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NBA Trade Deadline Watch: Central Division

A look at players who could be on the move in the Central Division.

John Zitzler

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This week we’ve been taking a look around the league, division by division, at players that may be on the move in our Deadline Watch series. So far we’ve covered the Southeast, Pacific and Northwest divisions. Today, we take a closer look at the Central Division.

The Central is headlined by two of the tougher teams in the East in the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. Both made big splashes this off-season with aspirations of a championship run. Elsewhere in the division, the Bucks look to remain in the playoff picture with the Pistons pushing to join them. Lastly the Pacers will have some big decisions to make and could see significant roster moves prior to the deadline.
With that said let’s take a closer look at each team and their current situation…

Cleveland Cavaliers

Expiring deals: Shawn Marion and James Jones

Potentially expiring deals: LeBron James (Player Option), Kevin Love (Player Option), J.R. Smith (Player Option), Timofey Mozgov (Team Option), Tristan Thompson (Restricted), Mike Miller (Player Option), Iman Shumpert (Restricted), Brendan Haywood (Non-Guaranteed) and Matt Dellavedova (Restricted).

Could be shopped: Brendan Haywood and Joe Harris.

After a slow start the Cavs decided they weren’t going to wait until the trade deadline to make some major changes. First, the team shipped out erratic scorer Dion Waiters, sending him to Oklahoma City in a three-team deal that netted Cleveland J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. Just two days later the Cavs went out and got Timofey Mozgov, adding a much needed interior defender to their frontcourt.

Those moves have really started to pay dividends over the last couple weeks, as the Cavs have strung together nine-straight wins. Having Mozgov down low has added a different dimension and really helped them protect the paint.

Looking ahead the Cavs will have their sights set on a title. They have addressed many of the holes in their roster already, but even so may not be done yet. Adding depth at point guard is one area the Cavs make look to improve. Matt Dellavedova has been the primary option behind Kyrie Irving, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cavs attempt to bring in a more experienced player to serve as their backup point guard. However, their roster is lacking in terms of tradable pieces. Brendan Haywood is expendable and has a uniquely-structured contract that could be valuable for a team looking to cut salary. Alone, though, he won’t net much. Rookie Joe Harris has fallen out of the Cavs’ rotation and is a prospect that may draw some interest. It’s unlikely the Cavs would move any of their veteran bench players, many who followed LeBron James to Cleveland to make a run at a title.

Chicago Bulls

Expiring deals: Mike Dunleavy, Nazr Mohammed and Aaron Brooks

Potentially expiring deals: Kirk Hinrich (Player Option), Jimmy Butler (Restricted), E’Twaun Moore (Non-Guaranteed) and Cameron Bairstow (Non-Guaranteed)

Could be shopped: Tony Snell

The Bulls, like the Cavs, went into this season with the goal of a deep playoff run. They added Pau Gasol over the summer, pairing him alongside Joakim Noah, to form one of the top frontcourts in the East. Gasol has been everything the Bulls could have hoped for. He has the highest PER on the team at 22.1, is the leading rebounder (12.2) and third leading scorer (18.2). Derrick Rose has finally been able to stay healthy for the majority of the season and Jimmy Butler has exploded onto the scene, averaging career best numbers across the board.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan during the first 33 games season, the Bulls were 23-10 and looked again to be one of the top teams in the East. It was in the 33rd game of the season when Mike Dunleavy went down with an ankle injury and has been sidelined ever since. During Dunleavy’s 16 game absence the Bulls have a record of just 7-9, struggling without their starting small forward. The injury to Dunleavy has exposed the Bulls’ lack of depth on the wing and it’s one issue they may seek to correct prior to the trade deadline. Without Dunleavy their offense has bogged down due to their inability to spread the floor. Coach Thibodeau has experimented with a number of different lineup combinations, but has been unable to find a regular replacement for Dunleavy. Tony Snell has played inconsistent minutes throughout the season and been unable to prove that he is the answer behind Dunleavy. Adding another wing that can regularly knock down shots from the outside is something that could really help the Bulls going forward.

