Archive for the ‘2012-13 NBA Previews’ Category

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.

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

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.

21. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons were 21-21 over the final 42 games of last season, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight figure to improve with another season of NBA experience, and rookie center Andre Drummond appears to be more NBA-ready than previously expected. Knight could be the key catalyst for the Pistons possibly knocking on the door to the playoffs, since they still appear to lack offensive firepower unless he can improve as a playmaker.

Monroe showed signs of reaching All-Star level last season, but he’ll probably play a significant number of minutes at power forward next to Drummond and Slava Kravtsov so there could be an adjustment period. He frequently got torched on the defensive end at center so it could actually be a net positive for the Pistons to play him next to a superior help defender at the five. As for how minutes will be distributed at the Pistons’ wing positions among their collection of misfit guards and forwards, your guess is as good as mine.

20. Golden State Warriors
As far as “nothing to lose” gambles go, the Warriors’ trade of Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson was a very good one. Jackson was immediately flipped to the Spurs for Richard Jefferson, T.J. Ford and a draft pick, but Bogut will anchor a team defense that figures to be not completely atrocious for the first time since the mid-2000s. To get a sense of Bogut’s potential impact on that end of the floor, consider that the Milwaukee Bucks were top-five in Defensive Rating in 2009-10 and 2010-11 when he played at least 60 games each season. He played just 12 games for them last season and the Bucks’ team defense fell to 16th in the league.

Of course, Bogut will need to be on the court to make that impact, and that’s become an increasingly dodgy prospect in recent years. He fractured his ankle in January and it’s still giving him enough trouble that he’s questionable to be ready for the Warriors’ season opener. Speaking of which, that’s a recurring problem for point guard Stephen Curry, who missed 40 games last season with his own ankle injury. If most of the Warriors top players can spend more time on the hardwood instead of the trainer’s table, there’s no question they have the talent to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

19. Toronto Raptors
With the arrivals of Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas, the Raptors are the beneficiaries of significant upgrades at point guard and center. Valanciunas is a particular source of excitement for Raptors fans since he shows potential of developing into their first star center since… ever, I guess. He’s probably not a threat for Rookie of the Year honors, but fans and broadcasters alike will be forced to learn how to pronounce his name (“Val-en-chew-nus”) with the impact he’ll have on both ends of the court.

Now entering his seventh NBA season, power forward Andrea Bargnani remains a frustrating enigma. He missed 35 games last season to a weirdly recurring calf injury, but he showed flashes of finally putting it all together early in the season. Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo appears to have structured this lineup to surround him with strong defenders and rebounders so that Bargnani can focus on his “Dirk-Lite” scoring ability. And if anyone can get the most out of this roster, second-year Raptors coach Dwane Casey is that man. He took an atrocious defensive team and brought them up to league average in his first year at the helm, and now we’ll see if he has the firepower to match that level of success offensively.

Previously in the countdown: 30-28 | 27-25 | 24-22

Goodbye, [BLANK] Jones; Hello, NBA!

On today’s first installment of The Jones’ 2012-13 NBA preview podcast, the guys begin tackling 101 questions pertaining to the upcoming season. Who will win the “Battle of the Boroughs” — Knicks or Nets? Which lottery teams have the best shot at cracking the playoffs? Who will be the first player fined for flopping? Will should the Thunder do with James Harden? And which fan base is going to hate their new player addition the most?

All that, plus marathons, cricket, weird players, new unis, alley-oops, and many more NBA questions.

*********

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.

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.

Previously in the countdown: 30-28 | 27-25

Next in the countdown: 21-19

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.

27. Phoenix Suns
In the first season of the post-Nash era, Suns GM Lon Babby is wisely stockpiling draft picks and trying to create cap flexibility so that they can return to being an annual contender, as they were from the mid- to late-2000s. This season should be a difficult one in Phoenix as Goran Dragic is a significant dropoff from Nash, no matter what you think of Dragic’s skills, and there’s little reason to believe the Suns won’t have a team defense in the bottom third of the league once again.

Free agent signee Michael Beasley figures to take over the role of alpha scorer on this team, claiming, “This is the first time I’ve really been encouraged to shoot even more than I already do, and we all know that I shoot a lot.” Yeah, we sure do, Beas. This will not turn out well.

