The 5 Worst-off NBA Franchises of 2012-13
The Charlotte Bobcats put a lot of work in to redefining the term "useless" in professional basketball last year.
They were bad—historically so—posting a .106 winning percentage.
Worst of all-time.
What made them so bad, though, are problems that plague most teams that occupy the cellar of the NBA: lack of star players, redundant parts and poor management of what talent is there.
We see it with teams like the Pistons, who have to choose between playing their first-round draft pick, the man they overpaid in free agency or one of their best players.
We see it with teams like the Raptors, whose best players would probably struggle to gain larger roles on contending teams.
We see it with the Bobcats, who have all of these problems and Byron Mullins too. Though they were historically poor, they were still part of that group. We were all reminded of that when they were denied the opportunity to draft Anthony Davis in the NBA lottery.
It is not always the worst teams that are the worst off, though. Those like the Cavaliers, who managed to grab a Kyrie Irving, or the Nets, who somehow have rosters that could be considered "underachieving," have hope.
These teams stand the greatest shot of breaking out of the cellar.
When a team breaks out, another team is thrown in, because this is the nature of the NBA. There is a fixed amount of talent to be distributed. Through the failings of players and management, teams can find themselves very quickly on the wrong side of that distribution.
This year, the cellar will be haunted by mainstays like the Bobcats and the New Orleans Hornets for another year. Their old friends, the Toronto Raptors, have a chance to move closer to the stairs, but they could just as easily be knocked back down when newcomers like the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic are thrown down in.
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Not a whole lot to be excited about for Bobcat fans.
Of course, they return the esteemed roster of last year, which—while horrible overall—does have a few salvageable parts.
The largest reason that the Bobcats were so poor last year was that they the lacked one or two top-tier players that all teams need to contend for the playoffs.
There are no stars to be found on this roster, though Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo—because they are young and have defined skills (scoring and post defense)—could end up sticking with this team.
They somehow won a trade for Ben Gordon, netting an eventual first-round draft pick in the process.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was, in my opinion, the clear-cut second-best player in this draft.
He wasn't a great fit for the Bobcats, though. They really needed a scorer like Bradley Beal or Harrison Barnes to jump start a league-worst offense that only put up 87 points per game. Even Thomas Robinson, while not as talented a scorer as the others, brings a defined offensive game to the table.
They made the right pick, but it was one that happens to come with a shaky jumper.
MKG will never be a primary scorer, and he seems destined now to play the role of an Andre Iguodala-type player for Bobcats team that continues to grow. He will never be able to carry a team but now finds himself in a position where he must.
The only other qualified option is a player most memorable for one playoff series over an eight-year career (Gordon).
This year won't be as bad, Bobcat fans, but it will still be horrible.
Hopefully the lottery is kind this year.
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The team north of the border was really, really hoping that it could bring home its native son this year.
Even more awkward is that former first-round pick DeMar DeRozan is kind of a shooting guard, and this year's top selection, Terrence Ross, is kind of a small forward, so Fields really doesn't fit in at all.
The Raptors thought must have been...well...I don't really know, because I never understood how Fields was supposed to lure Nash to Toronto in the first place.
ESPN reports Goran Dragic is now off the market, and while still a free agent, it seems likely that Jose Calderon will be running point again for the Raptors.
Jonas Valanciunas will finally be coming stateside this year. This will finally allow Bargnani to play at power forward. Jonas and Fields will also take a lot of rebounding stress off of him and allow him to do his thing (being good at fantasy basketball and not winning) next year.
The problem with them, though, is that they lack a defined star. Valanciunas is the only player that could have that potential. Andrea Bargnani is a seven-footer who can score. DeRozan, Ross and Ed Davis could still theoretically develop into studs, but none of them have the overall games right now to even approach that kind of status.
Toronto will improve this year, but losing out on Nash crippled the team.
The Raptors needed an answer at point and they didn't find it, so it will be another long year. They have a lot of parts, but many of them overlap. If they can trade some of that redundancy for a point guard this year, the Raptors may be able to wipe themselves totally off of this list.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tweeted earlier today that the Raptors have managed a trade involving future first-round picks for Houston Rockets point Kyle Lowry.
I usually don't like to perpetuate Twitter murmurings, but if Woj tweets it, I'm pretty willing to believe it.
