With the 2012-13 game only barely underway, I take a look at all 30 teams, discuss trades, and offseason additions and losses. I will make an early season power rankings prediction. Who will win the 2012-13 NBA Championship? What teams will make the 12-13 playoffs? What teams will be lottery teams, and who has a chance to crawl out of the cellar? With all the offseason moves; the 2012-13 season has already begun to take shape, and looks to be one of the most exciting competitive seasons since Kobe Bryant entered the League.
Western Conference Preview
The Western Conference has been shaken up this year, and has officially begun the rebuilding process itself. The structure of the Western Conference NBA elite teams will dramatically change this season. Several teams have let restricted free agents move on to other cities, while some teams have begun their own rebuilding process, while some teams have finally begun to challenge top teams to earn their own playoff berth. However, in the midst of this Some of the friendly common, household names will become another simple slip of the tongue, as Kobe Bryant once again seeks to claim a title. With Steve Nash Beside him; a lot will be simply be fun to watch as it all plays out.
With the early exit of the Utah Jazz, the Dallas Mavericks, the Denver Nuggets, and the Memphis Grizzlies from last years playoff race to the championship, teams were left to wonder if they needed to add more depth to their roster, or if perhaps they needed to get younger in order to continue to compete for a championship. Some teams remained mostly the same while some teams began to enter into the re-building stages.
South West Division
When the Dallas Mavericks (the previous defending champions) made their early exit in the first round of the post season last year, many questioned whether the veteran players had enough left in the tank to challenge for another title. They have made several offseason moves, watching the departures of Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, and Brendan Haywood. The biggest acquisitions for the Mavericks was the addition of O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, and Elton Brand. The also added depth to there lineup with the addition of Darren Collison. As the preseason began, the Mavericks once again looked poised to make another run at a championship until continued swelling in Dirk Nowitzki right knee, forced him to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery to reduce the swelling and drain his knee. The off the court recovery time is scheduled for six to eight weeks. Then Dirk must begin to work out his legs, and return to game shape. When he finally does retake his place on the court with the Mavericks, all eyes will be on him as to show the world whether or not his knee will ever function even close to the same. Coach Rick Carlisle has said he expects and needs every able bodied player to be ready to go this season.
The Houston Rockets have entered fully into rebuild mode. They have started to build around a younger core of players after watching most of their veteran talent leave through free agency or trades. The current look of the team appears to be James Harden, Patrick Patterson, Terrence Jones, Toney Douglas, Omer Asik, Carlos Delfino, and Of course, Jeremy Lin. Unless Linsanity part 2 is on its way to Houston, The Rockets will have their hands full, whereas they have a young talented team, with essentially nothing but role players who have yet to define their role within the team or amongst themselves. This will more than likely be a season of learning and opportunity for the young players, and potential stars of the future. With the addition of James Harden, the Rockets will have a chance to play a big role in the West, or they could fall off the map, and further into rebuild mode.
With Last years Early Departure from the first round of the playoffs, The team have remained relatively idol during this offseason. However, Memphis has made some under the radar moves, acquiring Quincy Pondexter and Jarry Bayless, who will undoubtedly help the team . Tony Allen returning to his once healthy form will also make this a deeper Grizzlies team. If Conley continues to produce, and Randolph continues to stay healthy, expect this Grizzlies team to make a deeper run in the playoffs this season.
New Orleans Hornets
After finishing last in the league last season, any improvement to the teamwas welcomed with open arms. Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers have been hailed as the players who will save the franchise, but do they really think they have what it takes to become a competitive team in the Western Conference? The Hornets have completely re-made their team from the ground up. Adding Robin Lopez, Ryan Anderson, Roger Mason Jr. amongst the the many names may help the team begin its climb out of the cellar. However, other than Ryan Anderson; no other players on the roster have ever been on a successful NBA team. Lopez has the closest thing to minimal success on any team only because of his experience with a true NBA Legend in the Making, Steve Nash. One thing is certain, for this New Orleans Hornets team to survive, they are going to need to play within themselves, and manage their own mental breakdowns, as well as teaching the young rookie players what it truly takes to make it in the NBA.
