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In 2004 The Los Angeles Lakers signed both Karl Malone and Gary Payton to assemble with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’neal as the NBA witnessed the inception of a concept that would later resurface as time went on. Though it was a failed attempt, the Lakers were the first true team that gave the “Super Team” idea a shot.
Actually this is worse: Malone, Payton, Kobe, and Shaq for the Lakers. pic.twitter.com/P9ILYVGLUZ
— Udai Rohatgi (@UdaiRohatgi) July 4, 2016
In 2008 the Boston Celtics would emerge as NBA Champions after uniting Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce on the same team. This would be the start of an era where elite, top tier players would rather play on the same team and monopolize the leagues competition as oppose to competing against one another.
Since 2008 we have seen Lebron James , Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh join together on the heat; Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol join on the Lakers; and in more recent years, Kevin Durant joining the 73-9 warriors, and lastly, Lebron James joining forces with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
But while this has been the case in the NBA for the past 8 seasons, quite a few teams in the NBA have stayed low and rebuilt through drafting developing and developing collections of young players that are growing and that can usher in a new era of more competitive basketball across the board. In the next 3-5 years, I genuinely believe that there are a group of teams who have a chance to restore balance back to the NBA and bring back competitive basketball across the board:
The Philadelphia 76ers
It has been a rough 10+ years for the 76ers and I don’t think any team in the NBA is more familiar with the term “Tanking”. But after being molded by the darkness they have finally found a way out of the pit, and his name is Joel Embiid.
To date, Embiid averaging 19.6 PTS, 7.6 REB, 2.3 BLKs per. Only rookies to match: Duncan, Shaq, D-Rob, Hakeem, Mourning, Ralph Sampson.
— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) January 14, 2017
At nearly the midway point of the season, Embiid looks more and more like a generational talent with each game. Making vintage moves in the post and shooting at a very effective 34% from the 3-point line, If Joel Embiid can continue to ascend at an elite clip he can prove to be an anchor for this team for many years to come. And even though we have yet to see him play an NBA game, if Ben Simmons can prove to be a legitimate running mate, they can become one of the more elite 1-2 punches the NBA has seen in recent years.
The Miami Heat
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No one is paying attention to their young core but the Miami Heat , I believe, have a chance to be competitive in the coming years in the Eastern Conference. With a proven talent in Hassan Whiteside who continues to shoe he was worth every penny that Pat Riley paid him. We all are aware of Whitesides talent, but I think what can make them competitive is the combination of PG Tyler Johnson and SF Justise Winslow. I think their development is the key to the long term success of this young trio.
Johnson is averaging career highs across the board at 14 points 4 rebounds and 5 assists. I don’t believe he will ever be in the top tier or elite point guard conversation, but if he could materialize into a second tier and effective point guard he could prove to be serviceable for the Miami Heat for many years. He is a supreme athlete and hes shown what he can do in the open court on numerous occasions:
Though Justise Winslow has undergone season ending surgery for a torn Labrum, The Miami Heat certainly have a wing for the future that can possibly develop into an elite defender. In spending a year with Dwyane Wade before he left for the Bulls, Winslow experienced an intense playoff series which bodes well for him in terms of experience moving forward.
All in all I think if things work well for this team they can develop a young core with maybe one more draft pick I think that they can become a competitive playoff team out east.
The Minnesota Timberwolves
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Though expectations for this season were a bit out of hand for them, The Minnesota Timberwolves have put together a strong young core that with development and time can be a scary threat in the many years to come.Karl Anthony Towns has emerged as a top 5 big man in the NBA and has become the leader of this young and hungry Timberwolves team. While Towns averages huge numbers this year ( 22 12 and 3), Andrew Wiggins has blossomed into a lethal mid range scorer(22ppg) and continues to maintain his work as an athletically dominant beast. And the third leg of this young big 3 , Zach Lavine has Proved that he is a legitimate scoring threat from every where on the floor (20 ppg) . Though this team largely remains questionable at the point guard position (Ricky Rubio/Kris Dunn), i believe the trio of Towns-Wiggins-Lavine can prove to elite and competitive similar to the trio of Durant Westbrook and Harden, of course with the proper development, growth and experience.
