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NBA Season Previews: Part 7

Howdy folks! We’re back today with the latest team season preview taking a look at Western Conference favorites the Oklahoma City Thunder, Perennial dark horses the Philadelphia 76ers (or will they be?) and southern giant killers the San Antonio Spurs. Enjoy!

Oklahoma City Thunder

How Will They Do?

Oklahoma City are the NBA’s darlings, rising out of the ashes of the Seattle Sonics. Last year they fulfilled what most predicted – making it to the NBA Finals before being steamrolled by the Heat juggernaut. This season brings another series of high expectations and even more challenges. As the Lakers rebuilt and retooled for another assault on the title the Thunder took stock and made very few changes. Last season was an important moment for this franchise as it gave them the irrational confidence that they can now reach the highest heights. The biggest story line coming out of this camp this season will be can they re-sign James Harden?  Currently the team is cash strapped. They hold the contracts of Durant, Westbrook, Perkins and Ibaka in their hands. Harden is the icing on this cake, coming off the bench with confidence, fearless determination and one of the best ball handlers in the league. Harden’s presence cements this team atop the Western Conference, without him there is an air of uncertainty.  We really like how the Thunder have built upon their roster and given themselves depth at most positions. Collison & Jones backing up Ibaka & Durant as newest Thunder recruit Thabeet brings size off the bench. Harden, Maynor and Cook act as dynamite off the bench lifting the tempo of the team whenever they are on-court. Sure it’s not the deepest team in the league but it’s one of the most reliable, you know what you will get from your bench. Very similar to Moneyball it’s about working your way to a win any way you can. Coach Brooks knows this, has assembled a squad capable of challenging every team in the league. This team is one of the most explosive and dynamic in the league, a League Pass must every night. There is no doubting they have the talent, if they can just sprinkle in a dash of experience (gained from the 2011/12 Finals & Olympics) this team could destroy the Western Conference. Look for them to pick up 55-65 wins this year. 

Players In & Out

IN: Hasheem Thabeet (FA) , Daniel Orton, DeAndrew Liggins, Andy Rautins, Walker Russell, Hollis Thompson 

OUT:  Nazr Mohammed (CHI) , Derek Fisher (FA) , Royal Ivey (PH)


Philadelphia 76ers

How Will They Do?

Philadelphia is a town known for its smaller, flashier players with multitudes of finesse. Iguodala, Miller, Iverson, Brand. Throughout the off season they picked up where they left off with Chris Webber – SIZE. Picking up Bynum out of the Howard mega deal was a good steal, letting Brand, Williams and Iguodala out of the cage was not so much. The 76ers biggest problem this year amongst a few will be scoring points – their starting lineup of Bynum, Hawes, Turner, Richardson and Holiday is a bizarre mix of age, size, speed and confusion. The Nick Young signing is interesting but he can get in a funk and become a black hole – his downside outweighs his good. Young could ignite them on some nights but he isn’t the cool, calculated head that this team needed playing in the East. Last season’s 76ers would be competing for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals, 2012-13? Maybe not so much. It’s partly due to terrible list management from Coach Collins and GM Tony DiLeo but they fell behind. Their division and conference rivals got better and they missed the boat. Boston, Atlanta, Brooklyn all picked up spare parts which pushed them beyond the 76ers. This year they will have to battle Rondo, D. Will and D. Harris at the point while every other night trying to slow down Anthony & Stoudemire. This team should be happy with 37-45 wins and a 8th seed at best.

Players In & Out 

IN: Andrew Bynum (LAL) , Kwame Brown (GSW) , Jason Richardson (ORL), Nick Young (WAS)

OUT:  Andre Igoudala (DEN), Lou Williams (ATL), Elton Brand (DAL).

@mono85 – 8th in the Eastern Conference


San Antonio Spurs

How Will They Do?

The Spurs are as ageless as time itself. They keep on keeping on. This year San Antonio returns with a starting line up including the Spurs #2 (Duncan) , #4 (Parker)  and #6 (Ginobilli)  all time highest point scorers and the same head coach for the 16th straight year (Popovich). This is a team which has earnt your respect and each game verse your team should be circled on your schedule. Could this year be a farewell tour? Duncan (age 36), Parker (age 30) and Ginobilli (age 35) are all on the dark side of 30 but they still are some of the baddest dudes on the court. Last season these wiley vet’s tied the Bulls for the league best record (50-16) which is incredible but much of the credit has to goto Coach Popovich for the way he handled the roster and schedule. Popovich’s hunger to continually be the best has pushed his team to great heights. The Spurs go deep into 4th quarters and this is because of the depth on their bench. Blair, Bonner, Splitter, Neal, Jackson and Mills rotate with their stars – often raising the tempo. This team gives their coaches options, if they need to go tall they can or vice versa they can play small ball with the best of them. Look for the Spurs to cause many headaches this year. They are going to have to battle it out in a tough Western conference to fight for the title for a 5th time.  The ‘Wild West” will be one of the tightest fought conference races ever. You will have the ageless Spurs, the energetic Thunder, dynamic Lakers, retooled Mavericks, frantic Nuggets and the flashy Clippers. The Spurs have the ability to pull apart each of these teams, the greatest challenge will be keeping the older bodies fit and the young minds focused on the task at hand – Popovich can handle this and we really like their chances. Expect 55-60+ wins this season from the Spurs and a 3rd place finish in the West.

Players In & Out

IN: Eddy Curry (MIA), Derrick Brown (CHA), Josh Powell (FA)

OUT:  James Anderson (ATL), Derrick Byars (FA)

@mono85 – 3rd in the Western Conference


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