NBA Predictions: 2011 Lottery Teams That Could Make the Playoffs in 2012

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2011

NBA Predictions: 2011 Lottery Teams That Could Make the Playoffs in 2012

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 04:  #8 Deron Williams of the Netslooks on from the bench during the NBA match between New Jersey Nets and the Toronto Raptors at the O2 Arena on March 4, 2011 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agree
    Warren Little/Getty Images

    The season is already over for several teams in the NBA and likely over for a few others. That doesn't mean those teams don't have reason to be happy.

    Several of those teams have a very legitimate chance to make the NBA's Big Dance next year.

    Several of them are young and already showing signs of promise for next year. Some are one or two pieces away from contending for the playoffs.

    This slideshow ranks the lottery teams that are most likely to make the playoffs next year...

10: Toronto Raptors

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 04:  James Johnson #0 of the Raptors fends off Travis Outlaw #21 of the Nets during the NBA match between New Jersey Nets and the Toronto Raptors at the O2 Arena on March 4, 2011 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ack
    Warren Little/Getty Images

    Core: DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani

    What They Need To Add: Defensive-Minded Center

    The Raptors are probably still a couple years away, but they do have an outside shot at next year's playoffs.

    DeRozan and Bargnani are both fantastic scorers, but the team needs a lot of work on defense. 

    That's where James Johnson comes in. He's been one of the most underrated deadline acquisitions. If you saw his defense against Kevin Durant last night, you know why.

    They could use a defensive-minded center because Bargnani is definitely more of a stretch power forward like Dirk Nowitzki.

    With that in place, they'd have a solid young roster that could compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference where a team with a losing record often snags the eighth seed.

9: Phoenix Suns

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    PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 30:  Marcin Gortat #4 of the Phoenix Suns slam dunks the ball against the New Orleans Hornets during the NBA game at US Airways Center on January 30, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Hornets 104-102. NOTE TO USER: Use
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Core: Aaron Brooks, Marcin Gortat

    What They Need To Add: Young Wing

    The Suns are actually sliding out of the playoff picture for next year.  However, if they keep Steve Nash, they'll at least have a chance.

    The thing is, there is a good chance Nash will be dealt this offseason. 

    If that happens, they'll begin rebuilding around Aaron Brooks and Marcin Gortat—that doesn't sound like a formula for a playoff berth to me.

8: Utah Jazz

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 29:  Gordon Hayward #20 of the Utah Jazz shoots against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on December 29, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.   The Jazz won 103-85.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees tha
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Core: Who Knows?

    What They Need To Add: Can Upgrade Anything but Power Forward

    The Jazz are a mess right now.  In the last several weeks, they've lost one of the best coaches in basketball history and traded away the best player on the team.

    Now, they have a combo guard trying to fill the shoes of one of the best distributors in the league, two power forwards playing in the frontcourt and a pretty big void where wings should be.

    Even with all that chaos, the Jazz still have a great deal of tradition and could be back in the playoffs as early as next year.

7: Charlotte Bobcats

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 02:  D.J. Augustin #14 of the Charlotte Bobcats takes a free throw against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on March 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Bobcats 120-80.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Core: D.J. Augustin, Tyrus Thomas

    What They Need To Add: Young Wing or a Center

    Like the Raptors, the Bobcats' chances of making the playoffs next year are largely connected to the fact that they play in the Eastern Conference.

    The team was not performing well with Larry Brown's hard-nosed, old-school style, so they let him go.  They've been better with Paul Silas.

    An entire season with this system could lead them to the eighth seed in 2012.

6: Washington Wizards

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    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05:  John Wall#2 of the Washington Wizards against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Verizon Center on March 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Phot
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Core: John Wall, Nick Young

    What They Need To Add: Post Threat

    The Wizards have a lot they can improve on, but they also have one of the most exciting young backcourts in the NBA.

    They could be as difficult to guard as any duo in the league in a couple years. 

