NBA Handicapping: Teams That May Have Thrown In the Towel
by Trevor Whenham - 3/23/2012
In the last quarter of every NBA season we see teams quit. If a team has struggled all year, have had some bad luck, and don’t have a lot of reasons to have hope then they can just mail in their play down the stretch. Spotting those teams is clearly a very profitable activity for bettors.
This year’s tight schedule has decreased the margin for error this year, and will make it even easier for teams that are in trouble to effectively start their offseason early. Here are five teams that could easily quit well before the playoffs start this year:
New Jersey Nets
The Nets have been terrible for a long time now. They have an owner with more money than he will ever need, and a new arena in a new, enthusiastic city awaiting them. The future should be bright for these guys.
For a long while, now, they have had a plan — get Dwight Howard to play along Deron Williams, and instantly become a serious contender. For some reason, though, they couldn’t manage to land Howard — or seemingly even come that close — despite the fact that it’s the only thing they were focused on. Now they are left with a team that just isn’t that good, and given that Howard has exercised his option in Orlando it might not improve in any hurry.
On top of that, Williams can’t be happy and he’ll be considering an exit of his own. Frankly, it would be a miracle if this team didn’t quit down the stretch. They have lost four straight, so they are well on their way.
When Chris Webber was in Washington this team wasn’t bad. Not great, but not bad. It has been a long, frustrating time since then, though.
This year has been a total disaster. They have a young point guard they can certainly build a team around in John Wall. Their problems, though, are a shortage of talent and a massive surplus of lousy attitudes around Wall.
They have absolutely no defensive discipline, and if they get down early they stay down. They don’t overwhelm their opponents offensively, either — they are just 23rd in the league in points per game.
Given that, this team isn’t exactly going to be excited that they just traded away two of their four best offensive producers. Nick Young was sent to the Clippers for essentially nothing, and JaVale McGee went to Denver for the offensively limited Nene. This team won’t be able to outscore any good teams if it gets serious, and that will be very frustrating for their players.
At some point it was probably a major thrill to be playing for Michael Jordan. That time has long since passed, though. Now Jordan has just turned this team into a hot mess.
They have some decent young talent, but none seem to be budding superstars. Corey Maggette leads the way offensively, and that’s not the kind of player that winning teams build around. They are just a bad team right now, and there is no current reason to believe that they are going to get any better in a hurry.
They’ll land a nice lottery pick this year, but that’s not enough to motivate the current players down the stretch. It is a dark, dark time in Charlotte.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are better than the three teams ahead of them on the list, but they could still be in big trouble. They made a solid long-term move at the deadline when they traded away Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut. Ellis and Stephen Curry were limiting each other in the backcourt, so this should allow Curry to flourish.
The problem in the short term is, though, that Ellis led the team in points, assists and steals. He leaves a big hole behind, and Bogut is injured and won’t contribute this season.
They also added Stephen Jackson in that deal, but sent him on to San Antonio for T.J. Ford and Richard Jefferson. Jefferson is on the decline, though, and Ford is just an expiring contract because injuries have forced him out of the game.
In the short-term, then, this team certainly has not improved. If players can’t be convinced that the long-term benefits are significant then this could be a very demoralizing turn of events. When you consider that this team had legitimate playoff aspirations heading into the season this could be the last straw.
This is the best team on this list, and they are not totally out of playoff contention yet. There are clear signs they could be in trouble, though.
For starters, the popular and productive Ricky Rubio is out for the year, and their play has suffered as a result. Kevin Love is clearly one of the best players in the NBA, but he’s not getting enough help, and he’s getting frustrated by that. That frustration manifested in a mid-game fight with teammate J.J. Barea the other day. That is never a good sign.
This is a highly-fragile team that could very easily break down the stretch.
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