Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2012-13 NBA Preview and Predictions

By []Isaiah Abramson

The NBA is gearing up for another exciting season. Steve Nash and Dwight Howard's decision to join the Lakers continues the trend of "super teams". The increased concentration of talent in the NBA is controversial, but certainly makes for an interesting season.

The Eastern Conference will once again be dominated by the Heat, but the retooled Celtics will not make things easy for the defending champs. Out west, Kevin Durant took his team to the Finals last season but his job won't be any easier, as the Lakers added two talented players.

Here is how I see the season playing out.

Eastern Conference

1) Miami Heat

LeBron James finally won his first title last season and is poised to have an even better season. He will again be playing alongside Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Heat added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, which allows them to stretch the floor more and open up the paint so James or Wade can get to the basket and still be able to kick it out to someone who can knock down a three.

With the best overall player in the NBA and the greatest three-point shooter of all-time, the Heat are the clear favorite to win it all.

2) Boston Celtics

Like the San Antonio Spurs, the Boston Celtics always seem to find themselves in the title race.

They may have lost Ray Allen, but they made numerous additions. Jason Terry and Courtney Lee were signed and Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo were drafted.

The two first round draft picks give the Celtics some youth, which they have lacked in years past. Doc Rivers' team may go through bumps in the road every now and then, but they always seem to be in the championship mix. That trend should continue this year.

3) Indiana Pacers

The Pacers got the three seed in the East last year and went relatively unnoticed until they almost pulled off a huge upset over the Heat.

Devoid of a superstar, the Pacers rely on a strong, well-balanced starting five and deep bench. Their size, starting with Roy Hibbert, can be suffocating. The Pacers lack a clutch performer who can take over a game when it matters the most, and that puts them a step below the Heat and Celtics.

They exceeded expectations last year and the question becomes can they repeat the success they had now that teams know they are one of the East's elite teams?

4) New York Knicks

A roster with Jason Kidd (even at 39), Amar'e Stoudemire, and Carmelo Anthony makes the Knicks a virtual playoff lock in the Eastern Conference, but just getting there won't satisfy Knicks' fans.

The additions of Kidd, Marcus Camby, and Ronnie Brewer certainly help, but the Knicks still can't compete with the elite teams in the East.

5) Brooklyn Nets

On paper, the Nets have one of the most well-balanced teams in the NBA. Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries make a formidable frontcourt, while Joe Johnson and Deron Williams give the Nets a solid backcourt.

But the Nets lack depth and that will prevent them from challenging the Heat or Celtics.

6) Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers gave up their best overall player for the second best center in the NBA. Andre Iguodala was a tremendous player who led a team that committed the fewest turnovers in the NBA last season. Andrew Bynum had a breakout season with the Lakers and finally put up numbers the Lakers knew he was capable of putting up.

Jason Richardson and Nick Young give the Sixers two outside shooters to play alongside Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. The Sixers will be a playoff team that will not be taken lightly.

7) Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose's injury is a huge blow to the Bulls. Rose won't return until he is 100%, which is certainly the right move. The rest of the Bulls squad is filled with Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng.

That being said, if the Bulls can squeak into the playoffs, they could pose a threat to the top teams in the East because of Rose's return.

8) Atlanta Hawks

The departures of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams leave gaps in a Hawks' roster that looked like one of the most promising teams in the NBA.

The Hawks have enough pieces to grab the final playoff spot in the East but won't be any threat once they get there.

Rest of the Eastern Conference

9) Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks will finish ninth in the Eastern Conference for the second straight year.

10) Toronto Raptors
The additions of Landry Fields and Kyle Lowry to go with Jose Calderon and DeMar DeRozan give the Raptors one of the deepest backcourts in the NBA, but that won't be enough, as they will narrowly miss the playoffs.

11) Washington Wizards
The addition of Bradley Beal to go with John Wall, Nene, and Emeka Okafor should propel the Wizards to a big improvement from last year.

12) Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe is the only real bright spot on a team that will continue the rebuilding process.

13) Cleveland Cavaliers
Besides Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers lack game-changing talent and will finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference again.

14) Orlando Magic
The Magic will go from a playoff team to one of the worst teams in the NBA in only one year.

15) Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats won't be as bad as their historic 2011 season, but they will still struggle to win games and will be looking forward to the draft again.

Western Conference

1) Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers made the most noise of any NBA team this offseason, signing Steve Nash and trading for Dwight Howard.

Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard give the Lakers something that no other NBA team has: an elite point guard, dominant center, and clutch performer. They should beat out the Thunder for the number one seed in the West and are poised for a deep playoff run.

2) Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Durant is the best pure shooter in the NBA but he has work to do in almost all other aspects of his game if he wants to be at Lebron's level. His 248 turnovers were the second most in the NBA, he averaged only 3.5 assists a game, and his defense was less than stellar. He has reportedly been bulking up this offseason and Thunder fans hope that helps.

Even with the Lakers making more noise this offseason, the Thunder will still compete for the number one seed in the West.

