Posted October 28, 2013

20 predictions for the 2013-14 season

2013 NBA Predictions, Rob Mahoney
Jeremy Lin

Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin should benefit from Dwight Howard’s presence. (Mike Young/Getty Images)

I’ve already made picks for the NBA Finals and several traditional awards as part of SI.com’s Crystal Ball. Here are 20 more predictions for the 2013-14 season that run the gamut from micro to macro.

1. Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin will look like a different — and better — player.

Not to oversimplify things (or undersell Lin’s offseason work), but playing with Dwight Howard tends to make a world of difference. With Howard as a pick-and-roll partner, the repercussions of Lin’s more problematic instincts should be mitigated. He won’t be bottled up as often after jumping into the air without immediate purpose and will often have relatively obvious passing and scoring angles as a result of Howard’s athleticism. Plus, his spot-up attempts from three-point range should be cleaner because working through the post will enable Houston to create good, balanced opportunities for Lin and his teammates.

2. Lakers big man Pau Gasol will have a bounce-back year.

Not to oversimplify things (or undersell Gasol’s decline), but not playing with Dwight Howard should make a world of difference. Gasol looks to be in better health and in better spirits now that he’s returned to a more comfortable role, putting him in position to establish a better rhythm. It’s challenging to thrive while fluttering in and out of the lineup with injury, being displaced from your natural position, picking up one offense (Mike Brown’s Princeton-style scheme) only to drop it and learn a second (Mike D’Antoni’s looser offense) and adapting to new teammates in Howard and Steve Nash as they, too, are injured. Removing some of those factors is a simple means of getting Gasol back on course.

3. The Bobcats will not have a bottom-10 offense for the first time in franchise history.

After nine years of scoring ineptitude, Charlotte will ride Al Jefferson’s unorthodox game to sweet, sweet mediocrity.

SI.com’s 2013-14 preview hub

4. The Pistons’ Josh Smith will not be a disaster at small forward.

I’ve already tackled this subject at length. I think many skeptics have conflated the fact that Smith isn’t a great fit on the wing for the Pistons as evidence that he’ll be terrible there. I just don’t see that being the case. He’s too good a passer and too varied an offensive player to be a wreck at that position, no matter his lack of long-range competence. Plus, the defensive value of having three functional big men — Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond — blocking off driving lanes and eating up space will be tremendous for a team that struggled in every phase of its defensive execution last season. Any approach that puts Smith at small forward is bound to have its limits, but for the time being it should be good enough to facilitate the Pistons’ considerable improvement.

5. A regular-season injury will doom one of the Western Conference’s potential contenders in the first round of the playoffs.

The West features six championship-viable teams — Oklahoma City, San Antonio, the Clippers, Memphis, Golden State and Houston — and only eight playoff spots up for grabs. That leaves four potential contenders — likely in the 3-6 and 4-5 spots — to fight for their playoff lives in brutal first-round series. Countless variables will go into deciding those matchups, but I have a sneaking suspicion that regular-season injury will play a major role — if only in costing some team a few wins and dropping it out of a coveted top-two position. Look out, Thunder.

6. Evan Turner will rank in the top three in minutes played.

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Denver Nuggets defense (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Can the Nuggets stay solid defensively after several offseason changes? (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

7. Denver will be one of the 10 worst defensive teams based on points allowed per possession.

Consider the factors in play here:

• The Nuggets lost one of the league’s best defensive players in Andre Iguodala during the offseason. The season before acquiring Iguodala, Denver ranked 19th by allowing 103.4 points per 100 possessions. With Iguodala on the court last season, that number dropped to 100.5, a borderline top-five mark. (The Nuggets were 11th overall, at 102 points per 100 possessions.) Iguodala’s presence put all Nuggets players in a better position to succeed, whether by reducing the strain on big men in rotation or shielding lesser defenders from unfavorable matchups. Losing him to the Warriors will cost the Nuggets more on defense than offense.

