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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

SDH's 2012/2013 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 2. Indiana Pacers

Overall Win/Loss Record :  42-24 second place Central Division

Last Season’s Rank

Projected 2012/2013 Finish

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank
  • Points Scored: 97.7 (13th)
  • Points Allowed: 94.4 (10th)
  • Team FG%: .438 (24th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .435 (6th)
  • Rebounds per game: 43.9 (4th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.3 (17th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

Projected Starters Based on Last Season’s Performance, Veteran Seniority and Projected Impact

Key Reserves Based on Last Season’s Performances, Veteran Seniority and Potential Impact.
  1. George Hill (G)
  2. Tyler Hasbrough (PF)
  3. Gerald Green (G/F)
  4. Ian Mahinimi (C)
  5. Miles Plumlee (PF)

2012/2013 Projection:  59-23 first place in the Central Division—the Miami Heat needs to be afraid, be very afraid.


Last season the Indiana Pacers were just two games away from ripping the hearts out of South Beach hoops fans, sending Lebron and company back home sulking, and coach Erik Spoelstra from looking for a new job.  Grabbing that two games to one lead certainly had the media buzzing as they questioned whether or not Lebron James had the goods to lead Miami to its second NBA title.  Unfortunately for Pacers fans, Lebron and company proved their doubters wrong as they won the next three games clinching the series in splendid fashion.  Pacer fans were then left with asking themselves “what if?” had they managed to pull of the impossible and defeated the mighty Miami Heat.  Now with a completely revamped roster thanks to a rather busy offseason, the Pacers have given their fans even more optimism; add the fact that next season, their team are in the ideal situation as they have the perfect scenario not only take the Eastern Conference crown but also an even better chance to usurp the Heat to represent the East in the NBA Finals.

To start off, this upcoming season has given the Indiana the ideal opportunity to completely dominate their own Central Division as they will have little if any competition whatsoever.  Their biggest divisional rival, the Chicago Bulls, will come into the season with a weaker roster than before and will be playing most of the season without their star Derrick Rose.  The Bulls with their diminished roster will probably finish at best a distant second to Indiana while the rest of the teams in the Central Division will not be even worth mentioning.  Both the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers are projected to be perennial bottom feeders of the Eastern Conference while the Milwaukee Bucks continue to walk that thin line teetering between being average and mediocre.  Add the welcomed new additions to the roster, the Pacers also will start the season with one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league.

Very few teams, if any, can boast a roster that is ten players deep who have the ability to start on any NBA team; however, the Pacers managed to do so by upgrading their already strong lineup with even more size and talent.  They started by trading away the disappointing starting point guard Darren Collison along with swingman Dahntay Jones to the Dallas Mavericks for up and coming young big man Ian Mahinimi.  Mahinimi came off a career season with the Mavs averaging close to six points and five rebounds per game along with shooting .548 from the field—producing that all in less than 20 minutes per game.  He will be backing up the Pacers’ All Star, Roy Hibbert, whom Indiana resigned to a long term extension this past summer.  Add them with the power forward tandem of David West and Tyler Hansbrough, Indiana has assembled one of the strongest toughest and most physical front courts in the league.

In addition to their rather imposing front court, the Pacers also made a couple of low key moves that will make them an even stronger force to be reckoned with in the NBA.  They picked up DJ Augustin, who was cast aside by the Charlotte Bobcats as they declined on tending him a qualifying offer making him an unrestricted free agent.  Although he played on the team with the worst record in NBA history, Augustin posted solid numbers last season averaging 11 points and six assists.  He will certainly be an improvement from Darren Collison who had one of the lowest averages for assists per game for a starting point guard in the league.  The Pacers also adding the high flying Gerald Green who made an amazing comeback after his disappointing first stint in the NBA coming to the league straight out of high school.  Originally arriving as late season pickup from the then New Jersey Nets, Green exploded off the bench averaging close to 13 points, four rebounds and a steal per game while shooting .481 from the field in a little over 25 minutes of playing time.