26. Cleveland Cavaliers
The 2012-13 edition of the Cavaliers have the look of a team who could get off to a brutal start to the season. Kyrie Irving has been shooting poorly in preseason as he recovers from a broken hand, rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters has struggled so far, and eight of the players on their roster have no more than one season of NBA experience. Regardless, Irving is an All-Star talent and he’ll likely remind us of that fact by the end of the season.

Anderson Varejao’s return after missing 41 games with a wrist injury last season should bolster the Cavs’ interior defence, assuming the league’s new anti-flopping rule doesn’t significantly reduce his effectiveness. Depending on how the first half of this season goes, Varejao and the $17.3 million remaining on the final two years of his contract could go on the trading block as the Cavs are following a similar strategy to what the Suns are trying to do — banking future picks and clearing cap space for future potential acquisitions.

25. Sacramento Kings
There is no better example than the Sacramento Kings of how misleading traditional counting stats can be. We see a team with three players who each averaged over 16 points per game last season (Marcus Thornton, DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans), that was sixth in the NBA in points per game, and that plays a fast-paced, run-and-gun style — and some of us might think that they could turn into the new “Seven Seconds or Less” success story. Aside from the fact that current-day versions of Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion in their primes are not walking through that door, there are other problems in Sactown.

Cousins seems to be a virtual lock to average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game this season, but those will be empty numbers if he can’t shoot closer to 50 percent from the field and if he doesn’t dedicate himself to becoming at least a decent defender. The Kings finished 29th in points allowed per 100 possessions last season, and Cousins will need to become more of a presence in the post if they’re going to significantly improve in that category. Meanwhile, Evans needs to shake his reputation as a shooting guard who can’t shoot — he made just 27.7 percent of his shot attempts from beyond five feet from the rim last season.

Previously in the countdown: 30-28

Next in the countdown: 24-22

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.

30. Orlando Magic
If you’re a Magic fan, you should not be upset by my forecast that your team will finish with the worst record in the NBA next season. When your best player is Arron Afflalo and your second-best player is a toss-up between Al Harrington and Gustavo Ayon, you have to know you’re going to be terrible. So why not go completely in the tank and root for your team to put itself in the best possible position to win the 2013 draft lottery?

Typically, a team this bad is populated with young players still trying to find their way in the pros, but the Magic roster consists mostly of veterans who would be useful pieces on a good team if they were required to play roughly half as many minutes as they’ll be expected to play this season. As for Hedo Turkoglu, this is the last fully guaranteed year on his contract so I expect he’ll head back to Turkey after this season to play out his remaining basketball days smoking Marlboro Reds as a player/coach for Anadolu Efes S.K.

29. Charlotte Bobcats
Why do I think the Bobcats will finish ahead of the Magic in the standings? Because it’s a potential contract year for Ben Gordon (next season is a player option), that’s why. It’s going to be fun to try to figure out which GM is going to witness Gordon scoring 18 points per game off the bench this season and subsequently talk himself into signing Gordon to a four-year, $40 million deal.

I expect Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to be a boxscore slut and I assume Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo will make noticeable improvements in their sophomore seasons. Underrated Bobcats storyline: Will DeSagana Diop’s 12th NBA season be his last? With the expiration of his contract, he will have earned $47 million while averaging around two points per game over his career. Size matters, y’all.

28. Houston Rockets
After years of stagnation, Rockets GM Daryl Morey has finally put this team in a position to “bottom out” this season and try to land a future superstar in the draft. That certainly seems to be where this team is headed after shedding four of its five best 2011-12 players in Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic and Samuel Dalembert. After finishing 42-40, 43-39 and 34-32 over the last three seasons, the Rockets need to break out of their cycle of mediocrity and start trying to build a real contender.

It remains to be seen how the Jeremy Lin signing will turn out, but I’m convinced that Morey’s signing of Omer Asik will pay huge dividends for this team in the future. He’s one of the best defensive and rebounding centers in the league, and if he can raise his offensive game to something approaching decent, the Rockets will be paying just over $8 million per season for a top 10 center. I expect his emergence to be a rare highlight for this team as they settle into the Western Conference basement.

Next in the countdown: 27-25