With the NBA offseason officially upon us, it is now time to take a look at how well NBA teams have set themselves up to succeed and how long this potential success will be last for. Here is a ranking of all 30 teams based on their current situation, along with their future cap spaces and draft selections.
1.Golden State Warriors
I mean its obvious that they are far and away the best team in the league. On top of that, they are primed to retain all four of their key free agents this offseason; Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry. They also have a significantly brighter future compared to past superteams because of the youth of all four of their stars. Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant are all in the 27-29 age range.
This indicates that they have a lot of success ahead of them and won’t fall off of their dominance any time soon. The Warriors have more potential than the 2014 Lakers, where Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and Pau Gasol were all well into their 30s, along with the 96′-98′ Bulls, who were limited by aging versions of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman, all 31 years old or older in the year 1996. Not only are the Warriors more star studded than these past superteams, they also show the most signs of sustaining this dominance for a long time.
2. Boston Celtics
The Celtics brilliantly turned aging stars like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce into three first round picks and the right to swap another in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets back in the summer of 2013. So the Celtics will end up with four amazing picks, (which turned into 5 when the Celtics swapped picks #1 and #3 with Philly to get a 2018 Laker first rounder).
The Celtics are seemingly always in trade talks with teams shopping their star players. The main reason for this is that they are the only team able to offer great picks, and are also, not coincidentally, the only team that can offer great picks without hurting their future too much.
The Celtics are also fresh off of having the best record in the East and being the only Eastern team to beat the Cavs in the playoffs. When an already great team has space for another max contract and has tons of top picks for the next two or three years, they easily land themselves at number two in this list.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
Any team with LeBron James is set up pretty well to succeed consistently. If that team also has the best 25 year old point guard since Magic Johnson, you have got something special. The Cavs pair these two players, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, with two dominant rebounders in Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, as well as two dominant shooters in Love and JR Smith.
This team has made three straight Finals, but are in a tough situation for the future. From their own draft picks, great talent will be hard to come by when selecting in the 28-30 overall range in the first round. Also, it is hard to say with a straight face that LeBron can carry a team game after game when he is 36 in four years.
The Cavs have also blown their cap space by being 34 million dollars over the cap limit, a staggering number that will keep them from getting big name talent that can make them better without having to trade a star like Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving.
4. San Antonio Spurs
News broke on June 19 that Pau Gasol will decline his player option this year to sign a cheaper, long term deal that allows the Spurs to clear cap space, and create a solid bench through free agency. What also helps is that 25 year old superstar small forward Kawhi Leonard, who is arguably the best NBA player today, has already stated he wants to be a Spur for life.
With a trio of Leonard, Parker, and Aldridge, and Gregg Popovich coaching, anything is possible. For example, the last time coach Pop had a good big 3 with an MVP caliber player, he won 4 championships, the first of which happening when Kawhi Leonard was 7 years old.
5. Washington Wizards
The Wizards get the #5 spot on this list over the Rockets because they have signed their two stars, Bradley Beal and John Wall, to long term deals, while Houston has only one star that is on a shorter deal.
John Wall electrified the NBA once he got national attention in the playoffs, showing he deserves his spot on the list of top 5 NBA Point Guards. With an incredibly solid supporting cast of Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter, and Kelly Oubre Jr., Washington shows frequently their potential and incredible skill level. The latest example of their talent was when they took the number 1 seed in the East to 7 games.
6. Houston Rockets
James Harden has found a home in Houston. The former Sixth Man of the Year is about to be the MVP runner-up for the second time, as he led the Houston Rockets to the third best record in the league while playing in a terrifyingly great Western Conference. He did this while racking up a league-leading 11.2 assists and was second in the league in points per game with 29.1.
Houston’s main disadvantage happens to be that they only have one star. That shows how great a coach Mike D’Antoni is, leading a team to a 55 win season, who’s second best player is Eric Gordon. This disadvantage of having only one star was clearly shown when Harden was rendered ineffective in the Western Conference Semifinals, and Houston had no one to step up and bail them out to save their season.