With the four new additions to the Pacers lineup, the Miami Heat should be more than a little concerned.  Here comes the same team that almost eliminated them in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals last season with a much improved lineup who can cause even more problems defensively to Lebron James and company.  Armed with the defense first mantra and blue collar attitude instilled by coach Frank Vogel, Indiana has the chance to unseat the Miami Heat from its rather huge pedestal to attain the crown that has always alluded them—an NBA Championship trophy.  In fact, one can go as far to say that with the current state of the league, Indiana is probably the only team in the league that is a match for the Miami Heat—not the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, nor the San Antonio Spurs.  All the other teams do not hold a candle next to the Heat, save for the Pacers as they are by default, the only obstacle that stands in the Heat’s way for a second consecutive NBA title.                          

Monday, September 24, 2012

SDH's 2012/2013 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 3. Oklahoma City Thunder

Overall Win/Loss Record :  47-19 first place Northwest Division

Last Season’s Rank

Projected 2012/2013 Finish

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank
  • Points Scored: 103.1 (3rd)
  • Points Allowed: 96.9 (17th)
  • Team FG%: .471 (3rd)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .427 (4th)
  • Rebounds per game: 43.7 (6th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.3 (12th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders
  • Scoring: Kevin Durant (28.0)            
  • Rebounds per game:   Kevin Durant (8.0)
  • Minutes per game:  Kevin Durant (38.6)
  • Assists per game: Russell Westbrook (5.5)
  • Steals per game:   Russell Westbrook (1.7)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Serge Ibaka (3.7)

Projected Starters Based on Last Season’s Performance, Veteran Seniority and Projected Impact

Key Reserves Based on Last Season’s Performances, Veteran Seniority and Potential Impact.
  1. James Harden (G)
  2. Eric Maynor (PG)
  3. Nick Collison (F/C)
  4. Daequan Cook (SG)
  5. Cole Aldrich (PF)

2012/2013 Projection:  55-27 tied first place in the Northwest Division—will be hard pressed to repeat storied playoff run from last season.


For numerous basketball purists it must have been agonizing to watch the Oklahoma City Thunder play last season.  Here was a team who ranked dead last in assists per game, committed the most turnovers, and had the lowest assist to turnover ratio in the league.  Yet they were still able to finish with the second best record in the Western Conference and managed to beat not one, or two, but three former NBA Champions who in the last 15 years had won ten NBA titles between to reach the NBA Finals.  What made it even more infuriating to purists of the game was that the Thunder’s playoff success was not due to the team playing well, but rather the opposite.  Both the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers played terribly allowing a team with a rather simplistic and predictable offense to simply steamroll them while the San Antonio Spurs, who started the Western Conference Final series with a two games to one lead simply folded under the pressure.

Only the Miami Heat had the insight and the common sense to figure out the way to shut down the Thunder and it did so by rather simple roster adjustment.  Instead of having their star Lebron James use up much of his energy defending Thunder star Kevin Durant in the series, heat coach Erick Spoelstra had a better idea.  He shifted Lebron to the power forward position placing the Heat’s defensive specialist Shane Battier to humbug Durant on the defensive end. Spoelstra, as many have already surmised knew that the Thunder’s offense primary consisted of the ball being dominated by both Durant and Russell Westbrook while their three other teammates simply stood and watched.  Knowing full well that Serge Ibaka would not less see the ball let alone get any touches, he knew that Lebron would be free to aide with doubling down on Durant along with not spending energy guarding on the defensive end.

The same thing happened with the Heat’s other star, Chris Bosh, who was shifted to the center position knowing full well that he would not have to spend any effort on the defensive end guarding Kendrick Perkins.  Bosh would simply switch and double down on Kevin Durant while just staying in the paint to prevent Russell Westbrook from converting in the paint every time he barreled into the lane.  Instead of playing five on five basketball, the Thunder forced itself due its rather pedestrian offensive scheme to play five on two against Miami.  That would spell doom for Oklahoma City as they would lose their next four games after stealing the first game of the series on the Heat’s home court.  Their performance in game five said it all as fatigue set in for both Durant and Westbrook as Miami simply rolled over them winning the game and the series by 15 points thus becoming NBA champions.

Basketball purists would finally breathe a sigh of relief as they watched the team that had spit on their cherish beliefs of how the game should be played finally bested by sound basketball fundamentals.  The Miami Heat not only won the NBA title, but also exposed the glaring weakness of the Oklahoma City Thunder leaving them vulnerable to other teams looking to take a crack at them.  One of those teams is the Minnesota Timberwolves who underwent one of the biggest roster makeovers during the offseason by adding one of the best overall defenders in league in Andrei Kirilenko, along with former all star swing man Brandon Roy among other.  Now the Thunder will be faced with a team that can possibly take away their current stranglehold on the Northwest Division while at the same time prove to be a troublesome opponent come playoff time.  Add the spectacular offseason of the Los Angeles Lakers acquiring not just one but two potential Hall of Famers, the Thunder will certainly be hard-pressed to repeat that spectacular playoff run from last season.

