When one thinks of the word limbo, they may think of the dance. Or they might think of the Detroit Pistons. Sports teams can find themselves in limbo as well. Perhaps because of cap space issues, poor drafting, or poor management up top. No matter what the cause, when a team is in limbo, the fans suffer the most. To make this list, an NBA team must be without a title-contending high ceiling. For example, a team can be a playoff team most years, but always be a first-round exit. Now that the criteria are established, here are three NBA teams stuck in limbo.
Three NBA Teams Stuck In Limbo
1. Detroit Pistons
I foreshadowed the Pistons as one of the three NBA teams stuck in limbo for a reason. Since the 2009-10 season after the Pistons 2004 title-winning team broke up, Detroit has made the playoffs only twice and was swept both times. They’ve also finished third or worst in their division every season since 2008. Even with hiring Dwane Casey as head coach in the offseason, the Pistons were still nowhere near the eight seed. The future in Detroit is glum as well. Christian Wood flashed this year and looked like a piece to build around. But he is a free agent after this year, so the Pistons must bring him back. Luckily the Pistons are confident they will be able to do so. But that’s where the team with the tenth least cap space runs into more issues.
Blake Griffin is a superstar name and has a superstar contract. In 2020 his contract will be 36.5 million dollars and Griffin also has a 38.9 million dollar player option in 2021. Injuries have taken a major toll on Griffin at this point in his career and he’s no longer a player to build around. Next, both Luke Kennard and Derrick Rose are good NBA players with one year left on their deals. However, Rose is 31 and unlikely to be a part of the team’s future. The best hope for Pistons fans is getting a good draft selection and that player becoming a star to draw other free agents to the Pistons whence cap space is no longer an issue. Trading Rose away before next season would be smart too while his value is still high off of a bounce-back season.
2. Orlando Magic
Last season the Orlando Magic finished in the eighth seed and made the playoffs for the first time since 2012. This season, the Magic were projected to finish as the eighth seed again. That’s promising for a franchise that’s been licking their wounds since losing Dwight Howard. Unfortunately, in an improved Eastern Conference, the eighth seed projects to be the ceiling for this club with their current roster. Remember the team with a first-round exit ceiling? That’s where the Orlando Magic are in the given moment. Nikola Vucevic gets paid like a franchise player and is locked up for three more years. Vucevic is an above-average player no doubt but needs help. And help is hard to find when you have the second least salary cap in the NBA.
The Magic are also cursed by multi-year contracts with players whose ceilings aren’t enough to elevate the team. Aaron Gordon has his flashy moments but has just as many frustrating moments where he disappears. Throw in Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, and Al-Farouq Aminu who all will be back next year as very solid but not elite players. It’s hard not to acknowledge the good with this club, and that being their defense. For the Magic to succeed, Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba, and Markelle Fultz must all take leaps offensively. Gordon must develop consistency in his game. Finally, the Magic should look for a scoring wing in the draft.
3. Charlotte Hornets
There may not be a franchise that is more depressing in the NBA over the last three decades than the Charlotte Hornets. Since their inaugural season in 1988, the Hornets have only made the postseason ten times and have never advanced past the second round. But of the three NBA teams stuck in limbo, this is the team closest to leaving. For starters, the Hornets possess the fourth-youngest roster in the league with an average age of 24.0. And these young players have talent. Rookie P.J. Washington was one of the biggest first-round surprises from the draft, averaging 12.2 points and 5.4 boards. Miles Bridges improved a good amount in his sophomore season but still needs to work on his game defensively. Finally, Devonte’ Graham surprised everyone and led the Hornets in scoring. Although his efficiency dipped in February, Graham was putting up 24.2 points a night in March.
The trouble for the Hornets is they don’t put up enough points. Before the season was suspended, Charlotte was last in points per game with only 102.9. The offseason formula for the Hornets is as follows. Add offensive firepower to come off the bench and add a big man who can block shots to bump Cody Zeller to the bench. If they can make the necessary additions, the rest is on their returning core to improve. The Hornets have a solid core of Terry Rozier, Graham, Bridges, and Washington. Now the team has to hope their core can improve and help them escape limbo.
The Three NBA Teams Stuck In Limbo Could Have Tough Roads Ahead
In my Eastern Conference playoff predictions back in October, the Magic were the only team I gave a playoff birth to. With these three NBA teams stuck in limbo, the challenge will be competing with an improved conference. The teams at the top of the conference have young cores that will keep them at the top for years to come. The Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat all have bright futures ahead. Not to mention the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets will be even better when their star players return from injury. No matter what the Hornets, Magic, and Pistons do this offseason, they will have to fight tooth and nail for a playoff spot next season.
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