Yesterday, we highlighted 5 teams who improved this summer through free agency and the draft. So today we’re going to bring you 5 teams that saw their talent drop this off-season, whether to tank for a loaded 2014 draft, or through misinformed moves team’s believe will help their franchise win now, but that could have more disastrous long-term affects.
The problem with assessing the losers of the 2013 NBA off-season hinges on the dichotomy between those teams who actively tried to get worse, and those teams that tried to get better, but instead set themselves up for a few headaches later on down the line. Obviously we’re not clairvoyant, but some of the moves the latter group of teams made are head-scratchers.
That’s not to say we can’t be proven wrong, but we don’t envision long-term success for those squads that loaded up on players with overlapping skill sets and who might end up trading some of their new hires before the February deadline next year. The only problem is that some of the contracts they’ve put together are so deplorable, it would take David Khan still running the Timberwolves to unload them.
Without over-explaining our choices too much, here are 5 teams who regressed the most during the summer of 2013, with the first two squads setting themselves up for more long-term failure and the last three doing everything in their power—short of signing a D-League starting lineup—to align themselves with what many consider the deepest NBA draft in history next summer. There are gonna be a lot of bad teams next season, but only a few that are truly wretched.
5. New Orleans Pelicans
This is really hard to do, especially since we had New Orleans as an honorable mention for the top 5 most improved teams. But that’s because the Pelican’s moves this off-season could fluctuate so wildly and it might end up being one of their best off-season’s in franchise history, or an abysmal footnote for a team that hasn’t ever really contended for anything since Chris Paul left.
Their GM, Dell Demps, was told by new owner, Tom Benson, to win, and win now. So it’s not like Demps had much of a choice in the matter, and when the opportunity to snag a 23-year-old all-star point guard presented itself, Demps made the move.
The Jrue Holiday trade for Philadelphia’s No. 6 pick—which turned into the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick, Nerlens Noel —might seem like NOR took advantage of the new GM in Philadelphia, Sam Hinkie. Most NBA observers feel differently, though, and it has to do with Philadelphia also acquiring NOR’s top-three protected first round pick in the 2014 draft. A draft, as we’ve mentioned time and again, that is going to be loaded.
This might mean Philadelphia will have two lottery picks in the best draft in NBA history, or it could mean the Pelicans’ desire to win now trumps the ability to land an Andrew Wiggins- or Jabari Parker-type player next summer. There is the caveat that if New Orleans doesn’t win as much as they envision next season, that pick could still fall to them if it’s inside the top 5—where Parker and Wiggins are likely to go.
The thinking of Demps centers on the maturation of the 2012 No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Davis, who struggled with injuries in an up-and-down rookie campaign, but who showed enough potential to surround him with players that can turn them into a consistent winner. There is one move that no one can wrap their head’s around It involves the sign-and-trade deal Demps struck to send Greivis Vasquez to Sacramento, Robin Lopez to Portland and brought Tyreke Evans‘ in with a four-year $44 million deal that might be the worst of the summer.
Or it might not.
Evans was the ROY once upon a time, but he’s seen his numbers and his skills atrophy under the Maloof-ian hegemony that may have ruined his chance to be great. Or he was always going to come down from his peak rookie season—similar to the fall by Damon Stoudemire after his ROY turn in Toronto morphed into a cannabis-drenched time in Portland with the Jail Blazers.
With Evans, Holiday, and Eric Gordon all expected to start—with Evans playing as a small forward and with Gordon as an off-guard, they appear to have a back-court to build around. Except, Holiday’s play tapered off towards the end of last season, Evans was terrible in Sacramento last year, and Gordon’s knee is still as janky as ever—though he seems happy to be in New Orleans after initially wishing that they had not matched Phoenix’s offer sheet last summer.
The Pelicans could be the new fun surprise 8th or 7th seed in the West, or they could be awful and experience injuries to Gordon and Davis while regretting the Evans signing immediately if he doesn’t show improvement on defense in his shooting.