2013 New Year's Resolutions for the NBA's 15 Biggest Stars

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2013

2013 New Year's Resolutions for the NBA's 15 Biggest Stars

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    The NBA's brightest stars hope that 2013 features even more hoop thrills than 2012.

    So what kind of resolutions should they make in order to ensure the new year is a successful one?

    Some standouts need a specific basketball task to focus on, while others are suited for a big-picture goal to shape their 2013 approach.

    New Year's resolutions often generate hope that the days ahead of us will be better than the days behind us. If the 2013 NBA year is better than 2012, we're in for a spectacular year.

    Let's hope these superstars stick to their plans!

     

    *Statistics gathered from Basketball Reference, accurate as of 1/1/12.

15. Kyrie Irving: Improve Assist-to-Turnover Ratio

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    From what we've seen of Kyrie Irving's young NBA career, it's certain that he's a star in the making.

    His creative ball-handling, shooting and passing skills are incredible for a 20-year-old who played less than a dozen college games. What's more impressive than his skills is his poise. Irving brings the right balance of calm reassurance and in-game intensity.

    A priority item on his to-do list is improving his assist-to-turnover ratio, which is currently at a pedestrian 1.5.

    Once the efficiency catches up with the talent, Irving and the Cavaliers will be taken seriously.

14. Blake Griffin: Become a More Fundamental Rebounder

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    You can't teach instincts and timing, but you can teach positioning.

    Blake Griffin's size and leaping ability allow him to do amazing things on the court, but he's getting just 9.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. That's not bad, but he can do better.

    Fellow power forwards Kevin Love (14.4 per 36 minutes), J.J. Hickson (13.7), Kenneth Faried (12.5) and Zach Randolph (12.1) are outshining him on he glass.

    If he hasn't already, Griffin should break out some film of rival forward Love and analyze his footwork. Griffin is a willing learner, and this rebounding resolution could help Los Angeles in the spring.

13. Deron Williams: Make P.J. Carlesimo Look Smart

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    Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams is getting a lot of the blame for coach Avery Johnson's firing.

    No matter what the truth is, people are always going to be suspicious of his role in the skipper's dismissal.

    At this point, he might as well try to make the front office look smart in their decision and make former coach P.J. Carlesimo look even smarter. How? By stepping up his game and his shooting (Williams is shooting 30 percent from 3-PT).

    If the D-Will and Carlesimo player-coach tandem can turn things around, the December woes and Johnson firing will become minor footnotes.

12. Tony Parker: Run a Balanced Attack in Playoffs

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    The San Antonio Spurs are a nearly-unstoppable juggernaut when they share the ball and present a balanced attack.

    When they have five to seven substantial scorers in a given game, it's tough to keep up with them. However, when they get stuck in a rut and rely on their superstars too frequently, they're beatable.

    Take the 2012 Western Conference finals, for example. When San Antonio spread the wealth among the role players, they torched Oklahoma City. But when they relied on two or three players to score 20-25 apiece, they lost.

    Tony Parker is the crucial instrument to make the balanced attack happen in the postseason.

    It's up to him to set up the offense, put pressure on the defense and get the ball distribution started. He must make a concerted effort to keep everyone involved throughout the pressure-packed games.

11. Dwyane Wade: Stay Fresh

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    Keeping Dwyane Wade healthy is already something Erik Spoelstra and Wade are constantly conscious of, but it's worth emphasizing.

    He needs to take better care of himself now than ever before: He's getting older, but Miami's need for him in the playoffs hasn't diminished. From a stamina, explosiveness and injury-risk standpoint, he needs to be smart.

    D-Wade's acrobatic, energetic style of play lends itself to a greater injury risk, which means the training staff must keep an extra-close eye on him.

    Meanwhile, Spoelstra must regulate his minutes, giving him no more than 33 a night. That gives him more than a quarter's worth of game time out of the fray.

    A fully-charged Wade would be a playoff blessing for LeBron James and company.

10. Russell Westbrook: Keep Focus on Every Offensive and Defensive Possession

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    Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is a terrific competitor, a great teammate and a source of energy for his squad.

    But his talent, hustle and athleticism often get negated by poor judgement, lost focus or mental lapses.

    Westbrook's not a dumb player, he just lets his youth get the best of him every once in a while. Sometimes, he'll lose focus on defensive rotations, get caught up in the moment offensively or get derailed by the officiating.

    If he can commit to focusing on every possession, the Thunder will reap the benefits. 

9. Dwight Howard: 60 Percent or Better on FT for Remainder of Season

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    Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard has slightly improved his free-throw execution the past few weeks. It was under 50 percent for most of the season, but now, it's on the rise.

    It should be a goal of his to make three out of every five free throws he shoots for the rest of the season.

