The 2013-14 NBA regular season gets underway Tuesday with three games tipping off the grueling 82 game schedule, including a very attractive matchup between a pair of Eastern powers.
Chicago, with a fully recovered and healthy Derrick Rose, will be in South Beach to challenge the two time defending champ Miami, who may be in the final season with their star studded roster intact with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Of greatest concern will be the status of King James who can opt out of his contract following this season. You can be sure the next nine months will be ripe with rumors of James headed to perhaps the Knicks or Lakers. Maybe the high spending owner of the Brooklyn Nets will make a serious run after the game’s top player.
It’s also possible LBJ will head back to Cleveland, where his career started, though he became reviled when deciding to take his talents to Miami. Or maybe, just maybe, he will stay put. It will be a most interesting season from the standpoint of all the “where will LeBron land” talk that should also make for some very entertaining chatter as well.
As to how the new season will play out, we might wish to look at how the sports books assess the teams and their prospects for success, both in terms of futures odds to win the NBA title and the projected regular season win totals posted for each team.
Using the LVH sports book as a source it’s no surprise Miami is a solid 2 to 1 favorite to win a third straight title. Oklahoma City is the second choice at 9-2 with Chicago at 6-1, the only other team less than 8-1. Both San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers are 8-1 with Houston (10-1), Brooklyn (12-1) and Indiana (15-1) the other teams held at odds of less than 25-1.
If you are looking for a longshot with hedging opportunities should you think they may not make it all the way, Golden State at 25-1 might be an attractive choice. Minnesota would be a nice lottery ticket play at 100-1.
Using the LVH season win totals as a guide, the projected playoff teams from the East are Miami (60.5), Chicago (56), Indiana (55), Brooklyn (52), New York (50), and the trio of Atlanta, Cleveland and Detroit (each at 40).
Note the huge gap from projected fifth seeded New York and the three teams projected to round out the East playoff field. Washington is projected at 39 wins. The team expected to be the worst in the NBA this season resides in the East as Philadelphia is projected to win just 17 games!
The Clippers are the projected top seed in the West at 56.5 wins. San Antonio is next at 55.5, followed by Houston (55) and Oklahoma City (53) to round out the top four teams. Also projected to make the playoffs are Golden State (51.5), Memphis (51), Denver (46.5) and Dallas (44).
Note the relative parity expected in the West with just 12.5 games separating the projected one through eight seeds. The difference between one and eight in the East is projected at 20.5 wins.
Los Angeles Lakers fans will be disappointed with the projection of just 35 wins, largely due to the uncertain absence of star Kobe Bryant combined with other key departures from last season’s team, especially that of Dwight Howard who is now toiling in Houston. The 35 would place the Lakers No. 12 in the West, a full 9 games out of making the playoffs. The team projected to be the worst in the West is Phoenix, at 21.5 wins.
These preseason projections tend to always make sense given how teams are perceived before the regular season tips off, based upon how teams fared last season and the changes that were made to rosters and coaching staffs over the summer. Then the season begins and perceptions and predictions change, often radically.
The departure of highly successful coaches George Karl from Denver and Lionel Hollins from Memphis suggest both teams should decline. A major coaching upgrade is considered to have taken place in LA with the city’s “other” franchise hiring Doc Rivers, who enjoyed great success in Boston. He replaces Vinny Del Negro as coach.
San Antonio returns most of the nucleus that has enjoyed sustained success under coach Greg Popovich, with the Spurs gradually incorporating youth into key roles in recent seasons in anticipation of replacing aging veterans. The Spurs are one the best run organizations in all of sports considering the relatively small market in which they play.
Miami deserves to be top dog in the East with Chicago expected to challenge the Heat with former MVP Derrick Rose back with the Bulls after missing all of last season. Indiana is also considered a major contender following last season’s great second half of the season and playoffs run. Danny Granger, who missed all but 5 games last season, is back, although he is expected to miss the first three weeks of this season.
Brooklyn may be the most intriguing team of all, acquiring aging veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston to give the Nets a very deep roster. The issue may be in finding playing time for all that talent while keeping egos in check and dealing with the inevitable injuries that usually plague players as they age. Add in Jason Kidd as the new coach and there are many reasons why the Nets could be a bust just as easily as they could challenge for the Eastern Conference championship.
Prediction: Miami and Indiana in the Finals a second straight season with the same result – the Heat advancing.
In the West the forecast is for the Clippers to make the Conference Finals to face Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant is right up there with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as the NBA’s best player. San Antonio, Golden State and Houston will each be tough outs in what should again be a very highly competitive Conference playoffs.
Prediction: Surrounded by solid complementary talent, Durant is predicted to lead the Thunder past the Clippers and a rematch with the Heat in the NBA Finals.
Here’s a look at three games to be played over the opening weekend.
Milwaukee at Boston (Fri): Both teams are expected to be down this season with plenty of new players and each with a new coach. Brad Stevens left the comfort of the college ranks at Butler to take over the Celtics while Larry Drew takes over on the Bucks’ bench. It often takes time for new coaches to find the right combination of players when coming from outside the organization and that task is made even more difficult when many players are just getting acquainted with one another. This has the makings of a sloppily played game that could feature more turnovers than assists. UNDER.
Chicago at Philly (Sat.): With Rose and a strong supporting cast, the Bulls are expected to challenge for the NBA title. The 76ers are projected to have the worst record in the league. Thus expect Chicago to be a big favorite in this contest. The Bulls are rested after hosting New York on Thursday while Philly played Friday night in Washington. This should be a rout with Chicago, now at full strength, likely to play with great enthusiasm over the first few weeks of the season, fueled by the return of Rose. CHICAGO.
Washington at Miami (Sun.): Miami will be a substantial favorite over the Wizards who played very well over the second half of last season once John Wall returned from a lengthy injury. The Wizards also rebound very well and thus match up nicely against the Heat. Miami should win but don’t be surprised if young and energetic Washington is in this game all the way. Keep an eye on the Wizards who are a likely candidate to be early season underdogs that develop into more than occasional favorites come February. WASHINGTON.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]