The Los Angeles Lakers enter the 2013 offseason with more questions than answers.
No NBA team is perfect. This we all know.
But with the playoffs coming to an end and the offseason around the corner, every franchise hopes to improve before the 2013-14 season.
Some teams have more flaws than others, but certain teams will look to address one major issue. Regardless of the situation, very few squads can afford to stand pat.
Every team has an objective when aiming for improvement, and whether it be via trade, the draft or the free-agent market, those goals will be top priority once the summer finally begins.
Need: overall direction
On the court, we watched the Atlanta Hawks fall to the Indiana Pacers in Round 1 of the 2013 playoffs. Off the court, however, is where changes will be made during a very busy offseason.
Entering the summer, the Hawks only have seven players locked into contracts. This will create cap space galore for a rebuilding roster, but finding talent and convincing it to come to a franchise in transition could be more difficult than advertised for Danny Ferry.
Along with that cap space comes the question of what will happen to Josh Smith. The forward has been a hot topic since before the trade deadline, and it appears likely that he ends up in another city.
Changes aren’t just looming for the players, though, as the head coaching situation is also up in the air. Larry Drew’s contract is complete after a 128-102 record since 2010.
There’s no nice way to put it, but the Boston Celtics are a horrendous rebounding team.
As the 29th-ranked rebounding squad in the Association, the Celtics only managed to grab 39.3 boards per contest. Kevin Garnett led the way with an average of just 7.8, and Paul Pierce was next in line at 6.3.
During the postseason, Garnett showed that he still has it in him to own the glass. He averaged 13.7 rebounds during the series against the New York Knicks, but he’s going to need help, as he’ll be a year older and a year closer to retirement in 2014.
Boston has Jared Sullinger returning to the lineup in 2013-14, which will help its cause, but standing pat and hoping the second-year player can save the day would be a poor approach for a team fighting the age department.
It’s true that the head coaching position for the Brooklyn Nets is an absence at this point and not a true weakness. But until this franchise can find a leader ready to control talent while developing prospects, the team will be stuck somewhere between elite and mediocrity.
Despite inconsistent play from Deron Williams—mostly during the first half of the year—this group has a superstar at point guard. It also has All-Star-caliber talent in Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, while the man in the middle, Brook Lopez, is continuing down his own path toward stardom.
If you’re a fan of Brooklyn, you’d like to see the Nets find a defensive-minded coach with winning experience. That’s a tough combo to find, though, on the current market, meaning the priority has become a motivator to both the stars and the youngsters.
Simply put, the Charlotte Bobcats need to add talent, and they need to add it badly.
Following a 2012 draft that saw them miss out on Anthony Davis, the unlucky franchise saw itself get leapfrogged once again in 2013. It was projected to receive the second selection, but it was jumped by both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards, knocking it completely out of the top three.
By the end of the regular season, Charlotte ranked 26th in points, 27th in rebounds and 29th in both assists and points allowed. There’s no one spot that this team needs to focus on more than another, as acquiring better players has to be the emphasis.
On a positive note, Michael Jordan, who has been highly criticized as an owner, will be changing the team’s nickname from the Bobcats back to the Hornets, according to an ESPN report. No, this won’t make the team better, but it’s a small victory for fans who are ready to put the miserable days of the Bobcats behind them.
Need: offensive production
The Chicago Bulls proved once again that you can win games on defense alone. Unfortunately, their offense struggled so mightily throughout the year that when it came time to find balance, they were only able to score 84.2 points per game against the defending champion Miami Heat.
The No. 1 reason for the offensive drop-off was the absence of Derrick Rose—among other players. At this point, there’s no reason to believe the superstar won’t be back and ready to play in 2013, which will be the most effective remedy to Chicago’s offensive deficiencies.
On the season, the Bulls tied the Washington Wizards and the Philadelphia 76ers for the lowest points-per-game average.
Need: small forward
If it weren’t for injuries, the Cleveland Cavaliers might have been competing for a playoff spot during the 2012-13 season. A healthy roster heading into the new year will be a huge turn in their favor, but it won’t change the fact that the small forward position is awfully thin.
Alonzo Gee was one of just two players to see action every game for the Cavs. He was reliable when it came to his durability, but his production isn’t going to cut it as a starter.
With averages of just over 10 points and just under four rebounds per game, Gee is much more suited for a bench role. Free agency, the draft and trades are all viable options for this rebuilding roster, and the team should explore all three when addressing the current rotation.
Defense wins championships. That’s the mantra that so many teams live by, and so was the case when the Dallas Mavericks took down the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals.
When Dallas was able to bring home its only NBA title in franchise history, it ranked seventh in defensive efficiency, according to ESPN’s Hollinger Stats. In 2012-13, it ranked 20th.
