NBA Preview: Part I

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Yes, no hockey has forced me to result to basketball this fall.

It’s been quite some time before I deeply submerged myself into the world of the NBA. I’ll admit, I had a deep attachment to the Pistons as a kid and relished the 2004 NBA Championship. But the days of Chauncey, Rip, Rasheed, and Ben are gone. After going through serious hardship as a club with the loss of an owner, the sale of the team, and the adjustment to new ownership, things are looking up for the Pistons. But what really drew me in to watch this season was the drafting of center Andre Drummond. General Manager Joe Dumars is constructing what appears to be the second coming of the 2004 team. However, one can’t predict how the Pistons will finish this season without looking at the rest of the league. So without further ado, I present, with revitalized enthusiasm, part 1 of the 2012-13 NBA Preview!

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ATLANTIC DIVISION

  1. BOSTON CELTICS (2012 RECORD 39-27, LOST TO MIAMI IN CONFERENCE FINALS 3-4)
    Yes, I’m going to continue to drink the Celtics Kool-Aid. Despite having aging stars in Paul Pierce (35 years old) and Kevin Garnett (36 years old), there’s a lot to like about this team, namely point guard Rajon Rondo. The past few years have been good to the Celtics, especially Rondo who could be regarded as the best point guard in the league after a Conference finals performance that could be the stuff of legend (playing with one arm due to injury). The loss of Ray Allen to the Miami Heat is actually going to hurt this team quite a bit but in terms of winning this division, it shouldn’t make a HUGE difference. The addition of Courtney Lee will help on both sides of the ball but won’t come close to the production that Allen contributed. Despite all of this, they are still the class of the Atlantic Division and will be competitive come playoff time.
  2. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (2012 RECORD 35-31, LOST TO BOSTON IN CONFERENCE SEMIS 3-4)
    This fall will harken back to the days of Julius Irving. Philadelphia leapfrogged New York solely with the addition of Andrew Bynum. Bynum takes the throne of top center in the East with departure of Dwight Howard to Los Angeles. With a strong big man in the middle, it will give Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday room on the wings to shoot. They did, however, lose longtime scorer Andre Iguodala but added veteran Jason Richardson and wing man Nick Young. Both Richardson and Young give this team a sense of athleticism, something that will help especially on defense. This isn’t a 76ers team from the last 5 years; they’re looking to their round one victory over the top ranked Chicago Bulls as inspiration for this fall. I’m not sure if they can dethrone the Celtics but they’ll revive a long dead rivalry that’s only good for the NBA.
  3. NEW YORK KNICKS (2012 RECORD 36-30, LOST TO MIAMI IN FIRST ROUND 1-4)
    New York’s progress is much to be desired for those teams looking for significant improvement. However, I’m not quite sure that even at 28, Carmelo Anthony has the maturity to be “The Man.” I could sense that there was a problem with Jeremy Lin last year but there’s no way to prove anything. However, if he comes out, focused, determined, and dedicated to winning, things could be okay. But just okay, mainly because Amare Stoudemire will be out for at least six weeks, which automatically puts the team behind from the get-go. The contenders in this division all have a premier big man. Boston has Garnett. Philadelphia has Bynum. Heck, even Brooklyn has Brook Lopez. The absence of Stoudemire will be a huge test for the Knicks who have three big men over 37 (Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby, and Kurt Thomas). Experience should help but it won’t produce like Stoudemire will.
  4. BROOKLYN NETS (2012 RECORD 22-44, DID NOT MAKE PLAYOFFS)
    Mikhail Prokhorov’s American basketball project has taken their talents to Brookyn, an area that has longed for a hometown sports team since the departure of the baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers. While I can’t speak for the fan base, I’m not sure if there will be a lot to cheer for in their first season in Brooklyn. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson will be spectacular in the backcourt but the dynamic of players on this team is interesting to say the least. Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez, and Andray Blatche form what could be one of the least cohesive frontcourts in memory. However, being in Brooklyn, playing alongside Johnson, and having the confidence of a reputable owner could give this team the resolve to compete. However, that’s a big “if” and I’m not buying anything more than fourth place this season.
  5. TORONTO RAPTORS (2012 RECORD 22-43, DID NOT MAKE PLAYOFFS)
    Ever since Chris Bosh turned traitor and left town, basketball has been a trying time in Toronto. (Heck, even Hedo Turkoglu didn’t want to play there!) But things can’t be all bad, can they? No, things are looking up for once in the NBA’s only Canadian franchise. There’s an influx of foreign youth on this team in Jonas Valanciunas and stalwart Andrea Bargnani. While this team won’t seriously contend for a few years, they will at least challenge Brooklyn for the fourth spot. But who knows? This team is a wild card, much like Brooklyn, and could even catch New York, if the Knicks can’t survive Stoudemire’s injury for the first six weeks.

