25 Bold Predictions for the Remainder of the NBA Season
During any NBA season, the unpredictable is bound to transpire. As hard as we attempt to project the outcomes of games, trades and contract extensions, the league never ceases to amaze us with the unthinkable.
As we cross the midway mark of the 2012-13 regular season, here are bold predictions for what will happen during to the remainder of the season.
From injury returns to postseason implications, the league is bound to experience some groundbreaking events. Some will be to the fans' approval, while others will come as a surprise to even the brightest of NBA minds.
So how's it all going to go down?
25. Andrew Bogut Will Remain Healthy
Andrew Bogut missed 54 games in 2011-12.
He's missed 40 games in 2012-13.
The days of Bogut missing extended periods of time is done. Bogut will remain healthy for the remainder of the season.
No matter how difficult that may be to believe.
Bogut could miss a game here and there for precautionary reasons. When it comes to severe injuries, however, the day that everyone has waited for is finally upon us.
Bogut will remain healthy for the rest of the 2012-13 NBA season.
24. Boston Celtics Will Make the Postseason
With the Boston Celtics having won four consecutive games, there is reason to believe that they will be able to overcome Rajon Rondo's season-ending knee injury.
Paul Pierce remains a legitimate star, while Kevin Garnett continues to be one of the league's most valuable defensive players. With a plethora of backcourt depth, they could potentially overcome Rondo's absence.
The fact of the matter is, this team did not lose a great player. They lost an elite point guard who was their catalyst and facilitator.
For a team with aging legs, that's as devastating a loss as you could possibly imagine.
With all of this being known, the Celtics are a well-coached team with veterans that are not accustomed to missing the postseason.
They will continue the stretch of making the playoffs in 2012-13.
23. J.J. Redick Will Be the Star of the Trade Deadline
According to Marc Stein of ESPN, there are numerous stars on the trade market.
That includes Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Pau Gasol.
When it comes to the trade deadline, however, none of those players will be dealt. Instead, the star of the trade deadline will come from the Orlando Magic.
Sharpshooter J.J. Redick.
Redick is presently averaging 15.3 points and 4.5 assists per game. He's also posting a slash line of .452/.399/.892.
Those are the type of services that push a quality team to becoming an elite team. Expect numerous franchises to explore that possibility.
The only question is, who will pull the trigger?
22. Andrew Bynum Won't Play a Game
This suggests that Bynum could potentially return in the near future. All Philadelphia 76ers fans pray that this comes to fruition.
Don't hold your breath.
Bynum's knee injuries continue to be of an unpredictable nature. The best bet for the Sixers is to allow Bynum to rest for a full season and receive the necessary treatment to truly reach 100 percent.
The risk, of course, is that Bynum will be a free agent. Is it really worth re-signing a player who hasn't proven a thing on the floor?
That's a risk Philly will have to take.
21. Josh Smith Will Stay Put
Josh Smith has been involved in trade rumors for quite some time.
None of them have been substantiated. None of them will be.
Smith is staying in Atlanta.
As attractive a trade piece as he may be, the Hawks are 26-20 and just five games behind the Miami Heat for first in the conference. As tough a task as that may appear to be, there is no reason Atlanta can't make a run.
They're 16-8 at home and 9-3 within the division. With Smith and Al Horford working with one another to create surprising success, Atlanta could move to within the Top 4.
Ultimately, they will drop behind the Milwaukee Bucks to seventh. Even still, they won't let Smith go.
Not when there isn't enough out there to trade him for.
20. Portland Trail Blazers' Bench Will Be Their Anchor
Plain and simple, the Portland Trail Blazers' bench will be their ultimate undoing come the final stretch of the regular season.
The Blazers boast a phenomenal starting lineup that has led them to a surprising record of 24-23.
They're led by rookie Damian Lillard and perimeter teammates Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum. Along the interior, LaMarcus Aldridge is an All-Star and J.J. Hickson is third in the NBA in double-doubles.
Unfortunately, the support just isn't there.
