8 NBA Teams with Their Sights Set on 2013
With the 2012 portion of the season out the window, there are a ton of NBA teams who are looking at 2013 and salivating.
Not only are there those teams just looking to get this season over with so they can get on with the future, but there are also those who are just turning the corner with the flip of the calendar page.
Of these teams, we've got some looking at players who could be considered anywhere between star and role guys coming back to action, a winning streak giving them a boost, or just a desire to forget the bad from the 2012 portion of the season.
We've seen a lot of interesting basketball so far in the past two months, but there are a few teams who rise above the rest that look like they're going to be challenging for a title, or at least for a station or two above where they're used to being.
With that, let's take a look at the teams around the league who are dead set on going through with their New Year's resolution to be the best basketball team they can possibly be.
8. Miami Heat
It sounds crazy, but the Miami Heat have vastly underperformed in the 2012 part of the season, and a stronger 2013 portion is going to do a lot for both their lead in the Eastern Conference and the confidence that people will have in them moving into the playoffs.
Obviously, 21-8 is terrific coming into 2013. But it's been a disappointing 21-8.
Miami has constantly played down to their opponents, losing in a handful of silly slip-up games.
Their losses have come against the likes of the Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks, the other five coming against legitimate playoff teams.
Elsewhere, they have nearly lost games against the Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, starter-less San Antonio Spurs and the Orlando Magic.
There's just been a lot of uninterested defense leading to a few unanticipated losses, which is a trend they'll look to reverse in 2013.
7. Charlotte Bobcats
If there's one terrible-looking team that may have legitimately underperformed in the first half of the season, it's the Charlotte Bobcats.
Their 8-23 record coming into January is thanks to an ugly 18-game losing streak that ended on the last day of the year against the Chicago Bulls.
That means that at one point in the season they were sitting pretty at 7-5, looking like a halfway-decent basketball team.
Charlotte has so much more than that to look forward to in 2013, however, and for this we're going to have to look back at the year that was.
2012 was arguably the worst year of basketball one city has ever seen, the Bobcats finishing last season 7-59 with losing streaks of 16 and 23 games, on top of their 18-gamer this season.
It's just time to put 2012 in the past for Charlotte.
6. Dallas Mavericks
Dallas finished the 2012 portion of this season with an ugly 12-19 record, going winless with Dirk Nowitzki back on the team.
There's already good news, as the Mavericks have won their first game of 2013 with a 103-94 victory over the vicious Washington Wizards.
Already, they've started off on a positive note, which is sometimes all a team needs to get things going.
With O.J. Mayo having proved that he can be an extremely productive offensive player, and their offense showing flashes of brilliant firepower, they should have high hopes, so long as they start winning and keep winning.
5. Brooklyn Nets
With alternating flashes of brilliant and terrible basketball, the Brooklyn Nets are still trying to figure out who they are and how they fit together as a team.
Deron Williams has been incredibly disappointing, as has Joe Johnson, but they've seen Brook Lopez have some terrific games on offense.
Defensively, they've been surprisingly impressive; it's just the offense that has kept them from really turning the corner.
Even still, they've had their fair share of surprises with Andray Blatche, Jerry Stackhouse and even Reggie Evans proving to be productive players at times.
They're going to have to figure out who they are offensively. Otherwise, they're going to have trouble being much better than .500 throughout the course of the season.
4. Utah Jazz
There are a lot of good players on the Utah Jazz, they just have a lot of them playing the same position, keeping the team from playing their best players all at the same time.
With Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Enes Kanter all sharing two positions (for the most part), four of their seven best players are stuck with limited minutes.
They've got fine players elsewhere, with Mo Williams, Marvin Williams and Gordon Hayward having fine seasons, but there's just something missing outside of their four big men.
Utah has struggled defensively, which is in part due to the fact that they can't play Favors enough, but their offense has flowed nicely.
It's puzzling that they're struggling, only at 15-17 for the season, but things should start to get sunnier after a difficult December.
At the very least, they should clear a space for Favors to get more minutes, trading either Jefferson or Millsap.
3. Boston Celtics
What a disappointment the Boston Celtics have been.
At just 14-16 thus far, Boston can't help but have higher hopes. It just seems stunning that they've played this poorly.
Jeff Green is nowhere near the level that many people expected him to operate at, and neither is Jared Sullinger. Brandon Bass is shooting poorly, as is Courtney Lee (from the three-point line, at least), and they're just not playing Celtics defense.
They hope that Avery Bradley can come in and help transform their team, and whether it happens or not is still very much up in the air.
Can he be expected to produce right away even though he's coming off surgery on both of his shoulders, or is there going to end up being a damaging lull when he comes back?
So, why should hopes be high? Because they always seem to have a month where they lose just a game or two, propelling them into the playoffs and giving them hope for another NBA Finals run.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Jrue Holiday has been nothing short of terrific this season, which should be the main cause for excitement for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Going further, Evan Turner is looking like a solid all-around player, Thaddeus Young is an incredibly efficient scorer, and they've played some great defense from the outside-in.
There just hasn't been the production in the paint for this team to perform as well as they would have hoped, sitting at 15-17 after the win over the Lakers Tuesday night.
Philadelphia is going to continue to wonder how the season is going to pan out, but they are in eighth place for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and there are some hopes that Andrew Bynum could return and help this team make it.
It's not a guarantee that they make the postseason, but any bit of Bynum on the floor in 2013 is going to at least make them feel better about the inevitable huge contract after the season ends.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
They were supposed to dominate, roll through the season and, if you are a crazy person and believe Metta World Peace, go for a 73-9 record.
Well, Los Angeles is already 15-16 and remain a game-and-a-half out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Injuries, wonky-shaped puzzle pieces, three coaches and a few trade rumors here and there definitely derailed the hype.
Well boys and girls, the Lakers have won six of their last eight games, Dwight Howard is steadily getting healthier, Pau Gasol can jump again, Steve Nash has healed and Kobe Bryant seriously looks like he's on pace for a 48 percent shooting season.
I'm not going to say that the stars are aligning, but they're looking like a real basketball team, which is a step in the right direction.
World Peace's new prediction is that they'll finish the season 62-20. For those of you counting on your fingers and toes, that's a 47-5 record the rest of the way.
I'm not inclined to believe that, but they're not going to miss the playoffs, and that's a guarantee.