On the basis of offseason changes made and not made, here’s a projection of the NBA’s seven most impotent teams.
1. New Jersey Nets
Even though getting rid of Vince Carter will give the youngsters more time and space in which to grow, the Nets could easily be the worst team in the league. That’s because their roster is clogged with too many useless players — Yi Jianlian, Tony Battie, the chronically injured Eduardo Najera and Bobby Simmons. Also because Devin Harris is their only proven go-to scorer.
With Rafer Alston’s hometown pals living just across the Hudson River, it will take enormous discipline for him to accept being Harris’ backup and to avoid being a troublesome malcontent.
Too many youngsters have to suddenly blossom for the Nets to escape the league’s cellar — Brook Lopez, Chris Douglas-Roberts and blue-chip rookie Terrence Williams. In addition, Courtney Lee is still in shock after being evicted from Orlando’s sunshine and winding up in the New Jersey swamplands.
What a mess!
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Michael Redd is a shoot-’em-up scorer and Andrew Bogut is one of the most unathletic centers in the league. Brandon Jennings is a brash, undisciplined rookie who’s not at all ready for prime-time competition. The only defensive-minded players currently on the Bucks’ roster are Kurt Thomas (who’s rapidly approaching his 37th birthday), and Bruce Bowen (age 38).
The Bucks will lead the league in at least one category: Being on the short end of the most blowouts.
Indeed, the only realistic goal for the Bucks is to avoid finishing behind the Nets.
3. Sacramento Kings
The Kings feature a roster full of flawed players. Kevin Martin can score points by the dozen, but rarely passes and his version of playing defense is to outscore his opponent. Both Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson are still learning the pro game, but meanwhile, they’re forever in foul trouble because of their serious shortcomings on defense. The two young bigs are also extremely turnover-prone.
Francisco Garcia can scoot-and-shoot. Tyreke Evans had better be good enough to move Beno Udrih back to the bench where he rightly belongs. If the oft-injured Andres Nocioni is the best two-way player on the team, it’s highly doubtful that his ferocious intensity can keep the Kings from going belly-up by the All-Star break.
4. Indiana Pacers
The best athletes on the Pacers all have significant limitations: Dahntay Jones can’t score. Ditto for Jeff Foster. T.J. Ford is among the most selfish point guards in the league. And Danny Granger can’t defend.
Even worse, the level of athleticism possessed by Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy and Tyler Hansbrough is far below average.
Overall, there’s not enough fluid offense and not enough defense of any description for the Pacers to avoid being a chump team.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
The T-Wolves have plenty of power in the paint, what with the scoring and rebounding of Al Jefferson complemented by Kevin Love’s strong-handed retrieval of missed shots. Too bad neither of these guys can defend, and Jefferson is both a reluctant and abysmal passer. Ryan Gomes, however, is a solid performer at both ends of the floor and all points in-between.
That just about covers the T-Wolves’ upside.
The team is still waiting for Corey Brewer to prove that he can be a capable NBA player. Unless he’s traded again, a healthy Quentin Richardson is a veteran wing scorer.
Otherwise, the T-Wolves lack players who can make the opposition pay for doubling Jefferson in the low post.
If Ricky Rubio ever shows up in Minnesota, his game will be flashy but weak. Jonny Flynn just might be more NBA-ready.
Not enough perimeter scoring. Too much reliance on rookie point guards. An egregious shortage of defense. All of these factors will combine to make the T-Wolves’ season long and frustrating.
6. New York Knicks
Forget about the numbers these guys will post, there are too many losers on the roster — Darko Milicic, Al Harrington, Larry Hughes and Eddy Curry. If knuckleheaded Nate Robinson decides to re-enlist, his name will be added to this list.
Also, Jared Jeffries is the only reliable defender. And there’s absolutely no on- or off-court leadership.
With or without Robinson, David Lee, Andre Miller and/or Ramon Sessions the Knicks will still be a defenseless, dysfunctional outfit.
In the Big Apple, the Knicks remain a big story. But around the league, the doings of the Knicks are virtually meaningless.
Why, then, would the premier free-agents-to-be — like LeBron, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, et al — have even the slightest interest in signing with the Nix?
7. Memphis Grizzlies
O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay can score with just about any duo in the league. Zach Randolph will likewise fill up his stat line while clogging the lane and monopolizing the ball at every opportunity. And Hakim Warrick must absolutely be re-signed to provide a viable point-making option off the bench.
Otherwise, there’s not much for Grizzlies’ fans to boast about.
Marc Gasol possesses much less than half of his brother’s athleticism. Hasheem Thabeet is a tall, long-armed stiff who won’t be a consistent presence for at least three years, if ever. And the point guards are ordinary.
Not even the Grizzlies’ talented scoring specialists will be able to overcome the ball club’s atrocious defense.