A New Year's Resolution for Every NBA Team Heading into 2013
Even though New Year's resolutions are typically reserved for those of us who need to drop a few pounds or increase productivity, that doesn't mean some resolutions can't apply to your favorite NBA teams as they head into 2013.
Sure, January 1 is an arbitrary date to suddenly commit to personal reform. And yeah, most resolutions tend to fizzle out after a few days. Still, it's worth it to at least pretend things can suddenly change when the calendar flips.
After all, wouldn't it be nice if Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks exercised a little more self-control in the shot-selection department next year?
And couldn't the Sacramento Kings benefit from some housecleaning?
Some of our advice involves minor tweaks designed to help improve a team's mood in the future, while others are pretty harsh calls for change. We're not shying away from tough love around here.
Nobody's perfect, and neither is any NBA club, so each of the teams on our list would do well to heed our suggested resolution in 2013.
All stats accurate through games played Dec. 27, 2012.
Atlanta Hawks: Exercise More Self-Control
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Following a pretty extensive offseason overhaul that introduced a half-dozen new players into the rotation, the Atlanta Hawks have been one of the Eastern Conference's most surprising teams. Unfortunately, the other surprising thing about the Hawks is how inexplicably terrible Josh Smith's shot selection has been.
Smith might be pressing in the final year of his contract, but he's taking far too many jumpers this year, and it's killing his offensive efficiency.
Despite finishing at a career-best rate at the rim, Smith continues to cast away from mid-range and the 16-23-foot "dead zone." He's hitting just 20 and 27 percent of shots from those respective distances, which has led to an overall field-goal percentage right around 44 percent, an atrocious rate for a player who logs most of his minutes at the 4.
If you're not into numbers, just listen for the audible groan from Atlanta fans when Smith hoists from the perimeter.
2013 needs to be the year in which Smith scraps the contested jumpers and focuses on finishing at the rim. He'll need some self-control to do that.
Boston Celtics: Take Time to Relax
Maybe it's just the Brooklyn Nets that get under the Boston Celtics' skin, but the guys in green need to pop a few chill pills in 2013.
First, there was the mini-brawl in Boston on Nov. 28. Then on Christmas (of all days!), the two teams got a little chippy again.
The aging Celtics are probably a little cranky to begin with, but now the rest of the league knows how easy it is to tick off Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett, so the elbows and shoves are only going to intensify. In order to avoid suspensions and a deteriorating reputation with referees, the C's need to relax.
Brooklyn Nets: Put Up or Shut Up
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Head coach Avery Johnson had a reputation as a micro-manager, which would have been fine if he hadn't run his team's offense into the ground. Because his isolation-heavy sets weren't generating quality looks, Mikhail Prokhorov canned him on Dec. 27.
Now his players, who themselves lamented Johnson's ineffective sets, have the freedom they desired.
The Brooklyn Nets have some offensive talent, so it's probably fair to pin most of the blame on Johnson's strategic decisions. But if Deron Williams and Co. don't immediately start putting up better numbers without Johnson, we'll know they were also a big part of the problem.
It's time for the Nets to put up or shut up in 2013.
Charlotte Bobcats: Spend More Time with Family
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When Rod Higgins, the Charlotte Bobcats' president of basketball operations, waived Cory Higgins a couple of weeks before Christmas, he guaranteed himself a slightly awkward holiday season on the home front.
That'll happen when you cut loose your own son.
Both parties have been very professional in the aftermath of the move, but there are bound to be complicated emotions between them in the coming year—especially if Cory doesn't catch on with another team.
So both father and son should take some time together to make sure there are no hard feelings going forward.
Chicago Bulls: Stop and Smell the Roses
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Too easy, right?
Usually, this kind of resolution pertains to someone moving through life too quickly. In this instance, we're advising the Chicago Bulls to slow down and take the time to appreciate the fact that their former MVP is passing all the right checkpoints on his arduous road back to the court.
We probably don't need to remind the Bulls how much they need Rose, but it never hurts to take a moment to reflect on the things in life (or within your basketball organization) that are truly important.
And just to clarify, we're not literally suggesting the Bulls smell Derrick Rose. That'd be weird.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Think Rationally
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Sometimes, emotional responses and thoughtless knee-jerk reactions take over our decision-making process. When that happens, the results are never good.
