Terrific piece. I'd say right now the Hornets are an 8th-seed contender -- where they have talent to challenge for that last spot but will likely depend on the rookies developing faster and some injuries/bad breaks for other teams to actually nab it. That said, I'd be comfortable with another poor year and a good lotto pick next season. More talent and then push in 2013-14.
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An early look at the 2012-13 Western Conference Playoff Puzzle – where do the Hornets fit?
Mason tries to determine how the Western Conference standings will play out in 2012-13 and whether or not the Hornets could be playoff-bound by projecting PERs and expected player rotations.
First things first – yes, it’s very early to begin making predictions about next season’s playoff picture. There are plenty of variables that will inevitably come into play that will likely completely ruin everything we thought to be true. That being said, with free agency winding down, we can begin to evaluate each team’s new roster and how the talent stacks up against each other.
For simplicity’s sake, I have eliminated a few teams from this analysis. The main goal here is to project how the Western Conference “playoff bubble” will play out; therefore, I assume that last season’s top 6 seeds – the Spurs, Thunder, Lakers, Clippers, Grizzlies, and Nuggets – will all remain in the playoff picture. None of those teams lost any key pieces, and a couple of them added to their core. I also assume that the Kings will remain at the bottom of the conference for at least one more season.
That leaves eight teams – the Hornets, Rockets, Mavericks, Suns, Jazz, Timberwolves, Warriors, and Blazers – left to battle it out for the final two playoff spots. To evaluate each team based on their new rosters, I weighted each player’s PER from the prior season based on expected minutes per game (also based off of the 2011-12 season) to get a MPG-weighted total PER for each team. This concept seems simple enough, but some assumptions were required in order to keep this analysis as simple as possible.
- To project the PERs of this year’s rookie class, I plugged in the results from John Hollinger’s draft rater column from late June. In the case of Alexey Shved, Donatas Motiejunas, and Victor Claver, I had to create my own projections.
- If a player was injured for most or all of the 2011-12 season or simply did not play in the NBA last year, I used the PER that was projected for them by Hollinger before that season began.
- If a player’s projected PER comes in under replacement level, it will revert to replacement level. The underlying assumption here is that if a player is playing so poorly as to be under replacement level, the coach would reallocate his distribution of minutes towards players who were performing at a higher level. The replacement level PER that Hollinger provides is different for each position on the court; 11.0 for PGs, 10.5 for SGs and SFs, 11.5 for PFs, and 10.6 for Cs.
- Due to the unpredictability of injuries, none were assumed. Clearly, they will unfortunately occur, but guessing when they will happen as well as the severity is no easy task.
- Finally, the various levels of each team’s coaching staff will be ignored. Players obviously aren’t everything, but with this sort of analysis, it would be very difficult to integrate the impact of good vs. poor coaching.
Effectiveness of Method
I received a good suggestion from Will Hibert (who writes for At the Hive) for a way to test whether or not this method of team evaluation would be a useful one. He recommended that I evaluate last season’s Western Conference playoff teams using the same method and see how the results compared to what really happened. I took his advice, and compared the results to two rankings – the actual 2011-12 regular season standings, and Hollinger’s power rankings. The reason for using both is that often, the standings don’t tell you exactly how good a team is and what we can expect from it in the postseason; Hollinger’s rankings use factors such as scoring margin and strength of schedule to more accurately determine a team’s true quality.
While each team’s MP-weighted PER results were not exceedingly correlated to win-loss record, they were actually pretty closely correlated to Hollinger’s power rankings. If your gut reaction is to assume this is the case because Hollinger also devised the PER formula, don’t; PER in no way impacts his power rankings. As a result, considering the lack of data available to analyze a given season before it begins, the MP-Weighted PER appears to be a decent way to project how that season will play out. The data that allowed me to come to this conclusion can be found here.
I came up with three pretty well-defined tiers. The first tier consists of the top two teams that round out the playoff picture as the seventh and eighth seeds. The next tier is a group of three teams reasonably behind the first tier, but tightly packed together and not far enough behind that one of the teams couldn’t pull off the upset. The third tier are teams too far behind to realistically make a playoff push. So, without further adieu:
Tier 1 – Minnesota and Utah
The Timberwolves came out on top with a team MP-weighted PER of just over 17. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, actually; before Ricky Rubio went down last season, the T-Wolves looked like they could possibly sneak into the playoffs. Given the additions of Kirilenko and Shved from Russia, they will have a very good chance to be playing in May regardless of Brandon Roy’s health. The scariest part about Minnesota may be that their team’s MPG-weighted average age is even lower than New Orleans; only 22.72, compared to 23.13 for the Hornets.
