Full NBA 2012-13 Season Predictions

Posted: 10/29/2012 by levcohen in Basketball

I’ve made an executive decision to cut off the Offseason Reports (sorry to the 5 or so teams I didn’t cover). Today, I will have my full 2012-13 predictions, starting with the projected standings:
Eastern Conference:
1. Miami Heat (67-15).. This is obvious. The defending champions didn’t lose anything in the offseason. On top of that, they also added some guys who will be key contributors off the bench. The big 3 in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is back and better than ever, and with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis nailing 3’s off the bench, this team is scary.

2. Indiana Pacers (54-28).. I think the Pacers are going to take advantage of a poor division, as they have two potential East cellar dwellers- Detroit and Cleveland- and another team that probably won’t make the playoffs- Milwaukee. The 5th team in the division is the Bulls without Derrick Rose. This team has plenty of depth and young talent to compensate for their lack of star power.

3. Boston Celtics (47-35).. This is the last year that the current group of Celtics will win the Atlantic division, for a few reasons. One is that they are aging. Paul Pierce is 35. Kevin Garnett is 36. New addition Jason Terry is 35. They still have some talented young players, namely Rajon Rondo, Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee. The second reason is that the rest of the division is improving, and most of it is younger. Both of the New York teams, Philly and even Toronto should be forces for the next 5 years, while Boston will be declining. Having said all that, I do think they have one more run in them, which is why I have them winning the division.

4. New York Knicks (45-37).. The Knicks are going to be good this season, but I’m still skeptical. They got a lot older this offseason, adding 4 of the oldest players in the NBA. Age isn’t always a bad thing, as the Celtics have demonstrated, but it’s also rarely an advantage. With Amare Stoudemire out for a month or two, Carmelo Anthony will have to shoot more than ever, no matter how much he promises to pass it more. Raymond Felton says he has lost weight, but I’ll believe that when I see it. In the West, this might be a 7 or 8 seed. But in the weak Eastern conference, I have to give them the 4 seed.

5. Philadelphia 76ers (44-38).. The third straight team in the Atlantic Division logjam is the 76ers. This team sort of reversed their identity this offseason. Last year, they were a gritty team, and great defensively, but they struggled on 3 point shots and in scoring. After losing two of their best defensive players, Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand, and adding three players who are not known for their defensive prowess (in fact, they are known for being bad at defense) in Jason Richardson, Dorell Wright and Nick Young. They are not a pretty bad defensive team. At the same time, they got much better on the offensive side. The three guys I mentioned are all very good shooters, and Andrew Bynum will make this team a dynamic offense, even in the halfcourt offense, where they struggled last year.

6. Atlanta Hawks (43-39).. I like the Hawks. They lost Joe Johnson, but they added a ton of quality but unspectacular pieces. Down low, few can compete with a Josh Smith-Al Horford combo. All the talk about the end of the Hawks playoff “run” is overrated.

7. Chicago Bulls (41-41).. The Bulls without Derrick Rose until the allstar break would love to finish as the seven seed, and they’ll be able to do that because of three things. One is the lack of talent in the East. Two is the extreme lack of good teams in the Central division. Three is that they actually still have a solid team, even without Rose. Luol Deng and Joakim Noah are both extremely good players.

8. Milwaukee Bucks (39-43).. This is a surprise pick. The Bucks have been the 9th ranked team the last few years, so I’m predicting this is the year they break through and make the playoffs. Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings will have to find a way to make it work.

9. Toronto Raptors (39-43).. By virtue of the tiebreaker, the Raptors barely miss out on the playoffs, but avoid the Atlantic basement. All in all, a decent season for Toronto.

10. Brooklyn Nets (37-45).. My big playoff snub is the Nets. They certainly have talent, but they have no depth so I’m predicting they miss out on the playoffs, and Deron Williams is sad that he ever re-signed with the Nets.

11. Detroit Pistons (34-48).. I actually like the Pistons, but they are still rebuilding. Look for Andre Drummond to struggle, but still get quality minutes. I think Greg Monroe will break out this year.

12. Washington Wizards (30-52).. The Wizards aren’t good. 30 wins is solid, though, for a team that won 20 last year, albeit in 66 games.

13. Cleveland Cavaliers (29-53).. Kyrie Irving can only carry the Cavs so far.

14. Orlando Magic (20-62).. The Magic should find a way to win 20 games, but just barely. They have solid front-court depth, but Aaron Afflalo is their best player. That’s saying something.