Following the glorious championship run, the Mavs have seen Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd depart for the New York Knicks, DeShawn Stevenson is gone as well and Shawn Marion is continuing to age.
The Mavs need to add a defensive presence both on the perimeter and at the rim to take the pressure off Marion, as they gave up 101.7 points per game in their second year removed from a title.
Need: three-point shooting
On Dec. 20, 2012, the Denver Nuggets made NBA history, according to the Associated Press via ESPN, for all the wrong reasons. They shot 0-of-22 from deep range against the Portland Trail Blazers, breaking the record for most three-pointers missed without a single make.
That right there sums up the Nuggets’ season from long range.
Denver shot just 34.3 percent from behind the arc, which was only good enough for 25th. The only teams that took more three-pointers while shooting a lower percentage were the Toronto Raptors and the Orlando Magic.
Typically when you think of up-tempo, running offenses, you picture lethal shooters spotting up in transition. This wasn’t the case for the Nuggets, and that’s part of the reason they couldn’t keep up with the Golden State Warriors during the playoffs.
Need: paint protection
Greg Monroe may be the star of the current Detroit Pistons, but nobody is going to mistake him for a shot-blocking presence any time soon.
On the year, the Pistons averaged a respectable 4.9 blocks per game, placing them at 16th in the rankings. But let’s get one thing clear: Without Andre Drummond, the shot-blocking is almost non-existent.
The rookie averaged 1.6 blocks in just 20.7 minutes per contest. Keeping him healthy and giving him more minutes will do wonders for this team when it comes to protecting the paint moving forward.
According to NBA.com, the Pistons allowed opponents to shoot 61.1 percent from inside five feet. That’s the fourth-worst mark in the league, showing that Drummond and Jason Maxiell (1.31 BPG) can’t do it on their own.
Need: ball control
Nobody in their right mind is going to ask the Golden State Warriors to slow down. According to ESPN’s Hollinger Stats, they executed the fourth-fastest pace during 2012-13, and they scored 101.2 points per contest as a result.
This team’s identity is a result of its up-tempo offense, but unfortunately for those in the Bay Area, so is turnovers.
Stephen Curry, among all of his heroics, turned the ball over 3.1 times per game. That’s the ninth-worst mark among qualifying players and a big reason the Warriors were 28th as a team in that same category.
Take the good with the bad when it comes to Golden State’s offense, but understand that turnovers are a major problem.
Need: perimeter defense
When it comes to the Houston Rockets, offense was the name of the game. Defense must become a priority, or they’ll be looking at first-round exits for the foreseeable future.
According to NBA.com, the Rockets were in the bottom 10 when it came to opponent field-goal percentage inside of five feet. That said, they were in the top 10 in field-goal attempts allowed in that same category.
When you look at 10-14 feet, Houston gave up the worst percentage in the league. Beyond 20 feet was also a problem, and while you can certainly point to the players on the roster, you can’t ignore Kevin McHale and the coaching staff’s defensive schemes.
Need: ball control
The Indiana Pacers closed out the 2012-13 regular season with the eighth-lowest points-per-game average in the Association. Scoring, however, is not their problem, as Danny Granger was out, and their defense did more than enough to make up the difference.
The problem on offense stems from ball control. Despite playing the sixth-slowest pace of any team, according to ESPN’s Hollinger Stats, the Pacers threw the ball away 14.5 times per game.
That put them in the bottom 10 in that category, which was made worse by the fact that only two teams—the Charlotte Bobcats and the New York Knicks—averaged fewer assists.
George Hill led the team during the regular season with 4.7 assists, while Paul George, who had an otherwise breakout year, averaged a team-worst 2.9 turnovers.
Need: Chris Paul
We can talk as much as we want about the Los Angeles Clippers’ need to hire a head coach. We can even talk about their perimeter defense, which was the fifth-worst in the NBA in 2012-13.
But when it comes down to it, the Clippers have one thing on their minds, and that’s locking up Chris Paul to a long-term deal.
Two years after orchestrating the deal that sent him to L.A, Paul is an unrestricted free agent. The Clippers instantly became contenders upon his arrival, but they’ve yet to reach their goal of an NBA championship.
For all we know, Paul will be back, and the Clippers will find the right coach to lead them to an elite level. But until that day takes place, the focus has to be retaining the superstar who is to credit for the success they’ve found thus far.
Need: a clear-cut vision
For the Los Angeles Lakers, anything less than greatness was going to be disappointing in 2012-13. This team was supposed to compete for an NBA championship, but it failed to win a single playoff game after rallying late in the year.
Defense and ball movement were major concerns throughout the year, but putting scores and statistics aside, the Lakers have to be concerned with how many question marks surround this organization approaching the offseason.
These questions will be answered in time, but not without a summer full of speculation and a disgruntled fanbase watching every move.
