With the year coming to an end and after several months of the NBA regular season, most franchises are already looking ahead to the future and planning for an upcoming couple of months, either to improve their shots at contention or just to be ready for the next campaign.
Tradition states that during this time of the year, most people make resolutions and wishes regarding what they vow to do or want to get from the next year, and it’s pretty safe to say that most basketball fans and execs include their respective teams in their prayers.
Today, we’re going to help them out, telling them what should be their top priority for the upcoming year, so they know exactly what to ask when the clock strikes 12 o’ clock and we head towards 2018.
Atlanta Hawks: 1st Overall Pick
As of today, the Atlanta Hawks currently own the worst record (8-25) in the entire Association, owning the highest chance to land the 1st overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Considering how little talent they own on their ranks right now with nothing much other than Dennis Schroeder and John Collins, Atlanta desperately needs the best available talent in this Draft to try and build around him for the future.
Brooklyn Nets: Keep Jahlil Okafor
All of the sudden, the Brooklyn Nets managed to pair a couple of buddies that were also the second and third overall picks of the 2015 NBA Draft, and even though Jahlil Okafor is yet to play big minutes and actually contribute for the team, they should do whatever is on their hands to keep the outsider big man. Jah’s improvement has really stalled and he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent, but if he manages to turn things around, Brooklyn would have a killer young core for the future.
Boston Celtics: Play In The NBA Finals
The Boston Celtics are the most winning franchise in NBA history but have lost a lot of ground over the last decade, and they haven’t won a Championship since 2008 when they beat Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in 6 games. Now, even despite Gordon Hayward’s injury, they’re looking like one of the most solid teams in the Association, and they seem to have what it takes to finally end LeBron James’ Finals streak under Kyrie Irving’s command.
Charlotte Hornets: Road Wins
The Charlotte Hornets aren’t exactly the perfect example of a winning franchise, and most of that tough luck they always seem to have has a lot to do with how poorly they fare outside of the home. Charlotte is currently 10 and 9 and home but is also a terrible 2 and 12 outside of Spectrum Center, and they’re never going to be a serious threat in the Eastern Conference, especially in the postseason, if they can’t set foot outside of North Carolina without embarrassing themselves.
Chicago Bulls: Find Young Core
The Chicago Bulls have made a lot of changes in their starting lineup and even though the team’s on a roll right now, coach Fred Hoiberg seems lost at times and has struggled to put together a decent squad. Nonetheless, Chicago currently owns one of the most intriguing and exciting young cores in the league right now with Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis, so if they manage to land a top 5 pick this upcoming draft and find enough touches for everybody, they’re going to be a legit contender in less than 4 years.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Championship And LeBron James
The only thing the Cleveland Cavaliers must ask for this upcoming year is an NBA Championship, as anything less would most likely mean the end of the LeBron James era at the Q (Again). The Cavs have lost 2 out of the 3 last NBA Finals and with LeBron James and Isaiah Thomas both set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the year, Cleveland needs to take a trophy home to try and convince them to stay, or at least make the most of them before they walk away for free.
Dallas Mavericks: Make Dennis Smith Jr A Point Guard
Dennis Smith Jr has been one of the most impressive rookies so far, averaging 13.8 points and showing glances of a brutal speed and athleticism that makes us remember young All-Stars like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. Still, the rook hasn’t been much of a playmaker or a good facilitator so far, only averaging 4.2 assists per game despite having the rock on his hands for most of the possessions.
Also, those 2.8 turnovers per game are far from impressive, but they got a top-tier talent in their hands and he should just improve with time.
Denver Nuggets: End Playoff Drought
The Denver Nuggets are one of the few franchises that haven’t won an NBA Championship through their entire history despite always staying relevant, but they have even failed to make the playoffs in each one of the last 4 seasons. This year, they’ve got what it takes to finally put an end to this drought, featuring Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Nikola Jokic and newcomer Paul Millsap, and they’re currently sitting at the 6th spot in the Western Conference.
Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson Breakout
Stanley Johnson seemed like a major steal and stud when he first took the floor during summer league and the preseason but failed to make an impact out of the gate for the Detroit Pistons, and that story has repeated itself the prior campaign and even this one again. Johnson has been horrid in both ends of the hardwood and is looking pretty much like a major bust at this point, but he has a lot of upsides to become a dominant two-way player if he turns things around.
So far, he’s averaging 7.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game in 36% from the floor and 30% from three-point territory.
Golden State Warriors: Health And Championship
The Golden State Warriors are pretty much the team to beat year in and year out in the NBA, and they seem to be extremely solid in both ends of the hardwood regardless of who they throw in the pit. Coach Kerr has developed a system where all of his players feel comfortable and know what to do, but they’ve struggled with several injuries of key players throughout the campaign, including Zaza Pachulia, Draymond Green and the 2 time MVP Stephen Curry.
The Warriors may not need Green or Curry in a handful of regular season matchups, but they better pray for them to stay healthy for the playoffs to defend their crown.