Milwaukee Bucks

Expiring deals: Kendall Marshall

Potentially expiring deals: Jared Dudley (Early Termination), Brandon Knight (Restricted) and Khris Middleton (Restricted)

Could be shopped: Ersan Ilyasova

After finishing last year with just 15 wins, not much was expected of the Bucks this season. Sure, they have some nice young pieces, but most anticipated they would finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference once again and be sellers at the trade deadline. However, at 24-22, the Bucks shockingly seem destined for a playoff berth.

The Bucks surprising start has changed their outlook from the start of the season. Going into to this season priority number one was the development of the team’s young talent, most importantly the growth of Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Although Parker has been lost for the season, new head coach Jason Kidd has done a good job giving significant minutes to the younger players on the roster while still building a winning culture. With the playoffs on the horizon, don’t expect the Bucks to be as eager to move some of their veteran contributors. O.J Mayo, Jared Dudley and Jerryd Bayless have combined to form one of the best benches in the league and have been a major reason behind the Bucks’ turnaround.

One player that had been the subject of trade rumors during the offseason was Ersan Ilyasova. His ability to stretch the floor from the four spot makes him a desirable commodity throughout the league. However, again, while the Bucks may have made Ilyasova available in the past, following their strong start and likely playoff berth they may want to keep their current group together and see how things play out.

Detroit Pistons

Expiring deals: Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko and Joel Anthony

Potentially expiring deals: Caron Butler (Non-Guaranteed), Anthony Tolliver (Non-Guaranteed), Luigi Datome (Restricted), Cartier Martin (Player Option) and Kyle Singler (Restricted)

Could be shopped: Luigi Datome, Jonas Jerebko and Greg Monroe.

The start of the season couldn’t have gone much worse for Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons. They were 3-14 at the end of November with little hope of salvaging their season. Less than a month later the Pistons made a move that seemingly gave them new life, releasing Josh Smith just over a year after signing him to a lucrative four-year, $54 million dollar deal.

Following the release of Smith the Pistons went on a tear, vaulting themselves back into playoff contention. Unfortunately their resurgence took a major hit last Sunday when Brandon Jennings suffered a torn Achilles tendon. Jennings had been playing some of the best basketball of his career during the Pistons recent run. In January Jennings averaged 20.9 points and 7.2 assists with a true shooting percentage of 55.9.

The loss of Jennings leaves the Pistons shorthanded at point guard. D.J. Augustin has been moved into the starting lineup and been forced to play heavy minutes in Jennings’ absence. Outside of Augustin the Pistons don’t have any other options with experience playing point guard. If they want to continue their pursuit for one final playoff spots in the East adding another point guard will be crucial.

With Caron Butler, Jodie Meeks, Jonas Jerebko, Luigi Datome, Spencer Diwiddie and Cartier Martin, their bench is flush at the with wings. Two names that have been rumored to be on the block are Jerebko and Datome. It’s unlikely that either Jerebko or Datome would bring much back in return alone, but if the Pistons do make a trade one of the two, if not both, will almost certainly be part of the package. The Pistons will surely receive calls on Greg Monroe. While it seemed very possible he would be moved earlier in the year it now appears likely that the Monroe will finish the season with the Pistons. Even if the Pistons were to agree to deal Monroe, he has the ability to veto any trade. Not only that, but the risk of losing Monroe in free agency would play a major factor for any team considering acquiring the Piston big man.

Indiana Pacers

Expiring deals: Luis Scola, C.J. Watson, Donald Sloan, Lavoy Allen and Rodney Stuckey

Potentially expiring deals: Roy Hibbert (Player Option), David West (Player Option), Chris Copeland (Restricted) and Shayne Whittington (Restricted)

Could be shopped: David West, Chris Copeland, Roy Hibbert, Luis Scola, Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Watson.

Of all the teams in the Central the Pacers may be the most active at the deadline. Despite being just three games out of the eight seed in the East, their chances of making the playoffs are slim. They have a number of experienced players who could be immediate contributors on a playoff team.

