This is a cop-out I know—not ranking every team before the season as I’ve done in the past, et cetera—but, in all fairness, the NBA Finals is an inevitability, so a season preview seems irrelevant.
Furthermore, I had to wait for the Lakers’ preseason to end. Not that I watch preseason basketball, nor will I ever, but I had to be certain that the LA Lakers wouldn’t win a single preseason game; I had to.
They didn’t—fear not for it doesn’t matter—yet they were the only team in the National Basketball Association to do so, and no one will know what that really means until the Lake Show’s season ends.
On with the picks and predictions…
The NBA Finals
Lakers over the Heat in six games, that’s my guess. However, I also should note that the Heat take next year’s Finals (not in 2013; 2014), in my mind, and both NBA Titles involve the same two ball clubs.
Kobe versus LeBron will be a talking point this entire basketball year, for any intelligent human being is expecting this to come to pass as the final pair of teams standing at the end of the 2012-13 NBA Season.
The Finals, however, will be decided by the people farther down the totem pole for each team. Events like Dwyane Wade getting hot one night, Steve Nash and/or Rashard Lewis hitting an open three (they’ll have all year to practice those, too) or Dwight Howard sitting due to costly foul trouble won’t decide these Finals if they happen but rather when they happen.
I could even see Pau Gasol and/or Chris Bosh closing out a game for their respective team. Or something really awesome like Metta World Peace and/or Ray Allen controlling an outcome by the level of their performance.
Can’t they just start this tomorrow, for it’s all I want to see right now?
Conference Finals Being Coastal
LAL over Denver; MIA over NYK.
This isn’t just some theory because I want the NBA to be green or something. (Don’t make me laugh I’m typing.) These picks are purely based on power shifts.
Denver will go down in a grind-‘em-out, shoot-‘em-out struggle for the Purple & Gold, seven games with the best team in the Western Conference defensively finally running out of gas. The Lakers are better offensively of course, but the Nuggets made all the right moves over the break.
George Karl has a championship-caliber team if it wasn’t for the Lakers; the Denver Nuggets could move into first place in their division which includes the Oklahoma City Thunder; and the backcourt of Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.
The Knickerbockers might go down in flames during their series with Miami—to the tune of five games like they did in last season’s playoffs—yet they finally have championship pedigree, even if it is well past its prime.
Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace can at the very least show Melo and Amar’e what it takes to get into the NBA Finals having quite a few trips to the NBA Finals between them of both the winning and losing variety. But those two can only show Mike Woodson’s Knicks the door—and the Heat are guarding it—so good luck with that.
Division by Division
Pacific Winner: Lakers; Pacific Loser: Warriors.
If I’ve made one thing clear, it’s that the Lakers are the West’s best team, so we’ll cover new material.
The Golden State Warriors can’t make the playoffs. And this is really a shame. If healthy—yes, that’s a big IF—the Warriors are the third best team in this division. There are probably three, possibly four, teams coming out of the Northwest, so the Western Conference’s playoff spots are tough to get no matter how you slice it. Sorry GSW; I like you; I love watching you guys play; there’s not enough spaces available, however, for you guys to get into the Playoff Dance.
Northwest Winner: Timberwolves; Northwest Loser: Thunder.
The T-Wolves aren’t going to literally win this division, but if you’ve even glanced at their roster, Minnesota is ten times better than they were at this time last year. Additions like Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger both fill holes and supply valid pieces to compliment last year’s standard bearers like of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. Can’t wait to see all these guys on the floor together.
Before the James Harden trade even went through (thank God I waited to write this), I could see the Thunder not being able to defend their Western Conference Crown. Now…This just throws a wrench in the spokes of OKC. Damage to be determined.
Southwest Winner and Loser: Inconclusive.
This entire division is in flux; I don’t know what to think.
Gun-to-my-head I’d go with San Antonio, but their age and mileage makes me think otherwise. Dallas has so many new faces to play alongside Dirk that they could either be fighting for their playoff lives or the division. Ditto for Houston—other than not having a real face of the franchise (and the Harvard kid is a marketing ploy; I hope you know that).
Memphis and New Orleans make me shake my head. These teams both have potential, but then again, so does the rest of this bunch.
Let’s take time for something from “Eat a Peach” once again before the Eastern Conference…
Southeast Winner: Heat; Southeast Loser: Magic.
If you didn’t get the point by now about Miami, return to the top o’ th’ page. (I’ll wait.)
Orlando should’ve taken the deal with Brooklyn when they had the offer on the table; it’s that simple, for now they have nothing. Pray for ping-pong balls Orlando. That’s what your NBA future has become.
Atlantic Winner: New York State; Atlantic Loser: Philadelphia.
Both the Nets and the Knicks should be in the playoffs, so that’s why I gave this to an entire state. The Knicks have the ability to take the division, so their inclusion as a winner in this division is self explanatory. The Nets grabbed Joe Johnson this offseason, Gerald Wallace in media res last year and they still have Deron Williams at point and Brook Lopez down low. Sounds pretty good to me.
Philly comes down to coaching. If Doug Collins can turn another trick like he did late last season—making this team play out of their collective minds—they have a shot to make it into the second season. But this division is crowed, very crowed. Boston shuffled their deck, but the Celtics are still the Sixers’ elder. Andrew Bynum helps, as does Jason Richardson, in terms of add-ons, yet the loss of Philly’s second AI will rear its ugly head in ways the City of Brotherly Love can’t even imagine.
Central Winner and Loser: Bulls and Pacers (tie).
This is the strangest division in the NBA, for only two teams can win it. Or, maybe it’s the strangest to me because it’s the only one in which I find teams consisting of the same dilemma: Coach and Superstar.
Tom Thibodeau and Derrick Rose lead the way for the Bulls, but the one is nothing without the other; Thibodeau keeps all the troops in order, and Rose helps them reach their peak. You could see Chicago’s highs when they were both on board, and you can check the playoff tapes to see what happens when one of them is absent.
Frank Vogel and Danny Granger do the same thing for the Indiana Pacers; except, I’d argue, the Pacers have fewer question marks (like health of Superstar) and more quality improvements (another year with David West in th’ system—and how about D.J. Augustin joining the party?) putting them ahead of the Bulls by a hair.
TNT Double-Header to open the season: BOS/MIA & DAL/LAL on 10-30-12
NBATV Nightcap: LAL/POR on Halloween
TNT: New York @ Brooklyn on November First (sorry that just looks cool typed out)
ESPN Double-Header: MIA/NYK & LAC/LAL on 11-2-12
Get ready for a full schedule this year…
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