NBA: 5 Current Lottery Teams Ready to Break out in 2012-2013

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterApril 17, 2012

NBA: 5 Current Lottery Teams Ready to Break out in 2012-2013

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    For many NBA teams, any aspirations of making the playoffs have already come to an end.

    While precious games still remain in order to evaluate players and develop young talent, the NBA draft remains the crown jewel of those bottom-dwelling teams.

    For some rebuilders, the road remains longer than for others.  Many teams like the Charlotte Bobcats likely face multiple years before establishing a contending roster.

    Some teams, however, may not be as far away as we think.  These five teams may not be championship contenders, but a combination of draft picks, returning stars and salary shedding will help all to take a major step and break out in 2012-2013.

Toronto Raptors

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    Current Record: 21-39, 12th in Eastern Conference 

    2012-2013 Potential Lineup:

    PG—Jose Calderon

    SG—DeMar DeRozan

    SF—Harrison Barnes

    PF—Andrea Bargnani

    C—Jonas Valanciunas

    Why Next Year is Different:

    The Toronto Raptors made the smart choice of waiting an extra year on a potential star instead of reaching on a likely role player.

    Jonas Valanciunas was the Raptors' fifth overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft but faced a buy-out issue with his team, Lietuvos Ryta.  Toronto reduced what was a three-year deal down to one year so that he could join the NBA in 2012-2013.

    Valanciunas should made a big difference to the Raptors' defense, as he is a near seven-footer who has been working on adding muscle to his slim frame.  Already a great leaper and defender, he should immediately help the Toronto front line.

    The Raptors will also receive what is likely to be a top-seven pick in this year's draft which could help them nab help on the wing like a Harrison Barnes or Bradley Beal.

    Taking the offseason to get a healthy Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani should help too.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Current Record: 20-39, 13th in Eastern Conference

    2012-2013 Potential Lineup:

    PG—Kyrie Irving

    SG—Bradley Beal

    SF—Alonzo Gee

    PF—Tristan Thompson

    C—Anderson Varejao

    Why Next Year is Different:

    The Cavaliers were actually quite competitive to start off the year, hanging at or around the eighth seed in the East for a few months before injuries and poor play began to take their toll.

    Varejao fractured his wrist in February, and Irving has been shut down with a sore shoulder for a few weeks now which has drastically hurt the Cavs' performance.

    There should be a small turnover as veterans Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison will likely not return, but the Cavaliers should be able to make up for their losses with four picks in the 2012 NBA draft, including two in the first round.

    Expect the Cavs to nab a playmaker on the wing like Bradley Beal, Harrison Barnes or, if they're lucky, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist.  Pairing one of them with Irving would make one of the best young backcourts in the NBA.

    Varejao is one of the best post defenders in the game when healthy, and Thompson will go back to power forward after starting at center for most of the last month which should only help him.

    Getting Irving and Varejao healthy plus a lottery pick in this year's draft and the Cavs may actually hold on to a playoff spot that they only briefly flirted with this season.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Current Record: 25-36, 12th in Western Conference

    2012-2013 Potential Lineup:

    PG—Ricky Rubio

    SG—Jamal Crawford

    SF—Derrick Williams

    PF—Kevin Love

    C—Nikola Pekovic

    Why Next Year is Different:

    The Timberwolves were on the verge of breaking out this season until Ricky Rubio went down with a torn ACL that doomed the Wolves' playoff chances.  At the time, Minnesota was a half game out of the eighth seed in the West.  Now, they've lost nine games in a row and have little to play for this season.

    As always, though, hope remains for next season.

    The return of Rubio in his second pro year is a huge help, and giving Derrick Williams the offseason to get himself into starting small forward shape should only help him live up to his potential.  Love is an MVP candidate, and Pekovic is quietly having a great second year.

    If they choose not to match any offers for Beasley and let him walk along with the expiring contracts of Brad Miller and Martell Webster, the Wolves will have approximately $7 million in cap space to play with which could be used to bring in a veteran shooting guard like Jamal Crawford.

    Minnesota was interested in Crawford in the offseason and before this year's trade deadline, and his scoring ability and veteran leadership would blend well with a young Wolves team.

    A healthy Rubio, an emerging star in Williams, Kevin Love being Kevin Love and maybe a free agent or two could definitely spell a breakout year in the Twin Cities.

Golden State Warriors

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    Current Record: 22-37, 13th in Western Conference

    2012-2013 Potential Lineup:

    PG—Stephen Curry

    SG—Klay Thompson

    SF—Harrison Barnes

    PF—David Lee

    C—Andrew Bogut

    Why Next Year is Different:

    The Warriors have a lot of talent on their roster if they could get it all on the court at the same time.

    David Lee is quietly putting together a great statistical year, and Stephen Curry can show flashes of superstardom when healthy.

    Making the trade for Bogut is extremely risky, but could eventually pay off as few centers in the league can compete with his skill set.  With Thompson playing well, the loss of Monta Ellis doesn't hurt quite as bad and disgruntled Stephen Jackson was flipped for Richard Jefferson and San Antonio's first rounder this year.

    Perhaps no team will be counting on the NBA draft lottery as much as the Warriors, who only get to keep their first rounder if it falls in the first seven picks overall.  If they somehow snag the sixth or seventh pick and can land a player like Harrison Barnes or Jeremy Lamb to help out on the wing, Golden State's future could get a whole lot brighter.

New Orleans (Hornets?)

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    Current Record:17-42, 15th in Western Conference

    2012-2013 Potential Lineup:

    PG—Jarrett Jack

    SG—Eric Gordon

    SF—Trevor Ariza

    PF—Thomas Robinson

    C—Emeka Okafor

    Why Next Year is Different:

    Now that the Hornets have a new owner, don't expect Eric Gordon to go anywhere as he is now the face of the franchise.  A healthy Gordon means a 20-25 point-per-game scorer and a young star they can build around.

    Gordon won't be doing it by himself, however, as the Hornets own their own plus the Minnesota Timberwolves' first-round picks in this year's draft.

    Owning what could potentially be two top-10 picks in a draft as deep as this should spell immediate improvement on what has been a horrendous season in the bayou.

    New Orleans would be wise to take a potential star player like Kansas forward Thomas Robinson with their pick and add an extra wing like a Jeremy Lamb or center in Meyers Leonard with the Wolves' pick.

    Despite the help they'll get in the draft, the key for the Hornets in 2012-2013 will be the health of Eric Gordon.  If Gordon plays like he's capable of and the Hornets add a few impact players in the draft, don't be surprised to see New Orleans grab a playoff spot in the talented West.