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Sharks and Minnows: Predicting the NBA's Best and Worst Teams for Next Season

Matt ShetlerCorrespondent INovember 10, 2016

Sharks and Minnows: Predicting the NBA's Best and Worst Teams for Next Season

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    We haven't crowned a champion yet for the 2012 NBA season, but is it ever too early to have an eye on next season?

    So much can happen between the end of the postseason and the beginning of next.

    Deron Williams, Steve Nash and other free agents can change the fortunes of different franchises.

    The likes of Dwight Howard, Andre Iguodala, Pau Gasol, Kyle Lowry and others could find themselves changing uniforms via trades.

    Then there's potential coaching changes that can impact a team. Could Phil Jackson come out of retirement to turn a team around?

    So many questions and not enough answers, but that won't stop me from predicting how the 2012-13 season will play out.

    With that being said, here's a look at how each NBA team will finish the regular season next year.

30. Charlotte Bobcats

2 of 31

    2011-12 Record: 7-59

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 14-68

    Projected Playoff Seed: Miss Playoffs

    The good news for the Bobcats is that I have them doubling their win total from the 2012 season.

    The bad news is that they are still going to be the worst team in the NBA.

    If any team needed to add an Anthony Davis-type of player in the draft, it was the Bobcats, but while they will get a good player at No. 2, it won't be Davis.

    Charlotte has $43 million on the books for next season tied to 11 different player, only two of which (Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo) have anything that might resemble a decent NBA future.

    This team has a ton of rebuilding to do and right now there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

29. Washington Wizards

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    2011-12 Record: 20-46

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 20-62

    Projected Playoff Seed: Miss Playoffs

    Even by adding a quality starter with the No. 3 pick in the draft, the Wizards have a ton of issues to address.

    Realistically they need to upgrade the shooting guard, small forward, power forward and the bench. They won't do that in one offseason.

    The best case scenario is to grab a high character guy to pair with John Wall and keep adding from there.

    Washington will be in no position to contend for a playoff spot in 2013.

28. Detroit Pistons

4 of 31

    2011-12 Record: 25-41

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 21-61

    Projected Playoff Seed: Miss Playoffs

    Detroit is starting to amass some talent and if they are smart they will add an athletic big man with the No. 9 pick to pair with Greg Monroe.

    They have a couple nice players in Monroe and Brandon Knight, but this is a team that ranked 27th in scoring (90.9 PPG), 27th in rebounding (40.3 RPG) and 28th in assists (18.3 APG) on the season.

    Detroit has a lot of holes to fix, but given the fact that they have $20.4 million tied to Ben Gordon and Charlie Vilanueva, with an additional $6 million of Richard Hamilton's contract counting towards next seasons cap, the Pistons won't be in a position to add major pieces.

27. Phoenix Suns

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    2011-12 Record: 33-33

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 24-58

    Projected Playoff Seed: Miss Playoffs

    It's rebuilding time in Phoenix and ultimately I see them losing Steve Nash to free agency, which will make the decision not to trade him at the deadline a foolish one.

    Losing Nash makes the Suns roster thin on talent with only Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris the only players with bright NBA futures ahead of them.

    The Suns have a lot of work to do and could be set for a few down years.

26. Toronto Raptors

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    2011-12 Record: 23-43

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 25-57

    Projected Playoff Seed: Miss Playoffs

    Toronto is my wild card as they are chasing Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin and if they land one they could be good with a lineup that could feature Nash (or Lin), DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas and the No. 8 pick in the draft, people could be forced to pay attention to the Raptors.

    There's also a bonus of if they can sign a point guard then they can deal the expiring contract of Jose Calderon for other pieces as well.

    For now though I don't think the Raptors sign either guy and while i like the direction that Toronto is headed, I think 2013 could be a rough season.

25. Portland Trail Blazers

7 of 31

    2011-12 Record: 28-38

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 28-54

    Projected Playoff Seed: Miss Playoffs

    Portland did a god job freeing up cap space at last season's trade deadline, but they may be better off saving that money for next season as there really isn't much out there that can give the Blazers an immediate fix.

    They do have two of the first 11 picks in the draft, but overall Portland looks to be young this season and it may take the Blazers a couple of seasons to rebuild.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    2011-12 Record: 21-45

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 30-52

    Projected Playoff Seed: Miss Playoffs

    The Cavs are on the right track and with a pair of first-round picks, including the No. 4 pick, Cleveland can potentially add two more key pieces to a young core that already includes Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson.

