The 2013-14 NBA season is here!
While it is clearly a rebuilding year here in Phoenix with the Suns, there is arguably more parity league-wide than we have seen in some time.
The Miami Heat are the defending champs and are going for a three-peat (don't sue us, Pat), but several teams are poised to challenge them for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Oklahoma City will get Russell Westbrook back at some point, which will make the Thunder formidable in the West. Derrick Rose is back from his knee injury and gives the Chicago Bulls a boost.
We've been throwing dirt on the aging San Antonio Spurs for years, but Gregg Popovich's team took Miami to seven games in the NBA Finals last June.
The Brooklyn Nets have pieced together an All-Star (if not old) lineup for rookie head coach Jason Kidd. The Indiana Pacers get Danny Granger back after giving Miami all they could handle in the Eastern Conference Finals and young teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors are all intriguing contenders.
We asked the staff of Arizona Sports 620 and ArizonaSports.com to peer into their crystal balls and predict what will happen in the 2013-14 season.
Here's a look at what they came up with.
First a look at what our 12-person panel thinks the playoffs will look like starting in April.
|Team||Playoff Votes||% of Playoff Votes||High Rank||Low Rank|
|Golden State Warriors||12-of-12||100%||2nd||6th|
|Los Angeles Clippers||12-of-12||100%||1st||6th|
|Los Angeles Lakers||3-of-12||25%||5th||7th|
|New Orleans Pelicans||3-of-12||25%||7th||8th|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||12-of-12||100%||1st||4th|
|Portland Trail Blazers||4-of-12||33%||8th||8th|
|San Antonio Spurs||12-of-12||100%||1st||6th|
Western Conference Notes:
• The same number of voters have the Lakers making the postseason as do the Pelicans and Timberwolves, who have combined to make two postseason appearances in the last five seasons. Incidentally, the voters who have the Lakers returning to the playoffs are Doug Franz (8th), Craig Grialou (5th) and Dave Dulberg (7th).
• Only the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings failed to receive any postseason votes from the panel.
• Only Grialou doesn't have the Memphis Grizzlies locking down one of the eight Western Conference playoff spots.
• Only Jules Tompkins believes that the Utah Jazz will join the postseason party.
• Four different teams (Houston, LA Clippers, Oklahoma City and San Antonio) got first place votes from our panel.
Western Conference Champions
Oklahoma City Thunder: 7 votes
Houston Rockets: 2 votes
Los Angeles Clippers: 2 votes
Golden State Warriors: 1 vote
The vast majority of the panel picks the Thunder to return to the NBA Finals after a one-season absence. Only ArizonaSports.com contributor Andy Greenberg picks the Golden State Warriors (whom he picked as the #3 seed) to win the West. It would be the Warriors' first trip to the NBA Finals since 1975.
|Team||Playoff Votes||% of Playoff Votes||High Rank||Low Rank|
|New York Knicks||12-of-12||100%||3rd||6th|
Eastern Conference Notes
• Only three teams (Chicago, Indiana and Miami) received first place votes from the panel.
• Only three members of the panel (Marotta, Franz and Gibberman) think any team other than the Heat will lock down the top seed in the East.
• Nobody picked the rebuilding Boston Celtics to make the postseason. Boston has made six consecutive playoff appearances.
• Every panelist picked the New York Knicks to make the postseason, but only one (Greenberg) thinks they'll finish higher than fifth.
• The bottom of the Eastern Conference is so bad that 11 voters picked the Wizards, who haven't made the playoffs in five years and 10 picked the Cavaliers, who haven't sniffed the postseason since LeBron took his talents to South Beach, to make the playoffs.
Eastern Conference Champions
Miami Heat: 9 votes
Chicago Bulls: 2 votes
Indiana Pacers: 1 vote
75 percent of our voters have Miami reaching the Finals for the fourth straight year. Only two voters (Green and Franz) have Chicago representing the East and only Dave Dulberg believes in the Indiana Pacers, whom he has knocking the Heat off in the second round of the playoffs.
Miami Heat: 7 votes
Oklahoma City Thunder: 4 votes
Houston Rockets: 1 vote
Yawn...the majority of our voters have the Heat winning not their first, not their second, but their third title in a row. Four voters (Green, Franz, Tompkins and Dulberg) think this is the year the Larry O'Brien Trophy makes its way to Oklahoma, while Bryan Gibberman plays the part of lone wolf in picking the Houston Rockets to hoist the hardware.
LeBron James, Miami: 8 votes
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City: 4 votes
Two-thirds of our panel have LeBron collecting his fifth MVP Award and third in a row, while Green, Franz, Gilstrap and Dulberg believe Kevin Durant will win his first. If the projection holds true, James would become only the fourth player in league history to win the award five times, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan and Bill Russell.
Rookie of the Year
Victor Oladipo, Orlando: 7 votes
Ben McLemore, Sacramento: 2 votes
Kelly Olynyk, Boston: 2 votes
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit: 1 vote
Oladipo, the polished two-guard from Indiana University got the most votes from the panel. If that holds true, Oladipo would become the third Magic player to win the award joining Shaquille O'Neal (1993) and Mike Miller (2001). If Oladipo or Olynyk win the award, they'd become the third player with a last name starting with the letter 'O' to do so, joining O'Neal and Emeka Okafor, who won it in 2005. Yes, that's minutae.
