Ranking 10 NBA teams with the brightest futures, and how well other franchises are set up for success


It’s impossible to predict the future — a year ago would you have guessed we’d all be stuck in our houses without sports to watch? But that doesn’t stop NBA fans from trying to do it on a daily basis. Conversations tend to look forward, rather than to the past or present, as free agency, asset collection and roster building has become almost as intriguing as the games themselves.

When it comes to assembling talent, several teams have done a tremendous job setting themselves up for future success, sometimes gaining current success in the process. But which team, with its collection of players, picks and finances has the best shot to become title contenders over the next three, five, even 10 years?

We took a look at every team’s situation and ranked the top 10 teams with the brightest futures in the NBA. It’s a subjective task, but it essentially boils down to which team you think will be the best for the longest period of time, starting a couple years from now. In order to get a complete picture, we looked at every team’s current and potential stars, their long-term assets (signed through at least 2022) and their future first-round draft picks.

After the top 10, we separated the rest of the teams into tiers based on their current situation to get an idea of what the league might look like as a whole over the next several seasons. The year next to a player’s name indicates the season he’s signed through or has a team option for — so just because a player has “(2023)” next to their name doesn’t mean the team is necessarily committed to paying them for that long, but it can if it wants to.

Top 10 teams with brightest futures

*contract figures from Spotrac; draft pick info from this glorious page at RealGM

1. New Orleans Pelicans

Young stars/potential stars: Zion Williamson (2023), Brandon Ingram (2020)

Long-term assets: Jrue Holiday (2021 player option), Jaxson Hayes (2023), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming — 2020 (via Cleveland, protected 1-10), 2021 (via Lakers, protected 8-30, becomes unprotected in 2022), 2023 (swap rights with Lakers), 2024 (via Lakers, Pelicans right to defer to 2025)

Outlook: Hats off to Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin, who took a disgruntled superstar in Anthony Davis and traded him to create arguably the most promising franchise in the NBA. They hit the jackpot and landed Williamson — who has looked like a transcendent big over his first 19 games — and did an excellent job helping Ingram develop into an All-Star this season. They’ll likely match any offer for him in restricted free agency this offseason, and they have plenty of options when it comes to shaping the roster for the future. They can trade Holiday, potentially extend Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart if they continue to improve, and use the picks they received from the Lakers in the Davis deal in any way they see fit over the next five years. Basically, the reason they have the brightest future in the league is because they already have a potential superstar (Zion) and an All-Star (Ingram) on the roster, in addition to a ton of picks and good young players. It’s good to be a Pelicans fan right now, and it will only get better as their talent matures.

2. Boston Celtics

Young stars/potential stars: Jayson Tatum (2021), Jaylen Brown (2024)

Long-term assets: Kemba Walker (2022 player option), Marcus Smart (2022), Romeo Langford (2023), Grant Williams (2023), Robert Williams (2022), Carsen Edwards (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming – 2020 (via Memphis, protected 1-6), 2020 (via Milwaukee, protected 1-7)

Outlook: At just 22 and 23, respectively, Tatum and Brown look like one of the best young duos in the NBA, with Brown locked up until 2024 and Tatum’s extension inevitably on the way. Walker will be a nice complementary player as those two continue to improve, and Smart is the engine that makes the team go. Even with their seemingly endless draft capital finally running on fumes (that Memphis pick might not even be in the lottery), the Celtics still have one of the brightest futures in the league with potential to flip an asset or two for the next unhappy superstar.

3. Dallas Mavericks

Young stars/potential stars: Luka Doncic (2022), Kristaps Porzingis (2023 player option)

Long-term assets: Delon Wright (2022), Jalen Brunson (2022), Seth Curry (2023), Dorian Finney-Smith (2022), Dwight Powell (2023), Maxi Kleber (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2021 (to Knicks), 2023 (to Knicks, protected 1-10); Incoming – None

Outlook: The Mavericks’ ceiling rose considerably with the jump that Doncic made this year to a bona fide superstar. Combined with Porzingis, who continued to improve and get healthy throughout the season, Doncic makes the Mavericks potential title contenders for the next decade. The Mavericks have also done a good job locking up role players to team-friendly contracts to grow alongside the two stars. The only real potential for disaster here is if Porzingis just can’t stay healthy — then that max contract starts to look really bad, and the two first-rounders they traded to the Knicks look even worse. If he and Doncic can stay on the court, however, the Mavericks look like a solid bet to win a title within the next decade.

