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.

9. Los Angeles Clippers
Scoring will not be a problem for this team as long as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are both in the lineup. What limits the Clippers from really competing with the big boys in the West is their subpar frontcourt defense and the fact that Griffin actually regressed as a shooter last season. If he can develop a competent mid-range game, get his free throw shooting up to 70 percent (compared to 52.1 percent last season) and start using his athleticism on the defensive end, Griffin can join Paul as a true franchise player.

The Clippers’ bench would have looked pretty kick-ass five years ago, but it remains to be seen what Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill and Lamar Odom still have in the tank. Odom’s the real wild card here because he probably still has the natural ability to be a fantastic sixth man if he works his body into game shape and he has truly regained his focus for the game. Pardon my armchair psychology, but I believe Odom suffers from clinical depression and he needs to get his mind right before his body will follow. Writing as someone who has dealt with depression both myself and with loved ones, there is really no other logical explanation for what happened with him last season.

8. Brooklyn Nets
Right off the bat, I predict that Deron Williams is going to have a MONSTER 2012-13 season. I think he’s going to be on some “Forgot About Dre” shit where he’ll remind everyone that he should be in consideration as the best point guard in the NBA. I also think the Nets have a ridiculously nice starting lineup and they’re probably going to have one of the strongest home court advantages in the league.

Now for the bad parts. I don’t want to say their bench is weak, but it’s definitely weird. In particular, I have no idea what to expect from Andray Blatche and Josh Childress. They’re both young enough to bounce back to the level of performance from their glory days, but it’s ominous to count on those two on a team with aspirations beyond the second round of the playoffs. And then there’s Brook Lopez, who deserves his own paragraph because my opinion about him and the type of player he is really defines my worldview about what I respect in a basketball team.

You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to know that the ability to score 20 points per game in the NBA is a rare skill and players who can do that will always get paid. But is a center who can score at that rate really more valuable than a comparable scorer at any other position? Having endured six infuriating seasons of the Andrea Bargnani Experience as a Raptors fan, I’ve developed a religious belief that rebounding and defense are far more critical skills for a center in comparison to scoring ability. Brook Lopez is a below-average rebounder and defender, and if that doesn’t change, I think the Nets have almost no chance of playing in the Eastern Conference Finals this season. Regardless, it’s pretty cool for the Nets to be this relevant again.

7. Atlanta Hawks
I actually like this team a lot more than I did when Joe Johnson was on it. Al Horford and Josh Smith are a fantastic frontcourt, they’ve got decent depth and a bunch of great shooters like Anthony Morrow, Kyle Korver and Lou Williams. Plus, Smith is in a contract year so if he doesn’t make the All-Star team this season, he probably never will.

The Hawks were 22nd in Pace Factor (possessions per 48 minutes) last season, but if they want to maximize the success of their current, athletic, itchy-trigger-finger roster, they should aim to get that stat into the top 10. Coach Larry Drew has promised a much faster pace for this team, but doesn’t it seem like most coaches say that before every season? When’s the last time an NBA coach said, “Play at a faster pace? Nah, man. We’re gonna slow it way down. I’m calling it ‘the molasses offense’. We’re gonna have our point guard roll it up the court every possession like Chris Paul on Xanax.”

Previously in the countdown: 30-28 | 27-25 | 24-22 | 21-19 | 18-16 | 15-13 | 12-10

Comments (15)

  1. hawks are gonna be fun to watch this year. points in bunches. no idea how the defense is gonna be tho.

  2. andray blatche had a glory day? hah!

  3. Hawks seventh? There’s a difference between a bold statement and flat out nonsense. They certainly have playoff talent, but there’s no way they get home court adv in the first round.

  4. I did not know that jay-z is still selling rocks. But that must be the case, there is no other explanation for that nut hugging with those nets.

    A “ridicously nice starting lineup”??? Really???
    Yes they have a great backcourt in D-Will and JJ. But then a washed up crash, BLopez coming off a big injury while not being able to grab a rebound to save his life. And then the pf position. Who is it again? Teletovic, who hasn’t played a single nba game? Humphries who you know is just Humphries? Or even Reggie Evans? Now that is not that is not a ridicously nice starting line up.

  5. I like the Hawks, but I think this is probably 1-2 spots too high for them. And the Clips are too low, I would say put em in at 7. Blake should be improved, Chris Paul will be Chris Paul, you’ve got at least two reliable bench players in Bledsoe and Barnes, and I’m guessing at least one or two of the old-timey vets can come through (maybe Hill and Billups, or Crawford) to get enough together to piece a decent rotation.

    Of course, the bigs behind Blake ARE pretty miserable (Jordan doesn’t really look like he’s gonna pan out, Odom is apparently way out of shape, and Turiaf is really an “energy guy”) and it’s unlikely that Del Negro will be able to figure out a rotation (he never has before), and maybe not having so many vets who will want minutes either. But I still think that taking everything into account, like the late-game Chris Paul factor for example, that they’ll end up a better team than the Hawks.

  6. “Rocket surgeon”? Haha

  7. hmmm, Nets & Hawks above Sixers…..don’t think so :-)

  8. Hawks will not finish 7th, I don’t think your too far off though, they play in a division with Miami but after them its Orlando,Charlotte and Washington. I think they can finish in the top 5 in the east. I’d okace them anywhere from 8-10 to be picky.


  10. I’m sorry but the more I look at this the more it seems like a completely misguided and biased list. I understand some putting the Nets over the Knicks but to have them 8 spots apart is completely ridiculous.

  11. Can a sportswriter turn the ball over? I think someone just dribbled the ball off their own foot.

  12. why the hawks? how can you put them in front of the bulls, pacers, clippers and nets. If you just look at the clipper’s line up it’s just ridiculous

  13. Why in the world are the Hawks ranked 7th overall? They’ll be vying for 8th seed in the East at best. Miami, Boston, Indy, Brooklyn, NY, and as long as both team rosters stay healthy, Chicago, Philly?

    & Lou Williams is one of the streakiest guards in the league, and defensively, how’s he really going to sustain playing at SG? Anthony Morrow has never been consistent.

    Josh Smith & Horford have never shown they can be consistent night in and night out having the offense run entirely through them. Josh Smith creating his own shots and Horford going to have to work for every shot he gets is not going to be fun to watch. Plus the bench is a mess.

    I’m baffled. Just not seeing how whoever made this decision could come up with this…

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