Hidden Weaknesses That Are Haunting Each NBA Team

Brett David RobertsCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2013

Hidden Weaknesses That Are Haunting Each NBA Team

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    Every NBA team—even the best of the best—has certain areas in which it struggles and is deficient. The better teams, such as the L.A. Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, have just a few areas in which they can improve.

    Conversely, finding a "hidden weakness" for a very bad team is nearly impossible with so many areas that are in need of improvement.

    Nonetheless, this slideshow will give a shape to the struggles of every NBA team.

    Define struggle? A team that is lacking in a category for the purposes of this slideshow will rank in the bottom third of the NBA in that facet. Let's have a look at the problems haunting NBA teams that are keeping them from reaching their true potential.

Atlanta Hawks: Opponents' Three-Point Shooting and Offensive Rebounding

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    The Hawks have two glaring weaknesses that are keeping them from being as effective as they could be: opponents' three-point shooting and a lack of second-chance opportunities on offense.

    The Hawks allow opponents to shoot 38.1 percent from three, which ranks them third to last in the NBA in that category. That indicates they aren't rotating quick enough to shooters.

    They also don't hit the offensive glass. They rank No. 26 in the NBA in offensive rebounding, with just 9.8 offensive rebounds per night.

Boston Celtics: Rebounding, Inside Scoring, Three-Point Production

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    The Celtics rank 29th in offensive rebounding with just 8.3 per game. They also rank No. 28 in rebound rate (47.8 percent). The Celtics are weak inside, and it further shows in that they are No. 28  in shot blocking, with just four blocks per game. The C's also don't hit threes (No. 28, 16.5 points from three per game).

    With so many weaknesses, it's easy to see why the Celtics have struggled so badly. They aren't exactly hidden weaknesses with so many glaring deficiencies, but Danny Ainge clearly needs to shake things up in Boston, and reports that Rajon Rondo wants Rudy Gay have weight, because the Celtics just need some more offensive talent. DeMarcus Cousins would be a better option still.

Brooklyn Nets: Opponents' Threes and Fourth-Quarter Offense

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    The Brooklyn Nets allow opponents to shoot 37.5 percent from three-point range (No. 26 in league). They also aren't scoring in the fourth quarter. The Nets are No. 25 in the league in fourth-quarter offense, suggesting that Deron Williams and company just can't produce when games are on the line.

    The Nets have a good collection of talent but are going to need to be far better in other facets before becoming an elite team: The Nets also don't block shots well (No. 20), force turnovers (No. 21) or take good care of the basketball (No. 21 in assist/turnover ratio).

    There's still a lot of work to do in Brooklyn.

Charlotte Bobcats: Horrible Defense

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    It's hard to really call this a "hidden weakness" at all, but it's also hard not to call a spade a spade. The Bobcats are horrendous defensively and rank at the bottom or near the bottom in all defensive categories.

    They are No. 25 in steals, No. 23 in forcing turnovers, No. 26 in fast break defense and last in opponent's scoring. In addition, teams go nuts from three against the Bobcats (39.1 percent), and they don't take particularly good care of the basketball when they have it themselves (No. 26 in assist/turnover ratio).

Chicago Bulls: Three-Point Production and Overall Scoring

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    The Bulls rank dead last in three-point production (14.1 points per game) and are No. 26 in scoring (93.9 points per game). They don't score well on the interior either, ranking 21st in points in the paint.

    The Bulls don't create a lot of turnovers, either, ranking No. 20 in forcing turnovers.

    Will Derrick Rose be able to fix all of those problems?

    The short answer to that is: yes.

    The long answer is that it may take a while before Rose rounds into form and makes the Bulls a top team again. But even with a rehabbing Rose, the Bulls should still score more than 93.9 points per game when he returns.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Just Horrible Everywhere

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    The Cavaliers have no hidden weaknesses, just a lot of very obvious ones. When a team struggles as badly as the 9-29 Cavs have, there are plenty of areas to pick that need vast improvement.

    The Cavs don't take good care of the basketball (last in assist/turnover ratio), foul too often (No. 29 in fouls) and don't play good defense in the fourth quarter (24.9 points allowed per game). They don't get to the line (No. 29), don't score in the paint (No. 24) and have a horrible offensive efficiency ratio (No. 26, 0.986).

    Kyrie Irving should help the Cavs bring in some talent to greatly improve the team.

