Final Report Card Grades for Every NBA Lottery Team, End of Season Edition

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterApril 18, 2013

Final Report Card Grades for Every NBA Lottery Team, End of Season Edition

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    Usually, we do report-card grades for all 30 NBA teams. But, seeing as how we'll be spending the next two months or so focusing solely on the 16 playoff-bound squads, why not take some time to look at those who will be starting their offseason regimens (and embarking on their summer vacations) earlier than the rest?

    Not that we're trying to reward teams for failure or anything. The NBA draft lottery should prove perk enough for those without tickets to pro basketball's Big Dance, even though this year's incoming class is considered by many to be the worst in recent memory.

    It certainly won't take long to forget about the likes of the Charlotte Bobcats, the Orlando Magic and the Phoenix Suns, but before we do, let's hand out some (rather poor) marks to those for whom losing became a way of life.

    Efficiency ratings courtesy of ESPN's John Hollinger.

Orlando Magic

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    Record: 20-62 (.244)

    Offensive Efficiency: 98.9 (27th)

    Defensive Efficiency: 106.7 (25th)

    Everyone and their mother expected the Orlando Magic to stink this season, and they certainly delivered.

    Of course, bad basketball was a big part of the plan all along for first-year general manager Rob Hennigan.

    He stripped his roster infomercial-style, with not one, not two but three trades, wherein the best player in the deal was outbound from Orlando. He shipped Ryan Anderson to the New Orleans Hornets, jettisoned Dwight Howard in a four-team blockbuster, and sent JJ Redick free to the Milwaukee Bucks at the 2013 deadline.

    Not that Orlando came away empty-handed. If anything, those moves helped the Magic to reshuffle the deck and establish a new talent base from which to operate, with the likes of Arron Afflalo (because he's the one to follow), Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, and Tobias Harris at the core.

    Yes, the Magic stunk, but they stunk by design, which, at the very least, prevents them from stumbling away with a failing grade this season. 

    Final Grade: C-

Charlotte Bobcats

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    Record: 21-61 (.256)

    Offensive Efficiency: 98.3 (28th)

    Defensive Efficiency: 108.9 (30th)

    Nobody expected the Charlotte Bobcats to be any good, either, though their stay at the bottom of the food chain remains a disappointment nonetheless. Sure, a 21-61 record is a noteworthy improvement over last season's 7-59 debacle, which probably would've been much worse if not for the "mercy" of the lockout-shortened schedule.

    But, even after hiring a new coach, bringing in some talented players (Ramon Sessions via free agency, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist via the draft) and watching others (Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson) develop into competent pros, the 'Cats couldn't keep themselves from finishing among the bottom three in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

    Maybe they'll get "lucky" in the lottery this time around, land the No. 1 pick and draft Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel...who tore his ACL two months ago.

    It does, indeed, get better—just not for the Bobcats.

    Final Grade: F

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Record: 24-58 (.293)

    Offensive Efficiency: 100.8 (23rd)

    Defensive Efficiency: 106.9 (27th)

    There isn't much to get excited about in Cleveland these days if the city's "tourism videos" are any indication. And, after another dismal record put forth by the Cleveland Cavaliers, you'd think pro basketball in the city was drowning in the toxic river right along with the fishes.

    But, so long as Kyrie Irving's around (and healthy enough to play), there will always be at least one reason for fans to flock to Quicken Loans Arena.

    The development of Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters into solid rotation players next to the Cavs' All-Star should cause for some excitement as well, and if general manager Chris Grant can mind a decent prospect out of this year's draft lottery, Cleveland might have truly watchable basketball again in short order.

    And if the Cavs can lure LeBron James back to Cleveland (especially now that Byron Scott's out the door per ESPN), all the better.

    Final Grade: D

Phoenix Suns

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    Record: 25-57 (.305)

    Offensive Efficiency: 98.2 (29th)

    Defensive Efficiency: 105.7 (24th)

    It's still unclear what the Phoenix Suns were trying to do this season or what their plan is going forward. They threw money after Eric Gordon (unsuccessfully), lined the pockets of Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson and reportedly went hard after Josh Smith at the trade deadline.

    And for what? To finish better than dead last in the Western Conference, which the Suns did anyway? To drum up interest amongst a fanbase that saw Steve Nash leave to join the arch-rival Los Angeles Lakers over the summer?

    Goran Dragic and Luis Scola both proved solid buys for this club, and Phoenix remains an attractive destination for NBA free agents, but the sooner the Suns consider a full-scale rebuild over an ill-fated redux, the sooner they'll have an actual contender up and running in the Valley of the Sun again.

