Somebody has to be last, and somebody has to deliver the news that there are certain NBA teams that are going to be bad and have no hope for the 2013-14 season. But is it always an insult to consider a team as weak? There are different levels to being bad in sports.
There are franchises which are truly incompetent. They are the opposite of the Midas Touch, turning everything that comes within reach into something toxic and invaluable. Their efforts are constantly futile and ineffective and are seemingly stuck in time as a perpetual lower-tier team.
Then there are the bad teams that embrace being bad for the moment. They’re not accustomed to the feeling and they’ve only reached desperate times due to varying circumstances, whether it’s an injury to a star player or a devastating trade, or they grew disgruntled and frustrated with only being average and decided to tear it down and start over.
These teams are rebuilding. The teams described in the prior paragraph are in a constant state of rebuilding.
But the franchise content with being average is far worse off than a bad team. Becoming complacent and settling into constantly — being a four-to-six seed and going no further than the second round — is a far worse fate than being a bad team. At least the bad team can realize its faults and immediately start over; the average team has to fool itself into believing they could catch an elite team off guard.
It’s not easy getting out of this hole. It takes years of drafting the right players, finding the right coach to manage a roster that’s mostly comprised of developing players, and convincing veterans to help your poor roster.
Franchises only have so much money to spend; they have to make it count. Make the wrong move and you end up with Al Jefferson or Brandon Jennings as cornerstones.
There have to be teams for the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder to fill their highlight reels with. Here are the five teams that are going to end up doing so this season.
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The Sacramento Kings are an enigma. You take a look at their roster year-after-year and think, “You know, there’s a lot of talent on this team. They may actually contend this year” and then the rose-colored glasses come off and the Kings win less than 30 games again.
Sacramento hasn’t won more than 30 games since 2008. Their winning percentage of 34 percent last year was their highest since ’08 and they haven’t had a winning season since 2006.
None of those stats are going to change and I have no idea why they won’t. There’s so much talent on this roster, yet it wouldn’t bat a single eye in the NBA community if they finished last in the Pacific for the sixth time in eight years.
Sacramento enters the 2013-14 season with a rookie head coach in Mike Malone and a talent-laden roster that includes a borderline All-Star in DeMarcus Cousins, brilliant playmakers in Isaiah Thomas and Greivis Vasquez, lethal shooters in Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette and a rookie guard in Ben McLemore.
The Kings new coach has been coaching since 1994 and has been doing so on a professional level since 2001. He most recently spent time with the Golden State Warriors.
What does all of it add up to? Somehow another missed postseason, another season of less than 30 wins and another season of questioning why this Kings team cannot concoct a way to emerge out of the basement of the Pacific, despite having obvious talent throughout the roster.
In that rundown of Sacramento’s rotation, did you notice I didn’t mention any defensive specialists or shotblockers? The Kings have a lot of players who can score, but they lack any sort of defensive-stopper, with the exception of newcomer Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. That’s a good start, especially since it means less John Salmons, but he’s only one man.
Scoring is fun, but defense wins championships. Sacramento gave up over 105 points per game last season, which was nearly three points more than the next team in terms of defensive incompetence. It is the second consecutive season where the Kings have ranked dead-last in points given up per game. Sacramento has been giving up at least 103 points per game since 2007. It shouldn’t take that many coaches and general managers to figure out where the true problems lie.
Defensive lowlights from last year include yielding 123 points in a loss to Denver, 141 in a double-overtime loss to Miami, 123 to Dallas and 130 to San Antonio. They finished the season giving up at least 104 points in their final five games of the season. Appropriately, they ranked 27th in blocks per game.
Sorry, Sacramento, but Dikembe Mutombo, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, Alvin Robertson, Ron Artest, Ben Wallace and Bill Russell aren’t walking through that door. It’s going to be another season filled with excitement involving the Kings. Unfortunately, most of that excitement will be generated by their opponents.
The Orlando Magic have been without Dwight Howard for two years and it’s reflected in how poorly the team finished last year, as well as how they’re projected to finish this season.
A year removed from having the worst record in the East, and five years removed from making the NBA Finals, the Magic are storing up on young talent they hope will improve with experience and create a formidable team.
