New Year’s resolutions get recycled every year. You want to exercise more, eat better and lose weight...oh sorry, those are Raymond Felton’s New Year’s resolutions.
All kidding aside, even NBA teams should establish certain goals as they enter a new year—especially with two months of a new season in the rearview mirror.
Playoff contenders need to make minor tweaks, lovable losers need complete overhauls and some teams don’t need to change their current philosophy at all.
So as we come ever closer to 2014, here are the New Year’s resolutions for every team in the NBA.
Note: All stats and records in this article are accurate as of Dec. 23, 2013 (prior to games played).
New Year’s Resolution: Crash the Offensive Glass
It truly is the most wonderful time of the year for the Atlanta Hawks. They’re set up for the present—positioned as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference—and for the future—having the ability to swap first-round picks with the Brooklyn Nets for the 2014 draft.
As for their New Year’s resolution, though, they have to get better at rebounding.
The Hawks average 41.1 rebounds per game, which ranks them 25th in the league. And despite their winning ways, the Hawks are getting out-rebounded by an average of 2.2 boards per contest, which ranks them 23rd in rebound differential.
The most alarming statistic, however, comes on the offensive glass. Atlanta averages a measly 8.9 offensive rebounds per game. Only the Miami Heat (6.4) average fewer offensive boards.
The Hawks have been a rock-solid offensive team so far this season, but they’d be even better if they could create more second-chance opportunities.
New Year’s Resolution: Integrate Rajon Rondo
The Boston Celtics have beaten expectations this season with a respectable 12-16 record. They’ve been better than the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls. Injuries have been a huge reason for that—ravaging all three of the aforementioned teams—but Boston has played the entire season without its floor general.
Due to that, the Celtics’ New Year’s resolution will be to integrate Rajon Rondo into the rotation when he makes his return from an ACL tear.
That may be easier said than done, considering first-year head coach Brad Stevens has Jordan Crawford, Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee playing at a high level. Those guys will undoubtedly lose minutes when Rondo returns.
If Coach Stevens can seamlessly incorporate the All-Star point guard back into the fold, though, the Celts will be that much more potent in an underwhelming Eastern Conference.
New Year’s Resolution: Embrace Adversity
The Brooklyn Nets’ 2013-14 season couldn’t have started any worse even if it were directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Jason Kidd’s inept coaching led a veteran NBA scout to say, “He doesn’t do anything,” according to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report.
Coach Kidd then reassigned assistant coach Lawrence Frank to “doing daily reports” instead of coaching on the sidelines, per David Mayo of MLive.com.
Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko have all missed time due to injuries, and Brook Lopez is expected to miss the rest of the season after breaking his right foot, per Sam Amick of USA Today.
On top of everything, the Nets can’t tank for a high lottery pick because the Atlanta Hawks will simply swap picks with them (just another perk of the Joe Johnson trade).
So where do the Nets go from here? Brooklyn’s season was already snowballing out of control before its best player was lost indefinitely, so the only New Year’s resolution available to the Nets is to embrace adversity.
The Nets players are up against the ropes; they just have to find a way to keep fighting.
New Year’s Resolution: Score More Points
The Charlotte Bobcats rank second in the NBA by allowing just 93.1 points per game despite the fact that Al Jefferson—one of the worst defensive big men in the league—is letting opponents shoot 57.9 percent at the rim.
As comedian Norm MacDonald would say, “Wait, what?”
Believe it or not, the Bobcats have been a tremendous defensive team in 2013-14. The same can’t be said for their offense.
While the Bobcats are allowing just 93.1 points per game, they’re scoring even fewer at 92 per game (ranking them 28th). Even with steady defense, that’s not a winning formula.
Now that Jeff Taylor is done for the year after rupturing his Achilles tendon, the Bobcats may need to find a spark of offense via trade moving forward.
New Year’s Resolution: Figure Out the Future
Since the Rose injury, the Bulls have posted a 4-11 record with losses against the Utah Jazz, Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic—three teams with a combined record of 22-62.
Chicago is now on the outside looking in at a playoff spot. The Bulls aren’t going to make a championship run without D-Rose, so the organization’s New Year’s resolution should be to figure out the future.
Deng is in the final year of his contract, and, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago, Bulls general manager Gar Forman hasn’t ruled out the possibility of re-signing him.
