21. Brooklyn Nets (20, -1): Brook Lopez is cursed. Well, at least his foot is cursed. The Nets’ big man re-broke the same foot that he’s already had surgery on, ending his season. On top of that devastating news, reports have surfaced about coach Jason Kidd’s ability to garner respect in the locker room, which is not a good thing for a first-year coach to have to endure. Deron Williams put it simply: “[Our season is] like a nightmare.”
22. Memphis Grizzlies (17, -5): The good news for the Grizzlies is that Marc Gasol expects to make his return from a sprained MCL within the next two weeks. The bad news is that without Gasol the Grizzlies have fallen far from contention, residing near the bottom of the Western Conference with a 12-16 record. If their front office was smart they would have a fire sale and start fresh.
23. Los Angeles Lakers (15, -8): After missing nearly 8 months with a ruptured Achilles tendon, Kobe Bryant finally made his return to the court. The honeymoon was short lived however, as the Black Mamba managed to play in just 6 games before fracturing the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. Of course he had no trouble signing a 2-year, $48 million extension with the Lakers before doing so. Their season is a wash, as it was supposed to be, but one may wonder how this extension and subsequent injury may affect them this off-season.
24. New York Knicks (24, NC): Rarely do you see a team in as bad of a state as the Knicks are. The team is a circus act right now. Everything team president James Dolan touches seems to turn to, well – for lack of a better word – crap. Coach Woodson had lost the clubhouse, J.R. Smith spends more time on Twitter than in the gym practicing his jump shots and Carmelo Anthony was caught sleeping on the bench during their Christmas Day game vs. OKC. Now Metta World Peace apparently thinks he’s an alien from another galaxy. If Metta was truly an alien, it’d behoove him to send a ship to Earth to abduct this Knicks team and replace it with one that actually cares and doesn’t spend half their time on the injured list.
25. Orlando Magic (26, +1): There are lots of reasons to be excited if you are a Magic fan. With Tobias Harris back and playing well (16.3 points, 7.8 rebounds in his last 4 games), we have a chance to take a glimpse at what the future might look like in Orlando. Harris (21 years old), Nikola Vucevic (23 years old) and Victor Oladipo (21 years old), along with whomever they draft in the lottery, will be a formidable foursome for years to come.
26. Sacramento Kings (27, +1): I already breached the whole Rudy Gay/addition by subtraction thing when analyzing the Raptors, so discussing it in regards to the Kings would only be fair. While the Raptors have enjoyed life without the former UConn Huskie, the Kings have predictably not fared as well with him. Since the trade the Kings are 4-6, a better win rate than they previously had without Gay, but one of those wins was when Gay was not with the team during the “passing the physical stage” and they are still giving up loads of points on defense. Do I think the Kings improved by acquiring Gay? Yes, a little bit. But I still think the negatives will outweigh the good in the long run.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers (25, -2): There was once a belief that the Cavs could be a playoff team in the East, but that notion has long been cast aside. Cleveland is a wreck. They are 2-13 on the road, have the 5th-worst field goal percentage in the league (42.8) and are planning on cutting head case Andrew Bynum after he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. Major changes need to be made in the off-season if the Cavs hope to reestablish a winning tradition.
28. Utah Jazz (29, +1): You can see that the Jazz have a great following, no matter how bad they may be. The fans have bought into the “rebuilding-through-the-draft” game plan, which makes things easier on everyone. Utah is 14th in the NBA in average attendance – pretty impressive for a team with 9 wins –and you can see their love for the home team when EnergySolutions Arena erupted after Derrick Favors slammed home a buzzer-beating put-back dunk to give the Jazz a victory over the Lakers on Friday. They aren’t going to win many games now, but the fans know their patience will pay off.
29. Philadelphia 76ers (28, -1): Philly has bad defense. It’s almost laughable. The Sixers are giving up an astronomical 111.7 points per game, but at least it makes for good entertainment. Just like Utah and Orlando, Philly is ready for this summer when they will be one of the teams vying for the top pick in the draft. Until then, we get to envision what Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel will look like next to one of a handful of top college players.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (30, NC): You might as well get used to seeing the Bucks at the No. 30 spot in my rankings, because I don’t foresee that changing any time soon. The one good thing I can say about them is that after an injury-plagued first two months of the season they finally look healthy. Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova are back in the fold so things are looking up, I guess. I’m sure I just jinxed them…