The NBA's Bottom 14: Analyzing the Futures of Each Lottery-Bound Squad

Tyson Agbayani@tysonagbayaniCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2013

The NBA's Bottom 14: Analyzing the Futures of Each Lottery-Bound Squad

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    The 2012-2013 NBA season is in its final stretch before this year's playoffs, and 14 teams will once again be left off of this year's playoff party list. 

    While each one of these 14 teams will share this common underachievement at season's end, the futures of these squads will all differ.  

    Although only time will be the true indicator of whether these teams can turn things around, the current molds of some of these squads are enough to predict their futures.

    With current rosters and potential growth in mind, here are the current 14 lottery-bound teams ranked in order of brightest futures.

14. Charlotte Bobcats

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 13-48

    The Charlotte Bobcats looked as if they had finally figured something out earlier this season, when they started their campaign with a 7-5 record. 

    Since then, things have returned back to the norm, as the team has dropped 43 of its last 48 games. 

    Although the Bobcats do indeed have a couple young guys that can ball in Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, their current overall squad is not built to contend.

    The Bobcats' roster needs a lot of work before it'll even be considered relevant. Look for the Bobcats to once again take home next year's title of the worst team in the NBA.

13. Sacramento Kings

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 21-42

    It doesn't matter where the Sacramento Kings will be playing next season because that won't propel them into the postseason.

    The Kings are once again having themselves a dismal season, as they currently hold the worst record in the Western Conference. While this may already seem bad enough, the Kings have also displayed a lack of faith in their roster, shipping away Thomas Robinson and Francisco Garcia last month. 

    The Kings are starting to look like a team that is ready to blow up its roster. With Tyreke Evans set to become a free agent at the end of this season, Sacramento's future could be in serious danger.

12. Orlando Magic

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 17-45

    If there was one team expected to struggle out of the gates this season, it was the Orlando Magic

    Since shipping off Dwight Howard this past summer, the Magic have quickly fallen off, going from a playoff team to not even close.

    While Orlando has displayed signs of capable youth on its roster in Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris, this team could benefit from a complete overhaul. 

    The Magic frankly do not have the talent at the moment to get anywhere near the playoffs. If Orlando is content on keeping Aaron Afflalo as its No. 1 option for years to come, it may be in for a steady dose of losses.

11. Phoenix Suns

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 21-40

    The Phoenix Suns are currently in the process of rebuilding their squad, and by the looks of it, this process could take a while.

    Since parting ways with Steve Nash this past offseason, the Suns' roster has seen a huge transformation, with the most notable pickups being Luis Scola, Jermaine O'Neal and Michael Beasley.

    Along with these pickups, the Suns also chose to go in different direction when they decided to part ways with head coach Alvin Gentry and appoint Lindsey Hunter.   

    While the Suns do have a talented young guard in Goran Dragic, their future is anything but bright. The Suns will need to seek improvement in the coming drafts. Look for the Suns to occupy the bottom of the standings for the next couple years.

10. Dallas Mavericks

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 27-33

    Since winning the 2011 NBA championship, the Dallas Mavericks have almost all but completely fallen off the map.

    After being swept out of the playoffs last year, the Mavericks seem to be trying to outdo themselves this season, as they currently sit out of playoff contention and six games below .500. 

    One of the biggest—if not the main—culprits for their lack of success has been the overall absence of talent on their roster. Aside from Dirk Nowitzki, O.J. Mayo and maybe Darren Collison, the Mavericks' roster consists of past-their-prime players and/or decent role players at best.

    With Nowitzki nearing the end of his career, Mark Cuban and the Mavericks must provide more talent around the star before it is too late.

9. Washington Wizards

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 19-40

    The Washington Wizards quietly had themselves a great February, knocking off quality, playoff-bound opponents like the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets.

    While that may come as a surprise to some, the Wizards have been playing pretty good ball recently, winning 15 of their last 27 games.

    One of the biggest reasons for their recent success has been the play of third-year guard John Wall. In the month of February, Wall averaged 13.3 points, 8.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds. The Wizards need Wall to keep up this level of play if they want to continue to see more improvement.

    With Bradley Beal starting to settle in with the squad, the Wizards may finally possess a potent backcourt they can build around. While the Wizards may not have the firepower just yet to obtain a playoff spot, they're definitely headed in the right direction.  

8. Detroit Pistons

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 23-40

    The Detroit Pistons will miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, but that doesn't mean their fans don't have anything to look forward to.

    In selecting Andre Drummond in last year's draft, the Pistons secured a young big man capable of grabbing boards and protecting the rim. Although Drummond's offensive game could use some work, the 19-year-old has plenty of upside to his game and has a lot of time to improve.

    Along with Drummond, the Pistons also possess great young talent in Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe. Knight and Monroe have arguably been the team's most productive players all season and will also play a huge part in the Pistons' future.