    His charity-stripe woes are clearly a combination of shooting fundamental deficiencies and lack of confidence.

    By striving for 60 percent, Howard becomes a much more viable teammate and less of a late-game liability.

8. Kevin Love: Join the Playoff Party

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    Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love is in his fifth year in the NBA, and he's been dominant as a rebounder and a scorer.

    Yet for all the boards and shooting success he's had, there are no playoff trips to show for it.

    Right now, the Wolves are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture and prying the No. 8 slot away from Portland or L.A. will be difficult.

    Love needs to take a stand and ensure that this is the year he enjoys postseason competition for the first time.

    Step 1 to fulfilling the resolution? Shoot better than his current 36 percent from the field and 23 percent from distance.

7. Rajon Rondo: Make Teams Pay for Leaving Him Open

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    Boston Celtics floor general Rajon Rondo has an improved jump shot this season, but opponents are still giving him space and daring him to shoot from 15 feet and beyond.

    Rondo may never be a shoot-first player, but he could make Boston's offense more potent if he was a legitimate outside shooting threat. He's not quite there yet.

    Hard work, confidence and rhythm are the only ways to effectively put this resolution into action.

    Historically, the truly outstanding NBA playmakers are the ones who seek to eradicate every possible weakness from their game.

6. Derrick Rose: Put the Bulls Back on the Map

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    Heading into 2013, the 16-13 Chicago Bulls are fifth in the Eastern Conference without Derrick Rose.

    Not bad, right?

    Sure, if you're OK with being worse than teams like the Indiana Pacers. The Bulls' place in the upper-half of the conference speaks more to the conference's weakness than anything.

    Once Rose returns and we get past the novelty of seeing him play, the big question will be whether he can help Chicago join the East's elite and challenge them.

    A concrete accompaniment to the "back-on-the-map" resolution? Upgrade the Bulls offense to the tune of 97 points per game.

5. Carmelo Anthony: Conquer the Heat

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    During the last couple months of the 2012 calendar year, Carmelo Anthony tore up the NBA.

    Now that he and the Knicks have our attention, we're wondering whether he can do the same in May and June of 2013.

    'Melo needs to take his championship quest one step at a time, but it's clear that the biggest and most important hurdle is upending the Miami Heat.

    There are still plenty of skeptics, including myself, who wonder whether Anthony can actually lead the Knickerbockers past LeBron in a seven-game series. Anthony wants to answer the doubters in winning fashion this spring.

4. Kobe Bryant: Daily Commitment to Defensive Leadership

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    Kobe Bryant is a great leader, no doubt about it.

    But he'll need to generate the best leadership performance of his career if he wants to take Los Angeles on a title run.

    The Lakers are 25th in the NBA in points allowed, and until they can consistently stop their opponents' scoring sprees, playoff success is unattainable.

    Since the roster has some weak links defensively, it's imperative that Bryant coordinates perfect positioning and execution in order to minimize the margin for error. If he really wants the 2013 crown bad enough, he'll get the most out of every teammate.

3. Chris Paul: Empower Teammates in Playoffs

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    The Los Angeles Clippers' 17-game winning streak served notice that they are an elite squad and in the NBA title conversation.

    But can Chris Paul continue to orchestrate the Clippers' version of showtime into the postseason?

    In the 2012 playoffs, Los Angeles' offense slowed down and reverted to Paul's isolations and many forced plays.

    This year, the Clips have a chance to use the roster depth to their advantage in the postseason. It's up to Paul to make sure the role players stay involved and effective once the schedule turns to postseason play.

2. Kevin Durant: Killer Instinct Against the League's Best

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    I don't think Kevin Durant lacks the killer instinct necessary to beat the best.

    In fact, I believe he's an exceptionally clutch player. I'm confident he has it in him; he just needs to execute.

    Including the 2012 NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder have lost five straight games to the Miami Heat. That's not all Durant's fault, but there were some misplays or squandered opportunities on his part that led to a few of those losses.

    Moving forward, he must make commitment to flawless defense in crunch time, as well as high-percentage shot opportunities. Durant must insist that he and the rest of his teammates, especially Russell Westbrook, take quality shots down the stretch.

1. LeBron James: Get into Better Shape

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    I'm teasing of course.

    LeBron James' real resolution for 2013 is to join the multiple-champion club.

    Although he finally got the billion-ton gorilla off his back by winning the 2012 NBA title, his legacy is far from complete.

    If James' November and December exploits are any indication, he's hungry for another ring. His numbers are off the charts as usual, and he's rebounding the ball more than ever (out of necessity).

    If there's a resolution within the resolution, it's getting to the free-throw line more often. He needs to use his increased glass work to draw more fouls.

    2012 was a phenomenal year for King James for a lot of reasons. It's unlikely that 2013 can match it, but at least he can repeat the NBA title.

     

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