Committing to a rebuilding process is never easy, but sometimes it's clearly the best road for a team to travel.
There are a handful of teams going down that road this season, and while the results on the court this year for those teams might be ugly, there are still plenty of reasons for optimism.
With other teams focused solely on winning, these rebuilding teams can go into full-blown asset acquisition mode. Whether that means dealing a good player for future considerations or taking risks with unproven guys, rebuilding teams aren't bound by the same restrictions as contending teams are. Different doors open up.
Every rebuilding process is different, and these teams are each at different stages. Still, you can get an idea of how successful the process will be based on the current assets available to use.
All future draft pick information is courtesy of RealGM.com.
Biggest Trade Asset: Thaddeus Young
Future First-Round Picks: Owed 2014 pick from New Orleans Pelicans. That pick is top-five protected through 2020.
Projected 2014-15 Cap Space: Without Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen's qualifying offer, roughly $34 million.
Why did the Philadelphia 76ers decide to bottom out? New general manager Sam Hinkie probably wants to put as much of an imprint on the roster going forward as possible, but it also made sense from an asset retention standpoint, despite the fact the 76ers traded away their best player in Jrue Holiday.
The 76ers likely saved a first-round pick by starting the rebuild now. Philly owes the Miami Heat their own pick this year, but it's lottery-protected both this season and next season. In 2016, however, the pick becomes a second-rounder if it's not conveyed. What that means is that Philly can keep a first-round pick as long as they don't make the playoffs the next two seasons.
Of course, collecting an additional unprotected 2014 pick in a stacked draft from a borderline playoff team was huge as well. Building around highly touted prospects Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel isn't a bad idea, either.
As we saw this offseason, the 76ers look like they will go with the lowest allowed amount of salary going forward. That doesn't bode terribly well for Evan Turner's long-term chances or maybe not even in the short term, as his qualifying offer to be retained in free agency is $8.7 million.
Alongside Turner, Thaddeus Young is the only real trade asset in terms of personnel that Philadelphia has. Young isn't good enough to put the 76ers out of contention for the Andrew Wiggins tank-a-thon, but he's good enough to bring back a decent asset in a trade.
It's going to be a long season in Philadelphia, but at least this has been a clean demolition. Philly can build on this.
Biggest Trade Asset: Rajon Rondo
Future First-Round Picks: Owed 2014*, 2016 and 2018 picks from Brooklyn Nets. Owed 2015 pick from Los Angeles Clippers. Right to swap picks in 2017 with Brooklyn.
*Brooklyn will convey the less favorable of its own 2014 first-round pick and Atlanta's 2014 first-round pick to Boston (via Atlanta's right to swap for Brooklyn).
Projected 2014-15 Cap Space: With qualifying offer to Avery Bradley, roughly $6 million.
It's hard to imagine the Boston Celtics could do better than getting four unprotected first-round picks in exchange for a coach who didn't want to be there and two players near retirement.
While the Brooklyn Nets should be very good in the short term as long as Mikhail Prokhorov keeps cutting checks, eventually the wheels could fall off. It's probably not likely, but either way, first-round picks of any kind are as valuable as they have ever been due to a much more punitive tax in the new CBA. The playing field is more even, and good players on rookie scale contracts are by far the best deal in the league.
Boston's rebuild is a little different in that the team is still hampered by having guys like Gerald Wallace and Courtney Lee on the books long-term. There's still plenty of work to do in that regard, but the Celtics also have an advantage no other rebuilding team has, and that's having a young star to dangle as trade bait.
Any team that wants Rajon Rondo better be armed with draft picks and the means to take on some of Boston's more damaging deals. The concern is that the Celtics might be a little too good with a healthy Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green to earn great draft picks, but it might be some time before Rondo is back on the floor.
It's an interesting dilemma for Celtics general manager Danny Ainge. This could be a long rebuild or a shorter one, and a lot of that will be decided by Rondo's fate.
Biggest Trade Asset: Arron Afflalo
Future First-Round Picks: Denver Nuggets owe the less favorable of its 2014 pick and New York's 2014 first-round pick to Orlando Magic. Owed Philadelphia 76ers' 2016 pick (with stipulations listed here).
Projected 2014-15 Cap Space: After paying Jameer Nelson's buyout ($4 million) and letting go of Jason Maxiell, roughly $27 million.
A little further along in their rebuilding process than most of the other bad teams in the league, the Orlando Magic have nonetheless stayed true to the plan of freeing up massive amounts of cap space for the 2014 and 2015 offseasons.
With a promising frontcourt duo of Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris along with the addition of Victor Oladipo in this year's draft, Orlando has some exciting young talent to build around. It's equally important that Orlando also has no damaging long-term contracts, a few movable pieces in Arron Afflalo and Glen Davis that could bring back assets and the future cap space to offer multiple max contracts.