Adding to the pressure is that the Thunder’s second best player, James Harden, will be a restricted free agent once the season ends giving OKC’s GM Sam Presti and team owner Clayton Bennett quite the dilemma.  There is no doubting Harden’s talent and worth—he is arguably the second or third best shooting guard in the league and certainly worth a maximum contract extension. Unfortunately, the problem lies with the current collective bargaining agreement in place which penalizes a team almost double in luxury tax penalties if a team goes over the salary cap.  With the Thunder already paying close to 50$ million on four players, paying Harden his worth will certainly put them over the luxury tax threshold and there will be numerous teams who are under the salary cap and ready willing and able to inflate Harden’s value just enough to scare the Thunder away from matching their offers.  So this may be the last time fans in the OKC will be able to see their team who reached the NBA Finals last season play together and with Harden possibly parting ways with the Thunder once the season ends, it may be the last time the Thunder will ever have to make the Finals as well.                    

Friday, September 21, 2012

SDH's 2012/2013 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 4. Los Angeles Lakers

Overall Win/Loss Record :  41-25 first place Pacific Division

Last Season’s Rank

Projected 2012/2013 Finish

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank
  • Points Scored: 97.3 (15th)
  • Points Allowed: 95.9 (15th)
  • Team FG%: .457 (8th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .437 (9th)
  • Rebounds per game: 46.2 (2nd)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.0 (10th)
Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring: Kobe Bryant (27.9)
  • Rebounds per game:  Pau Gasol (10.4)
  • Minutes per game:  Kobe Bryant (38.5)
  • Assists per game:  Kobe Bryant (4.6)
  • Steals per game:   Kobe Bryant (1.2)
  • Blocked Shots per game:   Pau Gasol (1.4)

Projected Starters Based on Last Season’s Performance, Veteran Seniority and Projected Impact

Key Reserves Based on Last Season’s Performances, Veteran Seniority and Potential Impact.

2012/2013 Projection:  60-22 first place in the Pacific Division—it’s championship or bust for this aging L.A team.


While Lakers fans are already planning their victory parades come June, they will be disappointed to know that their team is not the powerhouse that they will expect one the season begins in November.  Despite pulling off two of the most impressive offseason moves in probably its history, the Los Angeles Lakers are far from the superpower that they have been portrayed to be.  Sure they may have acquired the league’s top center in Dwight Howard in one of the most complicated trades ever conceived and signed a future hall of fame point guard in Steve Nash; however, despite the overhaul, the Lakers still remain a rather flawed team.  To start off , they will be entering the season with one of the oldest rosters in the league along with having close to 83$ million dollars invested in a starting five who have an average age of 32.4 years.  Lakers fans are essentially pinning their championship hopes on a 38 year old point guard who probably should have retired in Steve Nash and a possibly one and done player in Dwight Howard—not exactly a solid foundation to build a championship contender.

While many have the Lakers owning the regular season with their star studded lineup, the facts will show that projection is farther than the truth.  With the current state of the Western Conference, the Lakers will be lucky enough to win their division, let alone the Western Conference. Impressive as their offseason moves were, the Lakers only made themselves at best to be at par with the other elite teams in the West.  They cannot even set themselves apart from their fellow Staples Center tenant Los Angeles Clippers who have also made major strides this offseason as well.  As for the other top dogs in the West—namely the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder—the Lakers will have a lot to prove in showing that they can even measure up to the likes of those teams, let alone surpass them.

Last season, the Thunder simply manhandled this Lakers team as they literally zipped past them in the backcourt not even allowing LA to catch its breath let alone catch up.  Now, the starting backcourt consists of two aging veterans who are a step slower and possibly unable to keep up with lightning quick guards such as the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook and the Clippers’ Chris Paul to name a couple.  Unless those flaws in defense are remedied, LA will continue to struggle with the younger and quicker teams in the league.  Along with its suspect defense, LA’s bench still remains a major question mark as even though it has greatly improved from last season, it still remains rather old, slow and inconsistent.  The Lakers’ second unit is currently anchored by a 36 year old Antawn Jamison who has seen much of his quickness and athleticism fall at the waist-side.

