The NBA season approaches and it’s well known that the Cleveland Cavaliers are the team everyone’s aiming at in the Eastern Conference. Can any teams give them a scare on the NBA odds? We have few teams we think should be on your NBA picks list.
1. Chicago Bulls
It all depends on Derrick Rose, but you knew that already. If Rose is healthy the whole season, Chicago can go toe to toe with Cleveland in a potential Eastern Conference Finals series. Let’s look at the non-Rose portions of the Chicago roster. The Bulls would have a really good chance of beating the Cavs with a healthy Rose, because for one thing, Joakim Noah could stand up to Kevin Love and be a defensive nuisance for Cleveland’s new low-post scoring threat. Noah has the quickness and the length on defense that could bother Love and take away a free shooting hand. Noah’s instincts are so good on defense that a lot of high-level big men have faltered when trying to go up against him. A key point to make is that Noah has labored at times without Rose to fill the scoring vacuum on the Bulls’ roster. With Rose scoring at a regular rate, Noah can mentally focus more on his defense, and if that is what happens this season, you’ll see Chicago win more than 55 games. Noah could be the player who benefits the most from Rose being healthier.
2. Washington Wizards
This is an exciting team, one with the quickness that can make Cleveland worry on defense. Cleveland is going to have one of the best offenses in the NBA. That seems obvious at this point, with LeBron James and Kevin Love being able to hit shots from all places on the court and trade inside-outside roles in halfcourt sets. If Love stands on the perimeter hoping for a three-point shot, LeBron can take the ball to the hole and then kick the ball out to Love if defenses collapse on King James. If Love posts up, LeBron can feed him the ball. Love is such an excellent passer that if anyone doubleteams him, he can pass out of the doubleteam to an open man, maybe LeBron. Cleveland will score.
The Cavs’ problem is that they don’t have good defenders other than LeBron himself. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are weak defenders, and this is where the Wizards come in. John Wall and Brad Beal are so quick and talented that they’ll be able to outwork the Cavs’ guards and get great shots on demand. Paul Pierce and Nene can also get the shots they want, making the Wizards a tough offensive team for Cleveland to deal with.
3. Atlanta Hawks
This is a team which also has a quick point guard, Jeff Teague, who will make Irving work every single possession on defense. The Hawks also have Paul Millsap, a guy who can punish the Cavaliers on the glass, and Al Horford, a complete big man who can hit the mid-range jump shot and also score when backing down his man in the low post. The Hawks have the pieces in place to be a very good team if they can stay healthy, something that did not happen last year. Even in their reduced capacity, the Hawks almost eliminated the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. Atlanta should be much better than its 38-44 record from last season. When making your NBA picks keep in mind this is a team that should not be written off in the pursuit of the Cavs. Atlanta is more likely to win its division than the Miami Heat, since the loss of LeBron does so much to harm the defending Eastern Conference champions.