Lowry would be a great addition for the Raptors in principle, but when Houston GM Daryl Morey is shopping a player, you have to believe that there is a lot of risk associated with the player.
If Lowry pans out in a new system, then this is a great deal and it may just take the Raptors out of hopelessness and into mediocrity.
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Another Nash casualty.
Who knew a 37-year-old with crippling back issues could cause such a fallout in today's NBA?
We all hoped Nash would be shipped out of Phoenix, but only getting a couple Lakers first-round picks out of it really puts the Suns in a tight spot.
There is of course the offer sheet to Eric Gordon, but the Hornets reportedly will match any deal for the swingman, so he won't be coming over (via The Times Picayune).
They did land Dragic as Nash's replacement, but instead of keeping him as the backup, they decided to flip him to Houston for Aaron Brooks, giving up a first-round draft pick in the process.
The result was a four-year, $34 million contract.
Kendall Marshall, this year's first-round pick for the Suns, will be made redundant by this deal. If he surpasses Dragic on the depth chart, then this just becomes an awful signing.
As for the rest of the roster, it's been widely acknowledged that Nash made the Suns infinitely better as a whole than the sum of its parts would have suggested. Marcin Gortat is a good center and Jared Dudley is also a quality wing, but the rest of the Phoenix roster is mundane at best.
Players like Shannon Brown and Robin Lopez are nice to have on a roster but not as integral parts.
This is a team that could be in a whole lot of trouble this year. My bet is that it will be, because—while players can improve when given more minutes—there is no way to be anything greater than average when your team is comprised of former bench players.
Unless you have Steve Nash, of course.
New Orleans Hornets
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Brow time, baby!
It's very exciting for Anthony Davis to be headed to New Orleans.
Regardless of how you feel about the Chris Paul/David Stern veto saga or whether you think the lottery was rigged, you have to acknowledge that the team desperately needed a player of Davis' caliber.
It's good for Davis too (not going to the Bobcats) because it allows him to start his career as a defensive anchor rather than the face of an entire franchise.
Trading Okafor and Ariza for cap space, however, took away two strong defensive presences whom Davis could have learned from.
It also left them with notable working parts: Austin Rivers and—assuming they stay true to their word to match—Eric Gordon.
That's right, a rookie and an injury-prone shooting guard.
That pretty much guarantees that Davis will be forced into being an island in the post. While he was such a player in college, putting him into that situation right away in the pros could get him into foul trouble and limit his development.
Rivers is considered to be very volatile, but at least he finds himself in a position where he can shoot a lot of shots. The unfortunate part is that he'll most likely have to do that from the point guard position, because Eric Gordon is firmly entrenched at the 2-guard spot.
So the problem of redundancy—forcing players to be things they simply are not—strikes again and leaves the Hornets in a situation where they must either bench Rivers for Jarrett Jack or suffer a probable deficiency in passing.
As this team grows and gels, they will become dangerous. But Davis is not the kind of player to step in and transform the team overnight.
His game needs to change for that, but for now he will not be able to have the kind of two-way impact the Hornets need.
This will be another long year in New Orleans.
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The Orlando Magic are unquestionably the best team on this list.
They have a franchise player, but he wants out.
Following that chain of reason, we can assume that the franchise too is about to crumble.
Unlike the Cavaliers, though, they may be able to salvage something very tangible for Howard. The grand prize would be Andrew Bynum, clearly the second-best center in the league.
Dwight wants to go to the Nets, though. That would bring back a package centered around Brook Lopez, according to CBS Sports' Ken Berger.
Bynum is infinitely better than anything the Nets can offer, though, and if I'm involved Orlando's decision-making, I do not care at all what Howard wants out of this. There should be no appeasing Howard after his blackmail allegation towards the organization.
Whatever the Magic get back, though, they will quickly learn that it is much less than what Howard brought to the team.
If it is Bynum, the task of motivating him on a team without the legendary winning tradition of the Lakers will be a huge and continuous task.
If it's Lopez, the task of convincing him to get more than seven rebounds a game will also be a huge and continuous task.
While they are a team that has some shot of playoff contention next year (assuming a good return on Howard) the Magic are still flat-out screwed.
They may be worse off than the Cavaliers, because a player like Bynum could keep them on the periphery of the next year's draft lottery and prevent them from landing a Kyrie Irving-type player.
Magic life post-Howard will be stunningly mediocre.