The Most Intriguing NBA New Year's Resolutions
Writer: Caleb Akpan
Just like your aunt who always says she’s gonna start hitting the gym or your uncle who says he’ll finally stop smoking, every NBA team has something they are trying to achieve as the season turns to the next calendar year, even if it’s not a championship. And also just like us, some team’s resolutions will be a bit harder to accomplish than others.
Whether it’s one player's broken shot or a whole team’s dysfunction, here are the teams with the most intriguing 2019 New Year’s Resolutions.
New York Knicks: Preserve Kristaps Porzingis
The Knicks are awful: 9-26 after Milwaukee got a pretty easy win in the Garden on Christmas. They have the fifth-worst net rating in the league at -7.4 (led by 114.6 points allowed per 100 possessions on defense). There is absolutely nothing for them to play for this season, other than the services of Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett, and they shouldn’t risk the health of their star player, still out with a torn ACL, in order to showcase anything to potential free agents.
Chances of Keeping: 9/10. The Knicks seem to have turned the page when it comes to terrible decision-making and rushing Porzingis back is probably the most obvious terrible decision of them all. They’ll be smart and make sure the best player they have now is healthy before they go and get anyone else.
Dallas Mavericks: Win On The Road
The Mavs are 14-3 at home, fifth best in the league, but traveling outside of Dallas has turned into two wins in sixteen attempts, the worst in the NBA. If the Mavs had been even 6-10 on the road at this point, they’d have one of the best records in the league, but their inability to win outside of the American Airlines Center leaves them below .500 and outside of the playoff race for now. If they can put together a road winning formula, they may be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Chances of Keeping: 7/10. The Mavericks are led by a rookie in Luka Doncic who only seems to be getting better recently (22.9 points/6.8 rebounds/7.4 assists in the last eight games) and a coach in Rick Carlisle who’s known for being able to change his gameplans correctly for different situations. These things should be able to combine and turn into road wins for Dallas eventually, considering they’re so good at home.
Charlotte Hornets: Escape Mediocrity
The Hornets have hit .500 15 times this season and have won 3 straight games just once. Outside of Kemba Walker, their roster is a who’s who of okay NBA players, with just two other double-digit scorers. They’re not terrible, but at 120-126 over the last three seasons, they haven’t been good enough to care, and that might decide how Kemba Walker’s impending free agency goes.
Chances of Keeping: 2/10. It would take a trade or a gargantuan effort by Walker or the Hornets to escape a low-40s/high 30s win total. What will be most interesting is if Walker, who’s been very loyal to the franchise, will decide if he wants to start winning more in the summer.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Help Derrick Rose Win Most Improved Player
Derrick Rose’s resurgence as a quality NBA player is one of the most intriguing things about this NBA season. Rose is averaging 18.7 points per game on a 49/49/84 shooting split after he almost quit basketball all together last season. On multiple occasions, he’s even appeared to be Minnesota's best player. In a recent return to Chicago, he scored 24 in a Timberwolves win and received MVP chants, reminding us of the Derrick Rose of 2011, the youngest MVP in NBA history at 22. An MIP award at 30 would help along with that to boost a case for Rose’s Hall of Fame candidacy, and more than anything, it would be a great way of showing that Rose bounced back after multiple major injuries.
Chances of Keeping: 6/10. There is competition for Rose, with Spencer Dinwiddie shining in Brooklyn and De’Aaron Fox displaying all-star talent in his second year, but we all know the NBA loves a good story and Derrick Rose winning Most Improved Player after everything he’s been through would be an excellent one. If he keeps up his numbers for the rest of the season, voters will want to give him the award.
Brooklyn Nets: Keep On Winning
Of course, in a year where the Nets finally have their own draft pick and can establish a legitimate future, they’ve decided to start winning the somewhat random group of players that they have. Going 9-1 in their last ten games the Nets are 17-19 and have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. A top-five pick is probably out of sight considering the records of the teams at the bottom of the East, and now there’s no looking back: the Nets have to try and make the playoffs.
