Breaking Down Which NBA Bandwagons Are Hot or Not
For the 2012-13 NBA season, the narratives are as abundant as silicone on Sunset Boulevard.
Two prominent new players on the Lakers, an attempted career resurrection in Minnesota, the possible metamorphosis from title team to full-fledged dynasty in South Beach and the New York Knicks courting Metamucil and Poli-Grip for team sponsorship are just a handful of the provocative stories we have to look forward to.
As certainly as Charles Barkley will pronounce the word "terrible" incorrectly 5,000 times during the season, some of the stories will result in disappointment, if not outright disaster. Others will creep up out of nowhere and take even the most plugged-in NBA fans by surprise.
So which stories will pan out and which will turn out to be veritable bunk and hooey?
While I don't claim to be prescient, I'm going to give you, in the following 10 slides, the bandwagons that will be worth taking a ride on, and the ones you should avoid.
Jump Off: The Lakers Winning the Title in 2013
The sound you just heard was the sound of 2,764 Starbucks Chai Lattes being angrily hurled against the wall by enraged Laker fans.
No title for the Lakers after they acquired Dwight Howard AND Steve Nash to play alongside Pau Gasol and Kobe freakin' Bryant? How can this be?
It's certainly not for a lack of talent. Frankly, the Lakers' potential offense scares me. Picture a pick-and-roll featuring one of the best passers and shooters of the past 20 years and the biggest athletic freak of nature in the NBA, with Kobe Bryant as a third option and Pau Gasol, a superb interior player and shooter, as a fourth option? How is anyone stopping that?
There are only two people that could stop that: Father Time and Uncle Injury. (There wasn't really an established euphemism for injury like there was for time, so I just made one up.)
Kobe Bryant has logged well over 40,000 NBA minutes, a point which statistics suggest a player starts to noticeably wear down after reaching. He's already dealing with a sore foot that has caused him to miss practice, and we haven't even played any preseason games yet.
Nash is even older than Kobe, though his diet and workout regimen have him in unbelievable shape all the time. Still, it will only take one wrong turn of the ankle or wrenching of the knee to sideline Nash for an extended period of time.
The mercurial Howard is coming off major back surgery, which greatly increases the concerns about his long-term health prognosis.
Aside from health concerns, are we sure all these egos can co-exist? What if Kobe is unwilling to defer to Nash and Howard even when the matchup dictates it to be the prudent choice? What if Kobe lacks the self-awareness to realize he's lost a step and can't do what he once did?
Considering the litany of potential problems I've outlined and the stiff competition they'll face from the Thunder and Spurs for the Western Conference title, I'm selling every last bit of Lakers stock I have.
Hop On: Kevin Durant Winning MVP
The reigning NBA Scoring Title winner three years running isn't satisfied with just having the highest points-per-game average anymore. He wants to win a ring.
After swallowing the bitter pill of making it to the Finals only to be upended by LeBron and the Heat, Durant had more than enough motivation to put in a full offseason worth of intense workouts and meticulous study of film to improve his game.
The Oklahoma City Thunder team as a whole will be another year wiser and more experienced. Most notably, they now are equipped with NBA Finals experience, a rare asset that will undoubtedly prove invaluable for the Thunder.
The experience, the improved team play and Kevin Durant's laser-like focus will lead Durant to the first of many MVP awards.
Jump Off: The Knicks Being Higher Than a 7th Seed
The curious roster additions of the New York Knicks in an effort to keep up with the Joneses, in this instance played by the Brooklyn Nets, are almost doomed to failure from the start.
The Knicks have a whopping four players who have played 15 or more seasons in the NBA, including the returning Rasheed Wallace, who is coming out of retirement to join Carmelo and Co., and who appeared to have completely lost it before he retired.
The Knicks also replaced the sensational Jeremy Lin, whom they let go to the Houston Rockets due to not wanting to match a totally reasonable offer, with Raymond Felton, who has battled weight and conditioning issues in the past.
Combined with the less-than-inspiring roster changes, there are still serious questions about the ability of Carmelo and Amar'e Stoudemire to coexist offensively, as both need the ball in their hands to be at their most effective.
A low seed and quick exit from the playoffs will be the Knicks' fate.
Hop On: Anthony Davis as an All-Star
Forget Rookie of the Year, the 'Brow has his sights set much higher than that.
Anthony Davis will take the NBA by storm right out of the gate, leading the Hornets to a .500 or above record when the All-Star break rolls around.
This unexpected success will largely be thanks to Davis, whose all-around skills will impressively fill up many a stat sheet.