Upon closer inspection this team is no more of a championship contender than it ever was last season—the Lakers just have bigger names in their roster, that’s all.  It is sort of reminiscent of the roster in 2004 where the Lakers acquired two aging big names whose best years had passed them by to play alongside the team’s stars at the time, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.  The team picked up a 41 year old Karl Malone who was let go from his previous team the Utah Jazz along with signing a 37 year old Gary Payton to give the Lakers another shot at a title.  It was a disaster from the start of the season as the aging Karl Malone, known for his longevity, simply just fell apart and was shelved for most of the season due to injury while Gary Payton proved that his reputation of being “the Glove” was overrated to say the least.  To make a long story short, although the Lakers managed to reach the Finals that year, they were then simply embarrassed by an underdog Detroit Pistons and then completely disintegrated right after.

Coach Phil Jackson resigned soon after, Shaq was later traded to the Miami Heat, Karl Malone remained a shattered mess forcing him to retire, and Gary Payton simply faded away into obscurity.  All that was left was Kobe Bryant and he was left to shoulder the blame and criticism as the Lakers stumbled through the next three seasons missing the playoffs in 2005 and getting eliminated in the first round in the following two seasons.  It seemed as if the Lakers would continue the trend in 2008, until they received mana from heaven in the form of Pau Gasol which later resulted in LA reaching the Finals three years in a row, winning two of them.  Now the Lakers are in similar situation as they were in 2004 with an aging and deteriorating roster on the verge of collapsing once the season ends. Even though the names and faces have changed, it is more than likely that history will repeat itself leaving Lakers fans deflated and on the verge of watching another painful rebuilding period yet again.                  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

SDH's 2012/2013 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 5. New York Knicks

Overall Win/Loss Record :  36-30 second place Atlantic Division

Projected 2012/2013 Finish

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank
  • Points Scored: 97.8 (11th)
  • Points Allowed: 94.7 (11th)
  • Team FG%: .443 (18th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .442 (10th)
  • Rebounds per game: 41.7 (18th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 43.5 (24th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders
  • Scoring: Carmelo Anthony (22.6)
  • Rebounds per game:  Tyson Chandler (9.9)
  • Minutes per game:  Carmelo Anthony (34.1)
  • Assists per game:  Carmelo Anthony (3.6)
  • Steals per game:  Iman Shumpert (1.7)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Tyson Chandler (1.4)

Projected Starters Based on Last Season’s Performance, Veteran Seniority and Projected Impact

Key Reserves Based on Last Season’s Performances, Veteran Seniority and Potential Impact.
  1. JR Smith (SG)
  2. Iman Shumpert (G)
  3. Steve Novak (F)
  4. Marcus Camby (C)
  5. Ronnie Brewer (G/F),

2012/2013 Projection:  50-32 tied first place in the Atlantic Division, it’s put up or shut up time in the Big Apple.


Two years ago, the New York Knicks were projected to be the team of the future after acquiring two of the biggest names in the league—Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.  Most anticipated that with the tandem of Amare and Anthony, the Knicks would be the primary hurdle against the Miami Heat to win the Eastern Conference.  Unfortunately those days have yet to arrive as the Knicks have so far stumbled out of the gates as Gotham City’s dynamic duo have not been able to click.  Last season could have been a complete disaster as the Knicks looked completely out of sync and it took a Taiwanese Harvard grad who no one had ever heard of to come to the team’s rescue.  Now that prized diamond in the rough is now moved on to Houston while the Knicks remain with its two headed monster who seem to be going in completely opposite directions.

At one time, people associated Carmelo Anthony with the likes of current NBA greats such as Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant; however, now it is quite apparent that Anthony does not even hold a candle to them.  While James, Bryant and Durant have elevated their teams to elite status leading them to the NBA Finals and championship rings, Anthony’s teams has essentially floundered in mediocrity.  While playing for the Denver Nuggets, despite his scoring prowess, Anthony still could not lift his team beyond marginal status and to add insult to injury, Denver actually improved since he left.  While Anthony’s former team seemed to have not missed a step since his departure, the same cannot be said about his current which has played disappointingly underwhelming thus far.  So far the Knicks have been 50-43 since Carmelo arrived at Madison Square Garden whereas the Denver Nuggets have gone 57-35 without him thus far—certainly not an outcome that of the MSG faithful had originally anticipated.