The other team that can smell the playoffs is the Jazz, boasting a team MPG-weighted PER of 16.63; however, due to the team’s youth, this number could be low-balling them given the likelihood of their young players to improve. Utah got wiped out by San Antonio in the first round last season, but this is a team that will only get better. Burks, Hayward, Kanter, and Favors are all 22 years old or younger, and all had PERs above 14 last season which should only improve. If Utah’s young players can progress significantly, they could very well jump Minnesota under the leadership of Millsap, Jefferson, and new point guard Mo Williams. The Utah Jazz have a bright future ahead of them.
Tier 2 – Dallas, Golden State, and New Orleans
These three teams are all tightly packed, with team MPG-weighted PERs of 16.23 (Dallas), 16.19 (Golden State), and 15.96 (New Orleans). Out of the three teams, the Hornets likely have the highest ceiling, but also the furthest to fall. The Mavericks and Warriors have exceptional depth; only two of Dallas’ ten players who project to receive over 15 minutes per game have PERs under 15, both of whom (Collison and Carter) finished with PERs of 13.6 last season. Golden State will feature Curry, Bogut, and David Lee, have promising young players Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes on the wings, and also boast nice depth with the addition of two former Hornets, Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry.
The Hornets are the wild card here. The team’s back court depth is incredibly suspect, but will feature one of the strongest front courts in the league between Anderson, Davis, Lopez and Smith. Apart from Eric Gordon’s health, the biggest key for the Hornets to have a chance at making the playoffs is the progression of Austin Rivers. Greivis is a serviceable PG and will be adequate for getting Gordon and the Hornets’ big men the ball, but the team is remarkably thin at guard behind he and Gordon. If Rivers can surpass expectations for his rookie season and make a significant positive impact at the point guard position, then New Orleans has a legitimate chance to battle Minnesota and Utah for those last two playoff spots.
Tier 3 – Phoenix, Portland, and Houston
In an outcome that likely surprises few, Phoenix and Houston graded the worst out of these seven teams; Phoenix’s team MPG-weighted PER is 15.41, and Houston’s fell way behind them at 14.28. More than any team on this list, coaching will likely have a huge impact on the Suns’ success. Heavy minutes with Beasley and Johnson at the wings seems like a horrible idea, but one that likely isn’t out of the question. If the right players play, the Suns could be better than expected, but still not a playoff team.
UPDATE: Due to a couple requests in the comments, I have decided to include Portland in this analysis. The Trail Blazers’ MPG-weighted PER is 14.50, which is a bit ahead of Houston but well behind Phoenix. Hollinger’s draft rater does not work in Lillard or Leonard’s favor, however; both are projected below replacement-level. If both players exceed expectations and achieve PERs closes to league average, Portland’s MPG-weighted PER could very well exceed 15, but passing the Suns at 15.41 seems highly unlikely, keeping them entrenched in this third tier.
Houston is admittedly difficult to project due to the amount of rookies on the team, not to mention the fact that Daryl Morey could pull the trigger on his next trade at any moment. The current roster’s MPG-weighted per of 14.28, however, indicates that the Rockets won’t contend for a playoff spot this season, though it could be a formidable one in a couple years; I doubt Morey will stand pat with this group, though.
No matter how everything ends up playing out, the bottom of the 2012-13 Western Conference playoff race is sure to be a great battle that may come down to the season’s final game. My picks to sneak in are Minnesota and Utah, but Dallas will be right on their heels with the depth to withstand injuries to any player outside of Dirk. Golden State and New Orleans are directly behind Dallas, and should keep the Mavs looking over their shoulder. What do you think? Are the Hornets legit contenders for a playoff spot, or are they still one season away? Share your thoughts below!
If you want to see how each team’s MPG-weighted PER was projected, you can find it here.
I do not see NO going even near to the playoffs, but at least they will be fun to watch. The team only has two players that are over the age of 25, so expect a lot of mistakes in this young group. Hopefully they will have the chance to keep this group together for they are rather talented and have plenty of potential.