The biggest name that could be on the move is center Roy Hibbert. Hibbert has been a vital part of the Pacers’ success of the last couple years, but his time in Indianapolis may soon come to an end. His contract includes a player option to remain with the team through 2015-16 worth $15.51 million, however there is a chance Hibbert will forgo that money in search of a long-term deal this offseason. The Pacers certainly must weigh the possibility of Hibbert opting out as the deadline inches closer. The issue for any team considering making a trade offer for Hibbert will be whether they can sign him to a long-term deal. Even with the possibility of losing Hibbert after this season the Pacers are not just going to sell him for pennies on the dollar.

As you can see, Hibbert isn’t the only Pacer that could be moved. Both David West and Luis Scola could provide immediate help to a team with an undermanned frontcourt. Similarly, C.J. Watson and Rodney Stuckey are both very experienced guards who could help team lacking backcourt depth. Larry Bird will certainly be a busy man over the next weeks and has some big decisions to make in the near future.

The trade deadline is always one of the most exciting times of the year in the NBA. It’s the last chance for potential playoff teams to strengthen their roster, while at the same time an opportunity for rebuilding teams to improve their future. The Central Division has teams that fall on both sides of the equation. Are the Cavs done dealing? Will the Bucks keep their current group together? Who’s staying and who’s going in Indianapolis? Do the Bulls have the pieces to acquire a wing? Can the Pistons find help at point guard? We’ll have an answer to all these questions and many more around the league come February 19.

This is John's second year with Basketball Insiders, after spending last season working as an intern. Based out of Milwaukee, he covers the NBA with a focus on the Milwaukee Bucks and the Central Division.

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NBA Daily: Can Anyone Challenge the East’s Top Teams?

The Eastern Conference Finals will likely have two of the top three teams represented. While the rest of the teams in the East battle amongst themselves, do any of them have a shot to knock off Brooklyn, Philadelphia, or Milwaukee in the playoffs?

Chad Smith

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The Western Conference has been dominating the league once again, in terms of quality teams from top to bottom. The 13th worst team in the West would be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Though their depth is lacking, the East still has a few teams that are championship contenders this season.

The Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks all have a legitimate chance of reaching the NBA Finals this summer. It is championship-or-bust for these franchises who have emptied their wallets in order to pursue the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Each of these teams has at least two star players and another All-Star caliber player to help them reach their ultimate goal. Each one of these teams has a legitimate MVP candidate. In Brooklyn’s case, they just might have the greatest offensive three-headed monster the league has ever seen.

Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo are what separates these three teams from the rest of the conference.

This season there is plenty of parity among the remaining teams in the East. The standings change every night as these teams battle with nearly identical records. It would be a shocking surprise to not see one of Brooklyn, Philly or Milwaukee make it to the NBA Finals.

Odds are that two of these three teams will meet in the Conference Finals, but is there another team lurking that could upset the apple cart? Do any of these teams in the second-tier have enough talent and firepower to upset one of the East’s elite? Here are four teams that could play spoiler.

Miami HEAT

After reaching the NBA Finals last season in the bubble down in Orlando, the HEAT have definitely cooled off this year. They had a slow start at the beginning of the season, then had a long pause as health and safety protocols wreaked havoc on their roster. Not having Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic available really hurt them, but the tide could be turning.

Butler himself has been on a tear since returning to the court — and his teammates have followed his lead. Bam Adebayo has quietly had another outstanding year and they finally got their man Victor Oladipo before the trade deadline passed. Unfortunately, his recent injury put a serious damper on their hopes of getting back to the Finals.

Miami needs Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson to play more consistently, especially with Oladipo out. Veterans Andre Iguodala and Trevor Ariza should help in the postseason as they incorporate another perimeter shooter in Nemanja Bjelica. They have the star power and the experience needed to make another run, but the odds are stacked against them.

Atlanta Hawks

After a dismal start to the season, the Hawks appear to have figured out their identity. Much like the situation in Boston, this team was tasked with trying to build chemistry during a pandemic without essentially any practice. That is a difficult proposition and something that was going to take time. They also still needed to develop their young guys like Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter and Onyeka Okongwu.

After turning things over to Nate McMillan, he has been able to coach up this young squad, even without some of their top talent. Every player on the team has missed a chunk of time this year and they have had to seriously rely on their depth to get them through most of the regular season. Having won 15 of their last 20 games, they now find themselves in a position to have home-court advantage when the playoffs begin.