The Los Angeles Lakers
After possibly the most dramatic and darkest period in team history, The Lakers are finally slowly inching their way in the right direction. The 2015-16 season was a year plagued with negative headlines concerning a wide variety of topics which is an entirely different topic in and of itself. But despite the drama of the last 3 seasons a glimmer of hope sparkles for the Los Angeles Lakers. Some would argue that Kobe Bryant was holding the Lakers back the last 4 years, but I’d argue the opposite. It was time for the Lakers to stop trying to land a home run free agent and begin to re-brand and rebuild and prepare for life after Kobe. And Kobe Bryant actually helped the Lakers do that. In his last 3 seasons the Lakers were so bad that they landed 3 consecutive lottery picks that landed the Lakers 3 potential stars in the NBA; Julius Randle , D’angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram. And not to mention, the Lakers front office landed a couple of steals in the late first and second round of the draft, credit to Mitch Kupchak and the scouting team for stumbling on Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the few young teams in the NBA that can say that have a true young core of 3-5 players. With new head coach Luke Walton at the helm the lakers have shown much promise and no game showed this promise more than when the Lakers handed the defending Western Conference Champion Golden State Warriors a shocking loss on November 23rd at Staples Center :
This Laker team can be very dangerous pending their development, growth and experience. With a young head coach to grow with this young team, the sky is truly the limit for these kids.
The Phoenix Suns
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Not many people are talking about them as a team, but the Phoenix Suns have drafted fairly well in the last few years and they may have stumbled on a player that may change the course of their franchise. Devin Booker from the university of Kentucky has been a scoring animal from the onset of his rookie season and he continues to impress on the offensive end of the floor on a nightly basis. If there’s one thing we know about this kid, its that he will be able to put the ball in the basket for a long time. He’s already a 20 point per game scorer in his second season and just recently he’s scored 39 points in 2 consecutive games during the NBA’s featured games in Mexico.
• Drop 39 points on Thursday, √
• Drop 39 points on Saturday, √
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) January 15, 2017
The future of the Suns rests solely in the hands of the growth and progression of Devin Booker, their fate revolves around him. If he can become a perennial scorer and player in the NBA and if he can be surrounded with talent to help him win the phoenix suns have the potential to be special.
The Milwaukee Bucks
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In possibly the most unlikely of events, Giannis Antentokounmpo has become one of the 5 best players in the NBA this season and has begun to lead the very young Milwaukee Bucks into the playoff picture. Giannis has grown exponentially with each year and the NBA, and as unforseen as it was, it has been an absolute joy to watch the essential 6’11 point guard do some of the most incredible things we have ever seen on a basketball court.
— Jon Feyen (@JonFeyen) January 7, 2017
But what makes the Bucks dangerous is not only because of the Greek Freak, the emergence of Jabari Parker has been a wonderful surprise and addition for the NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks. This team has a legitimate 1-2 punch that can play essentially every position on the floor with the way basketball is played now. Dare I say it, we may need to revisit the Andrew Wiggins vs Jabari Parker debate before the season is over with. While Giannis averages 23 points 9 rebounds and 6 assist shooting 53% , Parker averages 20 points 6 rebounds and 3 assist while shooting 50% from the field. These two have become a lethal combination on a nightly basis, and are a nightmare matchup for majority of the NBA:
— JOSUÉ🧢 (@Chimichanga17_) January 7, 2017
These young Bucks will probably have most immediate success out of all the young teams I mentioned , but they are very young and very good, and still have so much time to develop.
All these things being said its going to take a while before most of these young teams materialize into competitive playoff teams, but sooner than later, the dynamic of the NBA will shift, and under the new CBA, we may see these young teams stay together for possibly the next decade. Power will spread and the NBA will soon be much more entertaining across the board, and these young teams will emerge to make sure this is the case.