NBA Predictions: Teams That Will Grab Unexpected Playoff Berths in 2013
It happens every year.
Each season, there are a number of teams who enter the season expected to finish in draft lottery position, but shock the basketball world by unexpectedly sneaking into the postseason.
In the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, the Utah Jazz, who missed the postseason by more than five games the year prior, were a surprising playoff team, but there were a number of perennial cellar-dwellers that were in contention until the final few games of the year.
This year, there are a handful of teams that appear poised to make compelling runs towards the postseason, despite being considered candidates to finish last place in their respective divisions.
Here's a look at some of teams that will surprise many by making the playoffs in 2013.
At the end of every team's rebuilding phase is a finished product, and though the Wizards clearly aren't there yet, they've made a considerable amount of progress in the last calendar year.
For Washington, it all starts with former No. 1 overall pick John Wall. After a solid rookie season, Wall's development appeared to stall slightly in 2012.
Now, with battle-tested veterans Nene, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor having joined him in D.C., Wall's ready for stardom.
The team's 2012 first-rounder, sharp-shooter Bradley Beal will be a difference-maker offensively, and young forwards Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton will be impact players in year two of their respective careers.
Regardless of whether the Nets make the postseason, they'll be a hot commodity in New York, and with two All-Stars on the roster, they'll be an attractive alternative to the consistently dysfunctional Knicks.
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson will score enough to get the Nets into playoff contention, and exceptional role players like Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries coming off strong seasons, the Nets will take hold of one of the final postseason berths in the Eastern Conference.
The T-Wolves may have the game's greatest reclamation project in years in Brandon Roy, who returned to basketball after abruptly retiring in 2011 due to recurring knee problems.
Roy, a three-time All-Star has the skills and instincts to once again be an elite scorer, provided he can stay healthy, and he'll team up with Kevin Love to get Minnesota back to the postseason for the first time in since 2004.
With up-and-coming stars Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams in the lineup, the T-Wolves will only get better, and if Roy can stay healthy, they'll squeak into one of the Western Conference's final playoff spots.
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