For 26 of the NBA's 30 franchises, the focus has already shifted to the 2012-2013 season. With the NBA Draft Lottery happening tomorrow and the draft now less than one month away, front office personnel around the league are preparing for to improve their teams.
But the 2012 draft will be more important for some teams than others. Whether they are just one player away from being a championship or playoff contender, or they were one of the worst teams in the league this year and need to improve to stay competitive, it is essential that these teams have a good draft in 2012 so they can continue to build their respective franchises. Here are four teams that absolutely must get slam dunks in this year's draft.
This is an easy one. The Bobcats were one of, if not the worst team in NBA history in 2012. They finished the season with the worst winning percentage in league history and a 7-59 record.
Michael Jordan and the Bobcats front office need to break everything down and start over. The Bobcats have a few players on the roster who have potential, including Kemba Walker. However, if they want to be at all competitive moving forward, they need a LeBron James-esque franchise player to come in and save the team.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, I'm not sure if that player exists in this year's draft, but Anthony Davis from Kentucky is as close as they're going to come. The Bobcats will be relying on the ping pong balls to bounce their way tomorrow, and if they do secure the top pick, they will most likely select Davis.
However, if Charlotte gets unlucky and ends up with the second or third pick, Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Davis's college teammate) would give the Bobcats some much needed frontcourt scoring. Or they could try and trade the pick to secure some more pieces if they don't believe any players on the board are superstar caliber.
Whatever they decide to do, the Bobcats' first step in digging themselves out of the hole is to have a great draft.
The Cavs got it right in last year's draft with the number one overall pick when they selected Kyrie Irving.
Irving would go on to average 18.5 points and 5.4 assists per game, leading him to Rookie of the Year honors. Now, it is time for the Cavs to surround Irving with some talent in hopes of making a playoff run in 2013.
Cleveland was just one and a half games out of the eighth spot in the East when they traded away Ramon Sessions for Luke Walton and a draft pick in February, and after that they quickly fell out of contention.
However, securing the Lakers first round pick, as well as their own projected top five selection, means this draft is extra important for Dan Gilbert and the Cavs.
A player like Harrison Barnes from North Carolina or Jeremy Lamb of UConn would be great No. 2 options to develop offensively behind Irving, but if Kidd-Gilchrist is still on the board, then the Cavs need to jump all over him.
For their late first-round pick, they need to focus on securing a low post scorer to make up for Antwan Jamison's production. Myers Leonard, the seven footer from Illinois, could be a good pick if he is still on the board. Andrew Nicholson out of St. Bonaventure, a player similar to Jameson, would be a viable option.
Portland Trail Blazers
Because of the Gerald Wallace trade, the Trail Blazers will have two lottery picks this season, which means their picks become extra important.
Let's not forget that two years ago this team challenged the Mavericks in the playoffs and could have been a playoff team again this season if they were able to stay healthy.
Portland is projected to have both the sixth and tenth pick in this year's draft, and if they play it right, picking up two lottery players will put them over the top and back amongst the best teams in the Western Conference next season.
The Blazers already have their franchise player in LaMarcus Aldridge, but adding Andre Drummond to lock down the center position for years to come has to be on the radar if he is still available for the sixth pick. If Barnes is still available, Portland may want to consider him as well.
They also will be in need of a point guard if Raymond Felton leaves town, so Kendall Marshall out of UNC or Damian Lillard from Weber State are must-picks with the tenth selection.
However the Blazers want to go with it, they could potentially add two starters to the mix in this year's draft, and if they pick up a lead guard and a big man or wing scorer that can produce for year's to come, it will be a successful draft.
The Magic are doing pretty much whatever they can to convince Dwight Howard to stay in Orlando past next season.
From firing the coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith, to even considering Shaquille O'Neal for the new general manager, it is clear the Magic will do whatever it takes to adhere to what Howard wants.
But what Howard wants more than anything is to be on a championship contending team, and right now he does not have that in Orlando. The Magic must improve in the offseason if they want to keep Howard, and it starts in the draft.
It is essential that the Magic get a sure thing with their No. 19 pick. They will not be able to get lottery talent, so the Magic need to be smart and instead pick up a player who may be flying under the radar.
Tony Wroten Jr. out of Washington could be that player. Wroten averaged 16 points per game as a freshman for Washington last season, and he could become the air apparent to Jameer Nelson in the Orlando backcourt. Dion Waiters out of Syracuse could also be a good fit. Waiters is a very talented scorer who has all-star potential, but probably needed another year at Syracuse to refine his game to be a top ten pick.
Keeping D12 happy is the one and only priority in the offseason, so don't be surprised if he has some input in who the Magic take in the first round.