Defensive Player of the Year
Dwight Howard, Houston: 5 votes
Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City: 2 votes
Marc Gasol, Memphis: 1 vote
Roy Hibbert, Indiana: 1 vote
Joakim Noah, Chicago: 1 vote
Chris Paul, LA Clippers: 1 vote
Larry Sanders, Milwaukee: 1 vote
The popular pick (we know it sounds strange to describe him as popular) is Houston's Dwight Howard, who finished 14th in last season's voting. Five panelists think a change of scenery to Houston will help Howard on the defensive end of the floor. Only one panelist (Dulberg) picked Marc Gasol to repeat as the winner.
Coach of the Year
Kevin McHale, Houston: 3 votes
Mark Jackson, Golden State: 2 votes
Doc Rivers, LA Clippers: 2 votes
Frank Vogel, Indiana: 2 votes
Rick Carlisle, Dallas: 1 vote
Tom Thibodeau, Chicago: 1 vote
Monty Williams, New Orleans: 1 vote
Variety was the word when it came to Coach of the Year voting, with seven different bench bosses garnering votes from our panel. McHale was the most popular pick with Green, Gilstrap and Burns all casting their votes for the third-year Rockets coach. Last year's winner, George Karl, didn't get any votes, but there's a good reason for it -- he's not coaching this season.
Sixth Man of the Year
Jamal Crawford, LA Clippers: 4 votes
Ryan Anderson, New Orleans: 1 vote
Harrison Barnes, Golden State: 1 vote
Ed Davis, Memphis: 1 vote
Taj Gibson, Chicago: 1 vote
Danny Granger, Indiana: 1 vote
Andrei Kirilenko, Brooklyn: 1 vote
Nate Robinson, Denver: 1 vote
Jason Terry, Brooklyn: 1 vote
One-third of our panel picked Crawford to win the hardware after his second-place finish a year ago. Crawford won the award in 2009-10 in his days with the Atlanta Hawks. Interestingly enough, last year's winner, J.R. Smith of the Knicks, didn't receive any votes.
Most Improved Player
Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix: 3 votes
Harrison Barnes, Golden State: 1 vote
Bradley Beal, Washington: 1 vote
Jimmy Butler, Chicago: 1 vote
Anthony Davis, New Orleans: 1 vote
Andre Drummond, Detroit: 1 vote
Tobias Harris, Orlando: 1 vote
Gordon Hayward, Utah: 1 vote
Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City: 1 vote
Kevin Martin, Minnesota: 1 vote
More variety in this category, with only Suns' guard Eric Bledsoe receiving more than one vote. The fourth-year player from Kentucky will get his chance to shine as he steps out of the shadow cast by former Clippers' teammate Chris Paul. Interestingly, two of our panelists' picks (Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris) received actual votes in this category last season.
How many wins will the Suns have this year?
12 wins: 1 vote
17 wins: 1 vote
18 wins: 2 votes
20 wins: 3 votes
22 wins: 2 votes
23 wins: 2 votes
24 wins: 1 vote
We know the Suns won't be doing a lot of winning in 2013-14, and that's by design as they position themselves for a favorable pick in next year's loaded NBA Draft. Andy Greenberg, who is still bitter about the Sonics leaving Seattle (get over it, kid), is taking that bitterness out on the Suns, predicting just 12 wins, which would tie the 1986-87 Clippers and the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets for the sixth-worst record of all-time. On the high-end of predictions, Bryan Gibberman picks the Suns to triumph 24 times this year.
Who will lead the Suns in scoring in 2013-14?
Eric Bledsoe: 8 votes
Goran Dragic: 3 votes
Gerald Green: 1 vote
Bledsoe, who has never averaged more than 8.5 points per game in his career, got the nod from two-thirds of our panelists. Bledsoe led the Suns in preseason scoring at 13.0 points per game. Dragic paced the 2012-13 Suns at 14.7 points per game. The contrarian Dulberg picked newly-acquired forward Gerald Green to lead the squad in points.
Will the Suns win the NBA Draft Lottery?
Yes: 1 vote
No: 11 votes
Where's the optimism, guys? Only Doug Franz says the Suns will secure the top overall pick. His reasoning? David Stern will be gone as the NBA's commissioner. The other 11 voters are conditioned to the Suns' draft-related luck that dates back to the 1969 coin flip that landed them...Neal Walk.
Who will the Suns select with the first of their 1st-round picks next June?
Julius Randle, F, Kentucky: 6 votes
Jabari Parker, F, Duke: 4 votes
Glenn Robinson III, F, Michigan: 1 vote
Andrew Wiggins, F, Kansas: 1 vote
Riggin' for Wiggins? Not so much. Only Franz has the Suns landing the coveted Canadian forward who will spend just one year in Lawrence with head coach Bill Self. The popular pick is Julius Randle, a 6-foot-9, 254-pound power forward from Kentucky. We know what you're thinking...a one-and-done player from Kentucky, never! Jules Tompkins thinks the Suns will take Michigan forward Glenn Robinson III.
Individual Panelist Ballots