After a hectic offseason of trades, it’s beginning to become clear which teams are competitors and which teams will struggle in the NBA this season.
Unlike baseball, hockey and football, the NBA is beginning to show an obvious divide in team skill level.
There are the obvious perennial contenders like Miami, Chicago, Boston, San Antonio, Dallas, Oklahoma City and, of course, the Los Angeles Lakers, but then there’s an apparent drop off.
Teams like New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Memphis and Los Angeles Clippers looked pretty good last year, but couldn’t advance.
That’s the good. Then there’s the bad.
Teams like Detroit, Minnesota and New Jersey showed promise as they all improved their winning percentage from the previous year.
Utah had their moments last season and managed to steal a playoff spot, while Houston, Portland, Milwaukee and Phoenix missed out.
Then there’s the ugly.
The Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats had horrible seasons last year. They simply don’t have the talent to compete in this league.
Acquiring John Wall first overall in the 2010 NBA Draft was a step in the right direction for this franchise, but what’s next?
Last season, this team would have been the worst in basketball if not for Michael Jordan’s terrible management of the Bobcats.
Winning only four of their first 20 games last season, this team’s title hopes were dashed quickly. In fact, this team’s record could have looked a lot worse if not for a season-ending six-game winning streak.
What’s in store for Washington this year? More of the same.
Notable offseason signings include Martell Webster and A.J. Price. Washington is going to need to do better than that to contend.
Webster has averaged 8.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game over his career. Price, who brings some playoff savvy after last season’s playoff run with the Pacers, only averaged 3.9 points and two assists a game.
Don’t worry Wizards fans, all is not lost. You got yet another steal in the draft with Florida product Bradley Beal, who should mesh nicely with John Wall.
With plenty of young talent, this is a team that should be back to winning after two or three years of player development. As for this year, don’t expect anything that even resembles a title.
The Raptors ended last season a depressing 22-60.
This offseason the Raptors tried to make a change in the culture of the franchise. They went out on a limb to try and sign Canada native Steve Nash to not only bring in fans, but win some games.
After that fell through, like most people expected it to, they settled for ex-Knicks guard Landry Fields. Fields was signed to a three-year, $20 million contract. Yes, $20 million.
This is a “shooting” point guard who only averaged 8.8 points per game last season with the Knicks. This is a point guard who was outplayed by Jeremy Lin. This is a point guard who hasn’t averaged more than three assists in his career.
Signing Fields, something that could be considered some sort of publicity move, will not help the Raptors fill the Air Canada Centre this season.
In July, the Raptors made a signing that made some noise around the NBA. They finally signed their 2011 fifth overall draft pick Jonas Valanciunas. He should fit into a starting role this season to help Andrea Bargnani corral some rebounds.
The Raptors are going to have to lean on their young 20-year-old rookie. Their first 10 games include playing teams like the Pacers, the newly stocked Nets, the Thunder, the Jazz and Celtics.
You can count this team out this season.
Back in the Chauncey Billups days, this team was a contender. Today, this Pistons team is full of aged veterans and youth who have yet to prove their worth in the NBA.
Veterans Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva and Jason Maxiell aren’t going to be enough for this team to compete this year.
Six of their first 10 games this year are against playoff teams, including the loaded Los Angeles Lakers.
For this team to return to their historic tradition of winning, they’re going to have to lean on their guards. Rodney Stuckey had an overlooked season last year averaging about 15 points per game. Brandon Knight enjoyed a decent rookie season averaging 12.8 points and 3.8 assists per game.
Look for this team to make some deals at this year’s trade deadline, as they will fall out of contention fast.
The Pistons need to drop their veterans and inject some youth into their franchise.
I’m not really sure what the Bobcats were thinking when they traded a future first-round draft pick for Ben Gordon in June.
This is a team that went 7-59 last season, owning the worst record in the NBA by 13 games.
The Bobcats are in serious need of rebuilding. Trading away first-round draft picks for injury-prone veterans is not what the Bobcats need right now.
To be hopeful for this team’s success this season is foolish.
They won’t end with seven wins, but look for them to repeat as the worst team in the NBA.