|find the Clippers and the (Old) Nets
The 2012-13 NBA season will start in a few days and it is about time for me make some predictions about the new season, and see how abysmally wrong I have got at the end lol
So, here are my 10 predictions, some more adventurous than others. I hope I will at least score about 5…
1. James Harden to stay with the Thunder
Yes, if James Harden does stay, the Thunder will definitely have to pay (quite a lot) luxury tax just to keep their 3rd best player.
Yes, having four players for more than 10 million each annually is a huge burden for any teams, let alone a small market like Oklahoma City.
Unless the player in question has game-changing talent and enormous potential, and the team is of championship-caliber.
In resigning Harden, the Thunder keeps the young and already amazing core for several seasons more, capable for challenging the NBA championship for years to come. Maintaining a strong team is expensive. Except for the Thunder, the other three teams that made the conference finals last season all paid luxury tax. (Celtics $7.4M, Heat $6.1M, Spurs $2.5M)
While small-market teams are usually unwilling to pay luxury tax, this is simply because they are not championship contenders. When presented a good chance to win it all, even small market teams are usually willing to pay the tax. From the table here
we can see that Sacramento paid $17.4M in 02-03, Minnesota paid $17.6M 03-04 and Cleveland more than $13M annually over 07-10 to stay competitive.
While the tax is expensive, James Harden is worth it for the Thunder… although Perkins is probably not.
Edit on 28th October: WOW, that was quick. James Harden, among others, has been traded to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and three draft picks.
So this prediction is now incorrect, not a good start at all… Let’s hope for some better luck for the rest of the predictions.
2. Jeremy Lin to post 17ppg and 6apg
Okay, onto the Linsanity now in Houston. This will the season for Jeremy Lin to show us exactly how good he is, and I have faith in him. In Houston he will be the undisputed star of the lineup where he will be plenty of opportunities to have the ball and run his offense.
His averages as an everyday player in a Knicks uniform are 18.5ppg and 7apg and I believe he has the ability to match that, although his field goal percentage is likely to drop and turnover remain high. His assist totals shouldn’t drop much either- he averaged 9.2 assists in his first nine games playing with the likes of Iman Shumpert and Jared Jeffries and so the Rockets team should have enough talent to finish the plays Lin creates. He will miss Steve Novak, though.
The Rockets won’t make the playoffs, but statistically Lin should have a great season. Is he an All-Star? Most likely not due to intense competition, but you never know. Houston will host the All-Star weekend this season, and if Lin does post 20+7 and is as popular as usual, we might see a representative from the Rockets in Houston too.
3.Steve Novak to win the 3-point shootout
Speaking of the All Star Weekend, how can Steve Novak not been invited to a 3-point shootout yet? he has the highest 3-point percentage, tied 3rd in made attempts yet only 17th in attempts taken. He is the deadliest spot-up shooter in the league. (Although he can’t offer much else.)
But that doesn’t matter. Spot-up threes are all you have to do in the 3-point shootout. Surely Novak is going to score higher than 17 points, the winning score last year.
4. Ricky Rubio to have 10+ assists
Is this the season for the resurgence of the Timberwolves? I hope so.
On paper the Timberwolves have a very exciting team, capable of running the Princeton offense to the max under Rick Adelman. While Kevin Love is of course their best player, I would argue that Rubio is the most important. The team was 5-20 after his season-ending injury in March.
Rubio still managed 8.2 assists per game in his first NBA season, and I believe breaking the double digit barrier is possible. Firstly, Rubio is now more experienced, not only the physicality of the NBA but also the set plays as well. Secondly, the Timberwolves has undergone major upgrades in the offseason, especially the addition of Kirilenko and Chase Budinger on the small forward position, who would provide the outside shooting the team desperately needs. Three pointers are supposedly the ‘easiest’ to be assisted- so that should be good news to Rubio’s stats too.
5. Spoelstra to win the Coach of the Year
Is there really any team that can stop the Heat from taking the top spot in the East? I don’t think so.
