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Introducing the 2013/14 NBA Season – An NBA Nation Australia Roundtable

Hello NBA fans and welcome back for season 2013/14’s very first Roundtable! We’ve been hard at work putting this together for you, with a few of our newer writers taking part for the first time. So sit back, grab a cuppa and enjoy the first mega episode of the year!

1) The 2013/14 NBA season is nearly upon us, with plenty of speculation surrounding how each team will perform. how do you see your team’s season evolving, and will it be a successful year?

Ryan O’Connell (@RyanOak):  I think it depends on the definition of the word ‘successful’! For a proud franchise that considers anything less than a championship as a failure, the Lakers were a disappointment – and then some – last season. Drama surrounded the team from pre-season until the final indignation of a first round sweep to the San Antonio Spurs. Truth be told, 2012/13 was an unmitigated disaster in every way imaginable. This season, a mere playoff berth would be considered successful, if not a significant over-achievement, though it’s not completely unrealistic. However, I’d honestly settle for the Lakers not being an embarrassing sideshow.

Brenton Harris (@iambren10): I expect nothing short of an awful showing from my Phoenix Suns this year, and as I pointed out in my article I am actually looking forward to watching this all out tank job unfold. The strong preseason form has only served to further underline my viewpoint that this is as well constructed full-season tank job as any we’ve seen, by winning in the preseason the Suns have lured their opponents into a false sense of fear and uncertainty, meaning that instead of coming to town half-switched on, and getting caught out by a plucky underdog, teams will come to Phoenix ready to run riot, and that’s just what they’ll do. I’ve seen the future people and the future reads 20-62 and the 2nd or 3rd best shot at the Wiggins sweepstakes.

Matt Leslie (@MattLB_): Well being a Lakers man, I’m not expecting all that much this year. After last years roller coaster ride I just don’t think the body can handle any more stress. I’m going to watch every game just like I always do, but instead of holding high hopes, I’ll just watch, cheer the boys on and quietly cry myself to sleep at night after each loss. THAT BEING SAID; I AM excited to see the pieces we brought in this year clicking in preseason, which leads me to believe that maybe we stand a chance at clawing our way to the eighth seeding – but then again it’s just preseason, so it’s worth bollocks. I’ve noticed that a lot of calling this period of Lakers ball ‘Swag Time’ and while I’, not sure where that originated, I love it. Swaggy P (Nick Young) as he if affectionately called is an entertainer through and through. He can’t do much else but shoot the ball and generally he does it well. It’s definitely not rivaling the Showtime or Lake Show eras but it’s something and at this point in time, I’m going to take it. Personally I can’t wait to see Nick Young and Kobe playing in tandem. It will be poetry. Or so I hope. Xavier Henry has been phenomenal this preseason and I think the Lakers might have got a steal in the young swingman. While he wont get many reps laying at shooting guard I expect to see him fill in at the 3 at some stage in the season, especially if he continues this good form. In terms of where I feel we will end up, I’m saying somewhere around 8th – 10th. Obviously I want my team to perform but I’m not stupid or unrealistic. We’re not winning the comp, not even coming close. I’d rather see us at the bottom end of the table and in the running for the lottery than scrapping on the edges of the playoffs. This might sound odd to you and you needn’t question my loyalty to the team, but I’d much rather be rewarded with one of a handful of incredibly talented kids in the draft. This is the most talented draft in years, if you get in the lottery; you’ve succeeded in a whole different way. Is that ‘successful’ enough according to the Laker standard? Probably not, but with the predicament we’re in this year, any good news will be warmly welcomed.

Dan Attias (@Old_Scores): As a Bulls fan, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the season ahead. After having spent the past 18 months waiting for our best player, Derrick Rose to get fully fit, the time has finally arrived and it feels good. Last season was tough to watch. So many guys were down and out at different times of the year and it felt as though there were always a few guys out of the line-up for just about every game of the year. Having the opportunity to hopefully, see the best Chicago Bulls team all playing at once is something I’m sure all Bulls fans will relish. As far as expectations as to what kind of season I expect the Bulls to have, I think that anything other than a top 3 seed and a visit to the Eastern Conference Finals should be seen as a failure. Sure, I have great expectations but looking at the roster this team has and barring injury, they should be aiming high.