I think this is a great way to analyze the teams in the West after all of the changes this off season. Until the season starts, this is the best way we have to guage the relative strength of the Hornets vis-a-vis the West. And the results are reasuring. It looks like the Hornets will be in the playoff hunt for a while, with a slight chance to make the playoffs before ending up with a lottery pick in the low double figures. That is with a very young team, MPG-weighted age of 23, in rebuilding year 1. Yet the Hornet's 2012-13 projected performance is much better than the 'dynamite the team' 2011-12 season. I looked at the actual numbers that back up the MPG-weighted PER for each team and recommend that to everyone. One thing stood out to me. Anthony Davis's projected PER (22.2 (projected by Hollinger?)) was higher than the actual last season PER of Ryan Anderson (21.2), Eric Gordon (19), Dirk (21.9), Milsap (21.8), Gortat (21.2), Currry (21.2) etc. Only three players on the teams analyzed had higher PERs: Love (25.4!!), Al Jefferson (22.9), and Aldridge (22.7). I think Davis's projected PER is a bit high. Lowering Davis's PER 15-20% (in the 18-19 PER range) puts the Hornets closer to Phoenix than Dallas/G.S, for what it is worth. [Lowering Davis's PER 20% puts the Hornet's MPG-weighted PER 0.06 above Phoenix's.] Otherwise the detail numbers look good to me. It will be interesting to see how acurrate they are.
We need to sign that Muslim that dropped 30 on the US the other night. But Davis would be so good if he remembers to put his jersey on pre-game. And houston wont be that bad cause they got LINSANITY
Since ESPN (or any other media) give Utah any credit, I'm at least glad statistical analysis is on our side. We are underrated year in and year out. We got the 8th spot in the west last year, improved our 3 spot significantly w/ marvin Williams, improved our 3 pt shooting significantly w/ williams, williams, and foye (those 3 made more 3's combined than the whole jazz team last year, we finished I think 30th in the league), we improved defensively w/ our new acquisitions (and favors getting more PT) and our young guys should all improve quite a bit. But still, this is the first place I've read where someone is betting jazz make it to the playoffs. When I read you picked Utah to make it to the playoffs, I knew this was unbiased statistical analysis :) Good read, thanks for the work you put into it.
We better not make the playoffs! We need to be in position to draft Alex Poythress!! Your 2013 New Orleans Draft Pick: Alex Poythress
I agree Mason it is too early to decide how the season will pan out. Out of the top 6 that was in the playoffs last season, there are two teams that raise an eyebrow (no pun intended). Even though this is minor, but can Memphis rely on their SG depth with Ellington, Wroten, & Selby to fulfill the spot Mayo has left? For the Clippers, can Vinny Del Negro go far in the playoffs with just their talent alone? IMO, I don't Del Negro is not a great coach and should they struggle early on in the season, it will blow up on Jack Sterling's face. As for the Hornets, it's safe to say we will finish ahead of Houston and not finish last in the competitive Southwest Division. As for wins, I see some media outlet's projection to win 30-35 games. Looking at this roster, it is obvious that is not complete. I don't really see the Hornets picking up all four team option's they have on the table. The only question is will Dell try to set up a trade before the deadline on picking up team options or they will let them play out their contracts? Think about it.
Thanks for the article and projections. I think that we are competing for one of the last two spots in the west.
This is crap. The suns will make the playoffs. They should name this sight www.wedontknowcrapaboutbasketball.com. It really makes me sick to know that people are feeding uninformed information like this to their readers. Let me guess? You've already told them that Robin Lopez is the next Dwight Howard except better offensively.
I think the Olympics has taught Aminu, to be more efficent I believe he leads his team in assists. I'll go out on a limb and say he'll make the jump this year. Could we possibly snake a big from Utah, Jefferson, Millsap, and Kanter, are all starter quality bigs, so one has to leave soon...
Next year is way too early for NO to contend for a playoff position. Based on their current projected roster, they're also taking a huge risk at the PG position. If either Vasquez or Rivers gets hurt or if Rivers can't make it at the 1, it could put the Hornets in the bottom 1/4 of the league. I always like to see a team carry 3 legitimate point guards. You rotate two and have a third at the end of the bench in case of injury. Right now the Hornets have just one, who is at this point in his career could best be described as a solid backup. I'd love to see NO go out and get a veteran PG who can play 15 minutes a game if needed.