Need: perimeter scoring
Perimeter scoring is a problem for the Memphis Grizzlies. Their defense more than made up the difference, as they allowed the fewest points per game of any team, but they have virtually no go-to options anywhere behind the arc.
When it comes to perimeter shooting, the one thing that Memphis has going for it is good coaching and intelligent shot selections. The Grizzlies recognize their deficiency, and they take just 13.5 three-point shots per contest—the fewest of any team in the NBA.
That said, the ability to light it up from deep is a luxury in this league that they don’t have. Their defense will continue to be their best quality, but when put in a situation where they need long-range shooting, they’re one of the least-equipped teams out there.
ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh has made a compelling argument that Norris Cole is the Miami Heat’s biggest weakness, according to ESPN Insider (subscription required). "The Fab Four" of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen are dominant when on the floor together, yet that production takes a serious dip when Cole enters the game.
But what you have to understand is that Cole plays a mere 19.9 minutes per game. James and crew can make up the difference during that time slot, whereas the team as a whole finished dead last in rebounding through the regular season.
The one thing to note in Miami’s favor is its field-goal percentage. It shot the highest percentage of any team in the league, which meant fewer rebounding opportunities for opponents—it ranked fifth in rebounds allowed.
Fewer shots, however, is no excuse for a negative rebounding margin, which is what the Heat finished with when the year came to a close.
Need: long-term vision (backcourt)
The dynamic duo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis was a good idea in theory. In fact, the two showed at times that they can be explosive on offense, creating a one-two punch that is tough to defend.
But as good as they can be when the stars align, it appears as if the time has come to choose one or the other.
Ellis is an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2013. Jennings, on the other hand, is restricted, meaning the Bucks can match any offer that comes his way.
Letting one go is risky, as you never know what you’ll get in return, but this team isn’t progressing the way it hoped it would, making it clear that balance is more important than volume scoring in the backcourt.
Need: three-point shooting
The No. 1 problem for the Minnesota Timberwolves during 2012-13 was health. The only player on the roster to play 82 games was Luke Ridnour, and 168 combined contests were missed when looking at just Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio and Chase Budinger.
Getting the core healthy is going to be a major focus moving forward, but once on the court, three-point shooting has to be a priority.
On the year, the Timberwolves shot just 30.5 percent from deep range. That’s the worst in the league by more than two percent, which is a big reason their field-goal percentage was just 24th out of all 30 teams.
Nobody on the roster shot better than 34.6 percent from behind the arc, and that was J.J. Barea, who averaged just 23.1 minutes a night.
Need: perimeter defense
Small forward is going to be a problem for the New Orleans Pelicans if they don’t address that during the offseason. But while the 3 spot is one area that needs bolstering, the entire perimeter defense needs to improve.
According to HoopData, New Orleans ranked just 28th in opponents’ effective field-goal percentage. It was also dead last in steals and 28th in forced turnovers throughout the year.
This team has role players, such as Greivis Vasquez and Ryan Anderson, but nobody truly fits the bill when it comes to defending the outside.
Need: transition offense
Fair or not, the New York Knicks are one of the most highly scrutinized teams season after season.
According to TeamRankings, the Knicks were 30th in fast-break points per game. That number isn’t so bad when you consider they ran the fourth-slowest pace of any team, according to ESPN’s Hollinger Stats, but a slow pace doesn’t account for inefficiency.
The team was dead last in fast-break efficiency, according to TeamRankings.
New York finished 30th in assists per game. Nobody is going to claim that it needs to play more quickly, as it finished the year 11th in scoring, but when it gets out in transition, crisp passes and selfless play are two areas that must be a priority moving forward.
Need: replace Kendrick Perkins
For the most part, the Oklahoma City Thunder need to stay the course. If Russell Westbrook hadn’t gotten injured during the postseason, there’s a chance we’d see them playing in the Western Conference Finals.
Kendrick Perkins, however, has been a problem for the Thunder, and finding a replacement would be a move worth making.
Aside from gritty toughness, Perkins doesn’t seem to offer much within the current rotation. He recorded a negative PER during the 2013 postseason, according to Basketball-Reference.com), and he managed to record 4.2 points on 45.7 percent shooting throughout the year.
OKC has the opportunity to amnesty the big man over the summer, and if it can’t move him via trade with a willing team, that might be the best option.
Need: shot selection
For as bad as the Orlando Magic were during the year, their ball movement was decent. They collected 22.8 assists per contest, which was good enough for 10th place, and they turned the ball over 14 times, which was good enough for 15th.
Ball movement aside, offense was a serious problem, and it all stemmed from the team’s shot selection.
On the year, the Magic scored just 94.1 points per game, which put them at 24th in the league. They were also 29th in three-point percentage.
Adding shooters to the roster should be a goal over the summer, and getting them good looks will be the plan in 2013-14.