4. Philadelphia 76ers

Young stars/potential stars: Joel Embiid (2023), Ben Simmons (2024)

Long-term assets: Tobias Harris (2024), Al Horford (2023), Josh Richardson (2021 player option), Zhaire Smith (2022), Matisse Thybulle (2023), Shake Milton (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2020 (to Nets, lottery protected through 2022); Incoming – 2020 (via Thunder, protected 1-20)

Outlook: We think of the 76ers as a win-now team given their success, but let’s not forget that their two All-Stars, Embiid and Simmons, are 26 and 23 years old, respectively. That means Philly will have plenty more shots at championship runs over the next few seasons. Whether they can coexist in harmony for that whole time, however, remains to be seen. The hefty contracts of Harris and Horford may end up restricting the Sixers’ roster moves, but they’re the right kind of role players to put around Simmons and Embiid. Milton has taken a big step this season, and Thybulle is already an impact defensive player as a rookie, so with a few tweaks here and there the 76ers should continue to be contenders for years to come.

5. Golden State Warriors

Young potential stars: Andrew Wiggins (2023)

Long-term assets: Stephen Curry (2022), Klay Thompson (2024), Draymond Green (2023 player option), Kevon Looney (2021 player option), Jordan Poole (2023), Eric Paschall (2022), Alen Smailagic (2023), Damion Lee (2022), Ky Bowman (2022), Juan Toscano-Anderson (2023), Mychal Mulder (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2020 (to Nets, protected 1-20), 2024 (to Grizzlies, protected 1-4 in 2024, 1 in 2025 and unprotected in 2026); Incoming – 2021 (via Timberwolves, protected 1-3 and unprotected in 2022)

Outlook: The Warriors look to begin the third iteration of their dynasty next season after an anomalous, injury-riddled 2019-20 campaign. The triumvirate of Curry, Thompson and Green is enough to contend for years, but will the playoff miles continue to take their toll as the years roll on? Wiggins might be the key to extending the dynasty, if he can play efficiently within the offense and turn into the defensive stopper most thought he would be when he entered the league. They also have their own top-five draft pick this season, plus Minnesota’s either next season or in 2022. There are a lot of variables, but Curry, Thompson and Green should still have a few more prime seasons in the tank, which will keep the Warriors in the championship conversation as the years go by, with Wiggins and the team’s draft picks potentially helping to carry the torch.

6. Denver Nuggets

Young stars/potential stars: Nikola Jokic (2023), Jamal Murray (2024), Michael Porter Jr. (2022)

Long-term assets: Gary Harris (2022), Will Barton (2021 player option), Vlatko Cancar (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2020 (to Thunder, protected 1-10); Incoming – 2020 (via Rockets)

Outlook: We tend to think of the Nuggets as a known commodity and forget that Jokic is still just 25 years old. Murray is occasionally breathtaking, and if he ever gains consistency it completely changes the ceiling of the Nuggets. The real wild card here is Porter, whom the Nuggets have handled with kid gloves despite his obvious talent and potential. As Murray and Porter continue to improve with Jokic looking like a perennial MVP candidate, the Nuggets should be contenders for years to come.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder

Young stars/potential stars: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2022)

Long-term assets: Chris Paul (2021 player option), Darius Bazley (2023), Isaiah Roby (2023)

First-round draft picks (*takes deep breath): Outgoing – 2020 (to 76ers, protected 1-20), 2022 (to Hawks, lottery protected); Incoming – 2020 (via Nuggets, protected 1-10), 2021 (two most favorable of Thunder, Heat and Rockets, protected 1-4), 2022 (via Clippers), 2023 (swap rights with Clippers), 2023 (via Heat, lottery protected), 2024 (via Rockets, protected 1-4), 2024 (via Clippers), 2025 (swap rights with Rockets, protected 1-10, or Clippers), 2026 (via Rockets, protected 1-4), 2026 (via Clippers)

