On – 06 Aug, 2017 By Alex Lessard
After taking a look at five teams that will improve the most next season, it’s time to glance at the other side. With so many stars headed elsewhere, plenty of franchises were left to ponder their long-term future. Some teams committed to a long-term rebuild. Others chose to stay competitive. But in the big picture, which teams will see their win totals plummet the most?
1. Atlanta Hawks
It’s always tough to bounce back when both members of your starting front court head out of town. In Atlanta’s case, each of those players have combined for a dozen All-Star appearances. Paul Millsap chose to leave in free agency for greener pastures in Denver. And, Hawks management essentially shipped Dwight Howard to Charlotte for spare parts just one year after spending big money to bring him into the fold.
The moves that followed these departures signaled a tanking mindset for Atlanta. Dennis Schröder is now the best player on the roster. Many believe him to be a league-average point guard at best. Sure, moves like signing Dewayne Dedmon added depth to the bench, but the Hawks are clearly looking to give young players a chance to shine. They now have six players in their first or second seasons. That includes this year’s 19th overall pick, John Collins. Atlanta has made the playoffs 10 years in a row. Nowthat streak is looking like it will come to an end in this season.
2. Chicago Bulls
One year after trading away old face-of-the-franchise Derrick Rose, the Bulls sent homegrown star Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, making their hopes to rebuild very clear. The Rondo-Butler-Wade experiment was both mediocre and dramatic in the regular season. Right when it started to come together in the playoffs, resulting in a 2-0 series lead over No. 1 seed Boston in the first round, Rondo’s injury derailed their hopes for the future. It also likely convinced John Paxson and the rest of Chicago’s front office to give up on contenting anytime soon.
The roster now looks like a top-seeded NCAA Tournament team with Dwyane Wade thrown into the mix. Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen give Bulls fans a glimmer of hope for the future. But the jumbled collection of young pieces that don’t shoot well from deep will certainly haunt Fred Hoiberg’s dreams in the short-term. The good news for Chicago is fans consistently come out no matter how good the team is. The Bulls have led the NBA in attendance every year since 2009. However, hopes for another trip to the postseason are looking bleaker and bleaker.
3. Indiana Pacers
The Paul George saga is finally over. GM Kevin Pritchard sent his disgruntled star to Oklahoma City after pondering a handful of other intriguing trade possibilities. He ultimately went with a deal that netted Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, a move many folks in NBA circles have voiced to be a disappointing return. Cleveland reportedly offered Kyrie Irving straight-up for George multiple times. Denver was willing to take on Kevin Love in a three-way deal and send a package centered around Gary Harris back to Indiana.
The Pacers quickly moved on and rebuilt their roster by bringing in a group of veterans at reasonable prices. Most of them are fringe starters at best, signaling Indiana’s hopes to continue contending for a playoff spot in the East. Darren Collison, Corey Joseph and Bojan Bogdanović will fit right into the Pacers nightly rotation, but their tenures in Indiana likely won’t last long. Overall, Indiana has no plans on doing anything that resembles bottoming out anytime soon. Still, they are much worse off without Paul George. And that’s likely to have an effect on the loss column this season.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
It’s hard to find any team in the West that will see a sharp fall down the standings. That said, the Clippers are the most likely candidate simply due to the injury histories of some of the best players on their roster. Blake Griffin, who received a max deal in July worth $173 million over five years, has had knee and foot issues throughout his career. Plus, he’s missed multiple postseason games two years running. Newly acquired forward Danilo Gallinari also has an extensive injury history and recently broke his thumb after punching an opponent in the face during a EuroBasket friendly.
Doc Rivers will likely be running the offense through these two players after losing Chris Paul to Houston before free agency began. If one of them is sidelined for a long period of time, the pieces received in the Rockets sign-and-trade likely won’t be able to match the team’s 51 wins from last season. And in a loaded Western conference, one injury could keep Los Angeles on the outside looking in come mid-April.
5. Utah Jazz
It’s easy to forget that Utah won more regular season games than the Cleveland Cavaliers last year. Rudy Gobert’s ascension up the list of best defenders in the league combined with an impressively efficient All-Star campaign from Gordon Hayward and a deep bench resulted in home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Now that Hayward has found a new home in Boston, Utah has found a way to reload in hopes of emulating the team they were in 2016-17.
Utah’s roster definitely has a different look now. Ricky Rubio replaces George Hill at point guard. Quin Snyder will likely use a new group of veterans to take Hayward’s place in the rotation. This includes Thabo Sefolosha and Jonas Jerebko. On the bright side, depth and defense are still huge strengths for the Jazz. The 50-win upside is still there as well, especially if rookie guard Donovan Mitchell continues to show the potential he did in Summer League and throughout the draft scouting process. Despite all of this, losing a go-to late-game scorer like Hayward warrants tempered win total expectations.
Well, what do you think? Will any other NBA teams decline more than these five this coming season?