Dallas Mavericks: Getting to the Line and Rebounding

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    The Dallas Mavericks are the third-worst team in the NBA at getting to the line (23.2 percent of their possessions), and they have the second lowest rebound rate in the league (47.7 percent).

    Those are their two most glaring weaknesses, but they also aren't good for protecting the arc (No. 24 in opponent's three percentage) or forcing turnovers (No. 22 in steals), and they foul too often (No. 20).

    The Mavs really need an interior presence to grab some rebounds and score some points in the paint on offense (the Mavs rank No. 20 in points in the paint, 39.5 per game).

Denver Nuggets: Fourth-Quarter Defense and Three-Point Production

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    The Nuggets allow the third most points in the fourth quarter in the NBA (25.3 per game), and they don't hit threes (No. 23).

    They don't play very good defense in general, allowing 99.5 points per game, and despite the fast pace of their games, they rank 24th in turnovers per play (14.6 percent), which is more indicative of their defensive potential than simply observing their points allowed.

    The Nuggets could benefit from better outside shooting, but they have a host of under-performing shooters like Danilo Gallinari (40.9 percent field goal, 35.2 percent three-pointers) , Ty Lawson (41.4 percent; 31.7 percent) and Andre Iguodala (44.4 percent, 32.9 percent). All three players are capable of shooting at least 36 to 38 percent from three, but only Gallinari is even close to that mark.

Detroit Pistons: Taking Care of the Basketball and Forcing Turnovers

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    The Detroit Pistons rank No. 29 in steals (5.7 percent of defensive plays), No. 28 in assist/turnover ratio and No. 29 in forcing turnovers.

    So, they are not only coughing the ball up a lot, but they aren't forcing miscues from opponents. The Pistons are 14-23 and have won just one of their last ten games, so that is about par for the course for a team that can't create turnovers but turns it over a lot themselves.

Golden State Warriors: Forcing Turnovers and Poor Interior Defense

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    The Golden State Warriors are 23-12 but rank near the bottom of some key statistical categories.

    They are No. 26 in shot blocking (4.0 per game), No. 26 in steals (6.5 percent), No. 27 in fouls committed (20 percent) and 28th in forcing turnovers (13.8 percent).

    It all suggests poor interior play, as the fouling could be corrected by proper defense, and the shot blocking could be improved by Andrew Bogut's return. In other words, the problem may be an injury's healing away from being fixed. Andrew Bogut vowed to Australian news source The Daily Telegraph that he would return this season.

Houston Rockets: Shot Blocking and Fourth-Quarter Defense

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    The Houston Rockets have Omer Asik to swat a few shots away down low but don't do a particularly good job blocking shots overall (No. 27, four per game).

    They don't take very good care of the basketball, either (No. 24 assist/turnover ratio), while also giving up way too many points in the fourth quarter (No. 29, 25.4 per game).

    The Rockets have been a surprise success story of the season at 21-16 but have some deficiencies to address before they can be taken seriously as a threat in the Western Conference playoffs.

Indiana Pacers: Poor Offensive Efficiency

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    The Indiana Pacers rank second-to-last in offensive efficiency and No. 29 in scoring (90.9 points per game). They don't shoot the ball well (No. 28 in shooting percentage, 42 percent) and don't score much inside (No. 22 in points in the paint).

    However, even with those weaknesses, the Pacers are 22-14 and are the third seed in the East if the playoffs began today. They've won three straight, including nine straight at home. Defense can go a long way when shots aren't falling.

L.A. Clippers: Fouling Too Often and Not Drawing Enough Fouls

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    The 28-9 L.A. Clippers don't have too many weaknesses, but they aren't particularly good at getting to the free-throw line (No. 26 in free throws attempted per possession), and they foul a lot (No. 26 in fouls per play).

    It's nit-picking to say that these deficiencies greatly impact their chances of winning basketball games, but a little less reaching defensively and some more efforts to create contact taking it to the basket are changes that could make the Clippers an even more formidable squad come June.

L.A. Lakers: Fast-Break Defense and Forcing Turnovers

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    The Lakers aren't getting back well enough in transition and rank 29th in fast-break defense, allowing 15.6 points off the break per game. They also don't force many turnovers, ranking No. 27 in turnovers per offensive play (14.0 percent).

    Mike D'Antoni's squads have never been known for defense, but to rank near the bottom in major defensive stats while allowing the fourth most points in the league (101.7) isn't going to get it done, even with the talent the Lakers have offensively.

