Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be previewing the upcoming NBA season by profiling two teams a day, in reverse order from how we expect them to finish the season. Before the Philadelphia 76ers start the season against the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden on October 16th, we’ll have our predictions for the full season up and available for review (and potential ridicule).
Do we think the Golden State Warriors remain the preeminent team in the league and are going to walk their way to a three-peat? How far are the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers going to fall now that LeBron James has moved west to Los Angeles? And does King James instantly make the Lakers a champion contender? We’ll address these questions as we go through the teams, but up first are what we expect to be the two worse teams in the league.
30. Atlanta Hawks
Last Season: 24-58 (0.293) (5th in Southeast Division, 15th in Eastern Conference)
Head Coach: Lloyd Pierce (1st season with team, 0-0 team; 0-0 overall)
Major Off-season Acquisitions: Trae Young (5th overall pick), Jeremy Lin, Vince Carter, Justin Anderson (trade with Philadelphia)
Major Off-season Departures: Dennis Schröder, Mike Muscala
Salary Cap Info: $106.8 million ($4.9M over cap, $16.8M luxury tax space available)
Narrative: The Hawks were the worst team in the East last year, and it doesn’t seem like that is going to change. All hopes for any improvement will be placed squarely on the shoulders of rookie Trae Young. Justin Anderson provides some immediate return for letting the Thunder dump Carmelo Anthony into the Hawks’ cap space (the Hawks also received a first-round pick in 2022), but he isn’t expected to do much. Jeremy Lin missed all but one game last season for the Nets, and Vince Carter is making yet another stop on his retirement tour around the league, but the Hawks will be bad. And they probably will be for a while, unless Young can turn into something quickly and John Collins can build on a rookie season that saw him make the All-Rookie 2nd Team.
With former Coach/GM Mike Budenholzer now on the sideline in Milwaukee, the Hawks turn to former 76ers assistant Lloyd Pierce to coach this team to 24ish wins and last place in the East. Poor performance from the club probably won’t help improve on the team’s worst-in-the-NBA attendance from last season, but success is right around the corner…right?
29. Sacramento Kings
Last Season: 27-55 (0.329) (4th in Pacific Division, 12th in Western Conference)
Head Coach: Dave Joerger (3rd season with team, 59-105 team; 206-204 overall)
Major Off-season Acquisitions: Marvin Bagley III (2nd overall pick), Ben McLemore, Nemamja Bjelica, Yogi Ferrell
Major Off-season Departures: Bruno Caboclo, Vince Carter
Salary Cap Info: $90.8 million ($11.0M under cap, $32.9M under luxury tax)
Narrative: The Kings didn’t lose much… but they’re somehow worse? It could be more of an indication of the growing strength of the Western Conference than anything the Kings did – or didn’t – do during the offseason. The three teams that finished behind them last season all “improved:” The Suns had the #1 pick in the draft (Deandre Ayton), the Mavericks drafted the guy that everyone thought the Kings should have taken (Luka Doncic) and the Grizzlies… will probably just be a little better than the Kings. This spot in the preseason rankings is probably more about a weird roster – lots of big men – and the historic ineptitude of the Kings to find any success, at least since Chris Webber and Company we’re one of the more dominant teams of the early 21st century.
This version of the Kings seems like the first club to fire their coach, though they are the only team to enter the season with any semblance of cap space, which might be helpful in finding some future draft picks, seeing as how they don’t own the rights to either of their draft picks next season, which will end up with either the 76ers or Celtics next season. This should be the season that they try to avoid being the worst team in the league; instead, they will probably battle Atlanta for the worst record, and will probably win because they play 52 games against the West, while the Hawks get to play 52 games against the East. It would be a shock to see the Kings improve on their 27 wins from last season, so unless you are a huge Marvin Bagley III fan, you probably won’t care to see much of the train wreck.