NBA Preseason: 6 Teams Already in Big Trouble
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It's tough to succeed in the NBA. Players age quickly, injuries break down bodies and drafting is an inexact science. Some teams get stuck in mediocrity and for these reasons (among many others) fail to rebuild a winning group for years.
Even when some teams do find star players to build around, they find that players' egos take them to big-market teams with track records of success, often leaving the team that drafted them in the dust.
Here are six teams that are stuck at the bottom of the league before the season even starts, whether it's because of a player who left, failed development of players from the draft or many other reasons.
1. Sacramento Kings
DeMarcus Cousins has frustrated coaches, players and analysts everywhere with his failure to mature and play to his ability.
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It feels like forever since the Kings were perennial contenders with Mike Bibby, Chris Webber and Vlade Divac. Well, that's because it has been a very long time, and Mike Bibby is the only one of the three left in the NBA (and his career is hanging on by a thread).
The Kings have tried to rebuild their team around center DeMarcus Cousins and guard Tyreke Evans. However, both players have failed to develop in the NBA since being drafted as freshmen out of college.
Cousins has been called immature by almost every single person who has seen him play. He has the natural ability to be one of the best centers in the NBA—if not the best—but his off-the-court attitude has held him back thus far. Last January, his immaturity even ran former head coach Paul Westphal out of town.
As for Evans, he is more mature off the court than Cousins, but not on the court. He has been incredibly inefficient and has a very poor shot selection. His bad instincts on both offense and defense have limited his seemingly unlimited ability to being no more than an average player in the NBA.
The Kings have put all of their eggs (for now) in the Cousins-Evans basket and will rely on their continued development to win basketball games. It's relatively safe to say that won't happen this season.
2. Orlando Magic
Glen Davis and the Magic are in search of an identity after Dwight Howard's departure.
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What team took a bigger blow than the Magic this offseason? They were the 2011 Cleveland Cavaliers of the 2012 offseason, losing their best player—arguably a top-five player in the NBA—to a big market team with a better chance of winning right now.
While they received enough draft picks for Dwight Howard to last a lifetime, that won't help the Magic this season. Who is their go-to scorer? Who will defend the opponent's top scorer? Who will rebound? Who can provide valuable minutes off of the bench?
Glen Davis will surely be asked to play bigger roles on both ends of the floor to attempt to fill Howard's shoes. While he is a very good role player, he almost surely won't be able to lead the Magic into the playoffs. Make no mistake, the loss of Dwight Howard will be debilitating to the Magic as they search for an identity.
3. Charlotte Bobcats
Kemba Walker will need to elevate his game and become a complete point guard for the Bobcats to emerge from the rubble.
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The Bobcats were the worst team in the history of basketball last season. At 7-59, they won a lower percentage of their games than any other team ever had.
The good news is that they drafted an impact player in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who will certainly be a valuable asset for the team going forward. The bad news is that Kidd-Gilchrist will not turn them into a playoff contender, as he's surrounded by a roster that did not improve enough from last season.
The Bobcats will be a doormat again this season, but should (hopefully) improve on last year's record-setting winning percentage.
4. Detroit Pistons
Rookie center Andre Drummond has incredible natural skills but is among the most raw players in the NBA.
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The Pistons are another team that has failed to rebuild after a great run in the early 2000s, when they won a championship under head coach Larry Brown.
The Pistons are very young and are nowhere near ready to compete for a playoff spot. Brandon Knight is still trying to figure out how to be a true point guard, and Andre Drummond, this year's first-round pick, would have been better served learning more of the game at the college level.
While Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey provide a promising future for the team, the tough division they play in—which includes the Cavs, Bulls, Pacers and Bucks, all of whom figure to be playoff contenders this year—will be too much for the Pistons to overcome.
All of that being said, Detroit seems to have built a very solid core and will surely contend in the future.
5. Houston Rockets
Kevin Martin is the Rockets' most reliable scorer this season.
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The Rockets are a very rare case in the NBA. They have not been an overly bad team in the past, but have also failed to be truly competitive (as in championship contenders) in a very long time. They have struggled and maintained mediocrity, as their core of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady disintegrated due to injuries in front of their eyes.
The Rockets have done a good job of putting role players in place but will need a true No. 1 scoring option to take their play to the next level. Kevin Martin was their leading scorer last year at 17.1 points per game, and they added international sensation Jeremy Lin this offseason.
While Lin will surely take some pressure off of Martin to score, it remains to be seen how he will adjust to being a true No. 1 option over the course of an 82-game season.
Center Omir Asik was very effective as a reserve with Chicago last season, but he will be asked to be an enforcer full-time for the Rockets.
Overall, the Rockets have assembled a good starting lineup consisting of role players but are missing a No. 1 scorer and a deep bench. This will doom them in a competitive Western Conference in 2012.
6. Toronto Raptors
Will Bargnani ever be able to live up to his No. 1 overall pick status?
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Canada's team just can't catch a break. With the No. 1 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, they selected Italian forward Andrea Bargnani. To say his play has not lived up to his selection in the draft would be an understatement.
Other draft picks they have made, such as DeMar DeRozan, have become serviceable role players, and this year's pick, center Jonas Valanciunas, will hopefully blossom into a star in Toronto.
The signings of Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields give them more depth in terms of scoring from time to time, ball distribution and rebounding but don't add enough value for anyone to foresee a winning season in their near future.
Playing in a division with the championship-hungry Knicks, Nets, 76ers and Celtics won't help their cause. The Raptors are doomed to fail in 2012.