The Magic are going to be a good team in the long run. There’s too much talent for this team not to at least threaten for a playoff spot in the next few seasons, especially when you look at what teams may occupy the final two seeds of the East this year, but this year is going to be another painful one. Orlando possesses one of the youngest rosters in the NBA with only three 30-year-olds, the oldest being the 31-year-old Jameer Nelson and the youngest being the 20-year-old Maurice Harkless, and an average age of a shade less than 25.
There are no players on the Magic roster with more than 10 years of playing experience, but there are eight players with a year of experience or less and 12 players with two years of experience or less. Unless you have Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden leading the way, young teams won’t encounter a great deal of success and that includes this wildly inexperienced Magic roster.
To make the 2013-14 even worse for Orlando, they hardly made any moves outside of the draft this summer to improve.
Victor Oladipo, chosen second in the draft and already a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, is one of the few impact players to join a Magic team that ranked 27th in offensive efficiency and 25th in defensive efficiency last year.
Orlando was one of two teams, the other being the Charlotte Bobcats, to finish in the bottom six of both offensive and defensive efficiency last year. Unfortunately for Orlando, they did not receive one of the league’s most offensively-gifted centers over the summer as Charlotte did, and may just be alone in that rare category of awfulness in the coming season.
Experience for talented players like Harkless, Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris will eventually quell the Magic’s losing ways. However, their lack of transactions and signings over the summer does little to vastly improve Orlando from the league’s 29th best team as they were last season.
C’mon, Phoenix. Not only do you have to waste Goran Dragic‘s talent, but now you have to horde Eric Bledsoe from the rest of the league, too?
The Suns traded Jared Dudley this summer to the Los Angeles Clippers to employ the services of Bledsoe, a solid backup point guard in his three years with L.A. The athletic guard is coming off a breakout season where he dropped 8.5 points, 3.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 20 minutes per game last year. He’ll most likely be starting in a promising young backcourt that includes one of the league’s most underrated floor generals in Dragic. Did I mention Bledsoe is 6-1 and has been usually utilized as a point guard throughout his career?
Now Bledsoe has been used as a shooting guard in the past, but has never matched-up with opposing two-guards on a nightly basis.
Bledsoe and Dragic round out a starting lineup that will also feature P.J. Tucker (the Suns upgrade of Michael Beasley was Gerald Green), Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat.
Coming off the bench will be Channing Frye, returning from a year’s absence following heart surgery, Shannon Brown, rookie center Alex Len, Green and whoever the Suns decide to trot out as their ninth man.
Phoenix will be keeping heavy hopes that their rookies, Len and Archie Goodwin, will provide them with help to make this season bearable and the future worth looking towards.
The ship will be manned by rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek. His only coaching experience includes a stint as an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz since 2011, but he played with the Suns from 1986 to 1992, so that should level things out.
Phoenix has missed the playoffs the past three years and has gradually gotten worse over the past four. Since winning 54 games and making the conference finals in 2010, Phoenix’s win total has dropped 29 games. Somehow the Suns have yet to bottom out. It’s going to be awhile before they find the next Steve Nash-Amar’e Stoudemire duo to lead them out of the inferno they have fallen into.
The Utah Jazz were fed up with being a middle-of-the-pack team in the West, so they became a cellar-dweller, instead. You can’t really blame a team like Utah for giving up on being mediocre to becoming downright bad. There’s no reward that comes from being average or even above-average, aside from becoming postseason fodder for one of the few elite teams of the NBA.
Utah experienced that two years ago. They made the postseason as an eighth seed only to fall in four games to the San Antonio Spurs in one of the most lopsided series in NBA postseason history. Last year they finished as a ninth seed two games out of the final postseason spot.
Why suffer any longer if you’re Utah? The best you could offer over the past two seasons was a sweep at the hands of the Spurs, so why bother throwing out a product with the same core if you’re not going to get any farther than winning a game in the first round?
