Only 16 teams can make the Playoffs. For these franchises, their summer holidays started much earlier than everyone else. In this article, we’ll take you through the biggest offseason priorities for every Non-Playoff team. The teams have separated into the following categories based on where they finished: “Just missed the cut”, “Middle of the pack” and, “Bottom feeders”.
Just Missed The Cut
Miami Heat, 9th in Eastern Conference: Upgrade at the Power Forward Position
Miami could really use an upgrade at the Power Forward Position. This past season, the Heat had Five different Power Forwards on the roster. Unfortunately for the Heat, Chris Bosh missed the entire 2016-17 season and, has since been released by the team. This summer, Miami should make a strong push to upgrade their weakest position.
There is no shortage of free agent Power Forwards in this year's class however, the Heat may be better off making their upgrade through the upcoming NBA Draft rather than, taking a big money gamble on either Blake Griffin or, Paul Millsap. Josh McRoberts on the other hand, has had a rough tenure thus far in Miami and, with a guaranteed salary, it may be hard for the Heat to go all in on finding a better Power Forward.
Denver Nuggets, 9th in Western Conference: Where does Emmanuel Mudiay fit into the plans?
After an impressive Rookie campaign, Emmanuel Mudiay fell into a bit of a Sophomore slump. Appearing in only 55 games, Mudiay often fell out of favor running the point for veteran Jameer Nelson and, Rookie Jamal Murray. There is no doubt that the ultimate goal for the Denver Nuggets moving forward is to make the Playoffs but, where does Emmanuel Mudiay fit into those plans? The Nuggets have a few options. Giving Mudiay another chance would be the easiest option.
Often at times, players will have a bounce back year and, Mudiay definitely has the skill and, potential to do so. On the other hand, the Nuggets could look to move the former Seventh Overall pick, there is likely interest around the league. In all likelihood, the Nuggets will hang on to Mudiay for the time being. Unless of course, they receive an offer they cannot refuse.
Middle of the pack
New Orleans Pelicans, 10th in Western Conference: Re-sign Jrue Holiday
Jrue Holiday is going to garner a lot of interest from opposing teams this offseason. Holiday finished Eighth in the league in assists per game last season and, averaged 15.3 points per game. On a Pelicans team which, boasts DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis as their primary scoring options, Holiday is the ultimate compliment to both of their skill sets. Next season could very well be Playoffs or bust for the Pelicans and, re-signing Jrue Holiday would allow New Orleans to keep its core together. This past season, the winds of change and, the injury bug hit the Pelicans.
If Holiday re-signs, this would also allow him to create better chemistry with Cousins and Davis. At age 28, Holiday is still at the point of his career where he can be a big minute, impact starter and, if he can stay healthy, we could see a powerful trio in New Orleans. Without a First Round Draft pick, re-signing Holiday is crucial for the Pelicans moving forward.
Detroit Pistons, 10th in Eastern Conference: What direction is this team going in?
After making the Playoffs just a year ago, the Pistons looked like a completely different team this season. Reggie Jackson struggled to bounce back from injuries, Stanley Johnson failed to make the jump to the next level and, Andre Drummond was quite inconsistent. Pistons management have a lot of decisions to make this summer. Stan Van Gundy still believes in Reggie Jackson but, could it be time to blow everything up and start again? In all likelihood, expect the Pistons to keep their core together for one more season.
If, everyone can stay healthy Detroit could be a strong Eastern Conference team. Expect Detroit to make moves to bolster their depth, especially at the Point Guard Position. The Pistons are in an interesting predicament. They have all the talent to succeed it’s just a matter of the talent meeting expectations.
Charlotte Hornets, 11th in Eastern Conference: Increase Depth
The Charlotte Hornets are another Eastern Conference team that went from Postseason contenders to completely missing the Playoffs. This offseason, the Hornets should make some moves to increase their depth. This past season, Charlotte had Four Point Guards on the roster. Kemba Walker is likely untouchable while Two of which were over 30(Sessions and Roberts) and the other, was Rookie Briante Weber. Finding an established Point Guard to play behind Walker is crucial for the Hornets. Another area that needs improvement is the Small Forward position. At 23 years of age, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could be in for a breakout season next year however, he needs help behind him. Treveon Graham averaged just 7 minutes per game this past season.
This summer’s free-agent Small Forward class is very deep which, is great for the Hornets. Adding a Three-point specialist like Bojan Bogdanovic could help Charlotte space the floor and increase their Three-point percentage or, adding a versatile, three-and-d player such as PJ Tucker could also help them become a better defensive team. Maybe, the Hornets will take another run at signing All-Star Gordon Hayward, it almost happened back in 2014.
Dallas Mavericks, 11th in Western Conference: Re-sign Nerlens Noel
It was a lackluster season for the Dallas Mavericks. After being acquired at the trade deadline, Nerlens Noel was impressive in 22 games with the Mavs. Now comes the harder part, getting him a new contract. Mavericks Head Coach, Rick Carlisle has already stated that re-signing Nerlens Noel this offseason is a top priority. He may not give Dallas the biggest boost on the offensive end however, Noel is easily Dallas’ best defender and rebounder. Noel is also 23 which, means there is time to expand his skill set.
Re-signing Nerlens Noel will continue to allow the Dallas Mavericks to brace for life after Dirk Nowitzki. Expect the Mavericks to push hard to get this deal done as early as possible.
Brooklyn Nets, 15th in Eastern Conference: Trade Brook Lopez
Let’s start this section at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The Brooklyn Nets are not going anywhere anytime soon. Without a first round pick until 2019, Brooklyn is in a very tough spot. Brook Lopez on the other hand, is not getting any younger. At 29 years of age, Lopez is still at the point of his career where he is a 20 point per game scorer however, that may not last long. In order to further their rebuild, Brooklyn should trade its franchise Center in order to acquire some future assets and, hopefully a first round pick. If and, when Lopez is traded, it will signal a necessary end to a long chapter in the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets history.
As previously noted, the Nets are not going to make the Playoffs anytime soon. Trading Brook Lopez rather than, spending big money to rebuild around him is the smarter move. Looking for more on the Brooklyn Nets rebuild? Check out this article.
New York Knicks, 12th in Eastern Conference: Trade Carmelo Anthony
Why leave New York now? While many thought New York would be a Playoff team this season, that was not true. Instead, the Knicks spent the 2016-17 season in the spotlight because of rumors surrounding Carmelo Anthony. It is clear that the relationship between Anthony and Knicks management is strained and, a change of scenery for Carmelo, might be the best option. For Knicks fans, this may not be the desired result however, trading Carmelo Anthony could net the Knicks a big return. Over the past few seasons, the result has been the same, no Postseason appearance for the Knicks.
Trading Anthony will allow the team to shed a big money contract, get a likely large return and, build around the new face of the franchise, Kristaps Porzingis. Hopefully, the Knicks try and part ways with Joakim Noah as well while they are at it.
Minnesota Timberwolves, 13th in Western Conference: Decide what to do with Ricky Rubio
The Minnesota Timberwolves are going to be a scary good team in a not so distant future. For now however, the team must decide what to do with Point Guard Ricky Rubio. This past season, it seemed as though Rubio was as good as gone but, not trading him proved to be a great decision. Rubio had an extremely impressive March and April which, may have just been enough to keep him in Minnesota’s plans. Kris Dunn may not be ready just yet to take the reigns as the Timberwolves starting Point Guard and, that is okay. Rubio is under contract until 2018-2019 which means that keeping him for the time being may be well worth the risk.
Having a Point Guard on your roster who can score in double-figures and add double-digit assists on a consistent basis is huge. If the Timberwolves decide to trade him, Rubio should net them a solid return.
Orlando Magic, 13th in Eastern Conference: Decide what to do with Mario Hezonja
Former Fifth overall pick Mario Hezonja had a rough season. At times, Orlando had a hard time figuring out what to do with the high potential 22-year-old. There were rumors that the Magic wanted to send him down to the D-League and then, he fell completely out of the rotation. Although Hezonja is still a work in progress, he possesses too much talent to barely play at all. The Magic could keep him or, trade him. Hezonja has shown flashes of star potential but, without game action it is hard to stay fresh and, consistent.
For Orlando, they surely want to find a way to keep Hezonja in the mix. However, if they do decide to trade him, there will surely be many takers but, do not bet on the asking price being cheap.
Los Angeles Lakers, 14th in Western Conference: Figure out what to do if they draft Lonzo Ball Second overall.
The Los Angeles Lakers were perhaps the luckiest team at the NBA Draft Lottery. Needing their pick to land in the top Three, Los Angeles got even luckier when they landed the Second overall pick. This, of course, sent everyone into a frenzy. The Lakers have been heavily linked to hometown product Lonzo Ball and, if they draft him, figuring out how to work him into their game plan will be a tough task. This past season, D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson split time running the point. It seems unlikely that the Lakers will trade Russell in the event that they Draft Ball.
The most likely scenario is that Lonzo Ball will run the point while Russell stays at SG and, Jordan Clarkson comes off the bench as the team's Sixth Man. The Lakers may also part ways with Nick “Swaggy P” Young this summer too. David Nwaba impressed late in the season and, do not forget, Magic Johnson labeled Brandon Ingram as the only “untouchable” on the roster. Regardless of who the Lakers select, they will have some important decisions to make this summer regarding their rotation.
Phoenix Suns, 15h in Western Conference: Find an upgrade at the Small Forward position
Devin Booker’s breakout campaign and, 70 point scoring outburst should have Suns executives and fans very excited. Phoenix has an abundance of very good Point Guards and, Shooting Guards. The next logical move, would be to upgrade at the Small Forward Position. TJ Warren had a very successful season however, Derrick Jones Jr could use some work. With the Fourth overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, the Suns are likely to select a Small Forward. Big 12 Freshman Of The Year, Josh Jackson could give the Suns the defensive boost they desperately need. However, adding another shooter to compliment Devin Booker may also not be a bad option.
Phoenix also has a loaded free-agent class of Small Forwards to go through during the offseason. On paper, the Phoenix Suns have the talent to be a competitive team in the Western Conference. If the Suns can manage to stay healthy, this team could be one to keep your eye on.
Philadelphia 76ers, 14th in Eastern Conference: Continue to Trust the Process
Say whatever you want but, this is serious. The Philadelphia 76ers are in line for a big offseason. With the Third overall pick in hand, Philadelphia will have the opportunity to select another top level talent to further it rebuilds at the upcoming NBA Draft. Also, the team has been linked to hometown free-agent such as, Dion Waiters and, All-Star Kyle Lowry. 2016 First Overall pick Ben Simmons is also set to make his NBA debut this fall and, could be a star.
Lastly, Joel Embiid exceeded all expectations in his debut season and, along with Dario Saric, was nominated for Rookie Of The Year honors. Big things coming in the city of brotherly love and, for the 76ers continuing to trust the process could help bring them back to the Postseason sooner than we thought.