    Final Grade: F

New Orleans Hornets

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    Record: 27-55 (.329)

    Offensive Efficiency: 102.7 (T-15th)

    Defensive Efficiency: 107.6 (28th)

    It would be quite the surprise if the New Orleans Hornets finished on or near the fringes of the Western Conference playoff picture in 2014.

    Not because they don't have the talent to do so. A core of Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Greivis Vasquez and Ryan Anderson (when healthy) makes for a formidable starting point, albeit with some significant shortcomings on the defensive end.

    Rather, the Hornets' absence from the 2014 postseason is a matter of semantics. After all, they'll be the Pelicans starting next season.

    It's only a matter of time, then, until Michael Jordan ditches the "Bobcats" nickname and returns the Hornets to Charlotte, where they belong.

    Final Grade: C-

Sacramento Kings

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    Record: 28-54 (.341)

    Offensive Efficiency: 103.0 (13th)

    Defensive Efficiency: 108.6 (29th)

    The same could go for the Sacramento Kings, whose future in California's capital remains in limbo and might not be decided until May.

    Whether the off-court tussle over the team between Sacramento and Seattle has had any effect on the on-court product is unclear, though. In any case, the team's been mostly miserable all year. There's plenty of individual talent on the Kings roster between DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton.

    But, as a group, their play has been nothing short of miserable. A lack of discipline and teamwork on both ends has yielded a defense that gives up more points per 100 possessions than anyone's outside of that of the Bobcats'.

    The Kings have an offense that, while surprisingly competent overall (13th in efficiency), is prone to long scoreless stretches on account of the individualistic, ball-stopping preferences of the players employed therein.

    Throw in Boogie's (Cousin's) penchant for technical fouls (16) and ejections (four), and you've got yourself something of a $&%# sandwich to be sold to the highest bidder. 

    Final Grade: D

Washington Wizards

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    Record: 29-53 (.354)

    Offensive Efficiency: 97.8 (30th)

    Defensive Efficiency: 100.6 (Eighth)

    The Washington Wizards have flamed out a bit since their hot start to John Wall's return, as has Wall himself. They lost six in a row at season's end to fall firmly out of the mix for ninth place in the Eastern Conference—whatever that's worth.

    But if John Wall can stay healthy over the summer, if he can maintain (if not improve) his newly accurate jumper, if his backcourt partnership with Bradley Beal continues to blossom and if the Wizards can continue to defend at a top-10 clip, then we might see playoff basketball in Washington in short order.

    Those are quite a few "ifs" though, and big ones at that. Still, don't be surprised if John Wall carries his current momentum into 2013-14, plays in his first All-Star Game and leads the Wiz to their first postseason appearance since 2008.

    Final Grade: C

Detroit Pistons

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    Record: 29-53 (.354)

    Offensive Efficiency: 100.9 (T-21st)

    Defensive Efficiency: 105.6 (23rd)

    The Detroit Pistons have developed a strange habit of finishing otherwise awful seasons in relatively strong fashion. They won four of their last six in 2009-10, four out of their last five in 2010-11, two out of their last three in 2011-12 and now four out of five to close out 2012-13.

    One of these days, the Pistons will start and play through a full campaign as well as they end one.

    Until they do, the onus will be on general manager Joe Dumars to surround the core of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight with solid, responsibly priced talent, and on whoever replaces Lawrence Frank as the team's next head coach (after SportsCenter tweeted he was fired) to turn those ingredients into a winning product on the floor.

    Final Grade: D

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Record: 31-51 (.378)

    Offensive Efficiency: 100.1 (25th)

    Defensive Efficiency: 102.9 (14th)

    The injury bug did its darndest to postpone the Minnesota Timberwolves' long-awaited return to the playoffs for another year.

    Nearly every player of consequence on the roster has suffered a significant injury of some sort, with Ricky Rubio's surgically repaired ACL and Kevin Love's busted hand standing out from the crowd. In fact, Luke Ridnour was the only T-Wolves player to feature in all 82 games this season.

    A healthy pairing of Rubio and Love should be a solid-enough foundation upon which to build a postseason bid in 2014. However, uncertainty regarding head coach Rick Adelman's potential retirement, Nikola Pekovic's restricted free agency and Andrei Kirilenko's ability to opt out of his current contract could derail Minny's plans all too soon.

    Final Grade: C-

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Record: 33-49 (.402)

    Offensive Efficiency: 102.7 (t-15th)

    Defensive Efficiency: 106.9 (26th)

    No team ever wants to finish a season by losing 13 games in a row, but in the case of the Portland Trail Blazers, that skid is neither entirely surprising nor enough to render the rest of the campaign a lost cause—not completely, anyway.

