With Tip-Off 2012-13 a mere week away, we’re looking to an old western classic to come up with some reasons why you should tune in to the new NBA season. This week, we’ll be looking at the best basketball storylines coming into a new year through the lens of a Clint Eastwood classic: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Given their sky-high salaries, we probably could have opted for A Fistful of Dollars or even A Few Dollars More, since they all seem so intent on arguing over CBAs, but with no lockout in sight, we’ll stick to telling you what you need to know. Today? The Bad:
First it was Ricky Rubio and a torn ACL that led to the Timberwolves dropping 19 of their last 24 games in shortened 2012. Then they signed Brandon Roy, a certified cripple who at this time last year was retiring from the game after the cartilage in his knees deteriorated to the level of bone on bone. And now: Kevin Love, out six to eight weeks with a broken wrist acquired while doing knuckle push-ups in a warm-up.
Woe be gone, Timberwolves. The talent pool thins out considerably after the aforementioned three. This is a team that prior to Rubio’s injury was toying with the .500 mark, which these days is good enough for a playoff spot. The addition of Roy is certainly intriguing (can his knees hold up? Can he even play?), but with only his surgically repaired and suspect ligaments holding down the fort until at least mid-December, the T-Wolves might be all but buried by the time Love and Rubio return to action.
The Aging Knickerbockers
No one with any experience in this business took the Knicks’ signings of Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace as anything but a commitment to winning and winning now. With their new additions, the Knicks are actually the oldest team ever in the NBA, with a combined 126 seasons of experience, so all signs point to title or bust.
But that title rests in the hands, or rather the knees, of Amar’e Stoudemire, a 29-year-old who in all other facets of his game, save those crucial leg joints, is in his prime. His knees? They’re ready to call it quits. In fact, he’s already out two to three weeks with problems, leaving 17-year veteran Kurt Thomas as the number one offensive option upfront. The Knicks need Stoudemire to be the mobile big man he was advertised to be, otherwise he’s only an expensive third option. And considering the age and financial investment dumped into the supporting cast, they need him to be that person now, not later.
‘Sixers: Don’t Feed The Big Man
As the facilitators of the four-team trade that sent Dwight Howard to L.A., Andre Iguodala to Denver and a handful of garbage to Orlando, the ’Sixers seemingly came away with the best value on the dollar, locking down the league’s second-best center in an era when they are hard to come by.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that no true big man has ever excelled without an equally formidable outside presence feeding him the ball, and the ’Sixers lack just that on the perimeter to elevate Andrew Bynum’s game. Jrue Holiday’s more of a true scorer than a playmaker, Evan Turner doesn’t have the shooting ability to open up the floor and Nick Young is a work in progress at best. In order for the ’Sixers to take full advantage of Bynum entering his prime, they’ll need someone to step up, otherwise this trade looks like a loss for both Bynum and the team.
Denver: Harder, Better, Faster. Stronger?
Denver was the other facilitator of the Dwight Howard trade and even they came away with a better piece than Orlando managed to muster in Andre Iguodala. But, like Bynum in Philly, the fit isn’t quite right.
In Bynum, the ’Sixers got a tool they're not quite capable of using; in Iguodala, the Nuggets got a tool they already have. This is a team built to play fast for the full 48 minutes; it’s up-tempo, with a good transition game and a whole lot of offensive firepower. Which is great; Iguodala is a player built to play in an offense like that, but what it lacks is a true closer, a guy who can be relied upon to finish close games. And that, well, that was Iggy’s biggest knock as a ’Sixer.
The Nets' Height-to-Talent Ratio
The new kids on the Brooklyn block, the Nets, went out and spent this offseason bringing in some new faces to go along with some new uniforms, a new stadium and what the management is calling a new beginning.
With just one catch: who among Joe Johnson, Deron Williams or Gerald Wallace is going to be charged with teaching Brook Lopez some new tricks? On paper this roster looks fine: knock-around big man being set up by not one, not two, but three top-shelf perimeter players. But on the court some problems are set to emerge.
First of all, Brook Lopez takes bad shots so someone is going to be tasked with only feeding him when he’s open. Secondly, when Brook Lopez isn’t taking bad shots, he can’t pass out of double coverage, rendering his three point players moot. And finally, Brook Lopez might as well be a statue on the other end of the court, leaving any opposing player over 6’8” and 220 with some speed in the hands of…Kris Humphries.
The good news is that Johnson and Williams can really shoot a ball and have shown they can make players around them better, but Brook Lopez needs a lot of work and expectations for the new New York Core Four are extremely high.