He won't immediately be an All-Star starter, but the dynamic rookie will achieve the impressive feat of making the All-Star team in his first year in the NBA.
Jump Off: Brandon Roy's Resurgence
Once upon a time, Brandon Roy's best was phenomenal.
The former Portland Trail Blazer was one of the most exciting players in the league until debilitating knee degeneration forced him to retire.
After a year of diligent rehab, Roy is attempting a comeback with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It would be a wonderful, heart-warming story if Roy was able to defy the odds and return to full strength and be the Brandon Roy of old.
Sadly, I just don't see that happening.
Roy will be a somewhat useful bench player this year, but he will have numerous issues with his knees, preventing him from playing starter's minutes or taking a more prominent role with the team.
I hope I'm wrong about this, but I doubt I will be.
Hop On: Utah Jazz Grabbing a Top 4 Seed
The homer siren is undoubtedly blaring right now, but you'll see.
I cannot wait until April when the playoffs roll around and I can say I told you so.
Against all odds, Utah snuck into the playoffs last year as an 8 seed. This year, they will make another immediate and sizable leap forward.
Utah made three excellent acquisitions this offseason in trading for Mo Williams and Marvin Williams and signing Randy Foye as a free agent. Some combination of these players will replace C.J. Miles and Raja Bell (Bell is still technically on the team but is expected to be bought out), two players who did little positively for the Jazz last year.
The three also will dramatically improve Utah's three-point shooting, which will also open things up for Utah's dominant frontcourt.
Utah has four big men who are all at very least quality players. Whoever comes off the bench will have an absolute field day with the backup forwards and centers of the opposing team night after night. Their crazy depth also allows Utah to sustain more injuries than most other teams.
So after the addition by subtraction of Miles and (probably soon) Bell, the drastic increase in three-point shooting and the incredible depth, the perennially-overlooked Utah Jazz will shock everyone again when they head into the postseason as on the top four teams in the west.
Jump Off: The Golden State Warriors
While Golden State's blatant tank-job at the end of last season allowed them to hang onto their 2012 first-round draft pick, which they eventually used to choose Harrison Barnes, they won't be sniffing a winning record, let alone the playoffs this season.
Their two key players, Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut, have both dealt with injury after injury, and there's reason to believe injuries will keep cropping up.
Aside from Barnes and Bogut, who has yet to play a game for Golden State despite being acquired last year, Golden State's roster is still fairly thin on talent, especially on the defensive end.
Sure, Golden State may be reasonably well equipped to go toe-to-toe with teams looking for a shootout, but that just means there will be more losses by the Warriors with higher total scores.
Golden State will return to the lottery, and this time they won't be so lucky as to keep their draft pick of Utah's hands.
Hop On: Chris Paul Being the Best Point Guard by Far
The Clippers were one of the worst-run franchises in professional sports and had a coach who is practically incapable of making the most basic in-game adjustments (and who is inexplicably still employed).
I didn't doubt Paul's talent, but he had issues with staying healthy in the past. All of these factors made me wonder if Paul could put the junior L.A. team over the hump.
I wonder no more.
Paul will benefit from the growth and development of the explosive Blake Griffin, and the addition of savvy vet Grant Hill can't hurt either.
Steve Nash will have a good season, as will Deron Williams, as will Rajon Rondo and as will Tony Parker.
None will even come close to Chris Paul.
Jump Off: Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry was not shy about voicing his displeasure with his situation in Houston and against head coach Kevin McHale. Lowry's rumblings and grumblings eventually got him dealt to the Toronto Raptors and replaced with Jeremy Lin.
Lowry's defensive presence and budding point guard skills are undeniable. However, in Toronto, not exactly destination No. 1 for NBA players, will Lowry's surly attitude undermine the success of the Raptors and outweigh the benefits Lowry brings to the table?
And don't forget Jose Calderon. The former starter for the Raptors is still on the team and is perfectly capable of starting if the front office sours on Lowry.
Hop On: Brooklyn's Immediate Success
A new city, a new stadium and a largely new roster will usher in new results for the Brooklyn Nets.
Brooklyn's roster is replete with talent. Two All-Star-caliber guards in Deron Williams and Joe Johnson will be complemented by many other talented players such as Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks and import Mirza Teletovic.
Even Andray Blatche could turn out to be a steal if he can be kept in check by his teammates or be prescribed some really good anti-psychotics. (I'm kidding, of course.)
Though the quality of the roster makeup is why I'm predicting the Nets bandwagon is one worth a ride on, all the publicity and hoopla regarding the Nets' move to Brooklyn and the opening of the Barclay's Center won't hurt building momentum for the new-look Nets.