Blueprints to Fix NBA's 3 Worst Teams
How can the league's three worst franchises resurrect their teams and rebuild?
For the sake of this slideshow, the three worst teams were selected solely based on their 2012-13 records. Thus, as of Jan. 22, the teams that landed themselves in the infamous honor of being blueprinted here are the Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Bobcats.
All three teams have numerous glaring weaknesses, as would be expected from teams that are winning less than a quarter of their games, and the remedies for each team focus primarily on what can be done with the current roster.
That's because so little could be done to right each ship without major changes to its masts. So, here's where they hurt, along with possible remedies to fix those areas.
Washington Wizards (9-30)
Major Weaknesses: overall scoring, interior play
The Wiz rank last in the league in points in the paint. They are also No. 24 in shot-blocking and rank No. 25 in rebounding differential. It's pretty apparent they need help in the paint, notwithstanding the strong play of Nene Hilario and Kevin Seraphin.
Weakest Position: small forward (Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza and Chris Singleton)
Wizards' Biggest Asset
The Washington Wizards had a lot of trouble scoring this season prior to John Wall returning from injury. Ranking last in offensive efficiency and last in shooting percentage, it became readily apparent the Wizards couldn't function without their go-to player.
The problem in Washington is that Wall has shown he has a lot of talent but has yet to really gain command of the team. He's been labeled as a franchise talent, but is he really? Or is he more the second or third option on a contending team?
If franchise talents are defined as guys who can be the best player on a contending team, then it doesn't seem Wall fits the bill.
Waiting in the Wings (and Best Trade Asset)
Bradley Beal got off to a rough start in this NBA season but has rebounded nicely at a time when most rookies begin to slow down due to the "rookie wall."
Beal now averages 13.6 points per game, and though his shooting percentage is still low at 38.8 percent, he's shown signs that Wall's return will help his game. He has shot just over 50 percent from the floor since Wall returned from injury on Jan. 12.
Beal is also young and on a good contract (rookie pay scale), so he's the Wizards' best trade asset at this point, too.
The Wiz need a franchise big man to complement their potentially explosive backcourt of Wall and rookie Bradley Beal. The remedy here is the 2013 NBA draft, when the Wizards will likely be able to select one of a center-heavy crop that includes Nerlens Noel of Kentucky, Cody Zeller of Indiana and Alex Len of Maryland.
Pairing any of those three with the playmaking abilities of Wall and the outside shooting of Bradley Beal and Jordan Crawford will transform this Wizards team.
The Wizards are stuck with one more year of Emeka Okafor and his $14.5 million contract and are roped into a long-term deal with Nene Hilario that will pay him $13 million each year through 2015-16, but they have no other massive contracts that will prevent them from being big players in the free-agent market.
It is a pity, however, that their weakest areas on the court happen to be the fault of those with the biggest contracts on the team.
The ultimate reality is that the Wizards need to strike gold in this draft, and most NBA scouts aren't billing it to be that kind of draft. The overwhelming sentiment around the league seems to be that teams should trade out of the 2013 draft to become players in 2014 when a much richer crop of talent will be available.
Since Wizards fans weren't expecting anything anytime soon, it might make sense to just wait on that pick an extra year and see what can be obtained with this year's selection.
Cleveland Cavaliers (10-32)
Major Weaknesses: too many to list (bottom third of the NBA in offensive efficiency, points in paint, shooting percentage, shot-blocking, assist-turnover ratio, fouls per play, fourth-quarter defense, fast-break defense, opponent's field-goal percentage, free throws attempted, opponent's three-point percentage and fourth-quarter offense).
Weakest Position: small forward (Alonzo Gee and Omri Casspi)
Cavaliers' Biggest Asset
The Cavaliers have something going for them that the other two teams in this slideshow don't: Kyrie Irving. Irving is the kind of talent that can attract other premier talents to come to Cleveland, and he's only not being noticed in a bigger way because of the poor play of the Cavaliers and Cleveland's small-market climate.
Fortunately for Cleveland, after this season, the Cavs will only be committed to about $28 million in contracts, so they can be major players in the market. There are an attractive host of free agents available.
Waiting in the Wings
Dion Waiters could be that man, and he has shown tremendous strides in his rookie season. Waiters has posted over 14 points per game.
His shot selection could use some work, as it's caused him to shoot just 38 percent from the floor. However, he's shown enough flashes that fans can be optimistic he provides somewhat of a longer-term backcourt partner for Irving.
For now, it seems the plan in Cleveland is to wait one more season before utilizing the immense cap room it has.
Best Trade Chip
The injury of Anderson Varejao hurts a lot. His trade value was at an all-time high, despite the fact that the Cavs were reportedly asking too much for his services.
