While we’re still wondering just how the Heat pulled that one off, let’s take an early look at five big things to watch as we head into the preseason.
It’s going to be a fun one.
- THE TANKERS – There are a ton of bad teams in the league this year – many of them intentional. A lot of teams are in the blow-it-up-and-rebuild mode, aiming to completely bottom out for a while and rebuild (starting with a loaded 2014 NBA Draft). Utah should be terrible. Philadelphia will be historically awful. Toronto, Phoenix and Boston are going to be bad. For fans of those teams, they might just be better served tuning into college basketball and marveling at the exploits of Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Kentucky’s Julius Randle or Duke’s Jabari Parker. One of those prizes can turn a franchise around.
- THE ROOKIES – Last year’s draft was universally regarded as one of the worst in ages, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some impact by the young’uns. Anthony Bennett could be a nice frontcourt presence for Cleveland, and Victor Oladipo should quickly be a part of Orlando’s rotation. Look out for talented German Dennis Schroeder on the Hawks, and for Michigan star Trey Burke, who could be running the point for Utah.
- THE INJURIES – Derrick Rose is the big name here – it’s been a full season since his ACL tear, and he should be ready to rock for Chicago. As far as the other recovering point guards go, Russell Westbrook should be back in a month or two; Rajon Rondo’s recovery might be held back by the ready-to-tank Celtics. Kobe Bryant’s Achilles tear last year was a devastating one – but it’s Kobe Bryant. He’ll be back, and he’ll be scoring (http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/lakers/2013/10/09/kobe-bryant-knee-achilles-injury-update-los-angeles-germany/2955441/).
- THE CHAMPS – Can they go three-for-three? It’s hard to pick out a team that could be favored ahead of them right now. LeBron is superhuman, D-Wade has at least one elite season ahead of him and Chris Bosh is still his normal self; if Greg Oden gives them any size off the bench, they’ll be just about unbeatable.
- THE LAST RUNS – Some of biggest names of the last decade or so are headed towards that sunset. Is this the last run of the Duncan / Ginobili Spurs? Can KG and Paul Pierce power the Nets to a deep playoff run? How will Dirk Nowitzki take being on a floundering Mavericks team? How lonely will an oft-injured Kobe be on a talent-depleted Lakers squad? These are a lot of big names – and big salaries – with a lot of questions around them.