When the Philadelphia 76ers traded away Andre Iguodala, they assumed they were acquiring a potential No. 1 option in Andrew Bynum. That wasn’t the case, though, as Bynum was sidelined the entire year with a knee injury.
With Bynum making headlines for his injuries and hairstyles, the Sixers struggled mightily putting the ball in the basket. They were ranked 30th in scoring, averaging just 93.2 points per game on the year.
The bright side—if you want to call it that—is that Jrue Holiday established himself as an All-Star point guard. He posted 17.7 points and eight assists on the year, but the team has to get him help for 2013-14.
The team’s starting unit finished in the middle of the league in scoring, placing 14th in points per game (according to hoopstats.com), but the bench was dreadful, ranking 25th.
The Phoenix Suns were bad on defense during the 2012-13 season. This is a franchise that has been bad defensively in the past, but without the offense to make up the difference, the first year following the departure of Steve Nash was a complete disaster.
Without the superstar point guard running the show, the Suns went out and compiled a random collection of available players. Yes, there was talent on the roster as a result of the acquisitions, but identity and a general sense of direction are two things that the franchise lacked.
To make matters worse, not only did the Suns go another year without earning a No. 1 pick in the draft, but they were jumped by the Washington Wizards, knocking them a spot back.
Need: interior play
Anybody who watched the Portland Trail Blazers play during the 2012-13 season knows that the team has two major weaknesses: scoring off the bench and playing in the paint.
While it’s easy to argue that the Blazers need to add depth and scoring to their second unit (they averaged the fewest points off the bench, according to hoopstats.com), their starters more than made up the difference. The paint, on the other hand, was a point of weakness on both ends, and that must be addressed during the summer.
As well as J.J. Hickson played throughout the year, he was neither a threat to score down low nor a shot-blocker at the rim. Damian Lillard was the Rookie of the Year for a reason, but with his defensive deficiencies well-documented, he needs someone down low who can help.
According to TeamRankings, the Blazers were 28th in scoring down low and dead last in points allowed in the paint.
Need: a decisive GM
Now that we know the Sacramento Kings will be staying in Sacramento, it’s time for them to find a general manager who can make decisions with long-term visions in mind.
Geoff Petrie, the current GM, is up for a contract renewal that he may or may not receive. Winning the voters over in the Sacramento-Seattle saga is essentially a fresh start for this organization, and it feels as if the GM position may start clean as well.
There are a number of decisions to be made when it comes to player personnel. The team needs to decide if they’re willing to commit to Tyreke Evans, and it also must decide to build around—or ship out—DeMarcus Cousins.
These aren’t going to be easy decisions to make, which is why finding the right guy is essential.
The San Antonio Spurs have proven that age is just a number—especially when you have solid depth backing up the aging core. But adding youth and athleticism over the summer is going to make the transition into the future a seamless one as the stars continue to age.
Despite having a number of three-point shooters who can score in transition, San Antonio lacks a true athletic presence. They’re proving that this isn’t an immediate problem, but teams that wait too long typically get lost along the way—see the Boston Celtics.
Defensively, San Antonio is strong as a collective unit, but defending in transition can be a problem. It was just 17th in fast-break points allowed (according to Teamrankings.com), which is a concern against the
league’s top transition offenses.
Need: address point guard
The trade that brought Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors gave the team a much-needed go-to scorer, but it also killed the group’s depth at point guard.
Watching Jose Calderon leave was expected to say the least. The problem is that it left the 1 spot shallow, and now the team is forced to do something about it over the summer.
One way to deal with this is by killing two birds with one stone. Andrea Bargnani has been the victim of trade talks for quite some time, and if the team can pull the trigger on the right deal, it might be able to address one concern while getting rid of another.
Need: uncertainty at point guard
Randy Foye, Mo Williams, Alec Burks, Jamal Tinsley and Earl Watson. These are the ones who played point guard for the Utah Jazz, and while there’s talent within that group, the takeaway is that no one player ever stepped up.
With Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors in the frontcourt, imbalance has been the theme of the Jazz’s roster. The bigs have run the show in Utah, but it’s time for the organization to find stability within the rotation.
Since the departure of Deron Williams, Utah has lacked a true franchise floor general. Finding that player during the summer of 2013 will be tough, but the Jazz would be remissed to ignore their problem at the point guard position.
Need: late-game execution
The Washington Wizards have a lot to improve upon, as evidenced by the fact that they were the not-so-proud owners of a 29-53 record. The year got better when John Wall returned, but one theme throughout was closing tight games.
According to NBA.com, clutch play was a problem for the Wizards. When the game was within five points (with five minutes left), they shot just 33.2 percent from the field. That number is the worst among all teams, and it’s the biggest reason they had the third-worst point margin (-1.9) during that time frame.
In games decided by six points or fewer, the Wizards were just 11-22.