Guest post by LarBrd33

I figure those 4 teams are all "prestige" NBA franchises. They are all in the dumps right now. I was curious who was the closest to truly competing.

On the surface level, you'd see Boston with the best record and equate that to mean they are the closest to competing. That's pretty inaccurate, imo. We are still a bottom 10 team right now. Nobody would seriously confuse us for contenders. To truly predict who is the closest to competing, you need to weigh a lot more variables.

In simplistic terms, the general formula to real success in the NBA is landing 2-3 all-star talent. More than any other sport, a single superstar player can raise a team from bottom-feeder to contender. Merely need to look at the Cavs pre-post-pre-post LeBron to see this. Merely need to look at the Heat pre-post-pre LeBron to see this. An elite offensive player and an elite big (preferably with elite defense) seem to be the two most crucial cogs to contention. Role players are easily replaceable.

So when measuring future success, you should be looking at current star players (obviously), elite prospects (players who stand a reasonable chance of becoming stars), cap situation (and ability to attract free agents), upcoming draft picks (top 5 being the most valuable), and trade assets.

So let's look at them.

Boston Celtics
Current Status - Bottom 10 team. Have had a nice run recently. Well coached. Could end up in playoffs as sub-500 also-ran.
Current Stars - None
Cap Situation - About 23 mil in cap space not including Crowder, Bass, Jerebko and our draft picks. Might not even have enough cap space to sign a max contract player if we retain some of those guys.
Elite Prospects - I'm only including Smart to avoid backlash. He might be a defensive role player long-term.
Draft Picks - Lots of mid-to-late 1sts. Should end up picking 10-16 this year.
Advantage - Lots of middling pieces like Sully, Oly, Thomas, 1sts that can be used in trade packages. Trade exceptions that can be used instead of cap space. Great system, coach, management. Our most likely path to an all-star is the trade market.
Disadvantage - Possibly no worthwhile building blocks on team. Boston an unproven free agent destination. Current assets have questionable worth. We are at the whims of the trade market.

Current Status - Bottom 4 team. Awful.
Current Stars - Kobe, maybe.
Cap Situation - About 30 mil in cap space this summer if they let Jordan Hill walk
Elite Prospects - Depends how you feel about Julius Randle
Draft Picks - Should have a top 4 this year. They owe a future 1st to Philly (Top 5 protected this year, Top 3 protected next year). Have a late 1st this year from Houston.
Advantage - Los Angeles will always be at the top of any free agent list. Kevin Love, for example, thought to be a lock to join them if he bails on Cavs.
Disadvantage - Terrible management. Kobe not a lure.

Current Status - Worse record in the league
Current Stars - Healthy Melo remains elite-tier talent. Essentially even productivity to Paul Pierce pre-Big 3.
Cap Situation - About 30 mil in cap space
Elite Prospects - None unless you count Hardaway Jr... which I don't.
Draft Picks - Projected #1 pick this year. No pick in 2016.
Advantage - New York will always be at the top of any free agent list. They already have a star. They could end up with a star (Okafor) through this draft. Phil Jackson is a draw.
Disadvantage - Ownership, I guess... but Phil Jackson negates some of the stink.

Current Status - Blatant Tank Job. Bottom 2 record.
Current Stars - None
Cap Situation - Roughly 40 mil in cap space
Elite Prospects - Embiid considered by many to be a better prospect than anyone in the 2013/14/15 draft classes. Nerlens Noel should be a ROY candidate. Some feel Dario Saric is a future star.
Draft Picks - #2 projected pick this year. Get Lakers pick if it falls outside Top 5. Some other mid-1sts (Miami top 10 protected, Thunder top 18 protected)
Advantage - Taking the Thunder route, they might already have star building blocks in place (Embiid, Noel, Saric, whoever they draft this year). That could mean natural development into a contender 2-3 years from now.
Disadvantage - Probably not a free agent destination, but that could change if a couple of their star prospects reach their potential quickly.

So who do you think is closest to contention? At gunpoint, I'm going with the Knicks. Melo is already in place, they will most likely end up with a star prospect through this draft, Jackson and New York is a draw and they have cap space to sign a couple elite-level players. Philly has the highest ceiling. Lakers are always a destination. Boston is the best managed and has the most middling assets, but I think they are the furthest away from acquiring a star and thus might be furthest from contending.


Guest post by LarBrd33

Staff 3/13/2015 03:25:00 PM Edit
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