By Jake Brown-
(CBS Local) Two weeks away. It’s so close you can feel it. The much anticipated 2014-2015 NBA season is upon us. The offseason was highlighted by none other than the King himself, along with his new friends. Some guy named Kevin Love hopped on a plane to Cleveland as well. What other teams will join the new-look squad in C-town to be the best in the league? Let’s break down the five best teams in the NBA heading into the 2014-2015 season.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
This Cleveland Cavaliers roster is absolutely stacked. It was a complete overhaul this season to turn a pretender into a championship contender. LeBron James was obviously the biggest addition, as he returns home for some unfinished business. Trading for Kevin Love was a move that put them over the top. They traded away some key pieces to the future, but they did it to win now. Love and James join star point guard Kyrie Irving, who may become the most important player in the NBA this season. He’s going to be the distributor that gets his two future Hall of Famers the ball.
Oh yeah, they also added Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, and could be bringing on Ray Allen as well. Miller gives them a three-point shooting machine, and he makes clutch shots. Marion gives them a defensive presence off the bench. Allen gives them another three-point shooter that is a champion, if he does choose to join LeBron. Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao become X-factors in the starting lineup. Waiters is an underrated shooter. Varejao is a double-double almost every night. This Cavs team should be championship or bust this year. First-year NBA head coach David Blatt has too much talent to not get to the NBA Finals. We could be looking at a dynasty that moves from Miami to Cleveland.
2. San Antonio Spurs
The team that may stop the Cavs come June could, of course, be the San Antonio Spurs. Year after year they find themselves making a deep playoff run. It seems like they get a year older and a year wiser. This could actually be the last year of their reign as this could mark Tim Duncan’s final season. The Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili trio returns under the NBA’s best head coach, Gregg Popovich. The defending NBA champions bring back an almost identical roster to last season, which also will include rookie Kyle Anderson, who will cause mismatches against opposing benches. This team has the talent, leadership, depth, and basketball IQ to win another title. They have not been capable of winning back-to-back titles, but you just cannot count out the Spurs with Popovich manning the sidelines. The Spurs are still the best in the west, until someone proves otherwise.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder always finds a way to fall short in the playoffs. Could this be the year they overcome it? Well, a Kevin Durant foot fracture doesn’t help. Durant won’t miss much more than a month, so Oklahoma City isn’t too worried, but they will obviously need their MVP as many games as possible. The Thunder needed a bit more depth and they got a bit of help. Anthony Morrow gives them an outside shooting threat. They need some help shooting so Russell Westbrook isn’t taking 36 shots a game. Durant should be getting the rock every possession in the final minutes. Kendrick Perkins became a liability on offense, which will need to change. Serge Ibaka has extended his range and he is expected to have another solid season. Steven Adams became a factor off the bench last season. With Durant out, Jeremy Lamb is going to be a guy to keep an eye on as he should see significant minutes. Reggie Jackson will look to take the next step after playing well when Westbrook was hurt last season. Westbrook has shined, but he needs to avoid erratic play. Sometimes he lets his emotions get the best of him at big moments late in games The question for the Thunder will remain whether they can stay healthy. They certainly have the talent to make a run. This may be Scott Brooks’ last chance if they don’t get to the Finals. This needs to be the year they get over the hump, or Brooks gets the pink slip in OKC.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers underachieved last season. They also had to battle the Donald Sterling distractions that came up in the playoffs. They now have a new owner in Steve Ballmer and have their great coach Doc Rivers back. It’s time to win now for this team. They have too much talent and too much depth to not be an upper echelon team in the West. They bring back almost the same roster, but got some much-needed front court depth with the addition of Spencer Hawes. The 7’1″ power forward extended his range, becoming one of the NBA’s best shooting big men. He’s going to add something special off the bench for the Clippers.
We know all about their starting five, highlighted by Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. They will need to dominate the front court. Their bench is a big strength with Jamal Crawford, Jordan Farmar, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, and Hawes leading the way. Crawford has absolutely shined off the bench, taking home the Sixth Man of the Year Award last season. The “Big Baby” gets a whole year in Hollywood to get himself back on the map. Farmar and Turkoglu are both serviceable veterans off the bench. This roster could be the deepest in the league. The Clippers need to take the next step this season, because the window with CP3 leading the way is not going to be open for much longer.
5. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls season all rests on the knees of Derrick Rose. Sky is the limit for this year’s Bulls team if their MVP point guard can stay on the court. That has been the issue. Rose has an awesome supporting cast thanks to a terrific offseason. The biggest move was the addition of Pau Gasol. He adds a veteran, championship presence to an already scary front court. Him and Joakim Noah might just be the best one-two punch in the low post in the NBA.
They also have the tenacity of Taj Gibson coming off the bench. It’s going to be interesting to see the role of rookie Doug McDermott, who was a scoring machine at Creighton. Aaron Brooks and E’Twaun Moore also give the Bulls a bit of backcourt depth. They have added some offense. We already know they will be in the top five defensively. They have maybe the best defensive head coach in the league in Tom Thibodeau. The Bulls are the only team in the East that could really give the Cavs a run for their money, but again it all depends on the health of their superstar point guard. It’s going to be quite the battle to watch atop the Eastern Conference.