While the 2012 NBA Playoffs are going strong, many of the teams around the league can only watch the playoffs unfold and wait until next year.
In the last five years, the most teams to jump from the draft lottery to the playoffs is five, while the average is about three per year that escape the bottom of the league.
Many people are expecting a stacked draft class this year, so all the teams in the lottery expect to improve next season. While many of the lottery teams may make small jumps, here are four teams that have the best chance to make the jump from the lottery to the playoffs.
The Timberwolves were the leagues most exciting team until a pair of injuries derailed their season. Ricky Rubio is already blossoming into one of the best pure point guards in the league, and Kevin Love has played so well at points that he was brought up in the MVP picture earlier in the year.
This is the easiest pick, as Minnesota was actually on track to make the playoffs before the injury to Rubio. Let's just hope that the Timberwolves can evolve from just an exciting team to watch into a team that can battle during the playoffs.
With the emergence of Greg Monroe as a solid young player with Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey leading the backcourt, the Pistons are only a few pieces away from being a decent team. They started the year horribly, but rebounded to become fairly average before the end of the season.
Consistency is the Pistons biggest challenge right now, but if they can learn to play with the same intensity every night, and hit on a good player in the draft, Detroit should make the playoffs as a seven or eight seed next season.
The Rockets were the last team out of the Western Conference Playoff bracket, but should be able to make the push into the playoffs next season. The Rockets do not have an elite player, and much like the Denver Nuggets, must rely on a bevy of different good players each night to pick up the scoring.
They have quietly built a solid core with Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry. With either Lowry or Dragic likely to be traded, whoever the Rockets receive should help bolster their roster for a playoff push. Is their roster good enough to win a championship? No. But it is good enough to get into the playoffs as a seven or eight seed? Certainly.
This spot was between either the Wizards or the Cleveland Cavaliers. Many people consider Kyrie Irving more talented than John Wall, but at this point in their young careers Wall has more talent around him.
With Nene, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin the Wizards have a frontcourt that is built for the future, while Jordan Crawford has become a valuable streak scorer. With a couple of pieces at the shooting guard and small forward spot and some veteran leadership, Washington is primed to make a jump into the playoffs next season.