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Seven of the 10 worst teams in the NBA last season have made significant upgrades this summer.
I would not be surprised if each one of the seven squads improved by 15 wins or more in the upcoming 2012-13 NBA season, which is significant, even considering we're going back to the 82-game schedule this year.
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS (7-59): Yes, the Bobcats set an NBA record for all-time futility last season, and yes, a 22-60 goal is not something to write home about, but still it is good to know GM Rich Cho is starting to put the right pieces in place for a better future for Charlotte. Namely, drafting rising star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. The Next Scottie Pippen is a good piece for Cats owner Michael Jordan to build his team around. Surrounding the rook with new pick-ups Brendan Haywood, Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions is another plus. And, yes, Cho had to give up some players to get those veterans, but he didn't part with any of his top five minutemen from last season--Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and Bismack Biyombo [pictured above], along with Byron Mullens and Derrick Brown--which means this team has nowhere to go but up. They still may finish last, but the Cats will win a lot more games than last season. HOOP Offseason Power Ranking: 30th.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS (20-46): The new kids on the block have been shipped out and Washington is rebuilding its culture with veterans. That alone should insure a 35-win season in 2012-13. Last year, not one of the Wizards' top nine minutemen were older than 26 years old, while eight of the nine were 24 and younger. That won't be the case this year, with Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza bringing veteran leadership to a franchise that desperately needed it. John Wall and mature rookie Bradley Beal will be a big part of this organization's future--along with Chris Singleton, Kevin Seraphin, A.J. Price, Jan Vesely and Jordan Crawford. Only this time, the youth will have 9- and 11-year veteran starters to lean on. HOOP Offseason Power Ranking: 23rd.
TORONTO RAPTORS (23-43): They didn't get Steve Nash, but Toronto still made enough of a summer splash to make fans believe a 38-win season is possible. After all, Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields are a huge upgrade over Toronto's backcourt and those two guards--Jose Calderon and DeMar DeRozan--are still with the team. Throw in lottery pick Terrence Ross and you have to believe the Raptors have one of the best set of guards in the East. Then you have 20-year-old rookie center Jonas Valanciunas bringing more big-man depth and similar game to starting center Andrea Bargnani. The only blemish on this team's ledger is losing power forward James Johnson, whose minutes should be filled by capable replacements Amir Johnson and Linas Kleiza. HOOP Offseason Power Ranking: 20th.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS (21-45): When you draft the annual once-in-a-lifetime player, you're bound to rise up the standings. And that is precisely what the Hornets will do once No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis puts the Bees on his back. But just as key to New Orleans' resurgence is junior-max player Eric Gordon, who needs to show he is capable of having a healthy season. The standout guard only played in nine games in 2011-12. And don't forget that standout stretch 4 Ryan Anderson was signed to a nice contract to give the Hornets some needed three-point arsenal. HOOP Offseason Power Ranking: 18th.
BROOKLYN NETS (22-44): The joke going around is that the Brooklyn Nets are the proverbial pig in lipstick: they are the same exact players from last year--with the exception of Joe Johnson--only now they're all being paid $10-plus million a year. While that is true, you also have to consider that injured Brook Lopez never played with midseason acquisition Gerald Wallace. So in a sense, there are two-and-a-half new starters joining Deron Williams and Kris Humphries in the Nets' starting lineup this season. That alone should count for at least a 37-win season for the new team in Brooklyn. HOOP Offseason Power Ranking: 15th.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (26-40): The T-Wolves were well on their way to a winning season until a Ricky Rubio injury--and later a Kevin Love concussion--sent the team into a 5-20 tailspin to close yet another disappointing season. Well, with the dynamic duo's return to health, look for Minnesota to be one of the league's most improved teams, especially with the additions of Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger and Alexey Shved. Not only does Coach Rick Adelman have a playoff team on hand--don't forget about emerging center Nikola Pekovic--he has a team that one day soon will win 50-plus games. HOOPmag Offseason Power Ranking: 12th.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (23-43): The Warriors are another candidate for a 50-win season in the near future because, like Minnesota, the majority of their talent is 26 years old and younger (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes). And like Minnesota, many veterans have been brought in over the years to guide the young'uns along (David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Richard Jefferson, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and Brandon Rush). If Bogut and Curry can just stay healthy, the Warriors will definitely have a winning season. And I haven't even mentioned that the Warriors had the fifth-best draft of any NBA team this year. HOOP Offseason Power Ranking: 10th.