The Los Angeles Lakers won nine more games than last year, defended well enough in some especially committed stretches to finish 12th overall on that end and got positive performances from just about every young player with a future on the roster.
And before you go burying Lonzo Ball for his busted shot, note that he posted the second-best DRPM among point guards, per ESPN.com, while also producing the highest on-court net rating of any Laker to log at least 1,000 minutes.
A pivotal summer awaits, but the 2017-18 regular season went about as well as could have been expected.
19. Detroit Pistons (19)
“Philadelphia is good, and everyone is praising the process, how great it was, but the process is based on being as bad as you can be, historically bad for as long as you can,” Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy lamented after his team finished four games out of a playoff spot with a 39-43 record. “If that’s the process and the accepted way to build a team in the NBA, then something needs to change.”
Van Gundy isn’t the only coach to think this way, but he’s uniquely positioned as the leader of one of the teams stuck in the middle because it refuses to use the incentive structure the Sixers exploited.
With Detroit spinning its wheels over the next several seasons, locked into crippling deals for Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, its unwillingness to embrace a real rebuild will look awfully misguided.
18. Washington Wizards (18)
The Washington Wizards must hope John Wall’s 29 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds against Boston on Tuesday are a harbinger of what’s to come. Because if they’re not, that means the blown leads, lazy defense and selfish offensive play that produced a 3-9 mark over their final dozen games will be.
It’s hard to find a playoff team that looks shakier than Washington.
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17. Los Angeles Clippers (17)
The Los Angeles Clippers lost six of seven to close out a transitional year but managed to stay alive in the playoff race until the season’s final week. Forty-two wins and a top-10 offense are nothing to be ashamed of for a team that used a league-high 34 starting lineups and gave nearly 2,000 minutes to players either called up on two-way deals from the G League or inked to 10-day contracts, per ESPN.com’s Kevin Arnovitz.
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This was a big year for resiliency in L.A.