This week, Basketball Insiders has been redrafting recent NBA drafts. We’ve been jumping in our time machines, taking a look at some older drafts re-ranking that class of players after several seasons. We’ve already done 2012 and 2011. Today, we’ll redraft the 2010 class.
The 2010 draft ended up being pretty top heavy, as it got mediocre in a hurry. This draft sure gave the NBA a bunch of bench players as well as a bunch of busts who are already out of the NBA.
#1- Washington Wizards: Paul George
While John Wall obviously isn’t a bust, George is the clear cut best player from this draft in my eyes. He is the only one to have already been a serious MVP candidate. He has taken the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals; if not for a certain player named LeBron James, he probably would have gotten further (and maybe even won a championship by now). George will continue his dominance now that he has recovered from his broken leg.
#2- Philadelphia 76ers: DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins is a dominant player. There isn’t too much of a difference between the 76ers and the Kings over the last several years, with the only exception being the Kings drafted Cousins after Philly passed on him at second overall in 2010. The 76ers probably regret that. There is a really good chance Cousins (at only age 25) could already be the best center in the NBA next season. Their pick, Evan Turner, was a disappointment and is much further down the list in this redraft.
#3- Brooklyn (then New Jersey) Nets: John Wall
There is no disputing it: John Wall is a stud. He is so fast, blazing up and down the court with the ball, slicing into the lane, finishing at the rim with no fear, while also dishing out a bunch of assists to get his teammates involved. The Nets drafted Derrick Favors here and eventually shipped him to Utah for Deron Williams. Who knows what would have happened had Wall been a Net instead?
This top three is its own tier. They are all close together, but there is a clear delineation.
#4- Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Favors
The Wolves had Kevin Love breaking out and had recently gotten Ricky Rubio from overseas. At the time, the decision to draft a small forward (Wes Johnson) was understandable given their roster. However, Johnson hasn’t lived up to his draft slot while Favors has developed into a very talented player. Putting Favors at center next to Love would have been interesting, and he’s clearly one of the better players in this class.
#5- Sacramento Kings: Greg Monroe
The Kings are happy they got DeMarcus Cousins with the No. 5 pick, as it’s looking like DMC is probably the second-best player in this draft. In this redraft, Cousins doesn’t fall to them and they instead get Greg Monroe, who signed with the Milwaukee Bucks this summer. Imagine how his development could have been different if he had been the focal point in Sacramento and able to play center (as he has wanted to) instead of moving to the four like he did in Detroit.
#6- Golden State Warriors: Eric Bledsoe
In this redraft, the Warriors probably wouldn’t have the “Splash Brothers” they have now as they wouldn’t have wasted their sixth overall pick on Ekpe Udoh and instead would have picked “mini-LeBron” instead. Eric Bledsoe would have been insurance since at the time Stephen Curry’s ankles were suspect, but the two guards would have been able to complement each other quite well. Probably not as well as Steph and Klay Thompson currently do, but Bledsoe certainly goes higher in this redraft than he did back in 2010 (18th overall).
#7- Detroit Pistons: Gordon Hayward
Instead of getting Greg Monroe at seven, the Pistons get Hayward, who is a better fit with their 2012 pick Andre Drummond. While not elite, Hayward has the size, skill and shot to have a long career in the NBA. He’s the leader of the youthful Jazz and is very talented. But one wonders what could have been if Detroit (now with Stan Van Gundy at the helm) had Drummond and Hayward as building blocks. They sure would be further along in their rebuild.
#8-Los Angeles Clippers: Lance Stephenson
The Clippers land Lance Stephenson in this redraft, just as they did via trade this offseason. In this redraft, they would have drafted him at number eight instead of Al-Farouq Aminu. Stephenson might have flourished because he would have grown with Blake Griffin and been mentored by Chris Paul when he got to L.A. a few years later. His role this year will be intriguing for sure.