Memphis Grizzlies: Fourth-Quarter Scoring

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    The Memphis Grizzlies are 24-10 but rank just No. 27 in the league in fourth-quarter scoring (22.1 points). They don't defend the fast break very well (No. 25) and also don't hit many threes.

    The Grizzlies are seeking to move Rudy Gay but were rejected by David Kahn of the Timberwolves when they asked for Kevin Love in return. 

    It's strange to think a team that is 24-10 is considering trading a major key in their success, but the Grizz are trying to avoid the league luxury tax, and it's a pity to see the clause affecting their personnel moves while contending.

Miami Heat: Rebounding

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    It's a pretty albatross weakness, but the Miami Heat just aren't rebounding the basketball. They rank No. 24 in rebound rate (48.7 percent) and are the worst offensive rebounding team in the league (8.0 per game). They've tried to address this with personnel moves, working out Chris Andersen, and they reportedly had interest in Greg Oden.

    But the Heat are going to have to add a big man, to be sure, because the poor rebounding has hurt them now in losses to the Chicago Bulls (at home) and Indiana Pacers.

Milwaukee Bucks: Fast-Break Defense and Offensive Efficiency

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    The Milwaukee Bucks have a few weaknesses, but their fast-break defense is the worst in the league. The Bucks allow 15.7 fast break points per game.

    They also rank near the bottom in offensive efficiency (No. 27) and No. 25 in three point production.

    The Bucks sit one game above .500 but could be a far better team if they got back in transition.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Shooting

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves rank No. 26 in shooting percentage (43.1 percent) and No. 27 in three-point production (16.9 points per game). They also are poor defending the fast break (No. 27, 14.4 points off fast breaks per game) and don't force a lot of turnovers (No. 22, 14.8 percent of plays).

    The Wolves have some decent shooters on their squad, but Kevin Love is hitting 21.7 percent from three this season, and Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger and Luke Ridnour are all shooting around 30 percent in their own right. Their best three-point shooter, Derrick Williams (37.9 percent), attempts only two per game.

New Orleans Hornets: Poor Defense

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    Again, for the New Orleans Hornets we get a rather glaring weakness that really isn't subtle: bad defense. The Hornets rank No. 27 in steals per play, No. 26 in opponent shooting percentage (46.1 percent) and 20th in opponent's three percentage (36.6 percent).

    Their offense isn't particularly great either, scoring just 92 points per game and ranking No. 28 in the NBA.

    The Hornets have a great defensive player in Anthony Davis, and Al Farouq-Aminu is a solid defender on the wing, but their team defense is still lagging behind most NBA clubs.

New York Knicks: Inside Scoring

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    The New York Knicks rely a lot on isolation offense and don't score in the paint. They rank second-to-last in points in the paint, with just 33.4 points per game coming in the paint. They also don't block many shots (No. 29), and their opponents shoot a high percentage (45.8 percent, for No. 23 in the NBA).

    With Amar'e Stoudemire back in the fold, their points in the paint should go up, but they won't. Stoudemire has become too much of a jump-shooting forward, and Tyson Chandler isn't the most offensive center in the Association.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Taking Care of the Basketball

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    The Thunder rank pretty high in most statistical categories but could bear to take better care of the basketball. They are No. 23 in assist/turnover ratio.

    Their defense in the fourth quarter is also suspect, as they are No. 27 in the NBA in fourth-quarter defense, allowing 25 points in the fourth per game. They don't force a ton of turnovers either but rank No. 17 in the NBA in turnovers per possession.

    It hasn't hurt the 28-8 Thunder much, but these are areas they could work on.

Orlando Magic: Ineffective at Creating Turnovers

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    The Orlando Magic defense just doesn't create many miscues on opponents. The Magic rank last in forcing turnovers, and they are last in steals. Their shot blocking isn't good, either (No. 25, 4.7 blocks per game).

    The Magic are 13-23 but had lost 10 straight before winning 104-101 against the L.A. Clippers on Jan. 1.

Philadelphia 76ers: Offensive Efficiency

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    The Philadelphia 76ers are a pretty low scoring team. They rank No. 27 in the NBA and score just 92.6 points per game, but it's mostly a result of poor offensive efficiency. They rank No. 28 in the league in offensive efficiency and No. 26 in points in the paint.

