1. Los Angeles Lakers
2012-2013 Record: 45-37 Western Conference #7 Seed
I don’t want to hear any of this “Kobe is going to return stronger than ever” nonsense. Peyton Manning may be doing the improbable over in the NFL, but that’s not possible in the NBA. Bryant recently turned 35 and is entering his 18th NBA season. Sure he has done the improbable many times throughout his career, but his return isn’t going to be enough to get Los Angeles back into the playoffs.
When Kobe returns from his injury, the Laker’s average starting lineup age will be 33.2. Compare that to San Antonio’s starting lineup age, 28.8, and the Lakers seem like Dinosaurs. Chris Kaman is not going to be Dwight Howard on either end of the floor, and while Nick Young is a capable (not to be confused with effective) scorer, he is not anywhere near the defensive presence of Metta World Peace. I can see L.A competing for the 7th or 8th seed again this season, but just falling short. Expect to see the Lakers miss the playoffs for just the 2nd time in the Kobe Bryant era.
2. Boston Celtics
2012-2013 Record: 41-40 Eastern Conference #7 Seed
Well Boston lost just about everything this past off-season. They lost Paul Pierce, their franchise player over the last 15 seasons, as well as Kevin Garnett, their emotional leader who won a championship with the team in 2008. On top of that, the Celtics lost Doc Rivers, who had been their coach since 2004, and is one of the more genius minds in the sport. Rivers should be credited with making the Celtics relevant again since the Larry Bird era, and what did they get in return for Pierce and Garnett?
Kris Humphries, who is a tough defender but hasn’t been a difference maker since Kim Kardashian. Gerald Wallace is solid, but won’t be enough to help them back to the post-season.
But not all is lost in Boston. I’m a believer in Brad Stevens, who helped the Butler Bulldogs reach back-to-back NCAA finals. He was a very charismatic coach in college, and I see that carrying over into the NBA quite well. However, Boston has begun their rebuilding process; therefore, you should not expect to see them back in the playoffs this season.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
2012-2013 Record: 38-44 Eastern Conference #8 Seed
You may find yourself wondering if the Bucks even made the post-season last year. Well, yes they did but the Miami Heat made such quick work of them in a four-game sweep that they were hardly noticeable. They also finished with a sub-500 record and squeezed into the playoffs in the weaker Eastern Conference. Don’t expect to see that happen this year. Milwaukee lost Brandon Jennings to the Detroit Pistons and Monta Ellis to the Dallas Mavericks, along with the departure of sharp-shooter J.J. Reddick.
I don’t see this team going very far: sure the additions of O.J. Mayo and Caron Bulter will make the Bucks fun to watch at times, but they are not going to win too many games, especially with the improving Eastern Conference. The Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers, both of whom missed the playoffs last year, will be making a push this season. This depleted Milwaukee Bucks team won’t really have a chance to make the playoffs, as it’s time to give another team a chance to get swept by the Heat in the first round.