    Cleveland will be better next year, but they have a lot of holes to fill.

    They need size and production from the 2 and 3 before they are playoff contenders. They aren't getting all of that in one offseason.

23. Orlando Magic

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    2011-12 Record: 37-29

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 31-51

    Projected Playoff Seed: Miss Playoffs

    Since I assumed that Howard will be on the Nets, that means he won't be on the Magic and there will be an impact felt.

    No matter who Orlando deals Howard to, they won't get proper value for him, so a rebuilding process is likely to begin in Orlando this year.

    Take Howard off the Magic and there's really nothing to get excited about surrounding this team. It's just a collection of one bad contract after another.

22. Sacramento Kings

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    2011-12 Record: 22-44

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 33-49

    Projected Playoff Seed: Miss Playoffs

    The Kings have a good young roster but it hasn't turned into wins just yet.

    They need a young power forward to pair with DeMarcus Cousins, something they may try to grab with the No. 5 pick in the draft.

    They also must improve on the defensive end of the floor, as the Kings allowed an NBA worst 104.4 points per game. That's not a quick fix as you just don't become a good defensive team overnight.

21. New Orleans Hornets

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    2011-12 Record: 21-45

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 33-49

    Projected Playoff Seed: Miss Playoffs

    Hornets head coach Monty Williams was dealt a bad hand in 2012 when his best player in Chris Paul was dealt away. Then the prized piece of that deal, Eric Gordon was able to play in only nine games on the season.

    Yet the Hornets won big in the end by winning the "Anthony Davis Lottery," and they also have the No. 10 pick in the draft as well. Pair those two key pieces along with Gordon (if he's re-signed) and the Hornets will have a very good young core for the future.

    However the key word is young and while I think the additions will make the Hornets better, they still have some growing to do.

    One thing you know for sure about a Williams coached team is that they will compete. New Orleans will be better than in 2012, but they still have a little bit of rebuilding to do.

20. Houston Rockets

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    2011-12 Record: 34-32

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 40-42

    Projected Playoff Seed: Miss Playoffs

    The Rockets have two first round draft picks that they could either use to improve the team for the future, or package in a deal for a legitimate big man.

    Then there is the issue of point guard Kyle Lowry's unhappiness in Houston.

    A deal with the Lakers for Gasol would make sense, but that is something that is likely some ways off.

    Houston must decide what to do with Lowry and backup point guard Goran Dragic, who's unlikely to return in a backup role, possibly making a thin Rockets' backcourt even thinner.

    The Rockets are another team that could be another year away.

19. Milwaukee Bucks

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    2011-12 Record: 31-35

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 40-42

    Projected Playoff Seed:  Miss Playoffs

    The Bucks now have a pretty solid backcourt in Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, but they won't be very good up front, with the possible loss of Ersan Ilyasova making things even worse.

    Milwaukee has talent and will be competitive, but never seems to have enough key pieces together at one time to make a serious run at the playoffs.

    If they add a productive big in the draft, I can see them making a playoff run in 2014, but it is unlikely for next year.

18. Utah Jazz

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    2011-12 Record: 36-30

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 40-42

    Projected Playoff Seed: Miss Playoffs

    Utah snuck into the playoffs in 2012, but I look for them to take a minor step backwards in 2013.

    Without a first round pick, improving the point guard position is unlikely and they could elect to trade either Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson to create more minutes for Derrick Favors. In that case, Utah will become a little bit thinner up front.

17. Golden State Warriors

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    2011-12 Record: 23-43

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 41-41

    Projected Playoff Seed: Miss Playoffs

    The Warriors will take a big step during the 2013 season, but they are probably a year away from cracking the playoffs.

    They will be right in the thick of things though and should be a much improved team from the one we saw in 2012.

    A potential starting lineup that includes Stephen Curry (if he stays healthy), Klay Thompson, Derrick Lee and Andrew Bogut could be pretty imposing.

    The Warriors could use the No.7 overall pick to improve the small forward spot or elect to trade for a veteran wing player, but either way, this will be a team on the rise.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    2011-12 Record: 26-40

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 42-40

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 8 seed in West

    Minnesota needs to add another shooter and some frontcourt depth, but if they do, then it's back to the playoffs for Rick Adelman and the Wolves.

