…that comprise the NBA’s playoff teams with little chance of even sniffing the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The unlucky truth of the matter is that 29 teams are going to end their season in disappointment whenever they’re eliminated from the playoffs or playoff contention this spring. Of those 29, only four–and that’s stretching things a little bit*–are actually title contenders. The rest are composed of lottery teams, and the squishy in-between spot where a team’s not good enough to really scare the top four in the playoffs, but they’re not so bad that a first round draft choice won’t immediately improve their roster and their chances to improve moving forward. So you’re stuck with the mid-tier, where moving up into one of the top teams in the league is a lot less likely than the inevitable drop to a lottery franchise.
We see this all the time, and right now there are 12 teams with very little chance of either making a Conference Final, or drafting a player that will get them into the Conference Finals in the ensuing years. That’s not to say they’re incapable of bettering themselves in free agency (Houston has a lot of cap room; so will Atlanta if they don’t sign Josh Smith to a max contract; Utah is an enigma, and no one can figure out why they kept two front court players whose contracts expire this summer), but after eliminating the Heat, Thunder, Spurs and Clippers** you’re left with a coterie of mid-tier teams trying to play up to those four. Here they are ranked by their current talent level, their record this season, their overall play on offense and defense, and the possibility for future improvement with the right draft picks, free agency moves and refinement of their roster’s current skill set.
“Things belong to people who want them most.” – Dashiell Hammet, An Unfinished Woman
Oftentimes we–the few who attempt to extrapolate nuances of meaning from what is, at its root, a game–spend oodles of time trying to figure out what teams do which things right, and use that somewhat esoteric bit of quantitative information to show how it’s the driving force behind one team’s success and another team’s failure. But increasingly in this day and age of shot charts and synergy cameras, we forget to step back and look at the big picture: namely, who has the drive or the will to want it more, or perhaps more aptly: who needs to win the 2013 NBA title the most? Read more…
Editor’s Note: This article is Spencer Lund’s first for Shaky Ankles.
There’s a famous sociological investigation called the marshmallow test. It’s a pretty straightforward experiment: A marshmallow is placed in front of the subject with the warning that they’re not to eat the marshmallow for 15 minutes if they want to receive a second marshmallow. The subjects during psychologist Walter Mischel’s original test at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery in 1972 were children aged four to six.
They were given a choice between a marshmallow, an oreo cookie or a pretzel stick—depending on their own preferences (not all kids love marshmallows). It’s a basic test of deferred gratification. If the hyper-kinetic, Twitter-infused, contemporary NBA fan were to take the test, they would probably gobble the marshmallow within a couple minutes. If Bulls and Timberwolves fans want a second marshmallow, they’re going to have to wait and remain patient with their franchise point guards, both of whom are recovering from knee injuries as the NBA’s preseason ends, and the regular season is set to begin.