The pointless marathon otherwise known as the NBA regular season is heading down the home stretch. Most teams have slightly more than 20 games left to play and the playoff picture is beginning to take shape. The teams outside of the playoff picture are also beginning to position themselves for the future by trading off assets for draft picks, expiring contracts, and in some instances even straight up cash. As a Cavs fan, the season can’t end soon enough. With the mad dash to the finish we have a pretty good idea of who the contenders are and who is on their way to an early playoff exit. So with all of that said it’s time to take a look at what is going on and what to expect from each team for the remaining quarter of the season.
So as not to bombard people with a 4,000 word article, this is going to be broken up into two parts. Part one will focus on the non-playoff teams. Look for part two either later today or sometime early tomorrow depending on how things go.
The Season Can’t End Soon Enough
Cleveland Cavaliers: It’s been a tough season as a Cavs fan. We went from the best team in the league to laughing stock. But the future looks bright. The Cavs acquired Baron Davis, started developing a young core of players, and have the Clippers first round pick in the 2011 draft as well as their own. It appears they may be following the model laid out by the Thunder. If it works as well as it has for OKC, then the future is very, very bright indeed.
Sacramento Kings: Big things were expected from Tyreke Evans in years two. Nagging injuries and inconsistent play put those expectations on a detour. Along with inconsistent play from rookie head case Demarcus Cousins and the rest of the supporting cast, it has been a forgettable year for the Kings. Now rumors are swirling about a pending move to Anaheim. Could it get any worse? Only if they become the Mighty Ducks of basketball.
Washington Wizards: John Wall has had a decent rookie campaign, but not the type of franchise changing impact many thought he would have. This is due in part to injuries. Wall has missed a lot of games in his first year as the team attempts to build around their young star. The bright spots however have been the emergence of Nick Young as a scorer and JaVale McGee as potential superstar thanks to his performance in the dunk contest. It’s been a down year for the Wiz, but there are pieces to build on here. Now if only they’d change their name back to the Bullets.
Toronto Raptors: Year one without Chris Bosh has been a disaster. The Raptors have been in the bottom of the league in most categories all year. Sure, Andrea Bragnani scores a lot of points, but he doesn’t do much else. DeMar DeRozen is a nice player, but is he a franchise type guy? That’s still debatable. Regardless, the people of Toronto, widely regarded as some of the best fans in basketball deserve better. When are they finally going to draft a superstar that wants to be there and also enjoys maple syrup and hockey?
Detroit Pistons: There are disasters and then there are the 2010-2011 Detroit Pistons. As if their record and on court performance wasn’t bad enough, the ongoing Rip Hamilton saga and player protests were icing on the cake. The players hate the coach, the coach has lost the team, Joe Dumars may be six feet underground and running the team in name only. It’s a far cry from the team that was making the conference title year after year. This is a mess that’s going to take time to clean up. First order of business would be to eliminate the post game buffet spread…that way maybe T-Mac will just up and leave on his own.
Charlotte Bobcats: Why is this team still in the league? Another year, another fire sale. After only being a year removed from the playoffs, the Bobcats once again shed salary as they struggle to get attendance and television ratings. This team never should have been brought into existence. How can they compete in a market dominated by both Duke and North Carolina? They can’t. Meanwhile Seattle pines for a new team. David Stern, do what’s right and end this failed experiment…again and give Seattle a team.
Not Great, But Something To Build On
Minnesota Timberwolves: The record isn’t great, but there is definitely a core here to build on. Kevin Love has been outstanding leading the galaxy in double doubles. Michael Beasley has also found a nice little niche with this team as the go to scorer and Darko has been serviceable as a center. With a few more pieces in the right places, particularly at point guard where Johnny Flynn has not been the answer and the Timberwolves could be on their way to a potential playoff spot.
L.A. Clippers: Again, not a good record, but what a core they’ve built. Blake Griffin is a beast and even more the player than people thought he would be. He’s been absolutely dominant. Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, and DeAndre Jordan have been better than advertised and energized by playing with Blake Griffin. The only question left is how will Donald Sterling manage to eff this team up? He traded away Baron Davis, which was good, but also this year’s #1 draft pick, not so good. They should be able to attract players out to Los Angeles, but it’s a matter of whether or not Sterling will pony up and commit to winning for a change.
Golden State Warriors: Monta Ellis is a stud, Stephen Curry improved from year one to year two, and David Lee has been solid after overcoming a freak elbow injury early on. Given a commitment to defense at some point along with the right trade or draft pick and the Warriors could be back on the right track. The problem though stems from defense. So many of these players formed so many bad habits playing for Don Nelson that you have to wonder if they are still salvageable. Only time will tell.
New Jersey Nets: A week or so ago and this team would have been in the first category. They were struggling to win games, had a crap load of disgruntled players, and couldn’t do anything right. Then they traded for Deron Williams and everything changed. They became credible and had a super star to build on heading into Brooklyn in two years. Can they hold onto him when he hits free agency in a few years is anyone’s best guess, but until then it’s something to build on.
So Much for Those High Expectations
Houston Rockets: Yao Ming is hurt? Go figure. Other than that the Rockets managed to remain relatively competitive. Kevin Martin is a solid #1 scoring option that the team can build around if it chooses. However, Daryl Morey has been as busy as ever wheeling and dealing trying to tinker this team and make it better. You have to love that and hate it all at the same time. The turnover for this team has been remarkable over the past few seasons. You can’t help but think he’ll have something up his sleeve come draft and free agent time to help forget about this failed season.
Milwaukee Bucks: This was one of the hot trendy picks to make a run at the central this year. A few injuries to key players such as Brandon Jennings, lack of chemistry with new pieces, and Andrew Bogut being a shadow of his former self have done them in. Things just never got a chance to gel from the get go. Scott Skiles has tried his damnedest to make the best of this situation, but it is clear that last years success was clearly the result of everything going right and players peaking at the right time. Next year will be a big year in deciding what direction to take this core moving forward. It’s a shame things haven’t worked out. They’re a likable team that plays a fun style.
Utah Jazz: Jerry Sloan… It was nice knowing you. That’s all you really need to know about this team. The legendary coach feuded with his all-star player. The legendary coach said “Eff it, I’m out” and bailed. The team then inexplicably traded the franchise point guard. This team had high hopes of making a playoff push. Too bad they were sabotaged from within. And too bad Jerry Sloan didn’t get an end to a great career. Deron Williams, I hope you’re happy in Jersey.
Phoenix Suns: As long as you have Steve Nash on your team and some decent talent around him you have a chance at success. This team was in the Conference Finals a year ago. Then the owner got cheap, traded away all the key talent, and left Steve Nash, Grant Hill, and Jared Dudley with a group of cast offs and a fat Vince Carter. So much for those high hopes of returning to the Conference Finals and getting Nash a ring. He needs to demand a trade… three months ago.