Story lines To Watch This NBA 2012-2013 Season + My Predictions

Houston Rockets

Last year’s sensation Jeremy Lin now will have to prove he’s a player worthy of his contract. Is he going to be as good as he was during that stretch with the Knicks? Or is he going to be average and injury prone?

My take:

I think Lin is going to be just an okay point guard in a league that is experiencing nothing  short of a golden age on that position. I think he averages 13.2 pts, 6.1 assists at .410 FG% this season.

Royce White is one of the most interesting rookies from the draft and he’s got unique and versatile set of skills any team would love. He can fill up the boxscore in every category. There is a nagging problem with White and it has already resulted in a bad start during preseason where he’s missed most of the games. Due to his anxiety disorder he’s wanting to drive to games instead of flying. Besides avoiding airplane induced anxiety, he looks to establish as much regularity in his days as he can, something I don’t think is possible on an NBA schedule. The question is, will he be a bust, or will he learn better ways to cope with his disorder so that he can fly with the team, mesh with the team and do it for a full NBA season.

James Harden is the newest addition to the Rockets and perhaps the most efficient player in the NBA (he makes threes at a high clip, rarely shoots long 2s and is devastating going to the rim). He’s one of the funnest players to watch. In fact he’s a bit like Ginobili to me. I can’t believe the Spurs would ever trade Ginobili though. That’s the equivalent of what OKC just did right before the season. Anyhow, it will be interesting to see how he plays as the unquestionable star of the team when he was so good in a Robin type role. All the weight will be on his shoulders.

Detroit

I don’t particularly like this team’s roster, but boy, did Andre Drummond make a great impression during the preseason, or what? I think he’s a contender for Rookie of the year behind Anthony Davis.

Boston

I really like the moves the Celtics made, except for the Barbosa signing. I wish they had held out for a natural back-up point guard. You never know who will become available (Delonte West looks like he might be). Now the Celtics are loaded on all positions and maybe too much so. For the two-guard, they can choose between Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, Jason Terry and Barbosa. I hope Avery Bradley eventually gets the spot back because he has the highest ceiling at this point.

In the front-court we have newcomers Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo, Jason Collins and Darko Milicic. The greens also still have Garnett, Brandon Bass (who might be feeling a little uncomfortable with Sullinger taking up his minutes) and Chris Wilcox. Personally I hope Sullinger gets a ton of minutes because he’s a rebounding monster. After years with poorly rebounding front courts (featuring Glen Davis and Perkins), this is a breath of fresh air. I don’t think Melo will get more than a few garbage minutes here and there, he simply doesn’t have enough basketball experience to grab the minutes under Rivers.

At small forward we have Pierce and Green, both of which are going to be better than average at defending Lebron James. And as far as defense goes, the Celtics could be the best in the NBA. The most interesting story here is how the Celtics will transform offensively now that Ray Allen is gone. I think there will be more fast breaks and Rondo just might surprise people with a much improved FG% and FT%. I have the Celtics winning the championship this year over the Heat and OKC.

Lakers

On paper they have the most lethal starting five you could possibly think of. My feeling is that Howard won’t be at 100% all year and that they won’t have the chemistry on the court to pull off a victory over more well rounded playoff rosters in the West. Kobe will still take too many bad shots and Nash will still not be able to defend any guard, but the worst part of their team is their bench. It’s horrible. Jamison looks toasted and apart from him, there’s not a lot of talent.

OKC

The Thunder definitely improved from last season. Now that Harden has been traded, OKC won’t confidently be able to say they will be better this year. They have made progress every year, getting one round further. The next logical step is winning the championship and I think they were, on paper, the best candidate, even over the Heat, before the James Harden trade. They got an amazing steal in the draft with Perry Jones. Kendrick Perkins will probably be a little healthier than he has in the past. Harden was bound to have a better playoffs.

The thing I’m looking at this year is if Durant adds a mamba-like, cutthroat determination to his game. He’s already lights out, but I think he needs to find an even higher level, as crazy as that sounds. It will also be interesting to see if Jeremy Lamb can contribute early on. At the end of the day, OKC takes a step back because with 2 new players in the fold and the loss of one superstar, it will be hard to fully leverage all the continuity they had built up in recent years.