At the same time the Knicks other star, Amare Stoudemire, who signed with them to a 100$ million deal over the next five years seems to be on the verge of decline.  Upon arriving in New York, his production dropped significantly as injuries have started to take their toll on the once unstoppable big man.  It did not help when Carmelo Anthony arrived as his production got even worse as his shooting percentage took a dip along with his scoring production.  Through much of last season, Stoudemire struggled with his shot as he had to create most of them on his own unlike his time in Phoenix where he was the primary recipient of all of Steve Nash’s lobs and alley-oop passes.  He continued to struggle offensively that season until he was blessed by the powers that be a point guard who was equally effective and efficient as Nash was in Jeremy Lin—now with Lin gone to lead the Houston Rockets, will Amare return to his struggling ways of last season?

Although the loss of Lin greatly hurt the Knicks plans for the future, their front office managed to partially fill in his void with a few inexpensive stop gap replacements.  They brought back Raymond Felton who had his best season while playing such a short time in New York as he posted career highs in scoring (17.1ppg) and assists per game (9.0).  Hopefully Felton will return to form after having such a dreadful season in Portland last year because if not, the Knicks backcourt does not look too pretty.  Backing up Felton will be a 40 year old Jason Kidd who stunk up last season while with the Dallas Mavericks as he posted career lows across the board.  Add an equally geriatric Pablo Prigioni who at 35, will be playing his rookie season in the NBA, the Knicks point guard situation looks pretty grim to say the least and although many have touted their roster as one of the deepest in the league, it consists of washed up has-beens such as Marcus Camby and overall perennial disappointment JR Smith. 

Despite this rather bleak portrayal, the Knicks still are ranked rather high primarily due to the strength of its roster and based on the assumption that all their players will perform at peak efficiency.  Unfortunately, even at full strength, the Knicks are nowhere near strong enough to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, let alone provide any challenge for the Miami Heat come playoff time.  New York cannot even separate themselves from their division, let alone the Eastern Conference as three other teams in its division are all but equal with each other.  So do not expect the Knicks to dominate in the league standings as they will probably one squeak by for the Atlantic Division crown and certainly do not anticipate New York to be anywhere near championship worthy for this season or any season for that matter.  The Knicks may be good, probably better than they have ever been in a very long time, but they are simple not good enough and probably will never be.                     

SDH's 2012/2013 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 6. Los Angeles Clippers

Overall Win/Loss Record :  40-26 second place Pacific Division

Projected 2012/2013 Finish

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank
  • Points Scored: 97.5 (14th)
  • Points Allowed: 95.0 (13th)
  • Team FG%: .455 (10th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .447 (14th)
  • Rebounds per game: 41.6 (22nd)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 39.8 (2nd)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders
  • Scoring: Blake Griffin (20.7)
  • Rebounds per game:   Blake Griffin (10.9)
  • Minutes per game: Chris Paul (36.4)
  • Assists per game:  Chris Paul (9.1)
  • Steals per game:   Chris Paul (2.5)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  DeAndre Jordan (2.0)

Projected Starters Based on Last Season’s Performance, Veteran Seniority and Projected Impact

Key Reserves Based on Last Season’s Performances, Veteran Seniority and Potential Impact.
  1. Lamar Odom (F)
  2. Jamal Crawford (G)
  3. Grant Hill (SF)
  4. Willie Green (SG)
  5. Ronny Turiaf (C)

2012/2013 Projection:  55-27 second place in the Pacific Division with an outside shot to knock their dreaded hometown rivals the Lakers off their rather high pedestal.


Last season, despite posting their best performance in franchise history posting one of the best records in the league along with winning only their second playoff series in its history, the Clippers were a bit of a disappointment.  Everyone expected the Clippers to simply dominate with the acquisition of possibly the best point guard in the league Chris Paul paired alongside the reigning rookie of the year Blake Griffin.  Although they made an impressive combination, the rest of the team looked rather underwhelming at best.  Both Paul and Griffin were the only consistent scorers in the starting five as the other three remained unreliable at best and at worst, completely invisible.  Many expected a breakout season from starting center DeAndre Jordon as the Clipper signed him on a five year 50$ million extension; however, despite all the hype and money , Jordan played rather underwhelming as he was a non factor on the offensive end while being a moderate, if not mediocre presence on the defensive end too.  Much was also expected from Caron Butler, an All Star caliber player who had just come off winning an NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks; however, his contributions proved to be negligible as his offense slipped to near career lows while his defense, supposedly his strong suit, was average if not unspectacular.

