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2012-2013 NBA Season Preview: The Flame Edition

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After 4 months of waiting, the NBA is finally back. Things got off to a fast start, as opening week featured the likes of bitter rivals, the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat, as well as the inauguration of some exciting rookies into legitimate NBA action. There are heaps of intriguing storylines to follow and look forward to, several of which you will read about in this article (for more, visit sites such as http://www.bleacherreport.com). Enjoy! 

Rookie watch

Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger, drafted by the Celtics with the 21st overall pick, has done more than enough to show everyone that he should have beendrafted higher (at one point, before minor injury issues, he was projected to be a top 10 pick). He scored 16 points in his preseason debut, and averaged 10.9 PPG (on 56% shooting) and 7 RPG (rebounding is an aspect that the Celtics were sorely missing last season). Just to think that this talent was 10 picks away from landing in the 2nd round of the draft is unfathomable. Keep a close eye on Sullinger, he might just be the steal of the draft.

Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis, drafted 1st overall in the draft by the New Orleans Hornets, is probably the most hyped rookie to enter the league since this guy called LeBron James, otherwise known as “The King”. During the preseason, he averaged 15 PPG along with 10 RPG (strong numbers for someone with such a lanky frame). He was impressive in the Hornet’s October 26thwin over the reigning champs, the Miami Heat, notching 24 points and 11 rebounds. Along with a great offensive display, Davis also showcased his much lauded defense (some are making comparisons to all-time greats such as Kevin Garnett), recording 3 steals and 1 block. I’m thinking rookie of the year material, especially after his debut against the San Antonio Spurs in which he scored 21 points and collected 7 rebounds.

Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers with the 6th pick in last Junes draft. He is a relatively undersized player coming out of Weber State (a small, mid-major level college). However, unlikely breakout stars have often reminded NBA fans to never count out an underdog. Lillard plays with a chip on his shoulder, as he grew up in the tough streets of Oakland, CA, and has been underestimated throughout his college career and up to his transition to the NBA. Lillard has already turned heads, as he won the 2012 NBA Summer League award, and had an explosive NBA debut against Steve Nash and the Lakers, scoring 21 points and adding 11 assists. He’s looking like a franchise point guard, and a real threat to win the 2012-2013 rookie of the year award.

Possible MVP Candidates

At the moment, the NBA is experiencing a Jordan-esque era, only it isn’t being dominated by a 6’6 athletic shooting guard, but by a 6’8 small forward/power forward/center/point guard/shooting guard who dominates in an impossibly efficient manner. Ladies and gentlemen, his name is LeBron James. James is fresh off of a season in which he won his third NBA MVP trophy, a coveted NBA Finals trophy and an NBA Finals MVP award to go along with it. Oh, and he won an Olympic Gold medal as well. It is public opinion that James looks set to take home his fourth MVP title, Las Vegas book makers have his MVP odds at 19/10, highest among NBA players. With his dominant, versatile performances, this could certainly become a reality. However, there are other stars that might just do enough to prevent that from happening. Here are some of The Flame picks:

  • Kevin Durant: KD was 2nd in MVP voting last season, and has become the NBA’s best scorer, winning his third consecutive scoring title last season. He also managed to make an NBA finals appearance, in which he lost to the Miami Heat (led by the beast described above). Not to worry though, the man is 23 years old and still has over a decade in which to assert his dominance in the NBA.

 

 

 

  • Rajon Rondo: “Rondo can’t shoot”. That is the main argument used to detract from this brilliant point guard’s game. I would agree, however I would also argue that it is his only weak spot. Rondo can score when he puts his mind to it (despite only averaging 11 PPG last season), as evidenced by his 44 point outburst against the Heat in last season’s playoffs. He has largely unparalleled court vision (led the league in assists last season with 11.7), and can rebound extremely well for a player that stands at only 6’1. Finally, he is a brilliant defender. To add to this already amazing stat line, he led the league in triple-doubles last season as well. Becoming the Celtics alpha dog will only improve Rondos game as he has proven to perform well in pressure situations. Look for him to have an MVP caliber season this year.
  • Carmelo Anthony: Carmelo Anthony…. For NBA fans, that name evokes so much excitement, as we connote it to explosive scoring displays and clutch game winners. However, it also evokes frustration because, as great as he has been individually, he has never achieved much success on a team basis. Typically, he hasn’t put in much effort on defense (he seemed to pick it up last season when Mike Woodson took over the New York Knicks), and he has also been accused of being a “black hole” on offense. Basically, people think that when he gets the ball, he’ll look to shoot instead of making the play that is most beneficial for the team. However, with Mike Woodson taking over and implementing a more effective defensive scheme, the Knicks should fare much better, drastically improving Carmelo’s MVP odds.

