Join me as I count down my predictions of the regular season finishes for the 2012-13 NBA season, at a rate of three teams per day. Tell me why I’m wrong in the comments.
24. Washington Wizards
The Wizards have overhauled their roster in an attempt to build around John Wall, but going into his third NBA season, it remains to be seen if Wall is a legitimate franchise player. His mid-range and perimeter shooting have been abominable thus far, and his defense has not lived up to the expectations created by his otherworldly athleticism — according to 82games.com, the Wizards gave up over 6 points more per 100 possessions when he was on the court compared to when he was on the bench. We’re going to have to wait a while to see if he’s going to make the necessary improvements in these areas because he’s expected to miss the first month of this season recovering from a knee injury.
Wall’s ceiling is not even close to the most questionable aspect of the Wizards going into this season. With a 118-238 record and a ..331 winning percentage spanning three different teams, head coach Randy Wittman has the worst winning percentage in NBA history among coaches with at least 350 games at the helm. The fact that he’s been empowered to try to turn Wall into an All-Star shows the lack of imagination prevalent in the management groups of too many teams.
23. Portland Trail Blazers
I’m not really sure what Blazers management saw in Terry Stotts and his 115-168 career pro record that led them to give him a third chance to prove that he can be a successful NBA coach, but here we are. Early reports indicate that Stotts plans to go young and athletic with this squad, with J.J. Hickson starting as an undersized center and rookie guard Damian Lillard likely to start. It’s a fan-friendly approach but it’s not likely to be a strategy that propels the Blazers into the playoffs.
The Blazers in their current iteration kind of remind me of my Raptors when they were led by Chris Bosh. Like Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge is a very good player, a fringe All-Star that any team would be happy to have. But if he’s your best player and there’s a significant gap between him and your second best player, you’re probably not going to finish above .500.
22. Milwaukee Bucks
Every season, people wonder if a backcourt of Monta Ellis and (fill in the blank) can work. The question used to focus on Ellis and Stephen Curry, and now it’s about Ellis and Brandon Jennings. The Bucks had a fairly impressive 12-9 record last season when Ellis and Jennings played together, but only one of those wins came against a team that finished with a winning record.
In trading Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson for Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown (the latter of whom is no longer a Buck), Milwaukee sacrificed defense for offensive firepower. They’ll be a more exciting team to watch, but I don’t expect them to make the playoffs unless Jennings can start performing at an All-Star level. Considering that he’s improved gradually every season and he’s still only 23 years old, it’s within the realm of possibility that he could elevate himself and the Bucks into the post-season.
Next in the countdown: 21-19