NBA Predictions: 3 Lottery Teams That Will Make the Playoffs in 2012-13

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NBA Predictions: 3 Lottery Teams That Will Make the Playoffs in 2012-13
Photo Credit: Getty Images/DeronWilliams.com

It's easy to get complacent when predicting playoff turnover from season to season. But every season, like clockwork, we see former lottery teams emerge from the pack to make the postseason.

Last season the Eastern Conference teams actually stayed the same, which was almost unprecedented, but out West, the Clippers and Jazz emerged to take playoff spots from the Hornets and Blazers.

Let's take a look at three lottery teams from 2011-12 who have a good chance at playing postseason ball this coming season:

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

Spot They're Taking: Dallas Mavericks

Kevin Love's pushup-induced injury (along with Ricky Rubio's late December return date) could presage a long season in Minnesota, but I'm choosing to view the hand as half unbroken.
New reports indicate that Love might return sooner than originally expected, only having to miss about 10 games rather than 14. The Wolves' first 10 games are against SAC, TOR, BKN, ORL, IND, CHI, DAL, CHA, GS and DEN—a very manageable stretch that could yield a 5-5 record without Love.
Even without Love and Rubio to begin the season, Minnesota made marked improvements this offseason in the form of a couple discarded former all-stars. Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko have the experience, toughness and (hopefully) the physical capability needed to carry a team in the beginning of the season.
Roy scored 19 points in a preseason start earlier this week, and although the competition (Maccabi Haifa) needs to be taken with a grain of salt, it's still a very encouraging sign.
Rolling out last season's lineup of Rubio, Roy, Kirilenko, Love and Pekovic could help Minnesota end Dallas' reign among the Western Conference playoff teams. 

 

 

Brooklyn Nets

 

Spot They're Taking: Orlando Magic

I'm not as gung-ho crazy about the Nets' immediate prospects as some people are, but somebody's gotta take the Magic's playoff spot, right?

If Brooklyn gets Team USA Deron Williams instead of New Jersey Deron Williams, however, their ceiling is admittedly pretty impressive. If Joe Johnson still has some legs in him, the move to Brooklyn—rather, the move away from Atlanta—should invigorate him to have one of his best seasons to date. In that respect, the Nets could have the best backcourt in the entire NBA.

Things get a little dicier in the frontcourt, where questions about Brook Lopez' and Kris Humphries' motors keep expectations in check. But if they're galvanized to play up to their potential, they could form a very nice one-two punch of scoring (from Lopez) and rebounding (from Humphries).

Regardless of what they get from those two, however, Gerald Wallace should be a ballast of stability. This could be the first real contender he's ever played for, which will definitely get his juices flowing.

Orlando might finish last in the East this year, so Brooklyn shouldn't have too much trouble making the playoffs. Their biggest competition will probably be from Milwaukee and, perhaps, a feisty Washington squad.

 

Golden State Warriors

 

Spot They're Taking: Utah Jazz

This prediction is obviously contingent on health, but if the Warriors' stars can manage to stay on the floor, they could be a force to be reckoned with in 2012-13. On paper, their rotation has the offensive potential to be really, really special:

PG: Steph Curry

SG: Klay Thompson

SF: Harrison Barnes

PF: David Lee

C: Andrew Bogut

B: Jarrett Jack

B: Brandon Rush

B: Richard Jefferson

 

B: Carl Landry

B: Andris Biedrins

With Charles Jenkins and Draymond Green rounding out a potential roster of NBA-caliber rotation guys, the Warriors have the depth to overcome minor injuries throughout the year. The problem is long-term or nagging injuries—the types that have derailed Curry and Bogut's careers. 

The Jazz and their prodigious frontcourt will put up a good fight to hold onto a playoff spot, but they may not be able to score enough in the high-powered West to compete night-to-night. Behind the leadership of Marc Jackson, this could be the year something good (finally) happens in Golden State.


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