The 2012 NBA playoffs ended in frustration for every fanbase outside of South Beach, but some teams are going to make a playoff run next season.
A few teams that made it to the playoffs last season were done in by unlucky matchups in the first round. Other teams could have used an opening-round series against a lesser opponent to preserve their energy for their second-round opponents.
Seeding has a huge impact on the playoff picture, and there are a few teams who will improve on their 2011-12 playoff seeds next postseason
Here are three of those teams.
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks were the seventh seed, but they would have grabbed a much higher slot if Mike D'Antoni hadn't led them to an 18-24 start. Once D'Antoni got the boot, Mike Woodson stepped in and completely changed the culture to the tune of an 18-6 run to close out the season.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, they ran into a buzzsaw in the form of the Miami Heat in Round 1. If the Knicks had won just one more game down the stretch (most notably a 98-90 loss to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers), they would have been the six seed due to a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Orlando Magic. This would have given them a matchup with the No. 3 Indiana Pacers.
Towards the end of the year, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire put together some semblance of cohesiveness on the offensive side of the ball. On defense, Woodson made sure his players knew there would be consequences if protecting the hoop was not taken seriously.
There is too much talent on the Knicks' roster for the team to finish as a seven seed for a second year in a row. They may not be able to beat the Heat, but a full season under Woodson will lead them to a four or five spot.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder aren't going to take their NBA Finals loss lightly. After two straight years of late-season disappointment, the Thunder are going to come back with a vengeance in 2012-13.
Duran and Russell Westbrook are going to have their best season yet, and the rest of the team's chemistry will only improve given the increased practice time.
The San Antonio Spurs were the class of the Western Conference last season, throttling basically every team they played, but they are old.
Very, very old.
The Los Angeles Lakers proved no match for the Thunder. The same goes for the Dallas Mavericks.
There's just no way that the Thunder don't finish at No. 1 in the West.
Los Angeles Clippers
Despite all the question marks surrounding Vinny Del Negro and the rest of the organization, the Los Angeles Clippers got better as the season went on.
Everybody began to mesh and there was a prevailing sentiment that the group had what it took to get the job done. Chris Paul and company were able to knock off the Memphis Grizzlies in seven—winning Game 7 in Memphis—but ran into the well-oiled machine that was Gregg Popovich's Spurs.
Paul is already the best point guard in the league and he's only going to get better. Blake Griffin is going to be one of the toughest matchups on the planet if he can figure out how to hit a 15-foot jumper consistently.
They could use a shooting guard if Randy Foye leaves in free agency, but the Paul-Griffin combination in itself will help them move up in the standings next season.
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