1 Reason to Watch Every NBA Team This Season

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2013

1 Reason to Watch Every NBA Team This Season

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    If you want to get a real taste of everything the NBA has to offer, enjoy the best of each team in the league during the 2013-14 season.

    Not every squad has superstars like Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant, and not every franchise has drama like the Los Angeles Lakers or New York Knicks.

    Nevertheless, each club boasts a compelling reason to tune in and check them out at least once on NBA League Pass.

    What’s the draw? Find out as we break down why you should watch every team over the course of the season.

Washington Wizards: Because the Backcourt Can Light It Up

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    With a lightning-fast point guard who can knife through defenses and a polished shooter who can score from anywhere, the Washington Wizards will keep pace with almost any backcourt.

    John Wall isn’t the most refined floor general yet, but he knows how to get opponents out of position and take advantage with a timely drive or pass. His speed is something foes can’t entirely counteract, so he’s learning how to score no matter where they steer him.

    Bradley Beal helps stretch the floor to give Wall driving lanes, and he’s a threat to score 25-30 when he catches fire. Beal’s shooting form is so smooth and consistent, it’s impossible for him to be ineffective if he gets the ball in rhythm and on balance.

    When both of these ballers are clicking on the same night, the Wizards are much better than their record indicates.

Utah Jazz: Because It's Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors' Turn

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    For the last couple seasons, the Utah Jazz have had a crowded frontcourt consisting of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.

    With Jefferson and Millsap bolting, it’s time for Kanter and Favors to shoulder the lion’s share of low-post responsibilities. They may not be able to fill the veterans’ shoes right away, but at least we’ll get an idea of where they are in the developmental process.

    Utah is starting almost completely from scratch, especially in the backcourt, so some stability and production up front would be a nice bonus.

    If Kanter and Favors play physically and assert themselves consistently, Jazz fans will get some enjoyment out of this rebuilding stage.

Toronto Raptors: Valanciunas Will Pick Up Where He Left off at Summer League

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    Toronto Raptors second-year forward Jonas Valanciunas is coming off a summer league performance that included 18.8 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.

    He’s quickly learning how to dominate the paint as a rebounder, low-block scorer and mid-range pivot man. Dwane Casey hopes his summer brilliance will carry over into the regular season.

    The effectiveness of playmakers like DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay depends on Valanciunas’ ability to balance the offense. When he’s able to draw extra attention and double-teams on post-ups, the Raptors have more options and high-percentage looks.

    Yes, Toronto is a long shot to earn a playoff bid, but you don’t want to miss the transformation of Valanciunas from notable rookie to star.

San Antonio Spurs: Because Kawhi Leonard Will Make the Big Three a Big Four

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    For years, the San Antonio Spurs survived on the exploits of the Big Three, as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili led the club to Western Conference supremacy.

    In order to keep contending, they’ll make it a quartet and invite Kawhi Leonard to the ranks of stardom.

    Leonard’s athleticism, instincts and jumper enabled him to blossom offensively in the playoffs. He made plays all over the court and snagged nine rebounds per night. As a stopper, he used his agility and wingspan to slow down the league’s best swingmen.

    An aging San Antonio core needs more of this scoring production and rebounding support, so fans across America will benefit greatly from his increased role.

Sacramento Kings: Because DeMarcus Cousins Is the NBA's Finest Young Post Player

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    Rookie Ben McLemore is a top-notch prospect, and Greivis Vasquez and Luc Mbah a Moute are solid additions to the roster. 

    But the real reason to keep the dial on the Sacramento Kings is DeMarcus Cousins. The fourth-year pro is on a fast track to posting 20-point, 10-rebound averages and earning All-Star appearances.

    If he can stay focused on helping his squad win games, he will naturally put up enormous numbers. He’s too good a rebounder and too skilled deep in the post to not crank out double-doubles and lead the team in scoring.

    Cousins is entering his fourth season, yet he’s only 23 years old. That’s scary for all other bigs in the West.

