NBA Saturday: The Best Teams in 5 Years
The Next Generation of Powerhouses
We know who the five best teams in the league are right now—the Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami HEAT, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers—but the likelihood that those teams will remain at the top of the NBA heap five years from now is pretty unlikely.
Obviously, players don’t sign six-year contracts anymore, so it’s impossible in some instances to know if a player will still be with his current team by the start of the 2017-18 season, but some are surer things than others, however, and we can do enough guesswork to get a sense of who’s in the best shape to be dominant half a decade from now.
All that said, here are the teams that could be the league’s elite five years from now:
Cleveland Cavaliers – Kyrie Irving, as young as he is, has started to distance himself from some of the other young stars in the league, and he has started to look like the kind of superstar that makes a team competitive in the postseason no matter who else is around him. He’ll need Tristan Thompson and/or Dion Waiters to pan out if he hopes to have any real help in Cleveland, or he can just keep his fingers crossed that LeBron James finds his way home when he hits free agency the next time around. If that happens, go on ahead and push the Cavs straight up this list.
Golden State Warriors – For all we know, Steph Curry’s ankles could be ground into talcum powder five years from now, but assuming he holds up, Curry is on pace to be one of the greatest three-point shooters of all time. Add that to young guns like Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, and the future looks very bright for the Warriors.
Indiana Pacers – Paul George and Roy Hibbert (however poorly he may have played this season) are more than reasonable cornerstones for a franchise, and they’re young enough to inspire confidence that they’ll only get better the older they get. Whatever other pieces Kevin Pritchard and Donnie Walsh may put around George and Hibbert moving forward, there’s enough star power already there to keep them towards the top of the heap in the East.
L.A. Clippers – Chris Paul will be 32, but will he still be with the Clippers at that point? If there’s uncertainty about that now, there almost certainly will be every year between now and then, but even if the team decides to roll with Eric Bledsoe instead, a core built around him, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan is definitely an interesting one moving forward.
The Top 5:
#5 – Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge will probably be two of the best fifteen players in the league five years from now, and that sort of dominant high-low tandem is the kind of thing championship teams are built on. If they’re able to keep amassing talent to put around those guys (their bench is currently one of the weakest in their conference), the Blazers have a real shot at turning into something special. It hasn’t been a great season for them, but they’ll do nothing but get better in the seasons to come.
#4 – Houston Rockets – Without even knowing what kind of free agents the Rockets may try to sign this offseason and beyond, they’ve certainly amassed a ridiculous amount of young talent for the future. Five years from now, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to afford to keep all the exciting players currently on the roster, but they will have James Harden, who could very well be the best two-guard in the league half a decade out. They should also have at least a couple of guys among Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin and Thomas Robinson, and those are all players with plenty of room left to grow. Daryl Morey has built this time the right way (which is something none of us ever thought we’d say before the Harden trade), and the future definitely looks bright for the Houston Rockets.
#3 – Chicago Bulls – Let’s just assume for now that Derrick Rose returns to form and holds up over the next half decade. Any team led by him and coached by Tom Thibodeau is going to see a certain measure of success, and with Joakim Noah also at the reasonable age of 32, the Bulls could remain pretty competitive well into the future. Nikola Mirotic will have been around for at least a couple of seasons by that point, too, and he’s expected to be a pretty special Euro prospect. Having a talented young and one of the best coaches in the league means the Bulls will be among the East’s top teams for years to come.
#2 – Whatever Team LeBron James Is Playing For – Even if Dwyane Wade is spent and/or retired by 2017, the HEAT will remain a powerhouse as long as James is still reasonably effective, and at age 32 there’s a pretty good chance that he still will be. Of course, James may leave Miami in his next round of free agency (coming soon: The Decision II), so that means Cleveland or L.A. or some other team may fill this spot instead. Wherever he’s playing from now until he’s 36 years old, his team will be very, very good.
#1 – Oklahoma City Thunder – As long as the Thunder have Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, all of whom will still be under 30 years old at the start of the 2017-18 season, the Thunder will be one of the top three teams in the league each and every year. This isn’t even taking into consideration what kind of players Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb may be by that time, should they still be part of the team, and who knows what other gems Sam Presti will unearth by then? It’s scary how good these guys are now despite being so young; imagine how good they’ll be in five years.
What other teams will be among the league’s most dominant by the 2017-18 season? How might the Knicks, Lakers, and Celtics remain relevant when their aging stars finally retire? Are the teams listed above truly on track to be among the NBA’s best? Hit up the comments section with your thoughts!
What the J.J. Redick Trade Really Means for Milwaukee
The Milwaukee Bucks are currently three and a half games up on the Philadelphia 76ers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and Bucks GM John Hammond swears the trade to acquire J.J. Redick from Orlando was done to ensure that they don’t lose that grip on the eighth seed.
“This comes down to us trying to win; us trying to remain competitive,” Hammond told CBSSports.com. “We’re hoping to get an uptick from this. We haven’t been playing quite as well lately and we’re hoping we can at least solidify this eight-spot. We’d like to move up, try to get the seven, the six … whatever we can do. This, for us, trying to get a piece like J.J. is about us trying to win games.”
And that make sense, as the Bucks have two marquee guards in Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings who each have an opportunity to leave in the offseason if things don’t go well from here on out. Jennings will be a restricted free agent, and Ellis has an early termination option that would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent, but since those two players are responsible for almost 40 percent of the team’s scoring, the Bucks would obviously prefer not to lose either one. The best way to do that is to not only make the playoffs, but to do well once they get there.
Does the acquisition of Redick, who averaged 15.2 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.4 rebounds in 50 games for the Magic this year, make a tremendous difference in the quest to take the postseason by storm? Honestly, probably not, but there was another reason to acquire Redick at the deadline, even though he’s a free agent this summer, as well. If Ellis or Jennings does end up leaving, Redick could be a considerably less expensive option to start at the two next season.
While it’s true that Redick has likely earned his own big payday this season, he still won’t be as expensive to maintain as, say, Ellis, so a half-season introducing him to the organization, the offense and his teammates could go a long ways towards breeding him to become a starter down the road.
It’s not that Milwaukee wants to lose either of their two best players, but keeping both, who are remarkably similar to one another, might not be realistic. Redick pours in similar points at a lower price tag, which is about as good as it comes for a “just in case” situation like this one.
And it’s not like it cost them much to do. They were done with Beno Udrih months ago anyway, Tobias Harris never did live up to his potential in Milwaukee and Doron Lamb hasn’t looked like a sure-thing over his first half a season in the league. For spare parts, getting Redick looks like a fleecing, so it does also make the Bucks marginally better in the meantime.
To call him a major difference-maker when they’ve already got two high-volume scorers like Ellis and Jennings might be overstating things, though. Down the road, Redick has a chance to start for a team that actually matters in the Eastern Conference, unlike his old team. That’s a good start, and all things considered it’s easy to see why the Bucks would make that deal.