Curse Casting: Predicting the Non-Playoff Teams in 2016-17

Which teams are doomed (or merely destined) to miss the postseason in 2016-17? Here’s one way-too-early (and wildly ridiculous) look at that question.

1.) Brooklyn Nets

You were expecting the Easter bunny? The Nets and still-new GM Sean Marks have come to grips with their cellar-dweller status. It’s always possible that more could be done to improve the talent on the roster, but as thing stand the Nets appear willing to sink if it means developing their younger players and turning over lots of rocks. No matter how things shake out, it’s a relative given that Brooklyn fishes among the bottom five teams. How many other squads can we confidently say that about? There’s no getting around the immediate misery of the situation here from a winning and losing perspective, with double whammies on the dial for the foreseeable future thanks to those sneaky Celtics.

Projected Rotation

PG: Lin, Vasquez, Whitehead

SG: Kilpatrick, LeVert, Foye, Harris

SF Bogdanovic, Hollis-Jefferson

PF Hollis-Jefferson, Booker, McCullough, Bennett, Scola

C: Lopez, Hamilton

Projected Record: 10-72

2.) Philadelphia 76ers

With overlapping talents like Ben Simmons and Dario Saric, three centers, and a slew of questions about who is going to put the ball in the hole, it’s no surprise to see the Sixers slated for the lottery once again. However, fun is not a word that has been applicable for the 76ers’ product all that much lately, and that’s about to change. It might feel like no one really wants to shoot and there’s a lot of over-passing, but that in itself means there’s potential for this 20 to 30-win team to become League Pass darlings here in 2016-17. A young squad that spreads and shares the ball too much for their own good is a huge upgrade from near-worst club in NBA history—plus if the injury gods cooperate, we’re about to get our first little taste of Joel Embiid.

Projected Rotation

PG: Bayless, Rodriguez, McConnell

SG: Henderson, Stauskas, Thompson, Luwawu

SF: Simmons, Grant

PF: Covington, Saric, Holmes

C: Noel, Embiid, Okafor

Projected Record: 23-59

3.) Sacramento Kings

Darren Collison might be an upgrade over Rajon Rondo in terms of actual impact on the game, but is there anyone who truly believes the Kings worked themselves into the playoff convo this offseason? DeMarcus Cousins can win contests all by himself, and he will do that fairly often all things considering. But overall, it will be a long year despite a new arena, losses piling up and the laughter of Philadelphia fans echoing in the background. The best-case-scenario for Sacramento is so sad yet again, as the Sixers possess the right to swap picks—plus the Kings owe Chicago their 2017 first round pick if Sacramento somehow finishes outside of the top-10 slots. The team’s most prudent and passionate fans will be praying to the lottery gods come April one way or another—the West is still too strong to think otherwise.

Projected Rotation

PG: Collison, Temple, Richardson

SG: Afflalo, McLemore

SF: Gay, Casspi, Patterson

PF: Barnes, Tolliver, Labissiere

C: Cousins, Cauley-Stein, Koufos, Papagiannis

Projected Record: 24-58

4.)  Los Angeles Lakers

Swapping Luke Walton in for Byron Scott and allowing the youngsters to take over in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s retirement sets the table for a much more meaningful campaign than the Nostalgia Network soap opera from last season. Like Philly though, they are at least one year away from seriously competing for a playoff spot. The Lakers owe their first round pick to Philadelphia provided it falls outside of the top three selections, so they’ll likely be joining Sacramento in prayer come lottery night.

Projected Rotation

PG: Russell, Huertas, Calderon

SG: Clarkson, Williams, Young

SF: Ingram, Brown

PF: Deng, Randle, Nance, Yi

C: Mozgov, Black, Zubac

Projected Record: 25-57

5.) Chicago Bulls

Everything is in place for a basketball disaster of epic proportions to occur inside the United Center this winter. The backcourt pairing of Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade offers negative spacing. Though not as bad as those two ball-dominants from beyond the arc, Jimmy Butler’s biggest blemish is his outside shooting as well. Robin Lopez isn’t about that life either. For this team to even sniff the postseason, Bobby Portis, Nikola Mirotic, Cristiano Felicio, Denzel Valentine, and others will need to be some kind of wonderful at hitting triples, and that still might not be enough. Best of luck to Fred Hoiberg.