7. Milwaukee Bucks
Yes, it does seem early to bring up the team from Wisconsin, but they have some immense young talent on cheap contracts mixed with solid veteran talent alongside it.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had one heck of a breakout season and is a near lock for the Most Improved Player award. The Bucks also have Rookie of the Year nominee Malcolm Brogdon, along with Khris Middleton, who both bring good shooting and mental presence to the court.
Young bigs like Greg Monroe and Thon Maker round out this tall, lengthy starting five that can give trouble to any lineup by providing solid rebounding, decent shooting, and willing passes.
Perhaps the most incredible thing about this starting five is that their oldest player is Greg Monroe, who is only 27 years old. Any young team capable of the sixth seed that not only retains its key players, but bolsters their talent, is about to be a real force in the league.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder
Without Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook literally carried this team to a solid 43-39 record. The Thunder were also a flat-out amazing 33-9 when Westbrook tallied a triple double. Really, the team went as Westbrook went, which is an example of the crazy amount of trust that was endowed on him by the management and Billy Donovan.
The first thought here may be that OKC should be around the 11 or 12 range, but how about this: The Thunder are legitimate threats to draw Blake Griffin away from Los Angeles. That news turned some heads.
If the Thunder are able to pair two of the most physically dominating players at their respective positions, it seems inevitable for Russell Westbrook to help his team carve out a spot as a title contender. If OKC is able to acquire another star in the middle of his prime, lot of success should come Oklahoma City’s way with Westbrook’s innate playmaking ability.
9. Utah Jazz
Since the Jazz hold the Bird Rights to Gordon Hayward, they are the favorites to retain him. The Jazz have a good point guard in George Hill, a jack of all trades guard who can do whatever is required, and also have Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert as a rim-protecting beast in the paint.
An aged version of Joe Johnson also gives the Jazz a lift in terms of a go to scorer when things don’t work out for Hayward or Gobert. Defense has gotten the Jazz very far. They are bottom of the league in pace and tend to control the game with physicality on both ends of the floor. Defense can only get you so far without a firepowered offense, but last year’s 5 seed in the West is a pretty good indication that a defensive minded team can succeed
10. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have been a top 4 seed the last 4 years in the NBA playoffs. Dwane Casey has created a flaming hot backcourt that consists of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who are the reason for the Raptors recent success
Reports have recently surfaced that Lowry has a 0% chance to re-sign with Toronto, which was quickly denied by Lowry. Without Lowry’s great scoring presence, it will be incredibly tough for Toronto to get a whiff of the playoffs.
If Lowry was locked up for a few years the Raptors would definitely be higher on this list, but the uncertainty regarding both Lowry and Serge Ibaka’s futures as they enter free agency is enough to doubt that the Raptors can maintain their contending squad they have maintained for a while now.
11. Los Angeles Clippers
It is very likely the Clippers will be able to retain either Chris Paul or Blake Griffin, but probably not both. Nonetheless, LA has always been a prime free agent destination and the Clippers have had fairly consistent success the past four or five years.
If they retain Griffin or Paul, while keeping J.J. Redick (also a free agent), the Clippers have a good shot to keep a hold on to a top 5 seed in the playoffs that they have had for a while now.
Doc Rivers has done an alright job as Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations, but a solid free agent signing has never really happened anywhere Doc Rivers has been employed, which is exactly what has been keeping the Clippers from a conference finals appearance.
12. Charlotte Hornets
Hornets fans are wagging their tails at an abnormally high rate right now. The Hornets dumped two bad contracts to Atlanta to get one of the most dominant Centers ever, Dwight Howard.
