- Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Staff Writer
EAST | WEST
Just as every contender has a weakness to hide in the playoffs, every lottery team has a weakness to fill at season's end.
And by the looks of it, some cash-strapped lottery teams could be in for an extra-long offseason.
We don't have a clue what the new collective bargaining agreement will do to the belts around the league, but we're guessing they will be tightened. We do know how much money is coming off each team's books in expiring deals -- thanks to salary data from Storyteller's salary database -- giving us something of a guide going forward.
So here's where each lottery team needs to improve and how it can fast-track its return to the playoffs.
2011-12 $M: -$26.3
First and foremost, rest up and get healthy. With Brandon Jennings, Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova and Carlos Delfino all shelved for extended periods, the Bucks led the NBA in games missed thanks to injury (267 as of last week). And that's before we account for Andrew Bogut's recent tabling.
The bodily harm likely cost the Bucks a playoff ticket, but don't let that distract you from their bricktastic season. Milwaukee's 46.7 effective field goal percentage (weighted for 3s) was a franchise low in the modern era, thanks to Jennings, who put forth a high-volume, low-efficiency campaign that would make even Allen Iverson look good. It didn't help that Corey Maggette, the team's big acquisition in the offseason, abandoned the only part of his game that made him valuable: attacking the rim and drawing whistles.
But there's some sunlight and blue skies to be seen. The Bucks already have an elite defense (fourth-best defensive efficiency in the NBA), and they will lose some weight in the form of Michael Redd's expiring albatross contract. On the to-do list: get a shot-creator to relieve some pressure off Jennings and keep John Salmons on the perimeter. Restricted free agent Marcus Thornton, who's averaging 20.8 points for the Sacramento Kings, may be an option.
22mEthan Sherwood Strauss
1dAlok Pattani, ESPN Stats & Information
1dOhm Youngmisuk and Ian Begley
1dDan Le Batard