Nick Caro (@NickoToGo): Most people have made their mind up about the Lakers this season, and don’t believe there’s any reason that they can make a splash in the playoffs or even make it in some cases. While there are plenty of reasons why LA will struggle to make any noise this season, I have to say I don’t think it will be as bad as everyone is predicting. With a younger roster, some legend-status vets to help guide them, and a coach that fits the playing group, this team, whether you like it or not, is primed to make a difference this year. Now, while there aren’t title aspirations (and rightly so), the team has done all they can to improve following the loss of Dwight Howard by acquiring some quality role players to help get them to free agency 2014. The additions of Chris Kaman, Jordan Farmar, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and the promising Xavier Henry have bolstered the Lakers roster to a point where they can not only be competitive, but actually make a good run at the playoffs. Now, while this is all well and good, the Lakers still have problems. Kobe Bryant’s injury is still a concern and there is no return day specified yet. One would have to imagine Kobe needs to return by December for the Lakers to have a shot. Currently this is looking a likelihood. Steve Nash is also seemingly on his last legs, with the future hall of famer constantly succumbing to soreness of some kind. Pau Gasol has looked spirited in his role at the 5/4 alongside Kaman and Jordan Hill so far in the preseason but injury is a concern as well. Pau really does need to remain healthy. The biggest issue facing these Lakers is still the defense, with D’Antoni stressing that this season will see a bigger emphasis on that end of the floor in order to contain teams and gain a higher efficiency rating than 19th in the NBA. Hopefully defensive guru Kurt Rambis can help rectify that situation somewhat. The true goal for the Lakers is to acquire superstar talent come free agency in 2014, but that definitely doesn’t mean that this season is considered a write off. Some might say the low expectation can help the team, and the fans enjoy their year a little more and in turn, create some good basketball. Others say the Lakers should tank, and head towards the lottery. I couldn’t disagree more with this. I am a fan who wants to see his team fight tooth an nail for every last win no matter what, and I know the Lakers franchise is the same. Many fans will agree, the Lakers are down right now, and they don’t need to tank to get back on top. I’m going on a bit, but in closing, write off this team at your own risk.
Nathan Darby (@DarbyDarby1): Boston… What can I say? To be honest I don’t know what to expect. I’d like to see the new coach start out well. Get the team and organization behind him and give him some control. Wins aren’t big for Boston this season. I think development of a young team is more important. Sullinger is looking good in the pre season and could be a force for years to come. I like Olynyk and think he should start. He can score so run some plays for him and it gets the fans interested. We have to cheer for something other than wins this season.
Luke Ryan (@Luke2177): I follow two teams closely – the Bulls and the Thunder. My love for Chicago dates back to my very early NBA following days and of course, a player by the name of Michael Jordan ignited that flame. Heard of him? Also, my brother Adam is quite possibly Australia’s #1 Bulls/Jordan fanatic (see @inallairness on Twitter) so I kind of didn’t have a choice but to love the Bulls from an early age. I’ve liked the Thunder for a few years now, namely due to one of the superstars of the NBA, Kevin Durant (along with D-Rose, my two favourite players). I predict both teams to have successful seasons in 2013/14. You don’t exactly need to be a clairvoyant to predict that I suppose, but assuming full health, they should each be in contention for their respective conference finals.
Nick How (@Nick_A_How): I’m extremely excited for this new season, and being a Boston man that will probably shock a few. I’m resigned to the fact that this season isn’t about winning anything, because we are in no position roster-wise to do so. But, what excites me most is watching this NOW young team evolve individually as players and also as a unit under new (also young) Coach Brad Stevens. A lot of people have been quick to slam the Celtics, and if I’m being honest if we are looking at it as a ‘win-now’ situation, then the Celtics definitely look horrible. But, if like me you see it as nothing more than a rebuild year, then the Celtics look to be in a very healthy situation. The start of this season is going to be the most interesting to me, as we will be without Rajon Rondo. I have said this in a few different Celtics circles online but I’m all over Jordan Crawford this year. I’d agree that he isn’t the solution for Boston at point for a long term period, but he is more than capable of doing a job. Crawford’s jumper may look slightly unattractive, but I like the idea of him creating his own shot and having the balls to take the shots. Boston has already had GM Danny Ainge come out in defence of JC in saying that he believes him to be “…the best natural passer of the ball on the roster”. In terms of the starting 5 that will start the season…. I don’t believe it will resemble the 5 that will finish it. All of us as fans know that Danny Ainge can surprise when it comes to the trade market, and I believe he has a few ideas up his sleeve. How many wins do I see the Celtics getting? I honestly see us getting over 35, but only just… and to be fair that’s ok with me. I won’t be getting too upset. I almost feel a slight calm about this season, knowing it isn’t a contending year, and am feeling more of the geeky basketball fan who will enjoy watching players like Sullinger & Olynyk evolve as players the more games and minutes they play (which should be alot). Things aren’t so bad, our roster isn’t anywhere near as bad as the 76ers.

2) The NBA is known for its active movement involving players, and occasionally coaches. If you were a betting man, what coach would you place money on losing his job first this year?

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RO: This question is muddied by the fact so many teams are tanking for next year’s deep and talented draft. That means a lot of franchises will pile up the losses, yet considering that’s the actual plan, I’m not sure their respective coaches will be under any pressure of being sacked. In fact, they may get a bonus per loss! Taking that into consideration, I’ll turn my attention to a team with higher expectations, and nominate Oklahoma City’s Scotty Brooks. Though Brooks can’t be blamed for the Thunder’s roster issues – losing James Harden/Kevin Martin for essentially nothing is disgraceful – he can and should be blamed for the team’s unimaginative offense, and over-playing Kendrick Perkins. With Russell Westbrook out injured to begin the season, the pressure will be on Brooks to have evolved the Thunder’s offense past mere iso-ball. If he hasn’t, and if the Thunder starts slowly, he might be unemployed before January.

BH: To be honest, there is a part of me that wouldn’t be all that surprised if we made it through the season without a coach being fired, as the sheer volume of new or newly contracted coaches eliminates all but about three candidates, but the other part of me remembers that this is the NBA so someone is going to get their marching orders, and if I was a betting man, I’d put my money down on Randy Whitman of the Washington Wizards, with Terry Stotts being the only other realistic candidate.

ML: I would have to say that all the teams that signed new coaches would be expecting some big things from them. Jason Kidd took on the Nets coaching job and with the additions of Kirilenko, Pierce and KG, has a roster that most coaches would be rather envious of. While the team is getting on in age they have no shortage of skill and finesse. It wont just be the front office that has great expectations for it’s new leader and his team, but also the fans. The new look Nets were somewhat of a disappointment last season and all will be out to prove their worth. Mo Cheeks of the Detroit Pistons will be under heavy scrutiny. With offseason signings like Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, the Pistons now have a young attacking roster and could cause some problems for their counterparts. Of course it is the expectation of most organizations that they make the playoffs, but I believe the Pistons’ front office believes that they now belong there. I doubt it and still think they are a year or two off. While Cheeks will be heavily scrutinized and possibly fired if the team doesn’t perform, this is more of a speculation. I don’t see the organization wanting to have the salaries of two fired coaches on their books. I think the only new coach that will be safe from a potential sacking is Brad Stevens and that is because even though Danny Ainge is still publicly denying it, the Celtics are going to tank their season away and so results for Stevens are not as crucial as some of his coaching colleagues. Jeff Hornacek should be under pressure to perform due to him being a new signing but I think the front office will also give him permission to tank this season away, and why wouldn’t they. With only Bledsoe and Dragic, this team doesn’t have a great deal to look forward to. Alex Len COULD be good, Gortat is over the hill and I’m not even going to get started on the rest of the roster. I’d say they’ll chance themselves in the lottery, giving Hornacek one year to hone his skills. Last of all is Mike D’Antoni, most people want it, it will probably happen, whether or not it’s before the new seasons’ end is anybody’s guess. D’Antoni isn’t going to produce this year, that’s more a result of personnel than him himself. That being said, he was a major reason the Lakers lost Dwight. Regardless, Mike Brown won’t be burdening us with his salary, D’Antoni will only have one year left on his contract – it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jeannie and Co. beg Phil to come back. Whether or not he does is anyone’s guess, but I reckon he probably wont be able to resist seeing out Kobe’s final years + have the chance to splash cash in next years free agency.

