I want Andrew Wiggins. You want Andrew Wiggins. We've all heard the hype. We've all seen the Youtube videos. Kansas games will get higher ratings in the Philadelphia area this year than Sixers games. The Quest for the Northern Light (trademark pending) will consume us all for the next 11 months.
However, it's important to remember that there are 29 other teams standing between us and our grand prize of 250 ping-pong balls with Canadian flags on them. In any form of battle, it's important to know your competition, and that's the point of this, my debut FanPost. (Hi, everybody, first time, long time!) In the first installment of WigginsWatch, I wanted to look at the rest of the league, and who looms as the biggest threats (pre-free agency, of course) to national treasure Sam Hinkie's master plan of seeing every child in Philadelphia running around in Andrew Wiggins jerseys.
First up is the honorable mention teams that could sneak into the Terrible Ten with some well-timed offseason maneuvering.
Atlanta Hawks - With over $30 million in cap space, they are the wildcard. They could do literally anything. They could blow it up by trading Al Horford and starting over. They could sign Dwight Howard and be a surefire playoff team. They could re-sign Josh Smith and firmly establish themselves as the East's 5 seed for a few more years. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE (gag).
Boston Celtics - They've got one more big trade to complete before they are serious Wiggins contenders. You have to give them credit though, helping Brooklyn create the world's most well funded senior center rec league team was an impressive start. Today, they're the pre-Jrue trade Sixers: one really good player who will prevent them from tanking, and then a bunch of guys. If they pawn off Rondo to shed their bad contracts (looking at you, Gerald Wallace), then they're in the tanking business, and they move to the Terrible Ten without passing Go or collecting $200.
Los Angeles Lakers- This one is all on Kobe, as most things with the Lakers have been for the last 15 years. If he's coming back this season, they're not a threat, and really, I'm pretty sure he is. It's a contract year, after all. However, no Kobe and no Dwight might mean a Pau Gasol trade, and if that happens, all bets are off when it comes to the Lakers. This fuels my nightmares. Get well soon, Kobe.
Utah Jazz - The question with the Jazz is exactly who's playing for them next year. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are unrestricted free agents, and if they make the decision to let their young talent like Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter pick up the slack, it could make for an interesting lottery position. That said, they'll also have plenty of cap space for immediate upgrades. So who knows what Utah does. Who ever knows what Utah does?
Blinking neon sign: Now we're getting to the real threats! The Terrible Ten!
10. Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Year: 31-51, 8th worst record in the league
Why They're In: They never seem to put it all together.
Why They're Out: They have two really good basketball players.
Minnesota is such a frustrating team to figure out. Just when you think this is the year they're going to put it all together, something goes wrong. That's why they're here. I'm a sucker and I think this is the year. So far, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are healthy, and one of those two being healthy keeps them out of serious Wiggins potential. This can always change, because Minnesota.
9. New Orleans Pelicans
Last Year: 27-55, 5th worst record in the league
Why They're In: Because they're young and they're playing in a loaded conference.
Why They're Out: Jrue.
New Orleans is headed in the right direction. The acquisition of our hero gives them a young lineup that can develop together and could really make an impact down the line. In the short-term, there's still some question marks. Eric Gordon? has so many question marks that his name is actually spelled with a question mark now. Anthony Davis is still developing into the impact big man he's projected to be. I don't think this team will be one of the worst 5 teams in the league, but their odds could be decent enough to have Sixers fans in a cold sweat on lottery night.
I ranked these teams together because for all intents and purposes, they are the same team. (I started writing a bit for both of them, before realizing I was writing the exact same thing.) Both are young teams who are very familiar with the beautiful town of Secaucus, NJ and it's ambiance in May that might finally have collected enough talent to escape the dregs of the lottery, or might need one more piece. You can insert the relevant phrases in here for both teams though.
