During every off-season in sports you constantly hear about the best teams, which in the NBA have been the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, etc. However, when the regular season begins there are always those teams that surprise of us all that no one said a word about, which usually becomes their motivation for success. This article is going to give you three NBA teams that will surprise you during the 2012-2013 season, before it even happens.
The Warriors are a very young and talented team that have all kinds of potential for this upcoming season, led by second year head coach Mark Jackson. They drafted Harrison Barnes out of North Carolina University this summer with the seventh overall pick. He brings a ton of upside to the Warriors, being able to play both the guard and forward positions with his lengthy 6’8” frame, potentially becoming a pest on defense.
Barnes has been labeled as more of an offensive threat, averaging 16. 8 points in five games at the NBA summer league in Las Vegas. The Warriors went 5-0 in the summer league, but that isn’t saying much considering I think I saw the Lakers summer league team playing at my local YMCA last week. (The Lakers probably would have been better off picking up 12 dudes playing blackjack at one of the casinos.)
Anyways, the Warriors add Barnes to a starting lineup that has shooting guard Klay Thompson (lights-out shooter), point guard Stephen Curry (all-star when healthy), David Lee at power forward (20.9 PPG and 9.6 RPG last season), and Andrew Bogut at center (if he can actually stay healthy).
The Warriors bench also has some depth with Brandon Rush (terrific three-point shooter), Richard Jefferson (veteran swingman), Carl Landry (veteran forward), backup point guard Charles Jenkins, and backup center Andris Biedrins. It will be tough for Golden State to make that leap to the playoffs with the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers at the top of the pacific division, but don’t be surprised if they end with that number eight seed in the western conference playoffs.
Washington has already surprised me with the moves they made this off-season, trading for Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor. They also traded for Nene late last season and are slowly building a competitive team. (Does Nene have a first name? Is Nene his first name? Is Nene his last name? It should be illegal to have that many questions surrounding your name.)
In the 2012 NBA draft the Wizards selected Bradley Beal out of Florida University with the third overall pick. Beal is a 6’3” shooting guard who should fit right into the Wizards offense as a sharp shooter from behind the arc and a well-rounded offensive player.
The Wizards starting lineup headed into the 2012-2013 season is projected to be John Wall, Beal, Ariza, Okafor, and Nene. That looks like a playoff roster on paper, depending on the play of Wall this season. The former first overall pick in the 2010 draft has yet to establish himself as one of the top young point guards in the league.
Wall has averaged just over 16 points and 8 assists per game in his first two seasons in the league, which is solid considering the team he had around him. This could be Wall’s breakout season, playing with his newly acquired weapons and lots of the pressure taken off of his shoulders. He doesn’t have to be the go-to guy anymore, with shooters Beal and Ariza running the floor alongside of him and with Nene and Okafor hopefully becoming a presence down in the post.
The Wizards bench after Jordan Crawford (potential sixth man of the year candidate) isn’t too deep, with Jan Vesely (sixth pick overall in the 2011 draft), Trevor Booker, AJ Price, Shelvin Mack, Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singleton, and Martell Webster (the guy who usually rocks a horrific hairstyle.)
The Wizards will have to get bench production outside of Crawford to make a run this season. Even with the question marks surrounding the Wizards bench and Randy Whittman in his full-season as head coach this starting five could be good enough to make the playoffs in the eastern conference.
This Portland team, on paper, could be a shockingly competitive team this season, depending on how well two of their 2012 draft picks perform. The Trailblazers drafted point guard Damian Lillard out of Weber State University with the sixth overall pick and center Meyers Lenard out of the University of Illinois with the 11th overall pick. These two players are expected to play pivotal roles for Portland this season.
Lillard is a 6’3” guard who is known for his outside shooting ability and scoring in general after winning the NBA summer league CO-MVP (for what that’s worth), averaging 26.5 points and 5.3 assists in four games. On the other hand, Lenard is a 7’1” center who also impressed the Trailblazers in the summer league with his physical play in the post. The expectations for Lenard won’t be as big as the last center that Portland drafted, Greg Oden. (Let’s be honest, if we were talking about expectations off of the basketball court Lenard would be screwed.)
The starting lineup for Portland headed into the 2012-2013 season is projected to be Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Lenard. Aldridge is arguably a top two power forward in the NBA and now has another big man playing on the other side of him.
The Trailblazers bench really doesn’t have a solidified scorer this season, but display other weapons like J.J. Hickson (athletic big man), Jared Jefferies (defensive specialist), Shawne Williams, Nolan Smith, Jonny Flynn, and Will Barton (second round pick in the 2012 draft).
It will be Terry Stotts’ first year as head coach of the Trailblazers, hoping to get the most out of his players. This team will be tough to beat at home in the Rose Garden as usual, being one of the loudest arenas in the NBA. If they can get their two rookies to play at a high level you might be surprised to see where this team ends up during the 2012-2013 season.
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