15. Charlotte Bobcats (14-68).. 14 wins for the Bobcats! This would double last year’s output, and I’m saying this because they added Michael-Kidd Gilchrist and Ramon Sessions, both solid contributors.

Western Conference:
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22).. Before trading James Harden, I had the Thunder with 62-62 wins. The lowered prediction comes from a lack of chemistry, and the simple fact that James Harden is better than Kevin Martin. I still have them winning the Western Conference, though, for a number of reasons. One is that the Thunder still have a tremendous team, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They also have a block monster in Serge Ibaka. This could well be a 60 win team. Another reason they will win the West is that the Lakers will be adjusting to their new team, much like the Heat of 2010-11.

2. Los Angeles Lakers (57-25).. The good news: The Lakers have an amazing big 4 of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. The bad news: They have no bench. They will need time to mesh. Overall, though, the talent on this team’s starting lineup will get them to 57 wins.

3. San Antonio Spurs (56-26).. Is this the last hurrah for the current Spurs roster? It depends what “last hurrah” means. I do think this is the last time the Spurs will be a top 3 seed for a while. But I also think that the Spurs will be able to make the playoffs as a lower tier team. As for this year, the big 3 is still intact, with Tim Duncan resigning. I actually think this team will be better than people think they will be.

4. Denver Nuggets (53-29).. The Nuggets are going to be very exciting to watch this year. They have Ty Lawson running the point, Andre Iguodala at the 2 guard spot, Danilo Gallinari at small forward, Kenneth Faried at power forward, and JaVale McGee at center. That is a very athletic starting lineup, and one that will be dynamite on the fast break. They also have a deep bench, led by Wilson Chandler, Andre Miller, Corey Brewer and Anthony Randolph. This will be a very good, and explosive team.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (51-31).. I feel that the Grizzlies are underrated. They are actually a very talented team. They have a great power forward-center combo in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Those guys will combine for 35 points and 20 rebounds per game. At the small forward spot, they have Rudy Gay, arguably the star of the team. At guard, they have Mike Conley and Tony Allen, both great defenders who could get a combined 5 steals per game. I think they should have a top 6 seed.

6. Los Angeles Clippers (50-32).. Don’t doubt Chris Paul, or Blake Griffin. However, it is okay to doubt the Clippers poor front office. It is unclear what their plan is. They added some veteran (old) players, but didn’t really improve their team. However, Paul and Griffin should be enough for 50 wins.

7. Utah Jazz (47-35).. The Jazz are another underrated team. They have a huge amount of depth down low. Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter will make up the best big man core in the NBA. Gordon Hayward and Mo Williams are also very good.

8. Dallas Mavericks (44-38).. The Mavericks are the final playoff team in the West, just sneaking into the playoffs. Dirk Nowitzki is out for a few weeks, so the Mavericks will start out badly, but they’ll come back in the second half of the season and sneak into the playoffs.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves (42-40).. If Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love weren’t out for at least a month, I’d have this team at 46 or 47 wins. However, the two T-Wolves stars are in fact out, so the T-Wolves just miss out on the playoffs.

10. Golden State Warriors (41-41).. The Warriors are so talented. But they are also so injury prone. Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry are already hurt. With those guys out, this team doesn’t have much, although David Lee and Klay Thompson are good. If the two stars stay healthy, this team could sneak into the playoffs.

11. Portland Trail Blazers (39-43).. The Trailblazers aren’t as much of a mess as people think. LaMarcus Aldridge is an all out star. While his name isn’t universally recognized, it should be. He is one of the top 20 players in the NBA. After that, people might think the Blazers don’t have much (and they are probably right). Nicolas Batum and Wes Matthews are both good, but the guy I really believe in is Damian Lillard. I think Lillard will beat out Anthony Davis for rookie of the year.

12. New Orleans Hornets (36-46).. Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis is going to be a heck of a big three in a few years. For now, though, I expect the Hornets to jump from last in the West to 12th, mostly because they added 3 players who are now 3 of their 4 best players, in Davis, Rivers and Ryan Anderson. People say they could be a surprise 8 seed. I disagree with that, but I do think they are improved.

