Archive for the ‘2012-13 NBA Previews’ Category

Goodbye, [BLANK] Jones; Hello, NBA!

On part three of TBJ’s 2012-13 NBA preview podcast — CLICK FOR PART 1 and PART 2 — the guys continue to answer 101 questions about the upcoming season. Which ’11-12 playoff teams will end up in the lottery? Is Andrew Bynum a franchise player? Can the Nuggets live up to their high expectations? Who will take more shots — ‘Melo or Kobe? And what can we expect from Batum, Beaubois, and Valanciunas this season?

All that, plus tight shorts, white Wolves, fantasy basketball, ‘Sheed, Elvis, and much, much more.

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Subscribe to The Basketball Jones show on iTunes | Download the .mp3 directly

The season is fast-approaching and most previews will mention Kobe Bryant, Derrick Favors and Kevin Durant as being the pinnacle of NBA players that will help shape their respective teams’ destinies. OK, strike that. Most won’t mention Favors, but I certainly will.

I’ll hit up Western Conference players in this post that will be just as vital as the stars for how well or bad their team fares. Remember, the term “success” here is all relative. *cough*Kings*cough*.

Dallas Mavericks: Darren Collison

Jason Kidd is gone. Deron Williams never came. So, it’ll be up to Collison to prove that the point guard position for the Mavs is still a strong element in their game. It wasn’t long ago that Collison averaged 18.8 points and 9.1 dimes in 37 games as a starter during the 2009-10 season. If he can come close to those numbers, Mark Cuban and other Mavs fans will be ecstatic. A good pick-and-roll player, Collison will have to wait a bit before he does his thing with Dirk Nowitzki, but when it goes down, it’s going to be nice.

Denver Nuggets: Kenneth Faried

Can the Manimal do it again and show why he’s so good? After averaging 11.0 points and 8.2 boards in only 25 minutes per contest in 39 games as a starter last season, Faried will once again start at the four, but with a little more experience and expectations behind him. If given true starter minutes, which he should get with Anthony Randolph backing him up, Faried can easily beast out a double-double and do well defensively on hustle alone. JaVale McGee comes in a close second here.

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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

I honestly can’t remember a year as loaded for League Pass teams as this one. The teams towards the top should be fun or whatever, but who cares about them. It’s the one towards the bottom that have me excited. My No. 30, lowest-ranked League Pass team still features three recent, intriguing lottery picks, one of the league’s most oddly exciting back-up point guards, a hilarious number of small forwards and a guy with alopecia. And that’s the least interesting team to watch in the NBA this year. Holy crap, there might not be five games total in an average week that you can afford to skip as a basketball fan this season!

Assuming you can’t maintain that kind of base-level schedule, however, some prioritizing might be in order. In which case, as we did last year, we encourage you to watch more of the League Pass teams towards the top of this list than the bottom. Yo, Slick, blow.

30. Detroit Pistons (Last Year: #27)

Yeah, I was talking about the Pistons up there. You could probably argue that all that stuff — mostly the lottery trio of Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond –means they should be a couple slots higher, but eh. It’s still the Pistons, a team that hasn’t been relevant in five seasons and wasn’t all that much fun even when they were good. If they prove that last season’s second-half surge was legit, then they can easily climb higher, but this team has been too lousy for too long to just be “entertainingly young” anymore.

29. Chicago Bulls (Last Year: #11)

Kept out of the bottom spot mostly out of respect, but there’s nothing worse on League Pass than a once-elite team downgraded to merely good status, as the Bulls appear to have been this year. If Derrick Rose was still around for the whole season, he’s exciting enough to bump them up a handful of spots on his own. But he’s out for most of the year, and as fun as Nate Robinson is to have around, he’s not quite the same thing. Bulls fans themselves don’t even seem too excited about watching this team this year, so why should we be? (Ed. note: Accurate.)

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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?

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

Goodbye, [BLANK] Jones; Hello, NBA!

On today’s part two of TBJ’s 2012-13 NBA preview podcast — CLICK HERE FOR PART 1 — the guys continue to answer 101 questions about the upcoming season. Which player will take the biggest step forward this season? Will the Hawks be better without Joe Johnson? Is John Wall a franchise player? Can “Linsanity” “lift off” in Houston? Is Brandon Roy an All-Star? And who would you rather be — Corey Brewer or Ronnie Brewer?

