By: Scott Brock-Wilson and Justin Lynch
The next two teams in our series are revealed.
Click on the previous sets of rankings to view them:
#30 and #29
#28 and #27
#26 and #25
#24 and #23
#22 and #21
20. Charlotte Hornets
Last Season: 33-49, Missed Playoffs (11th in East)
Key Offseason Acquisitions: Nicolas Batum, Frank Kaminsky, Tyler Hansbrough, Jeremy Lin
Key Offseason Losses: Noah Vonleh, Mo Williams, Jeffrey Taylor, Bismack Biyombo
Projected Starting 5:
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Nicolas Batum
SF: Marvin Williams
PF: Frank Kaminsky
C: Al Jefferson
Key Role Players:
1. Jeremy Lin
2. Jeremy Lamb
3. Tyler Hansbrough, Cody Zeller
SBW Season Outlook:
Let’s start off with this cheery fact about Michael Jordan GM abilities. In the last three drafts, the Hornets have drafted a power forward from the Big Ten each year. So far Zeller and Vonleh (now on the Trail Blazers) have yet to pan out. Now, we cannot rush to judgement on any of these three (well...maybe Zeller by now), but Jordan reportedly turned down multiple first round picks from the Celtics for the 9th overall pick because he was vehement on taking Kaminsky.
They traded Vonleh and Gerald Henderson in order to acquire Batum. Batum will provide some much needed wing scoring and also adds to their versatility. He can play the two, the three, and even the four if necessary for short stretches of time. His length is the key to his game both defensively and offensively.
Kemba, one of the two captains on the team, is a supposed leader. He lead the team in scoring last year with 17 points until his season was cut short by knee surgery. However, his defense need major improvements. Speaking of defense, the Hornet’s best defender is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but he will now be out for at least the first six months with a torn labrum. This will significantly hurt Charlotte considering their two top players generally speaking do not play much defense.
Him and Batum would’ve made a lengthy combination out on the wing defensively.
Jefferson is the second captain. He is a menace down low offensively. Not many in the NBA can cover the wide variety of post moves that he has combined with his shooting touch around the rim. However, Jefferson provide no rim protection defensively and combining him with possibly an even weaker defender in Kaminsky may not be the best idea for this team. Jefferson also had his lowest rebounding total (8.4) and point total (16.6) since the 05-06 season when he was with the Celtics. I would’ve liked to seem him paired with a defensive minded power forward
The Hornets will struggle without Kidd-Gilchrist and due to the lack of a true superstar.
JL Best-case scenario:
Kemba improves his shot, and Batum return to his old self. However, the team can’t get anything going. After a brutal first half, the Hornets send Al Jefferson and his expiring for a first-rounder. With Jefferson gone, the paint opens up, and Kaminsky starts to have a field day with opposing defenses. The team shows signs of life, but can never seem to win the close games. Kaminsky gets names to all-rookie first team, as the team finished with the fourth-worst record in the league. They win the lottery and draft Ben Simmons. The Hornets go into 2016-17 with MKG, Batum, and Simmons on the wing, Kaminsky down low, and Kemba (on what becomes a great contract) running the show.
JL Worst-case scenario:
The Hornets third attempt in as many years at drafting a power forward fails miserably and declining the Celtics four-first rounders for Kaminsky proves to be a terrible mistake. Batum continues the shaky play we saw last season, which is exaggerated by his inability to find space without Lillard and Aldridge there to take the defense’s attention. Big Al becomes even worse defensively, and Kemba still can’t crack 35% from three. The Hornets are bad, but find a knack for winning close games. They don’t sniff the playoffs, but do just enough to land them outside the top seven in the draft.
Projected Record: 33-49
19. Dallas Mavericks
Last Season: 50-32, First Round Loss
Key Offseason Acquisitions: Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams, Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee
Key Offseason Losses: Rajon Rondo, Al-Farouq Aminu
Projected Starting 5:
PG: Deron Williams
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Chandler Parsons
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Zaza Pachulia
Key Role Players:
1. Devin Harris
2. J.J. Barea
3. JaVale McGee, Samuel Dalembert
JL Season Outlook:
The Mavericks come into the season in limbo. The well-documented DeAndre Jordan saga ruined any hopes they had of title contention, and the team as currently constructed seems to be the epitome of a .500 team in the West. The Mavericks have talent, but everyone comes with a caveat, and it is clear that don’t quite have it. With their first rounder only top-7 protected (or else it goes to Boston), the Mavericks will play it by ear and might end up dumping some players to tank.
The first guy on everybody’s list for a potential trade would be newly acquired Wes Matthews, who isn’t eligible to be traded until December, due to CBA rules. Matthews improved again last season and finally started to gain league-wide recognition before a torn achilles ended his season and thrusted his future into question. Matthews was among the likes of Steph Curry and Kyle Korver in three pointers made at the time of his injury, averaging 16 points/game on 39% from deep. Matthews supplemented his game with lock-down defense, usually covering the West’s gauntlet of point guards due to Lillard’s woeful abilities on that end of the floor.
Matthews got maxed out by the Mavericks this summer (4-year/$70 million). He is now 29 and coming off of the most debilitating injury and NBA-er can suffer. Without Lillard and Aldridge around him, Matthews will likely have less open shots, causing either a decrease in his 3-point attempts or his efficiency from behind the arc. The achilles tear might also cause him to lose a step defensively, especially considering how close he is to 30 years old, where his career with start to decline at a more steeper rate.
No one knows how age can affect one’s ability quite like Deron Williams, who at 31, is the new starting point guard in Dallas. Last season Williams averaged 13 points/game, his lowest total since his rookie year, on 39% shooting, the lowest mark of his career. Defensively, Williams isn’t doing much either. He ranked 31st in DRPM at -0.45, a mark lower than Damian Lillard (-0.37). Williams will be an upgrade because it can’t get worse than Rondo last season, but he’s unlikely to make this team much better.
Chandler Parsons returns to Dallas this season after another solid year. He averaged 16 points/game on 46% from the field and 38% from deep. Parsons will be able to stretch the floor and could wind up even playing some small-ball four when Dirk needs a rest. Parsons is a great piece to have used as a third option behind two stars. That isn’t the case in Dallas, as Parsons will be either the second or third option, but the guys ahead of him aren’t stars, though one used to be.
Dirk, now 37, still put up 17 points/game, six boards, and a nearly 20 PER. He shot 46% from the field and 38% from three. Dirk may still be efficient, but his days of carrying a team are over, and at this point he’s just playing out the string as the Mavs failed in their attempt to get him enough talent to make one final run at a title.
Dallas has a slim bench and no true players of true significance. They will struggle in another loaded West.
SBW Best-case scenario:
Nowitzki, Matthews, and Parsons turn into a formidable big three. Both Parsons and Matthews return back to their form before their injuries. Deron Williams finds shades of himself from years past. One of three (Zaza, Dalembert, McGee) turns out to be a formidable center and rim protector to give support to Nowitzki. Barea finally turns himself into more than just an energy man. The Mavs make a push for the final playoff spot in the West but likely fall short.
The Mavs have many nagging injuries throughout the season, so they shut down their big three for rest purposes and tank to get into the top 7.
SBW Worst-case scenario:
Matthews and Parsons take time to return to form. Dirk finally falls off without a diligent defender and rim protector like Chandler behind him doing all the work defensively. Zaza, McGee and Dalembert prove themselves to be useless. Deron Williams just disrupts the flow of the offense and is a negative on defense. Overall the Mavs are bad, but with everyone playing aren’t bad enough to be in the bottom 7. They finish 8th to last and have to give their pick to the Celtics.
Projected Record: 35-47