Varejao is scheduled to miss the rest of the season with a blood clot, and while the Cavs weren't going to make the playoffs this year, they'll now have to wait until the energetic Brazilian returns from injury to maneuver a trade. Damaged goods never sell for their full price, and though Varejao may not figure into the Cavs' long-term plans, he likely should.
Varejao was averaging over 14 points and 14 rebounds per game, and the Cavs were essentially asking for an All-Star or a future All-Star in return. It does make sense in a lot of ways, but the Cavs are going to have to do what it takes to surround Irving with a legitimate second fiddle, and they haven't done so yet.
There has been talk that the Cavs are saving that cap money for a local hero. That No. 6 guy who used to wear No. 23 when he donned Cavs wine and gold.
If the Cavs can get their MVP back in northern Ohio, it would redeem the franchise in a way that no other move could. As implausible as the scenario sounds, B/R analyst Josh Martin agrees that since all three of the Big Three's contracts expire in 2014, they may decide to part ways, as the Heat could potentially be beginning to fall apart around that time.
How fitting is it that their worst position happens to be LeBron's best?
If the Cavs strike out on LBJ in 2014, so be it. They can look to sign the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, Luol Deng or Danny Granger, with the real emphasis being on 'Melo.
What would draw the ultimate Plan B in Anthony to fill the weakest void in Cleveland's starting lineup is anyone's guess. But maybe 'Melo would find playing alongside Irving attractive? Someone will.
The Cavs also have a host of first-round picks in the 2013 NBA draft and years to follow. This year will include their own and the Miami Heat's (with great certainty). They are due picks from Sacramento and possibly the Lakers with varying stipulations.
Charlotte Bobcats (10-31)
Major Weaknesses: all facets of defense (No. 30 in points allowed, No. 26 in fast-break defense, No. 27 in shooting percentage allowed, No. 29 in opponent's three-point percentage, No. 25 in steals)
Weakest Position: power forward (Tyrus Thomas and Hakim Warrick) or shooting guard (Gerald Henderson and Ben Gordon)
Bobcats' Biggest Asset
The Charlotte Bobcats drew a lot of criticism when they took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist second overall in 2012, but it turns out that they may not have done so bad after all.
Kidd-Gilchrist has quietly turned in a very nice rookie season on a very bad team.
Though his scoring numbers are modest (10.2 points per game), he's shown a complete game and skill set reminiscent of Scottie Pippen. That's the ultimate upside for MKG, and the Bobcats will be wise to realize his value goes far beyond statistical contributions.
It will be more apparent if Kidd-Gilchrist ever plays on a much better team.
Waiting in the Wings
Bismack Biyombo was expected to be a project big man, but I wrote before the 2011 NBA draft that he may end up being the NBA's next Ben Wallace. So far, that prediction hasn't looked so good, but Ben Wallace took a while to establish himself in the NBA, too.
And Biyombo's progress has been encouraging.
He's averaging just 4.5 points per game but grabs 6.7 rebounds per contest while swatting away 1.7 shots per night. The long-armed Biyombo changes a significant number of shots, though, and is still adapting to the finer points of basketball.
He's just 20 years of age, so there's plenty of time for the big man from the Congo to develop into the next Big Ben.
Best Trade Chip
The Bobcats' best trade asset is their own 2013 NBA draft pick.
The Bobcats are sure to land a high pick in the draft, and there will be teams itching to obtain that pick, despite the fact that the 2014 draft class is much more prestigious.
The Bobcats will be wise to trade out of this year's draft and continue to tank for one more season. In terms of players, they'd likely seek to retain their young talent since few other Bobcats have much value.
The Bobcats have their own pick and will likely acquire Portland's pick provided it is not in the top 12. The Trail Blazers could be playoff-bound, and if they miss, it won't be by much. That means the pick will likely go to Charlotte.
The Cats should hang on to Portland's pick (assuming they obtain it) and then deal their own.
However, if they keep their own pick, some players the Bobcats could consider picking in this year's draft include Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, Indiana's Cody Zeller, UNLV's Anthony Bennett and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart.
If they felt that MKG could play the 2, they could swing for the fences with Shabazz Muhammad, who may end up becoming the marquee player of the draft. Muhammad's upside is said to be as high as any of the major small forwards that have come through in recent years, including LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
Ben McLemore is another promising option since the Cats are desperate for some shooting (No. 27 in shooting percentage and No. 26 in threes made). McLemore has been said to have Ray Allen-like upside.
Either way, with two glaring weaknesses in their starting lineup, the Bobcats really should just take the best player available. With Portland's pick (assuming it is the No. 13 or No. 14 overall selection), they could look to target Isaiah Austin of Baylor or Alex Poythress of Kentucky, both of whom could potentially be the kind of forwards the Cats need to pair with a high-motor point guard like Kemba Walker.
Attracting free agents will be an entirely different challenge for the Bobcats.