Chances of Keeping: 3/10. The Nets are better than they probably ever have been under coach Kenny Atkinson, and players like D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie are great young talents, but their strength of schedule ranks 28th in the league at this point (.478) and their remaining schedule is the seventh-hardest (.510). The eighth seed in the East is wide open, but maybe just not open enough for Brooklyn.
Los Angeles Lakers: Bring LeBron James Back ASAP
You rarely hear the words injury and LeBron James in the same sentence, but after hurting his groin on Christmas Day, he’s expected to miss “several games”, per ESPN. James is the Lakers at this point and being without him for a significant stretch could spell trouble, even with the solid young core that they have. The West is just too tight for a team to lose it’s the best player for a significant amount of time, especially when that player is LeBron James.
Chances of Keeping: 10/10. LeBron’s never missed more than eight straight games and this groin injury is day-to-day. With the Lakers five games above .500 as of December 26th, even if they went on a losing skid without James, as long as he doesn't break his eight games missed record, they should be fine once he’s healthy and back in action.
Washington Wizards: Return to .500 Basketball
The Wizards have disappointed season after season and somehow things have gotten worse this year. They’re currently 13-22 and haven’t been at or above .500 this entire season, despite having John Wall and Bradley Beal for 67 of 70 possible combined appearances. Dwight Howard was supposed to help things out but he’s only played in nine games due to injury, and trading for Trevor Ariza has yielded only one win in nine games. Things are bad in the nation’s capital and if the team can’t change things soon, 2019 might turn into a clean-up project.
Chances of Keeping: 5/10. You want to believe that something will just kick in for players like Wall and Beal to start taking over games and stop losing, but they can’t do it alone. The roster as a whole will need to perform their roles properly for the Wizards to not be one of the worst teams in the league.
Houston Rockets: Get Chris Paul Healthy
Houston committed $160 million to a 33-year old Paul last summer after missing the Finals by a game/27 straight missed three-pointers. Paul played a huge part in the Rockets getting that far, but a hamstring injury left him out of the most crucial moments of the series and another hamstring injury this season has him out for the next couple weeks at least. Add in the Rockets underperforming at 18-15 this season (7th in the West), and they need Paul to be healthy now more than ever.
Chances of Keeping: 7/10. The Rockets have done well as of late, even without Paul, winning eight of their last nine games. As long as the wins are coming in, they shouldn’t be rushing to get CP3 back, especially with how the team will be paying him in the upcoming years.
Philadelphia 76ers: Fix Markelle Fultz
Before his agent told ESPN just a few days ago that he expects to play again this season, doubts were starting to rise about whether Fultz could last in the league at all. Diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome after his jump shot appeared to be completely broken, Fultz lacked confidence when on the court, and it didn’t benefit the Sixers much to play him. His return will likely decide whether his career bounces back or if he falls in line with the Anthony Bennetts and Jahlil Okafors of the NBA world.
Chances of Keeping: 1/10. Everyone definitely wants to see Fultz thrive - it would be the feel-good story of the season if Fultz returned with a jump shot and solid contributions, but that just doesn't seem realistic. Philly has a solid group of guards providing and taking Fultz’s minutes. Removing them in favor of a Fultz who still can’t shoot wouldn’t be right.
Golden State Warriors: Jump Start Draymond Green
Draymond Green has looked awful this season. His scoring and shooting percentages are the worst since his second season and since returning from injury earlier this month, he’s shot just 5-22 from 3. It’s gotten to the point where teams are leaving Green wide open on offense and he still isn’t making them pay. Green’s shown his importance to the Warriors over the years and even as they sit at the top of the Western Conference, they know they’ll need him to be improved by playoff time.
Chances of Keeping: 7/10. Green almost has no choice but to improve as the season goes on. If teams are leaving him open now, he might not have anyone guarding him once DeMarcus Cousins returns from an Achilles injury, and Green himself admits that he has been a bit out of it this season.