The 2012-13 NBA season is full of hope and expectations—for most teams, anyway. Of course, falling apart in the regular season and failing to make the playoffs has its own rewards: It means a ticket to the 2013 NBA Lottery.
The current 2013 class isn’t getting the respect that the 2012 class did, but it’s still a group of promising young players. Are there any future superstars in the mix? For the sake of the cellar dwellers next year, we’d better hope so.
We haven’t played a minute of NBA action yet, so it’s impossible to write off any team for a playoff spot. Fourteen teams will, in the end, be on the outside looking in—at least, until the lottery happens.
Let’s take a look at the fourteen teams who will be in the 2013 lottery.
I went back and forth on putting the Timberwolves in the playoffs, but in the end, I had to give the eighth seed to the Dallas Mavericks.
I love what the Timberwolves have done in the past few years, and I can see them sneaking as far as the No. 5 spot in the West, but currently, I place them at the No. 9 seed.
Rick Adelman remains the most underrated coach in basketball, and with a lineup of Ricky Rubio (due back in December or January from his ACL tear, according to the Associated Press), Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic? That’s one exciting team.
Still, I give the edge to the more experienced (and slightly healthier) Dallas Mavericks, meaning the Timberwolves will be stuck in the lottery. All that means is more depth for a deeper run in 2013-14.
I actually had the Wizards getting into the Playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed. Then the news came out that John Wall is out eight weeks with a stress fracture (via nba.com), and I had to bump them down out of the postseason.
Wall could be back in late November or early December, so it’s not a total season loss for Washington. Still, the Wizards have a great team of players, and having their best player miss the training camp is a very bad sign for Washington’s postseason hopes.
The only other point guards on the Wizards' roster are Shelvin Mack and A.J. Price—that doesn’t bode well.
The Trail Blazers are the last team that I really struggled to keep out of the postseason. Along with Minnesota, I rank Denver, Utah, Memphis and Dallas higher than Portland.
Damian Lillard is going to take the NBA by storm, and I pick him as the Rookie of the Year. LaMarcus Aldridge is a Top 30 player in the league, and Portland has some excellent depth.
I hold them back, though, since they’ve got a new coach (Terry Stotts, whose career has been mediocre) and a big gaping hole at center (J.J. Hickson is set to start). Could they rank higher in a season or two, once Lillard has some seasoning and the Trail Blazers bulk up some more in the paint?
That looks like a dark-horse contender to me.
Kyrie Irving has the potential to carry the Cavaliers to the postseason single-handedly, but the rest of the roster still needs work.
Anderson Varejao is a Top 10 center, but the rest of the Cavaliers roster needs more time. Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters will need to provide huge contributions if this team is going to make the postseason, and I just don’t buy that happening quite yet.
Another lottery pick and another offseason of cap-space (maybe they’ll actually use it next season) will do this team good. Maybe then they’ll be ready for a long-term playoff run.
Milwaukee will be squarely in basketball limbo—not good enough to make the playoffs, not bad enough to get a high draft selection.
Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are both talented enough as scorers that they could single-handedly win a game, or they could single-handedly shoot you out of it. Neither one is an efficient scorer (Ellis shot 43.2 percent last season, while Jennings shot 41.8 percent).
If the Bucks had efficient inside scoring they might be able to counter their ineffective guards, but they do not. Ersan Ilyasova is a very talented player, but he isn’t a 20-point-per-game-scoring big man.
I doubt the Bucks have the talent to make the postseason, and I also doubt they get a Top five pick. Basketball limbo really is no fun.
Will the Suns' on-the-fly rebuild job be enough to keep Phoenix in playoff contention? I say no. When your offensive best option is Michael Beasley, you’re not going to be a serious threat. I like what Phoenix did this offseason, but they need a consistent scoring threat.
If the Suns had actually gotten to keep Eric Gordon (at the expense of Beasley, of course), then they’d be a legitimate squad. As they are, they’re still a few pieces away. Solid, but not quite ready.
The Warriors have the talent to make the playoffs. If you could guarantee the Warriors' total team's health, I’d probably rank them up there with Memphis, Utah and Dallas.
The problem is that you can’t guarantee health, and the Warriors' top two players have extensive injury histories. Stephan Curry has been held back in the last few seasons by troublesome ankles, and Andrew Bogut has missed a combined 130 games in the past four years combined. It’s sickening how injury plagued the Warriors' best two players are.
If they are healthy—again, that is a gigantic "if"—the Warriors have the potential to be brilliant. When rookie Harrison Barnes is your fifth best offensive player (he’d be second or third on nearly any other lottery team this year), you know you can score the ball in bunches.