• To make matters worse, Denver’s second-best perimeter defender has skipped town as well. Corey Brewer, who uses every bit of energy and every inch of length he has to pester opponents, was one of the Nuggets’ best at challenging shots on the perimeter and forcing turnovers.

• Danilo Gallinari, Denver’s third-best perimeter defender, will miss the start of the season with a knee injury. Beyond Wilson Chandler, the next in line to fill minutes on the wing are the defensively limited Randy Foye and the inexperienced Evan Fournier, Jordan Hamilton and Quincy Miller. Oy.

• Denver also signed J.J. Hickson after trading a better defender in center Kosta Koufos, creating a three-man rotation of big men with exceedingly little defensive hope. JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried haven’t proved to be a capable defensive pairing yet. Denver allowed 105.7 points per 100 possessions with that tandem on the floor last season, nearly four points worse than the team’s average. Hickson will compound that problem with his consistently one-step-late rotations.

• Just to keep things fun, the Nuggets picked up the 5-foot-9 Nate Robinson to fill out the rotation for a team that played the 5-11 Ty Lawson and the 6-2 Andre Miller for a combined 60.3 minutes per game last season. Short stature alone doesn’t preclude good defense, but neither Robinson nor Lawson has managed to make up for his lack of size much on that end, and Miller could face similar problems in guarding bigger opponents on the wing. Dual point guard lineups have their advantages, but I shudder at the defensive implications of stacking waterbug on waterbug with Lawson and Robinson sharing the floor.

• Left to deal with all of this is first-time coach Brian Shaw, who is being thrust into a new level of responsibility after serving as a quality assistant for a great defensive team in Indiana last season. Best of luck to him.

ENEMY LINES: NBA scouts size up all 30 teams

8. Current free agents who will be signed at some point this season: Drew Gooden, Jason Collins, Chris Duhon and Tyrus Thomas.

When desperate, NBA teams tend to grasp for the known. That should give hope to these four veterans, some more worthy of signing than others. Gooden, a cost-efficient source of scoring and rebounding, is one of the better players on the market. Collins — through supposed media implications, barrier-breaking appeal and all — will be of value come spring to some team eyeing a matchup with Howard, Indiana’s Roy Hibbert or Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez. Duhon has a gift for convincing general managers that he’s a better player than he really is. And Thomas looks to be a classic reclamation project, talented enough to persuade some team to sweep aside his track record and give him a shot.

9. Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum will play fewer than 600 minutes.

To put things in perspective, the Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire played 682 minutes in 29 games last season amid his knee injuries — a standard that almost seems too lofty, given all that Bynum has gone through. I’d love to be proved wrong. The league is better off with a wide-ranging pool of quality big men, and a healthy Bynum would be an interesting counterpoint to the likes of Howard, Tim Duncan, Marc Gasol et al. But he’s earned sweeping skepticism after loitering through his rehab last season, a troubling sign for a player whose knees are already working against him.

10. Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson’s unprecedented decision to switch his shooting hand will help his percentages significantly.

I want to believe, and Thompson did his own story a solid by shooting so poorly from outside the paint (36 percent) and the free-throw line (60.8 percent) last season.

15 comments
mjsports12
mjsports12

i dont agree with you on number 10

RRamirez
RRamirez

Basically the only two teams that really made no wholesale changes are the two left standing last June. There will be some great match ups but as far as playoffs go the two most experienced teams are Miami and Spurs and really i think everybody.....even the national media are pulling for a repeat finals to see if San Antonio can finish what should have been theirs this year.

I just don't see how San Antonio can be stopped in the West after two seasons of almost coasting through the West in the playoffs. OKC is a team in turmoil and not a finisher....Houston will be a team in turmoil once Howard realizes Houston is not his team....Golden State is well, Golden State and the Clipps have a great coach, but will never win with a habitual dunker in Griffin and a great regular season point guard (CP3)  but just is a choker in the playoffs (ALA Tony Romo). I see the Spurs finishing behind the the Clips in the regular season but will do what they do best and finish everyone off in the West playoffs.

