It’s the first exceptionally-chilly morning here in Maine, which means it’s almost that time of year! With training camps set to open the weekend after next, the 2012/13 NBA season is nearly upon us. As we patiently wait for the end of October, I’d like to share with you some things that I hope to see between now and next June. In order to show that I’m not completely insane, I’ll discuss the likelihood of each event. In this particular batch, the range is “quite possible” to “not completely out of the realm of possibility.”
Jamal Crawford’s fourth 50-point game
Only four players have ever managed to record a 50-point game for three different NBA teams; their names are Wilt Chamberlain, Bernard King, Moses Malone, and Jamal Crawford. If Crawford were to go off for 50 as a member of the Clippers, he’d distinguish himself as the only player ever to reach that milestone with four different teams. Already the career leader in four-point plays, I’d love to see Crawford carve out another interesting niche for himself in basketball history.
Likelihood: Not likely. Crawford will be probably be the Clippers’ third or fourth offensive option, and he’s moved on to a stage in his career where he doesn’t care if he scores 5 or 55—he just wants to win. That being said, he’s obviously capable of catching fire, and Chris Paul has always been willing to feed the hot hand. Stranger things have happened.
A Healthy Eric Gordon
Due to the suckiness of the Hornets, few people realize just how remarkable Eric Gordon was late last season… nor do they realize that New Orleans went 5-2 in the seven games Gordon played in April of 2012. Fresh off the inactive list, EJ led the Bees to victories over San Antonio, Utah, and Houston as he scored 31, 25, and 27 points. I know, I know, three games… but Gordon really does have what it takes to be the best player on a playoff team. He can shoot, score, make plays, and defend. Personally, I think he’s a level above James Harden. Hopefully he’ll get a chance to prove it.
Likelihood: Gordon hasn’t been able to play 65 games since his rookie season. He’s missed more games than he did the previous season each year since. It’d be a damn shame if this trend continues, but only time will tell.
Nikola Pekovic: All-Star
Those who read this blog last season know very well that I’m a big fan of the Balkan Bulldozer. Despite a nagging foot injury, Pekovic was one of the league’s most improved players last season. Even playing next to Kevin Love, he really emerged as a premier offensive rebounder. He also produced buckets on the low block with remarkable proficiency (56.4% from the floor) and excelled in the pick-and-roll. Coming into this season lean and healthy, can Pek make the jump to All-Star in the Western Conference? The arrivals of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bogut won’t make it any easier, but…
Likelihood: …it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. Marc Gasol made it last season, and his numbers weren’t that much better than Pek’s. If Pek can get his minutes (26) on par with Marc’s (36), he could realistically achieve superior statistics in the scoring and rebounding categories. Still, the T-Wolves would probably have to be a playoff team at the break, and the West consists of at least nine other teams capable of occupying one of the eight slots.
Josh Smith “Get It”
I like Josh Smith, but I don’t think he “gets it.” Many will disagree with the point I’m about to make, but it is my firm belief that Josh Smith remains a better talent than player. Talk about his versatility, his athleticism, and his defense all you want, but as long as he’s shooting more 16-23 footers than any power forward not named LaMarcus Aldridge… he’s not doing it right (unless he’s spent the entire summer shooting 16-23 footers, and I’m not even convinced that that could fix his busted J).
Likelihood: Not likely. Why would Smith, who will be playing in his 9th NBA season (and his first as the best player on his team), rein it in now? With his field goal percentage trending downwards over the past couple season, I haven’t seen any indication of a change (or, more importantly, the desire to make one).
A Vicious Kenyon Martin Poster
Somehow, at 35 years old, Kenyon Martin remains one of the league’s most athletic power forwards. Despite his extra-truncated ’11/12 season (which saw him play just 42 games), K-Mart still managed to record 29 slam dunks. Not bad. However, it did seem that the majority of those dunks were of the uncontested variety. That’s not to say that some of ‘em weren’t nasty, ’cause some of ‘em certainly were nasty… but I just need to witness one last Jermaine O’Neal (or even Rob Kurz) incident before Kenyon hangs up his Nikes. The man is a legend, and he needs a proper sendoff.
Likelihood: Quite possible. Martin still leaps plenty well to tack some stiff on your little brother’s bedroom wall.
A Stromile Swift Comeback
…to the Chinese Basketball Association, preferably. Man, Stro was a beast over there! At age 32, he’s still too young to be finished.
Likelihood: Barring me coming into billions of dollars and purchasing a basketball team, not likely.