Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers could be in the NBA playoffs next season. (Photo by slimm978/Flickr.com)
The 2012-13 NBA season is drawing to a close and the vast majority of playoff spots are all but locked up, with only the final spot in the Western Conference looking like much of a battle. But while a lot of teams no longer have a shot at making this year’s playoffs, there are a fair amount who are in pretty good shape for next year. Let’s take a look at some current lottery teams who could make a serious splash in 2013-14 season.
5. New Orleans Hornets
A lot of things went wrong for the Hornets this year, particularly at the beginning of this season, as Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis both missed significant amounts of time with injuries. Still, when the entire team has been healthy, the Hornets have been a quietly competitive team. Next year, they will likely take a big leap forward, with Davis having a full year of NBA experience under his belt. Meanwhile, Ryan Anderson is one of the best sixth men in the game and his deadly 3-point shooting will be a huge asset for the team going forward. Next year will be their first season as the Pelicans and it may also be their first playoff appearance since trading Chris Paul.
4. Toronto Raptors
With Rudy Gay in the midst of his worst season in years, it was hard to get too excited about the Raptors trading for him. Still, he’s an excellent athlete and when his game is on, he’s one of the better scoring small forwards in the NBA. meanwhile, Kyle Lowry has been inconsistent since joining the Raptors, but he can be unstoppable when he’s on his game and without Jose Calderon around next year, he could improve due to the lack of distraction the locker room. Finally, rookie Terrence Ross is a phenomenal athlete who has more than justified the Raptors using a lottery pick on him.
3. Detroit Pistons
Two words: Andre Drummond. If you need to know more than that, we can talk about Greg Monroe, the best young big that no one ever talks about. There’s also the presence of Calderon, who the Pistons would be wise to re-sign. Finally, while Brandon Knight is best known these days for being the victim of a thunderous DeAndre Jordan slam, he’s also a solid scorer who has gradually improved over his two years in the league. But really … Andre Drummond.
2. Washington Wizards
After two years of good-but-not-great play, John Wall is finally becoming the star point guard we thought he could be during his days at Kentucky. After starting the season 4-28, the Wizards have gone 22-16 since and Wall is the primary reason for that. He was always capable of making flashy plays and putting up impressive stats, but now he’s figured out how to make his teammates better as well. If that weren’t enough, Bradley Beal has improved immensely in the second half of the season and looks like a star in the making. The last five years have been brutal for the Wizards and their fans, but things finally appear to be headed in the right direction.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
We don’t really need to talk about Kyrie Irving; everyone knows that he’s one of the most talented young players in the game and he’s only getting better. So, let’s look at the rest of the personnel on the Cavaliers roster. After a somewhat slow start, Dion Waiters has improved immensely in recent weeks, making the No. 4 pick the Cavs used on him seem a lot less far-fetched than it did at the time. Tristan Thompson has improved his game quite a bit in his second year, while Marreese Speights has thrived since the Cavs acquired him from the Memphis Grizzlies. This team is quickly putting together a very talented roster and they have a very good chance to break the top eight in the Eastern Conference next year.