Howard is 31 years old, young enough to be reasonably effective compared to his past self in Orlando. Charlotte also did all of this while moving up in the draft from pick 41 to pick 31. Charlotte now creates a big 3 of sorts, with Nic Batum, Kemba Walker, and Dwight Howard all being signed for at least two more seasons.
Look for the Hornets to quickly become a top 4 team in the East, ready to contend immediately.
13. Memphis Grizzlies
Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are a very dynamic duo. Their brilliance together is amazing, and that along with a good supporting cast got them to the 7 seed in the Western Conference last season, taking the Spurs to 6 games.
If Chandler Parsons can maximize his potential, this Grizzlies squad is ready to compete with the likes of the Spurs and Rockets. However, because this team is not necessarily young, with Gasol already at the age of 32 years old and Conley (29) nearing the end of his prime, any contention for a title is likely to be short lived.
This generates not too good of a feeling regarding the team a few years down the line, but they are in a good spot as of now.
14. Miami Heat
Dion Waiters made a name for himself this past year, hitting clutch shots and averaging around 16 points a game. Hassan Whiteside was brilliant, leading the league in rebounds and also averaging 2.1 blocks per game, with a decent scoring output of 17 points a game. On top of these two promising players, the Heat also have space for a max contract this offseason, leading many fans to have dreams of Chris Paul directing the offense or Gordon Hayward making a lethal scoring combo with Dion Waiters.
This puts Miami in a decent spot moving forward, as they have nowhere to go but up after barely missing the playoffs. It also helps to have Erik Spoelstra, who is a Coach of the Year candidate, still at the helm and he is still completely focused on making the Heat great.
15. Chicago Bulls
As of right now, the Bulls will keep Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, and Robin Lopez on the roster for next season. Those players carry with them huge contracts.
This group gave the 1 seed Boston Celtics trouble when all of them were on the court in the first round of the 2017 playoffs (Chicago led 2-0, then a Rondo injury led to the series being won 4-2 by Boston). It is only natural to believe that Wade can be a great contributor for a few more years, while Jimmy Butler does what he does best, get better.
If the Bulls do not trade Butler, they are in a good position to be a competitive team for the next few years, which seems like a better option than taking a chance on prospects by trading Butler.
16. Portland Trail Blazers
As Portland wanted a contributing a big man, they traded for Jusuf Nurkic and got what they wanted, until he got injured. Portland has a fantastic backcourt with C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, but aside of them their starting lineup lacks significant talent and shooting ability for that matter.
The thing that really hurts Portland the most in terms of upward mobility is that they cannot get better in the immediate offseason. They already are well over the cap, and have retained every single player from last years team, a rare advantage, but somewhat of a disadvantage here.
Last offseason they made one heck of a bet on young players, and it landed them as the 8 seed in the Western Conference last season, with no great signs as to them becoming a legitimate threat in the West.
17. Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta made a decent trade with Charlotte to get enough cap space to attempt a push for a star free agent this offseason, but anyone willing to go to Atlanta would probably be more willing to go to Miami with a better climate, no state income tax, and a great culture under Erik Spoelstra. Atlanta does have good talent with Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, and Paul Millsap. However, Millsap is aging, and Bazemore and Schroder are not the types of players people recognize as players that can carry a franchise.
Atlanta’s trade gives them some potential this offseason, but the trade also gives them the lack of an inside prescence, as well as star talent. This trade is a home run if a big name free agent signs with the Hawks, if that doesn’t happen this very well might be one of the worst trades ever.
18. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have drafted incredibly well the past few years. These past two drafts have seen two very talented players in Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray fall to Denver at picks number 7 both years. In the 2014 Draft, they picked fan favorite Nikola Jokic in the second round.
These three are all tremendous finds, mixed with incredible luck with other teams passing on what should be the Nuggets’ core for years to come. Ever since Carmelo Anthony left Denver has tried, but failed, to get along on the backs of Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Randy Foye. Even with their tremendous talent in the near future, they barely missed the playoffs, and have not proved in any way they are ready to take the next step and be the next big thing out West.
