Several teams in contention for the NBA title have some new faces in their franchise for the 2012-13 season. Whether it was via trades, the draft or signing players off waivers, a number of notable franchises have beefed up their rosters. Most of the division champions from last season looked poised to take the division title again, but some surprise teams could make a late run in the end.
In the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference, I am going with the Philadelphia 76ers to be crowned champions. I am looking for the Ohio State star Evan Turner to be the play-maker for them this year. Turner showed signs of brilliance last year, but it was only his second year in the league, and his inexperience showed late in games. With the acquiring of the Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum in a trade, the 76ers finally have a presence down low.
A few teams in the Central Division look evenly matched and could make a run late in the season, but I like the Indiana Pacers. They have plenty of young talent, as all but one of their starters, David West, are under 26. The Pacers will look for West to carry their squad, especially on offense, as he averages 16 PPG and 7.2 RPG in his career.
The reigning champions, the Miami Heat, are easily the favorite to win the Southeast and to repeat as NBA champions. Lebron James is the best player in the league and a statistical monster. Last season, he averaged 27.1 PPG with 7.9 RPG and 6.2 APG. The addition of sharp-shooter Ray Allen, who signed this season with the Heat instead of the Boston Celtics for less money, poses a constant outside threat whenever James drives the lane and is double-teamed. If I had to put my money on one team to win it all, it would be the well-balanced Heat.
In the Northwest Division, last season’s scoring-leader, Kevin Durant (28.0 PPG), and the Oklahoma City Thunder are by far the favorite. After losing to the Miami Heat in last year’s finals, they got a glimpse of the title and will be hungry to finally obtain it this season. With a quick team and a well-balanced offense, the Thunder are the favorite to repeat as Western champions.
Los Angeles is my pick to win the Western Conference Pacific Division Title this season. No, not the Laker team that has won the last five years in a row. I’m going with the Los Angeles Clippers. Any team that has Chris Paul running their offense should be considered a contender. As one of the best point guards in the game, 18.8 PPG, 9.9 APG and 2.4 SPG in his career, Paul is a great facilitator and knows how to run a fast-paced offense. Add the freakishly strong power forward, Blake Griffin, to the mix, and look for the Clippers to surprise the complacent Lakers and take the Division.
For the Southwest Division, I am going to make a bold prediction and pick the Houston Rockets. The team is going to be riding on the shoulders of James Harden, who Houston just acquired in a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder because of a money dispute. Harden just recently signed a five-year, 80 million dollar contract with the Rockets. Playing with the Thunder, Harden scored 16.8 points and 4.1 rebounds last season and was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. Point guard Jeremy Lin is also new to the team and will look to continue his late season surge.
By Billy Felo