5 2012 NBA Playoff Teams Headed for the Lottery Next Season
Every NBA season brings turnover among the playoff teams. Some of the lower seeds drop out as stronger teams take their places. Sometimes, the leaders of the pack cede from the playoff picture due to injuries or age.
This season will see at least a few teams from last postseason sit at home watching other teams run through the bracket in their stead. At least one team—the Chicago Bulls—is already sure to miss the playoffs due to a key player being injured. The loss of Derrick Rose for most of the season will be too much to overcome.
Player movement will affect the prospects of at least one team (i.e. the inevitable trade of Dwight Howard will kill the Magic's chances).
Following is a list of teams from last season that are already seeing the writing on the wall.
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According to Hoopsworld, the Orlando Magic are trying to keep Dwight Howard. As much as the Magic front office may try, the organization won't be able to retain their superstar center.
Howard has been persistent in demanding a trade, according to ESPN. A trade he will get. With his star power and the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets all working hard to obtain his services, it'll be hard for Rob Hennigan to resist this inevitable transaction.
Once Howard is gone, the Magic will become a lottery team. They've already traded Ryan Anderson to the New Orleans Hornets, their No. 2 scorer.
Their returning starters are Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson. All three of them are past their prime years. None of them can put the scoring load on their back.
In return for Anderson, the Magic received Gustavo Ayon, a developing big man. Ayon can rebound and block shots, but he needs to work on his jump shot.
Orlando did land a coup by selecting Andrew Nicholson at No. 19 in this year's NBA Draft. Nicholson had been a riser on draft boards, a solid all-around player who can score inside and out. The former St. Bonaventure star can replace some of the three-point shooting the Magic lost when they shipped Anderson to New Orleans.
This team will be in rebuilding mode this season with the departure of Howard. The season will be spent watching how Jacque Vaughn starts his head coaching career and how Nicholson and Ayon will develop.
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Derrick Rose is the heart and soul of the Bulls. He pushes his teammates and often wills the team to victory by shouldering the burden on both ends of the floor. With Rose out until March, as the Chicago Tribune reported, the Bulls have little chance of returning to the playoffs.
The rest of the Bulls' core isn't strong enough to carry the team to the playoffs. Even if Luol Deng's wrist is as healthy as he told the Chicago Tribune it is, he isn't going to make up for much of the lost scoring or defense. Deng isn't the most energetic defender, sometimes resting on that end of the court, and he's also somewhat limited on offense.
Deng's shooting has been up and down over the years. Predicting how he'll do this season will be difficult.
Carlos Boozer will receive the largest scoring burden. He is capable of scoring a great deal of points, but won't transform the team with his offense.
Joakim Noah can do some things on offense when the ball comes his way, but he's not one who will have plays drawn up for him. On defense, Noah can clean up. If anything, the Bulls can count on him for that.
The Bulls acquired some new scoring by signing Marco Belinelli, but he's anything but a difference maker on offense.
The point guard position will be a problem with Rose out. Kirk Hinrich is a shell of the player he once was. His top-notch defense has declined and his offensive output is highly replaceable.
This will be a rough year for the Bulls, although Tom Thibodeau will push them through it. They'll win 30 games by grinding it out, but will fall short of the playoffs.
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All good things must come to an end. The aging Big Three was broken up when Ray Allen went to Miami.
Some might say that there's a new Big Three with the combination of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. However, this trio isn't one to rave about. Rondo is only as good as the guys around him. KG isn't always healthy and can't mount the energy he used to.
Pierce is losing his effectiveness with age. He took on a larger scoring burden, but with less success. His field-goal percentage dropped 5.4 percent from 2010-11 to 2011-12, although his three-point shooting dropped just under a percent.
The supporting cast is more hype than substance. Avery Bradley is a sharpshooter, but needs to prove himself with more minutes. Jeff Green is an abstraction more than anything else. Courtney Lee was a good signing to add scoring, but he won't bring everything they need. Jason Terry is on the decline.
Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger won't make an immediate impact.
The Celtics will put up a valiant fight and it will be close, but they won't quite slip in with the eighth seed.
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The Dallas Mavericks needed to make serious changes this offseason to remain a playoff team. They made only one move that is a substantial help. Signing O.J. Mayo brought fresh energy on defense and an effervescent burst of scoring. However, Mayo still needs to show that he can be a consistent force on offense.
The Mavericks didn't bring in anyone else who can help the team significantly on offense after it ranked 19th in the league in scoring average and 22nd in points per possession in 2011-12. The acquisition of Chris Kaman brought some scoring—more than the Mavericks are used to finding at the center position—but his impact will be felt more on the glass.
Replacing Jason Kidd with Darren Collison was a step backwards. Collison is a mediocre facilitator at best. He's a decent shooter and a double-digit scorer, but he's nowhere near Kidd's level.
The Mavericks didn't obtain anyone in the draft who will make an immediate impact. Jared Cunningham will take time to develop; Jae Crowder will only be a middle-of-the-bench guy for the next couple years at least.
This is still a team that revolves around Dirk Nowitzki, who is now on the decline. Nowitzki can't carry the Mavs as far as he used to now that his skills are waning. Kaman and Mayo will ease the burden a bit, but they won't be able to help Nowitzki enough to bring the team back to the playoffs.
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The Utah Jazz made a spectacular charge at the end of the regular season to reach the playoffs. The Jazz won their last five games and seven of their last eight to claim the eighth seed. They also capitalized on the woes of a Houston Rockets team that slid out of the playoff picture with eight losses in their last 10 games.
In 2012-13, the Jazz won't be so lucky. As always, the Western Conference will see a tough race for the playoffs. Teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Hornets will be on the rise.
Each team will face little margin for error as the postseason race plays out. The Jazz don't play tight enough ball to survive another close race for a playoff spot. Their defensive play was uninspiring last year, ranking 23rd in scoring defense allowing 99 points per game.
Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors will constantly fight to stay out of foul trouble (Millsap committed 3.5 fouls per game last season while Favors committed 2.2 and 3.8 per 36 minutes).