The Portland bench ranks dead last in scoring, efficiency and defensive efficiency. This level of second unit ineptitude will place a heavy tax on the legs of their starters.
One that will ultimately force the Blazers to come up short in their push for the postseason.
19. Damian Lillard Will Win Unanimous Vote for ROY
In a season in which Anthony Davis was expected to dominate the race for Rookie of the Year, there will be a unanimous winner.
Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Davis may be playing well, but Lillard is on a different level with his production and late-game heroics. Such has been evident in his statistics.
Lillard is presently averaging 18.4 points and 6.5 assists per game. He's also fifth in the NBA in field goals with less than 2:00 remaining in the fourth quarter or overtime.
The Weber State alum is going to dominate the voting. No one else will stand a chance.
18. Los Angeles Clippers Will Extend Vinny Del Negro
Is there any coach more wrongly crucified than Vinny Del Negro of the Los Angeles Clippers?
VDN continues to lead the Clippers to more success than the franchise is accustomed to experiencing. Even as fans claim it is "all Chris Paul," it hasn't been.
LAC hadn't begun losing until CP3, Chauncey Billups and Jamal Crawford went down with short or long-term injuries.
As a result of his loyalty and success, the Clippers will extend VDN.
A major reason for this move will be to offer Paul a sense of stability entering free agency. Lord only knows that the Clippers will do anything it takes to re-sign him.
This should be a step in the right direction.
17. Stephen Curry Will Replace Tim Duncan in the ASG
According to ESPN.com, Tim Duncan suffered a sprained left knee on February 2.
At the age of 36, there is a high probability that Duncan sits out All-Star weekend to make a full recovery. As a result, there will need to be a replacement.
Look for Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors to step in and remove the label of "snub."
Curry is presently averaging 21.1 points and 6.5 assists per game. He's posting a slash line of .440/.457/.902.
Due to Duncan's injury, Curry will finally receive the praise he deserves.
16. Houston Rockets Will Collapse
James Harden is a star and Carlos Delfino is an underrated candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Unfortunately, the Houston Rockets have one factor going against them in their push for the postseason:
Houston is 9-18 against the Western Conference.
To start, five of Houston's next six games come against the West. The one matchup with the Eastern Conference comes at the Miami Heat.
Not looking good.
With multiple teams hot on their tail, the Rockets will crumble under pressure. This is not a fault of their talent, but instead their inexperience.
That and the fact that the coaching staff relies far too heavily on James Harden.
This team has bright days ahead of them, but 2012-13 is not their year.
15. Brooklyn Will Trade Kris Humphries
There are no rumors to substantiate the potential for a Kris Humphries trade.
With that being said, Humphries is averaging 11.2 minutes over his past five games and 20.2 for the season.
With a power forward position that consists of Humphries, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans and Mirza Teletovic, someone is bound to be moved.
Humphries is that someone.
14. New York Is Big Enough for STAT & Melo
Even through the injuries, Amar'e Stoudemire remains a star in this league. Carmelo Anthony, meanwhile, has made it clear that the New York Knicks are his team.
New York is, in fact, big enough for the both of them.
Trading Stoudemire is a virtual impossibility with his massive contract. With that being said, STAT's stock will rise if he continues shooting perfect from the field.
He went 10-of-10 on Saturday and 7-for-7 on Wednesday.
Much like we saw with Jeremy Lin, 'Melo will look to impose his will as the leader of the Knicks.
Unfortunately for those who want to push him out of town, Stoudemire is a consummate professional and a true team player.
STAT will do whatever it takes to help his team win. That's exactly what they'll do with STAT and 'Melo working in harmony.
13. Carmelo Anthony Will Win All-Star Game MVP
As Carmelo Anthony attempts to prove he is in the class of his elite 2003 NBA draft class counterparts, the next steps in his progression are MVP awards and titles.
He'll start down that path by winning the 2013 All-Star Game MVP award.
It's the little things in life.
12. Memphis Will Make Another Trade
This comes after they executed two trades already. The players they've dealt include Rudy Gay, Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington.
