Coach: Brad Stevens
2012-13 Record: 41-40 (7th in the East)
Hello: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kelly Olynyk (Drafted)
Goodbye: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry
Celtics Fans Should Be Excited About: The dawn of a new era, led by a young, talented coach in Brad Stevens, combo-guard Avery Bradley and the next Dirk Nowitzki (at least according to Tommy Heinsohn), Kelly Olynyk.
Celtics Fans Should Be Worried About: Enduring the first season in six years where their team won’t challenge for an NBA title. More worrying than that, however, would be a scenario in which the Celtics are still competitive enough to be mediocre, as opposed to plain bad. With the 2014 draft looking stacked, this is not the season for mediocrity.
Prediction: The Celtics have some talented young players—the aforementioned Bradley and Olynyk, as well as Jared Sullinger—and when Rondo returns, they could be reasonably competitive. That’s not in Danny Ainge and the franchise’s best interest, however. Look for Ainge to make a few trades (Rondo in particular) that aid in the tanking—I mean, rebuilding—process. 4th in the Atlantic, 12th in the East.
Coach: Jason Kidd
2012-13 Record: 49-33 (4th in the East)
Hello: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko
Goodbye: Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, C.J. Watson
Nets Fans Should Be Excited About: The introduction of some championship steel in the form of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, to go with a talented, but flaky core that flamed out so pathetically last season. The Nets, on paper, are a legitimate title threat this year. With KG on the team, they should be a lot better defensively, too.
Nets Fans Should Be Worried About: How rookie head-coach Jason Kidd handles the minutes of KG and Pierce, and the potential that injuries could slow down an aging roster (Deron Williams is currently battling an ankle injury). Also, the Nets aren’t exactly the quickest team in the NBA and could get exposed by young teams playing an up-tempo style.
Prediction: Adding Pierce, KG, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko (I’m still confused as to how they pulled that off) to a roster that already had Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and the underrated Brook Lopez makes Brooklyn a team with one of the highest ceilings in the NBA. Whether they can win an NBA title is unclear, but they will certainly rack up a lot of regular season wins. 1st in the Atlantic, 3rd in the East.
New York Knicks
Coach: Mike Woodson
2012-13 Record: 54-28 (2nd in the East)
Hello: Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Beno Udrich
Goodbye: Chris Copeland, Marcus Camby
Knicks Fans Should Be Excited About: A repeat of last season—the regular season, that is—when the Knicks were one of the best offensive teams in the NBA, and Carmelo was on a short-list for MVP.
Knicks Fans Should Be Worried About: Defense and on-court cohesion. The Knicks addressed their rebounding problems by trading away draft picks for Andrea Bargnani—so yeah, in other words, they did nothing to address that. There’s also the issue of the weird personalities on this team, most notably J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Metta World, adding the potential for self-destruction that comes with having those guys on your team.
Prediction: As so often is the case, the Knicks have a plethora of question marks entering the season. With Bargnani starting at power-forward and Anthony at his less effective small-forward position, the pressure will once again be on Tyson Chandler, defensively. Woodson will also need to sort out the shooting-guard position once J.R. Smith returns from suspension. The logical choice would be giving the spot to the very promising Iman Shumpert and bringing Smith off the bench; but you know the Knicks don’t always follow logic. Snarky remarks aside, however, they should remain an elite offensive team. 2nd in the Atlantic, 5th in the East.
Coach: Brett Brown
2012-13 Record: 34-48 (9th in the East)
Hello: Nerlens Noel (drafted), Michael Carter-Williams (drafted) Tony Wrotten, Darius Morris
Goodbye: Jrue Holiday, Nick Young
76ers Fans Should Be Excited About: Andrew Wiggins! Or least the extreme likelihood that they’ll put themselves in the position to have the first overall pick in 2014.
76ers Fans Should Be Worried About: A team that’s so bad that they’re unwatchable, but whose awfulness isn’t rewarded with the first overall pick because of the oftentimes uncooperative draft lottery. Just ask Bobcats fans about that.
Prediction: There’s really no way to sugarcoat this: the Sixers are going to be BAD this season. They have a roster that’s barely NBA-standard, and there’s a potential for them to lose 65 games or more. GM Sam Hinkie’s eyes are firmly fixed on the prize in 2014; however, when the Sixers will own two first-round picks, and depending on whether they trade Evan Turner and/or Thaddeus Young, possibly more. 5th in the Atlantic, 15th in the East.
Coach: Dwane Casey
2012-13 Record: 34-48 (10th in the East)
Hello: Steve Novak, Tyler Hansbrough, D.J. Augustin
Goodbye: Andrea Bargnani (He gone!!)
Raptors Fans Should Be Excited About: Other than the absence of a certain Italian, the development of Jonas Valanciunas. The big Lithuanian had a stellar summer, winning Summer League MVP, and is the most promising young Raptor since Chris Bosh.
