The NBA preseason
has tipped off and we’re less than three weeks away from the start of
the season. Here are some teams to watch this upcoming year:
Have to start with the defending champs. Two years ago,
brought them their first title. A year ago, they had a 27-game winning
streak and added another. What’s in store this year? Although they
haven’t had an easy run through the playoffs the past two years, to
beat this team four times in 7 games has proven a formidable challenge.
This is why they’re the favorites once again. Oh and, not to mention,
Wade is reportedly back in prime shape and they’ve added two low-risk,
high-reward guys in Greg Oden and Michael Beasley.
Derrick Rose. The Bulls sorely
missed their leader last year, as they struggled to a 100.4 offensive
efficiency without him, good for 7th worst in the league. This team
will be defined by Rose’s ability to bounce back and play at or near
his level two years ago. The good news is that he’s looked like his
explosive self in the first two preseason games and has also stated
that his vertical has increased 5 inches since his surgery. On top of
that, guys stepped up in his absence, most notably two-way player Jimmy
Butler, who has finally filled the void at the two-guard position. You
know Coach Thibodeau will have them playing defense and with Rose back,
this team will make some noise in the postseason.
The Rockets made arguably the biggest offseason
signing, luring away superstar big man Dwight Howard away from their
Western Conference rival Lakers. They pushed the 2nd seeded Thunder to
the limit in the first round (although they benefitted from Russell
Westbrook’s injury) and now they’ve added a former defensive player of
the year. Howard will be looking to redeem himself after an
injury-plagued, controversy-filled season with the Lakers. He’ll enter
the league’s fastest paced team from last year and 6th most efficient
offense (106.7 offensive efficiency), where he’ll be featured
prominently in pick and rolls with James Harden and Jeremy Lin.
However, where he’ll really help out is on the defensive end. The
Rockets like to gamble for steals and get out in transition and with an
elite rebounder and shot blocker behind them, this team is sure to
improve on their 16th-ranked defense (103.5 defensive efficiency).