19. Indiana Pacers
Even with Paul George and two Eastern Conference Finals appearances, the Pacers have been decent, nothing more, nothing less in the past 12 years.
An emerging story this offseason is Paul George telling the Pacers that he will decline his player option next offseason and leave, most likely to join the Lakers. Indiana has panicked and the city of Indianapolis is ready to move on. It is incredibly unlikely Paul George plays for Indy this upcoming season, even with a year remaining on his contract.
When PG 13 (Paul George) is gone, Indiana will be forced to build a franchise around the player they will acquire, like Kevin Love or Julius Randle/Jordan Clarkson, which doesn’t sound like a team ready to make some noise in the East. There i still some faith in the abilities of Nate McMillan, which keeps the Pacers from falling a few spots down on this list.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves
Any center averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds, who has never missed a start his entire career, should probably be an All-NBA selection, or an All-Star at least. 21 year old center Karl Anthony-Towns has been looked at as that type of player.
The Timberwolves have a new logo and are ready for, well, something new. Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, and KAT (Towns), put together a good big 3 this past season, all of them averaged above 18 points a game. Once LaVine tore his ACL, hope was lost, but only for that season. Counting the trade that swapped Wiggins and Love with Cleveland after the 2014 Draft, the Timberwolves have a top 8 selection in a draft this year for the fourth straight year.
At pick number 7 this year they will look to draft a great guard, as Kris Dunn doesn’t look that promising as of right now. With all of these future picks, the Timberwolves are on the brink of being really good for years to come.
21. Sacramento Kings
GM Vlade Divac was tired of DeMarcus Cousins’ antics. He sent Cousins to New Orleans along with Omri Casspi in exchange for Langston Galloway, Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, and a first and second rounder in this year’s draft.
The Kings never made the playoffs with DeMarcus Cousins in a 6+ year span, and with this somewhat blockbuster trade, the Kings now own the 5th overall pick (The Kings’ pick won #3 in the lottery but Philly had the rights to swap if in the top 3) and pick 10 (from New Orleans). Divac has brilliantly set his team up to be in a spot that resembles Minnesota’s current situation in a year or two.
22. New Orleans Pelicans
Jrue Holiday is a free agent and the rumor is the Mavericks like him a lot. DeMarcus Cousins is a free agent next year and he will be looking to get paid. Anthony Davis, fortunately for New Orleans, is locked up for four more years as he has asserted himself as a top big man in the NBA, fresh off of being named to the All-NBA first team.
Alvin Gentry has lots of talent on his team, but he hasn’t done much with it. This examination of Gentry also rises as Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson left last offseason to join Houston and had career years iafter leaving the Pelicans. In the end, the Pelicans gave up young talent in Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, and Tyreke Evans, the #10 and #34 picks in this year’s draft to “win now”, which did not happen.
23. Los Angeles Lakers
For their own standards, which have been pretty high since the 1960’s, the Lakers have been historically bad the last four seasons, with a win-loss record of 91-237 (27.7% win percentage).
Aside from that, it looks like that the Lakers will add Lonzo Ball‘s talent this offseason while also having two late first round selections (Picks 27 and 28).
Its also great for the Lakers that a top 10 talent in Paul George seems to be hell-bent on signing a long term deal with them. Sure, maybe Ball and George still don’t make this horrendous LA team a playoff contender, but it puts them in a better position than any team with 91 combined wins over a four year span.
24. Detroit Pistons
A couple years back, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson were ready to be the faces of Detroit. Since then, they have had one playoff appearance which resulted in being swept by the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.
In that series the Pistons were not even remotely competitive. Since Detroit bought into the young talents of Drummond and Jackson to the tune of more than 207 million dollars both players are now reportedly on the trade block, days before the 2017 NBA draft. Are the Pistons decent? Sure. Can they legitimately compete? Not Really. Does it look like they have anything to look forward to? No, not at all.
25. Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki did not sign a team friendly deal that Mark Cuban really wanted him to sign for some reason. Aside from 25 million dollars next year being thrown at the face of an aging, former star, the Mavericks will also pay Harrison Barnes just over 23 million dollars. Yes, Barnes is that player who was the fifth best player on the Warriors title squad and didn’t even contribute that much.
Also, they get to pay lethal sharpshooter (his only legitimate skill) Wesley Matthews almost 18 million dollars next season. Even if they can land their primary target, which is Jrue Holiday, are they legitimate? The easiest answer, that also makes the most sense, is no. They won’t be a decent team because Mark Cuban and co. have failed to improve the team each offseason ever since their 2011 title run, and Jrue Holiday is not nearly good enough to flip that trend. Footnote: No, Nerlens Noel is not worth a max contract, even if he is retained, because he helps the Mavericks very little.
26. Orlando Magic
With the sixth pick in the draft, Orlando is guaranteed to get a really good guard prospect. Whether this is Malik Monk or Dennis Smith Jr., Orlando gets what they have been waiting a long time for.
They have really good scorers in Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross, as well as dominant big men in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. A ball handling guard is what Orlando has been ready for. Realistically, a 19 year old guard will not put you on the map in the NBA. Great, experienced players put you on the map. Orlando doesn’t have that, and won’t have any cap space to get that type of player in the near future.
27. Phoenix Suns
Tremendous guards and a good big man in Tyson Chandler still couldn’t keep the Suns from blatantly tanking in the final third of the season last year. Fortunately, the Suns have a lot of cap space to look forward to, as well as the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft. The Suns will be able to get Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum to (hopefully) be their future Small Forward with this pick. The Suns, regardless, will still be a work in progress, with a small, but decent chance that Devin Booker can bring hope to this city that has been lackluster since the departure of Steve Nash.
28. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers have a long list of all-time greats. Dr. J, Moses Malone, Allen Iverson, even Dikembe Mutombo. Fans of the Sixers hope to see the likeness of Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid here in a few years. Hit the brakes real quick.
The 76ers lack good coaching and players on rookie contracts tend to get you nowhere without veteran leadership. Even Magic Johnson in his rookie year had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kawhi Leonard still had good versions of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili.
Philadelphia does not have “the guy” able to carry them, and even if they were to attain him, it would be hard to fit him in an offense where Ben Simmons is the point guard and Joel Embiid is considered to be the face of the franchise.
Summing it up, Philadelphia can’t contend with their three best players all under the age of 24
29. New York Knicks
As Phil Jackson gets on his knees to beg for a decent offer for Carmelo Anthony, he operates a Knicks team that is likely to lose impending free agent Derrick Rose. They do have the eighth pick in the draft, but thrusting an under the age of 20 prospect into a starting point guard role will not bode well for the Knicks.
Carmelo Anthony is not really good anymore, hes a defensive liabilty and pureley an offensive weapon. Looking at Willy Hernangomez, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Ron Baker, or Courtney Lee as potential starters for this team doesn’t look good for the Knicks.
30. Brooklyn Nets
It was the 2014 season when the Nets gave away their entire five year future for what turned out to be one year of Paul Pierce and a couple years of a historically bad Kevin Garnett. These two, along with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson amounted to one playoff series victory before being ran over by the Miami Heat in 5 games.
This is the reason that the Nets do not have a single one of their own first round draft picks in place until 2019. The Celtics did have the option to swap picks with the Nets this season and they did which gave the Celtics the #1 overall pick and the Nets the #22 overall pick.
It is also worth mentioning that the other first round pick they had this draft (#27 via trade with Washington) they traded along with by far their best player, Brook Lopez, to get D’Angelo Russell and a severely overpaid Timofey Mozgov.
The types of moves this organization makes are so bad that the Nets just look like an owner that owns two teams and uses one to make really bad decisions to help the other.