10 NBA Contenders In 2013-14

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Top 10 NBA Contenders In 2013-14

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA season is vastly approaching. Teams are gearing up for another championship run. The Eastern Conference is loaded with veterans like LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony. The Western Conference is loaded with young talent like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and James Harden. In the East, a sub .500 record will get you into the playoffs. In the West, a sub .500 record will get you front row seats in the lottery.

Can the Miami Heat three-peat, or will the Indiana Pacers finally defeat their nemesis to reach the NBA Finals? How will the Chicago Bulls respond to the return of Derrick Rose? Can the San Antonio Spurs forget their choke fest in the Finals and make another run? Can Durant put a team on his shoulders until Russell Westbrook returns? Can the Brooklyn Nets gel in time for a deep playoff run or will age catch up to them?

Nothing is easy in the NBA these days. Injuries, financial decisions and team chemistry can make a contender look like the Philadelphia 76ers in the blink of an eye. The yearly contenders have been relatively healthy and minimal roster moves for players and coaches have tightened team chemistry. Any given year a team can and will sneak up on the league and shock everybody. Look at what the Golden State Warriors accomplished last year. Will there be another surprise team who rises to the top?

Mark Wilson is a Brooklyn Nets writer for Follow him on Twitter , “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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10. Cleveland Cavaliers

Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers are my sleeper team for contenders. Andrew Bynum is getting healthy and is close to returning. Kyrie Irving has supplanted his name as one of the best point guards in the league.

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9. Golden State Warriors

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

You are a fool if you think last season was a fluke. Stephen Curry is a trained sharpshooter and the real deal. If Andrew Bogut can stay upright for 70+ games, the sky is the limit for the Golden State Warriors.

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8. Oklahoma City Thunder

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The health concerns of Russell Westbrook have the Oklahoma City Thunder ranked this low. With Kevin Martin off to Minnesota, someone on the bench has to step up and score. Kevin Durant is still the second best player on the planet, but he can’t do it alone.

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7. Houston Rockets

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets were good last season, despite not having a defensive presence. The addition of Dwight Howard has changed that immediately. James Harden has taken over as the league’s best shooting guard and should continue to improve.

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6. Chicago Bulls

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

A healthy Derrick Rose could mean a Finals trip for the Chicago Bulls, or it could spell disaster. Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah must continue their dominate play as they did last season. If Jimmy Butler can continue to develop into a Scottie Pippen clone, the city of Chicago could be parading again.

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5. Los Angeles Clippers

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Can a coach really make a difference in the win column for the Los Angeles Clippers? Blake Griffin has to develop some post moves to be considered elite and taken seriously. Chris Paul will continue to run circles around opposing guards and take home the MVP award this year.

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4. Brooklyn Nets

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Say what you want to about the age and mileage on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. When the game is on the line, these two players are a must have. Deron Williams could be in store for a career high in assist with all the added firepower around him. Fans of the Brooklyn Nets could be dancing in the streets come June.

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3. San Antonio Spurs

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The great thing about veterans is their ability to forget and move on. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili should be collecting their rings on opening night, if not for the bonehead coaching of Greg Popovich. Kawhi Leonard will have to forget the fact he choked at the charity stripe and grow into the dominate player the San Antonio Spurs faithful think he can be.

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2. Miami Heat

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat won their first title on sheer talent. They won their second title by paying off the Spurs' soaching staff. The signing of Greg Oden and Michael Weedleasy, I mean Beasley, just bolstered their bench with defense and scoring. LeBron James is still the best player on the planet for the first three quarters of a game.

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1. Indiana Pacers

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers are the most dangerous team in the league. Roy Hibbert proved his worth in the playoffs last year. Paul George forgot there was a Game 7, but is still worth the price of admission. Danny Granger is back to prove this is still his team. The Heat would be considered a bust if Granger was healthy last year.