Projected Rotation

PG: Rondo, Valentine, Canaan, Grant

SG: Wade, McDermott

SF: Butler, Snell, Zipser

PF: Mirotic, Portis, Gibson

C: Lopez, Portis, Feliciano

Projected Record: 26-56

6.) Phoenix Suns

The Suns are almost assuredly set to improve upon last year’s injury-plagued plummet in the standings. Nevertheless, it’s hard to see how the pieces align to form a top-eight team in the West. The logjam in the backcourt may force a trade, which would probably be in the best interest of former Wildcats Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis. A seventh straight trip to the lottery would allow this young and talented team another shot to score big on draft night.

Projected Rotation

PG: Bledsoe, Knight, Ulis

SG: Booker, Knight, Barbosa, Goodwin, Jenkins

SF: Tucker, Warren

PF: Dudley, Bender, Chriss

C: Len, Chandler

Projected Record: 33-49

7.) Washington

Fansided’s Ian Levy provided some excellent ideas for how John Wall and Bradley Beal can save their relationship, but I’m afraid things are about to go awry in the nation’s capital. The glaring hole seems to be at small forward. Otto Porter is probably better suited to play the 4, but with Markieff Morris likely holding that spot down and no reliable 3 in town the former Hoya may have no choice. Ian Mahinmi brings a much-needed source of rim protection, but the chemistry issues in the backcourt make it difficult for me to be optimistic about the Wizards’ playoff odds.

Projected Rotation

PG: Wall, Burke

SG: Beal, Satoransky

SF: Porter, Oubre, Thornton

PF: Morris, Nicholson

C: Mahinmi, Gortat, Smith

Projected Record: 34-48

8.) Orlando

Orlando may be a defensive juggernaut in 2016-17 thanks to its frontcourt, but the offense is going to be ugly unless Evan Fournier and Mario Hezonja both get heavy minutes. Even then, Payton and Biyombo shrink the court down a few sizes, so coach Frank Vogel has his work cut out for him no matter how you slice it.

Projected Rotation

PG: Payton, Augustin, Watson

SG: Fournier, Hezonja, Meeks, Wilcox

SF: Green, Hezonja, Gordon

PF: Ibaka, Gordon

C: Biyombo, Vucevic, Zimmerman

Projected Record: 35-47

9.) New York

Most information suggests that Melo operates best at the 4, but he’ll mostly be stationed at the 3 unless Joakim Noah suffers another injury. On paper this looks like a potential playoff team, but I have my doubts about whether Derrick Rose can become an effective pass-first point guard when he has been a scorer his entire career. In order for this Knicks squad to sneak into the postseason, Rose needs to completely change his ways and adopt a distributor’s mentality. Sometimes old dogs don’t learn new tricks.

Projected Rotation

PG: Rose, Jennings

SG: Lee, Holiday, Vujacic

SF: Anthony, Thomas, Kuzminskas

PF: Porzingis, Anthony, Thomas, N’dour, Plumlee

C: Noah, Porzingis, O’Quinn, Hernangomez

Projected Record: 36-46

10.) Denver

Adding Wilson Chandler and a couple rookie guards to the mix gives Denver undeniable depth at just about every position. It also makes life difficult for coach Michael Malone, who is tasked with too many tough decisions. He can’t satisfy everybody in terms of minutes and role, and Emmanuel Mudiay probably isn’t ready to lead the Nuggets to a playoff berth just yet. With that being said, I like the outlook long-term here and think we’ll see Denver make solid progress during the course of the season regardless of whether there’s a trade on the horizon that helps settle some of the positional battles.

Projected Rotation

PG: Mudiay, Nelson

SG: Harris, Murray, Beasley

SF: Gallinari, Chandler, Barton, Miller

PF: Faried, Gallinari, Chandler, Lauvergne

C: Jokic, Nurkic, Arthur, Hernangomez

Projected Record: 37-45

11.) Houston

I’ll fear for Zach Harper’s wellbeing when he sits down to digest the Rockets’ transition defense during his midseason crisis. Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza, and Clint Capela could share the court for 30 minutes per game to try and stop the bleeding on D, but James Harden, Eric Gordon, and Ryan Anderson aren’t exactly known for their efforts on that end. Harden will have ridiculous stats, especially with Mike D’Antoni in charge, but it feels like this is the year the Rockets finally fall off the playoff map.

Projected Rotation

PG: Beverley, Prigioni

SG: Harden, Gordon

SF: Ariza, Brewer, McDaniels, Dekker

PF: Anderson, Beasley, Harrell

C: Capela, Nene, Onuaku

Projected Record: 38-44

12.) Miami

Too many questions. If I knew that Chris Bosh was good to go, I’d probably pencil the Heat into a top-eight spot. Without that information, it’s hard to see Miami making up for the loss of Dwyane Wade. Even though Wade and Goran Dragic didn’t mesh well, losing Flash significantly stifles a potentially Bosh-less Heat squad. Deprived of its already limited depth, the idea of Dion Waiters stepping into Wade’s shoes sounds like a South Beach horror story.