#9- Utah Jazz: Avery Bradley
Instead of getting Gordon Hayward, the Jazz would have to settle for Bradley, who is just more of a specialty role player than Hayward and shouldn’t really be the focal point of a team. However, Bradley is better than many of the players Utah has brought in to fill the role Bradley seems to have excelled at in Boston.
#10- Indiana Pacers: Al-Farouq Aminu
Instead of getting easily the steal of the draft (Paul George at No. 10), the Pacers instead get Al-Farouq Aminu, who has certainly bounced around the league in his short career so far. Aminu started with the Clippers, went to the Pelicans for a few years, was with the Mavericks in 2014-15 and now is the highest-paid player on the Blazers at $8 million this year (until Damian Lillard’s contract jumps from $4 million to nearly $21 million next year). Still, it seems like Aminu will have a long NBA career, even if he did start as a journeyman. The Pacers likely would not have had those few very successful years if they got stuck with Aminu over George back in 2010.
#11- New Orleans Pelicans: Hassan Whiteside
Whiteside burst onto the NBA scene recently with the Miami HEAT, and really jumped up the draft board in this redraft from a second-rounder to just outside the top 10. While he is a bit reckless with his emotions on the court at times and is still refining his skill-set, he is a good, young talent. He was out of the league as recently as last year, but just turned in an excellent season with the Miami HEAT. Imagine him at the center position alongside Anthony Davis in New Orleans. That’s a pretty good, complementary tandem in the frontcourt for sure. If he can prove last season wasn’t a fluke, he likely climbs even higher.
#12- Memphis Grizzlies: Ed Davis
Davis was apparently valued correctly back in 2010. Instead of being drafted 13th overall by Toronto, he gets selected 12th by Memphis. Instead of being the starting power forward for the Raptors, he’d have been the third big man for the Grizzlies (as he eventually was anyway), certainly improving their team more than their actual pick of Xavier Henry. Now, Davis is in Portland as the second-highest-paid player (which says more about Portland this coming year and the apparent exodus than anything else).
#13- Toronto Raptors: Jeremy Lin
Linsanity in Canada! Lin was an undrafted free agent in 2010, but he climbs into the lottery in this redraft. It’s hard to say if Toronto would be in a better position right now if they had drafted Lin instead of their actual pick of Ed Davis. Since his amazing time in New York, Lin hasn’t quite found the right place to thrive long-term. Maybe it’s in Charlotte, where he signed this offseason.
#14- Houston Rockets: Greivis Vasquez
Since actually getting drafted 28th overall by Memphis, Vasquez has sure been a journeyman in the league. In five years, he’s been on five teams now that he landed in Milwaukee this offseason. Vasquez is a quality backup guard and can really run an offense and get his teammates involved. It seems Vasquez would have been a better selection than Patrick Patterson, who Houston actually drafted.
#15- Milwaukee Bucks: Evan Turner
Evan Turner is a decent NBA player, but some still consider him a bust. He was selected second overall in the draft and hasn’t lived up to that billing. He’s been on three teams already. He started out with Philadelphia, played a year in Indiana and now is with Boston. He is basically a high-volume, low-efficiency shooter. While those are plentiful around the NBA, that’s not what the 76ers were signing up for at the second overall pick. But Turner definitely would have been a better pick here at 15 than their actual pick… Larry Sanders.
#16- Minnesota Timberwolves: Alexey Shved
Shved actually signed as an undrafted free agent with Minnesota when he came into the league. He’s since moved on to a few other teams, but would have been a great addition to the Timberwolves’ “Euro” team they seemed to be constructing for a few years. He is definitely better than the Wolves’ actual pick of Luke Babbitt.
#17- Chicago Bulls: Wesley Johnson
Wesley Johnson sure hasn’t lived up to his draft hype at all. In actuality, he went fourth overall that year, but in a redraft he goes 17th in what seems like a weak draft five years later. He is athletic and can defend, but he’s certainly not someone who was worthy of a top pick. He’s currently with the Clippers on a minimum deal. He’ll have a role in the league for several years to come, but some may consider him a bust.
