NBA Predictions: 5 Teams Most Likely to Collapse in 2013
This NBA season has brought us many surprises, from the struggling Los Angeles Lakers, to the surging Los Angeles Clippers. In addition to the two teams in L.A., others such as the Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, and Milwaukee Bucks have also emerged as possible playoff contenders.
With the second half of the season quickly approaching, teams will look to put together their second-half surges to put themselves in prime position to succeed in the playoffs. While some teams will continue to excel in the second half, some will begin to fade out of the playoff picture.
Could we see a Boston Red Sox, or Atlanta Braves-type collapse in the NBA?
Here are the five teams most likely to collapse in the second half.
Note: All statistics and records are accurate as of 1/9/13.
5. Golden State Warriors
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When Andrew Bogut went down with an ankle injury early in November things looked grim for Mark Jackson and the Warriors. But after a 12-4 December and a win over the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers, the Warriors sit at 22-12 and would be the fifth seed in the Western Conference if the season ended today.
The Warriors have gotten stellar play from guard Stephen Curry, who is averaging a career best 20.2 points and 6.4 assists per game. Second-year man Klay Thompson and rookie Harrison Barnes have also been bright spots for the Warriors.
The place where the Warriors continue to struggle is in the post.
Although David Lee is having one of the best seasons of his career, the Warriors lack that interior post presence that can block shots and rebound at the center position. And with Bogut's return still unknown, the Warriors will likely continue to have to lean on the guard play to carry them forward.
As the Warriors enter the second half of their schedule, they will see more of the top-tier Western Conference teams with dominant interior players who will give the Warriors trouble.
Unless Bogut returns and makes an immediate impact, or the Warriors make a move for an above average center, it is unlikely they will be able to keep up the pace they started in December.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
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The Milwaukee Bucks have been a pleasant surprise in the Eastern Conference this season. They are currently 18-16 and sit in the seventh spot in the East. With head coach Scott Skiles recently being fired and replaced by assistant Jim Boylan and the Bucks losing four of their last six, things are not looking good in Milwaukee.
Although the Bucks have quality wins over the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, and a 19-point drubbing of the Miami Heat, the majority of their 18 wins have come over opponents whose records are .500 or lower.
The Bucks two leading scorers, Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, are both shooting 40 percent and 39 percent from the field respectively. The Bucks do have the league's best shot blocker in Larry Sanders, but neither he nor fellow post player Ersan Ilyasova pose much of an offensive threat.
The Bucks have been a nice story so far, but the combination of a coaching change, poor shooting and lack of interior offense will be their downfall.
3. Portland Trailblazers
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The Portland Trail Blazers have turned some heads this season. Not so much with their play, but more with their star rookie point guard, Damian Lillard.
While Lillard has taken the NBA by storm, the Blazers continue to be one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA. They are giving up nearly 100 points per game (99.2) to their opponents, yet have still found ways to win during the first half of the season.
The Blazers are currently 19-15 and would be the eighth seed in the west had the season ended today. Inconsistency has been one thing that has bothered the Blazers.
They have quality wins over the New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, and the Chicago Bulls, but have struggled against some of the NBA's worst teams. The Blazers were the team that gave the 0-12 Washington Wizards their first win of the season.
Inconsistency will be the demise of teams in the meat grinder that is the NBA's Western Conference, just look at the Los Angeles Lakers.
2. Atlanta Hawks
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The Atlanta Hawks are one team people did not expect to be sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference nearly midway through the season. With the offseason loss of Joe Johnson, the Hawks' big question mark was who would replace his scoring ability. The Hawks answer: everyone.
The Hawks have one of the most balanced scoring starting fives in the NBA, with five Hawks averaging double digits.
One of the Hawks' offseason acquisitions, Kyle Korver, is having his best scoring season since he was a Philadelphia 76er back in 2007. Louis Williams, also acquired this offseason, has been a versatile scorer for the Hawks, either coming off the bench or as a starter.
The problem with the Hawks comes in the rebounding department. The Hawks rank 24th of 30 teams in total rebounding and are giving up more than 10 offensive rebounds per game.
They also lack a scorer they can go to in the closing minutes of a close game to get them a bucket. Josh Smith is also a player whose name is brought up in trade talks almost every year, which can cause distractions and hurt team chemistry.
If the Hawks can avoid distractions and improve their rebounding, they could remain a team that could be a tough out in the first round of the playoffs. But the lack of a true scorer is something that will hurt them down the stretch.
1. Memphis Grizzlies
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The Memphis Grizzlies finally cooled off after a red-hot 12-2 start, but they still sit as the fourth best team in the Western Conference. They are also the best defensive team in the NBA.
So how could the best defensive team in the NBA and one of the top teams in the West possibly collapse? By trading Rudy Gay.
It's basically a certainty that Gay will be traded by the trading deadline.
Gay is owed $16.5 million for this season and will be poised to make nearly $18 million next season. The Phoenix Suns and the Toronto Raptors have been some of the top destination spots for Gay. The real question in all the trade talks is what Memphis gets in return for Gay.
Names brought up in trade talks include Jared Dudley, Richard Jefferson, and Jose Calderon. None of these players would likely be able to fill Gay's shoes in Memphis.
If Memphis pulls the deal on a Rudy Gay trade, it is unlikely they will be able to make a deep playoff run this year, which is unfortunate because the Grizzlies have brought us some of the most entertaining playoff series in the past few years.