DA: I’m going to be honest here and say I don’t really have much clue as to who will be the first coach to get fired. I will list a few possibilities; Tyrone Corbin of the Jazz, Mike D’Antoni of the Lakers and Jeff Hornacek of the Phoenix Suns are all a chance but until the season starts it’s such a hard thing to pick.

NC: I’m going to have to stick with my running theme so far and go with Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni. I actually feel for Mike. Tossed into the salad bowl that was the Lakers season last year after 5 games and the firing of Mike Brown, without a training camp and very little understanding of the roster he had, he was immediately public enemy number one when the team continued to lose after his arrival. I have an issue with his hiring, as the greatest coach of all time was waiting in the wings, ready to coach that beast of a lineup towards a title, but that team was just wrong for D’Antoni. The Buss family really did make a mistake there, but that shouldn’t fall on Mike D’Antoni’s head. The fact is he is a quality coach, but not for the team he had. This season however, the roster is much more suited to him and his style. Run and gun, stretch the floor, fastbreak offense and a heavy emphasis on the three ball, and he has the guys to do it. If it doesn’t pay off, and the team losses a lot of early games, I’d say MDA’s run as coach of the LA Lakers is done. The pressure is on, and it’ll be interesting to see how he reacts.

ND: This is a year like no other. So many inexperienced coaches. Teams possibly ‘tanking’. I can’t really see anybody losing their gig as a coach but with a team like the Lakers you can never really tell. D’Antoni has been rocky ever since he got there and will be constantly under the spotlight. His teams aren’t known for their defence and is Steve Nash still up to playing run and gun every night? In the end it’s Kobe’s team and what he says goes. If he doesn’t buy into the system then D’Antoni is gone.
LR: Unfortunately, it is part of the game these days – with a coaching tenure of even 3 or 4 days considered a “long run” in many circles. I’ll narrow this down to 3, depending on which team has an unexpected sluggish start to the season – Dwayne Casey (Raptors), Terry Stotts (Blazers) or Randy Wittman (Wizards).  I’d love to throw in Mike D’Antoni (Lakers), just because he looks like the unhappiest man on the planet when they show him on the sidelines. Must be tough living in Los Angeles, coaching an NBA team and earning $4 million each season.
NH: While there are a possible few candidates for this title, there is also a few coaches who find themselves in their first year in said role with their new respective teams, so they will probably not lose their jobs first. I had had this discussion with people recently and the same name kept coming back at me and it seems to make more & more sense. Mike D’Antoni. While the stress of Dwight has moved on to Houston, D’Antoni still has a big job this season, and it’s one I believe Lakers fans will not be ok with him taking his time on? Lakers fans will be wanting answers quickly this season, and with Kobe possibly out for sometime, and a roster that doesn’t hint at the deepest of depth the start of this season could be a nasty one to take for a Lakers fan. The first 20 games will be so key to D’Antoni in whether he will be sticking around.

3) List your early predictions for the winner of and why:

  • Most Valuable Player:

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RO: LeBron James. The only concern here is voter fatigue, which is undoubtedly the lamest excuse in history for not awarding the best player in the league with the award for the best player in the league.

BH: LeBron James – because he is the best and most complete player on the planet and he is just beginning to fathom the true extent of his powers. Only voter fatigue and injury are a threat to ‘the King’ walking away with another MVP trophy. Kevin Durant to be the perennial bridesmaid.

ML: Kevin Durant – his numbers last year while Westbrook was out were otherworldly. Since Westbrook went down in the Thunder-Rockets series Durant averaged just a fraction under 40 points a game. He also added 11 rebounds and 5 assists, shooting 54% from the field and 45% from downtown. – Yes it was the playoffs, but I believe we can look forward to similar numbers to start the season. I don’t think they’ll drop off too much more either, Durant is hungry and no doubt angry, he’ll carry this team a long way.

DA: LeBron James – He’s the most talented player on what will be a team with one of the best records in the NBA at seasons end. James is a once in a lifetime player and he is just reaching his peak. With his improved post game, ability to run the fast break and a good range on his jump shot, there’s nothing more that really needs to be said about the world’s best basketball player.

NC: Kevin Durant – I just can’t see it going LeBron’s way again this season. He’ll have a good year, but for me it’s all about KD and his Thunder going into the new season. The loss of Westbrook for the early part of it hurts, but that just means we’ll see Durant on another level, pushing his team and himself to the max to make it up. The Thunder still have exceptional talent on their roster, and are good enough and deep enough to take it all the way to the WCF. This will all come down to how KD leads his team, and really, how can you look past that? A guy with extraordinary talent, leading his team above and beyond an injury to a fellow superstar towards the highest reaches of the playoffs. He’s in line for the scoring title as well, averaging over 28 points a game, and is undoubtedly one of the most clutch players in the league. Both areas he excels at above everyone with the exception of a select few. I think KD’s overall importance to OKC will see him get across the line and steal away the MVP award in 2014.

ND: Chris Paul. I see the Clips coming up big this year. New coach. New players. And Paul knows he has to step up. With JJ and Dudley on the wings Paul’s assist numbers should be huge and with Doc Rivers at the helm the plays and organization are solid. This is Paul’s team and if they are playing well there’s no reason why he should not be at the top of the MVP rankings… Lebron cannot get it this season. He already has four. The powers at be are now specifically looking for flaws in Lebron’s game just so he cannot get another MVP. That’s why Kobe only has one.

LR: Kevin Durant. It’s time. He’s going to carry the load for the first month or two of the season for the Thunder (with Westbrook injured) and with LeBron coming off two MVP’s in succession, LBJ would need an historically great season to be awarded MVP again.

NH: LeBron James – I hate to be predictable, but I can’t see LeBron holding up. Magic Johnson this week was quoted as saying he believes this season in particular to be one the best seasons in years, and I tend to agree with him, just that it’ll be LeBron’s year once again. The man’s game just improves year after year. As much as I’m not a LeBron fanboy, I do appreciate and respect somebody who gives off the aura of hard work, and with james you cannot doubt or fault him on that. James continues to work on areas of his game he believes he lacks in and always comes back stronger. Expect beastly things once again.

