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Last week, I evaluated the five worst teams in the NBA. This week, I will be evaluating the runners-up to the worst teams in the NBA – the teams ranked from 25 – 21 for the 2012-2013 season. All hope is not lost for these guys, but they’ve got a lot of work to do to compete with the big dogs. Think of these teams as the type of ball clubs that within the same exact week could beat the Miami Heat and lose to the Toronto Raptors. Formally stated, they are inconsistent and unproven.
25. Houston Rockets: The Rockets’ backcourt will now consist of JEREMY LIN AND JEREMY LAMB AT THE SAME DAMN TIME! However, they are very guard heavy and they have absolutely no proven big men on their roster. Expect rookie Terrence Jones from Kentucky to get a lot of minutes, but don’t expect this team to skyrocket in the Western standings anytime soon. The inevitable rebuilding process since Yao’s departure is finally here, unless LINsanity has something to say about it. Both his health and consistency will initially dictate the Rockets’ success; if he plays, who knows? The Harvard grad may be able to verify his stardom. Team Grade: C-
24. Cleveland Cavaliers: I don’t see the Cavs contending this year, even though Kyrie Irving (below) will certainly prove that he deserves to be mentioned amongst the best point guards in the league. But, to compete in this league, he’s going to need a number two guy, and I don’t think that Tyler Zeller, Anderson Varejao or any of the other members of Dan Gilbert’s loyal squad are capable of being a number two guy on a playoff caliber team. However, Tristan Thompson could be due for a breakout year after a strong rookie campaign – especially under the guidance of their magnificent head coach Byron Scott. I mean this statement with the most possible sincerity: maybe next year, Cleveland. Team Grade: C-
23. Utah Jazz: Everything about the Jazz screams mediocrity. A team lead by Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and Mo Williams is just plain old mediocre even on their best day. It’s sad to say, but it is going to take a lot of time and work from the front office for Utah to get back to their glory days. Just over ten years ago they were a playoff lock with one of the greatest one-two punches in NBA history in Stockton and Malone, and now they’re just hiding in the middle of the pack and don’t seem to be going anywhere too quickly. Team Grade: C
22. Portland Trail Blazers: It seems like each year, Portland gets more and more screwed by the players they draft. Greg Oden is 24 years old and his career is over, Brandon Roy’s knee completely doomed any faith he had in becoming a perennial all-star; both of these lottery picks no longer play for the Blazers, as they’re now led by LaMarcus Aldridge (below) and a group of unproven guards and average forwards. Last year was the first time in three years where they didn’t make the playoffs: expect that to happen again in the upcoming season – unless they can trade for a high scoring guard to play alongside Aldridge. Team Grade: C
21. Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks have a renewed starting lineup that should be able to put up a lot of points fast – but they don’t have any one-on-one defensive stoppers besides Josh Smith, who’s just a fancy shot blocker when it’s all said and done. Devin Harris and Louis Williams will have a tough time playing together as shoot-first, pass-second small ball handlers. And OH WAIT! What about Jeff Teague? How the hell are these three guys going to coexist in the backcourt? Good luck making the playoffs this year, Al Horford & Co. Oh, and Kyle Korver, I bet you wish you were back in Chi-town, eh? Team Grade: C+
Keep your eyes open for next week’s power rankings, featuring the NBA teams ranked 20-16.
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