Yes, this is an extremely premature prediction regarding next year’s potential NBA title contenders, but with the 2013 NBA Finals just over and the NBA Free Agency Period just beginning this month, what? why not speculate which teams? Will they be competing for the ultimate prize in basketball? Here are 5 teams I hope to be right in the thick of the action 10 months from now:

5. Houston Rockets: By bringing in superstar center Dwight Howard from the Los Angeles Lakers last week and bringing in shooting guard James Harden last season, the Rockets have two star players, which is often what it takes to win a baseball championship. the NBA. Harden is still only 23 years old, but he had his best season last year, averaging more than 25 points per game. Another factor in the Rockets’ favor is point guard Jeremy Lin. Although he has yet to match the kind of game that “Linsanity” spawned in New York, Lin has shown brilliant playing time and is also developing at 24 years old. Although they may be too young to claim an NBA title next season, if this team develops well together, the sky’s the limit down the road with a center like Howard!

4. Los Angeles Lakers: The team is currently in shambles after losing their prized free agent, Dwight Howard, who left the team after a disastrous first season. Injuries derailed the Lakers’ title hopes last year when Steve Nash missed time and Kobe Bryant was injured before the NBA Playoffs. Now in the dumps, there are two paths the Lakers can take. They may collapse and come out terribly next year. Or they can go out shooting and win back the Western Conference. I suspect the latter, considering the team still has Bryant and Nash. Although they are getting older, I think all the focus on Howard hampered the cohesion of this team last year, and I think without that distraction, the Lakers will have a chance to compete with the maturity of veterans.

3. Los Angeles Clippers: Under Blake Griffin and Chris Paul last season, the Clippers were one of the strongest teams in the NBA. Both players are young and extremely talented, bringing hope to the “other” team in Los Angeles. Now they have Doc Rivers as their manager, and that makes the Clippers a contender for the 2014 NBA Championship. Rivers worked magic with the Boston Celtics and helped the team come together to win the 2008 NBA Championship. the best of this team and help them fight for a title.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant’s hopes of avenging the 2012 NBA Finals loss were dashed in the NBA Playoffs when fellow star Russell Westbrook suffered an injury. Proving that no NBA player can do it alone, Durant couldn’t get his team past the second round of the playoffs. However, with both players in the lineup, the Thunder were the strongest team in the Western Conference. With both players healthy and maturing well, this team should be in contention for the 2014 NBA Championship.

1. Miami Heat – Unfortunately for the teams listed above, the 2-time reigning NBA champions are simply too strong for anyone other than the Heat to compete for an NBA championship. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh make up by far the strongest team in the NBA, and all three players are in their prime. Plus, all the fun has inspired other talented players like Ray Allen and Chris Andersen to come down to South Beach and join the party. It’s the deepest team in the league, and while once contracts expire in 2015, the future of the Heat’s “Big Three” will be in doubt, in the short term there’s only one team I should expect to win the 2014 championship. of the NBA: Miami Heat.

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