Outlook: The world is the Thunder’s oyster, thanks to masterfully handling the trading of Paul George and Russell Westbrook last summer. Not only do they potentially have nine first-round picks in addition to their own over the next six years, but they also have Gilgeous-Alexander, who has blossomed into a borderline All-Star in just his second NBA season. With Paul once again emerging as a potential MVP candidate for a surprisingly good OKC team, his once untradable contract now might be able to fetch some value should Sam Presti choose to go in that direction. If they don’t want to rebuild, retaining Paul and re-signing Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams after next season would keep them in contention while they add young talent around them. The Pelicans get the top spot because they already have the young stars on their roster, but with some deft maneuvering and good drafting the Thunder could be right there with them.

8. Miami Heat

Young stars/potential stars: Bam Adebayo (2021), Tyler Herro (2023)

Long-term assets: Jimmy Butler (2022 player option), Andre Iguodala (2022), KZ Okpala (2022), Chris Silva (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2021 (to Thunder or Rockets), 2023 (to Thunder, lottery protected until 2025, unprotected in 2026); Incoming – None

Outlook: The Heat have set themselves up to go for a big free agent in the vaunted 2021 class (they have a team option on Iguodala for the 2021-22 season), but they’ve also put together a pretty good roster in the process. Butler has clearly found a home in Miami, while Adebayo has blossomed into an All-Star and Herro has contributed immediately as a rookie. Duncan Robinson is having a historic 3-point shooting season and could be an extension candidate this offseason, which sets the Heat up nicely for contention over the next several seasons even if they don’t bring in a big-name free agent. If they do, they could go straight to the top.

9. Atlanta Hawks

Young stars/potential stars: Trae Young (2022), John Collins (2021)

Long-term assets: Clint Capela (2023), Dewayne Dedmon (2022), De’Andre Hunter (2023), Cam Reddish (2023), Kevin Huerter (2022), Bruno Fernando (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming – 2022 (via Oklahoma City, lottery protected)

Outlook: How you feel about the Hawks’ future really depends on how you feel about Young, who has put up ridiculous numbers in his second season for a very bad team. Atlanta is hoping that the addition of long wing players like Hunter, Reddish and Huerter, along with a rim-protecting center in Capela, will get their defense to where it needs to be if they’re going to eventually contend. It’s going to take some time, but the Hawks seem to have the pieces — including a potential superstar in Young — to be in the title conversation in a few years.

10. Memphis Grizzlies

Young stars/potential stars: Ja Morant (2023), Jaren Jackson Jr. (2022)

Long-term assets: Jonas Valanciunas (2022), Justise Winslow (2022), Tyus Jones (2022), Kyle Anderson (2022), Brandon Clarke (2023), Grayson Allen (2022), Dillon Brooks (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2020 (to Celtics, protected 1-6); Incoming – 2020 (via Jazz, protected 1-7 and 15-30 in 2020 and 2021, 1-6 in 2022, 1-3 in 2023 and 1 in 2024), 2024 (via Warriors, protected 1-4 in 2024, 1 in 2025 and unprotected in 2026)

Outlook: The Grizzlies are way ahead of schedule, currently in playoff position in what was supposed to be the first year of a full rebuild. Morant and Jackson look like perfect complementary talents to lead the Grizzlies into the next decade, while Clarke was a tremendous pick at No. 21. If Winslow can stay healthy, he’ll also be a strong role player next to Brooks on the wing. Also of note: Keep an eye on that Warriors first-rounder. Depending on how things unfold over the next few years, it could end up being a premium asset.

Tier 2: It All Depends

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The Clippers, constructed to win titles now, could keep their dangerous squad together for several years.
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Los Angeles Lakers

Young stars/potential stars: None

Long-term assets: LeBron James (2021 player option)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2021 (to Pelicans, protected 8-30 and unprotected in 2022), 2023 (Pelicans have swap rights), 2024 (to Pelicans, who can defer to 2025 instead); Incoming – None

Outlook: All indications are that James will finish his career as a Laker and Davis will sign a long-term deal with the team, either this offseason or next. But as we know in this league, nothing is final until the deal is signed. The Lakers are littered with short-term contracts (most expire after next season), so it’s incredibly difficult to figure out how this team will look in three to five years. What we do know is that they have little young talent, with Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso the most enticing (they traded their other young prospects to get Davis), and they’re handing over most of their first-round draft picks to the Pelicans for the foreseeable future. James is showing no signs of slowing and Davis is an All-NBA talent, however, so as long as those two are on the court the Lakers will be championship contenders.