    With the way Kevin Love puts up numbers and once Ricky Rubio gets healthy, this young Minnesota team could be one of the up-and-coming franchises in the NBA.

15. Atlanta Hawks

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    2011-12 Record: 40-26

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 43-39

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 8 seed in East

    The window on the Hawks chances is going to begin to close a bit next season.

    While they still have the likes of Joe Johnson and Al Horford, Atlanta hasn't done much to improve in other areas during the past few seasons. Given the likes of Johnson's ridiculous contract, that seems unlikely this offseason as well.

    One thing that I do see happening is while Josh Smith may start the season in a Hawks uniform, I don't expect him to finish the year in one.

14. Philadelphia 76ers

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    2011-12 Record: 35-31

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 45-37

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 7 seed in East

    The Sixers will make a slight improvement from the 2012 season that saw them advance to the second round of the playoffs.

    I do expect Philadelphia to deal Andre Iguodala in the offseason, as Golden State is one team interested, according to Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times.

    However the Sixers need scoring and I don't know if Iguodala can net them the top scoring option they need. Therefore we will likely see Philadelphia grinding out wins similar to what they did this season.

    They will be good, but not much better than what they were this season.

13. Boston Celtics

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    2011-12 Record: 39-27

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 45-37

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 6 seed in East

    While Rajon Rondo is making his case as the best point guard in the NBA, he likely will be without Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett next season.

    In addition to Rondo, the Celtics will have Paul Pierce back and a ton of money to spend. But without many real impact players on the market this season, Danny Ainge may be better of waiting until the following offseason to spend it.

    However with Rondo and Pierce to go along with a few additional parts, Boston will still be a playoff team in 2013.

12. Brooklyn Nets

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    2011-12 Record: 22-44

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 47-35

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 5 seed in East

    This is based on the fact that I think all of Dwight Howard's crying and complaining will work out for him and he will get his way and be dealt to Brooklyn. In the process they will re-sign Deron Williams as well.

    That will make the Nets good, but nothing more than that right off the bat.

    Howard's never proven capable of being a leader and I don't know how much talent they will be able to surround the two All-Star's with right off the bat, but if they land both guys, there's no doubting that the Nets will be better.

11. Memphis Grizzlies

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    2011-12 Record: 41-25

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 47-35

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 7 seed in West

    I like Memphis a lot but have concerns that they may have to move one of their stars due to salary cap issues. That guy could be small forward Rudy Gay, who is drawing interest around the league according to Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy.

    If they deal Gay, you have to think that Memphis would get a key piece or two in return, most notably a shooter as the Grizzlies made only 32 percent of their attempts from behind the arc on the season.

    With or without Gay though and with a healthy Zach Randolph for an entire season, I still like Memphis to make the playoffs.

10. Denver Nuggets

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    2011-12 Record: 38-28

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 48-34

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 6 seed in West

    I like this Denver team a lot and think they are on the path to keep getting better.

    They will likely allow point guard Andre Miller to walk as a free agent, but Ty Lawson showed in the playoffs that he's ready to take the next step among the NBA's best point guards.

    The Nuggets are deep and if they re-sign restricted free agent JaVale McGee and Danilo Gallinari stays healthy in 2013, expect the Nuggets to be explosive.

    Also look for Kenneth Faried to have a breakout season. If he does, Denver could be even better than I envision them.

9. Los Angeles Lakers

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    2011-12 Record: 41-25

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 50-32

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 5 seed in West

    There are plenty of questions surrounding the Lakers going forward, but the most important one is how will this team look?

    While the Lakers did pick up center Andrew Bynum's option, there are decisions to be made about Gasol's future, as well as the small forward and point guard positions.

    General manager Mitch Kupchak will attempt to improve the roster before the season starts, but is there a major deal out there for him with the lack of true trade chips, not named Bynum or Gasol.

    I don't see the Lakers landing Williams, so if Ramon Sessions is the starting point guard again, this team simply won't be better.

    You also have to consider the fact that Kobe Bryant may not have another season where he averaged 27.9 points per game.

    The Lakers will be good, but give their financial situation, I don't see them improving at all from the 2012 season.

8. Chicago Bulls

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    2011-12 Record: 50-16

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 52-30

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 4 seed in East

    With point guard Derrick Rose likely to miss most of the 2012-13 season, it's doubtful that the Bulls claim the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for a third consecutive season.

    However they will be competitive, especially if they make an aggressive push to sign Nash, as CSNChicago reported that they will.

