The NBA once again has free-agent fever, and with it comes the most widespread uncertainty the league has seen in years.
A plethora of teams, contenders and non-contenders alike haven’t the slightest clue what their rosters will look like at the start of next season. These teams are simply hoping that top free agents like Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Ray Allen and Roy Hibbert choose to sign their offers.
Teams like to have control, and relying on free agency for success is never a position teams like to be in.
However, there are a select group of teams whose futures look bright regardless of the free-agent fallout. These teams have drafted and traded well enough to secure promising talent and should be considered dangerous a few years from now and beyond.
Clippers Star Blake Griffin
The Clippers have a nice long-term trio with Griffin, shot-blocker DeAndre Jordan and high-potential guard Eric Bledsoe. However, Chris Paul and Lamar Odom will be unrestricted free agents after the 2012-13 season, Caron Butler is now 32 and injury prone, Mo Williams is now on the Jazz and Chauncey Billups could wind up basically anywhere as an unrestricted free agent.
The Clippers have a few solid pieces moving forward and Griffin is just about as good of a building block as there is in the league. However, the Clippers need to strategically fill out the rest of their roster if they plan to contend in the West down the road.
Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young Celebrate After a Win
Andre Iguodola is probably on the way out, but this in no way means the 76ers don’t have a bright future.
The team is loaded with young talent, highlighted by Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young. The frontcourt and low post, however, are undeniable problems.
Spencer Hawes is a restricted free agent and Elton Brand won’t be around too much longer, which leaves Nikola Vucevic and Arnette Moultrie as the team’s big men. Dominant centers like Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum will make these two look like schoolgirls.
The 76ers have a nice start in building their long-term roster, but need more pieces down low to be considered contenders.
Danilo Gallinari (left), Ty Lawson (center), and Kenneth Faried (right)
With young studs Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and a strong supporting cast, the Nuggets have a rare opportunity to win both now and years down the road.
The Nuggets nearly knocked out the Lakers in this year's playoffs and are one of the best home teams in all of basketball. However, given the strength of the Western Conference, the Nuggets need more help if they plan on making it past the first round.
JaVale McGee disappeared after he was traded to Denver and needs to establish himself as a top NBA center. This said, the Nuggets are very, very close to breaking through as a contender to win the West.
Warriors' First Round Draft Pick Harrison Barnes
Years from now, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes could turn out to be the best trio in basketball. Their collective potential is truly that high. Nothing is even close to certain, though, as the Warriors' fate is almost entirely dependent on Curry’s ankle.
Curry is one of the best players in the NBA when healthy, but he missed significant time this year due to lingering ankle injuries. But with a new San Francisco arena in the works, a devoted fanbase and huge young potential, things seem to be falling into place for the Warriors.
If they can secure a reliable center to complement their young studs, look out.
Kings Center DeMarcus Cousins
Break out the cowbells, because the Kings are on their way back to prominence.
The Kings basically won the lottery when Thomas Robinson dropped to fifth overall. Many were expecting the power forward to be picked as high as second. Now, the Kings have one of the most exciting and talented frontcourts in recent memory, with Robinson playing next to 21-year-old stud center DeMarcus Cousins.
The combination could be genuinely terrifying.
Outside of sharpshooter Marcus Thornton, the Kings are very, very raw. Tyreke Evans is a good player but has yet to truly break through, Isiah Thomas is only entering his second season and Jimmer Fredette played very little in his rookie year.
It will be a few years until they can contend, but make no mistake about it, the Kings will be back, and Arco Arena will one day be as manic as ever.
All-Star Forward Kevin Love Rocking the Beard
It’s only a matter of time before playoff basketball is back in Minnesota.
Everyone knows how good Kevin Love is. He is quickly developing into a Hall of Fame-caliber big man and one of the most dynamic players in the league.
However, it is the rest of the roster that makes the T-Wolves so intriguing. Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams have All-Star potential, while 26-year-old center Nikola Pekovic was good every time he started, even dominant on some occasions.
With guys like Wesley Johnson, J.J. Barea, Luke Ridnour and a very underrated Chase Budinger, the T-Wolves could make the playoffs very, very soon.
The Timberwolves ooze potential, but this potential could ultimately be their downfall. Rubio and Williams need to develop into very good NBA players for the T-Wolves to have a shot in the loaded Western Conference.
John Wall Elevates in the Rising Stars Challenge
Don’t be the least bit surprised if, in a few years, John Wall and Bradley Beal of the Wizards make up the best backcourt in the NBA.
Wall may be the best point guard in the league very soon, and recently drafted three-point shooter Beal complements Wall's game brilliantly.
If the Wizards can keep solid on-ball defenders like Trevor Ariza, secure a big man like Nene long-term and develop a mature, winning attitude, D.C. is going to have a winner on its hands.
First Round Picks Austin Rivers (left) and Anthony Davis (right)
Now is probably the most exciting time in franchise history for the Hornets. The team came out of the draft as huge winners, drafting two players who both have superstar potential.
The past decade has shown that it takes more than one star player to win a championship, so the Hornets are in a perfect position to win several years from now.
It’ll take some time to complete a winning roster, but expect Davis and Rivers to be household names in the future and for a winning tradition to begin in New Orleans.
LeBron James with the Larry O'Brien Trophy
The Heat have their Big Three locked up through at least the 2015-16 season, which should make them favorites to win the East at least for the next few years.
The Heat front office will also be able to capitalize on “ring fever.” Free agency has evolved in a way that allows ringless veterans to sign short-term deals with championship contenders.
After winning the 2012 NBA championship, Miami should be the league’s most coveted destination for players infected with ring fever like Ray Allen and Steve Nash.
Even though Dwyane Wade is now 30, consider it a shocker if the Heat don’t sit atop the Eastern Conference through at least 2016.
The Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder
This is an easy choice.
Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant are all 23 or younger and are quickly becoming three of the league’s best scorers and biggest stars. Their combination of youth and skill should horrify the rest of the league for many years to come, and most expect Durant to win multiple MVP awards.
The Thunder also boast a 22-year-old defensive beast in Serge Ibaka, an immensely talented 2012 draft pick in Perry Jones III and a thunderous arena (no pun intended).
OKC should now be considered the favorite to win the Western Conference year in and year out. If the Thunder can lock up their talent long-term and sign a good low post player, they could be the NBA’s next dynasty.