San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs are only starting to get interesting. As the Tim Duncan Saga continues to play out with every twist and turn of the story creating just a little more drama than the last, everyone is left to wonder. How many Years does the Big man have left? Out of pure respect for the man, i will give him his due credit; 4 time NBA Champion, 3 time Finals MVP, 2 time MVP, 9 All NBA First Team, 8 All NBA Defensive First Team. Tim Duncan’s Career Highlights are often forgotten by many people around the league. But one thing few people forget is that the Spurs thrive on the shoulders of Tim Duncan. The Spurs are the same team who from last year plus major/ minor additions of Boris Diaw and Eddy Curry. Tiago Splitter has struggled in the preseason, but is expected to have a better year, as well as Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair. Last years late addition of Stephan Jackson will only continue to prove to be a great addition for a team that always seems to be knocking on the doors of playoff greatness. Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili seem to be ready for another great year. Expect the San Antonio Spurs to once again be a threat to make a deep playoff run.
The Denver Nuggets have the potential to be one of a few surprise teams in the Western Conference in the 2012-13 season. With additions of Andre Iguodala and Anthony Randolph, as well as last years additions of JaVale Mcgee and Corey Brewer, the Nuggets seemed poise to contend in the NorthWest Conference with The Oklahoma City Thunder for the top spot in the division; not to mention a top spot in the Western Conference. If Iguodala and Anthony Randolph can make smooth transitions to playing more consistent roles for Coach George Carl, the Nuggets could be a very dangerous team on the rise.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have not made the playoffs since 2004, when the team made its deepest playoff run in the franchise’s history. The Team won The Division Title, and lost in the Western Conference Finals. The Timberwolves have said that with the additions of Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved, Chase Budinger, and Louis Amundson they have the best roster in the history of the franchise. If Derrick Williams can manage to play up to his hype; Next to a healthy Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, this may very well be a competitive team. However, with both Rubio and Love out, this team will strugle to be competitive. Coach Rick Adelman always seems to find a way to get his teams to play competitive basketball, but the first six weeks of the season seem to be an uphill battle. Worry not Minnesota fans, Adelman is one of the best men for the job. Adelman has a long history of winning with injury depleted teams.
The Portland Trailblazers have officially begun the teams rebuilding process. Although the team has some very intriguing young players in Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard, the team has moved some of the better players with bigger contracts, and started to build on its younger core players. LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Mathews are all very cabable players, but only Aldridge has the potential to be a starter on a competitive NBA team. The team will take some time to develop the younger talent. Unfortunately the hardest part of this rebuilding process, is that the team will more than likely have to part ways with at least one valuable player in the coming years.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder are ready to make another run at a title. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook havent missed a beat this offseason, helping lead Team USA to an Olympic Gold Medal. The two players have hardly had a chance to fully comprehend losing to The Miami Heat in the NBA Championship Series last year. This could be a very positive circumstance, whereas both players are in superb game shape, and have a renewed motivation as well as Fire in their eyes. Oklahoma City is one of the more dangerous teams capable of winning the whole thing this year. With the early season acquisition of Kevin Martin, OKC looks to get back in the Championship Hunt.
The Utah Jazz have a tough task this year. They Must continue to develop their young players, while introducing Mo Williams to a team stock loaded with talented guards. Derrick Favors may not be the face of the franchise or the best player on the team, but how the teams fares this season depends largely on his development as a player. Randy Foye will be asked to continue his improvment, as he will be needed to play a bigger role for the young team. Enes Kanter will be asked to play a bigger role, and to continue his development. While Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap will both be asked to be more vocal as well as being expected to continue to be consistent on both ends of the floor. The Jazz are one of a few teams in the west coast who have the ability to be a surprise team in contention for a 5-8 spot in the playoffs.
