The lowdown on start of NBA season

Jason Reed, Reporter

The NBA will be starting its 68th season in less than a week and it will be the most anticipated season since Lebron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat in 2010. In the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks are two of the eight teams that made it to the playoffs last season, but they will be on the outside looking in this year.
The Washington Wizards posted a 29-53 record last season. Even though it’s a horrendous record, it’s still the most games the franchise has won since its last playoff run in 2007. The team also showed signs of improvement with key trades last year as-well. With Trevor Ariza’s championship experience to go along with Nene Hilario, the Wizards will win enough games to grab the eighth seed in the playoffs.
The Cavaliers haven’t made the postseason since James’ departure, but Cleveland landed one of the biggest free-agent acquisitions in center Andrew Bynum. Bynum, along with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Anthony Bennett, will be enough to help the Cavs grab the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
With the departure of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the Boston Celtics still have enough veterans on the roster to compete for a playoff spot. Even though he’s coming off a torn ACL injury, Rajon Rondo will still have the biggest statistical season of his career. The Celtics are clearly not a championship caliber team, but they will earn enough victories in the weaker Eastern Conference to be the sixth seed.
The Knicks will be the fifth seed in the East but won’t make much of an impact because Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire are just not a good fit together on the court. Besides the fact that they can’t play together, there are four teams in the Eastern Conference that are much better defensively.
The Indiana Pacers will compete hard in the playoffs and will be a tough outing. The Pacers can only hope that Danny Granger can stay healthy and find a spot on the team after being sidelined with injuries most of last year. The Pacers will earn the fourth spot in the East.
When looking at the Chicago Bulls, it’s not hard to see why people expect them to be in the finals but there is only Derrick Rose and not enough pieces around him to help him carry the team to the NBA Finals and beat the top two teams in the conference.
As long as the Miami Heat has Lebron James, they will always be in contention for the title. Miami has always been criticized for not having a true center. Even with the signing of former No. 1 pick Greg Oden, the Heat still don’t have enough off the bench to have a chance at a three-peat.
The Brooklyn Nets, however, added Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry to go along with other key players Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. Pierce, Garnett, Terry and new head coach Jason Kidd have a combined four championship rings. That success will be enough to help the Nets dethrone the Heat and earn a trip to the finals.
In a much tougher and wide-open Western Conference, there will be 11 teams that are expected to be in playoff contention for the eight spots. The New Orleans Pelicans, Denver Nuggets and the Minnesota Timberwolves will fight it out for the last spot, but they will fall short to the Dallas Mavericks, who will get the eighth seed.
The Grizzlies will only be the seventh seed in the playoffs because they refused to re-sign former head coach Lionel Hollins after he led the team to a 56-win season (the most in franchise history) and their first trip to the Western Conference Finals.
The Golden State Warriors will be looking to make a leap after an impressive showing against the San Antonio Spurs in last year’s semifinals. With the signing of forward Andre Iguodala, the Warriors got much better defensively and should be a more effective fast-break team. Golden State, however, will be the sixth seed because they will be dealing with too many injuries.
The Lakers will be much better than what people think. Just like the Celtics, the Lakers are not going to contend for a championship; however, they will be good enough to earn the fifth seed. Kobe Bryant will come back strong, but the Lakers didn’t pursue the free agents that would have helped them contend for a title.
Though the San Antonio Spurs aren’t going to surprise me with a deep playoff run his year, they will still win lots of games and become the fourth seed. The Spurs play team basketball and this will cause their opponents to work hard for a series win.
The Houston Rockets signed the biggest free agent over the summer in Dwight Howard. The Howard and Harden connection will make Houston the third seed in the West, causing them to make a deep run in the playoffs. Dwight Howard will have a great year but the team is still at least two years away from being in the NBA Finals.
The Oklahoma City Thunder took a major step back last season when Russell Westbrook went down in the playoffs last year with a slight tear in his right meniscus. The Thunder will have a great regular season and get the second spot in the conference, but will not be able to keep up with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers added former Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Chris Paul signed a contract extension with the Clippers after a blockbuster trade that sent Rivers to Los Angeles. In the 2012-2013 season, the Clippers swept the Lakers in a four-game regular season series, won 17 games in a row with a 57-win season and the Pacific Division title. All four of those accomplishments were first-time achievements for the Clippers franchise. The Clippers will add another first timer this year when they go to the NBA Finals and play the Brooklyn Nets. Because of more depth, the Nets will defeat the Clippers and win their first title in franchise history.
The NBA season tips off Oct. 29 when the Pacers host the Magic at 4 p.m., followed by a TNT doubleheader when the defending NBA champion Heat host the Bulls at 5 p.m. In the final game of the night, the Lakers and Clippers will play at 7:30 p.m. in a Lakers home game.