Los Angeles Clippers

Young stars/potential stars: None

Long-term assets: Kawhi Leonard (2021 player option), Paul George (2021 player option), Patrick Beverley (2022), Ivica Zubac (2023), Rodney McGruder (2022), Landry Shamet (2022), Mfiondu Kabengele (2023), Terance Mann (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2020 (to Knicks), 2021 (Knicks have swap rights, protected 1-4), 2022 (to Thunder), 2023 (Thunder have swap rights), 2024 (to Thunder), 2025 (Thunder have swap rights), 2026 (to Thunder); Incoming – None

Outlook: Nobody is hoping the 2019-20 NBA season returns as much as Steve Ballmer and the Clippers, as they risk losing one of their two guaranteed shots at a title with Leonard and George able to opt out of their contracts after next season. If they stay, the Clippers are in the title mix for the next several years. If both leave, we could be looking at a reversion to the much-maligned Clippers of old given their lack of young talent and absolute dearth of first-round draft picks. They also have a decision to make this offseason, with Montrezl Harrell, a 26-year-old key member of the roster, likely to command some decent offers as an unrestricted free agent.

Milwaukee Bucks

Young stars/potential stars: Giannis Antetokounmpo (2021)

Long-term assets: Khris Middleton (2023 player option), Eric Bledsoe (2023), Brook Lopez (2023), George Hill (2022), Donte DiVincenzo (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2020 (to Celtics, protected 1-7, unprotected in 2021), 2022 (to Cavs, protected 1-10 in 2022, 1-10 and 25-30 in 2023 and 1-8 in 2024); Incoming – 2020 (via Pacers, lottery protected until 2025, unprotected in 2026)

Outlook: It’s the question nobody in Milwaukee wants to hear, but it’s really the only one that matters when it comes to the Bucks — will Giannis re-sign, either with an extension or as a free agent in 2021? If he does, they’re going to be title contenders for years (Antetokounmpo is surprisingly just 25 years old). If he doesn’t stick around, their title hopes plummet to next to zero. This postseason (if it happens) will go a long way in showing Giannis whether he’s in the right place to win a championship.

Brooklyn Nets

Young stars/potential stars: Caris LeVert (2023)

Long-term assets: Kevin Durant (2022 player option), Kyrie Irving (2022 player option), Spencer Dinwiddie (2021 player option), DeAndre Jordan (2023), Taurean Prince (2022), Dzanan Musa (2022), Rodions Kurucs (2022), Nicolas Claxton (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2020 (to Timberwolves, lottery protected); Incoming – 2020 (via Warriors, protected 1-20), 2020 (via 76ers, lottery protected)

Outlook: The Nets land in the “it depends” section because of the health situation of Durant, coming back from an Achilles injury at age 31, and Irving, who only played 20 games this season before having shoulder surgery and has been saddled with nagging injuries for most of his career. On paper, those two should push Brooklyn toward title contention as soon as next season — but there is another universe in which neither gets fully healthy. Add to the mix that their best young player and potential third star, LeVert, has had injury problems of his own, and Brooklyn is performing a precarious high-wire act. The results could be spectacular, or could end in disaster.

Tier 3: On Solid Ground

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The Jazz are getting plenty of production from Bojan Bogdanovic and Donovan Mitchell.
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Houston Rockets

Young stars/potential stars: None

Long-term assets: Russell Westbrook (2022 player option), James Harden (2022 player option), Eric Gordon (2024), Robert Covington (2022), Danuel House (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2020 (to Nuggets), 2021 (Rockets will get least favorable of Thunder, Heat and Houston picks), 2024 (to Thunder, protected 1-4), 2025 (Thunder has swap rights, protected 1-10), 2026 (to Thunder, protected 1-4); Incoming – None

Outlook: The term “win-now” might as well be tattooed across Daryl Morey’s forehead, as he has relinquished much of the Rockets’ draft capital in order to put together a roster he feels can win the title behind its two stars, Harden and Westbrook. There’s no reason to expect a decline from either over the next few seasons, but if they do or injuries come calling, Houston is ill-equipped to deal with it given its thin supporting cast of role players. The 31-year-old Gordon’s contract takes him through 2024, which isn’t looking great during an injury-plagued 2019-20 season.

