The NBA’s Top 5 Young Teams On The Rise
I know that most NBA fans are interested in what's currently dominate in sports. It's a world revolving around instant gratification, and what have you done for my lately means a whole lot more than planning ahead and trying to envision what could be a in a few years.
The NBA has LeBron James and the Miami Heat. They have Dwight Howard landing in Houston to team up with James Harden, and they have the Clippers reloading their bench in order to make a deeper postseason run. Why wouldn't the average fan be glued to these topics? The NBA is gearing up to have it's most explosive season to date, and I plan to be planted directly in front of my TV, enjoying the action as it unfolds.
But let us take a moment to look at some up-and-coming NBA teams with nothing to lose, and everything to prove. I'm talking teams with young cores, plenty of games to lose, and loads of high draft picks to stock their shelves. I'm talking about the teams that nobody else cares to mutter a kind word about, and perhaps the teams that will put the league on notice over the next few seasons.
Honorable Mentions- Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats, Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers: Note that I feel like at least two of these teams, not named the Bobcats or Sixers, will compete for a playoff birth this season. I just feel like Portland and Detroit shouldn't need to be labeled as a team of the future. They have the goods to do big things right now.
5: Utah Jazz
With the departure of three of their most productive players from last season, in Mo Williams, Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap, the Jazz have done exactly what they needed to do for their future NBA success. Open up minutes for their young-guns to take the stage. Derrick Favors is 22-years old and entering his fourth season in the league. The highly regarded prospect landed with the Jazz in a trade that sent Disgruntled point guard, Deron Williams, to Brooklyn (it was actually New jersey at the time) on the first plane out of Utah.
The highly skilled Enes Kanter will play in the middle along with Favors, and the Jazz feel like they have themselves a real winner down low with these two youngsters filling the lane. The 21-year old Kanter will compliment the raw athletic ability of Favors with his polished back-to-the-basket game. Kanter is exactly what you'd expect from a European big man.
The Jazz have also packed up players on the wings, in Gordon Hayward (23), Alec Burks (22), Brandon Rush (28), and Jeremy Evans 25). Add recent first round draft pick, and exceptional point-guard prospect, Trey Burke (20), into the fold and the Utah Jazz's future starts to look very bright. Burke suffered a broken finger that required surgery and is expected to miss the first several weeks of the season, but that won't stop this Jazz team from becoming something great, eventually. This team could be very scary in a few years.
4: Sacramento Kings
The Kings made their decision as to who was the face of their franchise this past off-season. They chose DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins (23) over Tyreke Evans to be the face of this young club. This was a good move. Tyreke had been misused in Sacramento the past two years and his patience had worn thin. Cousins is obviously the better player of the two anyways, and the decision to move forward with him at the helm may contribute to the young center's maturity.
The Kings also landed a proven starting point guard in the deal that sent Evans to the Pelicans. The Kings received Greivis Vasquez (26) in the trade, who is an instant upgrade at the point guard position. Not to say that the young Isiah Thomas (24) can't play, but I see him more as an off-the-bench type spark plug from a scoring aspect. Thomas isn't your typical NBA point guard, but can relieve Vasquez off the bench in spurts and supply the Kings with a nice shooting touch.
The Kings also boast young players such as Marcus Thorton (26), Jason Thompson 27), Jimmer Fredette 24), Patrick Patterson 24), and rookies, Ben McLemore 20) and Ray McCallum (22). This team's young cast gives new head coach, Mike Malone, many different looks as far as multiple lineups are concerned. Did you ever think I'd be talking about how versatile the Sacramento Kings are? Me neither! But they are. This team has big things coming in the near future.
3: Orlando Magic
The Magic got over their dysfunctional relationship with center, Dwight Howard, by involving themselves in a four-team deal that initially looked like one new general manager, Rob Hennigan, had lost. At first Rob had appeared to be the victim of what we call "trade r*pe" in the world of Fantasy Sports. But after an entire year has passed, Hennigan looks like the Floyd Mayweather of this whole thing.