For the Cleveland Cavaliers, 2013 needs to be a year in which the organization approaches its decisions rationally. That means avoiding getting caught up in the swell of rumors about an Anderson Varejao trade.
As a rebuilding team, there's plenty of logic in moving Varejao while his value is high, but doesn't it also make sense to keep an affordable, hard-working veteran around as a role model for the young guns? After all, teams that only have young players aren't generally successful. A good mix is key.
It certainly feels like a foregone conclusion that Varejao is going to be traded, but that doesn't mean it's the right move. The Cavaliers need to tune out the noise and think practically before they make the mistake of trading the Wild Thing just because it's what everyone thinks they should do.
Dallas Mavericks: Don't Be Afraid to Splurge
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As if Mark Cuban needs to be told that he should spend some money...
The Dallas Mavericks are going to have a very different roster when the 2013-14 season starts next fall, but its quality will depend on how willing the Mavs are to spend big bucks.
There are plenty of potential star-quality free agents in this year's crop, so if Dallas wants to avoid another season with a roster full of one-and-done players, Cubes is going to have to open his wallet and dole out some max contracts.
Treat yourselves, Dallas Mavericks. You've got the cap room and the resources to go big in 2013.
Denver Nuggets: Spend More Time at Home
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Usually reserved for workaholic parents, the Denver Nuggets' suggested resolution to spend more time at home actually pertains to their insane season-opening road schedule.
By the time the new year rolls around, Denver will have played a league-high 22 games away from home. That'd be an issue for any team, but the Nuggets hold one of the NBA's most distinct home-floor advantages, thanks to the altitude and thin air of the Mile-High City. So spending time at home is more important for them than it is for most teams.
With just three of their 15 January contests on the road, the Nuggets' resolution should be one of the easier ones to keep.
Detroit Pistons: Make Big Changes
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Detroit Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank has balked at the increasingly common suggestion that he play Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe together, arguing, "You don't just play them together, to play together."
No, Lawrence, you don't just toss them out there together for the hell of it. You do it because pairing them in the frontcourt has given you your most effective five-man unit (of those that have played at least 30 minutes) this year. You do it because they allow just .88 points per possession on defense when they're out there together.
Most of all, you do it because your team is going nowhere right now, and you need to find out whether Monroe and Drummond can work together in the long run.
The Pistons need to make big changes in the most literal sense. Monroe and Drummond must see the court together more in 2013.
Golden State Warriors: Embrace the Moment
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The Golden State Warriors have made the playoffs just once since 1994, so when tiny patches of success crop up, it's best to just enjoy them. Right now, the Dubs are in the midst of some good times, and while the team's current good fortune seems sustainable, it's still important to savor the moment.
If Andrew Bogut contributes anything at all in 2013 and the Warriors' young guards continue to pull their shooting numbers up, things could actually get even better.
But for now, this club needs to embrace its present success. Because nobody knows how quickly things can fall apart like the Warriors do.
Houston Rockets: Try New Things
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With the Houston Rockets playing some of their best basketball of the season, now might not be the right time to mention that they should seriously consider tinkering with their rotation. But hey, some New Year's resolutions need to be bold.
Jeremy Lin and James Harden have struggled to mesh on the court all season long, and although they've improved their chemistry of late, it's still undeniable that both ball-dominant guards work better as the primary decision-maker.
Lin, in particular, is miscast as a catch-and-shoot option on the weak side when Harden is doing his work across the floor.
Bringing Lin off the bench, or at least staggering his minutes so that he and Harden don't play together as much, may seem a little rash, but it might also be the best way for Houston to stick around in the playoff chase.
Indiana Pacers: Get More Sleep
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Admittedly, this resolution applies less to the Indiana Pacers and more to their fans. See, the Pacers have been the league's slowest, most yawn-inducing club this year, thanks to a combination of lumbering big men, low scoring and stifling defense.
There's a chance that Danny Granger's eventual return and Roy Hibbert's improving field-goal percentage could kick the excitement up a bit, but for now, there's no more boring team in the league than this one.
So if anybody in the Indianapolis area is short on sleep, a Pacers game might be just the place to catch up in 2013.
Los Angeles Clippers: Dream Bigger
No, seriously, Blake. We're really good—believe it.
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Once a perennial laughingstock, the L.A. Clippers have enjoyed one of the league's biggest reversals of fortune over the past year and a half.
Thanks to Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and a stellar supporting cast, the Clippers are now the best team in Los Angeles. Even better than that, they're actually cool.
