10 Most Exciting NBA Teams to Watch for in 2013-14 Season
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The NBA is an exciting league by nature, but there are a few squads that take "spectacle" to a whole new level.
It's true that having fun won't always equate to wins, but at the same time, finding success and providing entertainment aren’t mutually exclusive. Some of the most entertaining teams are annually among the Association’s best, and 2013-14 should prove to be no different.
But whether a team is winning or losing, sometimes all we need is a high-scoring offense to grab our attention. Alley-oops and above-the-rim finishes only scratch the surface, as clutch play and transition buckets get our hearts racing and our rear ends out of our seats.
The NBA is where amazing happens, and a handful of teams will epitomize that throughout the 2013-14 campaign.
New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans have a lot going for them. Jrue Holiday is officially on board, Eric Gordon can score at will—when healthy—and Anthony Davis has one of the highest ceilings of all up-and-coming big men.
The jury is still out on how good they can be right away, but as soon as they can jell as a unit, they’ll become an extremely entertaining group night in and night out.
Portland Trail Blazers
During the 2012-13 campaign, the Portland Trail Blazers had the highest-scoring starting lineup of any team in the league, per HoopsStats.com. Their bench was as awful as can be, but the acquisitions they made during the offseason—Mo Williams, C.J. McCollum, Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright, Allen Crabbe—should change that immediately.
It’s true that with a better bench, the starters will score fewer points. However, the lineup is still led by All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, do-it-all swingman Nicolas Batum and reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard.
If this were the 2012-13 season, the Denver Nuggets would be near the top of this list. They scored a league-leading 106.1 points per game, and they played at the second-fastest pace, according to ESPN’s Hollinger Stats.
Unfortunately for the Nuggets, nobody quite knows what to expect following the losses of George Karl and Andre Iguodala—not to mention the continued absence of Danilo Gallinari. They still merit a mention based on their history, but only time will tell if they deserve a higher spot moving forward.
10. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets will be exciting to watch during the 2013-14 season, but not for traditional reasons.
Most fans define excitement as having an up-tempo, fast-paced offense. Brooklyn, however, will provide entertainment through sheer star power. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez took the team to the playoffs in 2013, and now, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will look to get them closer to the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Nets are going to be under a microscope all season, and win or lose, people will be ready to talk about them. Don’t forget that their head coach, Jason Kidd, is a first-time leader who happens to be a few months removed from playing for the crosstown rival New York Knicks.
The storylines are endless when it comes to this team, and what helps fuel the fire is the fact that their championship window is almost closed in their first year together.
This team doesn’t have a lot of time to find greatness, and that’s what makes this such a compelling experiment.
9. New York Knicks
Win or lose, few teams around the NBA know how to draw attention to themselves like the New York Knicks.
To kick off the 2012-13 campaign, Carmelo Anthony proved that he can be a legitimate MVP candidate. The team also proved it can be a contender in a top-heavy Eastern Conference, as it looked for awhile to be the No. 1 challenger to the Miami Heat.
Now, with another playoff elimination under their belts, the Knicks are hungry to taste true success.
New York doesn’t have the same fan appeal it once had under Mike D’Antoni, but when Anthony takes control, it has someone who can go off at any point. Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith has that same capability, and when he gets hot, few players in the league take advantage of their sky-high confidence the way he does.
The Knicks have a tendency to both live and die by the three, which causes fans to tune in. Fans also tune in to watch them fail: another huge reason why we love to talk about them.
8. Detroit Pistons
However, there’s also the chance we’ll take them off completely, as bad shot selection and questionable decision-making will appall fans of good, quality basketball.
Giving this team the benefit of the doubt, it makes the top 10 entering the year. Smith is as exciting as it comes when he’s playing his game, and Jennings has the ability to go off at virtually any moment.
Don’t forget, either, that Andre Drummond was a machine during his rookie year—a dunking, rebounding, shot-blocking machine.
If things click early and players know their roles, you’re looking at a team that will appeal to all casual fans. The hope in Detroit is that this happens sooner rather than later, and that entertainment equates to wins once the postseason arrives.
7. San Antonio Spurs
If you still believe that the San Antonio Spurs are boring, you clearly didn’t watch the 2013 NBA Finals.
During the championship series against the Miami Heat, the Spurs showed a dreamlike combination of veteran leadership and youthful promise. Veterans Tim Duncan and Tony Parker led the way, but Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard never let their roles slow down their production.
During the regular season, San Antonio scored the fourth-most points of any team. That’s 103 points per contest, and that’s while running the sixth-fastest pace in the entire NBA, per ESPN’s Hollinger Stats.
With Parker acting as floor general, there’s very little this team can’t do offensively. The point guard runs the pick-and-roll offense well, he can score at the rim with the best in the league and his drive-and-kick ability helped the Spurs land the No. 4 spot in three-point shooting.
This team gets a bad rap because of its age and defensive approach, but if you like high-quality, winning basketball, you'll appreciate the Spurs.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
In the curious case of the Minnesota Timberwolves, it all starts with health.
