Being an NBA realist means that at times, we might come off a bit pessimistic.
That’s not to say that you can’t use your free time this summer dreaming of the potential free agent moves your team will make to marginally get better. But the rose colored glasses will definitely be coming off on our end.
It’s now time for a reality check as we gaze into the future.
Your team’s free-agency hopes will likely go unfulfilled. And your team’s young players will likely not make the leap developmentally that you thought.
The forecasts for these five teams don’t look promising as we project their future outlook.
1. The Los Angeles Lakers
Notable Free Agent Signings: Lebron James, Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale Mcgee
Their ultimate goal was to pair Lebron with the likes of Paul George. That didn’t work out as George resigned with OKC. Still, the Lakers summer dreams partially became a reality with the signing of Lebron James.
It’s a tremendous get for the Lakers. The latest betting odds at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook list the Lakers as the fourth favorite in the 2018-2019 season. And that’s just with James’ services with the team as presently constitued.
But now what?
They haven’t added a single three-point shooter, the most valuable asset a team with James can have. The signings of Stephenson, Rondo, Pope, and Mcgee will not have much of an impact scoring wise.
The young talent on this team before the recent additions does little to solve the Lakers shooting woes. Lonzo Ball was terrible shooting the ball as a rookie shooting 36 percent overall, 30.5 from outside the arc. Brandon Ingram attempted only 105 triples in 59 games. And don’t let Kyle Kuzma’s 16 points and 6 rebounds per game fool you. The Lakers fared better without him than when he was on the court (minus-2.0 with, minus-0.4 without).
But most importantly, they haven’t put young star Brandon Ingram on the table in a trade package for Kawhi Leonard.
Next season’s Warriors will still have four All-Stars and two MVP candidates. Next season’s Rockets, with the possible addition of Carmelo Anthony, should include most of the players responsible for last year’s success.
OKC and Utah will also pose threats to the Lakers championship aspirations.
2. The Portland Trailblazers
Notable Free Agent Signings: Jusuf Nurkic
Yes these are the same Trailblazers that were ranked 3rd best in the west.
But after a DeMarcus Cousins-less New Orleans Pelicans swept them out of the first round of the playoffs serious questions remain.
The team’s cap situation is a glaring issue. Given their financial outlook, their core will likely be trimmed this summer, not expanded. And that’s a major issue for a team that has always been considered a player away from truly contending.
And then there’s the question of whether to keep the dynamic yet defensively-challenged Lillard-McCollum pairing together. Portland has said publicly that they’d like to keep the two together. But many executives think the pairs days are numbered after their early round exit.
The in conference competition has fortified itself leaving the Blazers with little margin for error.
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3. The Minnesota Timberwolves
Free agent signings: Anthony Tolliver
The Timberwolves are in a go for broke mode for all the wrong reasons. Jimmy Butler recently turned down an extension leaving his future presence with the team in doubt. There have been questions regarding the work ethic of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. And management has been less than happy with the return investment of the trios pairing.
Suddenly the Wolves’ future seems a lot less bright than it was supposed to. Some within the organization feel that trading Andrew Wiggins would be best for the organization. A dream scenario would have them sending the talented guard and draft picks to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard.
A suggestion of this magnitude of trading such a highly talented piece under team control for a one-year rental tells you all you need to know about the state of the franchise. Leonard and Butler can both become free agents after the upcoming season, so it’s hard to think about rolling the dice to that extent.
Here underscores the biggest frustration for the Wolves. A normal year would see the pairing as more than enough to advance in the playoffs. But the recent acquisition of Demarcus Cousins by the Warriors could easily dismiss that team from contention.
4. The Toronto Raptors
Free agent signings: none
Shaking up the rosters current lineup including Demar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka will be difficult. The number of teams dealing with luxury tax concerns will make potential trades challenging.
Therefore, Toronto will probably bring back the same group and hope the ouster of Dwayne Casey can solve their postseason woes. But there will be the typical drop off for teams with 50 plus wins do to aging and roster changes.
The only excitement that the team can muster is the hope of a new coach. The last time I checked, coaches in the NBA weren’t worth much in total win shares.
The Houston Rockets
Free agent signings: Chris Paul, Michael Carter Williams, James Ennis
The Rockets had no choice but to retain the services of Chris Paul. But did it really make sense to sign an injury prone player approaching the other side of 30 to such a long extension?
Also, any team, that lists Michael Carter Williams as one of its key free agents signings is in trouble. That is particularly the case of the Rockets who rely so much on the three point shot to successfully run their offense. Williams shot 23% from downtown last year which is lower than his career 25% shooting. General manager Daryl Morey will have to get creative if he truly wants his team to seriously contend for the services of Carmelo Anthony to help in that regard.
It is fortunate that Clint Capela, who blossomed into a rising star as Houston’s No.3 option will likely not field many or any offer sheets given the current financial situation of most teams.
But Houston will surely miss the defensive services of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. Their defensive pressure allowed the Rockets to switch against opposing offenses, primarily proving effective against the Warriors vaunted lineup. Their presence forced the Warriors to get away from their motion offense and play more iso possessions.
Photos by espn and clutchpoints