Cleveland have transformed into a championship contender after acquiring James…
With the NBA Free Agency 2014 market all-but concluded, which five teams have emerged as the favourites to put together a championship run next season?
While there is a mixture of some familiar faces as well as some new ones, there are also a number of teams that have regressed over the past few months, namely the Miami Heat.
Although the franchise held on to two of their cornerstones in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, the loss of LeBron James will undoubtedly have a negative effect on their chances in the new season, and as a result they fail to make our top five.
Similarly, over the in Western Conference, the Houston Rockets have arguably weakened over the off-season after losing Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons.
Having failed in their bid to convince Carmelo Anthony to make the switch over to the West, coach Kevin McHale will bemoan the lack of activity at the organisation over the summer and as a result their title hopes will have diminished.
Elsewhere, the Indiana Pacers have lost Lance Stephenson while the Brooklyn Nets will look to reboot, however, the likes of the Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors will all look to take the next step in their development.
Nevertheless, there are five teams that will harbour realistic hopes of holding the Larry O’Brien trophy aloft next year:
Oklahoma City Thunder
Things could have all been very different for the Thunder last season had Serge Ibaka not suffered his injury in the playoffs, but if he can stay healthy, then the organisation has a solid Big Three to base their hopes on.
Any roster possessing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will likely be a threat, and with the continued development of Steven Adams and the other younger individuals on the roster, they will be competitive next season.
Los Angeles Clippers
With the controversy coming to an end as Donald Sterling is forced to sell the franchise, things will begin to settle for both the coaching staff and players who had threatened to walk away if he remained.
Doc Rivers has a talented team at his disposal and with more experience in a playoff situation, they could have extended their run last year. However, they will use that moving forward and after strengthening the roster further, they will be amongst the top three in the West next season.
Any team that has LeBron James in their ranks is a legitimate contender, but put him alongside talents such as Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and add Mike Miller and possibly Ray Allen, then you have a bookies favourite to win a championship.
Although the situation in Cleveland might still change as trade speculation suggests a deal for Kevin Love is still possible, they have transformed into a contender over the summer and will be a force in the Eastern Conference in the new season.
Despite the disappointment of Carmelo Anthony opting to remain in New York, the Bulls have arguably benefited from his decision as they have constructed a deep roster full of talent.
Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Aaron Brooks are all excellent additions, and with Derrick Rose making an impressive comeback at the Team USA training camp this week, it all looks positive for Chicago.
However, Rose’s health is imperative to their success as he is still the MVP of that team, but with such a formidable front-court, the Bulls are rightly considered a contender not only in the East, but for the biggest prize of them all.
San Antonio Spurs
The old adage of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” could not describe anything more perfectly than the Spurs as they continue to revel in last season’s success.
Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw are all set to return next season while Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard will have a new contract as a reward for his improvement over the last two years and therefore San Antonio remain a force.
Whether or not they can repeat their level of quality remains to be seen, but with such a deeply talented roster that is so well run, it is difficult to not see them coming through the West again.