Raptors Fans Should Be Worried About: Being stuck in no man’s land with a lack of flexibility. The Raptors’ have $44 million invested in their starting five, and although it’s a unit that was very productive last season, it’s probably not good enough, to push them into the playoffs due to a weak bench. And finishing ninth or tenth in the NBA gets you nowhere.
Prediction: If Rudy Gay’s well-documented vision problems have been cured to the extent that he shoots better than 40 per cent from the field, and if someone can step up and hit 3s for this team (they’ve been woefully bad from downtown in recent years) then a playoff position is a possibility. A weak bench unit means that the starters are going to need to bring it every night, however. 3rd in the Atlantic, 10th in the East.
Coach: Mike Brown
2012-13 Record: 24-58 (13th in the East)
Hello: Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, Anthony Bennett (Drafted), Earl Clark
Goodbye: Daniel Gibson, Shaun Livingston
Cavaliers Fans Should Be Excited About: The most talented Cavaliers team in the post-LeBron era. Kyrie Irving should continue to get better and the Cavs have brought in last season’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award candidate, Jarrett Jack, for some insurance at the point-guard position.
Cavaliers Fans Should Be Worried About: Injuries. The Andrew Bynum pick-up is low-risk/high-reward for the Cavs, with little guaranteed money on the books for the former Laker big-man, but nevertheless, it would be nice if the Cavs could get some production from him. Kyrie and Anderson Varejao have hardly been durable over the past couple seasons, either.
Prediction: Mike Brown, in his second stint as Cavaliers coach, should install some defensive discipline, and the team has a genuine superstar in Irving with a nice blend of young talent and steady veterans. No more excuses. No one wants to see Dan Gilbert and company at the draft lottery again. 3rd in the Central, 7th in the East.
Coach: Tom Thibodeau
2012-13 Record: 45-37 (5th in the East)
Hello: Mike Dunleavy jr.
Goodbye: Nate Robinson, Marco Bellenelli, Rip Hamilton
Bulls Fans Should Be Excited About: This is an easy one: the return of Derrick Rose. The 2011 MVP sat out the entire 2012-13 season rehabbing his ACL and has looked good in pre-season, thus far.
Bulls Fans Should Be Worried About: Whether Rose can be the same player he was before his injury. The early indications—including an inexplicable vertical leap improvement—are encouraging, but competitive regular season games will be the true test of whether Rose is as fast and explosive as he was pre-injury.
Prediction: No team other than Indiana played the Heat harder last season. With Rose back, and Jimmy Butler proving to be a very exciting prospect in the backcourt, the Bulls will be an elite team in the East this season, capable of challenging for an NBA title. 2nd in the Central, 4th in the East.
Coach: Maurice Cheeks
2012-13 Record: 29-53 (11th in the East)
Hello: Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Drafted)
Goodbye: Brandon Knight, Corey Maggette, Jose Calderon
Pistons Fans Should Be Excited About: A potentially explosive front court trio, featuring the uber-talented, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and the exciting young big-man, Andre Drummond. And Brandon Jennings, for all his issues, is an upgrade over Brandon Knight at point-guard.
Pistons Fans Should Be Worried About: Other than 18-foot Josh Smith jumpers (No Josh, no!!) a lack of spacing with J-Smoove playing at small-forward and problems with shooting the basketball in general. Brandon Jennings shot 39 per cent from the field last season. Yuck.
Prediction: The Pistons certainly have the talent to make the playoffs this season, but shooting issues and question marks over Jennings’ ability to run an NBA team leaves me hesitant to pencil them in for a playoff spot. 4th in the Central, 9th the East.
Coach: Frank Vogel
2012-13 Record: 49-32 (3rd in the East)
Hello: Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, C.J. Watson
Goodbye: Tyler Hansbrough, D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green
Pacers Fans Should Be Excited About: The fact that the Pacers actually have a bench this season! Indiana had one of the best starting units in the NBA last season, but things fell apart once the second unit came in. With the additions of Luis Scola and Chris Copeland—with Danny Granger potentially coming off the bench—Pacers fans shouldn’t be terrified when their starters get into foul trouble.
Pacers Fans Should Be Worried About: How well Granger can be integrated back into the team. Granger missed most of last season because of injury and Paul George grew in his absence. If Granger insists on starting, it might destabilize a team that was great in his absence—in particular, Lance Stephenson, who seems better suited to start games.
Prediction: Ultimately Granger’s return is positive for the Pacers. They now have a much bigger collective offensive threat than last season. If George and Roy Hibbert play like they did in last season’s playoffs (Hibbert was un-guardable), the Pacers are the biggest threat to Miami’s Eastern Conference crown. 1st in the Central, 2nd in the East.
Coach: Larry Drew
2012-13 Record: 38-44 (8th in the East)
Hello: O.J. Mayo, Caron Butler, Brandon Knight, Carlos Delfino, Zaza Pachulia
Goodbye: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis
Bucks Fans Should Be Excited About: A young and promising frontcourt featuring John Henson and Larry Sanders, fresh off a newly minted contract. The aforementioned duo is the future of the Bucks and should provide the fans in Milwaukee with some hope for the future.