Houston Rockets: Beat Golden State
Due to a sluggish 3 game losing streak, the Houston Rockets are now second in the Western Conference, just one game behind the defending champions: The Golden State Warriors. The Rockets seem to be a team perfectly built just for the purpose of beating the hell out of the Dubs, featuring an up-tempo offense with a lot of three-point shooting thanks to all those top-tier sharpshooters they got in their squad.
Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner
Myles Turner has once again stalled after an impressive start of the season and it seems like the Pacers are Victor Oladipo’s team right now, with Turner having the most upside but struggling to take the next step in his career. So far, the 3rd year two-way big man is averaging roughly 14.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and a league-leading 2.5 blocks per game in 50% from the floor and 36% from three-point territory, some mediocre numbers considering his offensive skill set and poor rebounding.
Los Angeles Clippers: Trade DeAndre Jordan
The Los Angeles Clippers are pretty much a train wreck at this point of the season on the dawn of the post Chris Paul era, with Patrick Beverley done for the season, Blake Griffin also on the shelf and Danilo Gallinari out indefinitely.
Despite Austin Rivers and Lou Williams picking up a lot of the slack, the Clippers aren’t going anywhere, so they need to part ways with their defensive standout and rim protector, who’s very likely to walk away for free at the end of the campaign anyway.
Los Angeles Lakers: The Ball-Kuzma For The Future
Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma seem to have a great relationship on and off the court, always fooling around in social media and leading the Los Angeles Lakers in the hardwood when the purple and gold squad need them to. Both rookies have been highly impressive, especially Kuzma, who’s looking like one of the biggest steals in the last 4 or 5 NBA Drafts.
The Lakers aren’t going to make the Playoffs this year but they’ve shown vast signs of improvements, so what they need to do now is just hope this two keep developing their chemistry as the team’s cornerstones for the future.
Memphis Grizzlies: Deal Marc Gasol
With Mike Conley sidelined with an Achilles injury and Zach Randolph and Tony Allen leaving town, Marc Gasol was left alone on an island at the Grindhouse, and the team is quickly falling down in the standings in the fierce Western Conference. Having said that, the Spaniard big man’s prime seems to be behind him, and even though he’s still capable of making a huge impact in both ends of the floor, he can’t single-handedly lead the Grizzlies to contention, and that’s why they need to move him while he still has some value to rebuild for the future.
Miami Heat: A Top Tier Star
The Fans were used to see huge stars at South Beach like Dwyane Wade, Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Bosh and of course: LeBron James, something that hasn’t happened since Wade left town, James went back to Cleveland and Bosh was forced to be sidelined. Now, Miami features Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside, a trio of very talented players that can truly help a team, but they aren’t even All-Star material.
Of course, Coach Spoelstra will always find a way to take the team to the postseason, but they need a true star if they intend to go back to relevance anytime soon.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Better Defense
Despite landing Tom Thibodeau and Jimmy Butler, the Minnesota Timberwolves still rank in the bottom five in defensive efficiency once again, and both Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins have struggled to improve their defensive flaws despite their high upside and ceiling in that matter. Minnesota have improved in some aspects of the game, but still fails to contend, and losing games they should win against lesser squads despite being one of the most entertaining and exciting projects in the league with all the talent they have right now.
Milwaukee Bucks: Reach Conference Finals
The Milwaukee Bucks have quietly improved a lot the last couple of years and they currently sit at the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference, mostly led by standout athlete Giannis Antetokounmpo. Now, Jason Kidd has also landed Eric Bledsoe to help the team reach higher levels, while Jabari Parker may return to action sooner than expected. Having said that, the Bucks are in a prime position to contend for the foreseeable future, or at least as long as Antetokounmpo is healthy.
Obviously, they’re not Championship material right away, but they still got what it takes to reach the Eastern Conference Finals and gain a lot of experience for their young stars, and that’s definitely where they should point right now.
New Orleans Pelicans: Keep Cousins
The New Orleans Pelicans gave away several assets in order to land DeMarcus Cousins and pair him with fellow Wildcat Anthony Davis, and the experiment seems to be paying off so far, with the Pelicans owning the 8th and last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Cousins is yet to play in his first postseason matchup and is keen to win and contend, so the Pelicans desperately need to reach the playoffs if they don’t want to lose one of the best big men in the league during the offseason.
New York Knicks: Hand The Keys To Ntilikina
The New York Knicks drafted Frank Ntilikina really high this prior offseason, and it was pretty clear that he was extremely rough in both ends of the game to start the year. Still, Ntilikina has shown a lot of good things during some passages of the game, especially when it comes to his passing and his defense.
With the Knicks faring much better than expected this season, coach Hornacek seems reckless to make changes to his starting five, but truth to be told, Jarrett Jack can’t offer much to the Knickerbockers in any side of the hardwood anyway, so expect those 20 minutes per game that Ntilikina gets right now to trend up pretty soon.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Keep OK3
The Oklahoma City Thunder got off to a very shaky start of the season and things weren’t looking so good for Sam Presti after all he did to land All-Star duo of forwards Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Still, the Thunder’s determination to win against top-tier teams make him a huge dark horse in the Western Conference, although their inconsistency against subpar squads is a huge concern.
