by Mack Williams
30 October 2012
The World Series is over, and the re-election…I mean the election…is next week – so that means it’s time for The SEVEN’s NBA Preview 2012-13, specifically featuring the playoff teams we will see come April. We’ll start with the Eastern Conference.
I. Could Be Winners
1) Miami Heat
Any championship team with, when healthy, arguably the two best players in the world is a threat to repeat. Still don’t love their bench…but with LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh, they don’t need much from them outside of basic contributions.
2) Boston Celtics
They aren’t returning as champs, but think of themselves as such, and know they were quite possibly a quarter away from being such. Even without the departed Ray Allen (to the hated Heat, no less), the C’s may be better than last season, and will be heard from this spring.
3) Indiana Pacers
They complained about having the fourth or fifth best record last season and not being featured on TV. They’ll make it onto national TV this year, and with a group of improving young players, may make some noise in the playoffs.
4) Chicago Bulls
The Bulls stand a great chance to make it out of the conference one year…and would stand to get a better seed were Derrick Rose available all season.
5) Brooklyn Nets
It would have been a Hard-Knock Life for Jay-Z’s bunch in their first year in Brooklyn had they not retooled and put a competitive product on the floor. Starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, and Gerald Wallace is the best Nets five since the Eastern Conference champs of a decade ago…but they may be a step behind the top seeds.
6) New York Knicks
If experience is what counts in the NBA, let’s move the Knicks up to the top. They have a lot of veteran talent, now quarterbacked by Jason Kidd – which may be the key, in that they will again need a point guard that can put the pieces together again once Amare returns to the lineup. The questions about whether he can co-exist with Carmelo Anthony will re-surface upon the first loss, and it will be incumbent upon Kidd to make it happen.
Fighting it out for the last two playoff spots will be the Philadelphia 76ers, the Toronto Raptors, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic. Should new center Andrew Bynum blossom away from Kobe and Gasol, the Sixers could be more of a force…but as of now, I see them making it in along with Toronto.
IV. Could Be Winners
1) San Antonio Spurs
Like Ol’ Man River, the Spurs just keep rolling along. And while several other Western powers deal with and acclimate themselves to their new rosters, the Spurs will get the top seed and begin to stake their claim for a fifth ring in the last fifteen years.
2) Los Angeles Lakers
On paper, the starting five of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard is one of the all-time greatest…or at least definitely would be were this two or three years ago. Still very formidable – and once they get it together, they may be the favorites to come out of the West.
3) Denver Nuggets
I continue to be intrigued by the Nuggets, an excellent team without a full-fledged superstar, but with a roster full of very good players. The continued improvement of Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee may be what could put them over the top.
4) Oklahoma City Thunder
For years I have said that in the near future the Larry O’Brien championship trophy was going to be making a stop in Oklahoma…but now, with the trade of James Harden to Houston, I think that time may be a little further off.
5) Los Angeles Clippers
The other team in the Staples Center has a bunch of young and talented players, but their playoff hopes may be determined in large part by the veteran play of the 36-year-old Lamar Odom and the 40-year-old Grant Hill.
6) Memphis Grizzlies
I’m not totally in love with their roster, but each year coach Lionel Hollins has them in the hunt, and they are generally the team that “no one wants to face.”
While the Rockets, Warriors, T-Wolves, and Mavericks compete for the final two spots, it should be interesting to see how Linsanity translates into success in Texas. I would be giving an edge to the Wolves and Mavs, but they each have key players (Rubio and Love in Minnesota, Nowitzki in Dallas) beginning the season on the injured list…so I’m going to go with the Rockets and Warriors.
VII. The Finals
I generally don’t make finals predictions before the season starts, and am not really going to do so now…but I will say that in what is to be commissioner David Stern’s last full year (as he is retiring in February of 2014), it would almost be fitting if the finals matchup were to be Boston vs. Lakers. And it could very well happen.