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.
18. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks announced that Dirk had surgery on his knee today, which will keep him out of action for about six weeks and probably lead to the Mavs missing the playoffs for the first time since 2000. They’ve had one hell of a run of success, but this team is unlikely to crack the top eight in the West with the big German sitting out the first month of the season..
Dirk’s absence will hurt them on the offensive end, and they’re almost certain to take a step back defensively now that Chris Kaman will take over the starting center role. Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi split the majority of the Mavericks’ minutes at center last season, and while nobody would confuse either of them with Tyson Chandler, they’re still significantly better defenders than Kaman. It will very interesting to see how Mark Cuban responds to missing the playoffs with this aging, declining roster.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves
Knuckle pushups, Kevin? Really? Even with Ricky Rubio expected to miss the first month-and-a-half of this season rehabbing his knee injury, I had the T-Wolves as a lock for the playoffs before Love apparently forgot that there’s only one Kevin in this league that knows how to do knuckle pushups without busting up his hand.
Unfortunately, the injuries to their star players have overshadowed the Timberwolves’ flashy signings of Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy this off-season, not to mention the emergence of Nikola Pekovic as an offensive force around the rim — he was the only starter in the league to grab more offensive than defensive rebounds. There is some real talent on this roster, but they need to get and stay healthy if Minnesota’s eight-year playoff drought is going to end.
16. New York Knicks
Not only do the Knicks have four of the six oldest players in the NBA (Kurt Thomas, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace) but their expected 13-man rotation will make them the oldest team in NBA history. Now, I get that experience is a good thing, but when four of your players are at least 38 years old, wear and tear has to be a concern. Then when you take into account the injury histories of some of their “younger” players like Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire, it begins to seem like this team is held together with duct tape and wishes.
Even if they get lucky with their health, I continue to have concerns about how the Knicks’ offense can function effectively with both Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire on the court. While their Offensive Rating put them at 17th in the league last season, they finished seventh in that category in 2010-11 with Raymond Felton running the point. Not coincidentally, they’ve brought Felton back to try to reclaim that glory.
While I’m not particularly bullish on this team, I feel like they have the biggest distance between their ceiling and floor of any NBA team this season. If they’re healthy and everything falls into place, I could see them finishing as high as third in the Eastern Conference. I also wouldn’t be shocked if they crashed right out of the playoff picture in a mess of sprained ankles and broken dreams. Either way, I’ll enjoy watching the more grizzled Knicks playing with their shorts pulled up around their chests.