With more than $55 million already tied up among Rose, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer for the 2014-15 season, some type of move will have to be made for the Bulls to keep Deng.
The most logical choice would be to amnesty Boozer—assuming no team trades for his contract.
The Bulls franchise is facing plenty of questions. It’s now time to create a plan of action for the immediate future and beyond.
New Year’s Resolution: Share the Ball
Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson got into an altercation earlier this season when Waiters accused Thompson and point guard Kyrie Irving of playing “buddy ball,” according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard.
Waiters, however, denied rumors that a physical altercation took place, according to Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer:
Nobody got into no altercations or anything like that. We got everything off our chests that we needed to. That’s that. All the other rumors, man, are rumors. Don’t believe it. It’s not true. We talked. Everybody talked. Nobody put their hands on nobody.
Regardless of whether or not Waiters is unhappy in Cleveland, the Cavs can afford to share the ball more than they are.
As a team, the Cavaliers are averaging just 19 assists per game, which ranks them 26th in the league. Irving and Jarrett Jack are the only players averaging more than three assists per contest.
Finding consistent offense has been a struggle under defensive-minded head coach Mike Brown. Irving is shooting 41.3 percent, Waiters is shooting 43.1 percent, Thompson is shooting 43.6 percent and Jack is shooting 42.1 percent.
Offensive efficiency has been nonexistent in Cleveland. Unselfish play would go a long way toward improving that.
New Year’s Resolution: Improve on Defense
The Dallas Mavericks have essentially been the polar opposite of the Charlotte Bobcats this season because they score a lot of points while giving up a lot of points.
The Mavs average 103.5 points per game (seventh in the league) and allow 102.3 points per game (25th in the league).
Dallas has been able to win the majority of its games at 15-12, but shoring up the defense would go a long way toward securing a playoff berth in 2014.
Of course, that’s easier said than done when Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon are all playing big minutes.
At this point, adding defensive help necessitates a trade. Perhaps Vince Carter’s expiring contract could land Dallas a cheap defender in the mold of a DeMarre Carroll or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
New Year’s Resolution: Hold Home Court
Last season, the Denver Nuggets were basically unbeatable at home with a 38-3 regular-season record. So far in 2013-14, their record at the Pepsi Center is 7-5.
Granted, the Nuggets have played some extremely tough opponents at home—the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Phoenix Suns. But even so, this was a team that simply did not lose at altitude a season ago.
The personnel has obviously been tweaked (losing Andre Iguodala and head coach George Karl), but the Nuggets have to make a point to play better on their home court.
The Nuggets aren’t a good enough road team to be mediocre in their own arena. As the schedule eases up, their home record should improve.
New Year’s Resolution: Stop Shooting Threes
The Detroit Pistons are shooting a paltry 31.8 percent from three-point range this season (29th in the NBA), while launching 19.7 attempts per game.
Simply put, this team needs to stop shooting from downtown.
Brandon Jennings is shooting 36 percent from deep, which ranks him 81st in three-point percentage among qualified players. The numbers go downhill from there across Detroit’s roster.
Josh Smith is shooting 26.1 percent, Rodney Stuckey is at 31.3 percent, Charlie Villanueva’s percentage from long range is 31.8 percent and rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been worse at 31.6 percent.
If you can believe it, J-Smoove is jacking up a ridiculous 4.1 threes per game (perhaps to ensure he makes at least one?).
Every three-point attempt acts as a trick shot for Detroit. The Pistons need to stop shooting them as soon as possible.
New Year’s Resolution: Survive Lengthy Road Trip
From Dec. 29 through Jan. 8, the Golden State Warriors will play seven straight road games. Their New Year’s resolution should be to escape that lengthy road swing unscathed.
With a 15-13 record, the Warriors sit out of the Western Conference playoff picture in ninth place. As a result, they need to exhibit a game-by-game focus to get back where they want to be by season’s end.
Of the seven straight road games, five are against teams under .500. G-State can’t afford to lose those contests.
Starting the new year with five straight road games will be difficult, but Mark Jackson’s crew can’t afford to make excuses.
New Year’s Resolution: Limit Turnovers
The Houston Rockets have four players averaging at least two turnovers per game: James Harden (4.0), Dwight Howard (3.3), Jeremy Lin (2.8) and Chandler Parsons (2.1). As a team, the Rockets are turning the ball over 16.4 times per game, which ranks them 28th in the league.
