Top five storylines for 2013-14

NBA execs weigh in on Howard in Houston, injured stars and more

Updated: October 29, 2013, 4:08 PM ET
By Chris Broussard | ESPN Insider

Howard/HardenBill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesCan the combination of James Harden and Dwight Howard lead the Rockets to an NBA title?

What an NBA season we're in for. We've got greatness and relative parity converging to create a ton of excitement. While the Miami Heat are going for the rare three-peat, no fewer than 10 teams (11 if you count the not-quite-good-enough New York Knicks) can enter the season feeling like they've got a legitimate chance to reach the Finals.

In the East, there are the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets in addition to the Heat. As for the Knicks, I like them. I think they've improved. Metta World Peace gives them more toughness and better defense, and Andrea Bargnani's ability to spread the floor should complement Carmelo Anthony nicely. The Knicks' problem is that the four teams I mentioned before them also improved. I see New York battling Brooklyn for the fourth seed in the East, but I can't give them any more than a puncher's chance (and I'm being generous) to win the East.

Out West, it could be even more interesting. While the Oklahoma City Thunder have been the favorites the past two years, I'm picking the Los Angeles Clippers to rep the West this season. Of course, the San Antonio Spurs will have plenty to say about that, as will the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies. I love Golden State but I think Memphis could miss former head coach Lionel Hollins more than it realizes.

I can't recall a time when so many teams had a real chance to win their conference. That said, I'm picking the Heat to beat the Clippers in another Finals for the ages.

Amid all this parity, there are five other big storylines I'm looking forward to, and I asked two longtime and very accomplished league executives, one from each conference, to chime in with their thoughts: