Ranking The Non Playoff NBA Franchises
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
For nearly half the fans of the NBA, there is very little to be excited about now that the playoffs have started, as they will have to wait a long time to see their teams play again. Currently there is also little to read about when it comes to these teams, as most writers are concentrating on the playoffs (although for solid reason, it is the playoffs we are talking about), so I thought I would give them a little bit of insight into the status of their teams. From the players, to the executives, to their market, to their draft options, to their cap space, here is ranking the statuses of the 14 NBA franchises that aren’t in the playoffs.
1. Phoenix Suns
- If the Suns were in the Eastern Conference, they would be between the 3rd and 5th seed, as they had the same record as the Raptors (3rd) and the Bulls (4th), but playing in the West, they just missed the playoffs. However, with the league’s Most Improved Player in Goran Dragic and rising star point guard Eric Bledsoe, they have the NBA’s most exciting and productive offensive guard duo (combined for about 38 points, 12 assists and 8 rebounds per game) and along with Mason Plumlee, the Morris twins, Archie Goodwin and Alen Len, they have one of the best collections of young talent in the NBA long term. They also have a whole lot of cap space this offseason and 3 1st round picks in the draft, so they will be able to bring in even more talent to their core. They too seem to have one of the better coaches and general managers in the NBA in Jeff Hornacek and Ryan McDonough, so when it comes to off their front office they are in excellent shape, even with a famously cheap owner in Robert Sarver still signing the checks. They already had the 11th best record in the NBA, their young players will improve, they have the assets to add a lot of talent and assuming they resign Eric Bledsoe, which they have to do, they are easily the non playoff franchise in the best shape.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
- The Lakers still have Kobe Bryant and the market of Los Angeles, which means that they have a star to lead them (if healthy) and arguably the most attractive market to free agents already on hand, but there is much more. They had the 6th fewest wins in the NBA, which means that they will probably have a pick between 1-7, where there should be an All Star talent waiting for them. They also have a whole lot of cap space in which to add big time talent to the team and more than enough for another star, maybe even two. Put plainly, the Lakers are still the Lakers and are loaded with assets, which means they will be excellent again in no time.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
- The Timberwolves have Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin as their core, which is an excellent core. They don’t have a strong market, too much secondary talent, much cap space or even a head coach, but on this list, no team has a better core or as much big time talent. They do have one problem, Kevin Love. Love is the best big man in the NBA, but he will leave as a free agent after next season and so they would be wise to trade him by then, for the biggest package they can. Although they will be losing their franchise player, they are still in excellent shape. Why? They still have a star center in Pekovic, an elite perimeter scorer in Martin and the 2 way excellence of Ricky Rubio and any trade they make involving Love will net them an incredible package of assets, which means that they will be in very strong shape even when Love is no longer in Minnesota. The playoffs elude them, but they have the best talent on this list.
4. Boston Celtics
- The Celtics have an All Star in Rajon Rondo, one of the better general managers in Danny Ainge, a strong market, a probable top 5 pick in a loaded draft, very solid young talent in Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk and a very smart young coach in Brad Stevens. The Celtics are in excellent shape.
5. New York Knicks
- The Knicks have New York, which is a big draw for them and Phil Jackson now running their team, which is also very big, however this ranking is based on the belief that Carmelo Anthony will resign with the Knicks this offseason despite a lot of rumors involving the Rockets and Bulls. If they have Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler next season they should be in the playoffs and they will have enough cap space to sign another max player after next season, which means that in just 2 seasons, they could be a title contender. Once again, this is assuming they keep Carmelo Anthony, because if he leaves, they would be near the bottom of the list.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
- The 76ers are all about assets, as they have Rookie of the Year Michael Carter Williams who is a probable All Star point guard, Nerlens Noel who is a potential star defensive center, they have the 2nd best chance at the number 1 pick, they have the Pelicans’ lottery pick, unless it is somehow one of the first 3 picks, they have about 6 2nd round draft picks in this offseason’s draft and they have as much cap space as any team in the NBA. If they are smart, they could have one of the NBA’s best young teams in no time.