Hennigan landed the Magic Nikola Vucevic (22), Maurice Harkless (20), and Aaron Afflalo (28) in a four-team trade that sent Howard to the Lakers, Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets, and Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers. Howard now resides in Houston, Bynum in Cleveland, and Iguodala in Golden State.
Hennigan wanted to build a Magic roster much like the one he watched be built in Oklahoma City. He wanted young pieces, who were willing to learn and play as a team. Hennigan wants nothing to do with guys who don't see the game his way. Piling assets has been the term he uses. Since the trade that landed Orlando Vucevic and Harkless, the Magic have also added Tobias Harris (21), Doron lamb (21), and drafted Andrew Nicholson (23), Kyle O'Quinn (23) and Victor Oladipo (21).
This is a team without a clear leader or star among their young cast. Oladipo stands out as the guy who will likely lead the Magic's future from here on out, but the development of guys like Tobias Harris, Nik Vucevic and Mo Harkless, along with Oladipo, will be the real test of how good this Magic team can actually become. Continuing the add young faces is the gameplan for Orlando, and the fact that they should only win 30-35 games this season, should help them again with a high draft pick next year.
2: Cleveland Cavaliers
Uncle Drew!! Sorry, I get a bit carried away. Did anyone see the video from Monday of Kyrie Irving schooling both Michael Carter-Williams and Evan Turner? Yikes! This team, unlike the Magic, Kings and Jazz, already have an established star player. I have a feeling that we'll be calling Kyrie Irving (21) a superstar by the end of this season. This kid can play. Another contributing factor in the Cavs favor is the fact that Kyrie has friends with him in Cleveland. A concept that seemed to fall on deaf ears during the LeBron James' era.
The Cavs have begun to do a great job at getting Kyrie help. They've added young names like Earl Clark (25), Alonzo Gee (26), Sergey Karasev (19), Tristan Thompson (22), Dion Waiters (21), Tyler Zeller (23), Anthony Bennett (20) and even made the ultimate low-risk, high-reward move of bringing Andrew Bynum (25) on board.
Say Bynum, and two of the seven other players I mentioned above, pan out and give Kyrie a supporting cast. This Cleveland team will be a contender in no time. They've certainly gathered an interesting cast of players who can support a star player like Irving. This team just needs to secure an identity, and I feel like they finally have the pieces to do so.
1: New Orleans Pelicans (I still loathe the name!)
This was tough to put the Pelicans above the Cavaliers, as I believe they're both going to be teams who can rock the boat right away. I just like the Pelicans' potential upside a bit more. If Anthony Davis (20) does what most believe he will, then the Pelicans have already done what most teams struggle to do, year in and year out, and that's lockdown an able defensive stopper in the middle. Many NBA teams wander around without ever landing this type of defensive anchor, so it's always nice to draft one.
The Pelicans have also locked up young pieces such as Ryan Anderson (25), Al-Farouq Aminu (23), Tyreke Evans (24), Eric Gordon (24)Jrue Holiday (23), Austin Rivers (21).
The Pelicans were aggressive in landing Nerlens Noel in this year's draft, and then quickly turned him into a legit starting point guard upgrade, in Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans pulled off what were perhaps my two favorite off-season moves, in landing Holiday, who averaged 17.7 points, 8 assists, and 4.2 rebounds a game last, and Tyreke Evans, who averaged 15.2 points, 3.5 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game last season. Making sure you have bona fide guards in this league is a must.
Having guys like Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans, and (what we hope is an improved) Austin Rivers be able to play multiple positions, as starters and off the bench is what sets this team apart for me. They have a lot of guys (including Anthony Davis) who can play at multiple positions and give this young club different ways to approach each game. I've always been a fan of different looks, and head coach Monty Williams will appreciate the value of interchangeable pieces as well.
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