All that, plus Ryan Fitzpatrick, Beyoncé facts, Denver’s air, haircuts, Daryl Morey stats, and more.

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Subscribe to The Basketball Jones show on iTunes | Download the .mp3 directly

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.

15. New Orleans Hornets
No, I didn’t forget about the Hornets. Yes, I’m predicting that they’ll go from last place in the Western Conference last season to the eighth seed this season. No, I don’t think Anthony Davis is going to carry them to the playoffs single-handedly. Yes, I’m aware that Al-Farouq Aminu might be the worst starting small forward in the league. Any more questions?

The reason I’m so bullish on the 2012-13 Hornets is that the three best players on this roster (Davis, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson) played a combined nine games for last year’s squad — and I believe that two of them merit consideration among the top 25 players in the league. Obviously, I’m predicting that Davis will be a dominant defensive force right out of the gate for the Hornets, and his frontcourt pairing with Robin Lopez — who is a much better defender than his brother — should help elevate the Hornets’ team defense into the top 10 this season. But where the Hornets really needed help last season was on offense, as indicated by their 28th-ranked Offensive Rating.

That’s where Gordon and Anderson come in. Anderson’s three-point shooting prowess is well-known by fantasy hoopsters like myself who scooped him up with a mid-round pick last year — he led the NBA in three-pointers made while sinking over 39 percent of those shots. As for Gordon, it remains to be seen whether his recovery from knee surgery and his conditioning will enable him to be ready to play when the regular season commences, but his value to the team was shown last season by the fact that the Hornets had a 6-3 record in his nine games.

14. Philadelphia 76ers
If there’s a city that could embrace a gifted athlete who happens to be an unmitigated asshole, it’s The City of Brotherly Love. When he’s not nursing an injury, cheap-shotting an opponent half his size or parking his Bimmer in a handicapped spot, Andrew Bynum is a top-two center who could potentially average 24 and 12 as the main option on an NBA team.

As with Eric Gordon, the health of Bynum’s knees and his conditioning are question marks going into this season. What shouldn’t be in question is his status as a legitimate franchise player. The loss of Andre Iguodala will hurt the Sixers on the defensive end, where they’re unlikely to match their third-ranked Defensive Rating from last season. Offensively, they should receive a huge boost from Bynum’s offensive rebounding and his ability to score a lot of points at a high level of efficiency. If he can be on the court for most of Philly’s games this season, handle the spotlight of being the team’s main star, and stop being such a flake all the time, Bynum could be a dominant force in the Eastern Conference.

Elsewhere on the roster, Jrue Holiday appears poised for a breakout year, Evan Turner’s solid all-around game is gradually improving, Thaddeus Young is a dark horse for sixth man of the year candidate, Jason Richardson is still a valuable long range weapon and Nick Young is, well… he’s Nick Young. (I’m not a fan.) Ultimately, this team will go as far as Bynum carries it.

13. Memphis Grizzlies
As I write this Grizzlies preview, I’m trying not to feel like a gigantic failure due to the fact that the team’s new majority owner, Robert Pera, is younger than I am. Pera reached an agreement with local investors in August that should keep the team in Memphis for at least another 15 years, which is nice. On the court, the Grizzlies boast both talent and depth in their frontcourt, especially if Darrell Arthur makes a successful return from a stress fracture in his leg by November. Zach Randolph isn’t a guaranteed 20 and 10 anymore, but he and Marc Gasol still make up one of the most potent frontcourt duos in the league.

The Grizzlies succeed primarily on their aggressive, swarming style of defense that frustrates ballhandlers and leads to a bunch of turnovers. Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Rudy Gay each averaged at least 1.5 steals per game last season as the Grizzlies joined the Heat as the only teams with three such players. Their weakness could be their outside shooting, since they finished 26th in three-point percentage last season and they lost their second-best three-point shooter when O.J. Mayo signed with the Mavericks. Still, they remain a competitive team that seems to be able to kick it up a notch in the playoffs.

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