  • Most Improved Player:

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RO: Alexey Shved. I’m an unashamed fan of the Minnesota combo guard. He’s got a nice stroke, a good handle, and exudes an intoxicating Russian arrogance. He averaged 8.6 points, 3.7 assists and 2.3 rebounds last season, but I expect those numbers to increase now that he has NBA experience under his belt. The Twolves big men staying healthy for a full season will also help his development.

BH: This is a tough one, as the criteria for what makes a player eligible for consideration seems to change from season to season. If the awards purpose is to celebrate significant improvement such as going from a role player to a star then my money is on Jonas Valančiūnas of the Toronto Raptors, however if it is left open to broader interpretation (read rookies who explode to prominence in their sophomore season) then I’d say Anthony Davis has it in the bag.

ML: Eric Bledsoe. The man they call the Mini-Lebron. He’s no longer in the shadow of Chris Paul and Co. and finally has his own team. Luckily for him he is in the wasteland that is Phoenix and the only other player that could rival him is Dragic. I expect Bledsoe to average somewhere around 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. You can throw in a block and a three for good measure. So high is Bledsoe’s ceiling, that I believe he can not only lead the league in steals but also shoot his way to the real of top-tier shooting guards. Runner up: Pau Gasol. He’s on a contract year. Having an expiring contract means he is also in danger of being traded and I think he’ll be out to prove his worth, either to the Lakers organisation or to other potential suitors. Consider the fact that their is no Dwight Howard to get in his way, I thinks it’s time for the big man to show he’s still got some left in the tank. (I thought I’d also mention that Pau seems to be combining well with Kaman, which can only ever be good news for both the Lakers bigs)

DA: Eric Bledsoe – Bledsoe is finally free to run the point out of the shadow of Chris Paul. He will see a massive increase in his minutes and with free reign over a team that’s lacking in fire power; we should see his numbers improve exponentially. Phoenix head coach, Jeff Hornacek has been fairly open in his plan to get the team playing run and gun fast break ball and Bledsoe is one of the faster players around meaning the style of play should really suit his game. Look for big improvements on his 2012/13 averages of 8.3 ppg, 3 rpg and 3.1 apg.

NC: Kawhi Leonard – I’m a full blown, self-confessed fan of Kawhi Leonard. A solid stretch 4 who can run the floor, shoot the basketball and drag in boards is exactly what a team like San Antonio needs going into the new season. Leonard was fantastic in the post season, averaging 13.5 PPG on 55% shooting and claiming 9 rebounds a game, proving he has what it takes to come up big in tough situations. At just 22 years of age, it will only get better for Kawhi, with coach Gregg Popovich needing more minutes out of his younger players as veterans Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili continue to age. We’ll see his contributions escalate, and his numbers rise to the point where he will be considered a star and the future of the league. His athletic agility, coupled with undeniable strength will see Kawhi Leonard become 2013/14’s Most Improved Player.

ND: Jeremy Lamb or Eric Bledsoe. Jeremy Lamb looks like he is going to become the new James Harden at OKC. He had a great Summer League and has been getting good minutes during the pre season. Lamb is looking for his shots, although they aren’t dropping at the moment but I can see him coming up huge. Eric Bledsoe finally gets his chance to break out. Like it or not Phoenix will be tanking this season. That means the young guns get extended minutes and Bledsoe has the game to deliver.

LR: This is such a tough question, as everyone defines “most improved” differently. It’s usually awarded to the player who sees an uptick in minutes/opportunity and therefore production. So to that end, I’ll go with Jonas Valanciunas from the Raptors. Will see plenty of opportunity as the big man in Toronto and should post a career year statistically.

NH: This is more wishful thinking…. DeMarcus Cousins. I would really like to see Boogie knuckle down and take this season by the horns. DeMarcus is arguably one of the best centers this League has to offer, and with the right coaching, and the right mentality I’d like to see him take this award this season.

  • 6th Man Of The Year:

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RO: Andrei Kirilenko. I’m hoping AK-47 can break the trend of this award simply going to a bench player that scores a lot of points. After all, there is a lot more to basketball than just shooting, and Kirilenko is the prime example of that. The Russian does a little bit of everything on the basketball court, and considering the Nets ageing roster, Kirilenko should see plenty of playing time, with his ability to stuff the stat sheet hopefully seeing him named the NBA’s best reserve.

BH: Harrison Barnes – Golden State Warriors. With Iggy the certain starter at SF and David Lee still around, there is no room for Barnes in the starting lineup and he proved in the playoffs he is a starting caliber player. Barnes should blossom offensively as the focal point of the bench mob and will learn to love the role as the win pile up at the Roaracle.

ML: Klay Thompson – Whether or not he assumes this role all season remains to be seen but if he does so, I wholeheartedly believe he is a lock for this award. I see him still pouring in anywhere between 17-22 points a night. I also feel his three point shooting might climb to around 3 a game. He’ll be the go to guy on the second unit and us such I expect him to light it up.

DA: Harrison Barnes – With the addition of Andre Iguodala, the exciting second year of Harrison Barnes is likely to be coming off the bench. Barnes is a talented wing player who should put up some good numbers for Golden State. He was very impressive for the Warriors in last season’s playoffs, averaging 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds. His game is headed to higher levels and with it could come a sixth man of the year award.

NC: Harrison Barnes – The trade that saw Andre Iguodala arrive at Golden State simultaneously sent up-and-coming excitement machine Harrison Barnes into a full time 6th man role for the 2013/14 season, and what a guy to have coming off your bench. Barnes, a 6’8″ small forward, was a post season revelation for the Warriors, averaging over 16 points and 6 rebounds a game in 38 minutes proving he has the ability to be explosive and a scoring threat at the 3 for Golden State. His role this year with Iggy occupying the starting role will be to provide a spark off the bench, and his style of play suits this speedy Warriors outfit perfectly. He is deadly on the break, converting 57% in transition and his talent doesn’t go missing on the defensive end either. Considering the energy he brought to the starting lineup last season, teams should be very nervous about what this young kid can provided when exploding off the bench for the Dubs.

