Very early into each season we tend to categorize teams between ‘contenders’ and ‘lottery-worthy’ this is some insight to help you decide which teams are lottery bound.
Honorable Mentions :
If this was last season, the storyline would be much different, but it has gotten to the point where they have a solid young core that will be hitting their primes soon or already have hit their primes. The core of Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and Josh Jackson is built to be a future one that teams will truly be scared to face due to the depth and the versatility the lineup will have. Although the suns will have rights to their own pick this upcoming season, they are better off using the prime of the underrated Bledsoe [21.2PPG, 6.3APG, 4.8RPG] positively and try to push for a playoff seed. If they are able to get a seed in this upcoming season, they could truly attract a potential free agent name such as Demarcus Cousins to the team in the offseason, instead of waste their primes another year just to continue rebuilding through the draft.
New York Knicks –
Prior to free agency it seemed like a no-brainer that the New York Knicks should tank again, but after all of the rumors have swirled and after a questionable win-now signing of Hardaway, it doesn’t seem like an ideal route for the Knicks to go down. The Knicks have a bright future with Porzingis [18.1PPG, 7.2RPG] and they recently drafted a young Frank Ntilikina to develop next to Kristaps over the next few years. After signing Hardaway it seems as if the Knicks feel like they can compete side-by-side with the other teams in the Eastern Conference. Instead of tanking away another season and taking their chances on a draftee, they should try to trade some proven NBA players for a young star to play next to Frank and Porzingis. A potential suitor is the Cleveland Cavaliers, with point guard Kyrie Irving who has stated that he is requesting a trade and New York is a preferred destination, the Cavaliers are also interested in Carmelo Anthony. Leading rumors to swirl of a potential trade of something along the lines of Carmelo Anthony and Courtney Lee for Kyrie Irving.
Team One – Orlando Magic :
The Orlando Magic have no identity, last offseason they threw all their cap space away by loading up the front court, just to try to trade them away at the deadline. This offseason they haven’t signed any big named free agents besides Jonathan Simmons who could be a team leader in his prime. When you are paying a backup center in Bismack Biyombo a guaranteed $34 Million over the next 3 seasons, it is hard to become a serious contender, as he is just putting up [6PPG, 7RPG]. The Magic do have a promising young core of Mario Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac but they truly haven’t seen the best any of these players can play yet. Gordon has been forced to play out of position due to the overload at PF and Center, Payton hasn’t been able to get true starting point guard minutes, and Isaac is still a rook. Due to the fact that none of these players have even begun their big primes, it still makes sense to tank this upcoming season and get another rookie to pair with the already young core, incase some don’t pan out as expected. If they didn’t have the majority of their money locked up, it would make sense to try and attract some big named free agents at points of need this upcoming season such as Avery Bradley or J.J. Redick, but they don’t have the money to offer a max contract. Nor do they have a proven roster to which the player would be willing to take a pay cut to win a ring.
Team Two – Memphis Grizzlies :
An aging core, salary cap is locked up until 2020, a high point of an 8 seed in the playoffs. None of this is very exciting if you’re a Grizzlies fan, year after year just being ‘mediocre’ with a core with an average age of 30 years old and each of which is getting paid close to a max contract. The Memphis Grizzlies have signed Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons and Marc Gasol through the ’19-’20 NBA season, none of which have been playing as well as expected. The Grizzlies would struggle to dump this salary off onto another team very easily, making it a challenge to sign big free agents and build through signings, not to mention.. who really wants to go to Memphis? The only realistic option is for the Grizzlies to get out of this swing of 7-10th seed and to tank. They must rebuild through smart draft picks and developing their own players overseas and through the G-League. If the Grizzlies can get a solid lottery pick next season, they would be able to start building up a young core with a promising rookie, instead of not seeing past the first round of the playoffs for the next 5 years.
Team Three – Dallas Mavericks :
The Dallas Mavericks are in a tough situation, mainly due to the fact that Mark Cuban always manages to use spare parts and gets the Mavs close to a .500 record year after year. The last time the Dallas Mavericks were serious contenders were in 2011, led by Dirk Nowitzki, their franchise star. This also happen to be the last time that the finals winner had only 1 all-star player on their roster. Due to the changed landscape of the NBA where teams are starting to form super teams, it isn’t realistic to continue to attempt at competing. The current roster has many mid-level players such as Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes who will give it every ounce when are on the court, but you truly can’t build a team around them and their enormous contracts. Leaving one final option, building a young core around Dennis Smith Jr. who already seems to be the steal of the draft and a young ROTY candidate after his stellar performance during summer league. As recently stated, Mark Cuban is a good coach, so pair that with a young all-star duo of Dennis Smith and another high pick rookie, and you could potentially be seeing the Mavericks in the playoffs in 2-3 years. By then the big contracts of the role players will be off the books and they will be able to attract some free agents to help become a solid supporting cast, almost as Dirk Nowitzki had during their playoff run in 2011.