• benurussell8

Bottom of the Barrel - What these NBA Teams Need to Compete

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the 2021 NBA season is finally in full swing. Many fans were skeptical about the validity of a successful NBA season not in a bubble, myself included. However, here we are, about 10 games into the season and so far everything has been running smoothly... well, for the most part, that is.


This article will break down the bottom three teams in each conference and what they need to do to be successful THIS year, 2021.


WESTERN CONFERENCE

Coming in with the 13th seed in the west, the Houston Rockets are struggling and it's no secret why. James Harden wants OUT of Houston, and he's made it clear that he is willing to take the team down with him to do so.


In their recent 18 point loss to the Lakers, "Superstar" James Harden, who has referred to himself as the greatest scorer of all time, put up 20 points. He isn't getting his teammates involved, which leads to them underperforming as well.


The issue here is that the Rockets are going to be hard-pressed to find a trade that is worthy of James Harden's talents. After Harden's extremely public desire to leave Houston, teams know that they don't need to offer the farm for him. His most likely destination seems to be Philadelphia. However, when that trade happens, and for whom, is anybody's guess.



The Memphis Grizzlies pull in the Western Conference's 14th seed, and similarly to the Houston Rockets, the answer as to why is quite simple: Rookie of the Year Ja Morant is out.


On December 29th 2020, the Memphis Grizzlies announced that Ja Morant would be out 3-5 weeks following a Grade 2 ankle sprain. Morant is the floor leader of the Grizzlies and his absence has been duly noted. This isn't going to remain this way for the rest of the season, and I am looking for the Grizzlies to make a run for the playoffs later in the year.


Morant tweeted that he will no longer be wearing low-top shoes, so look for the Grizzlies shining star to return wearing some fresh Air Jordan 1s.



The Minnesota Timberwolves without Karl Anthony Towns on the court simply is not the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves are currently trailing the rest of the conference as the 15th seed while big KAT is out with a wrist injury.


While his absence has been felt, I would've liked to see some more fight out of this team. After picking up number one overall pick, Anthony Edwards, in the 2020 NBA Draft and trading for the number two overall pick from the 2015 draft, D'Angelo Russell, the Timberwolves were setting the stage to have an amazing season.


But that has not been the case. Watching the Timberwolves is like watching the 2000's Cleveland Browns. You want them to be good so bad. They should be good. Yet something is missing. Hopefully big KAT's return will give this team a much needed confidence boost.


EASTERN CONFERENCE


The Eastern Conference is a mess, even for the Eastern Conference. The Toronto Raptors, who won their first NBA Championship only two years ago, are currently holding the 13th seed in the east. It's extremely important to note that the New York Knicks currently hold the 6th seed in the east, which tells us one of two things. First, this has been a flukey start to the season, and the Raptors will be back on top in no time. Second, the post covid NBA has completely flipped, and we now live in a world where the New York Knicks might be.... actually pretty ok.


If the Toronto Raptors want to start making a comeback in the rankings, it has to start with All-Star Pascal Siakam. Don't get me wrong, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet are great players and I respect their game immensely, but now that Kawhi is gone, if Toronto wants to have any chance of competing, Siakam has to start performing better. A 20-4-8 stat line can't be that of the best player on a championship contender while remaining a contender.



The Detroit Pistons bring up the 14th seed in the east, and if you're a Pistons fan, you might want to stop reading. With a 2-8 record, the Pistons have looked like the bums of the league. The Pistons had the easiest early season of any team in the NBA and they've completely blown any chance they had.


After losing to the Knicks, Wizards, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Hawks and a Klay Thompson-less Warriors, I have no faith that the Pistons will be able to turn it around this season. Their next five opponents are the Bucks, Wizards, Heat, Hawks and Rockets and it only gets tougher from there.


In my opinion, it's time to get rid of Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin. Why the Pistons felt the need to rehab two recovering players, I do not understand. Both Rose and Griffin are averaging just 13 points and Derrick Rose isn't even a starter! I truly believe that Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin are both still insanely talented members of the league and their skills are being grossly misused by the Pistons. Detroit should trade both players for draft picks and follow the Oklahoma City Thunder model of acquiring all the first round picks in the near future.



Finally, I almost feel bad mentioning the Washington Wizards. This is a team that I believe is on the cusp of being a championship contender and yet they are tied with the Pistons for the worst team in the league. This team is packed with talent. Russell Westbrook is finding his footing in Washington but balling none the less, Bradley Beal is averaging 35 points per game and the Wizards have rising stars Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura and Mo Wagner but still can't get any traction.


I won't linger long on the Wizards, because they really haven't had long to practice. The Russell Westbrook trade came late in the offseason and it has been a pandemic-filled crazy year.


Look for the Washington Wizards to start playing better as the year progresses. And I will guarantee that they will be a part of the 2022 playoffs.



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