Stock Up, Stock Down for NBA 2012-13 Every Title Contender, Pre-Training Camp
While every team right now has high hopes of competing for the 2013 NBA title, there are a few elite teams that are legitimate title contenders as we head into training camp.
Teams like the L.A. Lakers, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets all made offseason moves that solidified them as top contenders for the 2012-13 season. They identified needs and filled them, and that's why they have their sights set on the 2013 Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.
Some title contenders however, are in a better place than others as we inch toward the Oct. 2 start of training camp.
It's time to play stock up and stock down with the top title contenders in the NBA.
L.A. Lakers: Stock Way, Way Up
No team in the NBA added the kind of star power that the L.A. Lakers added this past season.
Bringing in arguably the best center in the NBA in Dwight Howard and one of the most intelligent point guards to ever play the game in Steve Nash has transformed the Lakers into the top title contender in the entire league.
While there are questions surrounding how Kobe Bryant will mesh with Nash's pure point-guard talents and Howard's prime-time ego, when you have three of the league's best players playing together, there's always potential for elite success.
We saw it with the Miami Heat last season, and we'll see it again this season with the Lakers. Star talent brings challenges, but it's a high risk/high reward that is going to pay off for the Lake Show.
I didn't even mention the productive talent the Lakers have on the bench in Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison. The Lakers have a talented roster, and the world is going to see that during the first few days of training camp.
Boston Celtics: Staying Put
The Boston Celtics had a roller coaster of an offseason.
At first it looked like they could be entering the dreaded rebuilding process as a franchise, but instead, they re-signed Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass and brought in one of the best sixth men in the NBA in Jason Terry.
While the Celtics will have to work at finding out the best rotation for the talent they have on their roster, there's no doubt that excitement is in the air in Boston, and for good reason.
With Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Garnett, the Celtics still have one of the most dynamic trios in the league. That trio combined for 55.4 points per game in the postseason, and with that production at the foundation, the Celtics just need players like Terry, Bass, Avery Bradley and their rookies, Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger, to step up to compete in the East.
Not many teams could lose the NBA's all-time leader in three-point shooting and become a better team, but the Celtics have done just that. Goodbye Ray Allen, and hello to a new world of possibilities in Boston.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Stock Down
Re-signing Serge Ibaka to a four-year, $48 million contract—as reported by Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski—wasn't a bad move, but considering that it was the Thunder's only move this offseason takes away its importance.
The Thunder needed to add some depth on their bench, and aside from adding Perry Jones III through the 2012 NBA draft, they didn't do that.
Fans have to be wondering how the Thunder intend on improving this upcoming season after their lack of depth was exposed in the 2012 NBA Finals at the hands of the Miami Heat. They sure didn't add any depth, and if Jones doesn't pan out early on in the season, the Thunder could be a talented team taking a step backwards as the 2012-13 season progresses.
Whenever you have Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden—who combined for 67.9 points per game last postseason—on a roster, there's going to be a lot of excitement. But the Thunder's 2012-13 campaign will be a letdown if the other guys on the roster don't step their game up.
Brooklyn Nets: Stock Soaring
How does a team that went 58-172 over the span of the last three seasons turn into an NBA title contender overnight?
You do that by re-signing one of the best point guards in the league, trading for one of the best shooting guards in the league and bringing back three starters who help form one of the most dynamic starting lineups in the entire league.
Yep. That's exactly what the Brooklyn Nets did this past season. Their starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez averaged a combined 86.6 points per game last season. That shows just how explosive they can be and will be on offense this upcoming season.
Chemistry is the only question as the Nets head into training camp, and that's why their stock is soaring right now. Of all 30 teams in the NBA, the Nets have transformed the most since last year and the hype train for them, and their "core four" is running full steam ahead. The only thing that can stop them is themselves.
Denver Nuggets: Stock Up
Adding Andre Iguodala this offseason gave the Denver Nuggets the one thing they lacked last season—a legitimate lock-down defender.
While his defensive talents are certainly going to help the Nuggets, his veteran talent will also fill a major need for a young team with a ridiculous amount of upside.
NBA fans saw just how dangerous the Nuggets were when they took the mighty L.A. Lakers to the brink of elimination in the playoffs last season. All they needed to actually pull off that upset was defensive intensity and leadership, and Iguodala brings both of those.
He will also help young players like Ty Lawson and JaVale McGee develop into more complete and defensively-focused players. If those three players can build legitimate chemistry within the first few weeks of the 2012-13 season, the Nuggets will be one of the hottest teams in the NBA, and they'll have Iguodala to thank.
New York Knicks: Stock Down
Losing Jeremy Lin and his 14.6 points, 6.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game averages from last season is going to hurt more than most Knicks fans want to admit.
The Knicks are hoping that Raymond Felton will be the Felton of old, when he averaged 17.1 points and nine assists per game with the Knicks in 2010-11.
They are also hoping that by adding Jason Kidd's veteran experience, players like Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire will finally be able to play together with some semblance of chemistry.
While adding those players at the point helps in theory, it's going to look much different on the court. Felton wasn't himself last year, and Kidd's offense and assist production was at a career low last season.
There is just too much uncertainty for the Knicks as they head into training camp, and it's why their stock is down from where they were last season.
San Antonio Spurs: Stock Steady
Year in and year out, the San Antonio Spurs are one of the most consistent and competitive teams in both the Western Conference and the entire NBA.
In the past seven seasons, the Spurs have acquired a record of 392 wins and 166 losses for a winning percentage of 70.3 percent.
The reason why they've been such a consistent team in the past is exactly why their stock is staying steady heading into the 2012-13 season. It's because they have Tim Duncan holding down the paint, Tony Parker running the point and Gregg Popovich leading the way.
While they didn't make any major offseason moves, the Spurs will be a contender yet again this season. Not only do they have a great foundation of talent moving forward, they also have the taste of a bitter defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder in their mouths from last season, and that taste will certainly fuel their fire this upcoming season.
Miami Heat: Stock Way Up
Oh, how the rich have gotten richer. Defending the 2012 NBA title will be a lot easier now that the Heat have added serious depth on their bench with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
While those players will have to figure out how to fit into the Heat's rotation, there's no doubt that their veteran talents make the Heat a deeper and more complete team.
With Allen's three-point shooting stretching the floor and Lewis' abilities in the mid-range game, the Heat's second unit is going to be a lot tougher and more productive. That might not seem like a major addition, but adding depth to an already star-studded roster is a great move for the Heat.
Teams like the L.A. Lakers, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets may have stolen some of the spotlight from the Heatles, but once the season gets under way, the focus will shift back to South Beach, because the Heat have too much talent to not dominate the NBA.
Among the other elite teams in the NBA, the Heat have one key advantage, and that is established chemistry. Having played together for two seasons will be a major difference-maker for a team looking to repeat as NBA champs.