So, Billy Donovan needs to find a way to make a playoff run in order to keep this team together, or they’ll risk losing both George and Anthony for free at the end of the season.
Orlando Magic: No More Injuries
Of all five starters, the Orlando Magic’s lone healthy player is now Elfrid Payton, with Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier all sidelined with nagging pains, plus standout rookie Jonathan Isaac also on the shelf. Frank Vogel was leading this team to a very impressive start of the season, but they’re now digging themselves into a huge hole where they just can’t seem to get anything going their way.
With them likely to miss the playoffs once again, at least they can pray for health and look ahead to the upcoming draft.
Philadelphia 76ers: Make The Playoffs
After trusting the process, the Philadelphia 76ers are finally enjoying what is like to have the best prospects in the world proving their worth. Both Embiid and Simmons have been major studs, while JJ Redick’s addition has given a huge plus to Brett Brown’s team.
Of course, consistency is going to be an issue for such a young team, but it seems like the Sixers are finally heading back to the postseason after years of tanking, and they’re going to turn a lot of heads for a very, very long time if they manage to stay healthy.
Phoenix Suns: Top 5 pick
The Phoenix Suns are pretty stacked with talent right now, owning the contracts of Marquese Chriss, TJ Warren, Josh Jackson and Devin Booker. Nonetheless, they continue to struggle to improve on a collective level, especially when it comes to the defensive end of the floor. Still, the future’s quite bright at the desert right now, as they’re pretty much bound for yet another top 5 pick in this upcoming Draft.
Considering how poorly Tyler Ulis has fared so far, the Suns should try to land a top-tier point guard like Luka Doncic, depending on how high the pick eventually winds up being.
Portland Trail Blazers: A Shooting Wing
Despite Al-Farouq Aminu’s impressive stroke from distance this season, the small forward doesn’t show enough volume in his shooting to be considered a reliable choice from beyond the arc, and with Evan Turner shooting a horrible 22.3% from three-point territory this season, backcourt defenses can really focus in both CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, something that obviously takes a huge toll in the team’s offensive flow.
Portland is still in position to compete and is having quite a decent season, but they’re in desperate need of a three and D wing that can provide more balance to this offense.
San Antonio Spurs: Vendetta
Nobody can ever sleep on Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, and people tend to forget that. San Antonio got off to a shaky start of the season and hasn’t clicked off to full steam while both Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard are shaking off the rust, but they’re still led by the greatest basketball coach in the world and Leonard’s likely to peak during the postseason.
The Spurs have fallen short of the Finals in 3 straight years now and with the new additions the team made, they’re keen to go back to where they belong. Besides, they’ve proven to be the most suited team to defeat the Cavs, Dubs and Rockets.
Sacramento King: Buddy Hield To Improve
The Sacramento Kings’ season is already down the drain so their lone concern has to be developing their prospects. De’Aaron Fox has struggled quite a bit with health and durability, while Willie-Cauley Stein has looked quite solid throughout the first passage of the season. Still, Buddy Hield is yet to step up and prove his doubters wrong, posting season averages of 12.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game with 1.1 steals per contest in just 23.1 minutes per game, shooting 45% from the floor.
Gladly, his per 36 numbers are quite encouraging, and playing time should just go up after the All-Star break with SacTown falling further in the standings.
Toronto Raptors: Not To Choke In The Postseason
The Toronto Raptors finally have the kind of personnel to make a huge run in the Easter Conference, featuring a lot of sharp shooting from CJ Miles off the bench while Serge Ibaka works down low as their rim protector in some small ball sets. Nonetheless, we all know how poorly the Raptors play when it matters the most after peaking during the regular season, especially their point guard Kyle Lowry.
Toronto have a lot in the tank to make a lot of noise in the playoffs, but they always find a way to shoot themselves in the foot and just flat out choke during the postseason.
Utah Jazz: Develop Donovan Mitchell
If it wasn’t for Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell would be the unanimous Rookie of the Year. The combo guard has been terrific, holding onto a starting job and making everybody forget about Alec Burks, Rodney Hood and even Dante Exum. For Christ’s sake, he’s even made Ricky Rubio expendable.
Postin’ averages of 18 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game in over 40% from the floor, Mitchell has taken the league for assault and provided a much needed sharpshooting for the struggling Utah Jazz. Barring injury, he’s going to be one of the league’s top scorers one day, and he can even lead this team to the postseason when Rudy Gobert’s back.
Washington Wizards: Win The Eastern Conference
The Washington Wizards have improved in both ends of the floor on a yearly basis and John Wall is playing like the best point guard in the Eastern Conference right now. After inking his name on a huge max Extension, Wall is keen to make his first trip to the NBA Finals, and the Wizards have proven to be the Boston Celtics kryptonite, and they’ve also played very well in their own court against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Of course, they need some depth off the bench to make a postseason run, but considering how much Kelly Oubre Jr and Otto Porter Jr have improved, Washington may actually have a shot in the East this season.