Believe the Hype: These NBA Storylines Are the Real Deal in 2013-14

Thomas DuffyFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2013

Believe the Hype: These NBA Storylines Are the Real Deal in 2013-14

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    Basketball is back.

    World-renowned superstars, dazzling highlights and compelling storylines on and off the hardwood are all returning, and NBA fans across the globe couldn’t be more ecstatic about it.

    As always, there are stories floating around in the media that are constructed for the sole purpose of creating hysteria.

    The storylines on the following slides, however, are not only the real deal but will actually come to fruition in the 2013-14 NBA season.

    LeBron James’ pursuit of his fifth MVP and third consecutive championship, the highly-anticipated return of a superstar, a Western Conference contender, an Eastern Conference shocker and a pair of stars who need one another other to win—it’s here in all its basketball glory.

    The time for MVP chants, backboard-shattering dunks, gasp-inducing crossovers, heartbreaking losses, tear-inducing victories and everything in between has finally arrived.

    Let the games begin.

5. Doc Rivers Is Going to Transform Clippers

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    With Chris Paul and Blake Griffin leading a roster loaded with talent like J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and DeAndre Jordan, title contention is more than just an aspiration—it’s an expectation.

    And so far, in the two years CP3 and Griffin have been together, the Los Angeles Clippers have come up short of that goal. Doc Rivers is going to change that.

    Griffin told ESPN that the team’s identity as “Lob City” is over, and that the Clippers will be a different team under their new coach:

    "Lob City doesn't exist anymore. Lob City is done," the All-Star forward said. "We're moving on and we're going to find our identity during training camp, and that will be our new city. No more Lob City."

    He added that L.A.’s offense is going to “have a totally different feel to it” under Rivers.

    The Clippers haven’t accomplished anything as Lob City, getting bounced out of the postseason before the conference finals in each of the last two years.

    However, Rivers will provide leadership that will serve as the final piece that the team needs, and he will look to lead Los Angeles on a long-awaited journey to the Western Conference Finals in 2013-14.

4. Irving, Bynum Will Lead Cavaliers to Playoff Berth

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    When introduced for the first time after signing a lucrative two-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Andrew Bynum proclaimed that his new team was bound for the postseason.

    "This is definitely a playoff team," Bynum told ESPN. "I'm really excited about this roster."

    Wise words from a wise man.

    Despite the fact that he had surgeries on both knees back in March, a healthy Bynum will thrive in a Cleveland offense that's built around blooming star Kyrie Irving.

    In addition to Bynum, the Cavs also added Jarrett Jack, who finished third in the 2012-13 Sixth Man of the Year voting. Jack is set to play behind another young stud, Dion Waiters, who will look to build off of a stellar rookie campaign in which he averaged nearly 15 points a game.

    Anthony Bennett, whom the Cavaliers selected with the first overall pick in the 2013-14 draft, brings versatility and athleticism to an already stacked frontcourt that includes Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller and Tristian Thompson.

    The Cavs are young, deep and will be led by their superstar point guard in 2013-14. Cleveland is going to make the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James took his talents to Miami.

3. Durant, Thunder Need Westbrook to Contend

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    As gifted and masterful as Kevin Durant is in the art of basketball, he can’t win on his own.

    When superstar point guard Russell Westbrook went out with a torn meniscus in the Western Conference Quarterfinals last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder instantly became a different team.

    Although OKC went on to defeat the Houston Rockets in that series, the Thunder fell to the Memphis Grizzlies in the semifinals. Durant struggled mightily without his right-hand man, telling Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman that “we need him” and “we miss him.”

    Grizzlies guard Tony Allen told USA Today after winning the series: "They automatically turned into a makeshift team (without Westbrook). We knew they were wounded. We just wanted to come in here, fight and take advantage of that."

    While Westbrook needed an additional surgery in early October to counteract swelling in the injured knee, he has begun taking part in “bits and pieces” of practice for OKC, according to Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman.

    The three-time All-Star is scheduled to miss the first four-to-six weeks of the regular season, which means it's unlikely that Durant and the Thunder will be as dominant as usual early on in the year.

    But when Oklahoma City’s star guard—who had never missed a game dating all the way back to high school, prior to last season's injury—returns to the court, he and Durant will carry the team to the peak of the Western Conference, looking to avenge their 2011-12 NBA Finals loss.

2. Derrick Rose to Challenge LeBron's MVP Crown

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    The basketball world has been waiting for this moment. Derrick Rose is back, and the superstar point guard is ready to dominate the NBA once again.

    Rose, a three-time All-Star, is primed to challenge LeBron James, who’s won back-to-back MVP awards, for the title of Most Valuable Player after sitting out all of last season with an ACL injury.

    After capturing the award in 2010-11, D-Rose has looked dominant in the preseason, putting up over 20 points and four assists a game while shooting 54 percent from the field and 53 percent from three-point territory.

    "I'm loving every moment," Rose told ESPN's Nick Freidell. "Every second, I'm loving it. I'm back playing the sport that I love playing, so for me it feels like a new start."

    Miami isn't shaking over the fact that the Chicago Bulls, who still managed to finished fifth in the East a season ago, are getting their best player back. However, Rose's return will be one of the biggest roadblocks in the Heat's journey towards a third straight title.

    While the Bulls will look to challenge the reigning champions in the Eastern Conference, Rose—who is being given 11/2 odds to win the award by Bovada Sports—will emerge as LBJ’s top threat for the MVP crown.

1. Three-Peat for the King James' Heat

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    Why will the Miami Heat win their third consecutive NBA title? Because they’re the only team that has LeBron James.

    According to NBA.com’s yearly survey of all 30 general managers, the Heat are far and away the favorite to win the 2013-14 championship. Over 75 percent of GMs predict that Miami, led by James, will hoist up the Larry O’Brien trophy for the third time in as many years.

    The Heat came out on top last year with a hobbled Dwyane Wade, who is optimistic about his health—and status as an elite player—coming into the 2013-14 season.

    "I'm getting better every day," Wade told USA Today after a preseason victory over the San Antonio Spurs. "But I'm not where I want to be. When the season starts, I won't be where I want to be. But as the season goes on, I'll get stronger and stronger and better."

    Michael Beasley and Greg Oden also signed with the reigning champs in a classic case of the rich getting richer. Beasley, when focused, gives Miami a versatile wing scorer, while Oden, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since 2009 due to never-ending knee problems, fills the team’s gaping hole at center.

    Even if Wade isn’t 100-percent healthy, Miami will still be the favorite to win the title. And that is due almost entirely to James, who’ll be chasing his fifth MVP award.

    Although it’s not “four, not five, not six, not seven,” three consecutive NBA championships will thrust the Heat into the ranks of the NBA’s all-time great dynasties.