2012-13 NBA Preview: Part I (Southwest and Southeast divisions)

Posted: 17th October 2012 by Jeff Plattner in NBA

Southwest Division

1.     San Antonio Spurs:  Will the Spurs ever go away? As long as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili make up the core of the team, you can be sure the answer to that question is, no, they will not go away. Despite finishing near the top of the league every year, San Antonio continues to find ways to add or develop solid role players, through the draft or by other means. Last season, Danny Green, Steven Jackson, Kawhi Leonard, and Tiago Splitter were those players. With Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili a combined 101 years old, the clock on another title for this group is ticking, especially with Ginobili’s contract up at year’s end. Prediction: 62-20

2.     Memphis Grizzlies: The key to a big season in Memphis is not only their frontline, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, but also whether or not Rudy Gay is ready to take the next step. With All-Star talent written all over him, Gay has not quite been able to put it all together. An incoming trio of guards off the bench; Jerryd Bayless, Tony Wroten, and Wayne Ellington will look to soften the blow of O.J. Mayo’s exit to Dallas. Prediction: 53-29

3.     Dallas Mavericks: The championship team of just two years ago has been almost completely disassembled, with the only key contributors still around, being Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion. The Mavs hope Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, and Chris Kaman can do the things Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and Tyson Chandler were able to do in 2011, helping propel Dirk and the Mavs to the NBA title. Don’t count on the same results. Prediction: 46-36

4.     New Orleans Hornets: Gone are Rashard Lewis, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Jarret Jack, and Chris Kaman among others. A total of zero fans in New Orleans will miss any of those guys. Everybody loves rookie No. 1 pick Anthony Davis and his signature unibrow, but in all reality, the success of the Hornets season hinges on the health of SG Eric Gordon. A pure scorer capable of stardom, injuries have riddled his last three seasons and Gordon played just nine games last year. Davis should immediately be a top-5 defensive big man and the addition of PF Ryan Anderson provides the Hornets with a second reliable scoring option, after Gordon. This team is very different from last year’s 21-45 Hornets team. Prediction: 38-44

5.     Houston Rockets: Much like the Hornets, Houston waived goodbye to a host of regulars; Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger, and others. However, an offseason mission to acquire Dwight Howard did not end as planned and now the Rockets seem to be in rebuilding mode, with a very young, inexperienced team. Jeremy Lin headlines an incoming group that includes Omer Asik, Carlos Delfino, and rookies Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones, Royce White, and Donatas Motiejunas, who comes over from Europe. While it looks ok on paper, the wins will take a few years to follow. Prediction: 32-50

Southeast Division

1.     Miami Heat:  Anything less than a repeat will be considered a failure for LeBron and company. The starting lineup remains the same, but the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis give the Heat even more deadly shooters from the outside. With a dominating NBA Finals performance, LeBron solidified his spot as the best all-around player in the game today. With an abundance of talent, Miami should be able to play the entire regular season on cruise control and still win the Southeast by 20+ games. With the balance of the power out west, I fully expect LeBron and the Heat to return to the Finals. Prediction: 63-19

2.     Atlanta Hawks: Yet another team with many new faces, the Hawks managed to ship Joe Johnson and his massive contract out of town, while also parting ways with the disappointing Marvin Williams. The thought of shedding Johnson’s contract is that it frees up the money needed to help lure PG Chris Paul to Atlanta, the team he wished he had landed on out of college. Two All-Star talents, Al Horford and Josh Smith are still in place, so the season will be far from miserable, but with an unspectacular supporting cast, Hawks fans may be cheering for the 2013 offseason and thoughts of CP3 before long. Prediction: 44-38

3.    Washington Wizards: With a starting five of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, and Nene, the Wizards are finally legit again. Washington hasn’t made the playoffs in five years and has averaged just 22 wins per year since 2009. The offense of Wall and Beal combined with the defense of Ariza and Okafor and the selflessness of Nene will keep this team in the postseason race out east. The Wizards bench, though not crazy deep, has a little bit of everything. Jordan Crawford (scorer), Jan Vesely (great athlete), Chris Singleton (defensive stopper). Prediction: 40-42

4.     Orlando Magic: It seemed like it took the Magic forever to get rid of Dwight Howard. And when they finally did, what did they get in return? A sub-par SG, an aging PF, who never met expectations, and three, most likely, low first round picks. Also shipping Ryan Anderson out of town does not help the Magic’s case. A credible team for the better part of the last decade, Orlando has quickly become a non-factor in the league. Let the rebuilding begin. Prediction: 25-57

5.     Charlotte Bobcats: One of the more confusing things in sports to try and figure out is what the heck the Charlotte Bobcats are doing. Drafting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist made sense because he’s a player who dedicates himself to the game, plays his heart out, and does a little of everything. However, for a team that has next to nothing, Kidd-Gilchrist may not be the best building block. The addition of SG Ben Gordon, when you could have drafted potential star Bradley Beal at SG, is a head-scratcher. One look up and down the Bobcats roster tells you they have a long, long way to go and only two pieces (Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker) to build on. 7-59 a year ago, the addition of Kidd-Gilchrist plus 16 more games on the schedule and you’d have to figure they at least hit double-digits in wins this season, right? Prediction: 17-65