Portland Trail Blazers: Because They Have the Most Polished Rookie-Sophomore Duo

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    You won't find a rookie-sophomore combo this mature or this sharp.

    The Portland Trail Blazers were fortunate enough to draft mid-major masterpieces in consecutive seasons, as Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum were well-prepared to produce instantly.

    Lillard's Rookie of the Year campaign was a testament to his NBA-readiness after four years at Weber State. He ran the Blazers offense proficiently all season, and carried it through several rough stretches.

    Lehigh star C.J. McCollum is similarly poised. He seems composed and mentally-prepared to handle everything the Western Conference throws at him.

    Whether they're on the court together or alternating as floor general, you won't believe these guys are barely removed from the Big Sky Conference and Patriot League.

Phoenix Suns: Because Eric Bledsoe Could Take the Next Step

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    During his first three years in the NBA, Eric Bledsoe served as an explosive backup point guard and a dangerous playmaker on both sides of the ball.

    This season, he hopes to compete with Goran Dragic and earn a sizable role on the Phoenix Suns.

    Bledsoe is much more than a speedster who thrives in the open floor and finishes above the rim. He shot 40 percent from distance, grabbed 1.4 steals per night in just 20 minutes of action and also nabbed 5.2 rebounds per 36 minutes.

    Anyone who watched the Los Angeles Clippers the last couple seasons yearned for Bledsoe to get more opportunities. Now that he's in Phoenix, he probably will.

Philadelphia 76ers: Because Michael Carter-Williams Will Evoke Joy and Tears

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    In 2013-14, the Philadelphia 76ers will be much like a car wreck: It’s ugly, but there’s something exciting about it so you can’t look away.

    Without much star power or a playoff-caliber set of role players, Philly will toil at the bottom of the Atlantic Division and develop its young talent.

    Michael Carter-Williams will undergo an overabundance of on-the-job training. That means he’s going to have the freedom to wheel and deal, which will lead to piles of assists and turnovers. 

    The Syracuse standout will make Magic Johnson-esque deliveries on one play, and then immediately look like an AAU player in way over his head on the next. It won’t always be picturesque, but it makes for good theater.

Orlando Magic: Because Victor Oladipo Will Run the Show

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    It remains to be seen exactly how Jacque Vaughn will utilize Victor Oladipo this season, but we know he’ll see substantial court time as a playmaking combo guard.

    The Orlando Magic will turn to the Indiana product to initiate much of the offense, and that figures to be an electrifying endeavor. 

    Oladipo scored 19 points and dished five assists per contest during Orlando Summer League play, as he carried the Magic offense for long stretches during the week-long session. He’ll struggle to post those types of numbers in the regular season, but that won’t make him any less entertaining.

    Watching a Magic game will give folks an appreciation for Oladipo’s energy, creative efforts and defensive instincts. While he won’t spearhead a playoff run, his rookie campaign will make a statement for the future.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Because They're out for Revenge

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    After reaching the biggest stage in the sport two years ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder failed to overcome Russell Westbrook’s injury and make a deep run in the 2013 postseason.

    OKC's early exit at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies certainly left a bad taste in Kevin Durant’s mouth. The world’s second-best player was striving for much more than a five-game defeat in the second round.

    He wants nothing more than to reclaim the Western Conference crown, and then unseat LeBron James in the NBA Finals.

    We’re all talking about the new Houston Rockets super-team, the refurbished Los Angeles Clippers and the Miami Heat’s quest for a three-peat.

    The Thunder will gladly let those teams make headlines now, as long as they’re holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy next June.

New York Knicks: Because They Will Proudly Defend Their City

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    Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks have received a healthy dose of humility the past few months. 

    Their somber dismissal from the 2013 playoffs was followed by major upgrades to crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets.

    Question marks remain about Anthony’s ability to contend for a title, J.R. Smith’s value, Amar’e Stoudemire’s durability and Andrea Bargnani’s compatibility.

