Rebuilding an NBA team is hard.
Just ask Sam Hinkie, who recently resigned as the Philadelphia 76ers’ general manager in an epic 13-page letter. Or Billy King, who was “reassigned” from the Brooklyn Nets’ GM post roughly three years after trading virtually all the team’s future assets to the Boston Celtics.
The rebuilding process involves a whole lot of losing, often asking fans to endure horrendous seasons of futility with promises of better things to come. But it certainly has its benefits: The Golden State Warriors used lottery picks in 2009 and 2011 to draft a pair of promising young shooters in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and now they’re four wins away from the best regular season ever.
We’re not saying there’s another Golden State waiting in the wings, but as the Milwaukee Bucks come to Boston on Friday, it’s worth noting that the future looks bright for a few teams bound for the lottery in the 2016 NBA Draft. Here’s our top five:
5. New Orleans Pelicans
No team suffered from worse luck this season than New Orleans, which literally has about 100 points per game sidelined due to injuries. The “good news” is that the decimated Pelicans have fallen to the sixth-worst record in the NBA, giving them a shot at nabbing a high-ceiling guard like Kris Dunn or Buddy Hield or a promising big man like Jakob Poeltl.
This also is a friendly reminder that New Orleans still has arguably the best young player in the league in Anthony Davis. If the Pelicans get healthy and assemble some sort of supporting cast, watch out.
4. Philadelphia 76ers
Yes, the Sixers just lost their GM and have the worst record in basketball. But Philly is loaded with future assets. It has the best chance of landing Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram with the No. 1 overall pick and has two more selections in the first round. A lot hinges on 2014 No. 3 pick Joel Embiid, who has yet to play an NBA game but is expected to make his debut next season.
It might take a while, but if Embiid pans out, Jahlil Okafor continues to develop and the Sixers land some quality prospects in this year’s draft, Philly could have reason for optimism in the years ahead.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
It’s not often you see a 6-foot-11 guy play point guard, but Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t your ordinary NBA player. He’s also only 21 years old and part of an exciting young core in Milwaukee that includes electric 21-year-old Jabari Parker and 24-year-old sharpshooter Khris Middleton.
The Bucks also have a former NBA Rookie of the Year in Michael-Carter Williams and a legitimate big man in Greg Monroe. With another lottery pick on the way in this year’s draft, the Bucks could be a team to be reckoned with a few years from now.
2. Utah Jazz
There’s a good chance the Jazz hold on for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs, but we’re putting them on this list anyway. Utah’s roster is littered with promising young players, from the frontcourt duo of 24-year-old Derrick Favors and 23-year-old Rudy Gobert to emerging star Rodney Hood in the backcourt. And we haven’t even mentioned Dante Exum, the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft, who the entire season with a torn ACL.
The Jazz likely need a marquee player to compete with the NBA’s best, but they have three first-round picks in the 2017 draft, so the arrow certainly is pointing up.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves
We wouldn’t be surprised to see the Timberwolves in the 2019 NBA Finals. Karl-Anthony Towns is a lock to win NBA Rookie of the Year this season, Andrew Wiggins continues to develop into a bona fide star and Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine constitute one of the most exciting young backcourts in the league. Minnesota also has a good chance of landing a top-five pick in this year’s draft.
The Wolves showed flashes of the future when they toppled the Warriors on Tuesday, and that future is approaching at a rapid pace.
Thumbnail photo via Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) and center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) celebrate during the fourth quarter at Target Center. The Timberwolves won 112-105.