Blake Griffin heads a crop of players trying to turn their teams around.
Wizards fans have to hope Wall makes the same jump from his first to second season as fellow No. 1 pick Derrick Rose, when Rose made his first All-Star game. Washington has a lot of young talent in the enigmatic Andray Blatche and the Tyson Chandler-like Javale McGee. Some perimeter is needed, however, and the Wizards have a good chance to get some with the sixth pick in the draft. With cap space after Gilbert Arenas' contract dump, look for a splash in free agency as well.
Golden State has one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league. The duo of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis averaged nearly 43 points and 13 assists. Too soon to be called a bust in Golden State, the Warriors have to expect better things from David Lee, whose injuries hindered his last campaign. Likewise, Andris Biedrins needs a return to his 2008-09 self, when he averaged 12 points and 11 rebounds. The eleventh pick won't help much, but there is a lot of talent within to build on.
The addition of Deron Williams is a huge plus. He represents the Nets' first superstar since Jason Kidd led the franchise to back-to-back Finals appearances. Williams is a clear upgrade over Devin Harris at point guard. More importantly, he put the onus on Nets owner Mikhael Prokhorov to win now. If the Nets don't make huge strides, D-Will is gone when his contract runs out after the 2012 season. With Williams and the promising Brook Lopez, the Nets have the two most important positions covered. Look for Prokhorov's checkbook to cover the rest.
Who is the most likely lottery team to reach the playoffs?
2. Utah Jazz
The Jazz are not far from being a playoff team as is. They finished four games under .500 in the midst of losing their head coach and franchise player. Devin Harris is a borderline All-Star to replace Williams, and they gained the upside of Derrick Favors in the process. With Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the post is set. The Jazz have the second and twelfth overall picks to play with, as well. Look for them to snatch up the NBA-ready Derrick WIlliams with the second pick. Last year's lottery pick, Gordon Hayward, showed marked improvement towards the end of the season as well.
Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin will go down as one of the great one-two punches in this era. The only thing that can stop that is injury, which held back Gordon in the past season. Gordon had a career year in the 56 games he did play, averaging five points per game more than his first two seasons. Still only 22, this is only the beginning. For all the incredible things Blake Griffin accomplished as a rookie, he has not even started to tap into his full potential. Consistent season averages of 25 points and 15 rebounds are well within his reach.