Toronto Raptors

Young stars/potential stars: Pascal Siakam (2024)

Long-term assets: Norman Powell (2021 player option), Dewan Hernandez (2022), Matt Thomas (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming – None

Outlook: The Raptors have proven that their system can work wonders, but we’ll have to see how far can they go in the playoffs without a superstar of Kawhi Leonard’s magnitude. Re-signing Fred VanVleet seems paramount for Toronto, who could lose Marc Gasol or Serge Ibaka to free agency this offseason. Siakam is clearly the piece to build around and OG Anunoby will likely get an extension, but will that be enough to contend for titles as Kyle Lowry ages and/or leaves in 2021?

Utah Jazz

Young stars/potential stars: Donovan Mitchell (2021)

Long-term assets: Bojan Bogdanovic (2023), Joe Ingles (2022), Royce O’Neale (2024), Nigel Williams-Goss (2022), Miye Oni (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2020 (to Grizzlies, protected 1-7 and 15-30 in 2020 and 2021, 1-6 in 2022, 1-3 in 2023 and 1 in 2024); Incoming – None

Outlook: Mitchell reportedly wants to sign a long-term extension in Utah, which should keep the Jazz contending for the foreseeable future. Ideally they’d keep Rudy Gobert as well, who is set to become a free agent in 2021 and has had publicized issues with Mitchell stemming from his behavior during the coronavirus pandemic. If all returns to stasis, however, a Jazz trio of Mitchell, Gobert and Bogdanovic is an exciting future, as they intersperse talent around them with excellent role players like Ingles and O’Neale. We’ll see how Mike Conley works out, but Utah could always re-sign him at a more team-friendly rate in 2021 if things are clicking.

Indiana Pacers

Young stars/potential stars: Domantas Sabonis (2024), Myles Turner (2023)

Long-term assets: Malcolm Brogdon (2023), TJ Warren (2022), Jeremy Lamb (2022), Goga Bitadze (2023), Aaron Holiday (2022), Edmond Sumner (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2020 (to Bucks, lottery protected); Incoming – None

Outlook: The Pacers have proven they can win without him, but they’ll need Victor Oladipo to regain his pre-injury form, and then some, to have a shot at winning the title anytime soon. Sabonis and Brogdon are rock solid, and Turner, at 24, may still have untapped potential, but the only one on the roster capable of being the best player on a title team is likely Oladipo, who is set to be a free agent in 2021. Even with a healthy and productive Oladipo, however, the Pacers may not approach the status of a true title contender. They may be destined to just be a really good team year in and year out, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Portland Trail Blazers

Young stars/potential stars: None

Long-term assets: Damian Lillard (2024), CJ McCollum (2024), Jusuf Nurkic (2022), Anfernee Simons (2022), Nassir Little (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming – None

Outlook: Committed to the Lillard/McCollum backcourt through 2024, the Blazers will need Nurkic to return to full strength if they’re going to get back to the Western Conference finals or beyond in the coming seasons. They have a gaping hole on the wing, which won’t be easy to fill with anyone currently on a long-term contract, and their best young players are Simons, Gary Trent Jr. and Zach Collins, who is coming off of a shoulder injury. Given the amount of money owed to Lillard and McCollum, the Blazers will have to cobble together a trade to get a third star or a handful of capable wings if they can’t find any in their system. They’ll probably improve from this season, but it’s hard to imagine Portland winning a title without a major roster addition.

Sacramento Kings

Young stars/potential stars: De’Aaron Fox (2021), Marvin Bagley III (2022)

Long-term assets: Harrison Barnes (2023), Cory Joseph (2022), Buddy Hield (2024), Justin James (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming – None

Outlook: The Kings certainly have talent, with Fox and Bagley leading the way and Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic not far behind. If they hang onto those four long-term and they continue to progress, the Kings will be a team to reckon with. Barnes is probably overpaid, but his contract is descending, which makes him slightly easier to move should the Kings eventually want to free up room to pay their younger players or acquire a bigger free agent.

