CRYSTAL BALL: 13 predictions for 2013

Mike D'Antoni and Kobe Bryant teamed up in 2012 to win a gold medal at the London Olympics. (GETTY IMAGES)

Mike D’Antoni will help Kobe Bryant win the NBA scoring title in 2013. (GETTY IMAGES)

As we ring in the new year I thought it would be a good idea to make some bold predictions for 2013. The Mayans thought the world would end in 2012 and they were dead wrong, so whiffing on any prognostications pale in comparison to the ridiculous doomsday claim by the Mayans.

Here are 13 things OneManFastBreak.net predicts will happen in 2013:

1-GREGG POPOVICH WILL REST HIS STARTERS AT SOME POINT
Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs were slapped with a huge fine for resting Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Danny Green during a road trip in Miami. Commissioner David Stern was fuming when a TNT Thursday night showcase between the Heat and Spurs turned into a B-rated movie. Despite getting fined, Popovich vows he would do it again. We dare him to do it again.

2-KOBE BRYANT WILL WIN THE NBA SCORING TITLE
This is probably the easiest prediction of them all. Bryant came close to winning the scoring title last year, and this year offensive-guru Mike D’Antoni is letting Kobe shoot the ball until his arm falls off. Bryant leads the league with a 30.1 average, and is one of only two players who averages more than 20 shot attempts per game. Bryant takes 21 shots per game and Carmelo Anthony takes 20 shots per game. The only thing that will stop Bryant from being the top scorer in 2013 is if D’Antoni gets fired the Lakers rehire Mike Brown.

3-LAKERS WILL FINISH WITH THE WORST DEFENSE IN THE NBA
Speaking of D’Antoni, the Lakers are on pace to have one of the worst defenses in the Association. The Lakers, a once disciplined defensive team and have two defensive players of the year on the roster (Dwight Howard and Ron Artest) and a first-team All-NBA defensive in Kobe, are now yielding a shade over 100 points a game with no signs of improving. From now on we should refer to Mike D’Antoni as Mike Antoni because there is absolutely no “D” in D’Antoni.

4-DAMON LILLARD WILL WIN ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
This is hardly a bold prediction given that Lillard has clearly separated himself form the rookie pack with his solid start and lack of a competition for the award, especially after an injury to No. 1 pick Anthony Davis. Lillard has been a godsend for the Portland Trail Blazers, a team that badly needs of a break after career-ending injuries to promising players Greg Oden and Brandon Roy. Lillard leads all rookies in points (18.3) and assists (6.3).

5-NEW YORK KNICKS WILL STRUGGLE WITH AMARE STOUDEMIRE BACK
Bad news for the Knicks! Amare Stoudemire has been cleared to play. This can’t be good for ‘Melo and Co., who have done just fine without their often-injured star power forward. Even though Anthony says all the right things publicly about his relationship with STAT, their games don’t mesh well on the court. Anthony thrives in the isolation game, which is what head coach Mike Woodson has installed this season. Stoudemire is a better fit for a pick-and-roll offense, and he often struggles posting up because he lacks the fundamental low-post skills against good low-post defenders. For the Knicks to advance past the Miami Heat in the East they must deal Stoudemire.

Amare Stoudemire (left) and Carmelo Anthony are struggling to find a common ground in New York.

Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony

6-SACRAMENTO WILL TRADE DEMARCUS COUSINS
The Kings are going to realize that there is no point of keeping a disgruntled player like Cousins, who has been suspended twice by the team since being drafted in 2010 out of Kentucky. Cousins has loads of talent, but his immaturity overshadows his immense potential. The Kings are going nowhere fast, so the team needs to reshape the roster by dumping Cousins. Call it addition by subtraction.

7-LARRY DREW WILL WIN COACH OF THE YEAR
The Hawks have been one of the biggest surprises this season despite losing some key pieces before the season started. All-Star guard Joe Johnson left the ATL for Brooklyn, while supersub Jamal Crawford found a new home with the L.A. Clippers. That’s more than one third of the team’s scoring power from last season. Somehow Larry Drew has kept this team together by using a more balanced attack, giving point guard Jeff Teague the keys to the offense. And the addition of Kyle Korver gives the Hawks a true sniper from beyond the arc. Atlanta currently sits in the top four spots in the East and should make the playoffs, which is a victory on to itself given the amount of turnover the team in the offseason.

