NBA AM: Teams Stuck In The Basement
The dog days of the regular season are in the rearview mirror and playoff time is rapidly approaching. While teams such as Miami, San Antonio, Denver, Oklahoma City, Boston and Atlanta have made the postseason their extended home in recent years, there are some franchises which appear to be stuck in the league’s cellar in the midst of massive rebuilding projects.
Here is a look at some of the teams currently in the midst of long term rebuilding projects where the losses continue to mount at a high level … note teams such as Orlando (Dwight Howard) and Phoenix (Steve Nash) have not been included since this is the first season without their former franchise guys.
Last Playoff Appearance: 2010
Record Since Last Playoff Appearance: 55-157 (.259)
Number of Former Lottery Picks Age 26 or Younger: Five (Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Tyrus Thomas)
Hard to believe Charlotte made their first playoff trip in franchise history just three seasons ago, but the team is in the thick of a long term rebuilding project. The roster boasts five former lottery picks under the age of 26, but the group hasn’t been able to put it together and produce wins as a collective unit.
Charlotte has compiled the worst record in the league this season (14-50) and will once again be in possession of a high first round pick in the draft. The team will also have plenty of cap room this summer with just $40 million in guaranteed money on the books next season. Disgruntled veteran guard Ben Gordon has a player option for next season worth $13 million and if he decides to opt out the franchise will have even more room to be creative in free agency and pursuing trades.
Last Playoff Appearance: 2004
Record Since Last Playoff Appearance: 191-429 (.308)
Number of Former Lottery Picks Age 26 or Younger: Three (Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams)
Bigger things were expected out of this year’s T’Wolves roster, but a plethora of injuries derailed any chance of significant progress. Forward Kevin Love has become an All-Star and won an Olympic gold medal during his tenure in Minnesota but has not been able to lead his team to a postseason appearance unlike his Team USA peers.
The T’Wolves will have cap room this summer to be active in free agency with just under $38 million in guaranteed salaries for next season.
Last Playoff Appearance: 2006
Record Since Last Playoff Appearance: 170-360 (.323)
Number of Former Lottery Picks Age 26 or Younger: Six (Cole Aldrich, DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Patrick Patterson, Jimmer Fredette and Jason Thompson)
The franchise has been led by five different head coaches since the Kings’ last postseason appearance. The franchise has six former lottery picks under the age of 26, but the losses continue to mount. On a positive note the team is on pace to finish the season with their best win percentage since the 2008 campaign. But despite some of the on court improvement, the club is still 20 games below .500 and appears to be multiple seasons away from seriously competing for a playoff berth.
The team will have cap room this summer to be active on the free agency front, but with an unsteady ownership situation and a possible relocation the market for obtaining a marquee free agent will in all likelihood by dry.
Last Playoff Appearance: 2008
Record Since Last Playoff Appearance: 109-266 (.290)
Number of Former Lottery Picks Age 26 or Younger: Four (John Wall, Jan Vesely, Martell Webster and Bradley Beal)
In an effort to surround point guard John Wall with more mature talent the Wizards acquired veterans Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza in an effort to jumpstart the winning in Washington. But an early season injury to Wall took the Wizards out of the hunt early on. However, it’s still relatively obvious that even at full strength Washington isn’t quite playoff ready.
The team will be right at the cap this summer which will put them out of the free agent market unless Okafor ($14 million) decides to opt out in pursuit of a multi-year deal.
Last Playoff Appearance: 2009
Record Since Last Playoff Appearance: 105-192 (.353)
Number of Former Lottery Picks Age 26 or Younger: Three (Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight)
The Pistons caused waves during the summer of 2009, coming off a playoff appearance, by using their salary cap space to sign Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Those risks didn’t pan out and as a result the team has been mired in losing campaigns since. On the positive side, Detroit appears poised for a strong future especially if Drummond and Monroe learn how to play with each other in the frontcourt. The team has also created financial flexibility in their recent personnel moves and will enter the summer with just $21 million of salary on the books for next season.
Last Playoff Appearance: 2010
Record Since Last Playoff Appearance: 62-150 (.292)
Number of Former Lottery Picks Age 26 or Younger: Three (Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters)
This definitely wasn’t the job head coach Byron Scott signed up for initially, but there are signs of progress in Cleveland since the arrival of All-Star guard Kyrie Irving. This is the third season post LeBron James for the franchise and the club has yet to sniff .500. The foundation is being carved but it will still take another season or two for the team to reach the playoffs.
Last Playoff Appearance: 2008
Record Since Last Playoff Appearance: 143-234 (.379)
Number of Former Lottery Picks Age 26 or Younger: Four (Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas)
Toronto is definitely stockpiling solid talent and changing the culture. The arrival of Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay has provided the club with immediate returns on the court and will help the development of Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan off of it as well. There are plenty of positives for the team to mention in a long term sense, but the fact remains another sub .500 season has the fans restless in Toronto.
Are the Los Angeles Clippers For Real?
The Los Angeles Clippers have been an intriguing story throughout the season. The team is consistently featured on nightly highlight reels because of their flashy play but has also endured notable hot and cold streaks in the win/loss column.
As it stands today the Clippers hold the fourth spot in the Western Conference standings, which is one game ahead of the fifth place Denver Nuggets and just a half game behind the third place Memphis Grizzlies.
Despite the success, All-Star guard Chris Paul feels the team could be playing much better as a collective unit as we approach the postseason and it starts on the defensive side of the floor.
“I like to think it’s possible to be a better team,” Paul told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve got to get better defensively. Every night they [opponents] pretty much know what we’re going to do. We know what other teams are going to do. We’ve just got to get better, communicate, and be a little more aggressive on both ends.”
All-Star forward Blake Griffin echoed Paul’s comments about the need to play better defensively in order to maximize the team’s potential.
“When early on we were winning games and had that streak and even before that, the way we played defensively was aggressive,” Griffin said. “We messed up at times, our rotations weren’t great at times, but I thought for the most part, we did a great job of forcing teams to figure out … our defense.”
The Clippers (45-21) are just 8-15 on the season when an opponent scores over 100 points and haven’t shown the ability to get defensive stops in order to come back and win late in games. The team is 5-18 when trailing after the third quarter.