden State and new head coach Steve Kerr added Shaun Livingston to their already deep back-court to improve their perimeter defense. However, the San Antonio Spurs show no signs of deteriorating. They don’t need to make big splashes in the offseason; they just go about their business year in and year out. Is this the year someone in the west finally unseats the Spurs?
Will the New York Knicks return to the playoffs?
The New York Knicks were a disaster last season. Anthony announced he would test free agency early in the season and the Knicks went into a spiraling downfall. Not making the playoffs with one of the highest payrolls in the NBA led to the hiring of Phil Jackson to bring New York back to being a championship contender. Jackson brought in Derek Fisher to be the head coach and implement the triangle offense that helped Jackson win 11 titles as a head coach. Jackson made a splash by moving Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to acquire players that are more of a fit for the system. However, with a first year head coach and a team of selfish players, will the Knicks buy in and get back to the postseason? Anthony is playing the best basketball of his career the past few years and has nothing but a scoring title to show for it. Jackson was brought into win championships, and Anthony has made it clear he is all about winning. With a talented roster and one of the best players in the NBA, there is no reason the Knicks can’t return to the playoffs this upcoming season in the wide open Eastern Conference.
Will a big name star get moved before the deadline?
Eric Bledsoe and the Phoenix Suns are miles apart in contract negotiations and it doesn’t seem as if they will be close on a deal in the near future. The Boston Celtics used two of their first round draft picks to select guards and brought back Avery Bradley, making a Rajon Rondo trade a good possibility by February’s trade deadline. Rudy Gay is a player that is always talked about in trades and the Sacramento Kings are a long shot to make the playoffs. Other players that are entering their final year of their current contract include, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Monroe, Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol and Gorgan Dragic. If the players above decide to announce they will test free agency like Anthony did early last year and their teams fail to be in the playoff hunt in February, they could be a part of a blockbuster deal at the deadline.
What do you think?
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