8-CLIPPERS WILL FINISH WITH THE BEST RECORD IN THE WEST
Thanks to a historic month of December in which the team went 16-0 and broke the franchise record for most consecutive victories, the Clippers own the best record in the NBA. One of the biggest changes this year has come at the defensive end, where the Clips are among the league best at holding down the opposition (92 points per game). The other has come from the bench, a unit led by one of the best sixth men in the league in Jamal Crawford. Sprinkle in a few former Lakers — Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom, and Ronny Turiaf — and you have a veteran supporting cast to complement a starting crew led by All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Armed with a blend of youth and experience, the Clippers are built for the long haul.

9-GOLDEN STATE WILL MAKE THE PLAYOFFS
If Larry Drew doesn’t win coach of the year then Mark Jackson should be the next best candidate. Now two years removed from his ABC and ESPN TV gig, Jackson has figured out how this NBA coaching thing works. He has the Warriors playing defense — yes, defense — for the first time since the Rick Barry era. That’s no small feat considering he has some defensive liabilities on the roster, starting with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The acquisition of Jarrett Jack has provided the Warriors with another playmaker on the court to play alongside Curry, and David Lee is having the best season of his career. Kudos to Mark Jackson for making the Warriors relevant again.

10-ANTHONY BENNETT WILL BE THE BEST PRO PROSPECT
Indiana University forward and Sports Illustrated cover boy Cody Zeller may sweep all of the individual awards in college basketball this year, but UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett will emerge as the most NBA-ready prospect if he decides to enter the draft. At 6-8 and 240 pounds, Bennett was born to play power forward. Cal coach Mike Montgomery call Bennett “a man.” “He’s got muscles on top of muscles,” Montgomery said. “If you give him an angle to the basket, it’s pretty much going to be a dunk.” Bennett can play in the low block as well as face up and hit a 15-footer, and he can put the ball on the floor and take his man off the dribble. Think of Bennett as the 2.0 version of Larry Johnson.

11-DERRICK ROSE WILL BE BACK AFTER THE ALL-STAR BREAK
Rehab is going great and no reports of any setbacks for D-Rose. The Bulls have managed to stay afloat while Rose works his way back to playing shape and strengthening his surgically repaired knee. Head coach Tom Thibodeau told the Chicago Sun-Times that Rose is “still not anywhere close to playing,” but at least Coach Thibs is not saying Rose won’t be available at all this season. Just the simple fact that Rose is practicing with the team (non-contact drills) is a win, win for the Bulls and all signs point to his return.

Derrick-Rose-dribbles-getty

12-KEVIN DURANT WILL WIN THE MVP
You can never go wrong with LeBron James as the MVP, but he already has four Maurice Podoloff trophies sitting in his mansion and some voters may find enough reasons not to give him a fifth hardware. A lot of early chatter about Carmelo Anthony as the frontrunner for MVP, and even 34-year-old Kobe Bryant has reemerged in the hunt with his recent scoring spree. But when the dust settles and time for David Stern to make the announcement during the playoffs, it will be Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant. The Thunder star is going to be in the thick of things in the scoring race, and he may overtake Kobe if the Lakers star decides to ease up at the end. Durant is enjoying the best season of his young career. His stats are up in points, assists, steals, blocks, free throw percentage, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage. His 51% field goal percentage is mind-boggling considering he takes most of his shots from the perimeter. If OKC finishes with the best record in the West, Durant is a near lock for MVP.

13-DALLAS MAVERICKS WILL HAVE A BUSY OFFSEASON
After getting stiffed by Deron Williams a year ago, Mavs owner Mark Cuban will make sure he lands a big-time free agent (or two) this summer to reload for one last run at a championship with Dirk Nowitzki. Chris Paul and Dwight Howard head the list of unrestricted free agents this summer, but most likely one of them (or both) will re-sign with their previous teams. Paul will have a hard time leaving the Clippers, while Howard already has a handshake deal with the Lakers to be their franchise star when Kobe retires. But there are still some very good Tier 2 stars available, such as Utah center Al Jefferson and Brandon Jennings. The Mavs have enough cap room to reel in a couple of stars.

Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.

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