Right now, the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, and Boston Celtics are built to win now and maybe for another two or three seasons. The Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, oh and the Celtics (again) are built for the long haul, barring catastrophes.
In the NBA, if a team isn’t built to win now or for the long haul, they better be reconstructing their roster. Around the league there are some franchises that are doing just that.
I like what the Atlanta Hawks did during the last two NBA Drafts in adding John Collins and Trae Young, but who are the other guys?
The Orlando Magic have the best kept secret in Aaron Gordon and a special player in Mo Bamba, but who is their point guard?
Heck, the Sacramento Kings are loaded with De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III, Harry Giles, Buddy Hield, and others, but its Sacramento. They always find a way to ruin a good thing like the Cleveland Browns in football.
Based on roster makeup, coaching, geographic region, and aggressive front offices, the Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, and Phoenix Suns stick out in a line of rebuilding franchises.
The Bulls absolutely struck gold last year when they took Lauri Markkanen who became the fastest player to make 100 threes in his rookie year. More importantly, he made the All-Rookie First Team averaging 15.2 points. Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine were the other two players that migrated to the Windy City that came with Markkanen in the Butler deal from Minnesota.
This offseason they added Jabari Parker and Wendell Carter Jr. Parker is injury prone, but he should provide another scoring option. WCJ is being looked at as the darkhorse candidate to win Rookie of the Year.
The reason I value Chicago’s young core over Sacramento’s is because they are in the Eastern Conference. They will have a chance to reach relevancy sooner than the Kings. Also, this is a steady roster with B to B+ level guys with Markkanen as the special player. The jury is still out on Fred Hoiberg and the front office operates like a swinging pendulum. They have to hope one of their guys develops into the guy, but so far so good in Chicago.
Next, Dallas has a top five coach in Rick Carlisle, an active (sometimes overzealous) owner in Mark Cuban, and a special roster. Yes, they are in the West, but they could still make a run towards the eighth seed this upcoming season.
Dennis Smith Jr. showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie as he averaged 15.2 points, but he has to take care of the ball and improve his efficiency as a three-point marksman. Is he a star? Probably not as I view him as one of those good players that gets lost in the shuffle like Kemba Walker. To be clear, that is a good thing for Dallas.
Luka Doncic is the transcendent talent on the roster as he can score and facilitate. He has a natural feel for the game on all fronts and is a sneaky athlete. He is in the right situation in Dallas with a coach that will simplify the game for him. It will go from looking like a Rubik’s Cube to looking like a game of Uno because Carlisle is that good.
By the way, he will be mentored by one of the best to ever suit up in Dirk Nowitzki and will be able to navigate him through the struggles of being a foreign player.
Finally, we know about the special talent in Phoenix that is quasi-star Devin Booker. In addition, they have Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges, and Deandre Ayton as the nucleus. Now, imagine if they figure it out at point guard or place someone alongside Ayton in the frontcourt.
Booker is going to score 20 on a nightly basis and should be a perennial All-Star for the next 10-12 years. If Ayton can play up to his comparisons to KAT, then we are looking at a serious threat post-GSW.
I like the hiring of Igor Kokoskov from the Jazz. If he can install the same offensive and defensive schemes Utah ran, then Phoenix is in good hands. Front office-wise Ryan McDonough has done a good job of drafting and pulling strings with trades. The addition of Deanthony Melton is a sneaky move that could help Phoenix at point guard.
For Chicago, Dallas, and Phoenix, the growing pains are far from over, but at least they can see an end in sight to their refurbishing.