 

CENTRAL DIVISION

  1. INDIANA PACERS (2012 RECORD 42-24, LOST TO MIAMI IN CONFERENCE SEMIS 2-4)
    Indiana has one of the deepest teams and have pretty much successfully rebuilt themselves back into a contender. Center Roy Hibbert is the best center in the division and could become an All-Star this season. Teamed with do-it-all forward Danny Granger, this duo is the stuff of contenders. Back when Indiana was at the top of the league, the team had similar players in Ron Artest and Jermaine O’Neal. However, the reason they’re my top pick in the Central is because of a player that’s not even on their team. Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is going to be gone for the majority of the season thus conceding the division crown to the Pacers. However, if the Pacers don’t have the division wrapped up by time Rose returns, it could be an epic fight to the death.
  2. CHICAGO BULLS (2012 RECORD 50-16, LOST TO PHILADELPHIA IN FIRST ROUND 2-4)
    As I mentioned before, the season’s success depends on the perseverance of the team to press on without Derrick Rose. The Bulls still have a very good team with center Joakim Noah and power forward Carlos Boozer in the backcourt but without Rose to feed the likes of former Piston shooting guard Richard Hamilton and small forward Taj Gibson. I’m not going to buy an epic meltdown as this is still a very good team but if they can stay competitive without Rose, they will be torture to deal with come the postseason.
  3. MILWAUKEE BUCKS (2012 RECORD 31-35, DID NOT MAKE PLAYOFFS)
    Milwaukee’s yet another interesting crew. Point guard Brandon Jennings is once again the unquestioned leader of the team and can make or break a game with his offense. He has an interesting supporting cast with solid players in Ekpe Udoh, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Mike Dunleavy Jr. On paper, this looks like a decent roster but most of these players have underperformed in their careers and have been thrown together in Milwaukee. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, they’re playing in an incredibly competitive division and will be lucky to compete for a playoff spot.
  4. DETROIT PISTONS (2012 RECORD 25-41, DID NOT MAKE PLAYOFFS)
    Finally, the Pistons have an optimistic look going into the upcoming season. Luckily for General Manager Joe Dumars, 19-year old Connecticut center Andre Drummond fell to the Pistons at the ninth overall pick. Drummond has the tools to become the next Dwight Howard…but could also turn out to be the next Darko Milicic. What lies ahead for Drummond is a mystery but it could be very different than Darko’s career, in that Drummond appears to be the backup center going into this season. Besides Drummond, Dumars has put his team back on the rebuilding road with the drafting of point guard Brandon Knight and power forward Greg Monroe, in previous years. However, Drummond looks to be the center piece in this rebuilding movement and if he can have success, the Pistons will take yet another step toward the right direction.
  5. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (2012 RECORD 21-45, DID NOT MAKE PLAYOFFS)
    What used to be Lebron’s stomping grounds have turned into Kyrie Irving’s transformation into a Derrick Rose clone. Irving has similar tools to Rose and with the right supporting cast (boy, isn’t that a familiar term in Cleveland?) could bring the Cavs back like Rose brought the Bulls back. The way to build your team back up is with an excellent point guard and the Cavs have one. Yet the surrounding cast still smells of Lebron and are about as useful to Irving as they were to Lebron. Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker have been replaced by younger, more useful, players like rookies Jae Crowder and Dion Waiters. However, youth alone rarely wins games. This year should be no different with Indiana and Chicago duking it out as well as Milwaukee and Detroit vastly improving.

