2012-13 NBA season preview
With two weeks to go until the start of the 2012-13 NBA season, we take a look at the division leader and wildcard team from each of the six divisions.
Alfred’s Pick: New York Knicks
The Knicks have lost their starting guards from last season with Jeremy Lin moving to Houston and Landry Fields to Toronto. Despite this, they still appear a classy unit in the division with Boston on the way down and Philadelphia’s status questionable.
The Knicks have bought a 10 time All-Star point guard Jason Kidd and forward Marcus Camby. Kidd is expected to fill the void left by Lin while Camby adds a defensive presence to the team already with the reigning defensive player of the year, Tyson Chandler.
The team lacks speed but will make up for it as one of the best defensive teams in the league. Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chandler and Kidd are all expected starters.
The Wildcard: Brooklyn Nets
Relocating from New Jersey will invigorate this team who have been disappointing for the majority of the past decade.
The acquisition of Joe Johnson from Atlanta will swing this team around, with teams no longer able to double team Deron Williams who has been a shining light for the struggling franchise.
The team showed tremendous faith in center Brook Lopez by extending his contract which ultimately sacrificed any chance of signing Dwight Howard. The Nets are set for a significant improvement on their 22-44 season with Lopez looking in career best form during the preseason.
Alfred’s Pick: Indiana Pacers
Following the Pacers surprise run in last season’s playoffs, they can finish ahead of the Chicago Bulls who were exposed following an injury to Derrick Rose last season.
Roy Hibbert is developing into one of the best centres in the league and was integral to the team’s playoff run. David West, Danny Granger and Paul George all finished the previous season in excellent form and the young group of players are playing attractive team basketball.
They don’t boast any superstar names but as long as the off field departures of critical back office staff (Larry Bird) does not distract the team, they could surprise Chicago to steal the division.
The Wildcard: Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks made a huge play to contend this season during last season’s trade window by acquiring Monta Ellis from Golden State in exchange for Australian centre Andrew Bogut who had been riddled with injury after being taken first overall in 2005.
The addition of Ellis adds offensive flair to a team with an abundance of it in point guard Brendan Jennings. The two guards struggled to cohesively operate in the backcourt at the end of last season but have found a greater connection during the preseason with forward Ersan Ilyasova the beneficiary of the duo’s supply.
The two guards remain average for the holding abilities and will rely on others to chip in defensively which is the team’s biggest weakness. First round pick out of North Carolina, John Henson was one of the best rebound players in College last year and will get decent playing time.
Alfred’s Pick: Miami Heat
They just win.
The reigning world champions have avoided salary restrictions which often hit following successful seasons but have been able to maintain all their stars for another season.
Surprising many, they have even signed 10 time All-Star guard Ray Allan to provide relief off the bench. The addition of Rashard Lewis adds additional relief for Chris Bosh but it is very difficult to find a weakness in the Heat team.
The Wildcard: Atlanta Hawks
Outside of Miami, this is the weakest division in the league which enabled the Hawks to make the playoffs last season. The remaining three teams: Orlando, Washington and Charlotte are all in rebuilding phases so Atlanta will get a few easy wins.
The loss of Joe Johnson will hurt the team but they let him go knowing they had Jeff Teague ready to go after his breakout year last season.
Alfred’s Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder
OKC will be looking to revenge their disappointing finals series loss last season and will be returning with a near identical line up which has hereto proved successful.
To go one step further than last season’s finals defeat, guard Russell Westbrook needs to find greater shooting consistency which has infuriated Thunder fans at times.
It’s difficult to see obvious problems in the Thunder’s roster but their lack of depth on the bench requires Westbrook and Kevin Durant to play more than the coaching staff would like. If no bench players step up, an 82 game season might detract from the star duo’s playoff performances.
The Wildcard: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves looked the goods last season with point guard Ricky Rubio playing well beyond his rookie status. After Rubio tore his ACL midseason, the Wolves did not look like the same team relying on Kevin Love to carry the team.
The acquisition of Brandon Roy from Portland will provide a double act alongside Rubio and should create some backcourt headaches for oppositions. Roy, a dominant point scorer in his first four seasons in Portland, struggled last season after his knees were diagnosed as a train wreck, but he’s impressed enough during the preseason to suggest he may be the team’s starting shooting guard.
Centre Nikola Pekovic has drastically improved since switching from the power forward position and will provide rebound relief for Kevin Love who can now concentrate on his offensive game more to make the Timberwolves the most improved team in the league.
Alfred’s Pick: Los Angeles Lakers
Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. That’s a dangerous looking starting five which boast 33 All-Star appearances between them.
On paper, there is no weakness in this team but it’s now down to whether or not they can function as a successful team. Nash and Howard will continue doing what they do best by spreading assists and gobbling rebounds but Bryant stands to lose the most from these acquisitions.
Throughout his career, Bryant has been a ball handler with a drive first, pass second mentality. With Nash in the team, Bryant will either love the lack of attention or get frustrated by his lack of dominance in the team. Either way, they still win the division.
Get used to hearing, “Howard gets the rebound. Nash brings the ball forward. Nash lays it off to Bryant. Bryant drives, and it’s in!”
The Wildcard: Los Angeles Clippers
We all love the highlight reels of Chris Paul to Blake Griffin and they’re set to continue this season.
The Clippers have gone down the path of acquiring experienced players capable of making an immediate impact. The additions of forwards Grant Hill and Lamar Odom provide critical assistance to Griffin in the front court. Hill and Odom are nearing the end of their careers so the front office is confident the Clippers will contend for the championship this season.
Throughout the preseason, Griffin has looked a more mature player and the greater integration of DeAndre Jordan into the team’s offensive game should free Griffin up for even more base run runs.
Alfred’s Pick: San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs remain one of the best organisations across professional sport and they should be championship contenders again.
Tony Parker was pushing his case for league MVP last season by making up for the team’s lack of scoring options up front. Tim Duncan is still playing good basketball, albeit slower than ever before and he’ll need big improvements from forward Boris Diaw and centre DeJuan Blair.
Diaw had his first preseason with the Spurs since arriving from Charlotte and Blair posted excellent numbers playing 20 minutes per game as a starter to suggest his time will be extended in his fourth professional season.
The Wildcard: Houston Rockets
The Rockets were the biggest spenders over the off season with acquisitions of Jeremy Lin from New York and Omer Asik from Chicago.
Lin became one of the best point guards in the league overnight by single-handedly carrying the Knicks in the absence of Carmelo Anthony. When Anthony returned, the Knicks struggled due to the nature of Anthony’s play. Lin will not have the same problem in Houston and will thrive with the responsibility of leading the team’s offence as long as he overcomes his turnover problems.
With three first round picks from the most recent draft, there is a unique mix of fresh talent and new talent so this has all the qualities of a ‘boom-or-bust’ team. If things work out, the Rockets are playoff bound.
The Roar is giving you the chance to win 1 of 19 prize packs to Australian Open 2014! Each lucky winner will receive four evening tickets to Rod Laver Arena, plus access to 3 hours in the Heineken VIP Bar. Enter here.
The Roar needs an editor! Tristan is off to tackle a new role with us over on Techly.com.au, which means we're looking for someone to fill his boots. Love sport, know digital publishing (yes, that does mean being a bit of computer guru) and keen to work with the team in Newcastle? If you're a proven superstar, or someone on the rise with a record to back it up, we want to hear from you. Apply now!
We're also looking for freelance writers who know tech, gadgets, games and trends inside and out to join us on this new adventure. Get in touch if you've got the goods.