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors have been busy this offseason making moves and continuing to push for the playoffs. Perhaps the biggest additions to this years team are Harrison Barnes, Carl Landry, and Andrew Bogut. while most of the hype has surrounded rookie Harrison Barnes, the real questions surrounding the success of the team revolve entirely around the health of Andrew Bogut. Bogut has not played for since injuring his ankle with the Milwaukee Bucks. He has not been cleared by doctors to begin participating in full court-full team practices yet. He has been participating in one on one drills, and is expected to be cleared soon. Bogut understands the risk his ankle presents. He will never be quite the same when it comes to the maneuverability of his ankle, and he must become aware of his more limited mobility. The Warriors could be real contenders in the west if the gamble on Andrew Bogut pays off. Look for Stephan Curry to continue to improve as an elite shooter in the NBA, while Klay Thompson and Brandon Rush continue to develop into better offensive threats. David Lee has his work cut out for him in the Front court, looking to post a better season than last year. Watch out NBA, the Warriors look good.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers will not be the best team in L.A. this season. Many questions surround the team as it enters the 2012-13 season. The Clippers added much needed depth to a roster filled with high flying athletic players. Additions of Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, and Matt Barnes have added much needed depth and veteran maturity to a team which needs both. Jamal Crawford adds much needed outside shooting for a team with plenty of inside weapons. His ability to shoot and drive the ball will open the floor and allow for better spacing. Lamar Odom and Grant Hill add instant off the bench scoring, rebounding, as well as veteran know how. The Clippers lacked maturity in their playoff series loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Matt Barnes has continued to impress every team he plays for with his continued attitude for defense. Barnes has become a very capable NBA defensive stopper, as well as a more than capable scorer. Look for the clippers to ask Chris Paul to take them to a Western Conference Finals against their in in-town rivals the Lakers.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have made tremendous strides to returning to their lost days of Championship Glory. After winning the Dwight Howard Contest and Landing possibly the most talked about player over the last two years in Dwight Howard; the Lakers took it a step further, by adding the soon to be Hall Of Famer Steve Nash. Nash is arguably the best point guard the NBA has ever seen. He has never one a Championship in his storied career. Nash had said several times, that winning an NBA Championship is the only real career goal he has yet to accomplish. The Lakers were not finished there either, they added depth to there team and bench with the addition of Antawn Jamison. As the Lakers prepare for the start of the season, Dwight Howard continues to recover from his back surgery. After his first preseason appearance Sunday in Los Angeles at the Staples Center when the Kings played the Lakers, Howard looked to be back. If Dwight Howard can get healty, and Steve Nash can find his way in this potentially prolific L.A. Starting lineup, the Lakers could be the best team in the league. Now can Mike D’Antoni make it all work? Mike Brown had such a short leash, that after Kobe Bryant has already publicly stated he was leaning towards Phil Jackson.
The Phoenix Suns parted ways this summer with the best player the franchise has ever seen, Steve Nash. The suns have decided to begin rebuilding with a core of younger players. The Suns main additions this season are Lois Scola, Jermaine O’Neal, Michael Beasley, and Goran Dragic. Other than 16 year veteran Jermaine O’Neal, Scola is the longest tenured player acquired by the Suns during the offseason. Luis Scola Brings both scoring and a tough nosed defensive presence; While Goran Dragic will be good fit at point guard or shooting guard. Michael Beasley will be the new potential cornerstone of the franchise, bringing his size and all around ability to a team that needs a star. The suns have a lot to look forward to, and have managed to position themselves to get through their rebuilding phase as quickly and smoothly as possible.
The Sacramento Kings have had a relatively quiet offseason, but have managed to make some moves that may put them in position to be another surprise team in the West. The two major additions to the roster are Aaron Brooks,and James Johnson. Brooks is the more established point guard brought in for his long range spot shooting, and his point guard skills. James Johnson is a little more of an unknown, but has already showed that his defensive abilities will make it hard to keep him off the court. Johnson has also shown in the preseason, that he is a more than capable scorer when the team needs him to be. His size and athletic ability make him a good addition to the Kings. DeMarcus Cousins has once again arrived at training camp in better shape than the previous season, as well as with an improved attitude. 10 of the 14 players from last year have been training and participating in activities as a team during the majority of the offseason. The team arrived in training camp already in shape, and ready to compete, and has already shown in the preseason that this is not the same team from just one year ago. The kings young talent has continued to grow, and most importantly they’ve started to grow together as a team. Look for the Kings to be a contender for the last three playoff spots in the west.
Western Conference Power Rankings
1.Oklahoma City Thunder
2. San Antonio Spurs
3. Los Angeles Lakers
4. Memphis Grizzlies
5. Los Angeles Clippers
6. Dallas Mavericks
7. Golden State Warriors
8. Denver Nuggets
9. Utah Jazz
10. Sacramento Kings
11. Houston Rockets
12. Minnesota Timberwolves
13. Phoenix Suns
14. New Orleans Hornets
15. Portland Trailblazers
Eastern Conference Preview
The Eastern Conference Has finally begun to change, and some teams are struggling to decide whether its time to try for one more run, or hit the Rebuild Button. Will a young Pacers team become a force to be reckoned with? Will the Bulls survive a single season as a team without perhaps one of the games marquee players? Will the Seventy-Sixer’s finally bring winning basketball back to the city of brotherly love? A lot has yet to be written, but one thing is certain; When the Miami Heat won the Championship, they showed the Western Conference how much farther along the Miami Heat Heat and the East Coast have come.