Don't rule out Orlando as a premium free-agent destination. Warm weather and no state income tax will always be appealing for free agents, and Oladipo and Vucevic have the look of high-quality complementary players who don't require touches.
This may looks like a slow build because former Oklahoma City Thunder front office member Rob Hennigan is in charge, but the Magic can differ from the acclaimed "Thunder Model" and become contenders instantly if the right opportunity arises in free agency.
Biggest Trade Asset: Ben Gordon
Future First-Round Picks: Owed 2014 pick from Portland Trail Blazers. That pick is No. 1-12 protected in 2014 and 2015, or unprotected in 2016. Owed 2014 pick from Detroit Pistons. That pick is No. 1-8 protected in 2014, No. 1 protected in 2015, or unprotected in 2016.
Projected 2014-15 Cap Space: Roughly $19 million.
Although they've certainly been the bad luck Bobcats in the draft lottery, Charlotte is in fantastic shape going forward.
It starts with the draft picks. Considering the improvements both the Portland Trail Blazers and Detroit Pistons made this season, it's very well possible that the Bobcats end up with three top-15 picks in one of the highest regarded draft classes in a long time.
While the Bobcats do owe their 2014 pick to the Chicago Bulls this year (thanks a lot, Tyrus Thomas), the pick is top-12 protected, so it should rollover to the following season unless the Bobcats really surpass expectations.
In addition to the potential draft goodies on the way, the Bobcats still have the cap space for a max contract next offseason, even after signing Al Jefferson this year. While it's unlikely any "true" max player would come to Charlotte, that doesn't mean betting on the potential of possible restricted free agents like Greg Monroe, Eric Bledsoe or Gordon Hayward isn't a good idea.
Point being, the Bobcats probably need to get a star at some point in order to contend, and Big Al isn't that guy. Although that signing is still pretty confusing, there will still be opportunities for the Bobcats to hit it big with a draft pick while maintaining the hope that Kemba Walker blows up or that Cody Zeller is for real.
As is, the ceiling is capped, but the floor is relatively high. A few things will have to finally break the right way to change that.
Biggest Trade Asset: Expiring contracts (Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams)
Future First-Round Picks: Owed 2014 and 2017 pick from Golden State.
Projected 2014-15 Cap Space: Including qualifying offers for Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward, roughly $35 million.
By letting Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap leave for free agency, the Utah Jazz started their rebuilding process organically.
In a creative move that showed the team's direction, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey took the cap space created by those departures and turned it into two future first-round picks instead of buying big on a lower-tier free agent who would only make the team more mediocre.
Yes, the young guns in Utah will now finally get the chance to grow and develop through extended playing time. There are big decisions coming up on Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, but Utah has a starting lineup all under the age of 23, no damaging salaries that aren't expiring and no draft picks owed to any team. This is a clean slate.
There are options here, too. Utah could turn the expiring contracts of Biedrins, Jefferson and/or Williams into a piece if the rebuilding process needs to be accelerated. It seems more likely that the ensuing cap space from those expiring deals will be used to retain Favors and Hayward and eventually lead to a move in free agency somewhere down the line.
It's important to remember that Utah could very easily end up with a top-five pick in this draft as well, considering the youth of this year's roster. Patience and asset acquirement are the hallmarks of most successful rebuilding projects, and Utah is demonstrating the ability to do both.
Biggest Trade Asset: Marcin Gortat
Future First-Round Picks: Owed Minnesota Timberwolves' 2014 pick. That pick is protected No. 1-13 in 2014, No. 1-12 in 2015 and 2016. Owed Indiana Pacers' 2014 pick. That pick is protected No. 1-14 in 2014 through 2019. Owed Los Angeles Lakers' 2015 pick. That pick is protected No. 1-15 in 2015, No. 1-3 in 2016 and 2017.
Projected 2014-15 Cap Space: With Eric Bledsoe's qualifying offer, roughly $26 million.
Phoenix Suns fans, meet your franchise architect.
New general manager Ryan McDonough has already made some great moves in a short time on the job. Acquiring a player with the potential Eric Bledsoe has and only having to sacrifice Jared Dudley to do it was nothing short of a steal. Letting go of Michael Beasley was a headache reliever for Jeff Hornacek and his staff, too.
We'll see if McDonough can turn Marcin Gortat or Channing Frye into something valuable, but the Dudley trade is certainly a good sign in that regard. There are still decisions to be made on Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, but the Suns have managed to surround their young backcourt with intriguing prospects at nearly every position.
Perhaps most importantly, this is a team with high-potential players that was built on the cheap. Phoenix has an obscene amount of cap space to play with over the next few seasons, though it doesn't seem like there will be a rush to use it.
It's always exciting when a team and regime have the chance to grow together, and that is what's happening in Phoenix now. The ceiling for the organization as a whole is very, very high.