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