The NBA is an ever-changing landscape which is one of the reasons why it is so intriguing. Teams that have been very successful for the past few years will then eventually fall off and a younger team will take their place at the top of the league.
The Los Angeles Lakers are a fine example of this. They won the 2010 NBA title with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Now they barely scraping 25 win seasons and are in full rebuild mode. The structure of the NBA allows all teams to be competitive over a long period of time.
There are always new faces in the playoffs that didn’t make it last year, this means that some teams have to drop off and it’s no different for next season. Here are my top five teams that are the most likely to not make the postseason having made it the year before.
5. Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis for the last 5-6 years have been knowing as a grinder team. They aren’t flashy, they don’t get much media attention and they play a very old fashioned style of basketball. Outside shooting is never their strong suit and they play extremely slow, preferring to throw the ball into the post a lot.
They were 29th out of thirty last year for average points scored at 100.5, last in team field goal percentage at 43.5% and were 28th in Pace which measures the number of possessions per 48 minutes. The reason that they were able to make it to the playoffs was their defense.
Their opponent field goal percentage was 2nd best in the NBA at 44.3% and they allowed the 3rd fewest points per game at 100. They played rough and rugged and strove to always to out hustle their opponent. They were never afraid to do the dirty work.
But their roster is certainly getting on a bit. Zach Randolph has left for the Sacramento Kings, Gasol will be 33, Tony Allen will be 36 and Mike Conley will be 30. They only won 43 last season and have definitely gotten worse.
Looks like the house of hustle is finally coming to a grinding stop.
4. Utah Jazz
Life is cruel sometimes, just when you thought you were about to make it big and the future looked bright, something unexpected happens and you’re back to where you were. Such is the tragic tale of the Utah Jazz.
After a breakout season where they won 51 games last year, their best player Gordon Hayward decided to leave and go play in Boston, and he’ll be sorely missed. Hayward averaged 22 points last year on 47.1% from the field and nearly 40% from beyond the arc.
He was their guy they could go to create his own shot if their team offense was stagnating and down the stretch if they needed a big shot in the clutch, he was their man. Without his creativity and reliability on the offensive end, Utah will struggle a lot to score this year. They were only 28th in the NBA last year in points scored per game at 100.7. They did add Ricky Rubio who can increase their tempo which might help, but the loss of an All-Star is always going to hurt.
3. Chicago Bulls
Dwyane Wade is in the last year of his contract and looks set to retire following this season. If that is the case then it looks to be a very frustrating final year for Flash. Last year the Bulls barely managed to grab the 8th seed in the East going 41-41.
Now that they’ve lost Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo they have no other scoring besides the 36-year-old Dwyane Wade and Zach LaVine who is coming off a serious knee injury. This is the start of a rebuilding process for Chicago; a necessary step for them to get competitive again.
Even though Chicago will struggle a lot next year, the United Center will still be an extremely loud stadium. Bulls fans are some of the best in the NBA but don’t expect Chicago to win more than 35 games next year.
2. Indiana Pacers
This ain’t gonna be pretty for the basketball-mad people of Indiana. The Pacers were already mediocre last season winning just 42 games, and now they, like Utah, have lost their star player in Paul George as well as their point guard Jeff Teague.
Their two best scorers on their squad have now gone and this season will be about finding a new path for the Pacers to go down.
Don’t despair too much though Indiana. Due to the recent departures, next season will be a great chance for the starlet of Myles Turner to really show his stuff. He will be turning only 21 next season and averaged 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks last season. He is now their go to guy and I reckon he’ll be in contention for Most Improved Player next year.
1. Atlanta Hawks
When was the last time the Hawks didn’t make the playoffs? It feels like ages ago, they just always seemed to be there in the mix, never reaching the summit but always competitive. Apart from the San Antonio Spurs, the Hawks have the longest streak of making the playoffs; 10 years.
However, that will change this season.
Three of their top four scorers have no gone. Paul Millsap is now in Denver, Tim Hardaway Jr. is back in New York and Dwight Howard is now a Charlotte Hornet. That just leaves Dennis Schroder their point guard left to pick up the pieces.
It really is for the best that this happened and probably should have happened sooner. Like I said above, the Hawks have been decent for a long time, but they’ve never been in the running for the title.
Even when they won 60 games in 2014/15 they were swept in the Eastern Conference Finals by LeBron and the Cavaliers. They didn’t have the superstar needed to win at the highest level and the rebuilding process they are now embracing is the only way for them to have a hope of someday soon making the Finals.