Orlando Magic

Young stars/potential stars: Aaron Gordon (2022), Jonathan Isaac (2021), Markelle Fultz (2021), Mo Bamba (2021)

Long-term assets: Nikola Vucevic (2023), Terrence Ross (2023), Al-Farouq Aminu (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming – None

Outlook: The Magic’s title hopes depend on the development of Gordon, Isaac and Fultz, and to some extent Bamba, who we can’t call a bust yet but is certainly not trending in the right direction. Vucevic still has more productive seasons in him, but if he’s their best player in 2022, that’s not a good sign for Orlando. Fultz was the consensus No. 1 pick in his draft class before his shooting and injury issues surfaced, and he’s had a strong first season with the Magic, which should help his confidence moving forward. Isaac has shown steady improvement in each of his NBA seasons, and could be the key to future Magic success if he can stay healthy.

Tier 4: Glimmer of Hope

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The Suns have young stars in Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, but need to add more talent around them.
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Minnesota Timberwolves

Young stars/potential stars: Karl-Anthony Towns (2024), D’Angelo Russell (2023)

Long-term assets: Jarrett Culver (2023), Jake Layman (2022), Josh Okogie (2022), Jacob Evans (2022), Omari Spellman (2022), Jaylen Nowell (2023), Naz Reid (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2021 (to Warriors, protected 1-3, unprotected in 2022); Incoming – 2020 (via Nets, lottery protected through 2022)

Outlook: For better or worse, the Timberwolves appear locked into their duo of budding 24-year-old stars with Towns and Russell — both prolific offensive players who have struggled defensively. A lot of the Wolves’ future depends on Towns, who has the potential to be one of the most dominant centers in NBA history given his inside/outside capabilities. Minnesota will need to spend the next few offseasons building a capable roster around him through the draft and free agency if it’s eventually going to contend for titles. Losing its 2021 or 2022 first-round pick to the Warriors hurts that process, but that was the cost of acquiring Russell.

Phoenix Suns

Young stars/potential stars: Devin Booker (2024), Deandre Ayton (2022)

Long-term assets: Ricky Rubio (2022), Mikal Bridges (2022), Cameron Johnson (2023), Ty Jerome (2023), Elie Okobo (2022), Jalen Lecque (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming – None

Outlook: The Suns haven’t exactly operated smoothly over the past decade, but they at least have two potential superstars in Booker and Ayton. They haven’t done a great job surrounding them with talent with some big whiffs on high draft picks (Dragan Bender, Josh Jackson), but they’re still in better position than some teams due to their young, emerging stars. The big question is whether they’ll stick around if the Suns don’t get back to playoff contention quickly.

Chicago Bulls

Young stars/potential stars: Zach LaVine (2022), Lauri Markkanen (2021), Coby White (2023)

Long-term assets: Thaddeus Young (2022), Tomas Satoransky (2022), Wendell Carter Jr. (2022), Ryan Arcidiacono (2022), Chandler Hutchison (2022), Daniel Gafford (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming – None

Outlook: The Bulls have taken a positive step by revamping their front office, which will hopefully provide a more concrete direction for the team. Right now they have some talented players that don’t really fit together, and there are questions as to whether their two best guards — LaVine and White — make their teammates better. Even if Otto Porter opts into his deal next offseason, they’ll be off his contract for the 2021-22 season, freeing up room for the big free agent the Bulls can never seem to get. As it stands now it’s hard to see a path to success for Chicago, so it will be interesting to see how many pieces the new regime wants to keep.

Washington Wizards

Young stars/potential stars: Bradley Beal (2023)

Long-term assets: John Wall (2022 player option), Thomas Bryant (2022), Rui Hachimura (2023), Jerome Robinson (2022), Troy Brown Jr. (2022), Moritz Wagner (2022), Admiral Schofield (2022), Anzejs Pasecniks (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming – None

Outlook: The fate of the Wizards falls on the broad shoulders of Beal, who extended his contract before this season but is widely considered most likely to be the next star to demand a trade. To keep Beal, the Wizards will have to show progress next season as Wall, who last played in an NBA game in 2018, re-enters the fold. Bryant, Hachimura and Wagner look like interesting pieces, but if Beal doesn’t like what he sees and eventually bolts, the Wizards will be left with a nondescript roster and Wall’s potential albatross of a contract.

