Which Lottery-Bound NBA Teams Have Best Shot at Making Playoffs Next Season?
This year’s championship odds come courtesy of TopBet and are accurate as of March 11. They’re presented to give you an idea of how far away each team is from genuine title contention right now, and thus how much ground they need to make up before next season.
Please note we’re only looking at teams that most definitely won’t be headed to the playoffs this season, which eliminates fringe squads, such as the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, who are still vying for postseason eligibility. And finally, our selections will be presented in order of increasing likelihood that said team rejoins the playoff carousel. Rankings will take into account everything from current cap situations, to likely offseason moves and current talent.
5. Memphis Grizzlies (Off)
As owners of the worst record in the NBA, the Memphis Grizzlies aren’t your typical pick for this type of discussion. Teams usually languish near the bottom of the NBA for a few years before enjoying a resurgence if they’re not married to the free-agent grind, and the Grizzlies have only recently fallen in the doldrums.
But their situation is tied more to the health of incumbent players than being naturally bad. Star point guard Mike Conley has missed most of this season while dealing with Achilles issues, and Chandler Parsons, their big free-agency signing from 2016, once again finds himself on the shelf. Various other injuries to Tyreke Evans, Wayne Selden, JaMychal Green and a few others haven’t done them any favors either.
Next season for the Grizzlies carries some level of promise for this exact reason. They’ll get to add a top-five pick to a core that will still include Conley and Marc Gasol if they don’t blow it up. They’ve also unearthed a couple of cheapo gems in Kobi Simmons and Dillon Brooks.
At the same time, we can’t put them much higher than this. Evans has been their best player this season, and he’s slated for free agency. The Grizzlies might not have the money to keep him. There’s always the possibility they give into the temptation to rebuild as well. And even if they don’t, the Western Conference is brutal enough that a healthy Conley and Gasol might no longer put them in the postseason fray.
Monitor their offseason progress for clues about their future. But overall, if they get healthy without taking a stick of dynamite to the nucleus, they should find themselves back in playoff contention.
4. Charlotte Hornets (+50000)
The Charlotte Hornets arguably pose more of a risk in this debate than the Grizzlies. They’ve dealt with injuries, but not one to a patented star like Conley. That they have fallen outside the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture and don’t have a ton of cap space this summer doesn’t bode well for their future.
Charlotte is more likely to shake up its foundation for this exact reason. The team resisted trading All-Star Kemba Walker at the February deadline, but it may not be able to float false hope much longer. He’s a free agent in 2019, and it’ll take a boatload of money to keep him, further hamstringing the financial ledger. Worse, if he’s turned off by the treadmill of sub-mediocrity the franchise has kept itself on, Walker could leave for nothing.
Toss in the fact that the Hornets are prepared to change up the front office, and you have a recipe for turnover. Newly installed general managers usually like to hire their own coach and rebuild the roster their own way. The Hornets are technically showing all the signs of a team gearing up for a reset.
And yet, we know better.
Owner Michael Jordan has traveled great lengths to keep the Hornets within relative proximity of the postseason. That might not change now, especially when he knows Walker, as a an expiring contract, won’t command much on the trade market. He seems more inclined to believe minor changes on the margins will spearhead a return to the playoffs.
Though this is a shortsighted approach, it’s not an unwarranted one. The Hornets have the point differential per 100 possessions of a playoff team with Walker on the floor. That’s something off which they can try building leading into 2018-19.
3. Dallas Mavericks (Off)
Consider this a compromise.
On the one side of the fence, the Dallas Mavericks have a lot more going for them than many other teams on this list. They’re slated to have tons of cap space during a free-agency period in which most squads won’t have any. Dirk Nowitzki is still balling at age 40. Good health bills from Dorian Finney-Smith and Seth Curry organically beef up their rotation looking ahead to next year. Many project rookie Dennis Smith Jr. to make a leap in the coming years.
Mash all that together, then add superior coaching (Rick Carlisle is a genius) and a notoriously aggresive owner, and the Mavericks are primetime candidates for an insta-turnaround.
Then again, the play in the Western Conference, where 10 of the 15 teams are currently jockeying for postseason seeding. The Mavericks, of course, aren’t one of them. They’ll not only need to get better to re-enter the fold, but they’ll need a few teams to fall off.
Finding teams on the decline in the West is hard. Maybe the Clippers steer into a rebuild, but that’s the extent of surrounding uncertainty. All nine of the West’s other playoff hopefuls figure to remain relevant heading into next year. And that doesn’t even account for up-and-comers who, like the Mavericks, will ultimately miss the playoffs.
All in all, Dallas’ path back to the postseason is steep. It’s also highly feasible. And so, we have this hedge.
2. Detroit Pistons (+20000)
You admittedly shouldn’t feel great about the Detroit Pistons’ placement here. But we have no choice. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond are both stars, and the Eastern Conference remains a wide-open fiesta.
Besides which, while the Pistons have tumbled down the league’s pecking order and don’t have money to burn this summer, they’re not without hope. Their fortunes could change a great deal just by having Drummond and Griffin go through a training camp together.
The same goes for Reggie Jackson. He hasn’t played since December while dealing with a right ankle injury, and few expect him to return this season now that Detroit’s postseason chances have officially imploded. Having him healthy will help alleviate the shot-creation burden placed upon Griffin.
Indeed, the Pistons’ spacing will remain a wild card. Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard are their best shooters, with Jackson and Griffin, among a couple others, serving as seesawy three-point options. Nonetheless, Detroit has some marquee talent at its disposal. And talent tends to figure things out. The Pistons will never be spectacular with this core, but a good run of health and an offseason of chemistry-building should vault them back into a playoff conversation they spent a majority of this year in anyway.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (+200000)
Putting a Western Conference team in the No. 1 slot is slightly ambitious. We outlined how brutal the hierarchy is with the Mavericks. The same all holds true when looking at the Los Angeles Lakers. But we have to take The Purple and Gold seriously.
Cap space is part of this designation. The Lakers have a clear path to two max slots, arming them with the capacity to sign both LeBron James and Paul George if the opportunity to presents itself. They could also add only one superstar. Either way, they have the means to add impact talent—particularly when most other teams won’t have much spending power over the offseason.
The Lakers’ young core is a part of this, though. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Julius Randle (restricted free agent this summer) have shown enough brilliant flashes to brighten this team’s outlook. And that’s while they’ve combat injuries.
Since Jan. 1, in fact, the Lakers are 19-12, winning at a 50-win pace. Their defense has been better than expected, and their offense continues to come together as the youngsters get more comfortable creating in the half-court.
Add a little spacing to the mix, and presto! You’ve got a bona fide fringe-playoff threat, regardless of whether the Lakers add a superstar or two in free agency.
Category : Sports Betting NewsMore articles...