    Adding Nash to a lineup that already includes Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah would keep Chicago among the top four seeds in the east.

7. Dallas Mavericks

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    2011-12 Record: 36-30

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 52-30

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 4 seed in West

    I am expecting a bounce back year for the Mavs in 2013.

    Dirk Nowitzki won't be reporting to camp out of shape and Mark Cuban has plenty of money to spend in the offseason.

    Dallas may not end up with Deron Williams or Steve Nash, but they will be aggressive in adding to a team that was a disappointment in 2012. Some of that money could go to guard Jason Terry, who is an unrestricted free agent.

    Although this isn't the deepest free agent class in the world, I do expect Dallas to add key parts and with Dirk still playing at a high level, I would expect them to contend in the Southwest Division.

6. Los Angeles Clippers

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    2011-12 Record: 41-25

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 53-29

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 3 seed in West

    This may come as the first surprise on the list, but the Los Angeles Clippers will win their first division title in franchise history next season.

    By mid-season Chris Paul really got comfortable playing with his new teammates. Given a full training camp and practice time, the Clippers could take off in 2013.

    They need to add a shooter and depth, but with Paul playing like an MVP and Blake Griffin in the lineup together, the sky could be the limit for the Clippers.

5. Indiana Pacers

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    2011-12 Record: 42-24

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 53-29

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 3 seed in East

    The Pacers will continue to improve and will win the Central Division in 2013.

    As long as they re-sign restricted free agents Roy Hibbert and George Hill, Indiana has the talent to do so.

    The likes of Danny Granger and Paul George just keep getting better and the Pacers have the cap room to attempt to add a major free agent.

4. New York Knicks

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    2011-12 Record: 36-30

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 55-27

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 2 seed in East

    The 2013 season can't have as much drama as the 2012 one did. 

    If it does then the Knicks are in trouble, but I have a feeling that with a full training camp and a healthy roster, then New York will be a handful for opposing teams to deal with.

    Carmelo Anthony is my early MVP for next year and I think with a full year under Mike Woodson that the Knicks will figure it out.

    Of course the offseason will be big for them as Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields, Steve Novak and J.R.Smith can all be free agents, which make the June 13th hearing on the waived players Bird Right's perhaps the most import decision in Knicks history.

    If the arbritrator's decision allows New York to keep Lin and Novak without having to use their mid-level exception on Lin, then Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald will be able to add quality pieces and the Knicks could be very dangerous.

    A projected starting lineup of Lin, Iman Shumpert (when he's healthy), Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler will be as good as a starting five as there will be in the NBA next year.

3. San Antonio Spurs

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    2011-12 Record: 50-16

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 58-24

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 2 seed in the West

    The demise of the Spurs before the 2012 season proved to be a bit premature and after running through the NBA in 2012, I feel that Tim Duncan and company have one more potential title run in them.

    San Antonio has it all: great depth, the best head coach in the game and the perfect mix of youthful energy and veteran leadership.

    They turned into an offensive juggernaut this season, averaging 103.7 points per game and if that continues and point guard Tony Parker once again plays at an MVP level, then San Antonio will once again be tough to beat.

    The Spurs could potentially lose restricted free agent Danny Green, but Gregg Popovich would just replace him with someone else. As long as this Spurs team continues to put on a clinic on how to play unselfish basketball, they will be a contender in the Western Conference.

2. Miami Heat

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    2011-12 Record: 46-20

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 59-23

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 1 seed in East

    I expect the Big Three to be around next year even if the Heat fail to win the championship this season. That means they will be a very good regular season team.

    It's doubtful anyone in the Eastern Conference will be better than Miami with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the lineup, but given their salary cap situation, adding major pieces to this team won't be possible.

    With depth issues across the board, I have my doubts if this Heat team can win a championship as is, but they can definitely be the best in the east in 2013.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    2011-12 Record: 50-16

    Projected 2012-13 Record: 61-21

    Projected Playoff Seed: No. 1 seed in West

    I don't know for sure if the Thunder will win the 2012 NBA championship, but it's hard to not like the Thunder in 2013. They get better every season and with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, they are as athletic as any team in the NBA.

    In addition, Oklahoma City doesn't lose any key free agents from a team that was third in the NBA in scoring (103.1 PPG) and sixth in rebounding (43.7 RPG).

    They will be the team to beat in 2013.

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