NBA: 10 Teams Poised for a Breakout Season

Nikhil DilipCorrespondent IIIJuly 19, 2011

NBA: 10 Teams Poised for a Breakout Season

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    In the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Spurs, Celtics, Lakers were all eliminated.

    What kind of a postseason is it without Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant in the last two rounds?

    We have officially entered a new era in the NBA, with up-and-coming teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls as solid championship contenders for the next several years.

    But which teams are going to replace the them and be solid playoff contenders?

    Find out now. 

10. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Projected Lineup:

    PG - Brandon Jennings

    SG - Carlos Delfino

    SF - Stephen Jackson

    PF - Drew Gooden

    C - Andrew Bogut

    Brandon Jennings followed his rookie performance, famous for the 55-point game that he had in only his seventh game, with a similar sophomore campaign, averaging 16 points and nearly five assists.

    But the real star is Andrew Bogut.

    The seven-foot Australian led the league in blocks this past season and averaged over 11 boards a game.

     Despite having an elite center, the Bucks don't score a whole lot, so expect Stephen Jackson, who was traded to the Bucks on draft night to carry a heavy scoring load. 

     During the 2010 Playoffs, the Bucks didn't go very far without their center, and if he's healthy this year, the Bucks could make a serious push in the playoffs.

9. Utah Jazz

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    Projected Lineup:

    PG - Devin Harris

    SG - Gordon Hayward

    SF - Paul Millsap

    PF - Al Jefferson

    C - Enes Kanter

     Starting their first season without Jerry Sloan in nearly 24 years, the Jazz have a bright future with lottery picks Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter.

    Utah has numerous quality big men who could start and play quality minutes on nearly every team in the league, but somehow, they can't find a way to fit them all into one lineup.

    This projected lineup has Millsap playing on the wing, which he is definitely capable of team.

    The Jazz paid huge money to keep this guy to prepare for Carlos Boozer's departure, and Millsap justified it this past season. He upped his scoring by six points a game and rebounded more too.

    Utah got Al Jefferson last year for just draft picks, and was a solid contributor to the offense this past year.

     If he starts for Utah, Gordon Hayward can become Utah's No. 1 scoring option.

    All he needs is more touches. He only shot the ball four times a game, but made nearly half of his attempts.

    With a young core and a new coach, the Utah Jazz can get back into the playoffs, like they're used to.

8. Houston Rockets

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    Projected Lineup:

    PG - Kyle Lowry

    SG - Kevin Martin

    SF - Chase Budinger

    PF - Luis Scola

    C - Donatas Motiejunas 

    Beginning their first official season in the post-Yao era, the Rockets have a solid core of scorers that are only getting better.

    They traded Aaron Brooks, the former Most Improved Player, at the trade deadline to make way for Kyle Lowry, and he proved them why, averaging career highs in nearly every category.

    Kevin Martin looked like the solid scorer that the Rockets acquired in the T-Mac trade back at the 2010 trade deadline, scoring 23 points off 39 percent shooting from beyond the arc, 44 percent from the field, and 89 percent from the line.

    Despite the fact that he's 31, Luis Scola has only been in the league four years, and he's still improving, having averaged a career high 18 points per game this past season. His defensive tenacity only improves that of the overall team, and in the future, that will definitely pay off.

7. Golden State Warriors

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    Projected Lineup:

    PG - Stephen Curry

    SG - Monta Ellis/Klay Thompson

    SF - Dorell Wright

    PF - David Lee

    C - Ekpe Udoh

    As the years progress, Stephen Curry is only going to get better at both distributing and shooting the ball.

    There's no question that he's the star of the future, and management has to build around him.

    But its first priority must be what to do with Monta Ellis. He and Dwight Howard are the two players most rumored to be leaving their current homes. Golden State needs a clear go-to guy, and Ellis has been that guy this past season despite Curry's role on the team.

     Dorell Wright was a solid contributor this past year, scoring more points this past season than he did in his previous six combined.

     David Lee was a double-double machine, as usual, this past year, but he didn't look the complete All-Star that the Warriors paid $80 million for last year.

     With Curry, Lee, Wright, Thompson, and potentially Ellis leading the group for the next few years, Warriors fans definitely have something to be excited about.

6. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Projected Lineup:

    PG - Raymond Felton

    SG - Wes Matthews

    SF - Gerald Wallace

    PF - LaMarcus Aldridge

    C - Marcus Camby

    The trade for Gerald Wallace put them right back on track, as an up-and-coming team in the West. Their star player, Brandon Roy, was sidelined for almost half the season, and he will probably never be able to regain his All-Star form.

    That's where Gerald Wallace and LaMarcus Aldridge come in.

    "Crash" Wallace sure can crash the boards in addition to superb defensive and scoring abilities. He will be able to carry the scoring load lost from Brandon Roy.

    Aldridge, probably the biggest All-Star snub this past year, averaged career highs in every major statistical category. In addition, he shoots at 50 percent from the field and has developed a solid jumper.

    With a great distributor in Raymond Felton, scorers in Aldridge and Wes Matthews, and defenders in Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby, the Blazers have a great team with a good mix of veterans and players who haven't hit their prime.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Projected Lineup:

    PG - Kyrie Irving

    SG - Anthony Parker

    SF - Omri Casspi

    PF - Tristan Thompson

    C - Anderson Varejao

    With two top-five picks, the Cavs have all the pieces in hand to grow in the post-LeBron era.

    They have a definite leader in Kyrie Irving, who will be shoved into the starting lineup on the first day of training camp but will still have to earn minutes from veteran Baron Davis.

