Where does Atlanta rank among the best rebuilding situations in the NBA?
Since the Philadelphia 76ers began intentionally sitting healthy players and dumping as much veteran talent as possible in an effort to obtain a higher draft pick, “tanking” has become a popular venture for NBA franchises who are tired of being stuck in the middle and know they have to go down before they can go up.
Currently, there are quite a few teams who find themselves in the midst of a rebuild, one of them being our very own Atlanta Hawks. Let’s see where they rank among the NBA’s most favorable rebuilding situations.
*Note: This list does not rank the teams by how good they are now, but how positive their outlook is for the future.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers have predictably struggled to fill a LeBron James-sized void in the 2018-19 season, currently owning the NBA’s third-worst record at 16-49. Rookie point guard Collin Sexton has made noticeable strides throughout the season, and the team was smart in unloading some veteran contracts like Alec Burks and Rodney Hood at the trade deadline. If they end up with a top three pick in this year’s draft, they could rise higher up the list. For now, however, their lack of both young talent and free agent appeal gives them a less-than-ideal rebuilding situation.
9. Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis finally decided to break up the long-tenured duo of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol by trading the latter to the Toronto Raptors at the trade deadline. It was a necessary move for a team that has consistently been slightly above average up until the last two seasons. Now, Memphis will look to continue the development of their promising young power forward, Jaren Jackson, Jr., who has displayed everything you want in a modern big man in his rookie season.
8. Chicago Bulls
Zach Lavine is going to be a most improved player candidate this June, and Lauri Markkanen has also shown growth in his sophomore season. After a recent win against the Philadelphia 76ers, there is a lot to be excited about with this young core. However, the team still lacks a true cornerstone point guard, and likely won’t get one this June, as they are projected to target players like R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish.
7. Phoenix Suns
There is no reason for the Suns to be as bad as they currently are. They own the NBA’s second-worst record at 15-51 despite having legit young talent in players like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. The only reason the Suns aren’t lower is that their chances of landing Zion Williamson are very real, and if they do wind up with the much-hyped Duke forward, their rebuild will get a giant jolt in the right direction.
6. Orlando Magic
Orlando has quietly been one of the more surprising teams in the NBA this season, and they currently find themselves in playoff position entering the stretch run of the schedule. They’ve done it primarily behind a solid young core of players like Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba, as well as an all-star season from Nikola Vucevic. The Montenegrin big man will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, so Orlando might be forced to pay him the max or risk falling right back down to where they have been the last few years at the bottom of the standings. This is another team that lacks a point guard, but their incredible depth in the frontcourt keeps them above water.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers aren’t necessarily a franchise that comes to mind when one thinks of rebuilding teams, as they’re comfortably in western conference playoff position. However, with pieces like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Montrezl, Harrell, and Landry Shamet, they have a respectable young core to build around. The main reason they are this high up, however, is that they have room for two max contracts this offseason, and have reportedly garnered the interest of players like Anthony Davis (a free agent in 2020) and Kawhi Leonard (a free agent this offseason). From a basketball perspective, many might see the Clippers as a better option than the Lakers for free agents wanting to soak in the warm weather of L.A.
4. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks have one thing that many other rebuilding teams lack, and that’s an identity. They play with the fastest pace in the NBA and are in the top 10 in three point attempts, and have steadily risen up the ranks in terms of three point accuracy throughout the season. Rookie Trae Young and second-year forward John Collins are the faces of the rebuild in Atlanta, and both have opened eyes around the league with their chemistry on the court this season. If Atlanta were to add a third star (and possibly even fourth) in this year’s draft, they’ll certainly be a team that gets consideration from free agents in the coming years.
3. New York Knicks
Yes, they have the worst record in the NBA. Yes, they only have one legitimate young piece to build around in Dennis Smith, Jr. Yes, they might have just made one of the worst trades in NBA history when they dealt Kristaps Porzingis. But still, they’re the Knicks. Their spot this high in the rankings is largely resultant of the fact that virtually every free agent to-be has been rumored to have interest in playing in the Big Apple. Even if the Knicks whiff on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this offseason, they’ll still likely bring in at least a Jimmy Butler or a Kemba Walker. Oh, and not to mention the fact that they have the highest odds of any team to land the number one pick in the draft.
2. Brooklyn Nets
Right across the Brooklyn Bridge from the Knicks reside the Nets, who, behind a resurgent season from D’Angelo Russell and a boatload of other young talent, are currently in playoff position for the first time since Pero Antic was a Hawk. They’ll have a decision to make about Russell, who will hit restricted free agency this offseason, but even if they aren’t able to keep him around, they still have plenty of other young pieces around which to build. Along with the lure of New York City, the Nets also can offer two max contracts this offseason, making it one of the most favorable rebuilding situations in the league.
1. Dallas Mavericks
Calm down, Hawks fans. No, the Mavericks’ ranking at the top of this list does not mean that the Hawks necessarily lost the Trae Young deal. However, there is no longer any debate as to whether Luka Doncic has star potential in the NBA; many would argue that he should have been an all-star this season. Next season, they will add Latvian unicorn Kristaps Porzingis to the equation, and the tandem of these two Europeans will be one of the most fascinating things to watch league-wide. Dallas does not own its 2019 first-round pick (assuming it falls outside of the top 5) or its 2021 first-round pick, but if Porzingis plays anything like he did in New York, that won’t matter. Dallas is set to dominate for future years.
Jackson Stone – @tdjs_network