The Big 3 from Miami has figured out how to play exciting yet effective basketball, and the addition numerous 3-point shooters, most notably Ray Allen, should only create more space for the Big 3 to work near the basket. Defensively, we have seen how Lebron and co. shut down any other teams in the East from the 2010-11 Playoffs onwards, so that shouldn’t be a problem either, at least in the regular season.
In order to become the Coach of the Year, these must either be a massive increase in win totals (therefore I think Adelman also have a chance) or simply have the best record in the league. Considering that record shouldn’t be hard to come by, and Spoelstra is now a championship-winning coach, I think he will be on course for his first award.
6. Pacers to finish second in the Eastern Conference
With the Heat locking down the top spot in the East, the Pacers will be my pick to finish second.
The Pacers simply retained their core group, added talent on the bench-somewhere they were desperately lacking last season. However, as their core, especially Hibbert and Paul George continues to improve they are as least as good as they were last year, but surely better.
Meanwhile, the rest of the East regressed. The Magic and the Hawks ceased to be (albeit outside anyway) contenders, and the absence of Derek Rose is detrimental to the Bulls. The Celtics did get stronger, but as a veteran team they are unlikely to go all-out in the regular season to rest their players, especially in the last few weeks of the season.
That leaves the 76ers and the Nets as the only challengers. However both teams experienced major trades in the offseason and I believe that their regular season record would suffer due to unfamiliarity between the players. Especially, the 76ers will be playing under a completely different system. So that leaves the Pacers as my choice.
7. Neither Thunder nor Lakers win the Western Conference
The OKC Thunder and the LA Lakers are on paper the strongest two teams in the playoffs from the rest, with their extremely talented lineups. However in the regular season, I am tipping that neither of them will finish with the best record from the West.
Instead, I believe it could become a two-horse race between the Spurs and the Nuggets, two of the deepest teams in the league. Both have NBA level benches that surely will beat the Bobcats(?), and in a 82-game season depth would definitely be of great use-especially if injuries strike.
The Spurs always surprises us and it is simply foolish to write them off, at least in the regular season. The addition of Andre Iguodala almost make the Nuggets the team that benefited most in the Dwight Howard trade, so they should be an interesting team too.
8.Warriors and Raptors make playoffs
Here are my picks for the playoff dark horses in both conferences.
Firstly, the Warriors has always been a good offensive team, and their lack of defensive toughness and height have always plagued them. With the emergence of Klay Thompson as shooting guard, along with Stephen Curry, the Warriors probably have the best shooting backcourt in the league. The addition of Andrew Bogut is a great fit, as he can give the Warriors at both ends low post presence they lacked. All in all, Bogut can be the missing piece for the warriors…
If him and Curry both stay healthy. If they do, they are clearly a playoff team.
As for the Raptors, I think Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani are both very good players. Contrary to what everything thought, in fact the Raptors were also in the upper half of the league in defense, and were in playoff contention last season before Bargnani’s injury ruined the plan. With good new additions I believe they have a good chance of grabbing the 8th spot.
9.The Bobcats to finish with the worst record-but not as bad
The Bobcats are simply not there yet. However, they simply cannot be as bad as last season.
They have now got Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a rookie that should, with time, adapt to the NBA well. The trade for Ben Gordon is also a shrewd piece of business, while also adding some much-needed outside shooting for the team as well. As long as the young players such as Kemba Walker continue to grow, they should reach at least 15 wins this year.
I think they will still have the worst record, but it will not be by far. The Magic looks like they are freefalling.
10. Thunder NBA Champions
How can a NBA prediction end without predicting the overall winner? My pick, however irrational, will be sticking to the OKC Thunders.
It will Ray Allen and the Seattle Sonics who brought me into the NBA world, and therefore I have followed the Thunder and the Celtics ever since the Sonics disappeared. It has been a tough summer regarding Ray’s transfer, and I am still unsure about whether I can support the heat despite him there.
So, without further ado, Let’s GO THUNDER!