The vision that Travis Schlenk had in the offseason is finally becoming clear. The incredible play of guys like Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic and even Solomon Hill has been vital to their success. They will still lean on Trae Young and John Collins for their offense but the talented pieces around them are what will make this team tough to beat in a seven-game series.

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets have been one of the pleasant surprises this season, even after the acquisition of All-Star forward Gordon Hayward. Charlotte is the true definition of a team, as they have multiple guys that have stepped up and played well in spots throughout the season. PJ Washington, Malik Monk, Miles Bridges, Bismack Biyombo, Jalen McDaniels and the Martin twins of Cody and Caleb have all contributed to their success.

The play of LaMelo Ball had him sitting at the top of the rookie class before he suffered his broken wrist. His phenomenal first season may be over, but the organization is holding out hope that he may be able to return in the playoffs should Charlotte earn a spot in the postseason. Hayward is also back on the shelf as he continues to deal with a sprained foot. Charlotte has been able to stay afloat during their absences, which is a huge credit to James Borrego.

One more major difference-maker for the Hornets this season has been Terry Rozier. The electric guard is one of the top 40 scorers in the league this season and has been one of the best clutch performers as well. He is shooting a career-best 41 percent from behind the arc and 46 percent overall from the floor. They can be a dark horse come playoff time, but they will need their two best players healthy in order to have any chance.

Boston Celtics

It has been a very strange season for the Celtics, who entered the year with high expectations. They have been the greatest mystery this season and a puzzle that Brad Stevens is still trying to put together. Jaylen Brown has taken his game to another level and Jayson Tatum has had his moments as well. Both have cooled off since the All-Star break and Kemba Walker has been hot and cold from game to game.

Marcus Smart missed a lot of time and they brought in Evan Fournier at the trade deadline but he has yet to fit in like many thought he would. Chemistry could be the issue, but no one has really been able to put their finger on their kryptonite. The good news is that Tatum appears to finally be returning to health after his battle with COVID.

The center position has been a revolving door for this team all season, with Tristan Thompson, Daniel Theis, Robert Williams, Tacko Fall, Moritz Wagner and Luke Kornet all trying to fill the void left by Enes Kanter. They could have had the league’s leading shot-blocker Myles Turner, but Danny Ainge let Hayward walk for nothing instead.

On paper, this team is oozing with talent and should be much better than their record indicates. They may finally be figuring things out, having won six of their last seven games, including four straight. If their issues are truly fixed and if they can stay healthy, they will be a team that nobody wants to face in the playoffs.

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NBA Daily: Rajon Rondo Brings Leadership, Playmaking to Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers made a big trade deadline move last month when they shipped out locker room favorite and perennial Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Rajon Rondo.

David Yapkowitz

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The Los Angeles Clippers made a big trade deadline move last month when they shipped out locker room favorite and perennial Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Rajon Rondo.

The Clippers have had one of the most efficient offenses in the NBA this season, but even so, they have had times where the offense seemingly stalls and they can’t seem to generate easing scoring opportunities especially late in games.

The calls for a true point guard only got louder after those games and the team finally gave in and rolled the dice on one of the league’s better playmakers, especially come playoff time. Williams has been a good playmaker himself throughout his career and he was averaging 3.4 assists per game prior to the trade.

But in Rondo, the Clippers get a premier playmaker and floor leader who has won two championships and whom the Lakers often closed games with last year in the postseason. Rondo made his Clippers debut on Easter Sunday in the team’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers and although his numbers didn’t jump off the stat sheet (2 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists and 4 turnovers in 12 minutes of play), he played with a lot of energy and pushed the pace well, something the Clippers haven’t always been so good at this season.

After the game, Rondo summed up what his role on the team is going to be quite simply.

“Just go out there and try and lead by example,” Rondo said. “I don’t like to talk as much without showing out on the court for my teammates.”

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue was a little more effusive in his thoughts on how Rondo will fit in on the team and how much better they will be with his addition. The Clippers have spoken all season long about needing to push the ball in transition and try and generate easy scoring opportunities on the break and that’s something Lue noticed right away with Rondo.

