Looking ahead for each team that missed the Playoffs last season.
TRYING TO STAY/BE RELEVANT
Valuable Players: Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions (expiring contracts), Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeffrey Taylor, Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, Josh McRoberts, Kemba Walker, Brendan Haywood
Future Draft Picks: Owed: 2014 first-round pick from Portland (1-12 protected), 2014 first-round pick from Detroit (1-8 protected); Owe: 2014 first-round pick to Chicago (1-10 protected), 2016 second-round pick to San Antonio
Salary Forecast: ’13-14: $52.3 million, ’14-15: $35.6 million, ’15-16: $34.6 million, ’16-17: $5.3 million, ’17-18: $0
Key Moves: Added: Al Jefferson, Zeller, Lost: N/A
Evaluation: Michael Jordan has gotten heat for every personnel decision he’s made from the Bobcat’s front office since Charlotte’s lone playoff appearance in 2010. This offseason, he might have caught the worst flack after following up drafting Zeller at No. 4 with signing Jefferson to a huge contract. But if you really look at the Cats’ assets over the next few seasons, you’ll see that Jordan’s club actually has a bright future.
This season, the Bobcats took a risk in adding Jefferson to their young core in order to end the franchise’s playoff drought and put out some semblance of a competitive basketball team on the court. Yes, that could ultimately handicap the developments and progression of the team’s younger players, but if they make they Playoffs, the fan base immediately loves Jordan again. Plus, Zeller was one of the most impressive players out in Vegas.
Now, if the Cats fail to make the postseason, the risk for Jefferson isn’t for nothing. The 7-11 seeds in the Eastern Conference will likely all have worse records than the ninth best team out West in ’13-14, which would likely push Charlotte’s lottery pick to around the 6-10 range. If that’s the case, the Bobcats will keep their lottery pick that’s 1-10 protected to Chicago. Plus, they will likely get Portland’s first-round pick that’s 1-12 protected; and they’re owed Detroit’s first-round pick that’s 1-8 protected.
That would very realistic scenario gives Jordan & Co. three top-20 first-round picks in a loaded 2014 draft class. That’s pretty damn good. You could basically argue that Charlotte actually has a fool-proof plan.
Valuable Players: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter (expiring contracts), Monta Ellis, Sammy Dalembert, Ricky Ledo, Shane Larkin
Future Draft Picks: Owed 2014 second-round pick from Boston, 2016 second-round pick from Memphis; Owe 2014 first-round pick to Oklahoma City (1-20 protected)
Salary Forecast: ’13-14: $60.5 million, ’14-15: $26.9 million, ’15-16: $18 million, ’16-17: $8.7 million, ’17-18: $0
Key Moves: Added: Ellis, Jose Calderon, Lost: OJ Mayo, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison, Anthony Morrow
Evaluation: The NBA is transitioning into a smarter league that only features three types of teams: contenders, teams that are bottoming out and teams that are just trying to stay relevant enough to make the Playoffs and earn as much revenue as possible. Unfortunately the Mavericks are in that unfortunate last category, and they’ll probably linger in mediocrity until Dirk leaves.
Mark Cuban is still holding onto the idea that with Nowitzki taking a pay cut, Ellis and Jose Calderon will be enough to convince a top 2014 free agent to come to Dallas. But, unless Monta Ellis scores 20 points per game on 50 percent shooting this season, Dallas won’t be able to lure a talented enough free agent who’s good enough to be the No. 1 option to an older Nowitzki and oft-streaky Ellis. Cuban has done an excellent job sustaining success in Dallas and maximizing the majority of Dirk’s prime by surrounding him with complimentary players, but with an aging superstar, he hasn’t yet realized that strategy no longer works.
BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
Valuable Players: Hedo Turkoglu (expiring contract), Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis, Victor Oladipo, Jason Maxiell, Mo Harkless, Nik Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson, Doron Lamb, Kyle O’Quinn
Future Draft Picks: Owed: 2014 first-round pick from Denver, 2015 second-round pick from Lakers, 2016 first-round pick from Philadelphia (1-14 protected), 2017 first-round pick from Lakers (1-5 protected); Owe: 2014 second-round pick to Cleveland
Salary Forecast: ’13-14: $62.3 million, ’14-15: $49.2 million, ’15-16: $18.4 million, ’16-17: $6.6 million, ’17-18: $0
Key Moves: Added: Oladipo, Maxiell, Lost: Hakim Warrick, Beno Udrih
Evaluation: Since moving Dwight Howard last August, the Orlando Magic and GM Rob Hennigan have acquired a the largest amount of assets in the League. They essentially turned Dwight Howard, JJ Redick and Jason Richardson into a promising cast of young players and several impending extra draft picks. Now, Hennigan will have to waiting and hope those pieces grow and develop while also having the cap flexibility in two years to bring in a top free agent or make a trade. Basically, Orlando could be the ’13-14 Houston Rockets in ’17-18.
Valuable Players: Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown (expiring contracts), Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, Royce White, Arnett Moultrie, Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Arsalan Kazemi
Future Draft Picks: Owed: 2014 first-round pick from New Orleans (1-5 protected), 2014 second-round pick from Houston, 2014 second-round pick from Brooklyn; Owe: 2014 first-round pick to Miami (1-14 protected), 2016 first-round pick to Orlando (1-14 protected)
Salary Forecast: ’13-14: $39 million, ’14-15: $20.8 million, ’15-16: $14.8 million, ’16-17: $0, ’17-18: $0
Key Moves: Added: Carter-Williams, Noel, Lost: Jrue Holiday, Dorell Wright
Evaluation: If Sixers make the Playoffs in 2015 after drafting four lottery picks in two years and adding a top free agent, Philadelphia’s rebuild would then take on an interesting wrinkle. With a 2015 post-season appearance, Philly would send their 2015 first rounder to Miami as part of their trade for Arnett Moultrie and they would then yield their 2017 first rounder to Orlando. Basically, the Sixers would have built a solid young core for the next decade, but it would have been at the expense of two first-round picks, Andre Iguodala, Holiday, Vucevic and Harkless for MCW, Noel and their two lottery picks next season—assuming New Orleans misses the Playoffs.
But if one of those lottery picks is Andrew Wiggins, that’s an incredible swap. If they get Wiggins and another top-10 talent, it’s a steal. The 76ers’ and GM Sam Hinkie’s rebuilding plan is bold and full of potential, but its success can’t be determined until after next summer’s Draft.
Valuable Players: Caron Butler, Marcin Gortat and Shannon Brown (expiring contracts), Goran Dragic, Channing Frye, Michael Beasley, Eric Bledsoe, Markieff Morris, Kendall Marshall, Marcus Morris, Archie Goodwin, Malcolm Lee, Alex Len
Future Draft Picks: Owed: 2014 first-round pick from Minnesota (1-13 protected), 2015 first-round pick from Lakers (1-5 protected); Owe: 2015 second-round pick from Milwaukee
Salary Forecast: ’13-14: $55.4 million, ’14-15 $34.6 million, ’15-16: $11.6 million, ’16-17: $2.1, ’17-18: $0
Key Moves: Added: Bledsoe, Len, Lost: Jared Dudley
Evaluation: Unlike these other rebuilding teams, Phoenix doesn’t have the bevy of young potential stars who could eventually dig themselves out of the bottom of the League to contention. Sure, they have young talent, but the Suns’ roster doesn’t boast two or three players under 23 who could eventually be a 35-minute-per-night starter.
The thing the Suns have going for them is nearly immediate cap flexibility. Phoenix’s payroll almost evaporates by 2016 and by that point they will hopefully have sifted through the surplus of up-and-coming role players they currently employ. By that point, and throwing in several more first-round picks, the Suns might have a solid young core to start maturing and building around, but they’re the furthest team from competing in the entire NBA.
