As this 2015-2016 NBA season gets closer to the very end, some teams get ready for postseason play while others are just crossing their fingers to land something in the draft although they might need something more. The Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, Brooklyn Nets and New Orleans Pelicans have been worse than the rest in varying degrees. How good is the future?
The Minnesota Timberwolves are probably in the best shape of all the teams on this list. They’ve won 28 games so far this season and have the longest playoff drought in the NBA, going since 2014. But they have Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns as incredible cornerstones to rely on, with a solid, mostly young supporting cast, most of it signed for at least one more season. Playing their cards right in the draft and with a good signing or two to improve their bench and especially their defense could finally put them in the playoffs a year from now.
From the Timberwolves we move to the New Orleans Pelicans. While the Timberwolves future has a wider foundation, the Pelicans remain dependant on one man: Anthony Davis. While his emergence has put them in a better position than before, nothing around him has changed much and even if it has, it’s been mostly injured. The Pelicans do rid themselves of some unwanted deals (although wouldn’t mind keeping Ryan Anderson) but it’s not quite sure they know what to do with the cap space, or does Alvin Gentry have a shot without a defense.
A team with hardly anything locked up for next season are the Los Angeles Lakers. When this season began, one would think that the optimism levels were high. Kobe Bryant is finally leaving, and they had two first or second year players who seem like a nice thing to build around. But Byron Scott is still there. The players might or might not hate the guys of D’Angelo Russell. Jordan Clarkson is a restricted free agent. Julius Randle looks like he might turn into something. But with only $26 million committed to contracts next season, the Lakers have no clue how things will look for them a year from now. Scary thought? They might be exactly the same: Waiting for ping pong balls.
Not too far from there are the Phoenix Suns. A team that planned to tank but turned out to be much better, missed the playoffs two years in a row and then imploded. What now? They have superb talent at guard with Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. But someone will probably be traded. And signing Tyson Chandler was a mistake. And there are no Morris twins around anymore, or is that a good thing?
Back in the East, there are the Brooklyn Nets. A team that swung at every ball coming their way and eventually struck out. The $56 million they have committed for next season aren’t to players anyone wants in trades. They do have room to work with under the cap for the first time in a very long while. They seem like they made a right choice at general manager. But climbing back up after a few years of successful mediocrity might take more than one season.
Finally, we reach the bottom of the pit. The Philadelphia 76ers. A new direction with Bryan Colangelo? It’s weird how things went. Sam Hinkie being hired and stripping the team clean of anything good. Tanking, Drafting. Tanking. Drafting. Trades for more draft picks. No progress in the win column. No progress on the court. At some point, either the league got tired of a major market having such a terrible franchise, or the owners went behind Hinkie’s back and opened the door for the Colangelo family to move in. The Sixers have Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and maybe Joel Embiid, although no one knows what he’s going to be like. A clean slate, and maybe for the first time in four years, a team that’s going to try to sign someone that’s good right now, not in four years.