The 2012/13 NBA season is finally upon us! Here is my 100% guaranteed gold standard regular season predictions. From last to first, 5 teams a post. Think I’m wrong? Tell me in the comments.
20. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks find themselves at a cross roads coming into the 2012-13 season. Last year they traded away former number one pick Andrew Bogut for Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh. Ellis joins Brandon Jennings in what might be the fastest and most explosive backcourt in the league. Both players have a similar iso-based scoring game and put up similar numbers last season – 17.6 points and 5.9 assists (post trade) for Ellis and 19.1 ppg and 5.5 apg for Jennings. The Bucks chose not to pick up Jennings’ contract option at the beginning of the year so it will be interesting to see whether he finishes the year in Milwaukee. Jennings was recently quoted saying “The main thing is, I could say I’m kind of auditioning for other teams, too. The fact if they see what I can do, what I can bring to the table this year for the Bucks, anything can happen in the summertime.” So it seems likely that he is on the out.
Despite the drama surrounding the backcourt the Bucks do have the opportunity to push for a playoff spot this season. The emergence of Ersan Ilyasova last season – 13.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg and 45.5% shooting from deep – as well as the additions of Samuel Dalembert – career 1.9 blocks per game – and assuming Larry Sanders, John Henson and Ekpe Udoh can continue to grow as players make Milwaukee a solid team.
19. New Orleans Hornets
You would be forgiven for thinking everyone in New Orleans had won the division one lottery after their team landed the number one pick in June. The Hornets were given the easiest number one pick in years when they selected Anthony Davis. Last year’s Naismith Player of the Year, Final Four Most Outstanding Player and Wooden Award winner posted 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 blocks and 1.4 steals a game for NCAA champions Kentucky – all while shooting 62.3% from the field and 70.9% from the line.
In his rookie year we can only expect Davis’ stats to increase due to the faster flowing NBA style of play and the increased minutes he will see.
The Hornets are not a one man team though. They also managed to retain dynamo scorer, Eric Gordon – 20.6 ppg in an injury ravaged season last year, bring in last years NBA Most Improved Player, Ryan Anderson – who lead the league in 3 point makes last year with 166. Rookie, Austin Rivers will offer a scoring punch off the bench, while veteran guys like Al-Farouq Aminu, Robin Lopez, Jason Smith and Grievis round out a talented squad.
Expect Davis’ presence to help the Hornets improve on their already stingy defense – tied 7th best 93.4 opponent points per game. While a healthy Gordon and the additions of Austin Rivers and Ryan Anderson should boost their league 2nd worst offense of 89.6 points per game.
18. Golden State Warriors
Last season the Warriors sacrificed the scoring of Monta Ellis in favour of the defensive presence of Andrew Bogut. Defense has long been an afterthought in Oakland and last season was no different as they let in a tied 2nd league worst 101.2 opponent points per game. The addition of Bogut, assuming he can remain healthy, who lead the league in blocks per game in 2010-11 – the last season he played more than 60 games – should provide the Warriors with the defensive spine they have been lacking in the past.
Another injury plagued star key to the Warriors’ success is point guard, Stephen Curry. The sharp shooter out of Davidson has not managed 80 or more games in a season since his rookie year in 09-10, managing only 26 appearances last year. If Curry and Bogut can stay on the floor the Warriors have a good chance of making a playoffs run this year.
One of the reasons Golden State felt comfortable pulling the trigger on the Ellis/Bogut trade was the emergence of rookie Klay Thompson. Once Ellis was sent to Milwaukee, Thompson’s numbers skyrocketed. His averages jumped to 17.5 ppg, 2.7 apg and 3.1 rpg through March and April. The Warriors will be hoping Thompson can improve these numbers as the full time starter this year.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves
I had high hopes for the T’Wolves coming into this season despite Ricky Rubio’s ACL injury keeping him out until at least December or Early January. However, the loss of Kevin Love to a broken hand, which will keep him off the court for 6-8 weeks, pushed them down the order a bit.
I still think Minnesota will be making another playoffs push this season as they return with an even better side than last year. The additions of Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger and Alexey Shved add depth to one of last year;s upstart squads.
Nikola Pekovic – 13.9 ppg and 7.4 rpg last season – should see increased minutes (26.9 per last year) to cover for Love. While, Luke Ridnour – 12.1 ppg and 4.8 apg – and JJ Barea – 11.3 ppg and 5.7 apg – should cover the loss of Rubio.
Ultimately the T’Wolves success rests upon Kevin Love’s form once he returns from injury. Last season K-Love lead the league in rebounds with 15.2 a game, was top 20 in the league in scoring at 20.2 a game. If Love can come even close to replicating these numbers Minnesota will be set for a hard push for a playoff spot.
16. Chicago Bulls
April 28, 2012; the day Chicago’s heart broke. Much debate surrounded Derrick Rose tearing his ACL in the Bulls game 1 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. How could someone suffer such a horrific injury by simply jumping? Should Rose have even been on the court? That is old news now and the reality is that Chicago will be without the 2010-11 MVP until at least February or March.
I have the Bulls as a wild card to make the playoffs this season. It is just as hard to tell how the Bulls will fair without Rose as it is to judge how effective he will be once he returns. Some reports even suggest Rose should miss the entire season to best recover from such a devastating injury.
This all said, Chicago do have a talented squad that has the potential to sneak into a late seed in the playoffs. Likely amnesty candidate, Carlos Boozer, now enters his most important season as a Bull. Boozer’s numbers have steadily declined since his big money move from Utah in 2010-11 – 19.5 ppg and 11.2 rpg in his last season with the Jazz to 15.0 ppg and 8.5 rpg last year. The Boozer experiment clearly hasn’t worked and it would be best for both parties to part ways come season end.
Joakim Noah now becomes Chicago’s unquestioned leader. Expect an increase in numbers across the board as he sees more minutes and takes on more of a scoring role in the absence of Rose.