This Monday through Friday, I’m going to give my season predictions in a countdown from worst to first. The format will be three teams per post, one post in the morning and one in the afternoon. Whichever team you’re a fan of, there’s a good chance you’ll feel like I’m disrespecting them. I understand this, and I promise you I won’t take your insults personally.
30. Detroit Pistons
Seven years after the Pistons won their last NBA championship, I think the grace period for President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars is over. He is a terrible GM and I have to wonder how much nostalgia for that title and his playing career in Detroit is keeping him employed in his current job.
Does Joe even understand that his team needs to rebuild? And if he knows this, does he know how to do it properly? Based on the contracts he just approved while re-signing Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey, I have a hard time believing that. Even if the Pistons improve their talent level with high draft picks, the cap-clogging contracts of Prince and Stuckey will hold them back for at least the next two seasons.
Optimistic Pistons fans might point at sophomore center Greg Monroe as a beacon of hope, but he’s an average rebounder and a poor defender and that combination will always sour me on a big man’s potential. There just isn’t a lot of upside on this roster, unless you think Brandon Knight has Rookie of the Year potential, which I don’t.
29. Toronto Raptors
You have to give Raptors President Bryan Colangelo credit for this: As competitive as he is, he recognizes the situation the Raptors are in and he’s not even trying to make his team a playoff contender this season. There isn’t a single move he’s made since the end of last season that should lead anyone to believe that the organization isn’t trying hard to win the lottery for a stacked 2012 draft class. As a Raptors fan who is accustomed to watching bad basketball, I find it strangely refreshing to enter a season knowing that this team is going to both suck and blow, and that it’s actually in the best interest of the team’s future to do so.
After finishing the previous two seasons with the NBA’s worst defense (in terms of points allowed per 100 possessions), the hiring of new head coach Dwane Casey will probably prevent the Raptors from claiming that dishonor for three seasons in a row. Unfortunately, I expect my hometown team to be offensively challenged, particularly after they only managed to put up 75 points in their first preseason game on Sunday.
Since I’ve been managing a Raptors blog since 2002, I’m very attuned to the mindset of hardcore Raptors fans — and they’re not only aware of how terrible this team will be this season, they’ve embraced it, for the most part, because of the expected strength of the upcoming draft. Jamaal Magloire barely exceeded 500 minutes played over the past two seasons and he might be the Raptors’ starting center this season. From what I can tell, most Raptors fans are fine with this because he’s a Toronto native and he won’t veer the tank off course.
28. Charlotte Bobcats
Not all NBA Hall of Fame players who become General Managers are terrible at it, but Michael Jordan seems destined to usurp Isiah Thomas for the title of the greatest contrast between their performance as a player and their results as an executive. He emerged from the 2011 draft with an intriguing prospect in Bismack Biyombo and a proven winner in Kemba Walker, but we’ll likely have to wait until at least next season to see Biyombo’s NBA potential as his Spanish team is asking for a buyout of four million Euros to release him from his contract.
Unless Walker proves to be a transcendent player in his rookie season, it appears that Corey Maggette will be the Bobcats’ primary offensive option and that’s really all you need as evidence that this isn’t going to be a successful team in the 2011-12 season. If there’s a sliver of good news about their short-term prospects, it’s that they’re extremely unlikely to have to give up their 2012 first round draft pick which would belong to the Bulls if the Bobcats make the playoffs this season.
Update: Thanks to “Remy” in the comments for linking to this news report that Biyombo will, in fact, play for the Bobcats this season because he’s taking care of most of the buyout with his own money. Exciting! This doesn’t change where I rank the ‘cats, though.