Valuable Players: Richard Jefferson, Adris Biedrins, Marvin Williams and Brandon Rush (expiring contracts), Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Jeremy Evans, Rudy Gobert
Future Draft Picks: Owed: 2014 first round pick from Golden State, 2016 second round pick from Golden State, 2017 first round pick from Golden State, 2017 second round pick from Golden State, 2018 second round pick from Denver
Salary Forecast: ’13-14: $55.4 million, ’14-15: $16.7 million, ’15-16: $3.8 million, ’16-17: $5.5 million, ’17-18: $0
Key Moves: Added: Jefferson, Biedrins, Rush, Burke, Gobert, Lost: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap
Evaluation: The Jazz are going to experience the roughest form of rebuild over the next five seasons. Yes, they ideally have their starting lineup for the next seven years in place and just need the core to grow and develop together, but that’s going to take a while to happen. Favors and Kanter are both phenomenal building blocks for an NBA frontcourt, but they are still very, very raw offensively. Burke will also need several years to get a grasp on how to score in the NBA and will likely make his teammates better by penetrating relentlessly before he scores and gets to the line off of those drives.
With tons of future draft picks in their pocket and incredible flexibility, the Jazz are set up very well to work and improve their young crop of talent. But, Utah will need an enormous amount of patience from its fan base.
FIGURING THINGS OUT
Valuable Players: Kyle Lowry and Aaron Gray (expiring contracts), DeMar DeRozan, Steve Novak, Jonas Valanciunas, Tyler Hansbrough, Terrence Ross, Quincy Acy, Dwight Buycks
Future Draft Picks: Owed: 2014 second-round pick from Sacrmento (56-60 protected), 2014 second-round pick from Oklahoma City, 2016 first-round pick from New York, 2017 second-round pick from New York; Owe: 2014 second-round pick to Milwaukee, 2016 second-round pick to Memphis
Salary Forecast: ’13-14: $65.1 million, ’14-15: $58.5 million, ’15-16: $23 million, ’16-17: $9.5 million, ’17-18: $0
Key Moves: Added: Steve Novak, Tyler Hansbrough, DJ Augustin, Lost: Andrea Bargnani, Linas Kleiza
Evaluation: New GM Masai Ujiri has several options with the Raptors over these next few years. He can a) try to keep building around the crop of players he has, b) try and trade Rudy Gay, set his team back from playoff contention and add more young pieces or c) blow it up completely outside of DeRozan, Valanciunas and Ross. The Raps’ cap flexibility after 2015 is what opens up all of these possibilities and their impending extra picks also opens the door to add a flock of younger talent no matter what route Ujiri goes in. At this point, the fact that he has several options and the track record of maximizing situations, Toronto should have a bright future over the course of this decade.
Valuable Players: Marcus Thornton, Carl Landry, Chuck Hayes, Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Luc Mbah a Moute, Pattrick Patterson, Travis Outlaw, Ben McLemore, Jimmer Fredette, Greivis Vasquez, Isaiah Thomas, Ray McCallum
Future Draft Picks: Owe: 2014 first-round pick to Cleveland (1-12 protected), 2014 second-round pick to New York (31-55 protected), 2014 second-round pick to Toronto (56-60 protected), 2015 second-round pick to Boston (31-55 protected), 2016 second-round pick to New Orleans (31-55 protected), 2017 second-round pick to Boston (31-55 protected)
Salary Forecast: ’13-14: $58.7 million, ’14-15: $48.4 million, ’15-16: $17 million, ’16-17: $17.3 million, ’17-18: $0
Key Moves: Added: Vasquez, McLemore, Landry, Lost: Tyreke Evans
Evaluation: Does anyone know what Sacramento is going to be on the court? They have a bunch of solid role players on very, very reasonable contracts, but what the hell is going on? The Kings’ roster is all guards who need the ball in their hands and power forwards. That’s it. Obviously, the organization’s future hinges on whether Cousins morphs into a perennial All-Star, but if that doesn’t pan out, the Kings are in danger of becoming a more expensive version of the Phoenix Suns. Then again, the Kings’ payroll dramatically drops off after 2015. Overall, there’s endless potential in Sac-Town but does anyone feel confident they will capitalize on it?