This is somewhat understandable, considering Houston plays an uptempo style, but Harden and Howard have to set an example by being more careful with the ball.
This team is too talented offensively to simply give away possessions. If the Rockets limit the times they cough up the ball, they will also limit fast-break opportunities for opponents.
Simply put, nothing good comes from turning the ball over. Houston’s two stars have to figure out a way to limit bad decision-making moving forward.
New Year’s Resolution: Maintain Focus
The Indiana Pacers are serious contenders for an NBA championship in 2014. Players and coaches know this, so the only necessary New Year’s “resolution” is for the Pacers to maintain their focus.
Paul George is a legitimate MVP candidate. Roy Hibbert should be the front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year. Lance Stephenson continues to improve, and the Pacers have better depth overall when compared to a season ago.
Indy just has to keep doing its thing.
New Year’s Resolution: Defend the Rim
DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are two of the NBA’s most talented young big men, but both struggle when defending the basket.
Sure, Jordan is swatting a career-high 2.2 blocks per game this season, but he’s also allowing opponents to shoot 53.4 percent at the rim, according to NBA.com.
Griffin, meanwhile, surrenders a 53.2 percent clip at the hoop.
For the sake of comparison, Roy Hibbert is holding opponents to 42.1 percent at the rim. Opponents score on Miles Plumlee of the Phoenix Suns 47.6 percent of the time in that area. Even Dirk Nowitzki has been better defending the rim, as opponents score on him 49.4 percent of the time.
So what’s the excuse for Jordan and Griffin—two of the most athletic, high-flying bigs in the NBA?
Honestly, I don’t think they have one. Those two are just going to have to apply themselves on defense if the Los Angeles Clippers hope to make a championship run.
New Year’s Resolution:
Build Time Machine Decide Future
The Los Angeles Lakers’ glory days of old are far behind them. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are losing the battle with Father Time, while key injuries to solid role players have stifled Mike D’Antoni’s chances of coaching a playoff team in 2014.
The Lakers will have a fair amount of cap space next summer, though, so it’s time for the front office to create a plan of action.
Will it plan to sign Pau Gasol at a lower salary, woo an All-Star-caliber player like Carmelo Anthony or Luol Deng, or even hit the reset button altogether?
The bottom line is the Lakers need a lot of roster help. It will take more than a few tweaks to give the Black Mamba one last shot at an NBA title.
New Year’s Resolution: Solve the Division
Losing Marc Gasol—last season’s Defensive Player of the Year—to an MCL sprain was a brutal blow for the Memphis Grizzlies. At 11-15, only the Sacramento Kings (8-18) and Utah Jazz (8-22) have been worse in the Western Conference thus far.
For the Grizzlies to turn their fortunes around, they’re going to have to solve the Southwest Division.
Through 26 regular-season games, Memphis has compiled a 0-7 record against teams within the division: San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Those matchups will keep popping up throughout the remainder of the 2013-14 season. If Memphis doesn’t figure out a way to compete with those teams, then earning a playoff seed will become nothing but a pipe dream.
New Year’s Resolution: None
The New Year’s resolution for the Miami Heat could be to improve their dreadful rebounding, but this team continues to prove that one statistic doesn’t matter when you’re able to cover it with sheer talent.
The Heat finished last in rebounding last season and still went on to win their second straight NBA title. They rank last again this season (grabbing fewer rebounds per game than they did in 2012-13), but that hasn’t stopped them from compiling a 20-6 record.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra said recently, “We do not have a double-digit rebounder every single night. That doesn’t make it bad or wrong. That makes us who we are,” per Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald.
As long as the Heat stay healthy and continue to play with their usual championship swagger, there’s no need for a New Year’s resolution.
New Year’s Resolution: Tank for Best Lottery Odds
No team in the NBA has been more perplexing than the Milwaukee Bucks.
The front office spent the offseason paying O.J. Mayo (three years, $24 million), Zaza Pachulia (three years, $16 million) and Gary Neal (two years, $6 million), among others. Those moves hint that the Bucks wanted to keep the team somewhat competitive, but the opposite narrative has played itself out thus far.
Milwaukee occupies the Eastern Conference basement with a 6-21 record. Six wins are the fewest of any team in the NBA.
John Henson has played well, and Giannis Antetokounmpo has shown flashes of becoming a solid NBA player, but the Bucks are better-suited to bottom out for the best lottery odds in 2014.