Miami has added Ray Allen to their Championship Roster as they look to take a shot at a Repeat. While The New York Knicks, The Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics try to regroup, The Indiana Pacers, And Philadelphia will try to continue their climb amongst the Eastern Conference Elite. While Some in Orlando continue to fuel the fire for those who root against the lakers or Dwinght Howard, some might just call it a simple part of the game.
The Boston Celtics are taking another run at it. with a healthy Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, and Brandon Bass. With Additions of Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa and Courtney Lee, The Celtics are Still Challenging to be contenders. Darko Milicic will be called on to add more depth to an aging front court while Fab Melo develops into an NBA Center. The back court will be competitive with the three new additions competing for starting roles. If Kevin Garnett makes it through this season, I will back him on going for gold, and going for 20 seasons, but much of the Celtics success still hinges on his ability to hit the jumper and get to the basket, and isolate for Paul Pierce. If Rondo can avoid the continued rumors and trade talks, he will have some very good player around him, to take a real shot at a deep playoff run.
The Brooklyn Nets
With all the Hype surrounding the teams move to Brooklyn, the Nets are actually in the midst of developing from a rebuilding team, into a mid level, and potentially a playoff team. Deron Williams is back with intriguing additions like 11 year veterans Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson. With 6 rookies going into the preseason, Brooklyn has a lot of work to do. If coach Avery Johnson can manage to keep his team focused on the task at hand and the season that faces them, they have a chance to compete.
New York Knicks
With The New York Knicks early exit from last years playoff race at the hand of the eventual NBA Champion Heat; Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and The New York Knicks were left to wonder what could have been. With a renewed desire Both Stoudamire, and Anthony have returned to training camp with renewed passion as they invite the soon to be Hall Of Famer Jason Kidd, as well as Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, and Marcus Camby. All will add to a team that needs veteran leadership. Kidd will try at one more championship adding his vision on the court as well as veteran leadership. As Marcus Camby Returns to New York, he, Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas will be asked to rebound and box out down low, as well as providing a presence in the post. If the Knicks can play within a system for coach Woodson, they have a chance at being an elit team in the East.
The Philadelphia 76ers loss to the Boston Celtics In the second round of the playoffs last year was an early upset for the city of brotherly love. With the Arrival of Andrew Bynum and 11 year veteran Jason RIchardson, the Sixers are looking at making a deep playoff run. Bynum has been scheduled to return near December 10th, when the 76ers have Bynum sheduled to finally start basketball related workouts. As Bynum adjusts to coach Doug Collins system, The 76ers may prove to be a contender.
The Toronto Raptors have finally started the rebuild process after trying to hang on after the departure of Chris Bosh. With a young team Coach Dwan Casey Has his work cut out for him. Amir Johnson, Linas Kleiza, and Kyle Lowry will be asked to play larger roles, with Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon. The Raptors have a long way, and may unfortunately may be a team with players on the trading block.
The Chicago Bulls have a big task in front of them. With franchise player Derrick Rose continuing to rehabilitate, the team must continue on while staying ready and hopeful for his return. While the team without Derrick Rose is still a competitive team, it is hardly any more than a contender to make the playoffs. Chicago has the opportunity to allow its players to grow while awaiting the return of its star player. Will Chicago survive? And will Derrick Rose be able to allow himself the time his body needs to recover fully?
The Cleveland Cavaliers are continuing to rebuild after losing Lebron James To free agency.Kyrie Irving, C.J. Miles, and Tyler Zeller are the heart of the rotation; while Daniel Gibson, Tristan Thompson, Omri Casspi, and Anderson Varejao will all be asked to step up on a team that needs role players. Omri Casspi has to develop into a better all around player and continue to shoot from beyond the arc. Anderson Varejao will be asked to be the teams main center, and will need to provide and all around game. The Cavaliers have a long way to go if they want to compete in the East.
