The NBA has various teams at different points in their franchises. You have teams like the Spurs, Warriors, and Cavaliers poised for deep playoff runs for the foreseeable future, thanks in large part to how well their respective organizations are managed. On the other side of the spectrum, there are other teams like the Nets who, due to their poor front office management, are going to remain irrelevant and mediocre for the next few years. Filling out the remainder of the league are the teams who have respectable rosters and solid front offices, teams like the Celtics, Clippers, and Raptors. And while I respect these middle-of-the-road playoff teams and what they are trying to accomplish, I wont be focusing on them in this post. This time around I’m giving my attention to two organizations I believe are well on their way to becoming elite teams in the next few years. Lets get started.
Los Angeles Lakers: As much as I hate to say it, the Kobe Bryant era in LA is over. While this may be a sad realization, this also allows an ailing Laker organization to begin recovering and, hopefully in a couple years, even thriving. After some offseason moves and acquisitions, the Lakers roster is looking very solid going into the 2016-’17 season. By drafting Brandon Ingram with the second pick, LA’s roster is finally starting to take form into something with great potential. I believe that a developed and smarter D’Angelo Russell will continue what he began showing in his last month of the previous season, and become a go to scorer for the Lakes whenever he’s called on. I expect D-Loading to average 16 points, six assists, and nearly four rebounds in a much improved sophomore campaign. I think a third year Julius Randle will also have a solid year in LA, running as a sort of point forward for the Lakers when needed, I expect JR to really showcase his passing and low post scoring in 2016-’17. I think, and hope, that new head coach Luke Walton will run Jordan Clarkson in the starting five as either the two or the one-guard. His play in his first two years in the league has been nothing short of impressive, and J-Clark deserves the job. Expect to see a much improved Larry Nance getting more minutes and actually providing a lot to this young Laker team. Finally I think that Brandon Ingram will thrive under the tutelage of veteran Luol Deng, on his way to earning First Team all Rookie Honors. I see LA winning around 30-32 games next year on their way to regaining relevance in the NBA.
Lakers Roster Grade: A-
Lakers Head Coach Grade: B+
Projected Wins: 30-32
Philadelphia 76ers: The Philadelphia 76ers will eventually go down in history as one of the most interesting franchises ever; elite in the 70’s-80’s during the prime Doctor J and Moses Malone era, even winning a chip in 1983. Then came the Charles Barkley era, where Sir Chuck took up the mantle from his elder former teammates and made Philly a solid playoff team until he took his talents to PHX. This move left the 76ers in a state of rebuild where they eventually began a steady decline as one of the worst teams in the East; until AI. The Answer came and brought back life into the post-Barkley era in Philadelphia, even bringing a lackluster Sixers team to a finals birth in 2001 where they eventually lost 4-1 to none other than the Lakers. As most know, AI eventually left and though the Sixers tried to stay relevant in the years that passed, shout out to Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday, they were never the same. Then came the Sam Hinkie era, a time period where the Sixers intentionally lost games and traded assets in hopes of nabbing a high pick in the upcoming drafts. Well I guess you could say the “process” worked, because here we are, looking at a Philadelphia team with bounds of potential and a bright future. Take a bow Mr. Hinkie…wherever you are. And while the 76ers roster may be a bit heavy in the frontcourt, they might be even heavier on potential. With a low post scoring phenomenon in Jahlil Okafor, an elite paint protector in Nerlens Noel, two mystery men in Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, and a skilled point forward in Ben Simmons, could this team actually be good in 2016-’17? Well let’s not get too carried away. I think Okafor will have a great year, averaging close to 20 points and seven rebounds with new facilitators in overseas PG Sergio Rodriguez and Ben Simmons. I believe that Embiid will have a very nice “rookie” campaign, averaging 11 points and nearly ten boards, while Dario Saric will be a great scorer and rebounder off the bench for Philly, putting up about nine points, six rebounds, and two assists. The veterans in Philadelphia, Bayless and Henderson, will be crucial to this young nucleus and will help in numerous ways whether they start or come off the bench. As for the number one overall pick, Ben Simmons, I hope he has a great rookie campaign and can realistically see him averaging 12 points, six rebounds, and about five assists per contest. I see Philly getting 24-26 wins in 2016-’17.
76ers Roster Grade: B
76ers Head Coach Grade: A (for now, as this will be a big year for Brett Brown)
Projected Wins: 24-26
As of now, I’m giving this matchup to the Lakers due to the strength of their roster as a whole and how crowded the Philly frontcourt is. I am also hearing great things about coach Walton and his on/off court team relationships.