The players they've acquired include Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, Austin Daye and Jon Leuer.
Even still, general manager Chris Wallace claims that Memphis may not be done yet.
It’s very possible [to make another deal] because we don’t have to include one of our players because of receiving trade assignments. We now can be a team that can relieve a luxury-tax burden on another team. We can go someplace, see a player we like that’s out of a rotation and get him using this $7.5 million trade exception that’s good for the next 365 days. It’s a very valuable piece of real estate.
If they're smart, Memphis will acquire a shooter.
They rank 28th in scoring offense and 25th in three-point field goal percentage. They're 30th in three-point field goals made per game.
They will make another trade, folks. It's simply a matter of who they target.
11. Larry Sanders Will Win Defensive Player of the Year
In a season in which Dwight Howard is struggling and Tyson Chandler's team defense has been inconsistent, at best, we will see a fresh face win Defensive Player of the Year.
Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders.
To be clear, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah deserves to win this award. The fact of the matter is, Sanders has been an even more impressive version of 2011-12 Serge Ibaka in 2012-13.
Sanders presently leads the league at 3.1 blocks per game. As his minutes improve, his numbers have as well.
Whether we like it or not, that does play a factor in who wins this award.
Sanders' shot swatting will be matched by an improvement to his current average of 8.5 rebounds per game. As his minutes go up, his rebounds will begin to flirt with the 9.5 mark.
That will be enough for the high-rising shot blocker to secure this award. Whether it's fair or not.
10. Crawford Will Be Wronged, Jack Will Win SMOY
Only three players in NBA history have won the Sixth Man of the Year award on two separate occasions.
Those men are Kevin McHale, Ricky Pierce and Detlef Schrempf.
As deserving as he may be, Jamal Crawford will not join their company.
Schrempf was the last two-time winner, taking home the award in 1991 and 1992. That's a span of 21 years since the feat was achieved.
Crawford last won the award in 2010. Voters will remember that and use it as an undeserving grudge.
Enter Jarrett Jack.
Jack is presently averaging 12.6 points and 5.9 assists on a slash line of .480/.397/.849. He's also tallied seven double-doubles.
More than starter Stephen Curry.
Jack will be the lone Warrior rewarded with a postseason award. At 30-17, someone from Golden State certainly deserves recognition.
Even if it does come at the expense of the deserving Crawford.
9. Mike Woodson Will Win Coach of the Year
When you're the head coach responsible for the revitalization of one of the NBA's most storied franchises, you're bound to garner recognition.
Such is the case for Mike Woodson, who has done a masterful job of restoring the New York Knicks as a power in the NBA.
New York is currently 30-15 and just half a game behind the Miami Heat for first in the conference. Even with a potential fall to third, the team's success should be enough for Woodson to take home the award.
And rightfully so.
The Knicks haven't won the Atlantic Division since 1994. They're currently three games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets for the division lead.
That's the type of turnaround that commands the Coach of the Year award.
8. Tim Duncan Will Win Most Improved Player
At the age of 36, Tim Duncan will win the Most Improved Player of the Year award, even if Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday is playing out-of-his-mind basketball.
In 2011-12, Duncan posted averages of 15.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 blocks per game.
In 2012-13, Duncan is averaging 17.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.7 blocks.
Furthermore, Duncan shot 49.2 percent from the floor and 69.5 percent from the charity stripe in 2011-12.
Duncan rests at 50.5 percent from the field and 82.8 percent from the free throw line in 2012-13.
Again, Holiday earns my vote. Duncan just so happens to be the winner.
And deservedly so.
7. Lakers Will Trade No One
For a team that has gone through as much change as any in the NBA, can you imagine the Los Angeles Lakers going through the 2012-13 season without making a trade?
You should, because they won't be.
From Pau Gasol to Dwight Howard, trade speculation has been at a premium. Even as the Lakers have experienced lackluster results, they've remained true to their roster.
That won't change.
Even with the threat of D-12 signing elsewhere, the Lakers will keep their confidence. They have a long history of elite big men and general manager Mitch Kupchak clearly believes Howard is the next in line.
