October 19, 2012 by shivusharma
Check out yesterday’s post if you want to see my Eastern Conference predictions for the 2012-13 NBA Season. Today I’ll be breaking down how I think the West will shake out, the NBA finals, and the end of the year awards.
- Oklahoma City Thunder – Last season, the precocious Thunder smelt victory, but tasted defeat at the hands of Lebron James and the Miami Heat. With the sting of the finals loss motivating them, I expect James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Durant to improve upon their weaknesses en route to the best record in the West.
- San Antonio Spurs – We discount the Spurs every single season, but time and time again they have proven to be a dominant force during the regular season. Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the NBA. No matter who is on the floor, he knows how to put his players in a position to win.
- Los Angeles Lakers – This team is going to be the most fun to watch (only if you have Time Warner though). Dwight Howard is expected to be back sooner rather than later, so he, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and Pau Gasol will have more time to build some on-court chemistry. There will certainly be some bumps in the road, but all signs point to the Lakers being dominant once again.
- Denver Nuggets – Ty Lawson is on the verge of a breakout season and Javale McGee might be too. He destroyed Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in the playoffs last year and now has earned the glowing praise of Hakeem Olajuwon, after working out with him this summer. Andre Iguodala also gives them a lockdown perimeter defender they sorely missed. George Karl has tons of depth and perhaps the most athletic team in the league. That’s a recipe for success in mile high.
- Memphis Grizzlies – Zach Randolph got injured early on and the Grizzlies never really figured out a good way to incorporate him. With a full off-season to work out the kinks, I think the core of Z-Bo, Rudy Gay, and Marc Gasol will finally be ready to live up to its potential.
- Los Angeles Clippers – If you didn’t watch the gold medal game of the London Olympics, you missed out on one of Chris Paul’s greatest performances. CP3 is a point guard in the truest sense. He knows exactly what to do in order to get his teammates their favorite shots, but when it’s time to take over, he can go on a ridiculous scoring barrage to win the game. In my mind, he is the best PG in basketball, and makes you a playoff team all on his own. If Blake Griffin learns how to play defense and make jumpers, the Clippers ceiling will be much higher. For now, I have them at #6.
- Utah Jazz – Utah surprised everyone by winning the 8th seed last year, but that achievement was no fluke. I expect their young nucleus of Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Gordon Hayward to make great strides this season. The Jazz are also in a great position to trade productive veterans, Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap, for pieces before the trade deadline.
- Minnesota Timberwolves – with Ricky Rubio recovering from an ACL tear and now Kevin Love breaking his hand, the T’Wolves are projected to get out of the gates very slow. Once their two stars come back though, I expect their high-octane offense to really turn some heads. If they get even 75% of what Andre Kirilenko and Brandon Roy once were, this team could be very dangerous in the playoffs.
Playoffs (# of games)
OKC over MIN (6) – the T’Wolves will give the Thunder a tough time, because they are one of the few teams who can keep up with their pace. Still, I don’t think they will have the defensive wherewithal to handle a three-headed attack from Westbrook, Durant, and Harden.
SAS over UTA (5) – Utah faced San Antonio in the playoffs last year and really struggled to keep up. The Spurs are just too good at getting the shots they want. Their offense does a tremendous job of creating open three-point opportunities. The Jazz do not have the perimeter scorers to keep up with the points Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli will create for the Spurs.
LAL over LAC (6) – Staples Center is going to be crazy if this series takes place. This will be a turf war between two teams that really don’t like each other. On paper, it would seem like the Lakers should run over the Clippers pretty easily. However, since the Clippers have CP3 and this is a rivalry game, I’ll give “little brother” two games. The Clippers just have no answer for Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol.
DEN over MEM (6) – I think the Nuggets will be able to out-run and out-hustle the Grizzlies. Denver has the size to match up to Z-Bo and Gasol down low, while Memphis will have difficulty handling Denver’s athleticism on the perimeter. You’re going to see tons of lobs to Javale McGee and Kenneth Faried on fast breaks.
OKC over Denver (7) – This is going to be another fun series to watch. Both teams play incredibly fast and score a lot of points. Westbrook will struggle to stay in front of the speedy Ty Lawson, while Faried and McGee control the boards and patrol the paint. Iguodala seems much better suited to shut down James Harden, but he’ll certainly need to play some minutes on Durant and Westbrook as well. In the end, I think the Nuggets may not have enough to slow down Kevin Durant in the 4th quarter. Iguodala can’t guard OKC’s three best players at once.
LAL over SAS (6) – Kobe and Nash are not very good defenders anymore, so I think Ginobli and Parker’s drive and kick action will have some success against the Lakers defense. Where their party ends is when they try and finish at the rim and are met by Dwight Howard. Dwight will be too much for the Spurs to handle in the post as well. I can’t imagine Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, and Dejuan Blair having much success stopping Dwight on the low block.
LAL over OKC (7) – This is probably the 2nd most anticipated series going into the year. OKC proved that they could do a good job against Kobe last year, but how will they fair with Nash and Howard to contend with as well? If Westbrook is hitting his patented dribble pull-up, OKC will be tough to stop. Metta World Peace’s physicality will force Durant to work for his shots, so OKC’s success may come down to Westbrook and Harden. For the Lakers, I think their success will again come down to Nash’s effectiveness. Kendrick Perkins has historically done well at limiting Dwight, but Nash’s pick and roll ability may be too much to handle. It will take a balanced team effort for the Lakers to beat the Thunder, but I think they pull it off.
LAL over MIA (7) – This is the matchup we’ve all been waiting for. Finally, Kobe vs. Lebron is happening. Each team poses some serious matchup problems for the other. I don’t think the Lakers have anyone who could make Lebron’s life remotely difficult. MWP is a physical defender, but Lebron is bigger, stronger, and quicker. On the other side of the ball, the Heat don’t have any answer for Dwight Howard whatsoever. The best they can do is send him to the free throw line. You also have to ask yourself if Kobe reverts back to hero ball, in an attempt to send Lebron a message. That potential reality could be a death sentence for the Lakers. These two teams are so evenly matched, I could see either of them winning. I’m going to take the Lakers because I think the league is so talent-rich right now, that it is very difficult to repeat as champions. If the Lakers are able to get to the finals, it will be because their star players have sacrificed their egos in order to play a more balanced and cerebral form of basketball. Plus, I am kind of rooting for Steve Nash to win his first ring. After staying loyal to a Phoenix Suns franchise that looked to save money instead of surround Nash with a competitive team, I think he deserves a ring.
Bonus Awards Predictions
MVP: Kevin Durant
Finals MVP: Dwight Howard
Rookie of the Year: Anthony Davis
Sixth Man of the Year: James Harden
Coach of the Year: George Karl