5 NBA Teams That Will Come out of the Gate Flying in 2013-14
Every team hopes to catch fire early in the NBA season, but only a fortunate few will be able to make that claim in 2013-14.
For a team to begin its season hot, a favorable schedule is a must. Team chemistry and overall talent are always important factors, but a team's opponents will play a big role in determining its early-season success.
Momentum can also help. Preseason basketball means nothing by the end of the regular season, but in October, a solid exhibition showing can be a sign of good things to come.
Fans across the Association are hoping for a strong start for their favorite teams, but only a select few will make a name for themselves at this early point of the season.
San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs played the Memphis Grizzlies in their season opener on Oct. 30, and play them again 11 games later on Nov. 11.
Between those two games, San Antonio only has to deal with one team that appears to be a lock for the playoffs—the Golden State Warriors.
The reigning Western Conference champions have drawn a nice schedule early, which will benefit San Antonio's aging stars later in the season. Teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics will fill the gap between the Spurs' games against the Grizzlies, all of whom are fighting for a spot in next year's NBA lottery.
Schedule aside, it's tough to bet against the Spurs. Year after year, we hear about how their championship window has closed, and year after year, we're all shown that the opposite is true.
How long the Spurs can compete for the Western Conference title has yet to be determined, but until proven otherwise, they're a safe bet for a strong start.
New Orleans Pelicans
New name, newfound levels of success.
The New Orleans Pelicans looked good during the preseason—very good. They went 7-1 in exhibition play, giving them the best record in the Western Conference.
This Pelicans encountered changes far greater than their name over the summer. They acquired an All-Star point guard in Jrue Holiday and a former NBA Rookie of the Year in Tyrke Evans.
Don't forget, if all goes well, they also will have a healthy Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon, both now and for the future.
After their impressive preseason showing, the Pelicans have the luxury of the new unit getting time to jell against subpar competition. Aside from a season-opening matchup with the Indiana Pacers, the Pelicans will face the Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns in their next three contests.
In fact, the Pelicans see the Suns again two games later (sandwiched between two games with the Los Angeles Lakers) and then play the Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah once more—all by Nov. 20.
The Pelicans have a long way to go before they're a lock for the playoffs, but an early hot start will help them work out the kinks as the regular season unfolds.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are looked at as newfound playoff hopefuls, and they started off the regular season with a 98-94 victory over the new-look Brooklyn Nets.
Ever since LeBron James left the Cavs, the public has been on the Cavaliers' side. Fans want Cleveland's franchise to recover, and while a 4-4 preseason is fairly unmemorable, an offseason full of headlines set the tone for a strong push toward the 2014 playoffs.
After a strong win over the Nets, the Cavs have a relatively weak schedule up until Nov. 23. It includes the Charlotte Bobcats twice, the Philadelphia 76ers, and matchups against the Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans to give Cleveland hope for a strong start.
A hot start doesn't mean perfection, but it does means momentum at the start of a very promising year.
The Chicago Bulls may have fallen to the Miami Heat by 12 points on opening night, but they have a lot going for them as the 2013-14 campaign begins.
First and foremost, Chicago doesn't have to face Miami again until December. In fact, once the Bulls get through their first four games, including the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers, they only face two contenders in Indiana and Los Angeles Clippers until their next meeting with the Heat.
Derrick Rose's jumper may have looked rusty in his first outing of the season, but one thing is clear: He hasn't lost any athleticism. Rose will continue to find his shot as the year progresses and he can find solace in the fact that not every team is as good defensively as Miami.
Rose aside, the growth of Jimmy Butler, addition of Mike Dunleavy Jr. and the star power of Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah give the Bulls serious hope in the Eastern Conference. Above all else, the Bulls are motivated and ready to return to the top of the conference.
The pieces are in place for a special season in Chicago. It's not hard to believe it will start right out of the gate.
The Miami Heat are ready to compete. They proved that with their season-opening victory over the Chicago Bulls.
Miami managed to hold Chicago to just 95 points, as the Heat rotated well on defense to interrupt passing lanes early and often while limiting Derrick Rose to just 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting in his long-awaited return debut.
Offensively, the Heat went to town against one of the best defenses that the league has to offer. They scored 107 points, but the most impressive part was the fact that seven Miami players scored in double digits. In fact, all of the members of the Heat who saw the floor scored at least six points.
The Heat then dropped a tough one to the Philadelphia 76ers in their next game, but with teams throughout the league giving their best efforts against the Heat this season, Miami will be used to it sooner rather than later.
Miami's schedule is even more promising than its on-the-court production. The Heat are slated to play five playoffs teams in their first eight games (two of which are the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks). After that, 14 of their next 18 games are against squads that missed the postseason in 2013.
The Heat are defending champs for a reason, and a solid roster—mixed with a solid schedule—will propel them to victory early in the 2013-14 season.