The Thunder, Lakers, Spurs, and Celtics are considered the most dangerous threats to the Heat this season, but ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh thinks he's put together the team most capable of knocking off the defending champs. In an Insider-only piece, Haberstroh puts together a squad of "Heat Beaters" that adheres to the NBA's salary cap rules by surrounding a pair of superstars (Chris Paul and Dwight Howard) with a number of players on rookie-scale deals, including Serge Ibaka, Taj Gibson, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard.
Here are a few other Thursday links from around the league:
- NBA commissioner David Stern and former teammate Shane Battier are among those applauding Tracy McGrady's decision to sign in China, according to Alastair Himmer of 560 WGAN.
- Though there's no real update on extension talks between Stephen Curry and the Warriors, both sides remain optimistic that a deal will be worked out by Halloween, says Sam Amick of SI.com (Sulia link). Amick adds that Curry's next contract is now being negotiated by Octagon's Jeff Austin after the point guard's previous agent, Lance Young, left Octagon.
- The battle for the Spurs' 15th roster spot is going down to the wire, according to Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News, who breaks down the four candidates for the opening. McCarney believes the Spurs' decision will come down to Eddy Curry and Josh Powell.
- In an Insider-only piece, ESPN.com's Chad Ford names his top five 2013 draft prospects out of the Big 12.
- Sasha Vujacic says he'll consider returning to the NBA next summer, according to a Sport24.gr report (translation via HoopsHype).
- Gino Pilato of Ridiculous Upside previews the NBA D-League draft, which is set to take place on November 2nd.