New Orleans Pelicans – Anthony Davis maturing quickly
Outside of the Central in the East, there isn’t a more murderous division in the NBA than what is brewing in the Southwest. Not only does it contain the world champion San Antonio Spurs, but also three other playoff participants from last season. It’s not exactly the ideal situation for a young team like the New Orleans Pelicans to make a run, but it doesn’t mean they can’t. Anthony Davis is emerging as a star, Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson offer good compliments and the acquisition of Omer Asik will be a big help as well. The team is young and ascending.
Denver Nuggets – Arron Afflalo adds to deep roster
It’s only been a year absence from the playoffs for the Denver Nuggets so the idea of them making a return isn’t so crazy. They sit in a good-but-not-great division and thanks to a trade for guard Arron Afflalo have enough talent and depth on their roster to compete, even in the tough Western Conference. As star power goes it’s arguable but there is no question the Nuggets have enough to win some games provided their key players stay healthy, unlike last season.
Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron James changes the equation
This selection is for obvious reasons. Any time a team is able to land the best player in any sport, their chances of making the playoffs skyrocket. That is the situation for the Cleveland Cavaliers who were ecstatic to see the return of hometown hero LeBron James. His pairing with Kyrie Irving and rookie Andrew Wiggins gives the Cavs an exciting, young trio that will certainly create some NBA highlight reel plays. Unless injuries take their toll, it’s almost impossible to think the Cavs won’t reach May in a weak Eastern Conference.
Utah Jazz – Dante Exum showing he can help immediately
Trey Burke is firmly entrenched at point guard and the Utah Jazz made sure to hang on to free agent Gordon Hayward, who averaged 16 points, five rebounds and five assists last season. Now with the addition of promising Australian guard Dante Exum the Jazz have a trio that is capable of filling up the basket. Together with Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert they have a solid core that is young and versatile. If they can learn to be more efficient then getting back to relevance won’t take long.