But in 2013, the Clippers can't settle for an improved image and more respect around the league. They've got to dream bigger—"championship" bigger.
With the league's best record and a ton of forward momentum, the Clips shouldn't shortchange themselves by being satisfied with how far they've come. Instead, they need to think about how far they can still go.
Los Angeles Lakers: Stay Focused on Goals
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No team has endured more media scrutiny than the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012. Big free-agent splashes, coach firings and shockingly poor starts tend to attract attention.
But now that all four of L.A.'s stars are back in the starting lineup, it's time for the Lakers to focus on their goals in 2013.
Once a playoff question mark, the Lakers have rounded into form with Steve Nash directing offensive traffic and Kobe Bryant continuing his efficient scoring. If those are the only stories the Lakers read in the press from here on out, they'll be fine. But we know there's no way their road to the postseason will be that distraction-free.
Kobe and Co. must block out all the nonsense and stay focused on their championship hopes, even if they seem less realistic than they did a few months ago. After all, with the way this team was put together, anything less than a title is going to be a disappointment.
Memphis Grizzlies: Think Deeper
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No, we're not suggesting the Memphis Grizzlies spend 2013 contemplating life's deeper mysteries. This is a literal resolution.
The Grizz are right on the cusp of being an elite team, but the only ingredient missing is consistent bench production. Other than the woeful reserve units stinking up the court for the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers, the Grizzlies' bench is the least productive in the league.
With the fourth-worst scoring average in the NBA, Memphis' subs might be the only thing keeping it from real championship contention.
Obviously, rotations shrink in the postseason and benches matter less, but they certainly help with playoff seeding and starter stamina over the long haul.
Memphis may need to make a move to address the issue, but it should be willing to do whatever it takes to shore up the bench this year.
Miami Heat: Be More Reverent
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Kings deserve reverence, right?
Well, LeBron James is seated quite comfortably on his throne as the league's best player, so the Miami Heat should really spend more time sitting back in awe of their king.
With startling effortlessness, LBJ has distanced himself from his peers—including Kevin Durant, who has improved his own play over the last year.
It sounds corny, and it can be exhausting to read so much positive LeBron coverage, but there's no getting around the fact that we're witnessing the best player since Michael Jordan.
Heat fans, especially, should be paying homage in 2013.
Milwaukee Bucks: Think with the Head, Not the Heart
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Monta Ellis is an exciting player, but with every year that passes, we get more and more data that proves he's a team killer. That's why the Milwaukee Bucks need to put aside their irrational love for the highlights Ellis creates in favor of the cold logic that proves they can't win with him.
Hopefully, a rational approach will lead the Bucks to the right decision on Ellis in 2013.
In brief, Ellis' refusal to play team defense and his penchant for low-percentage shots invariably undermine his team's overall success. Just look at the Golden State Warriors, who suddenly morphed into a good defensive team by jettisoning Ellis last year.
Or look at how the Bucks give up about five more points per 100 possessions this year with him on the court.
Overall, Ellis doesn't make his team better, which is why Milwaukee needs to either move him now or hope he opts out of his contract after this season.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Get Fit
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Ah yes, the most common resolution of all: get fit. We're not suggesting the Minnesota Timberwolves hit the treadmill this January, but that's mostly because Nikola Pekovic might interpret that advice literally, thereby destroying whatever unfortunate piece of exercise equipment he would subsequently punch.
Instead, we're hoping the Wolves get better news on the health front in 2013. Considering how unlucky they were in 2012, that shouldn't be all that hard.
Ricky Rubio is already back from a torn ACL, but Kevin Love is still struggling to find his stroke as he recovers from a broken hand, and Minnesota has also suffered the losses of Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger and Josh Howard this year.
A borderline playoff contender despite such awful injury luck, the Wolves could really take a major step forward if they avoid the trainer's table. Here's hoping they do that in the new year.
New Orleans Hornets: Accept Responsibility for Mistakes
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Face it, the New Orleans Hornets blew it when they selected Austin Rivers with their second lottery pick last June. That's why they need to accept responsibility for their mistake, bench or trade Rivers and move on.
Not convinced Rivers is a lost cause? Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus and ESPN.com points out here that Doc's kid is having one of the worst seasons in NBA history. Of course, if you're not into math, you could also watch a Hornets game and come to a similar conclusion.