This organization needs a franchise star in the worst way. As long as the Bucks keep losing, they’ll have a shot at landing Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins next summer.
New Year’s Resolution: Play Defense
The Minnesota Timberwolves have held opponents under 100 points just six times this season. Of those six, two were losses.
With so much talent loading the Western Conference from top to bottom, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Co. are going to have to figure out a way to make any kind of impact on the defensive end of the court.
As it stands, Minnesota is allowing opponents to shoot a scorching 47.5 percent from the field. That ranks the T-Wolves last in the NBA.
The biggest reason for that egregious stat is Minnesota’s interior defense. Opponents are shooting a ridiculous 65.6 percent against the Timberwolves from less than five feet, according to NBA.com. Again, that ranks the T-Wolves last in the NBA.
If nothing else, the Timberwolves can’t allow opponents to get so comfortable on the interior.
New Year’s Resolution: Play Defense
Sticking with the theme of Western Conference teams that need to improve on one end of the court, the New Orleans Pelicans join the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks as a team in need of some defensive tenacity.
New Orleans has done a decent job defending the three-point line this season. Opponents are shooting 35.9 percent from deep against the Pelicans, which ranks them near the middle of the pack.
When opponents step inside the arc, however, they shoot 50.7 percent, according to Basketball-Reference.
Anthony Davis is leading the league by blocking 3.33 shots per game, but that hasn’t helped limit opponents’ overall efficiency when facing New Orleans.
Allowing opponents to shoot higher than 50 percent on two-point shots just can’t happen.
New Year’s Resolution: Play Better
Could I be any more blunt with the New York Knicks’ New Year’s resolution?
This team has become a laughingstock in NBA circles after finishing the 2012-13 season with a 54-28 record and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Aside from Carmelo Anthony averaging a career-high nine rebounds per game, just about every statistic tells a depressing story.
As a team, the Knicks rank 25th in points (94.7 per game), 29th in rebounds (38.6 per game) and 22nd in assists (20.2 per game).
Individually, the Knicks have three players shooting lower than 40 percent from the field: J.R. Smith (34.1 percent), Raymond Felton (39.4 percent) and Iman Shumpert (35.2 percent).
Quite frankly, the Knicks are better than this. They just have to clean the slate and play like they have in the past, plain and simple.
New Year’s Resolution: Bench Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins is averaging 3.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.6 blocks and 3.0 fouls per game as the starting center of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Why head coach Scott Brooks hasn’t decided to bench the big man—or at least reduce his role—is beyond my comprehensive abilities.
Perkins’ player efficiency rating of 6.42 ranks him 314th out of 325 qualified NBA players, per ESPN. Again, he’s the starting center for a legitimate championship contender.
Rookie Steven Adams and 33-year-old veteran Nick Collison have each played far better than Perkins, yet both are averaging fewer minutes and have started just two games (both by Adams).
OKC still holds the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with a 22-4 record, but it’s truly baffling that Coach Brooks continues to back Perk despite consistently flat performances.
New Year’s Resolution: Develop Young Players
With Victor Oladipo, Andrew Nicholson, Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris (if healthy) on the roster, the Orlando Magic have plenty of young talents that need court time to develop.
Since Glen Davis has been starting and earning more than 30 minutes per game, trading him at some point prior to the deadline would be a smart move for Orlando. Davis could help a playoff contender, and moving him would open up more playing time for Nicholson and Harkless.
The Magic are still a few years away from competing, so embracing the youth movement is the best possible New Year’s resolution.
New Year’s Resolution: Make Trades
Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes—those are three names that will be hot commodities as we near the NBA trade deadline.
Turner is having a breakout year by averaging 19.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and four assists per game. Young is shooting a career high 44 percent from three-point range (his previous high in a season was just 34.8 percent). Spencer Hawes has also been great, averaging 15 points, nine rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
If the Philadelphia 76ers were to trade any of those three players, they’d be selling while the stocks are at an all-time high.
Philly could trade for cap relief, draft picks or even a target like Greg Monroe of the Detroit Pistons.
In any case, don’t expect this Sixers team to stay the same past the deadline, especially since Young has already requested to be traded, according to Jake Fischer of Liberty Ballers.
New Year’s Resolution: Keep on Keeping On
Although many Phoenix Suns fans wanted their favorite team to tank the 2013-14 season to land a franchise star to place beside Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, the Suns have shattered expectations and have become genuinely exciting to watch.