Add that with a rather non-descript bench that consisted of washed up veterans and mediocre role players, much of the last season comprised of the Blake Griffin and Chris Paul show with them doing much of the worked while the rest of the team just watching.  It was eerily similar to Paul’s experience in New Orleans where both he and former teammate David West had to carry their team throughout their seasons together.  They brought the Hornets to the playoffs, but those post season appearances never materialized to much as they were quickly ousted in the first round each time.  With Paul becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, it was imperative to Clippers to assure him that would not have to endure the same experience as he had while playing for New Orleans.  And they did so rather well by orchestrating one of the most active off seasons in the league acquiring solid veteran talent to convince Paul that they are a team primed for his ultimate prize, an NBA championship ring.

They started by acquiring a familiar face in Lamar Odom, whom the Clippers originally drafted in 1999, but later moved on to win two NBA championship rings with the Clippers’ arch nemesis Los Angeles Lakers.  Odom struggled last season as he posted career lows after being traded to Dallas Mavericks last season—so much so that both Mavericks and Odom agreed that it was probably for the best that they went their separate ways during mid season.  Many who saw him play last year wondered if Odom still had anything left after that disastrous season and whether or not he can still be an impact player for the Clippers; however, much of his poor play had to do with factors outside of his control.  During the lockout last summer, Odom lost his brother prior to the new season starting and the environment in Dallas was far from what he was used to.  In L.A, he was one of the focal points of Phil Jackson’s triangle offence as he would bring up the ball, facilitate for his teammates and push the tempo if need be; however, in Dallas his role was rather limited as he was buried under a roster of old veterans who were more concerned with getting their own shots rather than running a more structured offense such as the Triangle.

The Clippers will be a welcomed change for Odom as he will return to the city where he started his career and will be playing behind high caliber players in the form of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.  Along with Odom, the Clippers added a supported cast of veterans who have a combined 373 games of playoff experience, 10 appearances in the NBA Finals, and have 9 NBA Championship rings between them.  The Clippers resigned veteran Chauncey Billups who suffered a season ending ACL tear, but has now fully recovered and is now looking to prove his doubters wrong once again.  L.A also added additional firepower in the form of Jamal Crawford and Willie Green known for their proficiency from beyond the arc and their abilities to put up points in a hurry.  Add six time NBA All Star Grant Hill along with Ronnie Turiaf who is fresh off of winning a NBA title   with the Miami Heat, the Clippers have altogether formidable lineup with enough winning experience to rival any NBA team.

Expect the Clippers to be on everyone’s hit list as along with gunning for the top teams in the West, L.A will also be wearing bright red bull’s eyes on their backs too.  With the team that he has now, Chris Paul can be assured that this Clipper team will do anything to assure him that it is a viable championship contender.  This especially will speak droves to him once he becomes an unrestricted free agent at season’s end and will have numerous teams under the salary cap who will vie for his services.  In their offseason moves, Los Angeles have not only made themselves a force to be reckoned with this season but for seasons to come as a new culture of winning and excellence has been infused in a franchise that was once considered a laughing stock.  It is a new day in the City of Angels as there will not be just one but two shining stars setting this metropolis alight.         

SDH's 2012/2013 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 7. Minnesota Timberwolves

Overall Win/Loss Record :  26-40 fifth place Northwest Division

Last Season’s Rank

Projected 2012/2013 Finish

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 97.9 (10th)
  • Points Allowed: 100.1 (35th)
  • Team FG%: .433 (27th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .455 (22nd)
  • Rebounds per game: 43.7 (5th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 43.4 (23rd)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring: Kevin Love (26.0)
  • Rebounds per game:   Kevin Love (13.3)
  • Minutes per game:  Kevin Love (39.0)
  • Assists per game: Ricky Rubio (8.2)
  • Steals per game:  Ricky Rubio (2.2)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Nikola Pekovic (0.7)

Projected Starters Based on Last Season’s Performance, Veteran Seniority and Projected Impact

Key Reserves Based on Last Season’s Performances, Veteran Seniority and Potential Impact.

