Roundtable: Best and worst teams (cont.)
Amick: It's hard to see the Jazz's overachieving for a second straight season, and their offseason additions (Mo Williams, Marvin Williams, Randy Foye) may not be enough to help them hold on to that eighth spot.
Forrester: Minus Howard, Ryan Anderson and Stan Van Gundy, the Magic can book their flights to the draft lottery now. Not as obvious are the risks facing the Sixers and Jazz. Andre Iguodala's departure leaves the Sixers without their best defender and a solid three-point shooter. Also gone are Lou Williams and Elton Brand, both of whom had their limitations but also provided scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking. In are Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, among others, along with likely full-time starting roles for Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner. If Bynum buys what Doug Collins is selling, then the moves could work. But a long history of injuries and immaturity smells like trouble with someone as hard-wired as Collins. And if Bynum loses interest, the Sixers may lose their hold on the playoffs. As for Utah: With as many as eight players in the final year of their contracts and a front office savvy enough to know how many teams are ahead of it in the West, Jazz players are priced to move. Rosters in transition aren't the types that make the postseason.
Jenkins: Utah overachieved to reach the playoffs and did not do much this summer, acquiring Mo Williams, Marvin Williams and Foye. The Jazz are still young, and while Derrick Favors will continue to improve, it's fair to expect them to fall back a bit. But their slide won't be severe.
Mannix: Atlanta. Under new GM Danny Ferry, the Hawks are more intent on creating payroll flexibility than winning this season. Joe Johnson was the first to go, and if the right deal comes up, Josh Smith could be right behind him.
Thomsen: Orlando, without any doubt whatsoever, is going to miss the playoffs. And when I say miss, I mean it's going to be like that scene in Bull Durham when the pitcher hits the mascot. The Magic are going to plummet to the bottom of the conference.
Amick: Indeed they will. The second-worst team last season (Washington) had 13 more victories than the Bobcats and managed to improve significantly during the offseason. Meanwhile, none of the teams that qualified as the also-rans -- Cleveland, Sacramento, Golden State, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Toronto, etc. -- took steps backward.
Forrester: Fact. True, guards Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon should help the league's 30th-ranked offense, and center Brendan Haywood and draft picks Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor should make the 30th-ranked defense more stout. But Charlotte -- which features first-time NBA head coach Mike Dunlap -- has a lot of work to do to close the gap on the other bottom-feeders after last season's 7-59 finish.
Jenkins: Fact. They hired a respected teacher in Dunlap and picked two of the best defenders in the draft, Kentucky's Kidd-Gilchrist and Vanderbilt's Taylor. But this is a team that finished 30th in points, too, and although Gordon will help with some of his scoring surges, the Bobcats are still going to be offensively challenged. They won seven games last season. They have a long way to go to catch the Wizards.
Mannix: Fact. Just look at the teams at the bottom of each conferece: Washington inflated its payroll to help out John Wall; Cleveland is a year older; Sacramento added Thomas Robinson to a talented (albeit mercurial) roster; and New Orleans has two stud draft picks and a healthy Eric Gordon. Unless Orlando completely bottoms out, Charlotte should once again be all alone in the basement.
Thomsen: Fiction. No team will be worse than Orlando, which, believe it or not, will fit with its long-term plan: If you're going to be bad, then be very bad in order to rebuild through the draft. Its only goal now can be to tear it all down and start anew.
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