    As a result, the Knickerbockers will have a chip on their shoulder, eager to show they’re still a top-tier team and the alpha male in New York. Can they find a winning identity and surpass last year’s disappointing finish?

New Orleans Pelicans: Because They Put the "New" in New Orleans

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    New name. New logo. New unis. New point guard. New playmakers.

    Ladies and gentlemen, your New Orleans Pelicans.

    By adding Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans to a squad that already has Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, the Pelicans added some on-court punch to back up their new-uniform swagger.

    They won’t just look better, they’ll be better. 

    A fresh logo and brand new name can only do so much to revitalize the franchise. An upgraded roster and a winning season is exponentially more effective.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Because Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love Will Finally Unite

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves own an elite passer and a world-class rebounder, but the duo hasn't collaborated much lately.

    In fact, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love played all of two games together in the 2012-13 season, which was a shame for T-Wolves fans and basketball enthusiasts everywhere.

    At only 22 and 24 years old, this pair may enjoy massively successful careers if they can stay off the injured reserve list.

    In the event that they actually play a substantial chunk of games together, Minnesota will be a threatening club that controls the tempo and the possessions of games on a nightly basis.

Milwaukee Bucks: Because John Henson Is a Potential Super-Sophomore

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    Entering Larry Drew's first season at the helm, the Milwaukee Bucks will likely struggle to escape the cellar of the Central Division. After losing Monta Ellis and trading Brandon Jennings, they begin a period of reliance on a cast of B-level players.

    Aside from long-term project Giannis Antetokounmpo, the only college-aged bright spot for the future is forward John Henson.

    His per-minute numbers were exceptional as a rookie (16.5 points and 12.9 rebounds per 36 minutes). Even if they dip with an expanded workload, Henson's production and development in the post will be encouraging for Bucks fans.

    Henson has a great nose for the ball and an excellent understanding of positioning, so he's primed for a impactful sophomore campaign.

Miami Heat: Because Greg Oden Could Add a New Dimension

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    Even if you’re not interested in seeing LeBron James dominate his competition during the regular season, watch the Miami Heat to see Greg Oden’s progress.

    It seems like it’s been a lifetime since Oden was fully healthy, so we almost forget how good he was coming out of college. He won’t be quite as athletic or physically dominant,  but he should be highly effective if he can stay close to 100 percent.

    The 25-year-old has terrific shot-blocking instincts and will be a factor on the offensive boards, something Miami has lacked for several years.

    If he can make the Heat a stronger rebounding team, James and Co. will be even more dangerous than before. It doesn’t guarantee a three-peat, but it makes the endeavor that much easier.

Memphis Grizzlies: Because They're the Best Unathletic Team in the League

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    In an age when explosiveness, agility and speed are prerequisites to enter the NBA, the Memphis Grizzlies go against the grain and play a stingy brand of basketball in the trenches.

    Led by plodding bruisers Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, the club routinely halts high-profile clubs in their tracks. Look no further than their 2013 playoff conquests of the much-ballyhooed Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Even Memphis’ point guard isn’t a brilliant physical specimen. Mike Conley can’t hurdle over opponents like most guards, but he gets the job done by methodically weaving through the defense and making unpredictable plays.

    While most teams like to get up and down the floor as much as possible, the Grizzlies make every possession a battle, and it makes for intense contests.

Los Angeles Lakers: Because Kobe Bryant Continues to Amaze

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    By now, we’ve all learned to never underestimate Kobe Bryant.

    He’s cut from a different fabric than the rest of us, and he defies odds unlike any player in today’s game. His latest feat is his Achilles rehab, which is way ahead of schedule.

    Kobe has a steep uphill climb once he returns, as he’ll join an aging roster with an underwhelming supporting cast.

    Count on a dramatic comeback to the hardwood and some classic performances worthy of his Hall of Fame status.

    Things might not end pretty for the Lakers in 2013-14, but Kobe always makes them more than watchable.

