The Favorite: MIAMI HEAT
This one is very easy. The Miami Heat have won the division and the conference in each of the last three seasons and have won the last two NBA championships. LeBron James is already one of the best players in the history of basketball and is still far and away the best player in the NBA. Plus, he still has Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh flanking him. The Heat lost veteran marksmen Mike Miller, but re-signed Chris Andersen, who really helped give the Heat an inside presence last season. They also retained starting point guard Mario Chalmers and veteran forwards James Jones and Rashard Lewis, The Heat also took a chance on a couple of talented guys. Former #1 overall pick Greg Oden is attempting his comeback with the Heat. Knee injuries have killed what could have been an excellent career. The 25-year old big man was drafted in 2007, but has played in just 82 career games. The Heat also brought in forward Michael Beasley, who was actually selected by the Heat with the #2 pick in the 2008 draft. If either player can give the Heat any kind of production, it will be a huge bonus. Either way, the Heat are again the overwhelming favorite to win the title. You can find Miami Heat tickets here for their championship defense this season.
The Tanker(s): CHARLOTTE BOBCATS, ORLANDO MAGIC
The Bobcats aren’t trying to tank. In fact, they brought in veteran big man Al Jefferson to help provide and offensive presence down low they simply haven’t had. He will likely help keep them out of the bottom three in the league, but the roster just isn’t that good.
The Magic had to rebuild after trading Dwight Howard and wound up with the #2 overall pick in the 2013 draft. They selected Indiana guard Victor Oladipo and he is one of the favorites to win the Rookie of the Year award. The Magic had the league’s worst record last season, but probably weren’t the worst team. Key injuries put them in that spot. They actually have a decent mix of veterans (Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis & Jameer Nelson) and youngsters (Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic), but will likely look to trade some of those veterans (they reportedly shopped Afflalo this summer). Plus, the team is just too young.
Division MVP: LEBRON JAMES
Do we really need to talk about this? He’s the best player in the game.
The “Real” Division MVP: LEBRON JAMES
I’ll say it again. Do we really need to talk about this? He’s the best player in the game.
Team To Watch: WASHINGTON WIZARDS
The Wizards appear set to make a run at the playoffs. Point guard John Wall is developing into a great player (we’ll talk more about him below). Don’t count on veteran Al Harrington to give the Wizards much (I covered him in Orlando last year and that knee is worse than anyone lets on), but Georgetown rookie Otto Porter, Jr. should eventually fill into the starting small forward spot very well. If he isn’t ready, Trevor Ariza isn’t a terrible option. If Emeka Okafor can get healthy, he and Nene make a very nice front line with two very good backups in Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker backing them up. A healthy Chris Singleton can also give them minutes at both forward spots. Shooting guard Bradley Beal has the potential to be an excellent shooter and is a great sidekick for Wall. The Wizards also re-signed swingman Martell Webster, who quietly had an excellent season for the Wizards. This is a team that should compete for a playoff spot.
Player To Watch: JOHN WALL
How much does John Wall mean to the Wizards ? When he was out healing from his knee injury, the Wizards went 5-28. In the 49 games he played in, the team was 24-25, a winning percentage that would have got them into the playoffs had he played the whole season. Wall averaged 18.5 points, 7.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game last season. He shot 44.1% from the field, 26.7% from beyond the arc and 80.4% from the charity stripe. He was reward for his production with a five-year deal int he offseason and the Wizards expect him to take another big step forward and there is plenty of reason to believe he will.
SCIC’s Division Champ: MIAMI HEAT
They have won the last three division and conference titles and the last two NBA titles, but to make it simple, they have LeBron James and the other four teams don’t.