Here at DRaT, we sometimes like to ask all of our main contributors to weigh in on a certain topic. Sometimes, Stavi’s computer is broken and we can only bring you 3/4 of the magic.
What team will finish the season with the best record in the Eastern Conference?
Call me a homer, but I’m rolling with the Bulls in the Eastern Conference. You know the stats, but they bear repeating: the Bulls have had the most wins in the NBA the last two years that Derrick Rose played. In fact, they’ve been redonkulously good the games he’s been in the lineup. The early injuries to everyone else are a bit concerning, but a healthy D-Rose plus Thibs goes a long way. I like the Bulls to win around 60 games and narrowly edge out Miami from homecourt advantage.
Kills me to pick them, but I have to be honest with myself. The Heat are clearly the best team again this year and don’t show signs of slowing down. They have the best player in the world and if the additions of Beasley and Oden somehow are able to work out, it’s just going to be game over. The only thing really preventing them from winning the regular season is either injury or if they decide to rest their players on random nights. Although teams have added pieces to become more of a threat (Pacers, Nets, Bulls, Knicks), I just don’t see anyone toping them in the regular season. It hurts bad, but I gotta go with Miami.
I’m going to go with the Bulls for this one. For me, the question doesn’t really pertain to who is the most talented team on paper, a title that clearly belongs to the Heat. The more important aspect of teams to take into account with this question is who is the captain of the ship. In Miami, I expect coach Erik Spoelstra to take his foot off the gas a little bit. In 2012-13, Miami had a historic regular season that featured a 27 game winning streak. But the postseason was definitely more of a struggle for the Heat than most teams thought. Seven game series with both the Pacers and Spurs probably took a few years off of Spoelstra’s lifespan and I’m guessing he is going to ensure his team is as fresh as can be heading into the postseason. The Bulls, on the other hand, are driven by Task Master Tom, a man who will only be satisfied if his team goes 82-0. Expect the Bulls to host Game 7 (if necessary) in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Which team will finish the season with the best record in the Western Conference?
Out west, I’m rolling with the Spurs. Popovich and co. have mastered the art of the regular season. You’d think resting key players would hurt in the long run, but the Spurs find quality rotation players every year by giving them big minutes in lieu of their “Big Three”. Oklahoma City would be a solid pick but it’s hard to know how much ground they’ll lose without Russell Westbrook. The Clippers are sure to be improved, but San Antonio has this on lockdown.
Picking the team coming out of the West is pretty difficult this year. With so many good teams in this conference, it’s basically a toss up. I really like what the Clips did this offseason by adding quality perimeter play with Dudley and Redick. Oh, and don’t forget they actually have a coach now this year. (RIP VINNY) They had a very high-powered offense last year, but after this offseason I think it got even better. CP3 has a ton of weapons so I won’t be surprised if they come out on top of the regular season. Only thing I’m worried about is there big situation. Mullens/Hollins as your secondary bigs just isn’t gonna cut it.
I like the Thunder to finish with the top seed out West. Few teams in the league can match the one-two scoring punch of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. And while Westbrook will start the season on the shelf, OKC’s early season slate is not exactly packed with contenders. In addition to their potent offensive weapons, the Thunder also sport a solid crew of defensive stalwarts in Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, Thabo Sefolosha and RWB himself. While a lack of offensive depth and creative play calling may doom them in a seven game series, teams will struggle against the Thunder in the regular season without the time to study and gameplan how to stop them.