    Drummond, Knight and Monroe combine for an average age of just 20.7 years old. If the Pistons can keep this core of youth intact, they could eventually reap the benefits. 

7. Los Angeles Lakers

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 31-31

    After arguably having the biggest offseason since the forming of the "Big 3" in Miami in 2010, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves on the brink of missing this year's playoffs.

    Although missing the playoffs may seem like the worst-case scenario for Los Angeles, the team's future could also be in jeopardy, as Dwight Howard has yet to make a long-term commitment to the team.

    Along with this continued drama, the Lakers also face the inevitable process of aging, as their roster is one of the oldest in the league with an average player age of 29.1 years old.

    While this would seem like the opportune time to count the Lakers out in the coming years, L.A. has set itself up for the future. With Steve Nash being the only player with a guaranteed contract with L.A. in 2014, the Lakers could potentially be on the brink of acquiring their next superstar. L.A. will no doubt be looking to revamp its squad in 2014, and it's a safe bet that it will. 

6. New Orleans Hornets

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 21-41

    The next big thing may be brewing down in New Orleans, and I'm not just talking about Anthony Davis. 

    The soon-to-be New Orleans Pelicans have quietly put together a great young team around Davis in Austin Rivers, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Greivis Vasquez.

    Although the team is currently turning in a blunder of a season this year, this current roster has a lot of potential. With the average age between these five just 22.6 years old, it could be safe to assume that this team will eventually arrive. 

    If Davis is able to put some muscle on his lengthy frame, he could play a huge role in determining just how good this squad can be.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 23-37

    The Philadelphia 76ers took a huge gamble this offseason when they decided to trade for injury-plagued Andrew Bynum. 

    So far this season, this move hasn't paid off, as Bynum has yet to take the floor with his new team. To add even more insult to injury, news broke earlier this week that Bynum was possibly considering a season-ending surgery. Bynum is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, and it is unclear whether the 76ers will even attempt to bring him back.

    While the 76ers have underachieved this season, their future could be in good hands with Jrue Holiday. The fourth-year point guard out of UCLA has emerged as an All-Star and is averaging career-highs of 19.0 points, 8.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds. 

    The future success of the 76ers weighs heavily on Bynum's return. If Bynum is brought back and is able to get healthy, the duo of Holiday and Evan Turner combined could make this 76ers squad a future playoff threat.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 21-40 

    Ever since LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2010, the Cavs have struggled, turning in a horrific 62-148 record over the past three seasons.

    In the process of becoming one of the league's top punching bags, the Cavs have been able to benefit greatly in recent years' drafts. Over the past two seasons, the Cavs have been able to stockpile their team with talented youth in Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller (originally drafted by DAL). While this youth has yet to pay off for the Cavs, they could essentially plead their case of having the next big thing in Irving. 

    If Anderson Varejao is able to make a full recovery, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Cavs make a serious push for that final playoff spot next season.

3. Toronto Raptors

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 24-38

    The Toronto Raptors haven't made the playoffs since 2008, but with their recent move of acquiring Rudy Gay, the playoffs could very well be in their future.

    The Raptors made a bold move this January when they decided to ship out Ed Davis and Jose Calderon for Gay. While this move did pay off for the Raptors in their first 10 games, things have settled back down, as the team currently holds a mediocre 8-8 record with Gay.

    While it still remains to be seen if this team will be better with Gay, the Raptors have no doubt put themselves in a great position. With Gay joining other starters Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors have become a more than capable bunch. Look for the Raptors to continue to make some tweaks and improve their overall game.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 21-37 

    It's been an awful year again for the Minnesota Timberwolves, as the injury bug has once again plagued the team.

    After starting the season on good note at 15-14, the Wolves have returned back to the depths of the Western Conference. Without a doubt, the main reason behind this rapid collapse has been the constant onslaught of injuries.

    Nearly half of the team at some point this season has experienced an injury, forcing them to play at a disadvantage each and every game.

    While this season has been a huge disappointment, the Wolves do have the necessary components to compete in the future. They possess numerous key pieces and, with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio set as the cornerstones, could make a splash in the years to come.

1. Portland Trail Blazers

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    2012-2013 NBA Record: 28-32

    The Portland Trail Blazers have been flirting with the possibility of making the playoffs all season, but that flirting may soon be coming to an end. 

    As the current ninth seed in the West, the Blazers have shown brief glimpses of possessing potential greatness this season but haven't been able to sustain them.

    While they'll likely miss this year's playoffs, they could prove to be a threat in the near future. With Damian Lillard running the point and LaMarcus Aldridge controlling the post, this team has the necessary components to be a successful playoff team.

    The Blazers should be trying to keep their core of Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and J.J.Hickson intact; if they can, they could prove to be the next elite out of the West.