Well I'm a little late to the party here as I've already seen other people review these elsewhere on the net, but here's my take anyway. Panini has revived the Hoops brand and since these will serve as their entry level brand they are probably the only packs of Panini basketball cards I will buy this year. You get 8 cards per pack for about a buck, so they are decent value.
The design is similar to the original Hoops sets from the early nineties with a photo shape that resembles the lane area of a basketball court. The photography is decent but nothing special. They are game shots but mostly just guys dribbling or standing holding the ball, not a lot of action. The top banner is team colored and the background features a wood grain court motif which fades into a white gradient (Panini's go to design feature). A decent looking set overall.
2012 Hoops has a pretty substantial checklist of players, several of which I don't really think even deserve to have a card. There are several guys in the set that haven't even played a game in the NBA and one of the guys I got has only played 2. Anyway, you should be able to find a card of just about anyone you would follow. There are no rookies however, I guess the lockout was just too much for Panini to handle. Also, some of the backgrounds are totally faked, to make guys in new uniforms look like they've actually played for their new team already, when they haven't.
The packs I got were really kinda boring to look through as Panini isn't including inserts too frequently, which I think is a shame. I love inserts! I don't like getting packs with no variety and when the cards do not feature team logos on the front or very interesting photography it makes for a bland product in my mind. I'll show you the inserts I did get in a bit.
The back are designed horizontally and include a few lines of stats along with a photo of the player. Problem here is it's the same as the one on the front. That's a big no no if you ask me, but they never do. What do I know about card design anyway, right? Well, I'll show you.
Here's my simple tweak for this set. I feel they have too much white space at the bottom of the card so I would simply rotate the wood grain/gradient 180 degrees and voila! Isn't that better without much thought at all?
Here is one of the inserts I got. These Artist's Proofs cards must be one of the worst variants ever. The only difference is that it has Artist's Proofs stamped above the players name. Who cares? The only dumber idea is to make a parrallel set of cards with a glossy finish. Oh wait, they have those too? Like I said, dumb.
The Action Shots insert set, however, I like a lot. Here Panini proves to us that they CAN find interesting photography of basketball players and manage to put it onto a card. This HOOPS set would be much better all around with a little more effort put into the photo choices. There is no excuse to me to put photos of guys standing still in a set of cards based on such a dynamic sport. If you can't put something besides a studio shot of a guy in the set, then don't put one in at all. Or just show him in his old uniform for crying out loud. It's been done that way for years. So there you have it. 2012 Panini HOOPS isn't anything groundbreaking, but it is a decent set and in this season of minimal basketball output, it may be all you're gonna get. Later.