Cleveland’s Big Three should make Cavaliers No. 1 in East

Kevin Love
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love looks to pass during a preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
(Brandon Dill / Associated Press)

Broderick Turner picks the East (in predicted order of finish)


1. Cleveland

2013-14 finish: 33-49.


Coming: Coach David Blatt, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, James Jones.

Going: Coach Mike Brown, Anthony Bennett, Luol Deng, Spencer Hawes, C.J. Miles, Jarrett Jack, Tyler Zeller, Alonzo Gee.

James, Love and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving will become the NBA’s latest version of the Big Three. It’ll be up to them to lead shooting guard Dion Waiters, center Anderson Varejao, key reserve big man Tristan Thompson and the rest of the Cavs. Cleveland has a rookie coach in Blatt, but he was very successful coaching in Israel, Greece, Russia and Turkey. And now he has James to help out.

2. Chicago


2013-14 finish: 48-34.

Coming: Pau Gasol, Aaron Brooks, Doug McDermott, E’Twaun Moore, Nikola Mirotic.

Going: Carlos Boozer, D.J. Augustin, Lou Amundson, Ronnie Brewer, Jimmer Fredette, Mike James.

The best two teams in the East — Chicago and Cleveland — both compete in the Central Division. With a healthy Derrick Rose, newly acquired Gasol, defensive star Joakim Noah and super sub Taj Gibson, the Bulls are one of the favorites to be crowned NBA champion in June. But rookie small forward McDermott and starter Mike Dunleavy have to make outside shots to open up the court for Rose and Gasol.

3. Washington

2013-14 finish: 44-38.

Coming: Paul Pierce, DeJuan Blair, Kris Humphries.

Going: Trevor Ariza, Al Harrington, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker.


The self-proclaimed best backcourt in the NBA — point guard John Wall, 24, and shooting guard Bradley Beal, 21 — took a hit when Beal had surgery for a broken left wrist that will sideline him six to eight weeks. Last season, power forward Nene and center Marcin Gortat were a nice duo down low; it’ll be interesting to see how much Paul Pierce, 37, can contribute in the frontcourt.

4. Toronto

2013-14 finish: 48-34.

Coming: Louis Williams, James Johnson.

Going: Nando De Colo, Steve Novak.

The team north of the border has enough talent, depth and athletes to make some noise in the East. All-Star DeMar DeRozan averaged a career-high 22.7 points per game last season; point guard Kyle Lowry re-signed for $48 million over four years after career bests of 17.9 points and 7.4 assists; and center Jonas Valanciunas, 22, averaged 11.3 points and 8.8 rebounds last season.

5. Miami

2013-14 finish: 54-28.


Coming: Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger, Shannon Brown, Shabazz Napier.

Going: LeBron James, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Michael Beasley, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, Greg Oden.

For the Heat to pose a threat, Chris Bosh has to produce more than the 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds he provided last season. No one knows if Dwyane Wade, 32, and his balky knees can match the 54 games he played last season. And Deng has the big task of replacing James at small forward.

6. Brooklyn

2013-14 finish: 44-38.

Coming: Coach Lionel Hollins, Jarrett Jack, Bojan Bogdanovic, Sergey Karasev.

Gone: Coach Jason Kidd, Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston, Andray Blatche, Jason Collins, Marcus Thornton.

The Nets found a talented coach in Hollins, who guided Memphis to the Western Conference finals in 2013 before he was fired. For Brooklyn to have any success, point guard Deron Williams must stay healthy after surgery on both ankles. Center Brook Lopez returns after playing in just 17 games last season after surgery on his right foot. Kevin Garnett, 38, returns for another season and guard Joe Johnson is back to provide offense.

7. Charlotte

2013-14 finish: 43-39.

Coming: Lance Stephenson, Marvin Williams, Noah Vonleh, PJ Hairston.

Going: Chris Douglas-Roberts, Brendan Haywood, Josh McRoberts, Luke Ridnour, Anthony Tolliver, D.J. White.