Even with Gasol's potential trade value, Earl Clark's emergence may have saved the Lakers from trading it all away.
6. Los Angeles Lakers Will Finish 7th
The Los Angeles Lakers are 22-26 and three-and-a-half games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Expect L.A. to finish in seventh.
The Lakers are only four games behind the Utah Jazz. Utah just so happens to be without a point guard and just 9-17 on the road.
L.A., meanwhile, is finally healthy and winners of five of their past six.
They may be the end of every joke, but the Lakers possess elite talent. With good health will come extraordinary results.
Look for the Lakers to take over the second half of the season.
5. Derrick Rose Will Pick Up Where He Left off
Upon his return from a torn ACL, expect Rose to pick up where he left off.
Rose will come out as aggressive as he'd ever been, putting concerns about his fear over re-injury to an end. Not only will D-Rose reprise his role as a dominant scorer, but he will improve as a facilitator.
The result of this all will be more of the same.
What we mean by that, however, has nothing to do with individual performances. D-Rose will lead the Bulls to their usual level of success.
The Eastern Conference crown.
4. Chicago Bulls Will Finish Regular Season Atop Eastern Conference
The Chicago Bulls have finished atop the Eastern Conference in each of the past two regular seasons.
Fueled by the return of Derrick Rose, expect the Bulls to continue their push towards that same plateau in 2012-13.
Since the turn of the year, the Bulls are 13-5. That includes victories over the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.
That success will not only continue after the All-Star break, but they will overtake the Heat and Knicks for first in the East.
As of February 3, Chicago is two-and-a-half games behind Miami and one behind New York. Considering the Bulls have been playing without Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich, the future looks bright.
Bright enough that the Chi-Town ballers will win the Eastern Conference crown for the third year running.
3. Kevin Love Will Play His Final Games in Minnesota
The Minnesota Timberwolves have created one of the better rosters in the NBA to place around star forward Kevin Love.
Their backcourt is highlighted by youngsters Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved. They're complicated by veterans J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour.
Along the perimeter, Andrei Kirilenko is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, while Derrick Williams is finally beginning to come into his own.
With Nikola Pekovic at center, the T-Wolves have a legitimately powerful rotation. Unfortunately, Love won't be a member of it for much longer.
He will be traded during the upcoming offseason.
Love stated as recently as December that he is uncertain as to what his future will hold (via Yahoo! Sports).
Expect Minnesota to make a decision for him as they flip Love for a number of draft choices and young players.
2. San Antonio Spurs Will Maintain League's Best Record
In 2011-12, the San Antonio Spurs quietly finished the regular season at 50-16.
That quietly tied the Spurs with the Chicago Bulls for the best record in the NBA. You know, the team that was too old and the team that was without their MVP.
Expect more of the same in 2012-13.
As of February 3, the Spurs own the best record in the NBA at 38-11. That's five-and-a-half games ahead of the Miami Heat and two games above the Oklahoma City Thunder.
So what makes this prediction bold?
The Spurs are viewed as a team that is too old to compete with the likes of the Thunder. Even still, they've eclipsed Kevin Durant and company as the top team in the league.
That trend will continue, with or without Tim Duncan (via ESPN).
1. Durant Will Outlast LeBron for MVP
As it presently stands, the race for Most Valuable Player is between Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and LeBron James of the Miami Heat.
LeBron is a three-time MVP and the reigning award winner. Durant is a three-time scoring champion.
Only one of those trends will break in 2012-13, as KD wins his first career MVP and his fourth scoring title.
Durant is playing out of his mind, averaging 29.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Durant is also averaging 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks.
Perhaps most impressive of all, Durant is set to join the rare 180 club with a slash line of .516/.414/.904.
Per Basketball-Reference, it would be the 12th time a player reached such a plateau.
Although LeBron has posted phenomenal statistics of his own, Durant's team is a full .063 win percentage points ahead. That will be the final straw in the decision-making.
Durant will win his first career MVP award come season's end.