In short, he can't create for others, doesn't finish at the rim and brings virtually nothing positive to the table.
Undoubtedly, the chorus of predictable "he's too young, give him a chance" excuses will rain down on Pelton's article, this slide and anyone else ready to write Rivers off, but the facts are what they are.
Is it possible he'll turn into a decent player someday? Sure, anything's possible.
Is it likely? Absolutely not.
The Hornets need to play the odds here and swallow their pride. Rivers just isn't who they thought he was.
New York Knicks: Prepare for the Future
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Things are going pretty smoothly for the New York Knicks right now, but they're going to have to prepare for a slightly bumpier road in 2013. That's not to say they're headed for disaster, but there are a couple of issues they'll have to be ready to face in 2013.
For starters, their three-point shooting performance is simply unsustainable; they're shooting the most threes in the league and making them at a 39 percent clip.
Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd are knocking down triples at career-best rates, so it's completely reasonable to expect them to cool off eventually. When that happens, it'll be interesting to see if they can adjust their offensive attack to feature fewer long bombs.
Perhaps more importantly, the return of Amar'e Stoudemire looms on the New York horizon. There'll certainly be questions about the best way to use him, and there's a good chance a few feathers get ruffled in the answering process. Reintegrating S.T.A.T. into the fold is going to be a dicey task, so the Knicks need to be ready to deal with the impending circus if things go sideways.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Value Your Possessions
Seconds before another throwaway...
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326 guys have started 400+ games in the modern era. No one has a higher TO rate than Kendrick Perkins. (via @bball_ref)— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) December 26, 2012
At this point, we've exhausted the obvious ways to say that Kendrick Perkins shouldn't be seeing the court, so we're looking for subtler angles to make the Oklahoma City Thunder aware of his negative effect on the team's performance.
Aside from his inability to score and lack of athleticism, Perk turns the ball over at a higher rate than anyone has in decades. If that's not enough to convince coach Scott Brooks to sit his center down, we don't know what is.
Possessions are the NBA's most precious commodity, and Perkins wastes them at a historic rate. If he brought anything else to the table, that might somehow be excusable.
But he doesn't, and it isn't.
Orlando Magic: Be Nice to Your Boss
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Nobody's saying the Orlando Magic players are mean to coach Jacque Vaughn, but based on his magnificent display of leadership in 2012, it'd be almost impossible for them to be too nice to him in the coming year.
Vaughn fell out of the San Antonio Spurs' coaching tree and has hit the ground running. He has implemented a number of Gregg Popovich's principles as Orlando's coach, and despite a complete dearth of talent, he's got the Magic playing surprisingly excellent basketball.
They may not make the playoffs, and they're not exactly exciting to watch, but the Magic play smart, fundamentally sound ball, and they don't beat themselves. They've got their young head coach to thank for that.
Philadelphia 76ers: Take More Risks
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Do the Philadelphia 76ers really want Andrew Bynum to be their cornerstone? They'll have to answer that question in 2013, and to do so, they'll be forced to determine how big of a risk they're willing to take.
Bynum is one of the last of a dying breed, a true center in a league full of small-ball lineups. His rarity makes him immensely valuable.
But with that potential value comes a monstrous amount of risk, something the Sixers have already been privy to. After the 76ers traded away their best player to get him, Bynum hasn't played a game in Philly.
If he doesn't recover from his various knee ailments or isn't mature enough to play hard when he does, a long-term, max contract could cripple the organization.
With all that said, the NBA doesn't give out awards for finishing in the middle. If the Sixers are serious about taking the next step, they may have to take a deep breath and dive in with the risky Bynum. He's the only way for them to join the East's elite.
Phoenix Suns: Lose (Dead) Weight
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Michael Beasley, we're looking at you.
The Phoenix Suns are undergoing a reconstruction in Year 1 of the post-Nash era, and they've actually got a few nice pieces. Goran Dragic looks like a player capable of leading a good team, and Marcin Gortat is a serviceable and relatively inexpensive option in the middle.
But Beasley is weighing the club down with his bad attitude and awful performance on the court.
Everyone always tries to drop a few pounds in the new year, and the Suns should follow suit. Beasley is dead weight, and Phoenix could do some pretty simple addition by subtraction if it cut him loose.