I think there's is far too much youth and question marks on this team to be a playoff contender. Honestly I think another bottom 1/3 of the West is better for us long term. Gordon health is always a question until it's no longer a question(not to mention he has yet to make a post season). Anderson is a huge unknown without the inside presense of a Howard type player. If Davis is truly a franchise player I highly doubt it will happen in his rookie season. Same goes for Rivers if he's a quality PG there's little chance it will come together next season. That's essential our core provided someone like Aminu or Vasquez have an amazing break through. I think you are off about the Kings. I see no reason why they won't be in the hunt this season. Cousin IMO will be an All Star this year. I have Robinson as my pick for ROTY. There are some aspects of Thorton game I hate, but he can give fill it up. Evans is one of the most versatile players in the NBA if he can commit to being a defensives player I see no reason why he won't be one of the better primeter defender in the league. And they have 3 guys to try to give them something at the point.
Mason, how did you figure out the expected minutes per game? Also, what does the MPG-Weighted Age show us?
Three, actually... Smith, Warrick, and Mason. Regardless, I don't think you can confuse age with NBA experience. Sure, the Hornets are young, but last season's heavy minutes for Vasquez and Aminu should go a long way in expediting their development. Their other young guys (Anderson, Gordon, Lopez) have been in the league for a few years and have a decent amount of experience under their belts. The rookies will be rookies, but otherwise, I think this team's experience is at a higher level than their age may indicate. I think you can expect more bumps along the way due to heavy roster turnover & not having played much together than you can because of the team's youth. Though there's almost no chance they get further this season than a first round playoff exit, I don't think a playoff berth is totally out of the question this year if a couple breaks go their way.
I actually agree that Hollinger's projected PER for Davis may be a bit high. That being said, as skeptical as I am about Rivers, I think a sub-10 PER for him is a bit low. A PER in the 12-13 range for him may not be of the question. Also, Vasquez's PER is likely bound to improve given the increased talent level around him. Lots of variables all around! Like you said though... until the season starts, this is probably one of the best ways we have to guage the relative strength of every team.
Dude, you're in for such a rude awakening. Gone are the steadying veteran presences of Hill and Nash. In are massively overrated Beasley, outright bust Wesley Johnson and still quite unproven Dragic. Your record will be so lousy that just 2 months into the season, your fanbase will be pondering how many picks you can get for your few assets.
Hahahahahahahaha somebody is butthurt that they didn't get Gordon! You have fun making the playoffs with that deadly combo of Dragic, Beasley, and Brown!
Man, I hope this is a troll. You see what I have to deal with here in Phoenix people? Dude think Beasley will win them 30 games. I want to avoid a pissing contest butttt.... In the last 7 NBA seasons its taken over a .500 record for a team to make the playoffs in the west. It probably continues for way more than 7 seasons but I don't feel like putting in too much work for someone so disillusioned. Saying the suns make the playoffs means you think they will win over 42 games. With a glutton of 4's on your roster it looks like "Super Cool Beas" will be matched up against SF's. There is an interesting analysis about how Beasley's only real advantage is his speed against PF's. Still he thinks he's the best player on the Suns now and won't think twice about taking over 20 field goals a game. That's great if he wants to lead the team in points and terrible if he wants to win games. Dudley's good but overrated by every Suns fan I've ever met. Gortat is good but benefits mainly by playing next to a good pick and roll PG. Guess what? You had one of the best in the league last year in Nash and don't have him anymore. You have a PG who is overvalued because he once played in Phoenix, and had a great one month run in Houston before free agency (in a system that made Aaron Brooks look good). But since you can label all that as projection lets just look at a very basic breakdown of the supposed starting five of the suns vs the projected 8th seed (we'll say Minni because they won't start the season with Rubio) player by player Gortat/Frye > Pekovic/Stiemsma - Pek is better defensively Gortat offensively but Gortat gets the edge. Scola/Morris/Frye <<< Love/Williams/Cunningham - Scola took a huge dip this last season. Let's assume that Scola bounces back. He still plays zero defense and can get killed in the block against post players Beasley/Dudley < Kirilinko/Buddinger - not too much to say here. AK47 is on a pretty crappy contract but Beas is garbage to anyone who can look at basketball and understand that just because someone can score 20 points doesn't make them a good player. Dudley/Brown/Johnson = Barea/Shved/Ridenour - Seems like the Tumblewolves have the edge here to me but its close so I'll be nice Dragic/Telfair/Marshall < Rubio/Ridenour/Shved/Barea - Why the Suns didn't decide to actually begin building a team around the best pass first point guard in the draft and just hand him the keys from day one is beyond me. Now they have a middling PG starting. I don't think there is a knowledgeable NBA fan that would take Dragic over Rubio. So the final score is 3/1? That's against the bottom team that the Suns would have to beat out for a playoff spot. Still think that they make the playoffs? Name me what their offense looks like. What sets do they run? Where do they have an advantage against most teams? Every playoff team does at least one or two things well and have a go to fall back play for when other shots aren't falling. What do the suns do? Run Iso plays for Beasley? play the pick and roll for Gortat and Dragic? These spot up for Dudley off a curl? Compare that to the sets the other projected playoff teams are running. Now watch some games, pay attention, read some articles, get yourself right, and then comment on another team's board. TL:DR? - step off
You do realize that my projections on Hornets247 have the Hornets missing the playoffs, right? But sure, it's clearly a biased opinion and there was obviously no research done to arrive at the conclusions above.