Will Stephenson blow in Bobcats owner Michael Jordan’s ear as he did to LeBron James in a playoff game? Antics aside, Stephenson, 24, is a talent who will provide the Hornets with both offense and defense. Center Al Jefferson had a monster year for Charlotte, averaging 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds last season, and point guard Kemba Walker is a handful to defend.

8. Atlanta

2013-14 finish: 38-44.

Coming: Adreian Payne, Thabo Sefolosha, Kent Bazemore.

Going: Gustavo Ayon, Cartier Martin, Lou Williams.

The Hawks have enough talent to make the playoffs again. Former All-Star center Al Horford is back after playing in just 29 games last season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle. Forward Paul Millsap made his first All-Star team, point guard Jeff Teague has improved and shooting guard Kyle Korver is one of the best shooters in the NBA.


9. Indiana

2013-14 finish: 56-26.

Coming: C.J. Miles, Rodney Stuckey.

Going: Lance Stephenson, Evan Turner, Andrew Bynum.

After Indiana’s disappointing loss to Miami in the playoffs, the news got worse for the Pacers over the summer. Free agent guard Stephenson signed with Charlotte, then Indiana lost All-Star small forward Paul George for the season after he fractured his right leg. Center Roy Hibbert, who had a down 2013-14 season when he averaged 10.8 points and 6.6 rebounds, must return to All-Star form. Another worry is the offense: The Pacers averaged 96.7 points per game last season, seventh-worst in the NBA.

10. New York

2013-14 finish: 37-45.

Coming: President Phil Jackson, Coach Derek Fisher, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Travis Outlaw, Jason Smith, Cleanthony Early, Quincy Acy.

Going: Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Jeremy Tyler, Kenyon Martin.

It’ll be tough for Jackson, All-Star Carmelo Anthony and first-year coach Fisher to get the Knicks back into the playoffs after the team was ninth in the East last season. Amar’e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Calderon need to be productive scorers, but they also have to learn the triangle offense.

11. Detroit

2013-14 finish: 29-53.

Coming: President/Coach Stan Van Gundy, Jodie Meeks, D.J. Augustin.

Going: Chauncey Billups, Rodney Stuckey.

Detroit tried to play big last season with 6-11 Andre Drummond at center, 6-11 Greg Monroe at power forward and 6-9 Josh Smith at small forward. It didn’t work. Smith is better suited to power forward. The Pistons may unload one of those three for another player who fits into their rebuilding plans.

12. Orlando

2013-14 finish: 23-59.

Coming: Channing Frye, Aaron Gordon, Luke Ridnour, Willie Green, Ben Gordon, Evan Fournier.

Going: Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson, Jason Maxiell.

The Magic has some young talent in center Nikola Vucevic, 24, who averaged 14.2 points and 11 rebounds last season; second-year guard Victor Oladipo, 22; and rookie power forward Gordon, 19, who is athletic but needs to refine his offense.

13. Boston

2013-14 finish: 25-57.

Coming: Marcus Smart, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton.

Going: Jerryd Bayless, Keith Bogans.

Boston is in a rebuilding mode and that cannot sit well with point guard Rajon Rondo, the only player left from the 2008 Celtics championship team. Rondo is recovering from a broken bone in his left hand, but should return soon. Rookie point guard Smart has been impressive in the preseason.

14. Milwaukee

2013-14 finish: 15-67.

Coming: Coach Jason Kidd, Jabari Parker, Jared Dudley, Jerryd Bayless, Kendall Marshall.

Going: Coach Larry Drew, Carlos Delfino, Ekpe Udoh.

Kidd had more talent last season in Brooklyn, and this Bucks roster will test his coaching skills. Parker, the No. 2 overall pick, is considered a major talent and forward Ersan Ilyasova and guard Giannis Antetokounmpo are developing into solid players.

15. Philadelphia

2013-14 finish: 19-63.

Coming: Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

Going: Thaddeus Young, Byron Mullens.

The 76ers drafted 7-foot center Embiid with the No. 3 overall pick, although he won’t play this season because of a fractured right foot. In 2013, the 76ers acquired 6-11 forward Noel, the No. 6 overall pick, who missed last season because of a torn anterior cruciate in his left knee. Noel seems healthy, but rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams is still recovering from shoulder surgery.


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