The NBA is an ever-evolving league. Five years ago, we didn't know the Golden State Warriors would end up being a perennial powerhouse. We also didn't know LeBron would ever come back home to Cleveland and finally give the city an NBA Championship. Before James Harden, and now Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City, it looked like the Thunder had the brightest future en route to NBA titles. With those departures the fortunes of three NBA franchises were shifted. Whether it is new superstars entering the league, current teams revamping, or future stars hitting their prime, the NBA in five years could look completely different.
During this list, we will take a look at the teams that seem destined for an NBA title, as well as the teams that are looking at five years of the NBA basement. Whether it is front office moves, team chemistry, coaching, or a mixture of players that will just never get over the NBA hump, there are numerous teams we just know will not find their way into the NBA elite anytime soon. Whether it is someone like the Nuggets who seems to keep putting together just average teams every year, or a team like the Kings who have not gotten it right since Chris Webber and company split up. And, on the contrary, there are teams that seemed destined to enter the elite, and teams that will withstand their thrones atop the NBA mountain.
We will go with eight teams that will not be seeing an NBA Championship anytime soon, and teams that could possibly add a title to their trophy case within the next five years.
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15 WON'T - Denver Nuggets
Even the days with Carmelo Anthony, there was never a feeling the Nuggets were going to enter into the NBA championship picture. There was a Western Conference Final run when Chauncey Billups was brought into town in exchange for Allen Iverson, but that has been the highlight in years of mediocrity. The Nuggets sit today as an average NBA team without the star power needed for a deep playoff run.
They are sporting youngsters Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray. But it seems like Mudiay will be on the move to get the ball into Murray's hands more. Gallinari and Wilson Chandler could also be traded before the trade deadline. Unless the Nuggets are to strike gold in the NBA Draft or receive back great compensation for trading away their better assets, the Nuggets and their fans could be in for five more years of mediocrity.
14 COULD - Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves represent the teams on the verge of entering the playoff picture with a core of young talented budding superstars. The 76ers and the Lakers also have a talented core that deserve a mention, but the Timberwolves' young talent trumps the two for the time being. Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins represent the league's best young one-two punch. With Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn looking like they could break through the All-Star barrier as well, the T-Wolves could transition into contenders sooner rather than later.
Minnesota has a decent trade piece in Ricky Rubio, and could find themselves in the lottery portion of the NBA draft in 2017. But expect that to be their last trip for a while. With Tom Thibodeau guiding the team, the Wolves will be in the playoffs in 2018 and building upon that for the foreseeable future.
13 WON'T - Detroit Pistons
The young Detroit Pistons actually are sitting in the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference at the moment. But there have been rumblings about trading away their top players in Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. If they are able to get considerable compensation for one or both, then maybe they could land on the better part of our list. Although Drummond is already an All-Star center, he doesn't present the team with a dominant scorer.
Some other nice role playing pieces are in place with Tobias Harris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. At this point in NBA history, the team needs to have two to three go-to-scorers to advance deep in the NBA Playoffs. It has been over a decade since the Pistons' 2004 NBA Championship and it figures to be another half decade before the team returns to the elite.
12 COULD - New Orleans Pelicans
If this was written yesterday, the Pelicans would not have fallen on the good side of the list. Perhaps they would have made their way on the "won't" category. But now with arguably the two best big men in the game, the Pelicans have something special brewing in New Orleans. The team should look to lock up Jrue Holiday who is an upcoming free agent, and add more guard play to cater to their superstar power forward and center.
Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are still sitting in the prime of their career with plenty of All-Star caliber basketball left to be played. The team is currently competing for the eight seed in the Western Conference and could get their championship aspirations started sooner than we think.
Expect a good showing for the rest of 2017, to portray what NBA fans are going to be witnessing for years to come.
11 WON'T - Orlando Magic
The Magic made some rather head scratching moves last NBA offseason, signing Bismack Biyombo and trading for Serge Ibaka, while already having skilled big man Nikola Vucevic on the roster. The Magic gave up guard Victor Oladipo in exchange for Ibaka, making an already thin back court even thinner. The Magic sport out Elfrid Payton and Evan Fournier in the guard positions which is not a terrible tandem, but a go-to-scorer is lacking.
The team has already moved on from Ibaka in a deal that brought Terrence Ross from the Toronto Raptors. This was another questionable move by the Magic who already had a better version of Ross in Oladipo. Unless the Magic front office could strike with a star wing player or scoring guard, expect the Magic to fight towards .500 for the next few years.
10 COULD - Houston Rockets
James Harden has the Rockets in contender territory, and is the best superstar the team has seen since the days of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. Harden is a favorite to land the NBA Most Valuable Player award this year, and has the Rockets currently sitting at 40-18 at third in a powerhouse Western Conference. The team has managed to put a nice veteran cast around the dynamic point guard with Eric Gordon, Nene, Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza and Patrick Beverley among others.
With the superstar loaded team the Warriors are currently rolling out, the Rockets may need to add another big piece to really take the team to the next level. But there should be no problem getting another star to pair with Harden if he keeps dishing out assists at the rate that he is. The Rockets could add their first NBA Championship since Hakeem Olajuwon was in town.
9 WON'T - Phoenix Suns
The Suns are about to add their seventh consecutive none playoff year to their futility, and outside of Devin Booker, it doesn't look like they have found a sure hit in the lottery as consolation. Long ago are the days of Steve Nash, Amar'e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and a team that NBA oppositions feared. The Suns are currently sporting the worst record in the NBA Western Conference and figure to float around the bottom for the next five seasons or so.