2012/2013 Projection:  55-27, tied first place in the Northwest Division; The wolf pack has finally woken up from hibernation.


After five long years of toiling in the bottom of the league, the Minnesota Timberwolves have finally turned things around making themselves not only a playoff contender, but also a darkhorse favorite to reach the NBA Finals.   It all started with the Wolves having one of the most active off-seasons in its history trading away first round picks for quality veteran talent along with signing one of the best free agency classes of the year.  They signed two players from their division rivals, Andrei Kirilenko formerly of the Utah Jazz and former Portland Trailblazer Brandon Roy giving the Wolves two savvy veterans to go along Minnesota’s young duo of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.  They also bolstered their rather weak second unit trading for swingman Chase Buddinger and athletic long forward Dante Cunningham to add some neededed depth to go along with number two pick in last year’s NBA draft Derrick Williams and former Dallas Maverick Jose Juan Barea.  Altogether the Wolves have one of the most deepest and talented rosters in the league and will certainly open some eyes and turn some heads in this upcoming season.

This new roster will certainly be welcomed by Wolves coach Rick Adelman who struggled to find a suitable combination on the floor that can put the ball in the basket while at the same time give a strong effort on the defensive end.  Last season, the Wolves suffered two-fold having not only one of the worst shooting teams in the league, but one of the worse defensive teams as well.  Save for starting center Nicola Pekovic, no other player on the team shot .500 from the field while at the same time Pekovic was only of three Timberwolves to shoot better than .450 from the field.  With the new roster, the Wolves have the firepower that the team most desperately needed taking much of the pressure off their star, Kevin Love, not only in scoring, but also on the rebounding side as well.  With this new lineup, Minnesota will certainly be hitting much more shots reducing the need for Love to clean up after all the errant shots of his teammates last season.

Of course the biggest moves of the Wolves’ offseason were the acquisitions of veterans Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy—two veterans who look to redeem themselves in the eyes of fans.  Kirilenko especially has a major chip on his shoulder after being chastised for much of his NBA career for not playing at an All Star level that Jazz fans expected from him.  Much of the criticism was rather unfair considering the fact that Kirilenko was left in the cold thanks to the Jazz acquiring Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mehemet Okur.  Instead of being the first option on the offensive end as Kirilenko was in the early part of his career, he was slowly downgraded to being the fourth or even fifth offensive option on the team. In addition, with the style of play at the time under former coach Jerry Sloan that focused on just two players, the point guard and power forwards, Kirilenko was essentially frozen out of Utah’s offensive schemes.

Yet despite his troubles, Kirilenko remained one of the best defensive swingmen in the league leading the Jazz in both steals and blocked shot per game during his ten year stint with the Jazz.  He also proved that he was still on top of his game winning MVP of the Euro League while at the same time leading his Russian team to a rather impressive Olympic Finish in London.  Adding Kirilenko will give the Wolves a defensive presence that they have lacked for some time and although he will not be counted on to score plenty of points, but will still be a strong contributor in putting the ball in the basket.  The real question coming into this season, however, is whether or not Brandon Roy, who was forced to retire at the tender age of 27 due to nagging injuries, will return to his All Star form once the season begins.  Luck for him, no one expects him to be the star of the Wolves as he was in Portland and if Brandon Roy manages to put up solid number of 13-15 points per game along with 3-4 assists and rebounds per game, then it would have been all but worth it.

The real player who will be under the microscope will be Kevin Love as he will have to prove that he is the superstar that the media has portrayed him to be.  There is no doubting his ability and talent; however, one must wonder whether he deserves to be mentioned along with the likes of NBA greats such as Lebron James, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant to name few.  All that he has shown thus far is that is a rather good player on a rather bad team—despite averaging close to 23 points and 14 rebounds per game in the last two seasons, his team has only won 43 games in that time span.  Love will have to shown not only fans, but his detractors as well that he is the franchise player that the fans, coaches and front office of Minnesota along with the media portray him to be.  Nonetheless, with the team that he has now, the Minnesota Timberwolves will certainly be a force to be reckoned with and Wolves fans, after five long and hard years will finally have something to cheer about.