3) San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs just don't go away. Every year analysts and fans alike claim the door has shut for the aging Spurs but somehow they always end up with a shot at the Finals.

Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker have led a team that has been the most consistent team in recent years and should again challenge the top teams in the West.

4) Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers made additions to their bench, which was a huge weakness last season.

Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom, among others, will give the Clippers depth and take pressure off Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Griffin needs to become a better overall player, not just someone who we enjoy watching on the highlight reel. He did average 20 points per game, but he took a step back from his rookie seasons, which ranks as one of the best all-time.

His rebounding average declined and he shot an abysmal 51% from the line.

Regardless, Griffin is a great player on a great team. The Clippers will be a dangerous team that nobody wants to face in the playoffs.

5) Memphis Grizzlies

A roster filled with Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol is capable of putting together a deep playoff run, but they still can't compete with the Thunder or Lakers.

The trend of making the playoffs and falling short of anything spectacular will continue.

6) Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets have one of the most high-powered offenses but their defense has held them back at times. Andre Iguodala is the well-rounded player the Nuggets needed and Ty Lawson is the bright young player teams look to build around. His development is a key going forward.

Unless the Nuggets make huge strides defensively, they won't make too much noise in the playoffs.

7) Golden State Warriors

Many Warriors' fans groaned when the Warriors traded Monta Ellis to the Bucks for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. The Warriors were giving up one of the premier scorers in the NBA for an injured center and 33-year-old who was averaging 10.5 points per game.

Although at the time it may have looked like a bad trade for the Warriors, it will work out in the long run. The departure of Ellis opened up the door for Klay Thompson, who is ready to become a superstar.

Dorell Wright didn't follow up his breakout season in 2010 very well and was traded away. That should give Harrison Barnes significant playing time, but the real key is Stephen Curry. If he stays healthy, he is ready to become a truly elite point guard.

The Warriors have a great mix of height and versatility and youth and experience, which should be enough for a playoff berth.

8) Dallas Mavericks

After getting swept in the first round of the playoffs last year, the Mavericks made some moves this offseason. O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison give the Mavs two solid guards while Chris Kaman gives them an inside presence.

The aging Dirk Nowitzki has enough help to continue the Mavericks run of twelve straight playoff seasons.

Rest of the Western Conference

9) Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves are going into this season as one of the most improved teams and will challenge the Mavericks for the final playoff spot but will be on the outside looking in when the season comes to an end.

10) Utah Jazz
The Jazz don't have any standout playmakers on the outside and that will hurt them. They will just miss the playoffs.

11) New Orleans Hornets
The additions of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers are a sign of good things to come, but the Hornets need a few more pieces if they want to be a serious threat to make the playoffs.

12) Houston Rockets
The Rockets lost numerous key pieces (Scola, Lowry, and Dragic) and the only big addition was Jeremy Lin. The Rockets won't be a threat to make the playoffs.

13) Phoenix Suns
The Suns future looks uncertain as they try to move on without Steve Nash. They will be near the bottom of the Western Conference.

14) Portland Trail Blazers
The rebuilding Trail Blazers have LaMarcus Aldridge to build around, but don't have enough talent to even think about the playoffs.

15) Sacramento Kings
The Kings have two talented young players in Isiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins but those are the lone bright spots on a Kings' team that lasts chemistry. They are in for a long season.


Eastern Conference

First Round

Heat (1) vs. Hawks (8)
Heat win 4-0

Knicks (4) vs. Nets (5)
Nets win 4-2

Celtics (2) vs. Bulls (7)
Celtics win 4-1

Pacers (3) vs. 76ers (6)
Pacers win 4-3

Second Round

Heat (1) vs. Nets (5)
Heat win 4-2

Celtics (2) vs. Pacers (3)
Celtics win 4-2

Conference Finals

Heat (1) vs. Celtics (2)
Heat win 4-3

Western Conference

First Round

Lakers (1) vs. Mavericks (8)
Lakers win 4-0

Clippers (4) vs. Grizzlies (5)
Clippers win 4-2

Thunder (2) vs. Warriors (7)
Thunder win 4-2

Spurs (3) vs. Nuggets (6)
Spurs win 4-2

Second Round

Lakers (1) vs. Clippers (4)
Lakers win 4-2

Thunder (2) vs. Spurs (3)
Thunder win 4-2

Conference Finals

Lakers (1) vs. Thunder (2)
Lakers win 4-3

NBA Finals

Miami Heat (1) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (1)

The Heat and Lakers both made two big acquisitions this offseason. Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis were added to the defending champions' roster while the Lakers signed Steve Nash and traded for Dwight Howard.

All four of these acquisitions are perfect fits for their respective teams. The Heat needed shooters who could stretch the floor, while the Lakers needed a true point guard.

The Heat's core will be playing together for their third year, while the Lakers core will be playing in its first year. That will be the difference maker in a Finals that will surely be entertaining.

Heat win 4-2

Article Source: [] 2012-13 NBA Preview and Predictions

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