    The Blazers were bound to burn out at some point, even when they were still clinging to a playoff spot back in January. Their bench was (and still is) the worst in the NBA, and though their starting five was solid, the threat of injury lingered over the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews.

    Those fears were brought home to roost in recent weeks, leaving Rip City to, at times, start as many as four rookies. Luckily, one of those happens to be Damian Lillard, whose productive play has not only made him the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year honors, but also lent new hope to the future for forlorn hoops fans in Portland. 

    Final Grade: C+

Toronto Raptors

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    Record: 34-48 (.415)

    Offensive Efficiency: 102.9 (14th)

    Defensive Efficiency: 104.7 (22nd)

    The Toronto Raptors now have the pieces in place to return to the postseason, albeit as a fringe participant. They have a go-to scorer on the wing (Rudy Gay), another wing scorer (DeMar DeRozan), another young wing (Terrence Ross), an overpaid wing (Landry Fields)...

    You get the idea. The Raptors have more wings than the landing strip at your local airport. Whether Toronto takes off next season will likely depend on the performance of its biggest and smallest players.

    Kyle Lowry didn't exactly set the world ablaze before or after Jose Calderon was traded away, though injuries certainly didn't help. Jonas Valanciunas showed plenty of promise, but only after head coach Dwane Casey loosened the reins following the team's rapid descent back into mediocrity during the second half of the season.

    The future of the franchise likely hinges on how Lowry and Valanciunas fare in the years to come. And if general manager Bryan Colangelo can find a way to weasel out of Andrea Bargnani's onerous contract, all the better.

    Final Grade: C-

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Record: 34-48 (.415)

    Offensive Efficiency: 99.5 (26th)

    Defensive Efficiency: 103.0 (15th)

    Goodbye and good riddance to the 2012-13 season for the Philadelphia 76ers.

    What once had the makings of a promising season with Jrue Holiday making his first All-Star Game and Andrew Bynum potentially offering a legitimate post presence, quickly dissolved into an amorphous puddle of disappointment.

    Bynum's bowling-blown knees never healed in time, Holiday wore down from trying to carry his teammates hopelessly to defeat every night and Doug Collins (predictably enough) wore out both the ears of his players and his welcome in the City of Brotherly Love.

    As a result, Collins is out as coach (though ESPN reports he'll stay on as an adviser...whatever that means), and Bynum may well be gone as a free agent, off to another city where his poor health, even poorer attitude and poorest of all tonsorial tastes will undoubtedly frustrate another fanbase to no end.

    But not all is lost in Philly. Jrue still has a promising future, as does Thaddeus Young. The Sixers will also have the option of taking a wait-and-see approach to paying Evan Turner, who will be eligible for a "rookie extension" this fall.

    Better times are ahead for the Sixers. When those times arrive, though, remains a mystery. 

    Final Grade: D

Dallas Mavericks

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    Record: 41-41 (.500)

    Offensive Efficiency: 103.6 (11th)

    Defensive Efficiency: 104.0 (20th)

    It was only a matter of time before the Dallas Mavericks found themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in for good.

    They snuck in last year as the seventh seed after bidding adieu to a number of key free agents (most notably Tyson Chandler) and attempted to live on borrowed time this season when they reloaded with a smorgasbord of short-term contracts.

    Of course, the Mavs may well have defied the pull of the NBA draft lottery if Dirk Nowitzki hadn't missed a huge chunk of the campaign while recovering from knee surgery and if they'd found a competent starting point guard much sooner, if not from Day 1.

    But neither was the case, and so Dallas will go unseen in the postseason for the first time since 2000. At the very least, though, the Mavs finished with a respectable .500 record, which freed them to shave off all those hideous beards they'd grown out of solidarity over the course of the season. 

    Final Grade: B-

Utah Jazz

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    Record: 43-39 (.524)

    Offensive Efficiency: 103.6 (T-11th)

    Defensive Efficiency: 104.3 (21st)

    Good job, good effort, Utah Jazz. You had a playoff spot, then you stumbled through much of March to fall out of the picture then you won nine of your last 12 to close out the season.

    But it wasn't enough. Your guard play left much to be desired, your defense was lacking (to say the least) and head coach Ty Corbin had about as much success solving the mystery of your front-court rotation as an eight-year-old would with a Rubik's cube.

    It's only fitting, then, that you mustered all of 70 points in a must-win game. Hopefully, your front office, led by general manager Dennis Lindsey, will make smart moves this summer to shore up your backcourt and choose wisely in determining which bigs to retain and which to jettison between Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.

    Otherwise, it could be another long while before the Jazz come anywhere near rekindling the winning ways of the Deron Williams-Carlos Boozer duo, much less the franchise-defining fun of John Stockton and Karl Malone.

    Final Grade: B-