The beginning of another NBA season comes with the anticipation and the hype that have fans hoping that their teams have the chance to win it all. Training Camp is complete and the teams are in the midst of preseason games all over the world. The 2013-14 season offers an unusual prospect of teams battling to finish both first and last as next years draft offers up what could be the best draft since the fabled 2003 draft which featured Lebron James. In the countdown to October 30th, what better way to build the hype than run through the season prospects for each franchise in order from thirty to one. The Cellar Dwellers and those bound for the lottery.
30th best – Philadelphia 76ers
Philly made their intensions clear on draft day when they traded All Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans for Nerlens Noel. This team will well and truly bottom out after the failed Andrew Bynum era and may challenge for the worst win-loss record in the history of the NBA – set by the 1972-73 Sixers with a 9-73 record. There isn’t much to say about this roster; Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner would make quality bench players on a contending team but they aren’t starting quality. Nerlens Noel is coming back from an ACL tear and won’t be back until Christmas. Jason Richardson isn’t the player he used to be and Michael Carter-Williams might be the best player on this team despite being a number 7 pick in a weak draft. To sum it up perfectly, the Sixers haven’t even reached the salary floor with their current contracts. Combined with new head coach Brett Brown, the Sixers will be struggling to get to double digit wins and will without a doubt be the worst team in the NBA.
29th – Phoenix Suns
Phoenix are another team who are bottoming out after letting go of Michael Beasley, Luis Scola and Jared Dudley this summer. Also like Philadelphia, they have a new coach in former Utah Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek. They have the youngest roster in the NBA so it is easy to see that they are one of the lead contenders for the number one pick. They received Eric Bledsoe from the Clippers in a trade, who provides defence on a team which is devoid of defence. It also means that the Suns’ best two players play the same position for an extra twist. Marcin Gortat gives Bledsoe and Goran Dragic a decent pick and roll partner as well as a reasonable interior defender but if Phoenix truly are tanking, then the best guess is that one of Gortat or Dragic will be traded for expiring contracts or draft picks to help the team to further degrade themselves. In what is going to be a down year, at least the Suns will be sporting a brand new look which certainly outdoes their previous incarnation.
28th – Orlando Magic
The Magic are basically unchanged since last season apart from their number two draft choice, Victor Oladipo, who is an early pick for Rookie of the Year. That doesn’t bode well for the upcoming season after they won a league worst 20 games. Oladipo brings them a solid perimeter defender with length and crazy athletic ability but is still to develop a reliable jumpshot. All signs are pointing to Oladipo playing out of position at the point this season for development. Orlando will be hoping that their front court trio of Moe Harkless, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic can continue to come on in leaps and bounds like they did last season. Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson will give the Magic solid minutes and if Glen Davis can keep healthy, this team has an exciting upside. But given the prize for finishing last this season, it is hard to see the Magic playing for success this season.
27th – Utah Jazz
The Jazz have finally decided to bottom out after sitting mid-table since the abrupt end to the Jerry Sloan-Deron Williams era in Salt Lake City. They lost three starters in Mo Williams, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap and gained…wait for this…Brandon Rush, Richard Jefferson and the guy with the worst contract in the NBA, Andris Biedrins. Trey Burke is a quality draft pick who could figure to be a poor man’s Damian Lillard this season with his ability to both assist his teammates and score the basketball. Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors are both works in progress and despite the energy that they will provide, will not emulate the stats of their predecessors Millsap and Jefferson. Gordon Hayward has developed into an accurate three point shooting point forward and should get minutes at the Small Forward spot if Alec Burks is to finally get the minutes he deserves. All things point to the Jazz having a transition year with all the young talent and expiring contracts on the roster.
26th – Charlotte Bobcats
For the first time in 4 years, I can comfortably say that the Bobcats will be better than they have been in the previous season. Then again, it is not hard to predict when the team has been the worst in the NBA for the previous two seasons. The addition of Al Jefferson from Utah gives the team one of the best post scorers in the game, who combined with rookie Cody Zeller will create one of the better offensive big men pairings in the league. Defence in Charlotte is still an issue with Bismack Biyombo still as raw as they come and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can only do so much on that side of the ball. Kemba Walker improved massively in his sophomore year and will only continue to improve his shooting ability (40% career FG%) and getting his teammates involved. Despite being on their third head coach in less than two seasons, the signs may be better for the Bobcats. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a work in progress and the team will be contention for the worst record in the league but the doom and gloom of previous years is certainly behind them.
25th – Sacramento Kings
Sacramento has been an absolute mishmash of point guards who can’t lead a team and power forwards for years now, combining with poor attitude and awful management which has derailed the franchise. At least the team has new ownership and can finally start heading in the right direction which saw them trade away 2009 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans to the Pelicans. There still is a massive amount of work to do to get this roster looking respectable but for the sum of all their parts, they can still be a better team than the aforementioned. If DeMarcus Cousins can erase the behavioural issues and get to the basket at a higher rate, he has the chance to be one of the more dominating big men in the NBA. Greivis Vasquez finally gives Sacramento a point guard that can pass and new coach Mike Malone will hope that draft pick Ben McLemore can provide outside shooting from the wings which has been so sparse for the Kings in recent years. Expect the Kings to be shopping one of their many power forwards as they try to construct a winning roster in coming years.
24th – Boston Celtics
The Celtics will finally fall out of playoff contention after GM Danny Ainge decided to finally call an end to the Big 3 era in Beantown on draft day by sending Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets. However, the biggest loss for the Celtics is without a doubt former coach Doc Rivers. Without Rajon Rondo for the start of the season, the team will rely on the likes of Jeff Green to lead the team. Green came on late last season including a 43 point explosion against the Miami Heat and seems a steal for Kendrick Perkins now. My pick for the Rookie of the Year Kelly Olynyk may be the steal of the draft after his dominant play around the basket in the Summer League in Orlando this July (18ppg, 7.8rpg.) New coach Brad Stevens will be hoping to develop a good rapport with star point guard Rondo, who reportedly was one of the main reasons Rivers ran for greener pastures. Boston’s whole season comes down to when Rondo returns from injury, if at all and whether or not Rondo buys into the rebuilding process. With Rondo in full flight this team could be a competitive franchise that could win 35-40 games but without Rondo, Boston should expect to be lottery bound.
Next week – The Middle of the Pack
Ben Sathananthan is a second year Sports Journalism student at Melbourne’s Latrobe University. You can follow him on Twitter at @bensathsports