ND: Tyreke Evans or Jeremy Lamb. Tyreke has been on a downhill slide since his sophomore year. Ever since his awesome rookie year his averages have declined there after. Evans gets his chance to come of the bench with a strong Pelicans team. Chances are he’ll be the go to player when he’s on with the starters getting a rest.
As before Lamb is getting his chance to deliver. OKC didn’t go looking for a 6th man from the free agency. They felt they already had a ready made one in Lamb. He may be unproven but watch this space.

LR: Another stab in the dark here, I’ll go with Jarrett Jack from the Cavs. Should be a closer for his new squad and despite coming off the bench, will see plenty of minutes (it seems my argument for a “minutes-cap” for 6TH MOTY contenders has been overlooked by the NBA!

NH: Isiah Thomas – This is another pick of wishful thinking. I like the Kings, and I like young guard Isiah Thomas. The Kings who will probably start with Vasquez as starting PG, should see Thomas coming off the bench in a productive way, he can be explosive off the dribble, and can attack and finish at the rim confidently. He can also be somewhat of a threat from behind the 3 point line, with his last season seeing him shoot at just shy of 40%. This is personal target that is achievable for Thomas, and one I’d be more than happy to see him pick up.

  • Defensive Player Of The Year

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RO: LeBron James. He should have won it last year, considering his unique ability to shut down everyone from point guards to centers. He’ll also be motivated, after being annoyed at not winning last season. Yet above all, I fear it may be awarded to him in somewhat of a consolation prize from voters as they look to give the MVP trophy to someone ‘new’.

BH: Ladies and gentleman, it’s over, the Dwightmare is OVER. Dwight is happy, healthy, and all settled in in Houston and is surrounded by the types of players he needs to thrive. So logic says he should romp to this award then right? Wrong. Dwight will be improved, but so will a host of others including Larry Sanders, Iggy, LeBron James, Joakim Noah and most importantly Roy Hibbert, Ladies and gentleman your defensive player of the year will be Roy Hibbert. Oh and I know these weren’t on the list but I’ll throw them in for free anyway ROTY - Ben McLemore, COTY – Mark Jackson Scoring Title – Kevin Durant 

ML: Dwight Howard is going to be back with a vengeance. He has had a trouble free preseason and looks to be in better shape than ever before, even better than when he was in Orlando. I looked at the stats and consider this: Howard is the only player ever to average 20ppg and 10rpg over the last 6 years. That is phenomenal. Last year his apparent “worst year ever” saw him average 17.1ppg and 12.4rpg with 2.4 blocks all at 57.8%. I think the Rockets will do him some good, not being under such a heavy spotlight should benefit him and I see him returning to the top of his game. While I still think Ibaka will lead the league in blocks, I feel Howard’s presence will mean more to opposing teams. Look for him to wrap this title up.

DA: LeBron James – I actually don’t expect to see James win this one but I do think he will be deserving of it. It’s well documented that the defensive player of the year has become a big man’s trophy. James is as good a defender as you will see. His ability to defend four positions is something you don’t see in the world’s best league. Is he worthy, yes, will he win it, no.

NC: Roy Hibbert – Roy didn’t really find his defensive stride until the latter part of last season, but came up big in the playoffs and especially against the Knicks. THAT block on a rising Carmelo Anthony was one of the post season’s best plays, and I believe it’s helped Roy take another step forward in his defensive prowess and towards the DPOTY title. It will be stiff competition with Marc Gasol, Dwight Howard and LeBron James all playing beastly defense, but an improved Pacers roster will lessen the pressure on Hibbert on that end of the floor and see him become the league’s scariest defensive big man.

ND: Lebron James. Lebron cannot win the MVP this season. It just cannot happen. But we can’t have Bron going home empty handed so he will get the Defensive trophy this season. He plays big. Gets blocks, steals and can be a monster on the boards. Miami need him to step on defence.

LR: I don’t want to do this, but I’ll say Dwight Howard here. He has plenty to prove and assuming he’s healthy, he should be back near his best defensively, after a nightmare of a season in Los Angeles.

NH: Dwight Howard – Dwight has some serious doubters/haters to put to bed this season, and I believe he will finally step up to the plate and deliver now he is on a solid Rockets roster. Not a fan of the man, but we would all admit that he is the most talented center’s in the League, and has previously won this award twice. I fully expect him to win it a fourth.

4) Lots of teams have improved their rosters over the summer. Who are the teams you believe will go from lottery cellar dwellers to playoffs bound surprise packets this year? 

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RO: I discussed the teams I think are underrated heading into the 2013/14 season a few weeks ago, (http://nbanationaustralia.com/2013/10/09/five-underrated-teams-for-the-201314-nba-season/) and I stand by the belief that the Washington Wizards, Minnesota Twolves and Portland Trailblazers will all challenge for playoff spots this season. The Wizards, led by John Wall, will be better for another year together. The Twolves, if they stay healthy and can improve their D, will be a handful for anyone. And the Blazers finally have a bench to complement their solid starting unit.

