NBA 2014-15 preview

lebron james 18112009 1The NFL season has mildly disappointed for most team fan bases outside of the Superbowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.

There are plenty of interesting storylines, especially the local story surrounding the development of franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. But it’s time for some hoop.

The NBA season opens Oct. 28 and there seems to be enough parody that most teams can at least hold hopes of making the playoffs. That being said, it would be no surprise to see Lebron James’ team (Cleveland Cavaliers) playing the San Antonio Spurs in the 2015 NBA Finals, which could be a worthy ending to the season.

With pre-season games being broadcast nightly on NBA TV, fans get a great early look at how their team might come together. The Timberwolves got a special broadcast of their “Dunks After Dark” scrimmage in Mankato, and put on an interesting display of expected athleticism. Of particular quiet notice was the improved physical demeanor of 2013 first round draft pick Shabazz Muhammed. Muhammed is a curious talent that could cause the type of disruption the Timberwolves will need to inflict in order to pull off games against veteran laden competition. To reach the playoffs, the Timberwolves will need a surprise element. Whether it be Muhammed, or whether Ricky Rubio finally finds his jump shot, it will not be enough for the team to rely on a history making rookie season from potential star forward Andrew Wiggins. The Timberwolves’ season will likely see the beginnings of fluid team basketball, as young men fight to establish their roles in the wolf pack.

In the Eastern Conference, the primary storyline involves Lebron James and his family decision to take their commercial enterprise back to their home state of Ohio. The Cavaliers also bolstered their immediate championship prospects by luring now former Timeberwolve Kevin Love to play the role of James’ wingman. From the looks of pre-season activity, the Cavaliers may produce as advertised. James brought along a bevy of role players seeking to ride his coattails to a championship. James made the Finals with a much less talented Cavaliers team in 2007 – that team was defeated by the Spurs as well.

Unless James’ Cavaliers fall far short of their projections, the remainder of the Eastern Conference is only sprinkled with teams that would need to take enormous leaps in order to compete with any James’ led team. Eleven-time NBA Champion Coach Phil Jackson is now president of the same New York Knicks franchise he won two championships with (1970, 1973) as a player. The teams’ roster is only marginally improved from a disappointing 2013 season, and Jackson is a winner, not a miracle worker.

Aside from the Knicks, the only other Eastern Conference pre-season storylines worth curiosity is to see if the Miami Heat can remain relevant after James’ departure, and to see if the addition of Pau Gasol to the Chicago Bulls can get them to the Eastern Conference Finals to lose to Cleveland. Sorry Bulls fans. But on second thought, if the Toronto Raptors can back-up their 2014 playoff surprise, then maybe they too can go on to lose to Cleveland in the East.

If the Timberwolves were in the Eastern Conference, then the playoffs would almost be a lock from day one of the season, but the reigning NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs reside in the Western Conference.

The Los Angeles Lakers are in the Western Conference too, and that’s a very long story all by itself, so Western Conference next week. And yes, the Eastern Conference is weak … except for the Cavaliers.

October 22, 2014
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