Projected Rotation

PG: Dragic, Johnson, Udrih

SG: Richardson, Johnson, Waiters, Ellington

SF: Winslow, Richardson, Williams, Johnson Babbit

PF: Bosh*, Winslow, Williams, Johnson McRoberts, Haslem

C: Whiteside, Bosh*, McRoberts, Haslem, Reed

Projected Record: 39-43

13.) Minnesota

Will it be surprising if the Timberwolves earn a playoff spot in 2016-17? Only marginally, actually. The West is still legitimate, but it’s already at the point where nothing Karl-Anthony Towns does shocks me anymore. Injuries or meltdowns in Memphis and Dallas could open up a couple more playoff spots, yet it seems more likely that the Grizzlies and Mavericks maintain their postseason status quos. Next year KAT is coming for that MVP trophy though.

Projected Rotation

PG: Rubio, Dunn, Jones

SG: LaVine, Rush

SF: Wiggins, Muhammad

PF: Dieng, Bjelica, Payne

C: Towns, Aldrich, Hill

Projected Record: 40-42

14.) Oklahoma City

The rage and brilliance of Russell Westbrook might be enough to lift a D-League team into the postseason. However, this Thunder squad is facing some palpable obstacles. Victor Oladipo and Westbrook could be one of the top two-way backcourts in basketball. This is especially true if Russ amps up his defense and Oladipo continues to improve his offense, but the lack of shooting is a justifiable concern. It’s not just in the backcourt either. Coach Billy Donovan might be forced to hand Ersan Ilyasova 25-30 minutes per game at the 4, and the Thunder couldn’t get enough defense from Anthony Morrow or Kyle Singler to justify playing them much. There’s no ideal way around the spacing issues in Oklahoma City, which forced my hand in picking them to miss the playoffs. I can’t wait until Westbrook makes me eat these words.

Projected Rotation

PG Westbrook, Payne, Price

SG Oladipo, Morrow, Abrines

SF Roberson, Singler, Huestis,

PF Ilyasova, McGary, Sabonis, Collison

C Adams, Kanter

Projected Record: 41-41

East Playoffs

  1. Cleveland 57-25
  2. Boston 53-29
  3. Detroit 49-33
  4. Atlanta 48-34
  5. Charlotte 47-35
  6. Indiana 45-37
  7. Toronto 43-39
  8. Milwaukee 42-40

My faith in Milwaukee might be misguided, but somehow I think Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Jabari Parker will lead the Bucks back to the playoffs this season. I’m actually pretty confident that the other seven squads will make the postseason, obviously more-so in Cleveland, Boston, Detroit, and Atlanta. Toronto could suffer a drop-off with Bismack Biyombo gone even though they’ve done well to fill out their roster. Maybe I’m just starting to sour on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, but I’m definitely not that high on Indiana. Thad Young was a great add. However, I hate that they swapped out much better defense (George Hill, Solomon Hill, Ian Mahinmi) for slightly better offense (Jeff Teague, Al Jefferson), and Monta Ellis was not good last year. The Hornets will have a hard time replacing veteran guard Courtney Lee and it might take some time for them to gel with MKG coming back, but I like the continuity Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, and Marvin Williams established last year in Charlotte.

West Playoffs

  1. Golden State 70-12
  2. San Antonio 53-29
  3. L.A. Clippers 51-31
  4. Utah 50-32
  5. New Orleans 48-34
  6. Memphis 47-35
  7. Portland 44-38
  8. Dallas 42-40

I have a feeling that this is finally the year where Anthony Davis stays healthy and draws legitimate MVP consideration if his team is nearing 50 wins. However, I’m only close to 100 percent positive that Golden State, San Antonio, L.A., and Utah make the postseason in the West. So much is up in the air, so much chalk. Memphis is welcoming back Marc Gasol from injury, but he also got off to a bad start last year. Chandler Parsons and Mike Conley have shown signs that their bodies could begin breaking down as well. Furthermore, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen aren’t getting faster, nor their weaknesses any easier to hide. Portland brought back the same squad plus Evan Turner, adding a third ball-handler to a team that probably would’ve been better off signing a floor-spacing 3 or a rim-protecting starting 5. Dallas is relying on Andrew Bogut to stay healthy, Harrison Barnes to prove himself, and, as always, Dirk Nowitzki raindrops.

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