Los Angeles Clippers: Because Chris Paul Is Driving Doc Rivers' Cadillac

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    The marriage of Doc Rivers and Chris Paul comes at a time when the Los Angeles Clippers are the clear-cut top dog in Tinseltown.

    The player-coach tandem will try to put even more distance between themselves and the Lakers by operating an explosive, uptempo attack complemented by a robust defense. They have resources to get the job done, so it's a matter of will and execution.

    CP3 has never been past the second round of the playoffs, so he's hoping Doc's arrival will bring the medicine necessary to get Lob City over the hump and into the Finals.

    Along the way, expect plenty of fireworks at the Staples Center.

Indiana Pacers: Because They're the Most Complete Team in the East

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    If you want to see a club that excels on both ends of the floor for 48 minutes, feast your eyes on Frank Vogel's Indiana Pacers.

    Sure, the Miami Heat own a better knockout punch (LeBron James), the Chicago Bulls have their hero back and the Brooklyn Nets have a loaded front line. But Indiana is the most complete team.

    There are playmakers in George Hill, Paul George, Lance Stephenson and Danny Granger. There is a strong post presence in Roy Hibbert, David West and Luis Scola. There is ample bench support from C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland and Solomon Hill.

    Most importantly, it's a group that prides itself in total collaboration and fundamentals. Indiana is a team that can speed it up, slow it down, grind it out or launch from deep, depending on what's needed. That's basketball at its finest.

Houston Rockets: Because They Own the Best New Duo in the League

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    Even non-Dwight Howard fans will be interested to see how he pairs with James Harden.

    The Houston Rockets' new super-duo won't settle for a fun year or a playoff appearance. They want to outlast Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

    It's a tall order for them to win a championship in their first season together, but they should aim for nothing less. With potent inside-outside star presence and a cast of dangerous role players, Houston should be in the Western Conference mix deep into May and maybe even June.

    Don't wait until the playoffs to enjoy watching this explosive tandem. Get to know them while they try to take the league by storm.

Golden State Warriors: Because 54 Points Could Happen on Any Given Night

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    Whenever you get a chance to watch the Golden State Warriors, take it.

    On any given night, Stephen Curry could go on a breathtaking run. The all-world shooter scored more than 30 points on 16 different occasions last year, including a couple of masterpieces in the playoffs and a colossal 54-point outing at Madison Square Garden in the regular season.

    When he starts feeling it, there's almost nothing foes can do to stop him. He has such a quick release and is expertly crafty at getting his shot off.

    All he needs is a sliver of daylight, and he could be cooking like a grease fire for 40 or 50-plus.

Detroit Pistons: Because the Frontcourt Has Brains and Brawn

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    With Greg Monroe’s craftiness and Andre Drummond’s raw power, the Detroit Pistons frontcourt will be a pleasure to watch.

    Few big men can pivot and pass the way Monroe does. He’s a critical facilitator of Detroit’s attack because he’s a true triple-threat power forward.

    When the Pistons need to make a statement physically, Drummond is there to wreak havoc on the glass and protect the rim (not to mention slam home a few earthquake dunks).

    Surrounded by Brandon Jennings and an upgraded supporting cast, these two bigs could have monster seasons.

Denver Nuggets: Because JaVale McGee Is Award-Winning Reality TV

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    Part of the reason George Karl got fired by the Denver Nuggets was his usage (or lack thereof) of JaVale McGee.

    Count on Brian Shaw to feature McGee in the offense more frequently and give him leads of playing time all winter.

    Consequently, America will be treated to one of the best reality shows in all of sports: JaVale being JaVale. For better or worse, he is highly entertaining, whether it’s an acrobatic dunk or an errant pass 10 rows deep.

    The best is yet to come for McGee, so don’t sleep on him this season.

Dallas Mavericks: Because Dirk Nowitzki Is One of a Kind

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    Although the Dallas Mavericks pretty much struck out in free agency the past two summers, they still have a star in Dirk Nowitzki.

