NBA 2013-14 Season Preview: Eastern Conference

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After months of waiting patiently, the NBA season is finally upon us.

This season will feature highly anticipated returns of stars that were injured late last season, amongst those returning are Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and finally, Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant

This season will also feature new faces in new places, such as Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, who left after one season with the Lakers. The Brooklyn Nets will also be a team with new players, as they acquired small forward Paul Pierce and power forward Kevin Garnett from the Celtics on the day of the 2013 NBA Draft.

As the season approaches us, here are my predictions for the 2013-14 NBA Season in the Eastern Conference.

1. Indiana Pacers- After falling to the eventual champions Miami Heat in the conference finals last year, Indiana retooled their bench, acquiring Luis Scola, Chris Copland and C.J. Watson. The leagues’ best defensive team last year will have to keep putting pressure on their opponents in order to be successful, as they do not score a ton of points. The return of sharpshooter Danny Granger should help Indiana push for the top seed in the East. (Projected record: 62-20)

2. Miami Heat- The two time defending champs didn’t change much in the offseason, after defeating the Spurs in game seven of the NBA Finals. With the free agency gambles of troubled forward Michael Beasley and oft-injured center Greg Oden, Miami will look for their big three of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to carry the team to a third straight title. (Projected record: 60-22)

3. Chicago Bulls- The return of Derrick Rose is finally upon us Chicago waited all last year for their MVP point guard, who had torn his ACL in the 2012 playoffs, to come back and lead their team. It never happened. Fast-forward to present day in Chicago. Rose looks 100 percent healthy, and seems to have added a three-point stroke to his offensive arsenal. Defense will be the calling card of the Bulls as they will look to Rose to lead them to their first title since the Michael Jordan era. (Projected record: 57-25)

4. Brooklyn Nets- With the additions of former Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, the Nets look poised to compete for the crown of “Best team in New York”, against the New York Knicks. With first year head coach, and future Hall of Famer, Jason Kidd at the helm, expectations are high for the fans in Brooklyn entering the 2013-14 season.  Point guard Deron Williams and center Brook Lopez will need to maintain their health all year long in order for the team to thrive. If all the pieces are working properly come playoff time, the Nets could be in line to upset one of the top three seeds. (Projected record: 52-30)

5. New York Knicks- Expectations remain high for the New York Knicks after bowing out in the second round of the playoffs to the Indiana Pacers last year. Small forward Carmelo Anthony will once again be the focus of the team. Fresh off of possibly his best season as a pro, the 29-year-old will have to continue to score the ball effectively and get his team involved at the same time. Power forward Andrea Bargnani, acquired from Toronto in the offseason, will look to provide another outside threat for New York. (Projected record: 46-36)

6. Detroit Pistons – The Pistons will look to build on their two emerging stars in center Andre Drummond and power forward Greg Monroe. However, two big offseason acquisitions in point guard Brandon Jennings and forward Josh Smith will help balance out the team. The biggest issue will be the effectiveness of Detroit’s lineup, as Smith will have to play the small forward position, even though he has traditionally been a power forward. (Projected record: 42-40)

7. Cleveland Cavaliers- Even with point guard Kyrie Irving’s’ all-star play throughout all of last year, the Cavs still found themselves with the #1 overall pick in the draft. However, with the free agent acquisitions of center Andrew Bynum and point guard Jarrett Jack, Cleveland could look to make the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James left town. The key will be the health of the team as Irving, Bynum and center Anderson Varejao all missed significant amounts of time last year. (Projected record: 41-41)

8. Washington Wizards- Washington may no longer be the bottom dweller of the Eastern Conference. With the recent addition of center Martin Gortat, the Wizard look poised to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Point guard John Wall looks to be 100% healthy and will be the driving force for this team. (Projected record: 39-43)

(Outside looking in- Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors)

Playoff Outlook

Eastern Conference First Round

Pacers over Wizards (4-1)

Heat over Cavs (4-1)

Bulls over Pistons (4-2)

Nets over Knicks (4-2)

Eastern Conference Semifinals

Pacers over Nets (4-2)

Bulls over Heat (4-2)

Eastern Conference Finals

Pacers over Bulls (4-3)

NBA Finals

Pacers over Thunder(4-2)

The Indiana Pacers will storm through a tough Eastern Conference behind their strong team defense and defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games to claim their first ever NBA Championship. Led by versatile two-way forward Paul George, Indiana will play solid team basketball and will not only win it all this year, but also contend for years to come.

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