Clippers

The Clippers have the kind of team you might create through trades on NBA 2K the basketball simulation game. They are loaded with too many talented pieces to make any sense at all. They have three premier point guards: an MVP caliber player in Chris Paul, an up and coming star in Bledsoe and a veteran champion, coach-on-the-floor type player in Billups. That just blows my mind.

Griffin we’ll be a little better and Jordan is also showing improvement, but other than that they look weak down low. I think Odom’s career finished when he got traded from the Lakers and all that’s left is a phantom appearing on court. I hope I’m wrong. I’ll be paying attention to that story because I do hope he makes a comeback.

Things to watch: will Odom get waived? Will Vinny Del Negro get fired? I’m predicting yes and yes. Also: lots of injuries with this team. It’s the Clippers after all.

Miami Heat

The Heat added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, both at the tail end of their careers. Will Allen be a difference maker? The potential is there if he’s healthy, but here’s the thing: he isn’t and he won’t be. His ankles are still hurting even after a full summer off. He can’t do his normal regime of exercise and training which is a huge part of his game and big reason why he struggled at times last year. Ray Allen is all about preparation and training and when you take that away, so does his performance. His best case scenario is that he doesn’t have to work as much on offense now that he was three premier scores on his team. He will have to settle with a bit role though (can he handle that?).

As much as I hate to say, I don’t think Wade will ever return to 100% either. His kind of game is just too punishing on his body and I think it’s all down hill for him from now on. Lebron is undoubtedly going to be fantastic, the added confidence of being a champion just adds to already overwhelmingly good class of play. Bosh now knows how to fit in. At the end of the day I still think their bench is weak and there are 4-6 teams that match up well against them (OKC, Boston, Lakers, Memphis, Spurs and maybe even the Clippers and Nuggets). They are definitely not a lock to repeat as many people might make you believe.

Minnesota

Will Minnesota be better than last season? They must be. They have a great team this year and if Rubio gets healthy and shows improvement, they will be quite the team to watch. Brandon Roy seems to have learnt how to play with his limited knees and it gives them someone to go to in crunch time. Kirilenko looks refreshed. Their bench should have better chemistry this season. What I like about their roster is that every player brings something different to the table and the pieces look like they should fit. One question I do have is whether Derick Williams is in the right situation for him. Will he be able to capitalize on extra playing time with Kevin Love out? Time will tell.

Awards Predictions:

Finals:

What I want: Boston vs Lakers. What I think we’ll get: Boston vs Spurs (call me crazy).

Eastern Conference:

finals will be between the Heat and Boston. In the East no other team really comes close. I think the Nets and the Knicks will both be average teams on most nights since neither are built to defend.

Western Conference:

Really interesting. The West is deep as usual. I wouldn’t count the spurs out. Leonard, Splitter and Daniel Green will be even better this year and the core will be solid as usual. Bonafide title contenders: Spurs, Lakers, OKC and Memphis. Any one of these can make the finals. I think the Spurs will knock out OKC in the WCF.¬†Denver is going to be dangerous, but not a legit contender.

Rookie of the year:

Barring an injury, Anthony Davis is a lock. I have Drummond as runner up. I don’t think Austin Rivers is someone who’s destined for NBA greatness, even though he has the mindset and the DNA, he doesn’t have the body and he’s not a point guard. I think the league has fallen out of love with undersized score-first guards (And I have no clue why the Bucks have two of the them in Monta Ellis and Jennings).

Most Improved:

I’ll go with Omar Asik, he’s slated to have a monster year with the Rockets.

Sixth Man:

Bledsoe, he’s insanely good but will have to share minutes with Chris Paul.

Defensive Player of the year:

I hope Avery Bradley, but I’ll go with Josh Smith.

MVP:

I hope Rondo gets it, but it is likely to be Lebron James as the league seems to have fallen in love with him all over again and he has reached a new level since winning a ring.

Coach of the year:

If Chicago overachieves it could be Thib’s. I think Popovich and Rivers are the best coaches in the NBA so they are in the running.

Let the games begin, it’s going to be a great season!

 

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