San Antonio Spurs and 4 Playoff Teams That Are Falling Behind

Bradlee Ross@rossbeCorrespondent IIJuly 16, 2012

San Antonio Spurs and 4 Playoff Teams That Are Falling Behind

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    Some teams have made some very big moves thus far in the 2012 NBA free-agency period. However, what is even more interesting are the playoff teams that are falling behind.

    The San Antonio Spurs are one such team. They aren’t alone though, as there are many teams who either did not make the necessary moves or tried and failed to make such moves. Some couldn’t make the moves due to payroll obligations they made in past bad contracts.

    The offseason has the potential to drastically change the NBA landscape, and it has done that for these teams. Despite that fact, they still have no one to blame but themselves.

San Antonio Spurs

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    I’m not saying the Spurs will not be contenders again next season, but they certainly haven’t gained anything in this offseason.

    Their core of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan is a year older. It helps that their young group is a year older, but it is pretty obvious that that young group is devoid of star power, which is necessary to compete for the long term.

    The Los Angeles Lakers nabbed Steve Nash. The Oklahoma City Thunder already beat the Spurs in the playoffs and just gained NBA Finals experience. The Los Angeles Clippers are just as good and maybe better with the additions of Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom and a healthy Chauncey Billups.

    You could say that the only team the Spurs have to worry about is the Thunder. You could make a small argument that the Lakers are tied or right ahead of them, but that the Spurs are still at the top of the West.

    The problem is that the Lakers and Oklahoma City have gotten better, while they stood pat.

Dallas Mavericks

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    This Dallas team will be remembered as an example of just how far a team can fall after a championship run. Last year’s team was decent, although nowhere near the squad that had won the championship before.

    Now, the Mavericks are a completely different team. Jason Kidd has gone to New York and been replaced with Darren Collison. New additions Chris Kaman and Elton Brand are both talented veterans, but even with Dirk Nowitzki, this team has no shot at winning a title.

    This team got swept by Oklahoma City last season in the playoffs, and next year’s incarnation of it looks like it is even worse. Because it has a good coach in Rick Carlisle, this team may still make the playoffs, but it will be another No. 7 or No. 8 seed. The bad part is that all these new players will be on just one-year contracts, and there’s a good chance they’ll be gone after 2013.

    Sorry, Mavericks fans, but unless you hit the jackpot with next year’s offseason free-agent class, you will not be championship contenders again for a long time.

Chicago Bulls

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    One can’t really blame the Chicago Bulls for falling behind in this offseason, mainly because Derrick Rose’s injury is the biggest ingredient of their fall. However, the potential loss of Omer Asik, the necessary trade of Kyle Korver and the continued lack of a secondary scorer are also contributing problems.

    This team is a complete one, so I don’t blame them for not adding any big pieces. They really didn’t have much that they could do to avoid being left behind by some of the other teams.

    And make no mistake: This Bulls team will still be extremely competitive at the top of the Eastern Conference once it gets Rose back. However, until then, this team will probably hover in the No. 5 to No. 9 range of the playoff picture.

    This Bulls team isn’t gone forever, but next season will definitely be an uphill climb with Rose. The Nets, Heat and Celtics have all gotten better, while the Bulls will be much worse at the start of the year without Rose. Even when he returns, I don't expect a vast improvement.

    I can’t help but wonder if they'd be better off had they not overpaid for Carlos Boozer a few years back. Hindsight is 20-20 though, and few would have predicted that Boozer would have been as lackluster as he now is.

    As I said before, I can’t blame them, but it is the truth. Luckily for them, they have one of the NBA’s best coaches in Tom Thibodeau. He could be their only hope.

Atlanta Hawks

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    Giving up Joe Johnson has been hailed as a great move by almost everyone, and Atlanta GM Danny Ferry has done a good job of getting rid of a ton of payroll fat. However, the truth is that the trade does make the Hawks worse for next year.

    I know that the plan is to save for next offseason and get a star free agent, but the 2012-13 version of the Hawks has fallen even farther behind the “big boys” of the Eastern Conference than they already were.

    As currently constructed, this team will be behind the Heat, Nets, Celtics, Pacers and probably even the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls—not a big surprise, as that's where they stood last season. However, teams they were better than last year—Cleveland, Toronto and Milwaukee—are potential threats to this Hawks team making the playoffs at all.

    Like I stated earlier, I get that this is a payroll move to prepare for the 2013 offseason, but don’t forget that the Dallas Mavericks did the same for this offseason, and it blew up in their faces. The Hawks could be that team next season.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    This team was one of the most bipolar in all of sports last season. After a great start to the season, this Philadelphia team barely squeaked into the playoffs with the No. 8 seed in the East.

    Then, they beat the Chicago Bulls with massive help from injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. After that, they used their athleticism to hang with the Boston Celtics for seven games before bowing out.

    That might make you want to believe that this team is poised to be better next season, but it isn’t true. They amnestied Elton Brand (a good move) and lost Louis Williams to Atlanta in free agency. They added Nick Young, probably hoping that he’ll fill Williams’ role, and Kwame Brown, for the same desperate reason anyone adds Brown.

    This team is not better than last year, and it could be much worse. Last season, this team played so poorly in stretches that it could have very easily missed the playoffs altogether. Toronto, Cleveland and Milwaukee have improved in the offseason, and that should worry Sixers fans.