BH: If healthy, there is no way the Timberwolves miss making at the very least the 7 or 8th seed in the west, ditto for the newly retooled Pistons in the East, but given the talent on their respective rosters, neither of these could really be considered a surprise. So  I’m going to go with the Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans to FINALLY get things going at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture with one of these two fighting for the final spot in the finals in a late-season showdown with the slumping Denver Nuggets. In the East I foresee the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors fighting for the right to be one of two fresh faces (alongside the Pistons) in the bottom of the Eastern conference playoff picture. (At the expense of the Celtics and the Bucks)
ML:  The only cellar dweller I see making HUGE in-roads will be the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their frontcourt is CRAZY and if all the pieces play as expected then they’ll go a long way. This prediction is based on the assumption that Bynum stays healthy and returns to somewhere near his best and that Varejao keeps it together. Jack behind Kyrie is brilliant and we can expect the same numbers we saw from him when he was in Golden State. Earl Clark provides depth at the 3, which I have said the Cavs have desperately needed. Top that all off with the #1 pick Anthony Bennett and a new and improved Tristan Thompson and I think that the Cavaliers can really cause some problems in the East. I’m thinking around 7th. I also really like the look of the New Orleans Pelicans. The signing of Jrue Holiday was a brilliant one as was the signing of Tyreke Evans. The swingman will come in handy too because Eric Gordon’s health is about as Andre Drummond’s ability to shoot free throws. Anthony Davis is in full health and fine form heading into the opening season and hopefully he can get the best out of his fellow bigs. Ryan Anderson will be the key to the second unit and after his personally tragedy during the off-season I feel he will be ready to bury himself into his work. Look for him to make it rain. If they make the playoffs they are doing so at 7th or 8th but I still think they are a year or two off. A visit to the lottery would be beneficial if they can snatch up and solid centre, which they most definitely need. Lastly is the Sacramento Kings and the Detroit Pistons, both teams did well in the draft and had some movement in the offseason. They to have a young core, which could see them improve on their previous years records. That being said I still don’t see them making the playoffs. Keep your eyes on Demarcus Cousins for Sacramento, his preseason play has been of a stellar level and reports are he seems like he has matured. If so this could be his year to shine. For the Pistons, Andre Drummond is my pick to have a breakout year, however someone has to do something about his free throws. Perhaps underarm maybe serve him well?
DA: Two teams that could see a reversal in fortunes are the New Orleans Pelicans and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pelicans have a new look team for the 2013/14 season. The additions of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans are definite upgrades on last season’s Greivis Vasquez and Al-Farouq Aminu and I expect to see Eric Gordon play more this year, although I’d be very surprised if he makes it through a whole season. The Pelicans playoff chances hinder on one player more than any this upcoming season though and that one player is big man Anthony Davis. Davis has potential in bucket loads and with the new additions to his offensive game I expect him to put up big numbers and carry New Orleans to, or close to the playoffs. Cleveland is another team that have added some good pieces to their roster in the offseason. After winning the draft lottery, they selected Anthony Bennett out of UNLV and he will bring an impressive offensive game to the team even if he may be a defensive liability. Kyrie Irving will undoubtedly be an improved player and if they can get some quality minutes out of Andrew Bynum then they could be playoff bound. The big if however is whether or not Bynum will play and the progression of Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller will be paramount to any post season appearance.
NC: The Eastern conference has become much better this year, and there are several teams who could threaten that 8 through to 6 seed. Without forgetting about teams like Sacramento, New Orleans or Minnesota in the West, I thought I’d look at the three I believe are a shoe in to make the post season. They are the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trailblazers and the Washington Wizards. yes, the Wizards. The Cavs are my team to watch not only for the upcoming season, but for the next 3 or 4 years as well. With a young core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao the team can build a strong unit of players which will hopefully be considered a contender in the next few years. This year, You can add the presence of big man Andrew Bynum who, if healthy, is an incredible pick up for them, #1 draft pick Anthony Bennett (their second in three years), Jarrett Jack who could be in the 6th man of the year discussion and Earl Clark, an athletic forward who impressed off the bench for the Lakers last season. The return of Mike Brown as head coach should also help them return to the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James. The Blazers had a better than expected season past, and were preparing for nothing more than a rebuild. Fortunately Damian Lillard exceeded expectations, and went on to win rookie of the year, LeMarcus Aldridge was in All Star form, and Nicolas Batum was putting up big numbers nightly and filling up stat sheets all over the league. This core cemented them as a playoff threat in years to come, and going forward the Blazers will only continue to improve. What they lacked was depth, but that issue has been addressed with Dorrell Wright, Earl Watson, C.J. McCollum, and Thomas Robinson all filling vital roles. It’s for these reasons that we’ll see Portland return to the playoff race this season. Key to the Wizards success this season? John Wall. Easily one of the league’s best point guards, Wall is the perfect piece for Washington to build around and they’ve started off nicely. Bradley Beal will go up another level this season and continue to do so until he is considered one of the best 2-guards in the NBA. They have enough vet guidance for their young talent to feed off including Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. Without making any major moves aside from drafting Otto Porter with the #3 draft pick, the Wizards will continue their great form from the second half of last season and charge into playoffs contention. Of course, this all depends on how healthy they are.
ND: I like the Cavs. Kyrie has another season under his belt. The purchase of Bynum, though risky, could come up trumps. Another #1 draft pick in Bennett. Jarrett Jack is a great combo guard. Mike Brown is back as head coach. And they have Aussie Matthew Dellavedova in the squad.
LR: One team jumps out for me: the New Orleans Pelicans. This is mostly due to my latest basketball-crush, Anthony Davis. This guy is going to be a beast in a few years. The Pelicans were extremely brave and took some risks over the Summer, acquiring Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, but also traded away Nerlens Noel (how can a player named Nerlens not play for New Orleans? HOW?!). Add to that the natural improvement from my boy Anthony Davis, the return of Eric Gordon (until he’s injured again) and some solid depth players (Aminu, Anderson, Smith, Morrow, Stiesma) – and they instantly become one of my top 5 must-watch NBA League Pass teams.
NH: New Orleans Pelicans – The Pelicans are easily one of the teams I’m most looking forward to watching this season. Starting with a fresh, new revamp of the franchise with the rebranding of name, the future is looking bright in various ways. Last season saw NO take hyped Anthony Davis as the number one pick, and while he did have a good season, I believe the best is yet to come, and this season will see him step up considerably. The addition of Jrue Holiday & Tyreke Evans should prove to be solid pickups, and will become fan favourites. Coach Williams will experience his best season in 3 years, and will surprise the League and fans alike by sneaking the Pelicans into the Playoffs.

5) There is a huge amount of hype surrounding the talent in the 2014 draft, namely Andrew Wiggins. List three teams you believe will tank in order to gain higher draft picks and a shot at Wiggins.

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RO: The Philadelphia 76ers have a chance at history this season. The chance to be historically bad. Looking at their roster – or lack thereof – it’s evident they’re going all out for the chance to win the lottery. The Utah Jazz let stars Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap go, and traded for Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson. You read that right, traded for. If that doesn’t signal their intention to stink, nothing does. The Boston Celtics blew up their team in the off-season, letting Doc Rivers depart for the Clippers, before trading Celtics legend Paul Piece, and 2008 championship lynchpin Kevin Garnett, to the Brooklyn Nets. Danny Ainge can deny it all he likes, but this team is tanking, and tanking hard

BHThis question should be like shooting fish in a barrel but then I realised you wanted me to whittle it down to only three (sorry other metaphorical fishys, you’ll have to live on covered in the blood of your three former fishy friends).Philadelphia 76ers (76 is their loss target), Phoenix Sun and the Boston Celtics.But none of this will matter if Toronto somehow manage to find themselves back in the lottery, irrespective of the odds you just KNOW that someway, somehow that number one pick is finding its way to Toronto. A Canadian superstar, playing in Canada? The leagues head office must salivate at that prospect. 

