It’s easy to find teams residing in NBA hell.
Take the Wizards: a skyrocketing payroll; mediocrity on the court; and their best player, John Wall, in street clothes because of a ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered while recovering from season-ending heel surgery.
Of the 14 teams headed toward the lottery on May 14, no franchise is in worse shape than the Wizards.
Even after sending Otto Porter and the remaining $56 million on his contract to the Bulls, the Wizards will owe John Wall almost $170 million over the next four seasons, including $38.1 million next season, when he might not even be available. The recovery time from his surgery in February is 11 to 15 months.
Then add the $27 million they owe Bradley Beal and the
$16 million Ian Mahinmi is guaranteed. And let’s not forget, Dwight Howard has a $5.6 million player option. All told, that’s $86.7 million to watch Beal, Mahinmi and Howard next season.
That’s NBA hell.
So while the lowly Bulls were beating the lowlier Suns 116-101 Monday night in Phoenix, it was refreshing to think that the teams, who have a combined 37 wins, are not nearly as horrid as the other lottery teams. Here’s a look:
1. Wizards: The cleanup will be long and messy. Get the hazmat suits out.
2. Hornets: Note to Michael Jordan, this is what happens when you draft poorly and throw money at mediocre free agents. And Charlotte’s best player, Kemba Walker, will be a free agent.
3. Pelicans: New Orleans looked like a guaranteed playoff team out of the gate. But now the team is held hostage by Anthony Davis’ trade demands. If the Pelicans get the right haul in return, it could be a quick turnaround.
4. Grizzlies: Chandler Parsons — yeah, that Chandler Parsons — is guaranteed $25 million next season, while Mike Conley was given max money to be a fringe first-tier point guard.
5. Timberwolves: Ownership invested in max deals for Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. One guy often seems disinterested, while the other cares more about his stats than winning. Towns is Kevin Love 2.0.
6. Cavaliers: They can always hope to win the draft lottery when LeBron James’ son Bronny, 14, becomes eligible.
7. Mavericks: If Kristaps Porzingis (torn anterior cruciate ligament) comes back healthy, this rebuild could happen quickly. Luka Doncic, the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, was a home run.
8. Magic: If Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba can start living up to the draft hype they each had, the Magic could be interesting. But right now, it’s more about hope than reality.
9. Suns: Devin Booker was paid superstar money and needs to keep earning it. The inconsistent play of the enigmatic Josh Jackson, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft, could be a setback.
10. Kings: The playoffs are still in sight, but even if the Kings fall short, they look to be headed for good things.
11. Hawks: The Hawks hit on John Collins, Trae Young and Kevin Huerter in the last two drafts and will have tons of payroll flexibility the next two offseasons.
12. Bulls: Yes, the point-guard situation needs fixing and the bench is a mess, but both are easy to remedy because of a flexible payroll. The big problem? Where are they going to find a superstar?
13. Lakers: The best recruiter in the business is LeBron James. Enough said.
14. Knicks: It’s all or nothing for the Knicks this summer. They have a chance at Zion Williamson in the draft, plus room for two max contracts. If they miss, they could join the Wizards in NBA hell.