NBA AM: Who Is Playing For A Draft Pick?
Playing For Last Place?: Most of the NBA opens training camp today with their annual media day, a day in which optimism overflows and every team believes they have a shot at contending. The truth is while a number of teams are radically better than they were a year ago, there are a few teams that despite their optimism today aren’t playing for the postseason as much as they are playing for their draft status in June.
The 2013 NBA Draft isn’t much to marvel at so do not be surprised if the outright tanking you tend to see when a team’s season comes out from under them doesn’t take place this season, but here are some realities about where certain teams stack up, leaving some teams destined to be in the draft lottery more so than the playoffs.
Charlotte Bobcats: The Charlotte Bobcats should be a better team than last season’s 7-59 squad, but there is a harsh truth to being as bad as the Bobcats were. They will likely be bad for a bit longer despite a solid coaching hire in Mike Dunlap, who is an excellent teacher and task master. The Bobcats added a nice draft pick in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and they moved out a lot of the guys that were part of the losing culture a season ago, but the truth is even in the Eastern Conference the Bobcats don’t have enough fire power and talent to truly compete for more than the eighth seed and landing another top-tier draft pick, even in this draft class, might do the franchise more long-term good than a walk through the playoffs and a sweep at the hands of the Miami HEAT or Boston Celtics.
Orlando Magic: The Orlando Magic are appreciably better than anyone is giving them credit for, however it’s obvious that Orlando will be a team making trades before the February 21st trade deadline if only to offload contracts and prepare for a massive rebuild. The Dwight Howard to L.A. trade did yield some NBA-ready players, which means new Magic coach Jacque Vaughn will have some veteran leadership to lean on as he adjusts to running a NBA team. There is no getting around the idea that Orlando will at some point this season turn to their young guys and shift into development mode which means losing games. The Magic profess that they are not tanking the season for a draft pick, and given the lack of impact star power projected in the 2013 draft class, the Magic might be better served letting their young guys experience a little winning early in the season rather than risk introducing a losing mentality into their locker room. It’s hard to imagine the Magic being a playoff contender, meaning the NBA draft is what the Magic season will be about. It may not start out that way, but there is a reality to where the Magic find themselves and replacing their franchise star is a harsh reality as they open the season this week.
New Orleans Hornets: The Hornets got their franchise guy in Anthony Davis in the 2012 NBA Draft and they may have gotten another franchise-type talent in Austin Rivers as well. Eric Gordon is the best player on the team when healthy, so the Hornets will be significantly better than they were a year ago. Predicting how this squad will come together isn’t easy. On the optimistic side they could contend for the eighth seed in the West, they have that kind of talent, but like some of the other teams on this list, there is a reality that jumping from the basement to the playoffs tends to take time, meaning the Hornets might get one more trip through the draft before they can start seriously thinking postseason. The Utah Jazz won 54.5 percent of their games a season ago to get the eighth seed in the West. To match that mark, the Hornets would have to win 44 games this season to sniff at the eighth seed. They will be better than their 21 wins a season ago, but pegging this team at 44 or more wins is a stretch, meaning as much as things have improved in New Orleans, there might be one more lottery trip in their future.
Houston Rockets: The Houston Rockets historically have resisted the idea of losing games for a draft pick, which is why they always tend to draft in the teens and never make radical roster improvements from the draft. This year might be a little different. The Rockets went all in on the idea of trading for a superstar this offseason and came up short. Now, the roster is comprised of a lot of second-tier guys or second-year players. There is no doubting the quality or quantity of pieces the Rockets have on the roster, however they lack anything close to a star-level player outside of say Kevin Martin and he has been so injury plagued over the last few years that it’s hard to count him as a factor. Unless the Rockets trigger a major mid-season trade or unless one of their young guys emerges as a bona fide star, the Rocket may not have enough to compete in the West, meaning they are looking at another lottery season. The difference this year is they don’t look nearly as good as some of their previous seasons, where they were a game or two out of the playoffs. This might actually be the year in which Houston is bad enough to get a quality draft pick, but the problem is there may not be that franchise-changing talent there for them if they land a top pick.
Media days open today around the NBA, so look for lots of optimism from teams, because every teams starts at 0-0 today. The question is which teams start to make gains early? Those teams tend to be the ones that rise to the top at the end of the season.
The Myth Of The Comeback: ESPN’s Matt Wong did a great piece on former NBA player Jayson Williams, who is trying to get his life back together after spending several years in jail.
There was a comment made, which was actually in response to a direct question, suggesting that the 44-year-old Williams might look to make a NBA comeback.
Before we get too far on this: It’s not happening.
Much like Stephon Marbury and Allen Iverson, the NBA is over for Jayson Williams.
A run through the D-League or maybe a trip through China if his legal situation allows could happen, but NBA teams have more than enough talent to consider and frankly there is a movement in the NBA to get away from players with luggage.
Most NBA teams simply won’t take the risk on players with issues. When you wonder why Gilbert Arenas is struggling to find a team, it’s mainly because teams just don’t want to deal with the issues some of these guys bring with them and their production on the court no longer equals enough to manage what comes off the court.
It’s great that Jayson Williams wants to turn his life around. It’s great that he is mentoring and sharing his experiences with younger NBA and college players, but at 44, the NBA is over for Jayson Williams as a player. That’s just the harsh reality of sports, comebacks rarely happen; sometimes it’s just time to move on to the next part.
Did You Miss A Season Preview?: With training camps opening around the NBA today, make sure you have checked out your team’s 2012-2013 NBA season preview. Simply click on your team’s logo to check out how we see things playing out this season.
Jose Is Trade Bait: Raptors guard Jose Calderon isn’t happy about his situation. Sure, he’s being professional about it in training camp and with the media because he’s locked into a contract that he has very little say about, but as he opens the final year of a $45 million contract extension he signed in 2008, there is some truth to the situation. The Raptors have won an average of 29.5 games a season with Calderon being one of the top salaries on the team and the Raptors have decided it’s time to go in a new direction with Kyle Lowry, who they traded for this summer, mainly because Jose hasn’t lead them anywhere.
In an interview with Nacho Duque of MARCA.com, Calderon admitted that the constant trade speculation has been a problem and that he’s been told by the Raptors that a trade is something the team would explore:
“Bryan (Colangelo) has come out saying that I am a candidate to be traded because I have a very important contract and I’m in my last year. (They) said the latter more than anything else.”
The Raptors have said repeatedly that having competition and depth at point guard is exactly what they want, however it is fairly clear that Calderon, who is saying all the right things today, is an easy trade candidate to peg as traded before the February 21st NBA trade deadline and he knows it too.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @SusanBible, @DPageHoopsWorld , @stevesraptors, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.
NBA Chats: There are two NBA Chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram at 11 a.m.. Bill’s chats do fill up fast so getting in early is always wise. HOOPSWORLD’s Stephen Brotherston will hold down his weekly NBA chat at 3 p.m. EST. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/upcoming-chats and if you are looking for Previous Chats try here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/previous-chats