The 2013-14 NBA regular season is roughly one month away from commencing. As the hype builds and the days pass, every franchise is looking to make the last-second tweaks and changes to improve upon past success and take the next step.
The question is, which lottery teams will have the ultimate turnaround seasons and reach the postseason in 2013-14?
Reaching the playoffs is a struggle for any team, as an 82-game season can take its toll on even the greatest of teams. For a squad looking to go from the draft lottery to the postseason, however, it requires even more of a monumental effort.
Here are the teams which will do the unthinkable and break through in 2013-14.
Portland Trail Blazers
2012-13 W-L Record: 33-49
- Allen Crabbe, SG
- Robin Lopez, C
- C.J. McCollum, G
- Thomas Robinson, PF
- Earl Watson, PG
- Mo Williams, PG
- Dorell Wright, SF
- J.J. Hickson, C
During the 2012-13 NBA regular season, the Portland Trail Blazers were victims of an absence of depth. Despite possessing one of the best starting lineups in all of basketball, Portland was unable to reach the postseason, eventually giving in to fatigue and closing out the season with a 13-game losing streak.
Don't expect to hear the same story in 2013-14.
According to HoopsStats.com, Portland's starting lineup led the NBA in scoring and ranked in the top 10 in rebounds, assists, efficiency and defensive efficiency. Unfortunately, the Trail Blazers' second unit was dead last in scoring, per HoopsStats.com.
Not only did Portland's bench rank last, but it was a full 5.6 points per game behind the second-worst team in the league.
The Trail Blazers made drastic improvements to the depth of their roster by adding Allen Crabbe, Robin Lopez, C.J. McCollum, Thomas Robinson, Earl Watson, Mo Williams and Dorell Wright. Not only will those signings help Portland's 20th-ranked three-point-shooting team, but the interior is also stronger.
It'll be tough to emerge in the Western Conference, but Portland will be a postseason team in 2013-14.
2012-13 W-L Record: 33-49
- D.J. Augustin, PG
- Dwight Buycks, PG
- Tyler Hansbrough, PF
- Steve Novak, SF
- Alan Anderson, SG
- Andrea Bargnani, PF
- Jose Calderon, PG
The Toronto Raptors had one of the most productive offseason periods of any team in the NBA. While the name value on the list of players that Toronto parted ways with may exceed that of those it signed, the Raptors are a better basketball team because of the decisions they've made.
It's all about how players fit.
Andrea Bargnani was one of the biggest headaches in basketball, as the former No. 1 overall draft choice was a strong offensive player with no presence on the glass and a turnstile-like approach to defense. Toronto replaced him by signing Tyler Hansbrough as a backup and trusting Amir Johnson as the starter.
Throw in the fact that the Raptors replaced sharp shooter Alan Anderson—.383/.333/.857—with a sniper who can actually hit the three-ball on a consistent basis—Steve Novak at .414/.425/.909—and you have well-placed improvements that will pay dividends in the long run.
The Raptors already had a postseason-caliber core in place, with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas serving as starters. Lowry is one of the best all-around point guards in the NBA, Gay is a clutch gem, DeRozan is underrated in his improvements, and both Johnson and Valanciunas are rugged defenders.
As long as Toronto can remain healthy, it will be in the playoffs.
2012-13 W-L Record: 29-53
- Al Harrington, PF
- Otto Porter., SF
- Glen Rice Jr., SG
Key Losses: N/A
The Washington Wizards finished the 2012-13 NBA regular season with a record of 29-53. Due to that record, a leap to the postseason is unlikely when it comes to what can be seen on the surface.
Dig deeper, and it'll be clear that the Wizards are a team worth watching in 2013-14.
Washington ranked eighth in scoring defense during the 2012-13 season, fifth in opponent field-goal percentage and ninth in opponent three-point percentage. The Wizards were also seventh in opponent points per shot and opponent adjusted field-goal percentage, per ESPN.
The truth in the matter is that the Wizards' potential success all comes down to John Wall.
Wall missed the first 33 games of the 2012-13 NBA regular season, and Washington went 5-28 in his absence. Once he returned from injury, however, Wall led Washington to a record of 24-25 in 49 games—an improvement of .338 win-percentage points.
With Wall and Bradley Beal one year wiser and Emeka Okafor leading a deep defensive unit, the Wizards are a legitimate postseason contender.
The key addition for the Wizards is rookie Otto Porter, who steps in as a source of consistent two-way production at small forward. Not only will he offer a reliable defensive presence, but Porter can shoot the three and facilitate the offense.
As long as Wall remains healthy, the rest will come together, and the Wizards will be in postseason contention.