Here is to hoping the Warriors prove me wrong and stay healthy.
The Rockets acquired the Raptors' 2013 first-round selection (top three protected) in exchange for point guard Kyle Lowry.
The Raptors seem to be a favorite “sleeper” pick around the NBA fandom nowadays, but while this squad has made steps in the right direction, I don’t see any way can they make the playoffs.
Incoming rookie Jonas Valančiūnas has as much expectation placed on him as any other rookie, and that includes Anthony Davis. He’ll be a very solid player, and he will be a contender for the Rookie of the Year award, but he’s not going to be a star in his first year.
Lowry was worth giving up a mid-round lottery pick for (and I doubt Toronto will be in the bottom five or so), and I really liked this trade for the Raptors. Regardless, this is a young team that is still a few years away from the postseason.
The Hornets got the top pick in 2012 and got themselves a superstar in Anthony Davis. With Eric Gordon re-signed and another young player in Austin Rivers, the future in New Orleans is bright—but they’ll still be in the cellar for another season.
Davis will be a Top 10 player defensively the minute he suits up for his first game. Offensively, he’s got a ton of work to do. He isn’t bad on offense, but he’s still growing as a player.
He’s got solid post moves, but nothing that will allow him to score early and often. He needs to develop, bulk up and figure out exactly what kind of scorer he wants to become.
Gordon is poised for a comeback season after being injured most of 2011-12, but I’m less excited about Rivers than most. With Gordon playing the shooting guard spot, Rivers will be forced to play point guard, which he really isn’t suited to. He proved that last year at Duke, where he finished with more turnovers than assists.
The Hornets have some other nice pieces (Ryan Anderson, the former Magic sharpshooter, is a great fit next to Davis), but as a unit, they won’t scare any playoff teams yet.
The Kings have all the pieces of a playoff team. They have a star big man in DeMarcus Cousins, a big-time scoring threat in Tyreke Evans, and an excellent floor general in Isaiah Thomas. Despite having all the pieces, though, there isn’t much chance the Kings will put it all together.
Coach Keith Smart needs to bring all these qualified-but-scattered pieces together, and that isn’t an easy thing to do. The Kings have more potential than most of the league, but they're still growing. Their defense was last in the league last year, another big problem that needs addressing.
One of these years, the Kings will emerge as a dangerous squad. I’m not willing to bet this is that year, though.
Detroit has been fortunate in the last few drafts. They managed to snag excellent picks (Greg Monroe at No. 7 in 2010, Brandon Knight at No. 8 in 2011, Andre Drummond at No. 9 in 2012) later than they were expected to be drafted.
Detroit hasn’t been dreadful in the past few years, but they certainly haven’t been very good. I’m almost hesitant to put them this low, but I feel that all 10 teams I’ve already listed are better than what they have shown.
With Monroe, Knight and Drummond, the Pistons have an exceedingly bright future. Take solace in that fact, Pistons fans, because I’m predicting another rough year.
The Rockets nabbed Jeremy Lin in free agency, completing an incredibly turbulent offseason that ended with a squad that is worse off than it was when it started.
Other than Lin, the Rockets roster leaves a lot to be desired. Kevin Martin is on the last year of his contract, and I doubt he will end the season in Houston. Aside from Omer Asik (from Chicago) and sophomore Chandler Parsons, there aren’t any certain contributors.
Lin will procure a lot of national attention for the Rockets, but they aren’t going to get a ton of wins. I expect they’ll be more than happy with two high draft picks (they own Toronto’s first-rounder) next June.
It’s going to be a long year in Orlando.
They successfully trade Dwight Howard for cap space, draft picks and…Arron Afflalo. Excited yet, Magic fans?
The worst part? I’m not even convinced they’ll be the worst team. With Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis to go with the aforementioned Afflalo, I honestly think I like Orlando’s roster better than the No. 1 team on this list.
If the Magic don’t end up with a top-four pick in the 2013 lottery, this season will have been nothing but a painful series of failures in Orlando.
I really like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, whom the Bobcats drafted No. 2 in this year's draft. That doesn’t keep them from the No. 1 spot on this list, though.
Kidd-Gilchrist will be an exceptionally talented second option in this league for years. He’ll provide a tenacity and die-hard attitude that will make him a fan favorite in Charlotte. But the Bobcats just don’t have enough other talent to escape the NBA’s basement.
They have some solid pieces—Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker could both have breakout seasons—but until they prove otherwise, they are the laughingstocks of the league.