The _______ are an interesting team. If they were in the Western Conference, they'd be three spots higher. In the East however, there's enough bad teams and enough young teams where their young core of _______________ might be able to rack up some wins, or possibly even sneak into the playoffs. The ________ hope their days in the lottery are over, and quite frankly, so do I.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Year: 24-58, 3rd worst record in the league
Why They're In: Anthony Bennett alone isn't putting them over the top.
Why They're Out: The development of the rest of their young talent should.
Putting aside the statistical unlikelihood of the Cavs winning back-to-back lotteries, and the fact that I've grown really tired of Nick Gilbert's one-liners, this is the definition of a team that's trending upward. They start three recent lottery picks (and that's not even counting Bennett.) Kyrie Irving is an elite NBA player. They should not be a bad team. Would it shock anyone if the Cavs snuck into the playoffs? Come on, a Cavs/Heat first round? SO MANY NARRATIVES.
5. Phoenix Suns
Last Year: 25-57, 4th worst record in the league
Current Starting Lineup: Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat
Free Agency Outlook: They have about $13 million in space. Will they use it, and will anyone take it?
The Suns are an interesting terrible basketball team. They have several good NBA players, which can't be said for some of the upcoming teams. Dragic, Scola, and Gortat would start for maybe half the teams in the NBA. They're slowly accumulating assets, picking up Alex Len and Archie Goodwin in the first round Thursday night. They have the money to go out and acquire another good asset. They have a smart new GM in Ryan McDonough. I'm not sure tanking is necessarily the Suns master plan, but I'm also pretty sure they're still going to be a bad team this year.
4. Sacramento Kings
Last Year: 28-54, 6th worst record in the league
Current Starting Lineup: Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans (RFA), Ben McLemore, Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins
Free Agency Outlook: Pretty much capped, maybe one mid-level signing.
This is a threat. There's new ownership and new management that's not afraid to trade players from the past regime. There's a new coach in Mike Malone that probably has a couple years to right the ship. The fans are just happy they still have a team, and fans not showing up for games is nothing new for this franchise. Cousins is their best player and will be in literally every trade rumor this season. They play in a loaded conference, and McLemore probably won't make a major impact this year. Frightening.
3. Orlando Magic
Last Year: 20-62, worst record in the league
Current Starting Lineup: Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Mo Harkless, Glen Davis, Nikola Vucevic
Free Agency Outlook: Capped out, but some pieces to move.
Oh boy, are they in the hunt. For one, I'd be surprised if Afflalo isn't traded in the offseason with the drafting of Victor Oladipo. They could use the flexibility, and another team could use Afflalo. The Afflalo for Eric Bledsoe rumors made a lot of sense, and it wouldn't shock me if that was restarted somehow. This is a team that's still a couple pieces away from really competing, although it'd be nice if guys like Oladipo and our old friends Harkless and Vucevic overachieve this year and give them a few more wins than expected.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Last Year: who cares
Current Starting Lineup: Michael Carter-Williams, Evan Turner, Who The Hell Knows, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes
Free Agency Outlook: Currently seeking all of your expiring contracts.
This is a delightfully terrible basketball team. Inspiringly terrible. Enough words have been written about how terrible this basketball team is. However, when it comes to being a terrible basketball team, there is always the same boss at the end that must be defeated (or in this case, allowed to win.)
1. Charlotte Bobcats
Last Year: 21-61, 2nd worst record in the league
Current Starting Lineup: Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Tyrus Thomas, Bismack Biyombo
Free Agency Outlook: They have cap space, but does that even matter?
This is the gold standard of terrible basketball teams. The Michael Jordan of awful teams, if you will. I mean, look at that lineup. That's terrible basketball personified. Are they tanking? OF COURSE THEY ARE. They're always tanking. You think Michael Jordan doesn't want Andrew Wiggins? He'll challenge him to a one-on-one game the second he steps off the plane because he's a hyper-competitive maniac. They have to win a lottery one of these years. They just have to. I hope they don't. I don't even want them in the top 3. Let them pick at 4 for the 83rd consecutive year (all numbers approximate).
The competition will be fierce. I really like our chances though, even more so after I got through researching every team and seeing what we're dealing with. Tank away.