MLI don’t think it matters how hard anyone tries, they aren’t beating the 76ers in this years tanking race. They don’t even have to try, front office did it for them. They cleverly slowed the team by trading Holiday to get Noels and in did so all but assured another visit to the lottery. This has been a stroke of genius. Not only will the 76ers have their own chance at securing the #1 pick next year, they also own the rights to the Pelican’s top 5 protected first round pick too. I see the Pelicans performing well enough to miss out on getting a top 5 pick, but they won’t be far outside it. What I’m saying is the 76ers could have potentially earned themselves two top 10 picks and in next years draft, that’s about as good as it gets. The Celtics will be there come the end of the year. As always, which pick they get is really a matter of luck. A rookie coach, an injured Rondo and a downright terrible team, it’s not sounding too good is it? While we’re at it, no, Jeff Green will not be your savior and no, you are not going to be competitive. I reckon Celtics will probably end up the 3rd worst record in the East.
DA: I figure there are a few teams that will find themselves with a shockingly bad record heading into the back end of the season and will ‘tank for Wiggins’ as it’s now known as. The Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic are three of the more likely teams to be in a position to put up the white flag mid-season and hope that luck comes their way in the form of the lottery ball. Philadelphia and Boston both blew up their rosters in favour of rebuilding after last season and with next year’s draft expected to be one of the best in many years it’s easy to see why. The Magic on the other hand were dreadful last season and despite the Oladipo addition via this year’s draft I don’t expect them to be too much more competitive this year. Now only one team will get the right to choose Wiggins, who is a lock for the number one pick, but the draft is not only about one player. There are some seriously good prospects, guys who can be franchise players, including our very own Dante Exum, should he decide to forego the college route.
NC: Orlando – Having been on one of the toughest stretches in franchise history, that being post-Dwight Howard irrelevancy, the Magic have actually begun to make some ground up in an attempt to get back to the playoffs. It’s a while away, but with Andrew Wiggins in tow that process speeds up dramatically. They don’t have a superstar, or even one waiting in the wings, but Wiggins could provide that for this struggling franchise. Philadelphia – The obvious choice. The Sixers thought they were on a winner when they got Andrew Bynum from the Lakers, but his injury meant he didn’t see one minute of court time. They then traded away Jrue Holiday for rookie Nerlens Noel during the 2013 draft leaving them with a pretty underwhelming group. It makes sense for them to tank, and get that high lottery pick in order to make a push back towards the playoffs. They’ve got a new outlook, and now they need that young star to help them get there. Phoenix – With the lineup the Suns have, there’s no chance they are making the post season, so why not? It makes sense for the struggling franchise to aim for the cellar and in turn, find a star. Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown, Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler could be a team to watch, but unfortunately they won’t be. No chemistry (yet), low moral and no direction. The only way is down for this team right now. Luckily for them, the rewards are endless.
ND: Phoenix, Philadelphia, Orlando and maybe Boston… We all know the Philly and Phoenix are. Just look at their rosters. They are both hopeless. Depending on what happens with Rondo will show whether or not Boston are tanking.
LR: Three teams I believe will tank? Or three teams that are definitely tanking already? The 76’ers are the standout tankers, because if that’s not called tanking – then their GM has a lot of explaining to do. The Jazz and Suns have also positioned themselves for a shot at a top 3 pick, but surely it’s Philadelphia by a country mile in the tanking stakes.
NH: Philadelphia 76ers – Terrible roster and are in desperate need of a star to shake things up and potentially rebuild around. Philly fans will excuse the terrible season that lies ahead if Wiggins is the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Orlando Magic – While the Magic do potentially have the ROTY in their hands in the way of Victor Oladipo, it is again going to be a very long, hard slog of a season. Magic fans have suffered some terrible basketball in the 3 years since their NBA Finals appearance, and the first legitimate star since Dwight in Orlando could fall to them in way of Andrew Wiggins. Phoenix Suns – While the Suns roster isn’t all bad (Bledsoe, Gortat), they really lack in the way of depth and I just cannot really see them progressing on last seasons bad run. Suns fans haven’t had much to cheer about in recent years, and Wiggins could be the answer they are looking for. I genuinely wouldn’t mind seeing young Wiggins playing his ball out of Phoenix actually
6) The past 3 years have seen the Miami Heat start the year as strong favorites, and the past 2 years the bookies have been correct. Can they achieve the three-peat? If not, who’s Championship is it this season.

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RO: Yes, the Heat can achieve the three-peat. And I think they will. Realistically, I think only the Indiana Pacers can challenge them, and I think they’ll push the Heat all the way, before once again falling just short. In the East, the Heat remain better than the Bulls, even if Derrick Rose returns 100% healthy. The Nets will be intriguing, but their age may catch up with them come playoff time. While the Knicks will remain what they were last season: lippy pretenders. I can’t realistically see anyone else from the East challenging Miami. Out West, you can never count out the Spurs, but they’ll be yet another year older. The Thunder, for the second consecutive season after making the NBA Finals, have actually regressed from a roster talent point-of-view. The Clippers are built for regular season fun, but playoff pain. The Grizzlies have addressed their biggest weakness: outside shooting, but still lack dynamism on offense. And the Warriors will be fun to watch, but not a realistic championship contender. Houston have the best chance to challenge the Heat as they have the right weapons to hurt Miami, but they’d have to make the Finals in the first place, and I’m not sure they’re ready to advance that far just yet.

BH: If LeBron James and any 4 of his teammates stay healthy enough to step on the floor for the entirety of a playoff run, then the three-peat is happening. If, however the unthinkable happens and LeBron gets injured, then that title race will be a good old ‘winner takes all championship scramble match’ between the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls in the east and the.San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors in the West, with the Pacers defeating the Spurs in the lowest TV rating 7 game series of ALL TIME.