What do the Hornets have that the Jazz would want from them? What could they give up that's worth utah parting w/ one of their bigs? I agree we need to trade one, but I'm unaware of the assets NO is willing to part with.
Aminu is sadly garbage. This should be his last year as a hornet. Hopefully he makes a BIG jump but i just don't see anything in his game that justifies him to start on any team. Trust me I have tried. Hopefully, Miller pans out.
Why do we need one? Davis, Anderson, Lopez and Smith form a pretty solid 4-man rotation, and their ages are 20, 24, 24, and 26, so there's no need to look to replace them.
Throne pick the Kings! A team with no coaching structure from Keith Smart(just a replacement type coach), no leadership due to youth(vets are castoffs from other teams; Salmon?), and the NBA Headcase Poster Child is DeMarcus Cousins! He's talented but a cancer to a franchise, but Throne picks this team as being legit with Thomas being ROTY, but points out the Hornets flaws when both teams are young! The xfactor in this topic is coaching, and that my the Hornets have! A Defensive philosophy with a discipline structured environment for his players! Something that Keith Smart doesnt have and never will have! -it's amazing how the negative things You point out to complain about The Hornets are the same flaws in the team you pick to be successful!
I just see absolutely no chemistry or defense on that team. Every player wants to dominate the ball and chuck 20 points a game. If Robinson and Cousins are getting 5 offensive boards each then they may get a chance. Their 4 guards of Thornton, Evans, Brooks, and Thomas averaged a combined 50 shots per game last season (2 seasons ago for Brooks). That's over half of their possession's shots being taken without Cousins, Robinson, or Ferdette. Bill Simmons dubbed them "The Sacremento Black Holes" and I think that will keep them in the bottom of the Western Conference.
I utilized past player rotations to create an estimate of distribution of minutes for this season. The MPG-weighted age isn't really relevant to the analysis, but I thought it was useful to see where each team stands in terms of undeveloped potential. In this regard, teams like Minnesota, New Orleans, Portland and Houston appear to be in better long-term shape than teams like Dallas and Phoenix.
I have a mate who's a suns fan who thinks they could win 45 games this year. Must be something about the kind of people the 7 seconds offense attracts! He's not even from Phoenix so it can't be something in the water! We've been trying to subtly lower his expectations so he's not depressed when they win 30 games haha
Mason, your post is very fair. The suns would have to pull a miracle to make the playoffs. Nash WAS the team. This guy is a major troll. Thumbs down.
If you think throwing yourself completely at EG10 and missing counts as a successful offseason, then I feel bad for you. Good luck making the playoffs without your 'cornerstone'. And btw, the talent you gained came in the form of the lesser half of a timberwolves team that dropped like a rock once rubio got hurt and in a point guard your front office didn't think was worth keeping...and only got significant playing time b/c the starter was hurt. The suns season will be comprised of chucking three's (dudley and frye are solid so thats not all bad) and fighting w/ the kings for last place in your division. But of course I'm biased so feel free to come post again in April and let me know just how biased my predictions were.....
Just because your bs analysis has the hornets missing the playoffs doesn't mean its not crap. Putting the hornets in the same breath as Dallas and Golden State is very bias. The suns are making the playoffs. We had a fantastic offseason and added lots of young talent that will help us overcome the loss of Nash. Why did you respond = don't fight it, man we know it's true. I suggest fans who want actual unbiased info should find a new sight. For those who just want to be fed crap because they want to feel good stay here.
Smith, Warrick, Henry, 2nd rounders, lopez, and aminu. Lopez/aminu only leave if you get a good center or small foward in return. Smith's contract makes him a great asset. Warrick&lopez you have to wait like two months.