13. Houston Rockers (32-50).. I had the Rockets last in the conference until they traded for James Harden. Now, their backcourt of Jeremy Lin and Harden is good. The frontcourt is still poor, but the guards will be good enough to get them over 3o wins

14. Phoenix Suns (30-52).. The Suns without Steve Nash are a poor team. So I think 30 wins is reasonable.

15. Sacramento Kings (28-54).. It’s sad and shocking to see the Kings last, because they have so much talent. DeMarcus Cousins might be the most talented big man in the NBA, and it seems like he is realizing that potential. He had a great year last season. Tyreke Evans is also talented, and Marcus Thornton is a tremendous shooter. But that’s the thing- there just aren’t enough players who are willing to pass up a shot, which is why I don’t think the Kings break 30 wins.

Award Predictions:

MVP:
Top 3 contenders:
LeBron James- Duh. James has won 3 MVP’s and is just 27
Kevin Durant- Will probably lead the league in scoring
Dwight Howard- He’s happy now in LA, and he is extremely talented.

Dark horse candidates:
Rajon Rondo- Will finally make his top 5 MVP debut. Plenty of assists and triple doubles, and he now leads Boston
DeMarcus Cousins- As I mentioned before, he is a beast. 20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and a steal would be up there.

Prediction:
James takes home his 4th MVP trophy

Defensive player of the year:
Top 3 contenders:
Dwight Howard- Howard will get 2 blocks and a steal per game, and he will bail out Kobe and Steve Nash plenty of times with help defense.
Tyson Chandler- won it last year
Kevin Garnett- still an elite defender

Dark horse candidates:
Anthony Davis- is a rookie, but is already a great defender
Serge Ibaka- will lead the league in blocks, by a lot, with close to 4 per game

Prediction:
Howard and his popularity will take home his 4th DPOY in 5 years

Most improved player of the year:
Top 3 contenders:
Goran Dragic- Now in Phoenix, Dragic will be the starting point guard. Look for 16 points, 8 assists and 2 steals per game
JaVale McGee- In Denver, McGee should be able to focus more, and make some smarter plays. 15 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks per game would win him the award, but I don’t know if he can reach that.
Ty Lawson- Also in Denver. Lawson averaged 16 points and 6 assists per game, but if he can get to 20 points, he could win this award.

Dark horse candidates:
Arron Afflalo- Nobody really knows Afflalo, but he did average 15 points per game. Now in a premier role, he could break 18 points per game.
Evan Turner- Turner averaged just 8 points per game last year, so in a starting role, he could win it.

Prediction:
Turner wins it in a surprise

Rookie of the year:
Top 3 candidates:
Anthony Davis- #1 pick and overwhelming favorite
Dion Waiters- will probably average more points than any other rookie, at around 16-18 points per game. That will put him in the conversation.
Damian Lillard- Lillard looked terrific this preseason. He could average 16 points and 6 assists, which for me would win him the award.

Dark horse candidates:
Jonas Valanciunas- From Lithuania. In a starting role, could average a double double which might get him the award.
Terrence Jones- Drafted in the middle of the first round, Jones could grab a starting job midway through the season and finish with a solid stat line.

Prediction:
Lillard upsets odds on favorite Davis

Coach of the year:
Top 3 candidates:
Doc Rivers, Celtics- Possibly the best coach in the NBA, will always be up there
Greg Popovich, Spurs- I’d call him the best coach in the NBA. Getting up there in age, so it would be nice to see him win this one.
Tom Thibodeau, Bulls- Will get lots of consideration after taking the Bulls back to the playoffs without Derrick Rose.

Dark horse candidates:
Doug Collins, Sixers- If they win the Atlantic, it could happen
Tyron Corbin, Jazz- Newly installed head coach. If the make the playoffs comfortably as I’m predicting, he will get a lot of love.

Prediction:
Rivers takes home the prize.

6th man of the year:
Top 3 candidates:
Kevin Martin- Now with the Thunder, he takes James Harden’s spot and, perhaps, award
Manu Ginobili- Long considered a top candidate, Manu is healthy now
Jason Terry- Now 6th man for the Celtics, he has a shot

Dark horse candidates:
MarShon Brooks- Now coming off the bench for the Nets, Brooks could be a darkhorse candidate
Thaddeus Young- Now 6th man for the Sixers, he is in the mix

Prediction:
Ginobili has a good year and takes back the award

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