The East will have The Heat struggling to get out again, i see Indiana and  Chicago standing in their way and only if Rose can rise up to his former self. Roy Hibbert and Paul George are the Heat stoppers in the East, but if Greg Oden stays healthy (big IF) they will battle Indiana mano a mano again. Brooklyn is to old to even compete and New York had their best season last year, I believe this year Carmelo will be playing for Carmelo and his free agency. 

But after the dust settles, to all of our disappointments, I see Indiana coming out of the East and an all ABA finals, with the Spurs experience winning it in 6.


The drive for five starts Wednesday. Go Spurs Go!!!!!


Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/nba/news/20131021/nba-power-rankings-preseason-miami-heat/#ixzz2j9UUt2LH

HVGrace
HVGrace

For #1, Dwight's performance will have NOTHING to do with Lin. Why? Haven't you heard the incredulous news from Houston? 

Rockets coaches will demote Lin to the bench, so Lin will not be with Dwight on the court. Rockets coaches who have marginalized Lin for the past season (reducing his PT, yanking him despite his performance, and benching him in the 4th Q)  prefer a lesser player, NBA rookie, to take Lin's place as the starting PG. 

JamesJoyce
JamesJoyce

"New York will play well against the top Eastern Conference teams " - sure - dream on bud.

M20
M20

Man, if the Knicks trade Shumpert, I'll just feel bad for their fans. The full destruction of Donnie Walsh's good work will then be just about complete.

NYRedd42
NYRedd42

I'm sorry, but I couldn't read past #1. Jeremy Lin: Nice story, good Human Being, less than average player.

pickle
pickle

@M20 As a Knicks fan I am PRAYING this does not happen. He is the only promising player for the future and I think he has the potential to be very good (not a super high scoring player, but possibly a 3rd option on a championship team someday). I am 100% serious when I say I would rather Melo leave then Shumpert. 

WCoastPro
WCoastPro

@NYRedd42 I missed it. Did someone say he was the greatest who ever laced them up?

M20
M20

@NYRedd42 Your comment makes no sense. He could be a terrible player and still look different and better with Howard. Your comment says a lot more about you than it does about Lin or this piece.

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@NYRedd42   Jeremy Lin is NOT a great player, but he is right about, or a bit above average right now.

PER takes into account positive accomplishments, such as field goals, free throws, 3-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals, and negative ones, such as missed shots, turnovers and personal fouls. The formula adds positive stats and subtracts negative ones through a statistical point value system. The rating for each player is then adjusted to a per-minute basis so that, for example, substitutes can be compared with starters in playing time debates. It is also adjusted for the team's pace. In the end, one number sums up the players' statistical accomplishments for that season.

Lin's career PER is 16.1.  League average is always set to be 15.0 each yr in the formula.

ALL the writer was saying was that he thinks Dwight will help Lin's game.  He could be right or he could be wrong.

You do know that even if Lin was terrible, a writer could still say that someone like Howard could help improve his game/numbers right?  Even if he only went from a PER of say 5 to a PER of 10 for that season.  

So even a player who is less than average may improve you know.  The writer was saying NOTHING about whether he was average or not (I was in my comments here).  The writer was simply stating that he thinks Dwight will help Lin's game and you respond by saying he's less than average.  No where was the writer even talking about that.  Your comment didn't go to what the writer was talking about.  

Do you think Dwight will help or hurt Lin's game?  That's what he was talking about, regardless of whether Lin is below average, average or above average.

DennyPark
DennyPark

@Sportsfan18 @NYRedd42  

spot on, I don't know all these haters hating on this guy so deeply. Cause he ain't white, Spanish, European or African or black? It's getting so obvious to see that it's blinding.

jack99
jack99

@DennyPark @Sportsfan18 @NYRedd42 A lot of people aren't willing to accept that Asian American males can ball too. You should check out some of the racist comments on Bleacher Report. People saying JLin should go back to doing "what his people do best" and be a 9-5'er. 

It's just insecure idiots who resort to racism to tell themselves they're making it in life in spite of being losers.