“You could just tell his pace brings a different something to our team and offensively he’s getting the outlet close to half court before the first pass is made. That generates pace for us and we need that,” Lue said. “As slow as we run sometimes, it’s probably going to have to be something that we adjust to, but I think he makes the game easier. When you get out and run in transition, a lot of teams can’t get back and get a match so we will get open shots. With him generating the pace, that’s going to be good for us.”

One area in particular that the team is hoping Rondo can help with is taking some of the ball-handling pressure off of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Both players have really stepped up in transitioning to primary ball-handling roles, something they haven’t had to do thus far in their careers.

They’re both averaging career-highs in assists at 5.0 and 5.4 respectively and have done well moving the ball around and getting good shots throughout the game for themselves and their teammates. But there have been times when the ball stagnates a bit and both Leonard and George end up taking tough contested shots late in the game.

With Rondo on board, the Clippers have a player that will keep the ball moving and can help get both of them easy looks down the stretch, something he did to perfection last year with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

“Just trying to get our two main guys the ball in easier spots as far as them having to work so hard to get the ball against a set defense,” Rondo said. “If we are able to create stops to get on the break, my job is to advance the ball and let those guys attack one-on-one before the defense is set.”

In his first game playing alongside Rondo, George immediately saw the benefits and how Rondo will take pressure off of both him and Leonard.

“You just see his intangibles, you see he just sees plays happening,” George said. “I thought it just made the game easier getting it up to him, letting him push the ball, letting him initiate instead of a lot of times myself and Kawhi doing it. We got a guy that can do it, it’s just going to make the game easier for us.”

A team’s point guard is often an extension of the head coach on the court and Rondo certainly has been that throughout his career. He’s been a vocal leader on the court and in the locker room and his stint with the Dallas Mavericks notwithstanding, he’s been a very positive influence wherever he’s been.

He’s looking forward to working alongside Lue and doing his best to implement Lue’s schemes on the court both offensively and defensively.

“Just try to be on the same page as my coach. Not too much as me trying to outsmart my opponents, which at all times I want to be two steps ahead of,” Rondo said. “I want to stay afloat with my teammates as well and be on the same page as them and be an extension of [Tyronn Lue] on the court.”

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NBA Western Conference Bright Future Watch

The Western Conference is loaded with talent this year, but who will be the teams that dominate it in the future? Zach Dupont takes a look at which teams have the brightest future in the Western Conference.

Zach Dupont

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It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the current season as we head towards the climax of a great race for the Western Conference title. But there are already reasons to look past this year and get excited about the teams who could dominate the Western Conference past 2020-21.

Who are the teams that could strike next year? And who has set themselves up to have a bright future in the Western Conference?

Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets are primed to become a force in the Western Conference for years to come and could easily be the favorites heading into next year. The Nuggets’ four best players, Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon, are all under contract for next season, and all of them are younger than 26-years-old. Jokic has proved himself to be one of the best players in the NBA over the past few seasons and has emerged as a favorite for the MVP award this year. In 2020-21, Jokic is averaging 26.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three. Jokic’s wingman Murray is no slouch either, posting the best numbers of his career with 21.3 points per game on 48 percent shooting and 41.2 percent shooting from three. Combine Jokic’s MVP play and Murray’s high-end scoring ability with the shooting and potential of Porter Jr., and the defensive ability of Gordon and the Nuggets emerge as a clear threat in the Western Conference.

The Nuggets also won’t be lacking for depth next year like many of their rivals. Monte Morris is locked up for the next few seasons, and Will Barton and JaMychal Green have player options for next season that they could easily accept. The Nuggets can also keep Facundo Campazzo and P.J. Dozier for next season, as both are on non-guaranteed contracts. There are also younger players on the roster who have shown some promise and could be a factor next season. Zeke Nnaji showed potential as a stretch four in limited showings this year, and Bol Bol is still an exciting talent. Denver will even have some money to play with in free agency this offseason, although the looming extension they will owe Porter Jr. will make options limited. Paul Millsap will no longer be on the books at near $15 million a year, and if either Barton or Green decided to decline their player options, that would give the Nuggets more cap flexibility.

