5 NBA Teams Poised to Take the Biggest Steps Back

Michael PinaFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2013

5 NBA Teams Poised to Take the Biggest Steps Back

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    Whether intentionally or on accident, every year, a handful of teams are noticeably worse than the season before.

    With many players, coaches and general managers spending their summer either looking for new work or finding it, organizations are forced to adapt to the change and then dictate which direction its steering them towards.

    Here are five teams that will lose more games in 2013-14 than they did last season. They're ranked by the projected number of additional games they figure to lose next year.

5. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers barely made the playoffs as the seventh seed before being unceremoniously shown the door by the San Antonio Spurs in a first-round series that could best be described as quick and painless.

    For the regular season, they had Dwight Howard and a healthy Kobe Bryant. Now Howard is with the Houston Rockets, and Bryant's return is in doubt after he tore his Achilles' tendon 78 games into the season.

    Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are still around, but it's tough to say how much the former can give, and while the latter has potential to remain dominant, he's far from what it takes to drag the rest of Los Angeles' roster through a stacked Western Conference.

    The Lakers were a disappointment last year. This year, they'll just be bad.

4. Utah Jazz

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    The Utah Jazz let three of their five regular starters walk in free agency over the summer. Two of them happened to be their two best players and a large percentage of their offensive production.

    The other player was Mo Williams, who will probably be replaced by rookie point guard Trey Burke. The Jazz have a strong future, but their present state is deplorable, with too much youth and not enough depth on the front line to fight tough through nightly 48-minute battles. 

    Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Gordon Hayward are three young talents any team in the league would love to have, but it's unlikely they win more than 30 games with no established talent surrounding them.

3. Boston Celtics

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    They had a six-year run for the ages, winning one title, making another Finals appearance and continuously living as the team that you could never say never about. 

    Unfortunately, all the characters from that play, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, are gone. In their place are new head coach Brad Stevens and a slew of declining players shipped from the Brooklyn Nets. A few young talents remain (Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley), and Rajon Rondo still figures to have his say once he fully recovers from a torn ACL injury. First-round pick Kelly Olynyk could also be a factor. 

    But the infrastructure in Boston has been damaged. Even though this organization appears to be on the right path moving forward, rebuilds take time. It'll struggle in 2014. 

2. Philadelphia 76ers

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    The Philadelphia 76ers won just 34 basketball games last season, so it's significant for them to make a list of teams taking a step back. 

    And Philadelphia's offseason was definitely significant. New general manager Sam Hinkie traded away All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for a future 2014 top-10 protected first-round pick and Nerlens Noel (who's recovering from a torn ACL and won't start the season healthy).

    With sights clearly set on next year's draft, and a roster whose best player might be Thaddeus Young, this team might not win 10 games next season.

1. Denver Nuggets

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    For the past few seasons, the Denver Nuggets played the honorable role of feisty underdog, competing for a championship with no All-Star on their roster.

    In one month, that all came crashing down. Head coach George Karl, general manager Masai Ujiri and defensive savant Andre Iguodala are all out. Starting center Kosta Koufos was traded for Darrell Arthur, a backup forward.

    They also used their mid-level exception on J.J. Hickson, which makes no sense since Kenneth Faried remains on the team as arguably the Nuggets' best player (and certainly their most exciting). Denver lost to the Golden State Warriors in a hard fought first-round matchup last season, but this year, it probably won't even sniff the playoffs.