The Bledsoe/Dragic backcourt is jelling together, the Morris twins continue to excel, Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green are proving that the Luis Scola trade was a complete hijacking, and Jeff Hornacek is proving himself as a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate.
Tanking would have guaranteed the Suns a marquee talent in a loaded 2014 draft, but there’s nothing wrong with winning games, keeping fans entertained and gaining some karma in the process.
The future will work itself out in Phoenix. This team just needs to keep playing like it has been and perhaps earn a postseason berth at season’s end.
New Year’s Resolution: Force More Turnovers
The Portland Trail Blazers have exploded onto the NBA scene as one of the best Western Conference teams with a 23-5 record. LaMarcus Aldridge is playing like an MVP candidate, Damian Lillard continues knocking down game-winning shots and role players have all contributed to a consistent winning formula.
As a result, there isn’t much to correct in Rip City.
With that said, the Trail Blazers force a league-worst 12.3 turnovers per game. The Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz directly above them are both forcing 13.2 per game—nearly one turnover more than Portland on a nightly basis.
The Trail Blazers aren’t known for being gangbusters on defense. That moniker comes on the offensive end.
However, Portland would help itself a great deal by disrupting passing lanes and drawing charges more regularly.
New Year’s Resolution: Defend the Perimeter
The Sacramento Kings need to improve in many areas on the basketball court, but defending the perimeter has been arguably their biggest flaw.
Opponents are shooting a scorching-hot 40 percent from three-point range against the Kings this year. That ranks Sacramento 29th in the NBA at defending long-range shots.
The Kings also rank 29th by allowing 103.3 points per game. Needless to say, that’s not a coincidence.
It’s going to take baby steps for this Kings team to become even adequate defensively. Locking down on the perimeter would be a good starting point.
New Year’s Resolution: None
Suggesting a New Year’s resolution for the San Antonio Spurs? Not only is it unnecessary, but it’s also not smart, considering that head coach Gregg Popovich has been known to be a bit of a scrooge.
The truth of the matter is that the Spurs have been going about their business for more than a decade. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The Spurs even managed to win the second game of a back-to-back against the Golden State Warriors while benching Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
What more needs to be said?
New Year’s Resolution: Continue Dealing
The Toronto Raptors and new general manager Masai Ujiri already made a major shake-up by trading Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings for John Salmons, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes. Last season’s Executive of the Year shouldn’t stop there.
Since the Raptors acquired Vasquez in the Gay trade, the next domino to fall will likely be point guard Kyle Lowry.
The 27-year-old veteran is in the final year of his contract, which is set to pay him more than $6.2 million this season.
Aside from young, promising players like DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross, it’s logical to believe Ujiri would be open to trading anyone else if it led to future gain.
New Year’s Resolution: Give Young Players Minutes
Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert are averaging 29.1 minutes and 10.7 minutes per game, respectively.
Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams, meanwhile, are averaging 26.2 minutes per game each.
Something doesn’t add up here.
The Utah Jazz occupy the Western Conference cellar with an 8-22 record. They aren’t winning games by playing washed-up veterans, so why not give more minutes to the rookies—Burke and Gobert—and other young players to help them develop during a down year?
This is one of the many reasons why I don’t understand Tyrone Corbin’s coaching methods.
Gobert, the 7’1” 21-year-old, is averaging 4.6 rebounds per game in little more than 10 minutes per game. That equates to 15.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. Sure, he’s a terrible free-throw shooter and a raw basketball talent, but he won’t develop without any court time.
The Jazz watched Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap leave during the offseason—presumably to embrace a rosterwide youth movement starting with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Instead, Corbin has continued to give out minutes via seniority.
That needs to change as we ring in a new year.
New Year’s Resolution: Execute in Close Games
With a 12-13 record, the Washington Wizards have attained the No. 5 seed in the dreadful Eastern Conference. If they had figured out a way to execute in close games prior to the season, that record would be far more favorable.
So far in 2013-14, the Wizards have competed in a whopping six overtime games. They are 2-4 in such contests.
Washington has suffered overtime losses to the Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder by a combined 14 points. That admittedly didn’t leave a huge margin for error.
The Wizards scored just three overtime points against the Bucks and six against the Cavaliers. That isn’t going to get the job done.
Executing in crunch time starts by having familiarity and chemistry with teammates. The Wizards should develop that as the season goes along.