    Three of their top five leading scorers shoot 43 percent or worse from the floor, so until Evan Turner, Jason Richardson and Nick Young begin to hit a higher clip of their shots, the Sixers will lag behind in offensive efficiency ratings.

Phoenix Suns: Defense

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    Post Steve Nash, the Suns still aren't a defensive club. They give up the second-highest shooting percentage in the league (47 percent) and the highest three-point percentage in the league (39.5 percent).

    They rank No. 25 in the NBA in points allowed (100.2 per game), and while giving up so many, they are unable to score in the fourth quarter, ranking second-to-last in points in the fourth (21.7).

    The Suns also don't rebound the ball well, ranking No. 27 in rebound rate (48 percent). These deficiencies are grave, as it has caused the Suns to lose two-thirds of their games (13-26 thus far).

Portland Trail Blazers: Interior Play

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    The Portland Trail Blazers are a very perimeter-oriented team, since their only dominant big man, LaMarcus Aldridge, is more of a jump shooter. Accordingly, they rank No. 28 in the NBA in points in the paint (35.9 per game).

    This is their most glaring deficiency, but by no means their only. They also rank third-to-last in opponent's shooting percentage (46.3 percent) and are in the bottom third of fourth-quarter offense, rebound rate, shot blocking, fast break defense and opponents' scoring.

    The Blazers are still 20-16, and something tells me that in the wake of losing Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, they're still likely satisfied with the progress in the rebuilding effort thus far.

Sacramento Kings: Fourth-Quarter Defense and Defending in Transition

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    The Sacramento Kings have the worst fourth-quarter defense in the NBA, giving up 25.8 points in the fourth on average. They also don't defend well in transition, and teams are scoring 14.9 points per game on fast breaks against the Kings.

    Naturally, their overall defensive rating is poor, too, as they give up 102.5 points per game (27th in NBA).

    The Kings also do a poor job rebounding the ball (No. 26, 48.1 percent), getting to the line (No. 27), blocking shots (No. 22) and taking care of the basketball (No. 25 in assist/turnover ratio).

San Antonio Spurs: Fast-Break Defense and Offensive Rebounding

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    It's hard to find a lot of fault with the 28-11 San Antonio Spurs, but they don't get many offensive rebounds (No. 28 in NBA, 8.5 per game), and they don't defend fast breaks especially well.

    The Spurs give up 14.1 points per game in transition, which ranks them No. 20 in the NBA. Part of the reason for this, though, is the up-tempo pace the Spurs play, which leads to more transition buckets.

Toronto Raptors: Rebounding and Getting to the Line

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    The Toronto Raptors rank last in the league in rebound rate (47.6 percent), and they also rank last in the NBA in free throws attempted per play (25.4 percent of plays). They foul far too often (No. 30, 21.6 percent of plays), don't block many shots (No. 23) and rarely score in the paint (No. 27, 36.1 points per game).

    The Raps are 14-22, but it's hard to imagine them being able to address their poor rebounding rate with Andrea Bargnani coming back into the fold soon. His soft play is the main reason they struggle to rebound, and Jonas Valanciunas needs to add some bulk to become a better rebounder at the 5 spot.

Utah Jazz: Giving Up Threes

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    The Jazz rank No. 27 in the NBA in opponents' three-point percentage (37.9 percent) and are also fouling far too often (No. 28 in foul rate).

    They are in the bottom-third of the NBA in opponents' scoring (No. 22, 99.0 points per game), opponents' shooting percentage (No. 22, 45.7 percent) and free throws attempted (No. 24, 22.3 percent).

    The Jazz need to play better defense overall, and with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson possibly both on the trade block, the makeup of the team should be shifting before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.

Washington Wizards: Shooting

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    It's blatantly obvious to say the Wizards can't score, but as stated earlier, it's difficult to find hidden weaknesses for very bad basketball teams. The Wiz just flat out have trouble putting the ball in the basket.

    They rank last in shooting percentage (40.8 percent), last in points scored (89.2 per game), last in offensive efficiency, and third-to-last in assist/turnover ratio.

    The Wizards are also last in points-in-paint (31.9 per game) and are No. 25 in rebounding rate (48.3 percent) and No. 24 in shot blocking (4.8 per game).

    So, pick your "hidden weakness" there—Washington is just a bad team with a lot of weak areas.


    Advanced Statistical Source: Team Rankings.com

    All Statistics Accurate of Jan. 12, 2013