The Nuggets have the most intriguing mix of high-end talent and youth in the west, and while they’re already a threat this season, next season, they may be the favorites.

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies may not be where Denver is as a team now, but long-term, they are equally as exciting. The Grizzlies are loaded with young talent up and down the roster, and they already have one of their stars of the future. Ja Morant has been a sensation since entering the league last season, and with another year of experience under his belt, the league should be worried about the Grizzlies’ potential. Morant is averaging 18.8 points and 7.4 assists per game in his sophomore campaign. Morant is joined by fellow youngster Jaren Jackson Jr., a two-way big with loads of potential. Jackson has yet to see the floor this year, but he showed the ability to protect the rim like an elite defender and knock down a high volume of three-pointers in his first two seasons of action.

The Grizzlies core may be focused around Morant and Jackson, but what makes Memphis more exciting than other teams out west is the roster’s pure volume of prospects. Brandon Clarke was a steal in the 2019 NBA Draft and has already shown to be a great center who can impact the game on both offense and defense, De’Anthony Melton is one of the league’s most underappreciated defensive players at just 22-years-old and Desmond Bane is already knocking down over 45 percent of his three-point attempts in his rookie season. From top to bottom, Memphis has exciting young talent. Together with their established talent like Dillon Brooks and Jonas Valanciunas, you’ve got a team primed to compete in the Western Conference in 2021-22.

Memphis may not be a title favorite next year, but their ability to acquire talented youth will only make them better and better every season.

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans have some major decisions to make this offseason, but they are a team to watch out west next year no matter what they do. New Orleans has maybe the most exciting young talent in the NBA in Zion Williamson, who has emerged as one of the most efficient and dangerous scorers in the league this season. Williamson is putting up 26.3 points per game this season on an absurd 62 percent shooting and 66 percent true shooting. At just 20-years-old Williamson is already an All-Star, and he will inevitably improve over the next few seasons with his ceiling being as high as anyone’s in the NBA. New Orleans has managed to pair Williamson with another All-Star level player in Brandon Ingram, who has averaged nearly 24 points per game in each of the past two seasons. The Pelicans’ big decision this offseason will be what to do with their point guard, Lonzo Ball. Ball has always been a talented distributor and defender since entering the league, but this year he has taken a step forward as a scorer, averaging a career-best 14.5 points per game and 38.4 percent shooting from three. Ball is set to be a restricted free agent this offseason, and it’s not a given that he will be back next year.

New Orleans already has a core to build around, and they have young depth pieces to add to the already exciting potential of the roster. Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis are a pair of young point guards who have shown a lot of potential and could fill in nicely for Ball if he departs this summer. Alexander-Walker is putting up more than 10 points per game in his sophomore campaign, and he has shown glimpses of being a defender and shooter in the same mold as Ball. Lewis is a speedy rookie out of Alabama who has found playing time hard to come by, but if either Ball or Eric Bledsoe find themselves not in New Orleans next year, he has showcased skills that could put him in the conversation for major minutes.

If Zion takes another step next year, and the whole team cleans it up defensively, the Pelicans could become serious players in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers may not be full of young players with high-end potential like other teams on this list, but they still represent the West’s most dangerous threat when healthy. Every season the question “when will he finally slow down” is asked about LeBron James, and every season LeBron shows he is still one of the most dominant players in the NBA. LeBron Is 36-years-old, and this season he has put up 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game and, before getting injured a few weeks ago, was one of the favorites for the MVP award. LeBron’s running mate, Anthony Davis, is equally dangerous and could be considered the NBA’s best two-way player. The Lakers have both Davis and LeBron locked in for next season, and the presence of those two players alone makes them a title threat in the west regardless of the team put around them.

One benefit of having superstars like LeBron and Davis is that it becomes much easier to sign role players. The Lakers will already have the services of Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marc Gasol next season, and Montrezl Harrell has a $9.7 million player option for next season. But the draw of potentially winning a championship will bring the Lakers role players on cheaper contracts than they would have signed elsewhere, as evident by Gasol, Andre Drummond and Wesley Matthews’ contracts.

The Lakers may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of bright futures, but LeBron and Davis will keep the Lakers’ future bright for as long as they remain in LA.

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