#18- Oklahoma City Thunder: Jeremy Evans
Evans is primarily known for his amazing dunks in games and in the dunk contest, but he is still growing as a player and has outplayed his 55th overall draft selection. That is not to say he is better than who OKC actually got at this pick in 2010, since they landed Eric Bledsoe. That’s good value – too bad they had traded that pick to the Los Angeles Clippers.
#19- Boston Celtics: Quincy Pondexter
Pondexter is no Avery Bradley, which is who the Celtics actually selected, but he is a decent rotation player. He has certainly out played his 26th actual draft selection slot, but not by too much. He’s now in New Orleans after a few years in Memphis.
#20- San Antonio Spurs: Patrick Patterson
The Spurs usually draft and stash, so their pick would probably still have been someone else, but this is where Patrick Patterson slots in, talent-wise. He is an okay, backup big man with limited upside, but he is steady. He scores a bit, rebounds, sets screens. He does what you need him to do. He is a complementary player around stars.
#21- Oklahoma City Thunder: Trevor Booker
Booker is a banger down low. Booker would have been an upgrade in some senses over OKC mainstay Nick Collison as the backup power forward over the last several years, so it would have been intriguing if the Thunder had picked Booker.
#22- Portland Trail Blazers: Kevin Seraphin
Seraphin is an average NBA player. He’d get some time with this new-look Trail Blazers team, and would have been decent and provided some frontcourt depth the last few years.
#23-Minnesota Timberwolves: Landry Fields
Fields had two good years in New York, but has been buried on the bench of Toronto. He would have been a good bench guy for the Timberwolves with this late first-round pick back in 2010. Considering his flashes with the Knicks, he has outperformed his second round draft selection as 39th overall. In most redrafts, he may not have gone first round, but this class is weak.
#24- Atlanta Hawks: Luke Babbitt
Babbitt is on his second NBA team, the Pelicans. He’s not a great player, but size and the ability to shoot keeps you in the league for awhile. He could be a significant bench contributor for New Orleans this season.
#25- Memphis Grizzlies: Xavier Henry
Henry is a reasonably talented player, but he just keeps getting sidelined by injuries. If he can stay healthy for a while, he could be a rotation player. It’s unlikely he’ll live up to his hype as the 12th overall pick, but he’d be a solid pick-up here.
#26- Oklahoma City Thunder: Ish Smith
Ish Smith is a great backup point guard. He is really fast and can distribute the ball, although he is small and can’t shoot from deep very well. He would have been a great backup to Russell Westbrook the last few years.
#27- Brooklyn Nets: Donald Sloan
Sloan has been bouncing around the league for a while (playing for Atlanta, New Orleans, Cleveland and Indiana) after entering the league as an undrafted free agent following the 2010 draft. But in this redraft, he’d make the first round.
#28- Brooklyn Nets: Elijah Millsap
The younger brother of Hawks big man Paul Millsap, Elijah was eligible for the 2010 draft, but he wasn’t selected. He played 47 games for the Jazz last season. The Nets could have used a young player like him the last several years with all their veterans.
#29- Orlando Magic: Jerome Jordan
The penultimate pick in the 2010 redraft is Jerome Jordan. Playing 44 games for the rebuilding Nets last season, he is just barely hanging on the NBA roster bubble.
#30- Washington Wizards: Jordan Crawford
Crawford is a volume scorer and who had some success early in his NBA career, but spent last season overseas. That’s how bad this redraft got. It got to the point where all of the remaining players were mediocre at best and there aren’t even enough legit NBA players still in the league from that year to fill 30 first round slots.
In the comments, feel free to let us know what you think of this redraft.
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?
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.
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.
UPDATE: Victor Oladipo will not be accompanying the team on the west coast road trip and will be further evaluated.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) April 9, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jayson Tatum said he’s been using an inhaler before games since testing positive for COVID-19. Said he’s still not quite back to 100 percent, but that he’s “close.” Tatum tested positive back in January.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 14, 2021
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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?
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.
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.