As a result, the Jazz allowed their two franchise fixtures, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, to sign elsewhere this summer. Utah will fill their spots with young talent in Derrick Favors, a 22-year-old who will receive a consistent role in the starting lineup for the first time in his career, and Enes Kanter, a 21-year-old who averaged 7.2 points and 4.3 boards off the bench last year.
Utah can also boast the 23-year-old Gordon Hayward, rookie Trey Burke, Alec Burks, and Brandon Rush, who was brought over in a trade with Golden State. But the talent falls off from there. When I mean fall off, I mean Wile E. Coyote plummeting off a cliff and smashing face-first into the desert.
Sure Utah got Brandon Rush, but you know who else came over in that deal? Andris ’11 percent free throw shooting’ Biedrins and Richard Jefferson.
Jefferson and Biedrins are the highest-paid players on the team and will be robbing Utah of over $20 million. Throw in Marvin Williams and you have three underwhelming players taking up $27 million of Utah’s $55 million payroll this season. Fortunately, all three of their deals end after this year.
Per Yahoo!, Utah’s starting lineup will feature Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter, while the rotation off the bench includes Rush, Williams, John Lucas III, Jeremy Evans and Rudy Gobert.
Don’t like those options? You can always substitute in Lester Hudson, Brian Cook (Seriously! That Brian Cook!) or Dominic McGuire. Chances are the Jazz will be featuring a variety of players in its rotation, young and old, so there’s a high possibility you will get to see just about every player that inhabits the roster on the floor at some point.
The staunchest, most devoted NBA fan would struggle to recognize some of the names on this roster. Names such as Mike Harris, who has apparently been in the league undetected for four years, and Dwayne Jones, an eight-year veteran, don’t exactly jump off the paper. However, it’s a good start in the right direction for a Jazz team that has no intention of being content with average. This conquest to futility is on the right track.
The Philadelphia 76ers are predicted to be so putrid this year that it’s inspired a hashtag relating to next year’s NBA Draft.
That’s the mantra in Philadelphia: Wait a few months and they might be fortunate enough to win the lottery, a rarity for teams that finish with the league’s worst record, and draft a 19-year-old.
It doesn’t appear as if the Sixers are denying tanking judging by the moves they have made over the past few months. Their two All-Stars, Andrew Bynum and Jrue Holiday, have both departed and the most the Sixers have to show for it is their first-round selection in center Nerlens Noel, who is recovering from a torn ACL and doesn’t have a timetable to return.
Somebody needs to get the Philadelphia 76ers some help to appease this fascination and addiction to centers who have suffered devastating injuries.
Other newcomers to Philadelphia include coach Brett Brown, a coach since 1988 and an assistant on San Antonio’s bench since 2007, promising rookie Michael Carter-Williams, Lakers cast-off Darius Morris and former Spurs and Rockets garbage-time contributor James Anderson. Philadelphia also brought in Royce White, but, as the Houston Rockets endured, you’ll probably never see him.
The Sixers have to be encouraged with Carter-Williams, a 6-6 point guard who averaged 7.3 assists and 2.7 steals per with Syracuse last year, but he may be the best player on this team and that is a depressing thought.
Challenging Carter-Williams to be the best active player on the Sixers include Evan Turner, the second pick of the 2010 Draft who the Sixers are still hoping will breakout, and Thaddeus Young, a versatile forward who averaged 14.8 points and 7.5 boards last year.
Also, Kwame Brown is still here. He stole over $2 million from Philadelphia last season to average 1.9 points in 22 games and will be raking in $3 million this year to play backup to Spencer Hawes and Noel, whenever he does return.
For comparison’s sake, he’ll be making as much as Ray Allen.
With so few players who can score and so few who can defend, it leaves one to wonder just where the Sixers are going to consistently find sources of offense and defense. It’s also leaving one to ponder if the Sixers are going to be on their way to matching the all-time record for futility in a full regular season, set by the 1972-73 Sixers team that won nine games.
Throw in Philadelphia having to play New York, Brooklyn, Toronto and Boston four times apiece, as well as being a part of a conference that has overall improved, and you have a franchise that has every reason to tank and hope the ping-pong balls bounce in their favor nine months from now.
Who will be the worst teams in the NBA this year?
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