Predicting NBA's 5 Most Improved Teams for the 2012-13 Season

Jake WinieckiCorrespondent IIIAugust 17, 2012

Predicting NBA's 5 Most Improved Teams for the 2012-13 Season

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    A lot has changed in the NBA since the end of last season.  Numerous players switched teams during free agency and helped mold a new landscape in the NBA.

    Once the dust settled, the NBA was shaken even more by the monster Dwight Howard trade, which involved big franchise-building pieces from four teams.

    With all of that being said, it is easy to see how some teams will be vastly improved while others fall off the map.

    Here is a look at five of those teams that will be much improved from a season ago and will make their mark on the NBA.

Dishonorable Mention: Houston Rockets

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    Projected Starting Lineup:

    PG- Jeremy Lin

    SG- Kevin Martin

    SF- Chandler Parsons

    PF- Patrick Patterson

    C- Omer Asik

    6th Man: Terrence Jones

    The Houston Rockets really scrapped their team big time this past offseason.  What remains is a skeleton of the near-playoff team from a year ago that could now potentially be the worst in the West.

    Projected Finish: (28-54) 15th in Western Conference

5. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Projected Starting Lineup:

    PG- Jrue Holiday

    SG- Evan Turner

    SF- Thaddeus Young

    PF- Spencer Hawes

    C- Andrew Bynum

    6th Man: Nick Young/Dorell Wright/Jason Richardson

    The Philadelphia 76ers were one of the winners of the Dwight Howard trade.  Although they lost their best player in Andre Iguodala, they added an even better one in Andrew Bynum.

    This team is loaded with depth, especially at the wing positions. Their starting lineup is incredibly young, yet still very experienced, something that can bode well in the postseason.

    Look for this 76ers team to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference next season.

    Projected Finish: (48-34) fourth in Eastern Conference 

4. Brooklyn Nets

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    Projected Starting Lineup:

    PG- Deron Williams

    SG- Joe Johnson

    SF- Gerald Wallace

    PF- Kris Humphries

    C- Brook Lopez

    6th Man: Reggie Evans

    This team has a great combination of experience, talent and potential.  Lead by one of the league's elite point guards in Deron Williams, the Brooklyn Nets should look to contend in the Eastern Conference next season.  

    Every starter brings something unique; Deron Williams can control the court like a quarterback controlling the field, Joe Johnson can shoot lights out and Gerald Wallace brings lock-down defense.  

    In the frontcourt Kris Humphries has proven to be one of the better rebounders (11.0 per game last season) in the NBA and Brook Lopez has shown huge potential as a scoring threat down in the post.

    Projected Finish: (50-32) second in Eastern Conference

3. Phoenix Suns

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    Projected Starting Lineup:

    PG- Goran Dragic

    SG- Shannon Brown

    SF- Jared Dudley

    PF- Luis Scola

    C- Marcin Gortat

    6th Man: Michael Beasley

    Despite losing two-time MVP Steve Nash, the Phoenix Suns have quietly put together a nice team.  They brought back Goran Dragic after a year in Houston, and they added veteran Luis Scola.  This team has a balanced roster, and should be better than most people expect.

    Projected Finish: (42-40) eighth in Western Conference

2. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Projected Starting Lineup:

    PG- Ricky Rubio

    SG- Brandon Roy

    SF- Andrei Kirilenko

    PF- Kevin Love

    C- Nikola Pekovic

    6th Man: Derrick Williams

    The Minnesota Timberwolves could be a legitimate contender in the West if everyone can stay healthy.  Even if they can't, they should still make a run at the postseason.  A lot depends on the health of Brandon Roy and Ricky Rubio's knees.

    Projected Finish: (43-39) seventh in Western Conference

1. Denver Nuggets

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    Projected Starting Lineup:

    PG- Ty Lawson

    SG- Andre Iguodala

    SF- Danilo Gallinari

    PF- Kenneth Faried

    C- JaVale McGee

    6th Man: Andre Miller

    Another winner of the Dwight Howard trade, the Denver Nuggets look to build on the high-scoring success they had last year.  Iguodala's defense could be the difference that finally puts this team over the top.

    Projected Finish: (51-31) fourth in Western Conference