If Ricky Rubio can stay on the floor, he’s going to control the basketball in some of the most unique ways you’ll see in today’s game. If Kevin Love comes back with a vengeance, you’re looking at a guy who will put up great numbers in the vast majority of the games he plays.
Newcomer Kevin Martin will give the Wolves the legitimate shooting threat they need from deep range, and Chase Budinger should do the same. Even big man Nikola Pekovic can be fun to watch if you enjoy physical beatdowns in the paint.
The truth is, the pace of this team reduced during the 2012-13 season, but again, it all comes down to health. Rubio—along with J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved—will create fast-paced offense that will challenge almost any defense.
If this team stays healthy, expect Ronny Turiaf, the team’s backup 5, to be celebrating a whole lot throughout the course of the year.
5. Houston Rockets
When it comes to the Houston Rockets, the truth is, we don’t know exactly what they’re going to look like. Dwight Howard is once again in an up-tempo system, and his ability to jell with a ball-dominant 2-guard didn’t exactly work with the Los Angeles Lakers.
But while we don’t know how much success this team will find right out of the gate, there’s one thing we do know: Fans are excited to see if it works.
Whether you’re rooting for the Rockets to fail or succeed, it’s almost certain you’ll keep an eye on them. Howard has become one of the most polarizing figures in the NBA, and James Harden is one of the game’s top scorers at just 23 years old.
This team is going to run its opponents out of the gym, but with Kevin McHale at the helm, you’d better believe Howard gets his touches along the way.
Houston scored the second-most points last season at 106 per contest. They were in the top 10 in three-point shooting, and while people often look down on hero ball, Harden’s isolation sets were continuously jaw-dropping.
The Rockets boosted their entertainment value over the summer, and now it’s time to see if their entertaining pieces can jell together for a deep playoff run.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
For the second straight season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have parted ways with their sixth man at the 2-guard position. Luckily for them, they have two of the most exciting players around in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Starting with Durant, you have one of the most humble, likable players in the game who also happens to be an all-world talent. He’s shown the ability to score both above the rim and beyond the three-point line, and his continued maturity only adds to what he can do as a player and leader.
When it comes to Westbrook, decision-making has been a common theme for the wrong reasons, but his athleticism and knack for scoring have never been in question. He attacks opponents with as much power as anyone at the point guard position, and his up-tempo nature exploits defenses on a regular basis.
Don’t forget about Serge Ibaka, either, who is expanding his offensive game farther from the basket each year. His shot-blocking ability is top-notch, and he’s becoming a two-way player entering his fifth season.
This group is going to contend for a title, and you’d be remiss not to catch a game once in a while in the process.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
They don’t call the Los Angeles Clippers "Lob City" for nothing.
Ever since Chris Paul’s arrival, the Clips have been worth the price of admission. They’ve become a team to watch on a nightly basis, if for no other reason than to catch the highlights before they appear on SportsCenter.
Blake Griffin’s game, although ever-improving, is still predicated on athleticism. That may be a problem somewhere down the road, but for now, why not take advantage of it?
As much of the attention is given to the high-flyers in L.A., you can’t ignore Jamal Crawford’s ability to lose defenders with one of the meanest crossovers to ever hit the court. You also can’t forget about newcomer J.J. Redick’s tendency to shoot the lights out from deep range.
This team is going to compete in the playoffs with Doc Rivers on its side, but don’t hesitate to tune in during the regular season first.
2. Miami Heat
Through much of the 2013-14 season, expect to see the Miami Heat atop this list. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have interested fans across the league since coming together in 2010, and three straight finals appearances prove they’re doing something right.
But while this team has the ability to reel off win streaks at any point, the big question becomes: How much do they care about the regular season?
There will undoubtedly be times in 2013-14 when we’re asking ourselves if this is the same group that won back-to-back titles. For those instances, we’ll look to teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers to take its place.
There’s also the reality that Bosh and Wade simply haven’t been themselves as of late. Those two need to play better on a more consistent basis, otherwise fans might forget just how important they are to the championship puzzle.
But despite the concerns that keep the Heat out of the No. 1 spot, there’s one man running the show who brings us back to Earth. There’s rarely a dull moment when James is on the floor, as his crazy court vision and finishes above the rim make for highlights night in and night out.
The Heat are exceptionally efficient on both ends of the floor, and they’ll continue to be in their quest toward another NBA championship.
1. Golden State Warriors
During the 2013 postseason, the Golden State Warriors won over the hearts of nearly every basketball fan not living in Denver or San Antonio. Stephen Curry put on a show almost every single night, and he confirmed why he’s one of the greatest three-point shooters in recent memory.
Alongside Curry, you have two talented scorers in Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson. Barnes is making a sneaky habit of putting players on posters, and Thompson is as dangerous a shooter as Curry.
Now, add Andre Iguodala to the mix—as well as a healthy David Lee—and you have a team that’s willing to play at a fast pace on its way to another deep playoff run.
But if there’s any one factor that influences Golden State’s spot, it’s this: The fanbase is as good as it gets in the NBA.
Watching this team play in front of its home crowd is like watching a college team compete against its top rival. The fans in the Bay Area have got it right, and they have a team worth cheering for during the 2013-14 season.