NBA Playoffs 2012: 4 Teams That Are in This Year, but Won't Be Back in 2013
The NBA playoff picture is shaking out, and the matchups are getting set.
But don't get too comfortable with seeing all of these teams in the playoffs for years to come. While some of these teams look like they have a solid chance of winning a title this year, a lot can change over the summer.
Whether it's losing players to aging or free agency, these teams will be in the playoffs this year, but next year's chances are looking much worse.
Let's take a look at the four teams most in danger of dropping out of the playoffs after this season.
1. Boston Celtics
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This could be the last year we see the Big Three on the court together.
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen will both be free agents, and GM Danny Ainge is looking to have a complete youth makeover with his team. Therefore, it's likely neither of them will be brought back to Beantown, which leaves Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and the emerging Avery Bradley.
Assuming Ainge is making his team younger, Pierce may not even be safe, and he might be dealt to build for the future. Rondo was also involved in a lot of trade talks this season, and if the right offer comes up, he may also be on his way out.
With a lot of the future roster in question for the Celtics right now, I see them entering a rebuilding phase where they will miss the playoffs for at least next season.
2. Houston Rockets
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This pick has less to do with the team getting weaker and more to do with the Western Conference getting stronger.
The Rockets are a very solid basketball team and have enjoyed the improvement of Kyle Lowry this season. However, even with Lowry's stellar play early in the season, the Rockets are lacking a true superstar to take the team to the next level.
They have good players in Luis Scola, Chandler Parsons, Chase Budinger and Courtney Lee, but none of them can really change a game.
After dealing Jordan Hill and acquiring the much older Marcus Camby, they took a step backwards in developing their team and may be looking to the draft or free agency instead of waiting for Hill to develop.
Kevin Martin, the closest thing the Rockets have to a star, has slowed down this year a bit after suffering some injuries. If his slump continues into next year, finding a spot in the playoffs will be a tough task.
3. Atlanta Hawks
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When this season is said and done, the Hawks are going to have a lot of work to do.
They have had a pretty good season thanks to their core of Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford. However, the majority of their team will not be on contract after this year. Only six players on the current roster have deals going into next season.
With a moderately lackluster free agency class and a likely low pick in the draft, the Hawks are going to have to enter a full rebuilding mode. This might mean trading away Josh Smith, who was on the verge of being dealt at this year's trade deadline.
Rebuilding could face difficulty too, as Joe Johnson's monster contract is absorbing a lot of cap room. His play has been good, but not nearly worth his insanely high pay.
This season could be the last time for the next few year that the Hawks are in the playoff mix.
4. Dallas Mavericks
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The current defending NBA champs have had plenty of troubles this season, and they will only get worse.
Dirk Nowitzki showed up this year out of shape and the Mavs stumbled to a bad start to the season. The Lamar Odom trade ended up horrible on their end since both sides recently agreed to part ways due to continued conflicts.
The worst part is that Dallas is not getting any younger. Dirk, Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry are all getting up there in age, and they have been key components to what success the Mavs have had this season.
With a lack of youth and the threat to lose some of that youth to free agency (Yi Jianlian and Ian Mahimi), the Mavericks are shaping up for a rough rebuild in the years to come.