ML: There’s not a great deal for me to say on this one. I don’t see anyone stopping the Heat from reaching their third title. If I was to anoint a challenger it would be Indiana and ONLY if Granger stays healthy. George definitely can’t do it on his own. Indiana will also need Hibbert to improve on last years solid play, which is also a big ask. The other challenger will be the Spurs. They have arguably the best point guard in the league in Tony Parker but he is old, as are his teammates and I don’t see them toppling the heat. That being said, I am rather excited to see Green and Leonard play some more minutes this year. Both have sky-high ceilings and it would be good to see them let loose.

DA: If a championship is never an easy thing to accomplish then a three-peat is ridiculously hard to achieve. The Miami Heat will start as favourites and rightly so. LeBron James is at his peak and it’s scary to think just how good he might be this season. Sure, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh may not be what they used to be but the Heat have picked up two potentially good players in Oden and Beasley but even if these two guys bring nothing to the table, which is a distinct possibility (don’t be surprised if they play really well either), then the Heat are still one very tough team to beat. They have a good roster, smart coach and know exactly what it takes to win, oh yeah and did I mention that guy LeBron?

NC: For me it’s not a matter of if they can. Of course they can. Will they? That’s another question. History will tell you it is notoriously hard to not only three peat, but also to reach the Finals four years in a row. Then again, it’s also rare to have the privilege of having the best player on the planet on your team. LeBron James is primed to carry his team back to the Finals, only this year, the competition will be tougher and the desire to beat the Heat will be stronger. They’ll have it tough getting out of the East with Indiana, Chicago and Brooklyn all restocking. Through their run last season, the Heat were taken to 7 games by Indiana in the ECF and again by San Antonio in the finals, nearly losing the lot if not for some missed Kawhi Leonard free throws and a Ray Allen clutch three in game 6. The Heat are beatable, and this year, teams know it. I might be going out on a limb, but I think the Pacers are right there this season. Everything they’ve done has proven to be a success and with the return of Danny Granger and the inclusion of Luis Scola and Chris Copeland, they’re better than they’ve been in years. The Indiana Pacers. Your 2013/14 NBA Champions.

ND: Can’t see it happening. Miami to lose this year. Indiana will get it done. They pushed them to the brink in the playoffs and with big Roy Hibbert getting another season to learn the trade look for him to dominate Miami on the inside at both ends of the court.

LR: I might be crazy, but I don’t believe the Heat are going to get it done this season. That is my honest basketball opinion. LeBron will be LeBron, Bosh will contribute what he does when he’s not up against a bigger/stronger player (doesn’t Bosh just LOVE the pre-season, by the way?) and Wade is a question mark, with his “superstar” status not exactly as bright as it once was, due to injury and age. I like the Pacers to come out of the East. They nearly beat Miami last season (lost in game 7), and they have improved their team over the Summer considerably (whereas Miami arguably got worse, if anything). Out of the West conference, I’ll take the Thunder, on the proviso Westbrook comes back and plays like the Russ we know and love (and maybe if he passes a bit more, too). I believe it’s time for Ibaka to have a career-year, whilst I wouldn’t be surprised if Reggie Jackson makes the leap into dependable 6th man/bench scorer role, once Westbrook returns. The contribution of Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson, Thabo Sefolosha and the Kiwi, Steven Adams, will be huge if the Thunder are going to get back to the NBA Finals. And to win it all? I’ll take the Pacers in 7 over the Thunder.

NH: While I actually hope they don’t, I do believe the Heat will take the title again this season. This will be the season we remember LeBron for….his 3-Peat year. It’s got a great story all over it hasn’t it? Obviously he will be fully aware of them, and while some may he’ll choke, I don’t believe so. LeBron is obviously aware of the comparions of greatness between himself, Kobe & Jordan etc… and he’ll have been working extra hard this preseason in his attempts to achieving that greatness. While the Heat have managed to have kept nearly all the pieces that won them the title last season, some will mention that they have also gotten older. Fans and critics will discuss at length if the likes of Battier, Anderson etc.. are still up to being important rotation pieces in a long Championship run. Also, if DWade has another Championship run too? These are questions that will be asked throughout the early stages of this season, and I believe (as much as it pains me) that their solid unit, coach, stars, and Championship experience will win out.

Thanks for joining us for the first Roundtable of the season at NBA Nation Australia. If you’d like to discuss our views with us, ask questions or simply say hi you can follow us @NBANationOz, or our personal accounts which can be found at the top of the page. Until next time, stay frosty.



Season Previews Part 8

We’re getting closer! Within a week we’ll be seeing our favorite teams in full swing as the regular season begins. Here is the second last installment of our season previews featuring the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Hornets.

Orlando Magic

How Will They Do?

Unfortunately, things don’t look great for this franchise in the depths of a rebuilding phase. They’ve lost their star, had an overhaul of coaches and staff and dedicated themselves to starting over with a clean slate. The past year has been tumultuous for Orlando and the Dwightmare caused many a headache for them. Many said that when it did come time to trade him, they made a mistake getting only Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, some draft picks and change in exchange for Howard and the offloading of a contract or two. Management have stood firm in their decision to move forward slowly, and rebuild this team from its grass roots and they have warned fans “this may be a difficult time, stick with us”. Guys like Jameer Nelson and Hedu Turkgolu now have the wight of a franchise on their shoulders with little help. The incoming of Arron Afflalo should help the Magic on the scoring end, but how well can Afflalo maintain efficiency without help? Will JJ Redick and Glen Davis contribute to a point where the team can win games? No. The Magic aren’t interested in winning anything this season. They know they’ll be horrible, and with that will likely come some very good draft picks. What they do want to do is remain tough. Play as a team and build chemistry. Considering the Magic’s strengths lie with their younger core, don’t be surprised if they deal away some of their veterans in order to clear even more room and have an even better shot building a strong team over the next few seasons. It’s a tough time to be a Magic fan, but rest assured the pain won’t last forever.

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NBA Nation Australia’s Preseason Previews: Part 5

Welcome to Part 5 of our season previews! Today we’ll take a look at the Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat!

Enjoy!

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