2012/13 NBA PREVIEW
EASTERN FINALS:
Miami Heat over Brooklyn Nets
WESTERN FINALS:
Los Angeles Lakers over Oklahoma City Thunder
NBA FINALS:
Miami Heat over Los Angeles Lakers
6. Atlanta Hawks 45-37
With the trade of Joe Johnson, the Hawks have restructured their team around Josh Smith and Al Horford. If Jeff Teague is able to duplicate the numbers from last season, the Hawks could be a dangerous team in the East. While the addition of Anthony Morrow, Devin Harris and Lou Williams the Hawks are deep in the back court and should have a fast team that could bring lots of excitement, but the will need front court help to make a long playoff run.
14. Charlotte Bobcats 24-58
After a historically bad season, the Bobcats have no place to go but up. There are many changes in Charlotte, as the Bobcats have new colors, uniforms and new coach. All they need is Michael Jordan to get some patience and stop interfering. The Bobcats need a few years to build, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be a start as the Bobcats will triple last year's embarrassing win total of seven.
11. Cleveland Cavaliers 35-47
Kyrie Irving had a terrific rookie season last year, and helped the Cavaliers begin the post LeBron healing. In year two I expect Irving to be even better as he has the tools to be one of the best Point Guards in the NBA for years to come. The big question is who will step up and become the Cavs second option, until they find one they will be out of the playoff picture no matter how good Kyrie Irving is.
10. Detroit Pistons 37-45
Craig Monroe had a great season last year, becoming one of the best Centers in the NBA. If Monroe is able to continue to improve the Pistons can begin to become a player in the playoff chase. Unfortunately the rest of the pieces around the tem are questions, with Tayshaun Prince aging and the over the hill Corey Maggette getting in the way more than he helps.
7. Philadelphia 76ers 44-38
Andrew Bynum, who was picked up in the three team trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers has a lot to prove as he moves from the shadow of Kobe Bryant. He can do so by becoming the best Center in the East and leading the 76ers to the playoffs, but if Bynum fails to do so and continues to have injury troubles his stock will fall fast as will the fortunes of the 76ers, who will need Bynum to remain at All-Star level to make the playoffs.
13. Washington Wizards 31-51
At some point, John Wall will need to show why he was chosen with the number on pick in 2010. Thus far he has failed to live up to expectations as the Wizards have struggled in his first two seasons. Some have even wondered if John Wall has the maturity to be a team leader. Unfortunately the pieces around him are not much better as they as Emek Okafor another one time number one will need to help Wall take the step he himself failed to take.
1. Miami Heat 61-21
The Miami Heat finally captured the elusive ring for LeBron James. Though more championships will be expected, do not underestimate how taking this monkey off his back could pave the way for dynasty in South Beach. The Heat by far are the best team in the East, and will be there in June. The only question is how many games will the Heat win. If motivated they can win near 70, but they will take a some days off and finish in the neighborhood of 60 wins.
9. Toronto Raptors 40-42
Here is a team that is bound to surprise the league. Rookie Jonas Valanciuns and Andrea Bargnani give the Raptors a unique European style that could begin to frustrate teams. Bargnani appears just about ready for a breakout season, as they have made significant improvements in the off-season. Look for DeMar DeRozen to also have a breakout season, while Landry Fields becomes one of the league's best sixth men.
8. Milwaukee Bucks 43-39
This is an important season for the Bucks as they will need to move forward or get broken up as new ownership takes over in Milwaukee. The Bucks have the talent to reach the playoffs led by their backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, while the addition of Samuel Dalembert gives them some strength in the middle. While not a team that will make a deep playoff run, just getting to the postseason should be enough to encourage management to stay the course.
4. Boston Celtics 49-33
After a slow start last season had the Boston Celtics appeared to be heading to the nursing home. However, by the playoffs they had become rejuvenated and again a player in the East as they battled the Heat to seven games in the Conference Finals. The loss of Ray Allen now makes this even more Rajon Rondo's team, as Jason Terry is likely to be an upgrade over the aging Allen. The Celtics should battle the Nets for the Atlantic and again be a tough out in the playoffs.
3. Brooklyn Nets 51-31
After spending the last several years as a lame duck in New Jersey, the Nets finally have arrived in Brooklyn just in time for a breakout season. After missing most of last season, Center Brook Lopez is healthy and Deron Williams is secured to a long term contract. The Nets now have a solid starting five with the addition of Joe Johnson, and Gerald Wallace on board for a full season. They have great new uniforms and an energy and excitement that has not surrounded them in years.
3. Los Angeles Lakers 57-25
For the Lakers the regular season is just an 82 game preparation for the playoffs. The must stay healthy and they must get Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to mesh with Kobe Bryant and to a lesser extent Pau Gasol. Like the Heat if the Lakers went full gusto, they could win in the upper 60's but no chance they will do that. Instead they will coast at times, have their struggles but come the postseason look out because the Lakers will be the team to beat.
2. San Antonio Spurs 60-22
One thing you can count on year after year is the San Antonio Spurs, as they still manage to be among the best teams during the regular season despite their age. The Spurs success is due largely to Coach Gregg Popovich who is expert at rotating their players in and out. The problem for the Spurs come once the playoffs start and play becomes more physical and those rotations that worked over 82 games must be shortened.
10. Phoenix Suns 38-44
It's a new beginning in Phoenix, as the Steve Nash era is over. However, the Suns did a good job retooling in the off-season as they have begun to build a new team around players like Gorn Dragic who returns after spending last season in Houston with Luis Scola who also joins the Suns. Though not a playoff team, the Suns should be somewhat competitive as they begin to focus on the future.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder 63-19
The sudden and surprising trade of James Harden has things looking differently in OKC, as last year's sixth man was sent to Houston after not signing a contract extension. The player they got in return is the often enigmatic Kevin Martin. Serge Ibaka and Tabo Sefolosha are good third and fourth options behind the stars of the team Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who will be the key to the Thunder success as the better Durant and Westbrook play the better the Thunder will be.
15. Sacramento Kings 17-65
In their first decade in Sacramento, the Kings had one of the most loyal fan bases a fan base that was nearly rewarded with a trip to the Finals in 2002, but the NBA referees chose to fix the game for the Lakers and since the once rocking Arco Arena has become a wasteland. This year it will be a season long funeral as the Kings will be elsewhere after the Maloofs jumped out of a deal that would have given them a new arena, the only question is where will the end up as the depressing Kings top 60 losses.
5. Memphis Grizzlies 49-33
Like the Nuggets, the Grizzlies are a next level team, full of strong players who if they all get hot at the right time, could make them dangerous for one of the upper level teams. Zach Randolph is their best player and a certified star, while Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Rudy Gay are solid players that when they are at the top of the game make the Griz a dangerous team that could score a big upset in the playoffs.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves 42-40
The mission for the Timberwolves, is to make it through December and be not too far out of the playoffs. By that time they should get Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio back in the lineup. When those two players are healthy the T-Wolves are one of the most thrilling teams in the league. Additionally if Brandon Roy can comeback after missing last season with a knee condition the Wolves can really be something special.