Anderson is one of the best offensive rebounders going around. Howard is not a great offensive rebounder. I fail to see how DH would have impacted on that so much unless every single scouting team in the comp didn't realise Howard grabbed 85% of his rebounds defensively. In fact, playing with a D12 type would've made Andersons rebounding worse if anything. Also, Davis projects as a very good rebounder as that is one of the skills that best translated from college to the NBA and he had a crazy rebound rate for such a dominant shot blocker.
Rebounding. Rebounding wins championships, Our team doesn't have one rebounder. Anderson is good but the only part of his game that dh significantly improved was rebounding by drawing attention away. Neither smith/lopez possess an elite skill or above average skill. Millsap- great rebounder,expiring money, experience Jefferson- expiring money, good rebounder,good in post Favors- Impossible to recieve, without giving up EG. Kanter- practiced with miller, potential. Smith- Average mid range, bad rebounder / can't play on our U25 team. Lopez- below average everything but could be better with more playing time. Sibling rivalry kick in...?
I agree you can put Smith, Vasquez, even Lopez for that matter at spot 5 over Aminu. Which is a huge problem by itself. I listed Aminu because I give both teams atleast 1 ball handler, wing, and big. If Austin isn't a top 5 player on this team ahead of Smith, Aminu, Vasquez, or Lopez by mid swing of this season that's probably a big problem moving forward. Not sure why I have to explain the value of experience? Are you saying those stats can't improve? Once again that will be on the coach to get them to buy in, but it's not like we have never seen poor defensives teams make the post season. Well every one of those players gained another year of experience so therefore they all have changed. I think Robinson was the best, most pro ready player in the draft as well. Often times people project players to turn the page I think we see Cousins and Evan doing that this year. The Hornets are in much better situation cap wise. However I think this team isn't better than last year team if healthy. Gordon can't seem to stay healthy and he's the only scorer we have. Anderson isn't a scorer he's a shooter. Those minus the rookies are the only legit starters on this team. If you think 12-13 Hornets is better than the 12-13 Kings that's your opinion and I completely disagree.
Throne, I don't get it. There is no way Smith isn't in our top 5 players, and I'd put Vasquez there, too (over Rivers and Aminu). With that correction, Smith and Vasquez have experience playing together and some experience with Gordon. (This correction also exposes your mistaken thought that we will have two rookies in our core.) Why do you value the three top Kings players having 'played together'? The Kings finished 30th, and last, in points allowed, and 26th in assists/game. Those two statistics are the best indicators of how well players mesh as a team. The King's players didn't play together; they were just on the court together. That's a huge distinction, and in my opinion explains how the Kings lost 2/3rds of their games with a lineup that had these three players (and others) playing 50+ games each last year. You say "it’s going to be an uphill battle for Smart to get those guys to play defense night in night out", but I believe it would be more accurate to say "it will be a miracle for Smart to get those guys to play defense night in night out!" What is changing from last year's Kings team that was last in point allowed? Not Smart, Cousins, Evans, Thornton (Salmons, Garcia, Fredette, etc)! On the other hand, the Hornets have made meaningful upgrades. They will have two big time scorers in Anderson and Gordon (while Gordon is healthy), and addressed their biggest need, scoring, by signing Anderson and re-signing Gordon. They have also added quality rebounders Anderson and Davis to address another prior weakness. I just don't think the 12-13 Kings are even comparable to the 12-13 Hornets.
Our core will most likely consist of 2 rookies and a team with little to no on court time together. On our entire roster there's only one proven player that can create offensive at an NBA level. While I'll agree it's going to be an up hill battle for Smart to get those guys to play defense night in night out. However unlike us they have several guys who can create for themselves or others and the all have atleast a year under their belts playing together(minus Robinson). Their top 5 players next year(IMO) no order Cousins*3rd year Evans*4th year Thorton*4th year Brooks*5th year Robinson*rookie Our top 5 players next year(IMO) no order Gordon*5th year Anderson*5th year Davis*Rookie Rivers*Rookie Aminu*3rd year Not only are they more experienced all around 3 of there top 5 played together all last year while 0 of top five have even 10 games together.
Saying they might sneak into the playoffs hardly makes them a successful franchise given the amount of top 5 picks they've had recently. And I agree with him, if they use their players right they could be a solid team. MT needs to play 6th man and Tyreke needs to start at the 2 next to brooks. They also need an SF who can hit the three and they'd be a seriously good team