The Detroit Pistons have a long way to go before they will be a contender again. They have two big men that have the potential to be amazing in this league someday. Greg Monroe is already turning heads this year, as the young Pistons center will try to continue to become a more consistent player as he continues to develop his game. Andre Drummond will be a fun young prospect to watch; and with him practicing next to Monroe, he has a real chance to develop into one of the better centers in this league. Rodney Stuckey needs to have a big year in order for the Pistons to win 25 games.
The Indiana Pacers look better then they did last year, as they held on to all of the major players from their 2011-12 roster. Roy Hibbert must lookto continue his climb to join the NBA’s elite big men. He has looked good in his first several games this season, and must continue to improve. Paul George will be a major piece to Indiana’s puzzle this year, as he presents several match up problems for other teams. George is a 6-8 shooting guard, who can control the ball, run the floor, shoot, and make athletic plays in the open court. Look out NBA, here come the Pacers.
The Milwaukee Bucks have made some interesting moves during their offseason. New acquisitions of Samuel Dalembert, Marquis Daniels, Drew Gooden, and Monta Ellis will all help this Milwaukee team move forward, and continue to climb into playoff contention in the East. Monta Ellis will be the most intriguing acquisition playing next to the 3rd year sensation Brandon Jennings. How Bucks Head Cosh Scott Skiles will find room in his teams offense to allow both players to have the high volume of shots they both need to be efficient scorers will create a lot of drama, and be the cause of much debate. If the Bucks can figure out how to run their offense without sacrificing Jennings or Ellis’ scoring, the Bucks could do a lot of damage.
The Atlanta Hawks are in a bind. They are a team with a hard decision on the horizon. With their All-Star center Al Horford returning this year healthy and ready to play, the team has parted ways with Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson, two of the best players to have played in Atlanta since Dominique Wilkens. With Joe Smith still their, The Hawks have to make some tough choices ahead of them. Who will they keep? Will they try to rebuild around Horford or Smith? will they be able to afford to retain both players? Watch for this Atlanta drama to unfold as the season continues.
The Charlotte Bobcats are a team filled with uncertainty. Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, and Brendan Haywood should add depth and talent to a roster that is in desperate need of both, amongst several other areas that need attention. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be a fun player to watch develop. Kemba Walker has a lot to prove this season as well as Bismack Biyombo. Both had sub-par seasons last year, and will look to prove that they can both be valuable players in the NBA. The Bobcats will have an up-hill battle trying to find their place in the East Coast.
The Miami Heat are still the same team as last year, the NBA Defending Champion. Factor in major additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, the Heat look to be even better than they where just a year ago when they won the NBA Championship. Both Allen and Lewis add Depth behind the three point line which Mike Miller will be both happy and frustrated about. Miller will get better looks, and wont have to work as hard to get open with Lewis or Allen on the floor, but he Miller wont get the ball as much. With Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh; the Miami Heat look to go for two in a row.
The Orlando Magic have officially entered the rebuilding stages. The Team has looked to go to younger less expensive pieces, in an attempt to either attract another star player, or develop another young talent. Arron Affalo and Al Harrington hardly make up for the loss of Dwight Howard; but when Harrington returns from offseason knee surgery, this Magic team could have very similar resluts as the Denver Nuggets after the departure of their Melo-Dramatic Star. If the Magic hope to have any chance though, they must find renewed life and passion from Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu. If the Magic cant get it together, look for names like Harrington, Turkoglu, Nelson and Reddick to be in the mix amongst the whirl winds of trade rumors.
The Washington Wizards are in a state of despair with second year player John Wall out six to eight weeks with a stress injury to his right knee, and Nene still sidelined indefinitely. Rookie Bradley Beal looks like he may will be a good NBA player who can already contribute to a depleted Wizards roster. Emeka Okafor will take time, to find his way, but once he establishes himself and begins to get comfortable, he will be a great addition to this young team. The future may be uncertain for the Wizards, but when their team is healthy, they might have a chance at changing the structure of their division.
Eastern Conference Power Rankings
1. Miami Heat
2. New York Knicks
3. Chicago Bulls
4. Indiana Pacers
5. Philadelphia 76ers
6. Brooklyn Nets
7. Boston Celtics
8. Milwaukee Bucks
9. Atlanta Hawks
10. Clevland Cavaliers
11. Orlando Magic
12. Charlotte Bobcats
13. Toronto Raptors
14. Washington Wizards
15. Detroit Pistons
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