The Wizards, Mavericks and Raptors need to make some changes


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This week of New Year’s resolutions, even career NBA franchises have things to work on.

The defending champions Golden State Warriors must figure out how to win on the road again. The incendiary Brooklyn Nets must do everything they can to keep Kyrie Irving focused on basketball. And the Memphis Grizzlies should consider toning down the trash talk until they’re ready to support him Notable matches.

Of course, there are other teams that wouldn’t be saved by a little self-improvement around the edges: The Chicago Bulls have Veteran kernels are expensive and perform poorly Which needs to be taken apart, while the Los Angeles Lakers deal with The patience of LeBron JamesAnd the Anthony Davis wounded And another season of unfulfilled expectations. Beyond those apparent failures, three teams face existential crises that demand action in 2023, lest their current predicaments grow into something worse.

Buckner: For those witches who aren’t going anywhere, it might be time to embrace the loss

There’s no need to sort out the words: Washington is the most scoreless team in the league, ranking 30th in the league home attendance rate It hardly ever appears on national television. In spite of A short revival recently, the Wizards are on their way to their fifth straight losing season and have made precious little progress in putting together a young core for the future. Thanks to a string of disappointing first-round picks, the Wizards have one of the NBA’s least impressive collections of talent 25 and under.

Re-signed Bradley Bell Last summer provided a measure of stability, but it’s unclear how the franchise will get its money’s worth on the five-year, $251 million agreement. Bell’s pairing with Christaps Porzingis has resulted in a below-average offense, and Washington now faces a decision on whether to do so. Pay or trade Kyle Kuzma.

Given their current salary commitments, lack of prospects and difficulties in attracting premium free agents, the Wizards have limited options for improvement. The best way out of this mediocre purgatory is for them to be so bad that they forge over and over again into the lottery range. This year, that should mean moving Kuzma before the trade deadline and closing Beal and Porzingis in March or early April, rather than meaninglessly chasing a berth. This summer, Washington should seriously explore the commercial market for Bell in hopes of finding an ambitious competitor willing to take on the balance of his contract. The Moving Beal would immediately put the Wizards in a spot of similar relegation to the San Antonio Spurs in next year’s standings, which is exactly what they need.

Remember, the franchise’s most successful era since its ’70s heyday was made possible by high picks across three of four consecutive draft picks: John Wall (No. 1 in 2010), Bell (No. 3 in 2012) and Otto Porter (No. 3 in 2013). It is time for Washington to take this kind of multi-year indulgence again.

The Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki enjoyed a fruitful 21-year marriage that produced the 2011 title and A gleaming bronze statue in downtown Dallas to honor a future Hall of Famer. Such as Luka Doncic adds his name alongside Nowitzki to the franchise’s record booksIt’s important to remember that permanent marriages have been replaced by mutually beneficial “partnerships” between franchises and superstars in the modern NBA.

In fact, the 23-year-old Doncic is in the second generation of the player-enabling era. Most of the notable players who excelled in the years between Nowitzki’s heyday and Doncic’s rise—James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, and Carmelo Anthony, among others—jumped from one team to the next to suit their individual interests. Recent history suggests that a player of Doncic’s caliber is more likely to seek out greener pastures if he is not vying for titles than it is to take 13 long years to win a ring like Nowitzki once did. This year the Mavericks are starting to pick up steam, but they hardly look like players in the world.

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So Dallas’ shock run to the 2022 Western Conference Finals is both a gift and a curse. The Mavericks have proven that they can perform at a high level with Doncic as their unique star, but they have also overstated expectations for the foreseeable future. Just like the Cleveland Cavaliers, who reached the Finals in 2007 thanks to 22-year-old James, the Mavericks must now guard against being slumped or stopped in future postseason runs. Otherwise, Doncic may begin to evaluate his “decision”.

This summer was an inauspicious start to the new reality of Dallas: Jalen Bronson left for nothing, Christian Wood was the top incoming talent, a productive but polarizing traveler. While this is the first season of Doncic’s $207 million Supermax extension, time is of the essence. And consider: Jason Tatum, Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell all have better side talents and extra talent at their disposal than Doncic, who manages with three-dimensional wingers and limited men who mostly act as lobs. Objectives.

The Mavericks should not be crippled by bad memories of their ill-fated deal for Porzingis, who they intended to be Doncic’s second choice before the duo faded away. They should be doing some flashy upgrades this summer – something like that 2020 Milwaukee Bucks deal for Jrue Vacation — or risk the Eagles landing Doncic in the not-too-distant future.

wild birds I entered this season in an enviable positionThey boasted two All-Stars in Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, a 2022 rookie in Scotty Barnes, a salary cap sheet free of onerous contracts and all of their future first-round picks to use in trades. Unfortunately, Toronto has been one of the biggest disappointments in the NBA, dropping below . 500 after building expectations with 48 wins last season.

It’s time to focus. Toronto has amassed a deep pool of versatile wingers and forwards, but their goal of crafting a high-energy interchangeable defense that overwhelms opponents hasn’t consistently paid off. Meanwhile, the Raptors’ offense has been unreliable, ranking 29th in three-point percentage, and sorely lacking in an organizer since Kyle Lowry’s 2021 departure. Coach Nick Nurse has turned to Siakam, VanVleet, and OG Anunoby for big minutes again this season, and he’s been around It was met with some diminishing returns.

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Pursuing a tank strategy requires a quick sell at the trade deadline, a drastic approach that would be out of character for President Masai Ujiri. Instead, Toronto should aim to rebalance its roster by replacing one of its many attackers with another backcourt builder to lighten VanVleet’s burden. Toronto can still pursue its vision of building a long, athletic, and grueling roster, but must admit that it needs better linebackers and more reliable pitchers if its long-term plans are to take shape.

Along with Barnes, an ambitious point forward with a great lead who has struggled in his sophomore season, Ujiri must weigh offers for everyone else on his roster. This includes Siakam, whose two-way match would be a good fit for almost any opponent.

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