Eric Bledsoe is again on the list of NBA trade rumors, while the Suns are hoping that their top five picks, Alex Len and Dragan Bender, somehow pan out to be dominant. The Suns will continue to fill spots in the NBA Draft Lottery unless their prospects can fulfill their potential.
8 COULD - Boston Celtics
The Celtics are already the Eastern Conference's second best team, propelled by dynamic All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas and veteran big man Al Horford. The Celtics, due to the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade, also hold the highest percent chance of landing the number one pick in this year's NBA Draft. Whether they use the pick or sport the pick out as trade bait, the Celtics are poised to add another superstar to the current roster. Along with their All-Star duo, the team also features elite defensive guards, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart.
The Celtics will be clipping at the Cavaliers heels and eventually surpassing them as the Eastern Conference's top team pending if this year's draft pick is used to its full worth. The Celtics will be looking to add that 18th NBA Championship to the rafters.
7 WON'T - Dallas Mavericks
Mark Cuban offers an interesting dynamic to the Dallas Mavericks and its front office. He doesn't like to and never has gone through a complete rebuild of the team. He is willing to shell out money on free agents even if it means prolonging the future of the franchise. While Harrison Barnes is a good player, he paid him top tier money during the 2016 off season, even though the Mavericks were poised for a down year.
Dirk Nowitzki figures to retire after the season and there is not much talent on the rookie front. Cuban needs to decide what is best for the franchise in the long-term, and his usual fix of signing big names may finally have to take a back seat to start a prolonged revival of his Dallas Mavericks. They may be back atop eventually, but expect the Mavericks to float out of the championship picture for the next five seasons.
6 COULD - Cleveland Cavaliers
It is really just common sense here. The reigning NBA Champions will have the chance to defend their crown and get back to the mountain top at least a few more times in the next five years. LeBron James is still the most dominant basketball player in the world at the moment, while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are playing the best basketball of their careers. Even during their championship runs of the past two years, Love seemed out of place. Well that seems no more and that spells great for the city of Cleveland.
Yes, there has been talks about LeBron needing another playmaker on the team. And chances are he will end up getting his wish, increasing the Cavs' chances at another NBA title. Until father time plays his role, LeBron will continue to lead Cavaliers' teams deep into the playoffs.
5 WON'T - New York Knicks
Ah. The current dumpster fire that is the New York Knicks. Is it safe to say Phil Jackson is not a good fit as President of Basketball Operations in New York? It's time to start over, but the problem is the Knicks are holding contracts that are going to attract minimal suitors. The team has been trying to move on from Carmelo Anthony all year but to no success. And for some reason, Joakim Noah was given a 72 million dollar contract last off season. Although his contract is up at the end of the year, Jackson is also responsible for bringing a shell of himself Derrick Rose to town.
It's not all horrible in NY, the Knicks are sporting one of the better young NBA talents in Kristaps Porzingis. But it doesn't look like the team will be able to bring in young talented pieces to help build around him in the immediate future. Who knows? They'll probably end up trading him anyway.
4 COULD - San Antonio Spurs
Just a model of consistency. It's probably fair to say the Spurs have been a top title contender for the last 20-25 seasons. From David Robinson, to Tim Duncan, to Tony Parker and now to Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs have one common denominator for all this success....Gregg Popovich. As long as Popovich is in San Antonio, the Spurs have a chance. Not only is he one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, but free agents are going to want to land in Texas to join his Spurs.
Recently, the Spurs have been able to add the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol and David Lee to help bolster a team led by 25-year-old Kawhi Leonard. It should come as no surprise if the Spurs were to continue adding NBA titles to their storied history.
3 WON'T - Sacramento Kings
The timing of this article was great. The Kings have been making awful personnel decisions ever since the Chris Webber led teams were battling the Lakers for NBA supremacy. But the Kings just traded away their best ever draft pick for an unproven scorer in Buddy Hield. Hield was a coveted player coming out of Oklahoma in the 2016 NBA Draft, but DeMarcus Cousins is perhaps the BEST center in the NBA today.
Yes, there were other pieces in the trade. The Kings took on Tyreke Evans' contract and received the Pelicans first round pick. The problem is that the Pelicans pick probably won't be a high one. It will be interesting to see how and if the Kings dig themselves out of this hole, but one thing I think we can all agree on is that there will not be a championship brought to Sacramento in the next five years.
2 COULD - Golden State Warriors
The Warriors were not always this power house. I remember when the city was ecstatic when a Baron Davis led team was able to just get out of the first round. Now they have been to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, and just landed one of the best players in the game to go with their already "Big 3". Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green will continue making at the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship trophy for the next couple years.
Fueled by a seven game NBA Finals loss in the 2016 championship series, the Warriors seem on their way to becoming the first team to claim a title in our five year window. In following seasons, the team will have some more work holding off the teams we have previously discussed, but the Warriors will be sitting as NBA favorites for the foreseeable future.
1 WON'T - Brooklyn Nets
Ever since the Nets announced they were trading for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back in 2013, they have been destined to land on the wrong side of this list. The Nets, in attempt to make a contender right away, traded away their 2014, 2016, 2018 first round picks. In addition to that, the Celtics have the right to swap 2017 first round picks. Being that the Celtics are the number two seed in the conference, and the Nets are sporting the NBA's worst record, it's safe to say the Nets aren't using that top pick this year.
The Nets will be parting with their best player Brook Lopez shortly, and will continue to sport the worst roster in basketball for the next few seasons. There is really no light at the end of the tunnel as of yet. The Nets will have to stay in the basement for the next 4-5 years to even begin a rebuild. Right now all they can do is sit, wait, hope, and enjoy their time in the NBA basement.
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