    Anderson Varejao missed significant time last year, and the 26-game losing streak probably wouldn't have happened if the frizzy-haired Brazilian was healthy.

    Tristan Thompson was a questionable pick, but there's no doubt he'll be able to be a quality player in the league for a long time, even if he's just a role player. To make room for him, the Cavs traded away J.J. Hickson (the guy who they refused to include in the Amare Stoudemire deal at the 2010 trade deadline. They definitely regret that one).

    Cleveland has a floor general who can shoot the ball as well in Irving in addition to 

    Improve upon last year by double-digit wins? Yes. Fulfill Dan Gilbert's prophecy that the Cavs will win a championship before LeBron? I think not.

4. Charlotte Bobcats

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    Projected Lineup:

    PG - Kemba Walker

    SG - Corey Maggette

    SF - Boris Diaw

    PF - Bismack Biyombo

    C - Kwame Brown

    The Charlotte Bobcats may have the Rookie of the Year on their roster.

    Kemba Walker was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament, after his UConn Huskies claimed the national title.

    After trading Emeka Okafor and Gerald Wallace in the past few years, Stephen Jackson was the only player on the roster who was capable of even being a role player on other teams.

    Corey Maggette is a flat-out scorer and can get to the line as easily as anybody. He had a subpar performance during his two-year tenure with the Golden State Warriors, but he just didn't look the same when he played for the Bucks.

    Scoring the least points per game in almost a decade, Maggette clearly needed a change of scenery. Although he may not be the go-to scorer on the team (due to Walker), he will be a solid second option.

    Bismack Biyombo, the big man out of Congo has drawn comparisons to busts Hasheem Thabeet and the guy who's right next to him in the starting lineup, Kwame Brown.

    While the Bobcats don't have a good interior defender, they should have no problem scoring in future seasons as Walker continues to grow. 

3. Indiana Pacers

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    Projected Lineup:

    PG - Darren Collison

    SG - Paul George

    SF - Danny Granger

    PF - Tyler Hansbrough

    C - Roy Hibbert

    It's finally the summer of 2011! Jeff Foster's $6.7 million is off the books. Mike Dunleavy's $10.6 million is off the books. The Pacers are no longer paying T.J. Ford $8.5 million.

    The Pacers lineup looks like a defensive machine on paper, and it's clear how Coach Frank Vogel, whose interim tag was recently removed, led this team to the playoffs for the first time in five years.

    As star Danny Granger enters his prime, he's begun to lost the offensive firepower that made him an All-Star and Most Improved Player back in 2009.

    That's where Paul George comes in.

    Although many fans outside of Indiana are oblivious to his existence, the guy is a consistent contributor and a big reason why the made the postseason this year.

    Darren Collison, Tyler Hansbrough, and Roy Hibbert will continue to grow and learn as players, even though they are already outstanding players in this league.

    As these three somewhat recent draftees mature in this league, watch out.

2. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Projected Lineup:

    PG - Jrue Holiday

    SG - Evan Turner

    SF - Andre Iguodala

    PF - Elton Brand

    C - Nikola Vucevic

    Like the Golden State Warriors and the Denver Nuggets for the first half of last season, the Philadelphia 76ers just seemed distracted by trade rumors.

    But that didn't stop them from making the playoffs, eventually winning just one game to the eventual Eastern Conference Champions, the Miami Heat.

    Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner continue to show promise, and both are still in their rookie contracts, with plenty of time to mature and grow into Doug Collins' system.

    In addition recent draftee Nikola Vucevic looks like he will be a solid role player in this league for a long time. There's no question that he'll be able to beat out Spencer Hawes and Marreese Speights for the starting spot.

    Andre Iguodala's production has declined, as he averages only a shade over 14 points every game. Nevertheless, he has improved on the defensive end, making the cut for the All-Defensive 2nd team this past year.

    Elton Brand, however, still makes us wonder why the Sixers threw $85 million a few summers ago.

    Fortunately, the Sixers have players like Thaddeus Young (who is a restricted free agent) that assure us that they have a promising future.

1. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Projected Lineup:

    PG - Mike Conley

    SG - Tony Allen

    SF - Rudy Gay

    PF - Zach Randolph

    C - Marc Gasol

    Just the second eighth-seed in NBA history since the league switched to the current seven-game format to upset the first seed.

    The normally empty FedEx Forum erupted during the three games that the Grizzlies played the Spurs at home.

    That's just the kind of fan support you need for a budding contender in the west.

    What's even greater about Memphis is the fact that they did it all without their star player, Rudy Gay.

    Zach Randolph really blossomed, finding his first stable home since Portland back in 2007. Before the playoffs started, he was given a $71 million extension to continue being a leader on the court, but as the new season rolls around (whenever it will), Rudy Gay may take that post away from him.

    This year, Marc Gasol proved that he's famous for more than just rebounding and being Pau's little brother. He was a monster in the paint on both ends of the floor and is a huge reason why they upset the Spurs and almost made the Western Conference Finals.

    Tony Allen, the defensive glue guy brought in from the Celtics to do just that, was the anchor for the Grizz on that side of the ball. He and Shane Battier are two of the most underrated defenders in the league, sticking to Manu Ginobili and Kevin Durant during the postseason.

    A season like this makes us expect huge things from Memphis, but there's no doubt they'll be able to fulfill those expectations. With a young core full of players who are yet to hit their prime, this Grizzlies team looks like the second coming of the Thunder and are really going to make some noise in the Western Conference over the next few years.