Bucks Fans Should Be Worried About: Another season in which the team wallows in mediocrity; good enough to fight for the eighth seed, and lose in the first round of the playoffs, thus eliminating them for the race for Andrew Wiggins.
Prediction: The Bucks have enough steady veterans to fulfill the goals of their owner, Herb Kohl, and make the playoffs. That being said, three or four teams in the East got better and there’s no guarantee that 38 wins gets you the eighth seed this year. 5th in the Central, 11th in the East.
Coach: Mike Budenholzer
2012-13 Record: 44-38 (6th in the East)
Hello: Paul Millsap, Elton Brand, DeMarre Carroll, Dennis Schroder (Drafted)
Goodbye: Josh Smith, Devin Harris, DeShawn Stevenson
Hawks Fans Should Be Excited About: With Josh Smith out the door, this is now Al Horford’s team, and more Al Horford is never a bad thing. Horford and the equally underappreciated Paul Millsap should form a very effective one-two punch in the frontcourt.
Hawks Fans Should Be Worried About: Being exposed on the boards. As talented as Millsap and Horford are, both men are undersized for their position, and the Hawks are undersized in general—not one 7-footer on the roster.
Prediction: GM Danny Ferry could decide, by the deadline, to finish what he started when he traded Joe Johnson, and let Josh Smith walk by dangling Al Horford’s very appealing contract out to potential suitors. As currently constructed, however, this Hawks team is talented enough to make the playoffs. 2nd in the South East, 6th in the East.
Coach: Steve Clifford
2012-13 Record: 21-61 (14th in the East)
Hello: Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller (Drafted)
Goodbye: Tyrus Thomas
Bobcats Fans Should Be Excited About: Not being the biggest laughingstock in the league. Building through the draft is all well and good, but there’s something to be said about also building a winning mentality within your franchise. Lots of losing can create toxic vibes around the team.
Bobcats Fans Should Be Worried About: Well, ironically, not being the biggest laughingstock in the league. This is probably the year, given that there are seven or eight potential All-Stars in the coming draft, to win seven games and bottom out—in other words, to be a laughingstock.
Prediction: Al Jefferson should give the Bobcats enough of a scoring punch in the front-court to win them seven or eight more games this year, particularly if that production’s coupled with the continued rise of Kemba Walker at point-guard. They’ll be bad, but not the usual Bobcats bad. 4th in the South East, 13th in the East.
Coach: Erik Spoelstra
2012-13 Record: 66-16 (1st in the East)
Hello: Greg Oden, Michael Beasley
Goodbye: Mike Miller
Heat Fans Should Be Excited About: Going for an elusive three-peat! That’s pretty exciting. Miami will look to be the only team other than the 1960s Boston Celtics and the Kobe-Shaq Lakers to achieve that milestone.
Heat Fans Should Be Worried About: Definitely not LeBron, but the other members of the Big Three slowing down. Dwyane Wade has battled injuries for the last two seasons and hasn’t been the same player he was in 2011. Chris Bosh looks likes he’s permanently relegated himself to shooting 18-foot jumpers and not much else. Oh, and the top half of the Eastern Conference has gotten a lot better.
Prediction: Having LeBron on your team, regardless of whether Bosh and Wade are slowing down, is worth 55-60 wins on its own. The big X-factor, of course, will be whether Greg Oden can get healthy and provide the kind of rim protection the Heat desperately need this season. 1st in the South East, 1st in the East.
Coach: Jacque Vaughan
2012-13 Record: 20-62 (15th in the East)
Hello: Victor Oladipo (Drafted) Jason Maxiell
Goodbye: Al Harrington, Beno Udrich
Magic Fans Should Be Excited About: A really promising young core that played well towards the end of last year; particularly Tobias Harris and the young centre, Nikola Vucevic.
Magic Fans Should Be Worried About: Being better than the really bad teams. Perfect scenario for Orlando is showing promise, entertaining their fans, while still being really bad. That’s a tough balancing act.
Prediction: If Victor Oladipo is going to play point-guard this season that’s a sign that the Magic are intent on taking. They still have enough veterans to be competitive—the likes of Glen Davis, Arron Afflalo, and Jameer Nelson—but expect a fire sale as the season wears on. 5th in the South East, 14th in the East.
Coach: Randy Wittman
2012-13 Record: 29-53
Hello: Al Harrington, Eric Maynor, Otto Porter (Drafted)
Goodbye: A.J. Price, Leandro Barbosa, Jason Collins
Wizards Fans Should Be Excited About: John Wall playing like he did at the back end of last season and becoming one of the must-see stars in the NBA.
Wizards Fans Should Be Worried About: Their offense, which was horrible last year, and the durability of this team. Emeka Okafur is already injured—a key part of the defense—and Wall and Nene have hardly been bastions of good health over the past few seasons.