THE MORE THINGS CHANGE ...
The NBA landscape has shifted radically since the Spurs carved up the Heat in the Finals. LeBron James and Kevin Love formed an instant contender in Cleveland. Derrick Rose—with an assist from Pau Gasol—restored one in Chicago. Steve Ballmer spent $2 billion to buy the Clippers, whose beefed-up bench solidifies them as title hopefuls. What isn't different? San Antonio is still better than all comers. The Spurs have 14 players back from a league-best 62--20 team, not to mention the masterly Gregg Popovich, who will lead the franchise to its sixth championship in 17 seasons.
NBA PREVIEW 2014--15
1 / Bulls 2 / Cavaliers 3 / Raptors 4 / Wizards 5 / Heat 6 / Hornets 7 / Nets 8 / Knicks 9 / Pacers 10 / Hawks 11 / Pistons 12 / Bucks 13 / Celtics 14 / Magic 15 / 76ers
Bulls over Cavaliers
1 / Clippers 2 / Thunder 3 / Spurs 4 / Warriors 5 / Mavericks 6 / Trail Blazers 7 / Rockets 8 / Grizzlies 9 / Nuggets 10 / Suns 11 / Pelicans 12 / Lakers 13 / Kings 14 / Timberwolves 15 / Jazz
Spurs over Clippers
Spurs over Bulls
Photograph by Greg Nelson for Sports Illustrated
THE VIEW FROM ABOVE After battling for supremacy last season, San Antonio and Oklahoma City will face a slew of worthy challengers in the mighty Western Conference.