7. Sacramento Kings
- The Kings have a star center in DeMarcus Cousins who is already one of the best players in the NBA, an excellent point guard in Isaiah Thomas (assuming they resign him), an elite scoring wing in Rudy Gay (assuming he stays), Ben McLemore who is an elite talent at shooting guard despite his poor rookie season, fellow 1st year player Ray McCallum who looks like a very strong sixth man, solid cap space and another mid lottery pick. Assuming they keep Thomas and Gay next to Cousins, they have a very solid foundation and the young players, cash and picks to become a playoff team within 2 seasons.
8. New Orleans Pelicans
- The Pelicans have Anthony Davis who is already one of the best 5-10 NBA players and is only 21, an All Star point guard in Jrue Holiday and the league’s best stretch 4 in Ryan Anderson. Now that is an incredible start. They don’t really have much cap space thanks to the porous contracts of Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon, each whom they will probably be trying to trade this offseason or their 1st round pick, but because of the 3 mentioned players and especially Anthony Davis, bright days are ahead.
9. Utah Jazz
- The Jazz have to resign Gordon Hayward, who like Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas is a restricted free agent and is someone their team can ill afford to lose. If they keep him, they will have a strong foundation of Hayward, Derrick Favors, Trey Burke and Alec Burks. After their Gordon Hayward decision, they also have a big one to make involving Enes Kanter, who after 3 seasons still isn’t a starter despite his star potential at the 5. Since they moved Favors to center this season they don’t need Kanter and they need to decide if a new coach can fix the Favors-Kanter problem or if they would be better served trading Kanter. Regardless, they have a lot of young talent, a lot of cap space and 2 1st round picks in this draft, including a potential top 5 pick, so their franchise is in solid shape, despite a lack of a star.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers
- The Cavaliers may have had a pathetic season when measured against most people’s expectations, but they still have a 2 time All Star in Kyrie Irving who is only 22 and excellent young talents in Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett, as well as a lot of cap space and another lottery pick to add to bring into the fold. As long as they keep Irving, (which they will, because despite whatever problems he has they hold his rights and he won’t turn down 80 million) they will have a foundation, as he is one of the league’s best players.
11. Detroit Pistons
- The Pistons have Andre Drummond, who is already one of the best players in the NBA. That is enough for them to be 11th. They are probably going to lose Greg Monroe and are stuck with Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, but despite their selfish play and Smith’s ridiculous contract, they are each All Star talents, so their franchise isn’t in trouble. In fact, although they will miss Greg Monroe (assuming he leaves), Drummond and Smith is a duo that they can easily build around.
12. Orlando Magic
- The Magic have two excellent building blocks in Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vuceivc, many solid young talents, they have the 3rd best chance at obtaining the 1st pick in the draft, Arron Affllao is one of the best trade chips in the league and they are strong when it comes to cap space, but they are still far away from the playoffs and they still don’t have a star.
13. Denver Nuggets
- The Nuggets have Ty Lawson who is an All Star level point guard and well that’s about it. Danilo Gallinari is a very talented perimeter scorer, but he is coming off an ACL tear and they have numerous poor contracts on the roster. They seem to be in NBA purgatory, they aren’t talented enough to make the playoffs, but they aren’t a bottom feeder, so they don’t have the chance to draft stars and they lack the cap space to help them sign a 2nd star. They have talent, but are a mediocre team, with very limited assets.
14. Milwaukee Bucks
- The Bucks have 3 strong, young and cheap talents in John Henson, Brandon Knight and Giannis Antetokounmpo and have the best chance at the number 1 pick, but their roster is filled with porous contracts, the previously mentioned talents aren’t much more than decent starters at this point and although they have a new owner, unless they are able to draft Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, their rebuild will be a very, very long one, but even with one, they are still multiple seasons away from the playoffs.