Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013-14 Consensus NBA Power Rankings, Week 1

Earlier this offseason, Kyle Baillargeon, one of our NBA contributors, made his preseason prediction for which team will win the NBA Finals next June.

It should come as little surprise that Kyle predicted that LeBron James and the Miami Heat will win their third NBA title in as many seasons.

After all, the Heat are prohibitive favorites to win the title. has the odds set for the Heat at 12/5. The next closest are the Thunder and Clippers, who have 7/1 and 8/1 odds, respectively.

Among Eastern Conference teams, the Bulls are next at 9/1 followed by the Nets (12/1) and Pacers (14/1). The Spurs and Rockets also have 12/1 odds.

There are only three other franchises that have won three consecutive championships: Celtics, Lakers and Bulls. So pulling off a "three-peat" would put LeBron and the franchise in rarified company.

Regardless of conference, which team poses the greatest threat to a Miami Heat "three-peat" this season?

John (follow on Twitter): Chicago Bulls

I'll buy into the hype and say that the Chicago Bulls pose the greatest threat to the Heat's chances to "three-peat."

The physical play that the Bulls are notorious for is something with which Miami struggles, and getting Derrick Rose back healthy is an obvious game-changer for Chicago. They are a good young team with enough size and depth to be legit championship contender.

Heading into the start of the season, I'd give the Bulls the best chance to knock off the Heat.

Kevin (follow on Twitter): Chicago Bulls

While Kevin Durant is the second-best player in the league and the Thunder have the second-lowest odds to win it all, I think the Heat's stiffest competition resides in the East. Deciding between the Pacers and Bulls is tough, however.

The Bulls get back Derrick Rose, who is the only player not named LeBron to win the MVP award in the past five years. Coach Tom Thibodeau has the team playing tough hard-nosed defense and they hung tough last year despite injuries.

On the other hand, the Pacers have one of the league's best defenses as well and Paul George is one of the best players and defenders in the league and should be more of a household name than he is. In addition, they get back Danny Granger, who led them in scoring two seasons ago, and added Luis Scola.

For the purpose of answering this (technically my own) question, I will say it's the Bulls since they will get one of the top three to five players in the league back.

[On a side note, I love the fact that there appears to be some real animosity brewing within the Eastern Conference.]

Dan (follow on Twitter): Indiana Pacers

To me, the "Heatles" are on the inside track to have a three-peat, (trademarked by Pat Riley, funny enough), but they still do have one obstacle standing in their way. The Indiana Pacers pose the biggest threat to the Heat, as they have the best possible matchup against LeBron and crew.

The Pacers have the most effective big man in Roy Hibbert that counters the Heat's small-ball lineup, and also they will benefit from having their best scorer in Danny Granger back this year. If any team has learned to beat Miami, it will be the Pacers, as hopefully they will keep Dwyane Wade from referring to himself as four, as he calls himself "three" right now.

Sean (follow on Twitter): Houston Rockets

While I do think the Heat are the favorites to win another championship this year, if I had to bet the Hear or the field, I would take the field all day.

I think any team that is ranked in my top 10 has a legit chance at winning a title. I am going to go with Houston. I know a lot of people don't like Dwight Howard, but he is the missing piece that the Rockets needed. Howard is still the best defensive player in the game, and a matchup nightmare in particular vs. the Heat.

The Rockets also have the ability to win games draining three's. Houston was second in the NBA last year in both scoring, and three pointers made.

To view where all 30 NBA teams appear in our initial 2013-14 NBA Consensus Power Rankings, click here.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

NBA Predictions for the 2013-14 Season

With NBA preseason under way and the start of the regular season only a few weeks away, Kyle Baillargeon makes his predictions for NBA awards and playoffs below:

2013-14 NBA Postseason Award Winners

MVP - LeBron James, Miami Heat

I wouldn't be surprised to see Derrick Rose here if he leads the Bulls to one of the best records in the league, if only because MVP voters have shown that they tend to grow tired of giving the award to the same person over and over again.  That said, LeBron is the clear frontrunner for MVP.  The Heat will be in the championship hunt once more, but Dwyane Wade isn't getting any younger, and this team still looks pretty thin outside of LeBron.  I expect James to have the best statistical season of his career, with his fith MVP to boot.

Most Improved Player - Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Leonard already started to make the leap last year, especially in the playoffs.  With the Duncan/Manu/Parker era winding down in San Antonio, Leonard stands to become the face of the franchise's next era of basketball.  Entering his third year in the league, he has plenty of room for improvement and could very well become a household name before the season is over.

Sixth Man of the Year - Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans

Evans could certainly start in New Orleans, but a backourt rotation of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, and Evans could be devastating.  The big question would be if Evans is willing to sit to start each game. But if he can get over that, then he would be a huge contributor off the bench.

Don't be surprised, however, if a member of the Brooklyn Nets winds up with this award.  The expectation is that one of either Paul Pierce or Andrei Kirilenko will come off the bench this year.  If it turns out to be Pierce, then the award will be his.

Rookie of the Year - Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

McLemore will have plenty of opportunity to light it up on the court, and that's what he does best.  Greivis Vasquez will be looking his way often.  The Kings still have work to do to become a contender, but McLemore will prove himself to be a great piece to the puzzle.

Defensive Player of the Year - LeBron James, Miami Heat

James is so good at everything, that it seems easy to overlook how dominant he is on the defensive end.  One of his personal goals has been to win the award, and hopefully voters will finally recognize what many smart observers in the league already know: LeBron James is unquestionably THE best defender in the league.

NBA Finals Predictions

Eastern Conference Finals - Miami over Chicago in 7 games

As long as LeBron James is at the height of his powers, there is no reason to believe that anyone will stop Miami.  This Chicago team will have an overwhelming defense, and combined with a returning Derrick Rose could very well go on to a number one seed in the East.  I fully expect both teams to pummel their competition all the way to one of the biggest heavyweight battles the NBA has seen in years.  This one could go either way, but ultimately the tie-breaker goes to the team with the greatest player of the last 25 years.

Western Conference Finals - San Antonio over Los Angeles Clippers in 6 games

It might be a little overzealous to send the Clippers to the WCF in Doc Rivers' first year at the helm, but this team does have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, along with a good bench.  Once Doc figures out his rotation, and as long as the team buys in to playing legitimate defense, the Clippers could knock on the door of the title.  That said, the Spurs will not go down without a fight.  Greg Popovich is smart enough to understand exactly what his team needs and when, and his team should be healthy and well-rested leading into the playoffs.  He knows he needs to save the firepower for the playoffs, and they should be able to make it through the tough Western Conference one more time in their Big Three era.  Once these two squads meet, Popovich's knowledge of his own team, combined with Tim Duncan's front-court dominance and Tony Parker's ability to go toe-to-toe with Chris Paul, will lead the Spurs to victory.

NBA Finals - Miami over San Antonio in 7 games

It may seem like a cop-out to go with the repeat in the Finals, but after last year's amazing seven-game set, is anyone going to complain about seeing it again?  As stated before, it wouldn't make sense to pick against LeBron James.  He is the best in the world and will lead the Heat to victory again.

Soon, we will release our 2013-14 fantasy basketball rankings.

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