Playoffs to Lottery, Lottery to Playoffs: Three Out, Three In
16 teams go to the NBA Playoffs each year. The other 14 go into the lottery hoping to get lucky with the ping pong balls.
Last season, the Bulls, the Heat, and the Blazers returned to the post-season after all three participated in the Derrick Rose-sweepstakes as lottery teams during the 2008 draft.
Chicago got Rose and nearly knocked-off the defending champion Celtics in the first round.
Those three teams replaced the Raptors, the Nets, and the Warriors in the playoffs from the previous season.
This year, three 2008-09 playoffs teams will return to the lottery in hopes of nabbing John Wall, or Ed Davis, or whoever ends up as the top pick in next year's draft, while three lottery teams elevate their games to a post-season level.
Up first, a team whose time has come and gone, representing a city whose time has come and gone:
OUT: Detroit Pistons
A projected front line of Kwame Brown and Charlie Villanueva is laughable.
It was a great run for the Pistons and included an NBA Championship, but the playoff streak ends this season.
Trading Billups for Iverson was a disaster, but what's done is done and the rebuilding has begun. But just because you spend large amounts of cash, doesn't mean you improved your team.
The Ben Gordon and Villanueva signings will eventually be ridiculed and all the good things Joe Dumars did in Detroit may become irrelevant.
IN: Toronto Raptors
This does depend on Chris Bosh staying up north for the duration of the season, but teamed with Jose Calderon, newly signed Hedo Turkoglu, and top draft choice DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors should not only return to the playoffs, they should be hosting a first-round series.
Early success for the Raptors means they're more likely to ride out the season knowing Bosh will become a free agent.
OUT: Philadelphia 76ers
Fans in Philly may believe that a healthy Elton Brand means the squad builds on their success from last year when they took Orlando, the eventual Eastern Conference champs, to six games in the first round.
Not so fast though. No Andre Miller running the show dooms the Sixers season. Eddie Jordan is a good coach, but unless rookie Jrue Holiday emerges quickly, the lack of experience/competence at point guard spells huge trouble and a return to the lottery.
I'd still like to see them bring Allen Iverson back to town.
IN: Washington Wizards
Gilbert Arenas has played in only 15 games the past two years, but new coach Flip Saunders says he looks sharp.
Not sure what else the coach is going to say, but taking Saunders on his word, inserting Agent Zero back into a lineup with Caron Butler and Antwan Jamison means the Wiz should be among the top scoring teams in the league.
They traded their lottery pick to Minnesota (who selected Ricky Rubio) for Randy Foye and Mike Miller, two players solidifying the Wizards bench.
If Brendan Haywood and Andray Blatche commit themselves on the defensive end of the court, Washington should be able to hang with any team in the East.
OUT: Houston Rockets
If Yao Ming misses the entire season because of his broken left foot, the Rockets (winners of 53 games last year) will be lucky to win 40 in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry will be fun to watch, but without Ron Artest's toughness and underrated offense, the decline of Tracy McGrady, plus no Yao, the Rockets will find themselves bound for the lottery.
IN: Phoenix Suns
The problem in the desert the last year and a half was Shaquille O'Neal. He's gone. Amare Stoudemire is healthy. Steve Nash is committed to the team.
Alvin Gentry will move Stoudemire back to center, where he played prior to Shaq coming to town and parking in the paint, and run.
Earl Clark, the last of the lottery selections, is projected to start at power forward and should flourish in an uptempo system.
They won't contend for the title, but they'll run their way into the top eight out West.