 
OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS
13. Houston Rockets 32-50
The Rockets shocked everyone with the contract they gave Jeremy Lin. Lin is a very exciting player and is a solid point guard, but he can't do anything on his own, and looking at the Rockets roster it's almost like they expect him to be Michael Jordan. They acquisition of James Harden is potential combust able as Harden desires a contract and likely won't exhibit the patience that allowed him to be the sixth man in OKC last season, which could lead to problems in Houston.
14. Portland Trailblazers 26-56
Just a few years ago the Trailblazers appeared to be ready to join the Western Conference elite. However, injuries have destroyed them and forced them to start from scratch. No player demonstrates the Blazers failures like Greg Oden who was cut at the end of last season, after missing a second straight season with bad knees. This will be a season of tinkering in Portland as they hope to land a franchise player in next year's draft.
9. Golden State Warriors 41-41
If all goes right by the Bay, the Warriors could make a run at the playoffs. The key player is Stephen Curry, who looks to be developing into a star guard. If rookie Harrison Barnes lives up to his potential and Center Andrew Bogut stays healthy the Warriors could have a well rounded team. The big question will then be if Mark Jackson is able to be a successful NBA coach, as the Warriors at least keep their fans interested.
12.New Orleans Hornets 33-49
Like a bowl of Gumbo and Jambalaya, youth will be on the menu in New Orleans as rookie Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers should bring excitement back to the crescent city, which is good as the team with new Owner Tom Benson has secured their future in New Orelans. While there will be growing pains for both Davis and Rivers the Hornets should be fun and should have a bright future ahead of them.
7. Utah Jazz 45-37
The Utah Jazz have been a solid organization for years, as they have managed to move past the Malone-Stockton era, and now they have begun to move forward with yet a different team without Deron Williams, all without dropping off the face of the earth.  The latest incarnation revolves around Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams and Paul Millsap and tough they won't shatter records they will make the playoffs.
NBA AWARDS
Rookie of the Year:
Anthony Davis New Orleans Hornets
Most Improved Player:
Andrea Bargnani Toronto Raptors
Coach of the Year: Avery Johnson Brooklyn Nets
Sixth Man:
Manu Ginobili San Antonio Spurs
Defensive Player of the Year: Serge
Ibaka Oklahoma City Thunder
NBA MVP:
Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder

Coaches Who Will be Fired
Rick Carlisle Dallas Mavericks
Vinny Del Negro Los Angeles Clippers
Kevin McHale Houston Rockets
Keith Smart Sacramento Kings
Mike Woodson New York Knicks

5. Chicago Bulls 46-36
After Derrick Rose went down with a knee injury in the playoffs the Bulls were toast in the playoffs last season as they lost to the eight seed 76ers. If Rose comes back healthy the Bulls could become a real dark horse in the East. However, until Rose returns the Bulls will need to thread water the best they can. I expect them to be in good shape, thanks to their strong defense and the coaching of Tom Thibodeau as they will be in position for a strong playoff run.
6. Los Angeles Clippers 48-34
There is no doubt that the Clippers have a bright future led by Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, but something is holding them back from making that next step as health issues and questions around Coach Vinny Del Negro may hold them back again. No longer satisfied with just making the playoffs, the Clippers need to make another step to become an elite team, but they will likely need another piece, or someone to develop into a third option, and possibly a better coach.

11. Dallas Mavericks 35-47
Two years ago the Mavericks souled out for a playoff run for the ages as Dirk Nowitzki for two months became the best player in the NBA and cemented himself as a true legend. However, that run seemed to take everything out of Dirk and the Mavs as both struggled last season. Now Nowitzki will begin the season sidelined with a bad knee and that will doom the Mavs who are trying to reshuffle and stay relevant in the West.

12. New York Knicks 33-49
Somewhere hidden in the renovated Garden in a newly built secret office, Isaiah Thomas is again running the Knicks. How else would you let go the exciting Jeremy Lin for the aged Jason Kidd, who is now mandated to be called Jason Oldd. Marcus Camby is also old, and Raymond Felton returns off a season in which he appeared slow and out of shape as too much say has been given to Carmelo Anthony. Add that Amare Stoudamire is already hurt and the Knicks have disaster written all over.
15. Orlando Magic 19-63
Dwight Howard is gone and the Magic are one giant mess. They got nearly nothing in return for their all star and their roster is full of bad contracts and mediocre players. Clearly the plan is to bite the bullet this year and begin the process of rebuilding with the 2013 draft. They should have a good chance to picking number one as they appear to be the worst team in the NBA, as just making it to 20 wins will be a surprise.
4. Denver Nuggets 53-29
Certain players have had trouble meshing with Coach George Karl, newly acquired Forward Andre Iguodala is one of those players made for Karl, unselfish and versatile. Add Ty Lawson, Javale McGee and Danilo Galinari and the Nuggets have a solid group that will put forth a max effort every night. Though not among the elite teams in the NBA, the Nuggets are part of the next level that can make a run if things broke right.
2. Indiana Pacers 54-28
While Derrick Rose recovers from a knee injury, the Central Division and the second spot in the East are wide open. The most likely team to slip into both positions is the Indiana Pacers. In the playoffs last year the Pacers gave the Heat all they could handle. The Pacers have one of the strongest front courts in the league led by Center Roy Hibbert, David West and Danny Granger, and solid bench led by Tyler Hansborough.

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Predictions made October 29, 2012 at 9:15 pm, ET