    Every once in a while, a team develops faster than they're expected to. If that happens with the Wizards, they could sneak in next year.

5: Milwaukee Bucks

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    ATLANTA - MAY 2:  Guard Brandon Jennings #3 of the Milwaukee Bucks dribbles with the ball during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on May 2, 2
    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    Core: Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut

    What They Need To Add: Power Forward or Small Forward

    The Bucks have definitely been one of the most disappointing teams in the league this year. 

    Many thought they could rise to fourth or fifth in the East this year, but they find themselves on the outside looking in.

    Brandon Jennings needs to do a lot of work on his jump shot and ability to take care of the ball this offseason.  His inconsistency is a big part of their shortcomings.

    If they can find a consistent scoring forward to play between Jennings and Bogut, they'd have a much better shot at the playoffs.

4: Houston Rockets

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    HOUSTON - DECEMBER 29: Chase Budinger #10 of the Houston Rockets drives the basket over Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat in the second half at Toyota Center on December 29, 2010 in Houston, Texas. Miami won 125-119. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Core: Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin

    What They Need To Add: A Replacement for Yao

    Outside of a legitimate center, the Rockets seemingly have everything they need on their roster.

    Lowry, Martin, Chase Budinger and Luis Scola are all solid starters.  And while Chuck Hayes has been decent this year, a 6'6" center simply isn't going to cut it in the NBA.

    They're already competing for a playoff spot this year.  So if they add a legitimate replacement for Yao this offseason, their chances for next year are great.

3: Golden State Warriors

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    OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 21:  Monta Ellis #8 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after the Warriors made a basket during their game against the Sacramento Kings at Oracle Arena on January 21, 2011 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowle
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Core: Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry

    What They Need To Add: Center

    Playoff team or not, the Warriors have one of the most talented young cores in the NBA.

    Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry are two of the most explosive scorers and underrated passers in the league. Plus, Dorell Wright has proven that he can put up big numbers as well.

    Obviously, what they need to improve is defense. In fact, they're one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

    They tried to fix that by hiring a defensive-minded coach like Keith Smart this year, but several reports have him getting fired this offseason.

    If they find a coach that everyone can get behind, they could make some noise next year.

2: Los Angeles Clippers

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    BOSTON, MA - MARCH 09:  DeAndre Jordan #9 and Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers celebrate in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics on March 9, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Boston
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    Core: Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon

    What They Need To Add: Small Forward

    The Clippers are set at every position but small forward right now. Al-Farouq Aminu has a little bit of potential, but even after a season in the pros, he looks pretty raw.

    They can definitely upgrade at the position and may be able to do so by trading former All-Star center Chris Kaman. DeAndre Jordan can step in and start in that role next year.

    Even with their current incomplete roster, they've shown flashes of what they can become.  They were 9-5 in January and are 6-4 so far this month.

1: New Jersey Nets

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    BOSTON - NOVEMBER 24:  Kris Humphries #43 of the New Jersey Nets takes a shot in the second half against the Boston Celtics on November 24, 2010 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the nets 89-83. NOTE TO USER: User expressly a
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Core: Deron Williams, Brook Lopez

    What They Need To Add: Scoring Wing

    The Nets might be a lock for next year's playoffs already.  And if Deron Williams hadn't gone down with a wrist injury, they had an outside shot at the eighth seed this year.

    Brook Lopez looks much more motivated and Kris Humphries is finally getting to show off just how effective he can be since the departure of Derrick Favors (who had no business starting over Humphries in the first place).

    Williams is averaging 15 points and 13 assists a game with this team.  Lopez is averaging 24 points and eight rebounds since the All-Star break and Humphries is averaging 15 points and 15 rebounds over the same stretch.

    Anthony Morrow is a solid scorer at the shooting guard position, but the team still needs one more option for Williams to pass to.

    They have a hole at small forward and should fill that in the offseason. 

    If they make the playoffs next year, the chances of Deron Williams re-signing will go up tenfold.


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