Portland Trail Blazers: Focus on the Positive
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The Portland Trail Blazers have a few negatives to deal with in 2013, like their complete lack of bench depth, over-reliance on rookies and the trade rumors swirling around LaMarcus Aldridge. But they should really spend more time focusing on all the good things going on in Rip City.
Damian Lillard is a stud who looks capable of battling the emergent Anthony Davis for the Rookie of the Year crown, Meyers Leonard might have some real potential and Nic Batum is exactly the kind of "three and D" wing good teams covet.
Think positive, Blazers. You've got lots to be happy about in 2013.
Sacramento Kings: Clean House
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Everybody resolves to keep things a little tidier in the new year, but for the Sacramento Kings, we're suggesting a total demolition. From ownership to the coaching staff to the players, the Kings need to clean house.
Why such drastic action? Well, when your organization's "indefinite" suspension of its most talented but most critically unstable star lasts for one game, you know you've got massive internal problems.
DeMarcus Cousins probably shouldn't even be on the team after all of his misbehavior, but the coaching staff can't stand up to him because ownership hasn't empowered it to do so. We'll term that "trickle-down ineptitude."
It's almost impossible to get an ownership group to sell if it doesn't want to, so the Maloofs may not be going anywhere for a while. Until they do, the Kings are basically doomed to wallow in the league's cellar. But even bosses as disconnected as they are must see the need for sweeping changes.
Maybe 2013 will be the year Sacramento fires Keith Smart and ships out its discontented, mismatched players. That'd be a start, at least. But nothing's changing for the Kings until the entire organization gets a good scrubbing.
San Antonio Spurs: Be Yourself
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Not that Gregg Popovich needs any encouragement, but he and the San Antonio Spurs need to continue marching to the beat of their own drummer in 2013.
It might be hard to ignore the noise blaring from the commissioner's office, but no matter how loud it gets, the Spurs need to trust the process that got them to where they are. That means they should keep resting players when they see fit, keep thumbing their noses at the league office and never abandon their long-term vision.
It's no accident that San Antonio just continues to win despite aging stars and a rotating supporting cast. The Spurs know what they're doing.
Regardless of the external pressure to fall in line with David Stern's vision of who they should be, the Spurs should just continue being themselves in 2013.
Toronto Raptors: Spend Wisely
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It's understandable that the Toronto Raptors tend to overpay free agents, both their own and those on the open market. It's hard to lure players to the frigid and foreign city without a little monetary incentive.
But in 2013, the Raps have to avoid tossing out big contracts when they don't have to.
DeMar DeRozan, a shooting guard who can't shoot, is the proud owner of a ridiculous $40 million deal. Nobody was going to pay him anywhere near that much, but Toronto felt the need to make a statement by locking him up for way too much money.
Landry Fields hasn't been healthy, but even at full strength, he's not worthy of the $18 million he's owed over the next three years.
Despite their serial overpaying, the Raptors actually have quite a bit of cap space in 2013. They'll have to be sure to avoid blowing it unnecessarily, or things could get even worse than they are right now—and that's saying something.
Utah Jazz: Spend More Time with the Kids
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The Utah Jazz have a bevy of young players who need to see more minutes, so it makes sense that the team should resolve to spend more time with the kids in 2013.
Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks are all more intriguing (and cheaper) than many of their older counterparts, and with the uncertainty surrounding impending free agents Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, Utah should be trying to get as long of a look at its youth as possible.
Maybe the Jazz are concerned with sneaking into the playoffs, and that's why Favors, Kanter and Burks aren't seeing as much time on the floor as they should, but it doesn't make sense to gun for the eighth playoff spot when your young players could eventually propel you to someplace among the top four.
Youth must be served in Utah.
Washington Wizards: Work Collaboratively
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When you're a player on the worst team in the league, it's easy to fall into the trap of trying to get your own numbers. That seems to be what's happening with the Washington Wizards, as Jordan Crawford seems intent on getting his at the expense of the team.
Casual fans will defend Crawford's recent performance, citing his triple-double as evidence that he's not a selfish player, but any unbiased observer can see that he's tossing up shots without discretion on a nightly basis. If your "best" healthy player is hitting around 39 percent of his attempts, you're in trouble.
That's why the Wizards need to move the ball, take open shots and rely on each other in 2013. No team ever suddenly improved because one low-percentage shooter decided to handle the scoring load himself.
John Wall's eventual return could help, but a broader change is necessary in Washington. The Wizards need to work collaboratively if they want to improve in the new year.