Playboy.com's NBA Preview: The Good

By Playboy.com Staff

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Whether it's good, bad or ugly, we've got the NBA's best story lines leading up to the 2012-2013 Tip-Off.


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. Over the next three days, 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 and today we’ll start with The Good:

See which story lines we sorted into The Bad and The Ugly. 

The Lakers Lock

Just when you thought the Kobe years would come to a close in L.A. with little fanfare, the Lakers broke loose, acquiring arguably the NBA’s best center in Dwight Howard and the league’s most sure-handed and smart point guard in Steve Nash. All without giving up Pau Gasol.

As it stands, Los Angeles’ starting lineup projects to look something like Howard, Nash, Gasol, Bryant and the man formerly known as Ron Artest, which is about as good as it gets talent-wise. Naturally, the Lakers are short staffed off the bench, making the age and injury risk of at least three of these players look like something of a concern, but you’ve got to believe they’ve got the West already won; with an offense filtered through Nash and two bona fide big men for him to look to, this looks like a lock, and we haven’t even factored in Kobe or what a wide-open Metta World Peace could do.  

The Surprisingly Spry Celtics

The media circus surrounding the Celtics has been chanting choruses of “old and getting older” for so long that we’ve actually taken to believing it, but outside of Pierce and Garnett, 35 and 36 respectively, Boston has a wealth of raw, albeit unproven, talent.

Take this year’s draft class for instance: in taking Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph, the Celtics found high-risk, high-reward solutions for all their primary concerns. In Melo, they get a true seven-footer who, under the tutelage of KG, could turn into a bona fide defensive asset instead of just a freakishly tall shot blocker. In Sullinger, they get a physical forward who projected as a top-10 pick a year ago, but whose stock fell when potential back problems emerged. And in Joseph, they found a bench guy with an all-around skill set who won’t excel at anything in particular, but won’t in any way be a liability at either end of the court in the 12 to 15 minutes he plays.

After the draft class, they’ve got Brandon Bass and Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo, whose 17.3 points, 11.9 assists and 6.7 boards in the postseason last year bode well if the offense is indeed going to run through him and not Paul Pierce. Should Rondo match anywhere near those numbers in the regular season, Boston might very well be a contender again this year and in years to come if their draft class gamble pans out.

The Miami Matchup

When the Heat start hitting hurdles we tend to focus on their lack of true center, their at times shoddy perimeter shooting and whatever ugly combination of forwards they have filling out all five spots on the court. But Miami prides itself on being a “position-less” team, a team impossible to guard in any conventional sense of the word. And while it’s easy to point out the system’s flaws when they’re being exploited, it’s hard to argue with the end result: an NBA Championship, acquired after running circles around the mold-made Thunder.

Selah. That is the luxury afforded to GM Pat Riley by the mere presence of LeBron James, a five-dimensional power forward who frees up floor space by being virtually impossible to contain one-on-one. In 2013, the Heat will descend further into the unconventional abyss with the likes Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis shoring up their perimeter offense, turning a once up-tempo team with options into an all-offense omnivore, unconcerned, and rightfully so, with the defensive play patterns and matchups of lesser teams.

The Clippers Grow Up

It’s no secret that L.A.’s second-string team boasts the most athletic front court we’ve seen in a while; after all, the nickname Lob City is not a nomenclature to be bestowed upon a team ironically. But after being bounced from the playoffs by an elder statesman Spurs team that exposed their notable lack of depth, the Clippers went out this offseason and brought in some life support off the bench.

Guys like Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill and Lamar Odom add another level of depth to a Clips team that relied heavily on the “Chris Paul to the Big Man” connection. Now they can beat you, or at least play tighter at both ends of the court with Hill, Caron Butler and Matt Barnes as serviceable perimeter defenders and Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the post. They still lack a true low-post offensive game, but with Griffin’s time freed up by the other options available, he may be inclined to develop some tools in the paint. And then the West has a real problem on its hands. 

See which story lines we sorted into The Bad and The Ugly. 


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