NBA depth shown in number of Finals contenders

Sports Editor and Sports Editor

In six days, the NBA regular season will kick off with the match up fans have been waiting to see for two years, Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls against two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat.

This game is bigger than just an opening match. It is the highly anticipated return of former MVP Derrick Rose after a year-and-a-half absence due to a torn ACL he received during the first round of the 2012 playoffs. In Rose’s absence, Lebron James and the Heat have won two NBA Finals championships.

With the return of Rose, the Bulls come into the season as one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference to beat the defending champs. There are two teams other than the Bulls that can compete with the Heat in a seven-game series: the Indiana Pacers and New Jersey Nets.

The Pacers should have arguably beaten the Heat last year in the Eastern Conference Finals as Indiana lost game one off of a running lay up by James as time expired. The Pacers went on to lose the series in seven games. The Pacers played most of that season and the playoffs without All Star small forward Danny Granger. Granger’s return this year will bulk up the Pacers depth and ultimately make them a team built for another deep playoff run.

The biggest offseason move in the East went to the Cleveland Cavaliers as they were able to sign former Laker and All Star center Andrew Bynum. This signing leaves Cavs fans either excited about the possibility of a playoff run or nervous because of Bynum’s injury history. Bynum sat out all of last season with the Philadelphia 76ers due to multiple knee injuries, but the potential duo of Kyrie Irving and Bynum is a very exciting thought for Cavs fans who haven’t seen a winning season since Lebron’s “The Decision” aired on ESPN in 2010.

The other big offseason move in the East comes from one of the Cavs rivals in the Detroit Pistons who were able to sign Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. This will give the Pistons four all star caliber players in their starting line up in Jennings, Smith, center Greg Monroe and second year power forward Andre Drummond. Their only issue is where they will decide to play Josh Smith; he is not a typical small forward as he does not have the jump most have, but last year’s first round pick Andre Drummond will most likely start at the power forward position. Along with the position issue, their point guard Brandon Jennings is not a prototypical point guard who will look pass first. Detroit may be the best place for him as he will be able to be mentored by former NBA champion Joe Dumars throughout the season.

In the Western Conference, there are so many good teams that the ninth best team in the West could make the playoffs in the East. Teams like the Spurs, Clippers, Grizzilies, Thunder, Warriors and Nuggets all will compete for top seeds in the Western Conference.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors have become one of the most feared backcourts in the league with their ability to score so quickly. The weakness that kept them from defeating the Spurs in the Western Conference semi-finals was their lack of perimeter defending, but the addition of Andre Iguodala will give them more scoring as well as a physical defending body to stop their opponents’ scorers.

The Oklahoma Thunder will suffer early in the season as they will be playing without their second leading scorer point guard Russell Westbrook after arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this month. When Westbrook returns there will be no doubt that the Thunder will be competing for a top two seed again in the West. Their issue is where their third scoring option will come from, because they have been struggling with that ever since this past year’s James Harden trade.

Look for Harden and the Houston Rockets to have an impressive year with the addition of the best center in the league, Dwight Howard. Howard gives the Rockets another body inside that can rebound and take some pressure away from Harden and the rest of their shooters. The Rockets are full of shooters who can take pressure off of Harden and Howard, such as Chandler Parsons, Carlos Delfino and Francisco Garcia, who all shoot above 35 percent from behind the three point line.

This NBA season has all of the makings to be an exciting season all year long. The depth of talented teams this year in each conference makes it hard to predict who will be championship contenders but the NBA season is coming fast and all of the questions will be answered soon enough.