 

SOUTHWEST DIVISION

  1. MIAMI HEAT (2012 RECORD 46-20 DEFEATED OKLAHOMA CITY IN NBA FINALS 4-1)
    There is no question that the Heat are the class of the Southwest Division. With the departure of Dwight Howard to the Lakers over the summer, it really weakened the division as a whole and essentially gave the Heat an automatic berth. Lebron has new teammates to conquer the East with in former Celtic Ray Allen and point forward Rashard Lewis. The Heat look to be even more of a juggernaut than last year, if that’s possible.
  2. ATLANTA HAWKS (2012 RECORD 40-26, LOST TO BOSTON IN FIRST ROUND 2-4)
    Atlanta’s looking to place second in this division and it doesn’t look like it’ll be that hard considering the Heat have first place locked up and the Magic and Bobcats will be looking at the lottery after the season’s done. Joe Johnson’s departure to Brooklyn will hurt the team but Josh Smith and Al Horford are still around and are now the center pieces with which the team is based on. Both are in the prime of their careers and can carry this team into the playoffs. Unfortunately for Atlanta, however, it’ll most likely be a question of who’s going to eliminate them once they get to the postseason.
  3. WASHINGTON WIZARDS (2012 RECORD 20-46, DID NOT MAKE PLAYOFFS)
    Washington is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They’ve been improving slowly but haven’t really gone anywhere at all. A third place finish this year wouldn’t do any good either but this roster, frankly, doesn’t have the talent to leapfrog Atlanta and challenge for a playoff spot. John Wall is a bright spot at point guard but with names like Martell Webster, Jannero Pargo, Emeka Okafor, and Trevor Ariza, the team has a blasé feel to it. It’ll be another trying year for basketball in D.C. but to think this is only the third place team really speaks to how bad this division is…
  4. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS (2012 RECORD 7-41, DID NOT MAKE PLAYOFFS)
    Last year was the worst for basketball in Charlotte. A historic winning percentage (the wrong type of historic) lay in store for the Bobcats and no amount of coaching changes, new arenas, or draft picks was going to change that. Things didn’t get better even after the season as the Bobcats bought into what Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was selling and took him second overall. Kidd-Gilchrist is still only 19 years old and is supposed to be a “Savior” to the franchise. While at Kentucky, Kidd-Gilchrist wasn’t even a starter but still parlayed it into an NBA career. I think Charlotte could’ve done so much better than him but hey, at least Kemba Walker will have someone to pass to this season…
  5. ORLANDO MAGIC (2012 RECORD 37-29, LOST TO INDIANA IN FIRST ROUND 1-4)
    How the mighty have fallen. To think the 2009 Eastern Conference Champions would be picked to finish last in 2013 is shocking. But not so much when you see how much of a diva Mr. Dwight Howard became in four short years. There were so many times when you just wanted him to shut his mouth about his satisfaction with the franchise and forcing out Stan Van Gundy as coach. Worse yet, he took a metaphorical dump on the city by leaving town the way he did and giving the team one of the worst rosters in recent years. From names like Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, and E’Twaun Moore, this looks to be a terrible year in Orlando. At least it gives Magic fans an opportunity to calculate the chances of getting the top pick in the Lottery.

If you think the East is interesting (which you genuinely might not), wait till you see the West! Till next time, folks!

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About Joe Barroso

Joe Barroso is the creator and editor of the Sporting Mitten blog as well as a contributor for the Farm Club blog. He began to pursue a career in journalism in 2010 while in high school. He created, produced, and wrote for "Irish Pride Sports Show" a weekly, sports feature show for Father Gabriel Richard High School in Ann Arbor, MI. He grew up in southeastern Michigan playing a variety of sports but was drawn to the game of baseball. Even with his short-lived playing career in high school gone, he still decided to pursue a career reporting happenings in baseball. You can reach him at jayambassador@gmail.com.
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