    Watching him never gets old because he’s a timeless classic, one of the most unique players of our generation.

    Will he lead them to the playoffs? Not a chance, but his offensive repertoire and leadership are still a sight to behold as he launches rainmakers from Fort Worth.

    The Mavs may not be competitive in the Western Conference standings, but Dirk will play his usual competitive brand of hoops and give fans their money’s worth.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Because This Young Squad Could Be a Playoff Team

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    We could pinpoint a specific player or two to watch on the Cleveland Cavaliers, but there are too many to choose from. The one reason to check out this bunch is that collectively, they could do something special and earn playoff status.

    With Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters continuing to shred defenses, opponents will constantly be on their heels. In the post, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and Andrew Bynum will try to impose their will and utilize their size.

    New additions Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark might be the pieces that give Cleveland the extra boost to routinely score 100-plus and win 45 games. They’re role players who can also serve as playmakers for stretches.

    Finally, No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett’s adjustment to the league will determine exactly how dangerous the Cavs will be as a middle-tier Eastern Conference squad.

Chicago Bulls: Because "The Return" Will Be a Season-Long Showcase

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    There’s no questions, guesswork or letdowns anymore: Derrick Rose is officially back.

    Every single night throughout the 2013-14 campaign, the Chicago Bulls superstar will be gunning for greatness and trying to lift his team toward the top of the Eastern Conference. Despite his ACL injury, he’ll remain one of the most explosive and productive guards in the world.

    If you don’t want to catch a Bulls game to see Derrick Rose, I don’t know how I can help you.

Charlotte Bobcats: Because the Twin Towers Roam the Paint

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    There are two new reasons to watch a Charlotte Bobcats game, and they’re named Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson.

    One is breaking into the league after excelling as a skilled post player in college. The other has been using his post skills to torch defenses for years.

    Both exhibit a tremendous skill set, refined footwork and a soft touch around the hoop. As a bonus, they can also burn defenses with effective mid-range jumpers.

    Slowly but surely, the Cats are clawing their way to relevance. These two big men are crucial to that process.

Brooklyn Nets: Because Paul Pierce Aims to Back Up His Talk

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    The influx of Boston Celtics on the Brooklyn Nets not only made them an NBA contender, it turned them into a legitimate threat to overtake the New York Knicks as the Big Apple’s best team.

    Just a couple weeks ago, newcomer Paul Pierce made it clear that Brooklyn is dead serious about taking over the city, according to the New York Daily News:

    My dislike for the Knicks is more now because it’s right across the river...The rivalry is going to go to a new level. It’s time for the Nets to start running this city.

    Will Pierce and the rest of the Nets back up his talk? It’s going to be a year-long struggle for supremacy in New York.

Boston Celtics: Because Kelly Olynyk Could Be a Huge Steal

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    Brad Stevens’ Boston Celtics are in rebuilding mode, so there are several players on the roster looking to prove they’re valuable building blocks for the future.

    Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Avery Bradley have already demonstrated their worth. Rookie Kelly Olynyk from Gonzaga wants to join their ranks as a franchise cornerstone.

    He lit up the Orlando Summer League with 18 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game on 57.8 shooting and 24.2 minutes per night. Olynyk showed off his array of post moves, shooting touch and court awareness.

    If those skills translate to the big leagues, he could end up being a huge mid-first-round steal.

Atlanta Hawks: Because Dennis Schroeder Is an Enigma

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    Everyone in the Southeast Division is overshadowed by the Miami Heat, but the Atlanta Hawks have a young gun you shouldn’t ignore.

    German speedster Dennis Schroeder is 19 years old and raw, yet he already shows flashes of star-caliber skills. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the big stage and the unforgiving competition. His ceiling could be exceedingly high, but his basement might be just as extreme.

    Will Mike Budenholzer give him enough opportunities to find his niche? If he does, be sure to tune in.