Tier 5: An Uphill Battle

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RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson will be around to possibly lead the Knicks to a better future.
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New York Knicks

Young stars/potential stars: RJ Barrett (2023)

Long-term assets: Julius Randle (2022), Kevin Knox (2022), Mitchell Robinson (2022), Ignas Brazdeikis (2022)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming – 2020 (via Clippers), 2021 (via Mavericks), 2021 (swap rights with Clippers, protected 1-4), 2023 (via Mavericks, protected 1-10)

Outlook: With Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina underwhelming thus far in their young careers, Barrett looks like the only young potential star on the Knicks roster. Robinson has been good in his first two seasons, and should also be a big part of their future. Outside of that, however, there’s not much to get excited about. The good news is that they’ve acquired some first-rounders in addition to their own and don’t have any bad long-term contracts. The Knicks will need some luck in free agency and/or the draft, but the path to competency is at least there, albeit through some murky water.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Young stars/potential stars: Collin Sexton (2022), Darius Garland (2023)

Long-term assets: Kevin Love (2023), Larry Nance Jr. (2023), Cedi Osman (2024), Dylan Windler (2023), Alfonzo McKinnie (2023), Kevin Porter Jr. (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – 2020 (to Pelicans, protected 1-10); Incoming – 2022 (via Bucks, protected 1-10)

Outlook: Let’s start with the good — Sexton has improved tremendously over his first two seasons and was playing the best basketball of his career before the shutdown. Outside of that, however, the Cavs don’t have a whole lot going on. Porter and Garland have both shown flashes, but need a lot of seasoning, while the Love contract will hang over the team’s head for the next few seasons unless they can find a taker, which has been impossible thus far. Cleveland will need to once again strike gold in the lottery, free agency or the trade market in order to have any chance at title contention over the next several seasons.

Charlotte Hornets

Young stars/potential stars: Devonte’ Graham (2021), PJ Washington (2023)

Long-term assets: Terry Rozier (2022), Miles Bridges (2022), Cody Martin (2022), Caleb Martin (2022), Jalen McDaniels (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming – None

Outlook: The Hornets have actually outperformed expectations this season in terms of wins, and that’s largely due to the emergence of Graham, whom Charlotte will likely try to lock up with an extension at some point. Washington and Bridges have also shown signs of being solid players, but right now it doesn’t look like a future championship core. The Hornets have all their first-round picks for the foreseeable future and won’t have any bad contracts once Nicolas Batum comes off the books in 2021, so it will really come down to lottery luck, smart selections and development.

Detroit Pistons

Young stars/potential stars: None

Long-term assets: Blake Griffin (2021 player option), Sekou Doumbouya (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming – None

Outlook: Some rebuilds start with at least a few bones from the previous property — the Pistons are starting on scorched earth. Currently the only players on the books for the 2021-22 season are Griffin (who will almost assuredly accept his $39 million option) and Doumbouya, a raw prospect who showed occasional glimpses this season. Luke Kennard and Bruce Brown look like solid role players (if the Pistons keep them), but Detroit will need to get a future star in the draft to brighten up its bleak future.

San Antonio Spurs

Young stars/potential stars: Dejounte Murray (2024)

Long-term assets: Lonnie Walker IV (2022), Luka Samanic (2023), Keldon Johnson (2023)

First-round draft picks: Outgoing – None; Incoming – None

Outlook: The Spurs’ incomprehensible streak of 22 consecutive playoff seasons could come to an end this year, and unfortunately it only goes downhill from there. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge could both be gone by the summer of 2021, leaving the Spurs with Murray, Walker and possibly Derrick White to take over the team. At 23, Murray has the highest ceiling and has improved in his third NBA season after missing all of 2018-19 with a knee injury. Even if he becomes an All-Star, however, the Spurs will need to figure out how to get some more talent around him if they want to get back in the championship picture.





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