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.
12. Chicago Bulls
It seems as though there are a lot of NBA fans out there with short memories. These people want to cast the 2012-13 Chicago Bulls out of the playoffs because they probably won’t have Derrick Rose in their lineup for at least half the season. These same people must have forgotten that the Bulls went 18-9 without Rose last season.
With or without Rose, the Bulls remain a deep team with one of the best coaches in the game. Their bench is weaker this year — the loss of backup center and defensive stalwart Omer Asik to free agency will definitely hurt — but they still have plenty of firepower to keep them around .500 until Rose returns to blow our minds once again. Unfortunately, they’re very unlikely to finish with the top record in the Eastern Conference again this season, and Carlos Boozer will tell you that’s all that matters. (He’s totally getting traded, yo.)
11. Utah Jazz
You might think that having too much frontcourt talent is a nice problem to have, but it really is a major problem in Salt Lake City. Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Enes “Ladies Man” Kanter should all be starting in this league. Unless the Jazz are going to roll out a very unorthodox “four bigs” starting lineup, they have a tough personnel decision to make this season.
Then again, Jefferson and Millsap are both on expiring contracts so I suppose they could just wait it out and let Favors and Kanter marinate in bench sauce for one more season. If it was up to me (“Thankfully it isn’t,” says every Jazz fan), I’d shop Jefferson and try to land a starting-quality wing player in return so that Marvin Williams can return to his ideal role as a sixth man. A starting frontcourt of Favors and Millsap with Kanter coming off the bench improves the defense of their starting unit and ensures that Kanter gets enough playing time to impress the other team’s cheerleaders.
Fantasy pro tip: Don’t sleep on Gordon Hayward in the late rounds of your fantasy draft. He caught fire at the end of last season and should be good for at least 15 and 5 per game with decent shooting percentages.
10. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have done an admirable job of piecing together a highly competitive team in the absence of a Grade A Superstar. Unfortunately, that lack of superstar talent puts a ceiling on their, um… ceiling. So it’s like a double ceiling, if you will.
This year’s Indiana squad arguably has more depth than the 2011-12 edition, but I still see them barely missing out on homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. While it wasn’t the most high-profile signing of the off-season, they smartly inked Gerald Green to a team-friendly three-year, $10.5 million contract. Green emerged last season as more than just the best dunker in the NBA — he’s also learned to play basketball at a pretty good level.
Green’s very reasonable contract helps lessen the sting of having to match the Trail Blazers’ max offer for Roy Hibbert. He almost certainly isn’t worth a max deal, but what were the Pacers going to do — just let a top 10 center go? It will be very interesting to see how Hibbert’s health holds up. It’s well-established that he takes very good care of his massive frame, but the track record for players his size is notorious. Remember when we all thought that Dwight Howard was invincible?