2012-13 NBA Preview: Part III

Posted: 29th October 2012 by Jeff Plattner in NBA

Northwest Division

1.    Oklahoma City Thunder:  In a shockingly sudden move Saturday night, OKC traded 6th man of the year, James Harden (and others), to the Houston Rockets, in return for guards Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round draft picks, and a second-round draft pick. With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook still the one-two punch in OKC, Martin should step right in to replace Harden as a key, third scoring option. With getting rookie, Lamb in the deal, the Thunder add a long, athletic guard, who can score and is a solid defender. With the move coming so late in the preseason, it may take OKC some time to mesh, but they should still be able to hold off the Nuggets for first in the Northwest. Prediction: 59-23

2.    Denver Nuggets: The acquisition of Andre Iguodala turns the Nuggets into legitimate contenders in the west. The reason being, Iguodala is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. The Nuggets have been anything but a strong defensive team the past few years, but adding an elite wing defender, in a conference that features Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant, was a golden move by Denver. While Iggy also fits in seamlessly with the run and gun offensive style of Denver, the lack of a go to star could hurt come playoff time. Prediction: 57-25

3.    Minnesota Timberwolves: While 50 wins were a real possibility a few weeks ago, now with Ricky Rubio AND Kevin Love out for the foreseeable future, the Wolves will simply try to tread water for the first 4-6 weeks of the regular season, until Love returns. Replacing the likes of Darko, Wes Johnson, and company with players, who actually perform when on the floor, is reason enough for Wolves fans to be optimistic. Love should return around the beginning of December, which means he’ll miss about 15 games. If the Wolves can enter December around 6-9 or 7-8, they should still be in good position to make a playoff run. Prediction: 45-37

4.    Utah Jazz: The Jazz snuck into the playoffs, as the No. 8 seed a year ago, and were quickly destroyed by the Spurs, in a four-game sweep. They add Mo Williams and Marvin Williams to the starting lineup. Paul Millsap is one of the more underrated players in the game and Utah has plenty of young potential, in the form of Gordon Heyward, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, and Enes Kanter. Provided their stars stay healthy, the Jazz should again challenge for the No. 8 seed. Prediction: 42-40

5.    Portland Trailblazers: It’s sure to be a frustrating year for All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and the Blazers. Portland matched Minnesota’s offer sheet to retain Nic Batum. However, rookies, PG Damien Lillard and C Meyers Leonard figure to jump right into the starting lineup. That doesn’t say much about the rest of the lineup, which is extremely thin. Prediction: 25-57

Central Division

1.    Indiana Pacers: With Derrick Rose on the shelf for a better part of the season, the Pacers should cruise to first in the Central. Indiana did nothing flashy in the offseason, although they did trade Darren Collison, replacing him with D.J. Augustine. If Paul George can continue to develop into an all around star, the Pacers could challenge the Heat in the east, if not, Miami’s path to their third straight NBA Finals could be as easy as a stroll on South Beach. Prediction: 54-28

2.    Chicago Bulls: As mentioned above, the Bulls will be without former MVP, Derrick Rose, for much of the season. However, with the frontline trio of Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah still in place, the Bulls still figure to be a playoff team. The PG trio of Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, and rookie Marquis Teague, although nowhere nearly as effective as Rose, are at least serviceable at the PG position. They will win ugly games, as they’ve become known for. Prediction: 43-39

3.    Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis will continue to be a backcourt that can light it up on any given night. By trading for Samuel Dalembert and drafting John Henson, Milwaukee addressed many weaknesses; defensive rebounding, defense in the paint, and shot blocking. While re-signing Ersan Ilyasova was a good move, in the end, the Bucks did nothing to make you think they’ll do anything other than what it seems like they always do; challenge for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’ll fall short again this year. Prediction: 37-45

4.    Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs found a backcourt mate for Kyrie Irving, by selecting  Dion Waiters, No. 4 overall in the draft. Waiters should add a much-needed scoring punch, as he excels at slashing to the hoop. While the front court is decent, with Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson, we all know this team is only as good as Irving makes it. In just his second year, he is already on the brink of stardom. Although the Cavs should take another step in the right direction, they are a solid SF away from being considered a playoff team. They should look to solidify the SF spot through the 2013 NBA draft, in which they will have options. Prediction: 35-47

5.    Detroit Pistons: The Pistons will be bad, but the positive spin on that is that management already knows this. They finally rid themselves of Ben Gordon’s contract and continued to bring in some talented youngsters, primarily rookie PF Andre Drummond, who, if he learns to consistently play hard, could be a perennial All-Star. The positivity pretty much ends there. Prediction: 25-57

Plattner’s Postseason Predictions

Western Conference MVP: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City)

Eastern Conference MVP: LeBron James (Miami)

Western Conference Rookie of the Year: Anthony Davis (New Orleans)

Eastern Conference Rookie of the Year: Bradley Beal (Washington)

Western Conference Finals: Los Angeles Lakers over Denver Nuggets 4-2

Eastern Conference Finals: Miami Heat over Indiana Pacers 4-2

NBA Finals: L.A. Lakers over Miami Heat 4-3