6 Burning Questions for the 2012-13 NBA Season
At this time last year, NBA fans were facing the very real possibility of a canceled NBA season. This year, the league is gearing up for one of its most anticipated campaigns in recent memory. The 2012-13 NBA season starts tonight, with three games on tap: Wizards-Cavaliers at 7 p.m. (ET), Heat-Celtics at 8, and Mavericks-Lakers at 10:30.
This past off-season was nothing short of riveting, buoyed by blockbuster trades and brand-new arenas. Dwight Howard went west, Andrew Bynum went east, and the Nets went from an empty stadium in New Jersey to an electric atmosphere in Brooklyn. As shocking as the summer's headline-grabbing maneuvers were, they are but a few of the stories that NBA fans will have the pleasure of observing over the next few months. Let's take a look at some burning questions for the 2012-13 NBA season:
How Will the Brooklyn Nets Perform in Their First Season?
There's certainly a lot of buzz surrounding the Nets' move to the Barclays Center. After spending the last few years as an Eastern Conference doormat, Brooklyn dedicated the 2012 off-season to a complete makeover. In addition to inking new deals with stars Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace, the Nets wowed the basketball world by acquiring perennial All-Star Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks. Add in a supporting cast consisting of Marshon Brooks, Kris Humphries and several other proven veterans, and the potential for a solid playoff run could certainly be in the cards. While it's unlikely that the Nets will be able to compete with Miami or Boston, they do have a legitimate chance at replacing the Knicks as the Big Apple's most successful squad. If nothing else, they've got some pretty sweet new threads.
Does the Andrew Bynum Trade Make the 76ers a Contender?
The 76ers haven't sniffed the NBA Finals since Allen Iverson, but the arrival of Andrew Bynum may change that. The acquisition of the former Lakers center represents a major shift in Eastern Conference power, giving the Sixers the inside presence they've lacked in recent years. Bynum joins a core of players that includes Jrue Holliday, Spencer Hawes, and Evan Turner—not exactly a super-squad, but certainly talented enough to carve out a decent playoff seed. Bynum's balky knees and character issues are potential red flags, but they'll be well worth the hassle if he can maintain a high level of play. More importantly, at just 24 years old, Bynum is the type of player that the Sixers could potentially build their franchise around ... provided they can sign him to a long-term deal. Either way, look for Philly to assert themselves as a major Eastern Conference player in the months to come.
How Much of an Impact Will Anthony Davis Have This Season?
In many ways, 2012 has been the Year of the Unibrow. First, Anthony Davis led the University of Kentucky to the 2012 NCAA national championship, setting the Division I freshman blocks record in the process. Next, Davis became the first player to be taken in the 2012 NBA Draft, an honor that was determined months before the event took place. Finally, the 6-foot-10 forward earned a spot on the undefeated U.S. Men's National Team, snagging an Olympic gold medal before he'd recorded a single professional minute. At 19, Davis has a better résumé than half the players in the NBA—and the sky-high expectations that come with it. Critics may deride his raw offensive game and skinny frame, but Davis is already a defensive force. At the very least, he'll be a vast improvement over New Orleans' woeful 2011 front court.
Will Derrick Rose Bounce Back After a Serious Knee Injury?
For a player who is so reliant on his ability to get to the basket, a serious knee injury has the potential to be absolutely devastating. Derrick Rose tore his ACL in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, dooming the Chicago Bulls' season and raising some serious questions about the diminutive guard's long-term durability. There's no doubt that Rose is immensely talented: in 2010, he became the league's youngest-ever MVP, and he's utterly unstoppable when healthy. Still, the Memphis grad's explosive style of play has already taken a toll on his knees, a situation that will only get worse as he gets older. As far as the 2012-13 season goes, Rose will attempt to return to the court around March, despite reports that he may miss the entire season. If he does manage to come back, it won't be at 100 percent. And for the Bulls, that may be too late.
Will the Retooled Lakers Win the West?
Either the Magic and the Lakers have made some sort of unholy pact, or the Purple and Gold are just incredibly lucky. The Lakers have managed to pilfer yet another dominant big man away from Orlando, bringing the Dwight Howard sweepstakes to a dramatic (and fitting) conclusion. Los Angeles didn't stop there, adding future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash to a mix that already included Howard, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. The Howard trade may have gotten more attention, but Nash's ability to integrate role players into a dynamic offense may be even more important to the team's title chances. If the Lakers can maintain the health of its aging core, it's hard to imagine them finishing short of the NBA Finals.
Can Anyone Touch the Miami Heat?
In the waning months of the 2011-12 season, the moment that NBA teams have been dreading for years finally came to pass: Lebron James developed a killer instinct. The much-maligned King James played arguably the best basketball of his career, bringing a sense of confidence to a Miami Heat squad that was finally able to match its enormous expectations. In 2012-13, fans hoping for a post-championship hangover are going to be sorely disappointed. Miami spent the summer addressing its one flaw from last season (the lack of a consistent outside threat), adding sharpshooters Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to an already-stacked lineup. Given the way that the Heat dismantled the league's best teams last season, the thought of its increased firepower is definitely causing some sleepless nights for Eastern Conference coaches. Miami remains the team to beat in 2012-13, and rightfully so. Another off-season of training and practicing together will only serve to improve the team's chemistry.