That's what you're going to see in Memphis. Lionel Hollins is gone and Dave Joerger (my new least favorite name to spell) is in. Joerger (argh) was a Memphis assistant for five seasons and specialized in defense.
That fact makes him a good choice. The Grizzlies were the best defensive team in basketball last season. They should be again. Joerger wants to be more up- tempo on offense this season, but pump the brakes on that philosophy. The strength of the Grizzlies is the awesome pair of big men - Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Let them continue to run high and low and the Grizz will be fine.
The bench should be better with Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis, who never fit in Hollins' rotation on short notice. Mike Miller was signed but depending on him for anything other than a few games is overreaching.
The Grizzlies aren't a sexy team to watch, but they will win a lot of games and be a tough out.
6. CHICAGO BULLS
Derrick Rose is back.
Oh, do I need to continue?
The Bulls won 112 of a possible 148 games in Rose's two regular seasons before the ACL tear. They boast a sensational coach in Tom Thibodeau and play great defense.
Rose, Jimmy Butler (Most Improved candidate), Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng represent a top-five starting lineup. Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson and Kirk Hinrich are a great bench trio.
The Bulls have few weaknesses and are title contenders again.
5. BROOKLYN NETS
Teams that load up on superstars have awful track records in sports.
I wanted to not love the Nets as much as I do this season, but upon careful examination, they are loaded.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were brought to help the Nets win in the postseason. Brooklyn didn't have to give up a ton for two guys who may only be in town one season. They go along with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez for the only starting five in the NBA that have all made an All-Star team.
What really lured me to the Nets is the bench. Andrei Kirilenko is still a force in the league, especially defensively. Reggie Evans will make you crazy. Andray Blatche is a more than capable big man. Alan Anderson actually averaged double-figures in scoring last season. And Jason Terry can still play when motivated and one more bite at a ring will be enough.
Jason Kidd is the wild-card. Can he coach? Who knows, but he'll command respect and the veterans can handle themselves. Lawrence Frank was brought in as the top assistant so he can do the heavy lifting when it comes to X's and O's.
This roster is loaded. Kidd can give Garnett and Pierce plenty of nights off and not lose too much. If Kidd keeps them fresh come playoff time, look out.
4. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
The Russell Westbrook injury will hurt the Thunder's regular-season win total and possible Western Conference seeding. But, Westbrook will be back and rested for the postseason, which should scare everyone.
Kevin Durant is the second-best player in the world. He will probably score more in the early going to account for Westbrook's absence.
What concerns me a bit about OKC is who replaces Kevin Martin. Starting with James Harden, then continuing with Martin last season, the Thunder have always had a great scorer off the bench who can either replace Thabo Sefolosha or Kendrick Perkins late in games.
There is no one to fit that bill in Oklahoma City right now. Jeremy Lamb seems to be the consensus favorite to assume the role, but why should anyone have faith in a guy who played 147 minutes last season? That's a pretty massive leap.
Maybe, the Thunder can get someone to take Perkins' $9.6 million contract next year and one of the young big guys like Perry Jones, Hasheem Thabeet or Steven Adams the Thunder have stockpiled over the years for a wing scorer. Or, throw Lamb in the trade too.
OKC has more question marks in the preseason than any season in recent years.
3. SAN ANTONIO SPURS
If there is one team you believe can overcome the harrowing gut-wrenching agony that was last season's Finals loss to the Miami Heat, it's the Spurs.
Tim Duncan had a career rejuvenation last season, but to expect the same this season might be asking a bit much. Tony Parker is still a top-tier point guard, but the man who will make the big jump into All-Star caliber player is Kawhi Leonard. Based on his playoff performance in the summer, Leonard is a good bet to be in the mix for Most Improved player and a possible spot in the All-Star game.
It's the Spurs, they will be fine.
2. INDIANA PACERS
Believe it or not, it came down to the wire in choosing between the Pacers and Heat for the top spot.
This decision relies on a few big things from the Pacers, first being that Paul George continues his ascension into upper-echelon star. It sure looks that way based on his performance in last season's Eastern Conference Finals.
Perhaps even more important for the Pacers is what Danny Granger provides this season. He played in five games during the 2012-13 campaign, but appears to be healthy and strong. If Granger is alright, then Indy is loaded with him, George, Roy Hibbert, David West and George Hill. If Granger isn't fine, or that lineup doesn't work, Granger has an expiring contract and can be moved for a wing stud or an upgrade at point guard. Hill looked shaky at times during the postseason.
The other question that Larry Bird, who is back running things in Indianapolis, apparently answered had to do with the bench. Last season, the Pacers reserves were pathetic, second only to the Portland Trail Blazers in bench scoring ineptitude. Bird acquired Luis Scola for peanuts and signed C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland. Lance Stephenson will go back to the bench and that unit is certainly better than watching Tyler Hansbrough go out there and wait to get punched in the face by the opposition.
Indiana improved and its bruising defensive style caused problems for Miami. This could be the year...
1. MIAMI HEAT
Or maybe not.
What gave the Heat the edge had nothing to do with the back-to-back titles. It came down to this simple question: how could you pick against LeBron James in the prime of his career with a really good team?
James is so clearly the best player in the universe, he could make any team he was on the favorite. The fact that he suits up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh doesn't hurt. Both looked really bad in the playoffs, but the Heat still won, largely based on James' excellence.
Resting Wade some would be wise for head coach Erik Spoelstra.
The biggest obstacle for the Heat will be the off-court distraction of James' impending free agency. He doesn't want to talk about it, but he'll have to, in almost every city he visits.
James' greatness is evident, but the Heat are balanced with Wade and Bosh, who will be fine this regular season, and Ray Allen. Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, Norris Cole and Chris Anderson are great third-role players. (Greg Oden and Michael Beasley mean nothing to this Heat team.)
It was close between the Pacers and Heat, but LeBron is too much to cost his side the No. 1 spot.