What to keep an eye on/look forward to

  • Injuries: Derrick Rose and Ricky Rubio highlight this section, as they both fell with torn ACL’s and MCL’s respectively, near the end of last season. Derrick Rose is Chicago’s unquestioned leader, and they will endure dire straits without the 2011 NBA MVP. Ricky Rubio provided both flash and substance with his exciting alley-oops and assist tallies, and was a key cog in the Minnesota offense. They went 2-18 to close out the season after Rubio fell with an MCL tear, and will likely be negatively affected by his absence.

  • The Lin experiment in Houston: We all know Jeremy Lin, the point guard cut from Golden State and Houston before landing in New York. The rest, as they say, is history. Lin erupted for 25 points against Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets on February 4th, his breakout game, after finding himself homeless the night before. He went on a tear the next couple of weeks, even hitting a game-winning three-pointer against the Toronto Raptors. Lin has captured the hearts of NBA fans all over the world, but will he, no longer under the bright lights of New York (he was signed by Houston this offseason) continue to shine?
  • James Harden in Houston: On October 28th, one of the gutsiest trades in NBA history took place. James Harden, the reigning 6th man of year, was traded to Houston in return for rookie Jeremy Lamb, veteran Kevin Martin, two first round picks as well as a second round pick. The trade caught fans by surprise, since the Thunder had made it to the finals just last season. But hey, money talks. Harden and the Thunder weren’t able to work out a new deal before the deadline (October 31, 2012), as Harden wanted a max-deal, and the Thunder brass were afraid of the financial implications of reaching into their luxury tax under the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA, implemented during the NBA lockout last season). The trade was the result, and while it was shocking, it might just prove to be beneficial for both parties.
  • Battle for New York: This season will be the inaugural season for the Brooklyn Nets (previously New Jersey Nets), who moved to the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn this past summer. Their impending rivalry with the neighbor New York Knicks will be scrutinized by the media, as their respective top dogs, Carmelo Anthony (NYK) and Deron Williams (BN) battle it out for New York City supremacy
  • Lakers Dynasty?: This past offseason saw many interesting moves. Joe Johnson to the Nets, Jason Terry to the Celtics, Ray Allen to the Heat. However, no one was as busy building a super team as the LA Lakers. The highlights of their offseason are the acquisitions of the best center in the game, Dwight Howard, as well as an all-time great in the Canadian point guard, Steve Nash. They’ll be joining Kobe Bryant (arguably top-5 player all-time) and Pau Gasol to form one of the most gifted, both offensively and defensively, starting line-ups in the NBA. They fared horribly in their preseason going 0-9, however, the last two times they did this (2000, 2009), they ended up winning an NBA title. Seeing how these players mesh in terms of chemistry will be interesting. Their opening day match-up against the Mavericks was disappointing, yet only time can tell how great this team will be. Might we be witnessing the next great dynasty?
  • Brandon Roy’s comeback: Brandon Roy, once one of the most gifted and beloved players in the
    NBA, was forced to retire before last season due to continuously nagging knee issues. Roy won rookie of the year in 2007, and has career averages of 19 PPG, 1 SPG, 4.7 APG and 4.3 RPG. Kobe Bryant once said that he loved Roy’s game, a testament as to how truly great he was, and could have been. Anyhow, he decided that retirement wasn’t for him, and signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He had an impressive preseason, averaging around 10 PPG (remember, he’s been away for a year, he still has to adapt) on a revamped and versatile roster (the likes of Andrei Kirilenko, a defensive ace, and Alexei Schved will provide heaps of energy for the Timberwolves). NBA fans wish him the very best.

That’s it for now. Get ready to experience a breath-taking NBA season in which you’ll probably encounter more than a few unwarranted surprises. With the furthering trend of super teams, it’ll be fun to see who will assert their dominance as the one truly elite team in the NBA. Have a blast!

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UNIS Hanoi News: Get Your Curiosity Burning
2012-2013 NBA Season Preview: The Flame Edition