NBA Saturday: This Year’s Worst Team?
Bobcats No Longer the League’s Worst Team?
We’ve spent a lot of time this summer talking about the Miami HEAT and the L.A. Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder as the best teams in the NBA, and it’s true; those teams are far and away the best in the league. No one is going to be surprised if one of those three ends up winning the 2013 NBA Championship.
But which teams will be the league’s worst this coming year? Charlotte set a record for futility in the shortened 2011-2012 season by winning only 10.6% of their games, the worst single-season winning percentage in the history of the league, but despite all the flak Bobcats owner Michael Jordan has gotten during the offseason for that putrid on-court performance, it’s pretty much impossible for the ‘Cats to repeat that stunning display of mediocrity.
Additions like rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, trade acquisition Ben Gordon, amnesty claim Brendan Haywood, and free agent signee Ramon Sessions all make this team look a whole lot better heading into 2012-2013, at least on paper, and further development from young players like Gerald Henderson and Bismack Biyombo shouldn’t hurt anything, either. Adding to the optimism is the fact that there are a lot of people who believe new head coach Mike Dunlap is good enough to bring it all together.
Put simply, this latest iteration of Charlotte Bobcats isn’t anywhere near as brutally bad as last year’s batch, which is why it’s all but certain they’ll get back into double-digit wins this season. In fact, it’s not inconceivable to imagine them winning 30 games, which would more than triple last season’s winning percentage.
If the Bobcats aren’t the team in the league basement this year, however, who is? Most of last year’s other ho-hum rosters improved this offseason, with Washington adding more veterans, New Jersey adding like a billion dollars’ worth of starting lineup to their payroll, New Orleans adding a Unibrow, and Sacramento bringing in a real point guard and a very talented rookie power forward.
That narrows the list of candidates down quite a bit, leaving really only two teams who look like a big enough mess to contend for the most ping pong balls in next year’s lottery: the Houston Rockets and the Orlando Magic.
The Rockets, at least, have some talent on their roster. Overpaid though they may be, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik are certainly skilled, and there are a surprising number of promising rookies and second-year players on this roster, as well. Head coach Kevin McHale hasn’t done a great job developing his kids, however, and on his way out of Houston, Kyle Lowry insinuated that he wasn’t a particularly adept coach in general. With this hodgepodge of extremely young players under the leadership of a coach who might not be the best guy to make something of it, there’s a possibility that the Rockets end up very, very disappointing next season.
But just because they’re disappointing, it doesn’t mean they’ll be the worst team in the league. Orlando seems like a more likely candidate for that, and since they’ve now officially entered rebuilding mode, they’d probably welcome a few losses.
Whether they want them or not, however, they’re coming. This is a starting lineup likely to feature Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, and Gustavo Ayon, with the top bench players being JJ Redick, Quentin Richardson, and Al Harrington. There are some vets on this team that have played in the postseason before, but without Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson—easily the team’s two best players last year—they look headed for the lottery.
But will they be worse than the Bobcats? And where will Detroit and Sacramento and Phoenix end up in all this? With real lottery prizes like Nerlens Noel, Cody Zeller, and Shabazz Muhammad likely to declare for next year’s draft, these are questions worth asking.
Let the record show that, a year ago, I picked the Utah Jazz as the team most likely to post the worst record of the lockout-shortened season, and they ended up making the playoffs. So these are, of course, just educated guesses that could just as easily be wrong. It’s easy to say that L.A., OKC, and Miami will be the best teams next year, but picking the worst is a much tougher job. Orlando, however, seems like as good a guess as any team.
Reggie Miller, Don Nelson Inducted Into Basketball Hall of Fame
The same articles get written every year about how goofy the voting process is for the Basketball Hall of Fame, and with the imminent inclusion of fan voting somewhere down the road, it’s about to get even goofier.
But we shouldn’t let criticisms of the voting process get in the way of praise for the men and women who get inducted and actually do deserve it. This year’s crop, for example, includes Reggie Miller and Don Nelson, two people more than worthy of enshrinement.
Miller at one time held the record for career three-pointers made with 2,560 (Ray Allen has since broken that record), and is considered one of the best shooting guards in the history of the game. Nelson won 1,335 games as a coach—more than any other coach, ever—and is considered one of the most innovative head coaches ever to grace a sideline.
Former Houston Rockets center Ralph Sampson also was inducted on Friday night. Sampson was largely disappointing as a pro after winning Rookie of the Year in 1984, but was one of the greatest college players of his era. Jamaal Wilkes, the third-best player on the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s, won four NBA titles and two NCAA championships. He was also inducted this weekend in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Other inductees include Don Barksdale, a hoops pioneer who was the first African-American All-American and Olympic basketball player, long-time referee Hank Nichols, and seven-time All-Stars Mel Daniels and Chet Walker. Phil Knight, the co-founder and chairman of Nike, was also inducted, as were Katrina McClain and Lidia Alexeeva, a couple of successful women’s Olympic basketball players.
Notable players not inducted, but who arguably could be in the foreseeable future, include Robert Horry, who won 7 rings with three different teams, Alonzo Mourning, one of the greatest shot-blockers of all-time, and Bernard King, an unstoppable and beloved New York Knick legend.
While we wait to see if these guys get their shot at the Hall, allow us to congratulate the good folks who did get in this year. However flawed the induction process might be, the right players and coaches usually make it eventually. Reggie Miller and Don Nelson are two legends who earned their ways in, and we’re happy to see them get the proper recognition.