Projecting the NBA Eastern Conference's bottom five
Projecting the NBA Eastern Conference's bottom five
BOSTON – When it comes to NBA teams, what you see now is pretty much what you’re going to see when camp starts up in a few weeks.
There will be teams like the Golden State Warriors who go into camp in pop-your-collar mode because well, they’re that good.
And then there’s teams at the opposite end of the success spectrum whose 82-game slate of matchups will feature them being out-matched and on lots of nights, outplayed by their opponents.
Focusing on the Eastern Conference, there were a handful of teams that made solid additions that should help them move up the conference ladder sooner rather than later.
But before we discuss those teams, we have to start from the bottom.
And in the East, there are some clear, well-defined bottom-feeders for sure.
Here’s a quick glimpse at five teams that are most likely to spend the 2016-2017 season at the back of the Eastern Conference pack:
15. Brooklyn Nets
Give the Nets credit. They are making some credible steps to dig themselves out the ginormous ditch they created when they traded away so many future assets in 2013 to Boston for an aging Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. They have changed coaches since then, even brought in a new GM in Sean Marks from San Antonio. But there are just too many holes in this roster for them to adequately fill immediately. I like them adding Jeremy Lin, a solid point guard who has proven himself as a reliable playmaker starting or coming off the bench. And Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is only going to continue to get better and become more than just a defensive player who occasionally scores. But Brooklyn’s lack of overall talent will ultimately seal their fate this season and find them bringing up the rear in the Eastern Conference standings.
14. Philadelphia 76ers
The good news for Sixers fans is there’s a high probability that they won’t be the worst team in the NBA this season. They’ll still suck but not as much. There’s definitely some good talent on their roster now which in itself speaks to what should be a better product on the court. But this roster is still way too long on youth. And because of the Tank-a-palooza mentality for the past few years, trying to get rid of the losing culture that has engulfed this franchise will be one of the many challenges. Throw in the fact that they have at least one too many big men (and every team knows this which is why they will not get fair-market value for whichever frontcourt player they trade away), and it all adds up to a team that will be better but not good enough to avoid what will be a fifth straight trip to the NBA lottery.
13. Miami Heat
Erik Spoelstra is one of the more under-rated coaches in the NBA. But getting this crew he has to work with to be competitive let alone to the playoffs, will make him a virtual lock for the league’s coach of the year award. Losing Dwyane Wade (signed with Chicago) is a tremendous blow to the Heat on so many levels. They lost not only a perennial all-star, but the face of the franchise who was instrumental in helping lead Miami to a trio of NBA titles during his 13 seasons. Hassan Whiteside did some really impressive things last season and will certainly be the guy that Miami builds around this season, with the $50 million man Tyler Johnson (I’m still wrapping my head around that one, too) also being a key figure as they try to offset losing Wade as well as Luol Deng (signed with the Los Angeles Lakers). But Miami’s success will hinge heavily on the development of Justise Winslow, a multi-faceted wing player who needs a Jimmy Butler-like breakout season in order to keep the Heat from being in the lottery for the second time in the last three seasons.
12. Charlotte Hornets
This is a team that’s loaded with good players like Nicolas Batum and Kemba Walker, but they lack a superstar or, for that matter, enough players whose collective talents can compensate for what they lack in star power. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist continues to be the key to this team’s success. When he’s healthy, they are a legit playoff contender. But the past couple of seasons in which he has played just 62 games total (and only 7 last season), injuries have kept him sidelined most of the time and with that, keeps one of their best all-around players off the floor. In addition, losing Jeremy Lin (he signed with Brooklyn) and Al Jefferson (he signed with the Indiana Pacers) were two big blows that will make this season a rough one for the Hornets.
11. Washington Wizards
Of the teams on this list, the Wizards are the one most likely to separate themselves from the woeful ones and manage a return to the playoffs after a one-year absence. They have an All-Star in John Wall, an impact shooter in Bradley Beal and a bevy of promising players (Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre Jr.) who showed growth and promise a year ago. But the rest of the roster doesn’t provide much sizzle in terms of upside or proven ability to produce at a high level. And Beal has the talent to quickly vault himself into the all-star conversation, he hasn’t been healthy enough, long enough for that to happen. But of the bottom-five teams on this list, Washington has the best shot at breaking through and being a playoff team under first-year coach Scott Brooks.