This article takes some of the struggling NBA teams and tells the top five in certain categories.
The teams competing for these positions will be the (in alphabetical order): the Bucks, Clippers, Grizzlies, Kings, Knicks, Nets, Raptors, Thunder, Timberwolves, and the Warriors.
This list does not include the following lottery teams: the Bobcats, Pacers, Suns, and Wizards, as they appear to be competing for playoff spots instead of rebuilding.
Top Five Developing Stars
5. Monta Ellis: The future team leader is showing that he can become the point guard of the future for the Warriors right, as they draft Stephen Curry. Now, as he makes the transition back to the 2 guard, he assumes the position of team leader for the Warriors.
4. Kevin Martin: Can the best player on a bad team be considered good? Well Kevin Martin has to be the closest thing to talent on the Kings, because the front office is failing.
Kevin will finally be blessed in the 2009-2010 season with another basketball player in Tyreke Evans—something the Kings have lacked for a while.
And while Kevin will continue to be among the league leaders in points, he will lead the team that may eventually grow around him.
3. Rudy Gay: The unappreciated Gay is considerably the best player on a team of players already rising to the top. But Gay, despite averaging 18.9 points per game last season, receives no admiration from fans who aren't in Memphis.
Gay will be atop the leader boards next season, and Gay will become a household name for families that follow the NBA.
2. Al Jefferson: Snubbed from the All-Star game? Some say yes, some say no. However, Jefferson and the Timberwolves had a season that didn't seem like anything to cheer about, but that isn't true.
The Wolves, lead by Jefferson, won all of their games in style—beating the Suns twice, and giving playoff teams like the Celtics and Spurs close matches.
The team is completely different now, but Al will continue to get to the basket at will, going around multiple defenders to get there—and he will be wearing the word West on the front of his jersey in Dallas next season.
1. Kevin Durant: Now I put him here to be unbiased against Jefferson, but it can go either way. Both Al and Durant are going to lead their new look teams to the playoffs for many years to come. Durant has many encouraging factors that put him above most players.
His height at 6'9'' makes him big for a wing player, and allows him to do things like block a David Lee layup (shown above).
As the Thunder accumulate more and more young talent, Durant will be the star of every game, putting up big numbers, and making Seattle wish they'd kept their Sonics in Washington.
Honorable Mentions: Blake Griffin, O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love, Anthony Morrow
Ineligible Players (already pretty developed): Chris Bosh, Devin Harris.
Top Five Trade Asset Teams
5. New York: New York has an odd situation in this category. They've got so many players they don't need, and so many players that aren't being utilized properly. But the problem is, they probably won't trade any of their players unless that player's contract doesn't expire in 2010. Does any team want Jared Jeffries?
4. Memphis: With four potential starting post players (Gasol, Haddadi, Randolph, and Thabeet), you have to imagine how many they really are going to keep.
3. Golden State: If they are surrounding their team with younger players, then Maggette and Stephen Jackson are going to give them some strong trades. Portland is a team with a lot of cap room, and a load of young talent, so they may look for some good veterans to push them through the playoffs.
2. Milwaukee: The team needs to go in a different direction than where it's currently going, which is backwards. Right now, they have a jumbled team going nowhere, and Michael Redd is a talent they don't need.
1. Los Angeles: It is hard to put it in words who is "good", but the players who have proven they can play on the Clippers include Marcus Camby, Baron Davis, Ricky Davis, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman, Al Thorton, Sebastian Telfair, and Craig Smith.
Now I'm not suggesting that all of those players are options to be traded, but most could be.
Honorable Mention: Minnesota (PGs Jonny Flynn & Ricky Rubio)
Top 5 Best 2010 Free Agent Suited Teams
Best way to do this is to just calculate the numbers, although this doesn't consider players need to be resigned.
5. Memphis - Right now the Grizzlies are $8,651,309 under the cap room limit, and they have $12,380,877 in contracts that expire next season. Add one to the other, and you are left with $21,032,186 to spend.
4. Sacramento - Right now the Kings are $6,482,126 under the cap room limit, and they have $15,764,416 in contracts that expire next season. Add one to the other, and you are left with $22,246,542 to spend.
3. Los Angeles - Right now the Clippers are $3,061,457 over the cap room limit, and they have $26,837,622 in contracts that expire next season. Subtract one from the other, and you are left with $23,776,165 to spend.
2. New York - Right now the Knicks are $37,988,646 over the cap room limit, and they have $63,058,686 in contracts that expire next season. Subtract one from the other, and you are left with $25,070,040 to spend.
1. New Jersey - Right now the Nets are $3,986,226 over the cap room limit, and they have $40,649,294 in contracts that expire next season—blah blah blah, and you are left with a whopping $36,663,068 to spend. Devin Harris and Terrence Williams are not among those who would be released from that total.
Other Teams (money to spend): Minnesota - $20,785,898 Toronto - $16,618,977 Milwaukee - $12,451,799 Golden State - $9,497,913 Oklahoma City - $3,344,138
Top 5 Teams with Most Young Stars
5. New Jersey - (Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Yi Jianlian, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams) The Nets have the makings of an excellent five-man roster. They could improve in age off of the bench, but this is a team that is close to playoff-ready. My complements to the GM.
4. Los Angeles - (Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Al Thorton, Chris Kaman) Granted, Chris Kaman isn't the youngest player around, but the other players aren't close to the top half of their 20s, and Blake is a future Hall of Famer—without having played an NBA minute yet.
3. Oklahoma City - (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Jeff Green) I choose to include not that many young stars because I think this team will run off of its big four, which these are. The reason they are below the Timberwolves is their lack of a legitimate future All-Star post player. Jeff Green is not a post player.
2. Minnesota - (Al Jefferson, Jonny Flynn, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Corey Brewer, Wayne Ellington) I choose to include a few more because this is the first team on the list that thrives off of young talent, which is important for a team that isn't looking towards the next season's playoffs. They've got years on this squad, and more years in the lottery. I like their odds.
1. Memphis - (Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo, Hasheem Thabeet, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley Jr, Hamed Haddadi, Darrell Arthur) I would never argue that the Memphis Grizzlies themselves are better than the Wolves or the Thunder, and certainly not the Clippers or the Nets.
I would never argue that with this season's team, but the Grizzlies have such a large amount of young, developing, potential players that you could swim around in them. If they package Zach Randolph and Marko Jaric in a deal to find even more young talent, it would be a masterpiece.
No Honorable Mentions. I draw the line at New Jersey.
Top Five Complete
What more could you ask for in developing teams?
Teams that haven't made the playoffs in a few years need a developing All-Star, a player or players they could deal away to find better options for the future, some cap room to sign free agents (especially in 2010), and a full team of young players that can back up their star and really do some damage for years to come.
I am personally a big fan of young teams that prepare for the future, and I think that the only ones out of the 14 non-playoff teams that need some work are Sacramento, Toronto, and Phoenix.
Most other teams look like they know where they're going, whether their playoff pushes will be next season and the seasons to come, or if they're just looking for one more piece to be ready to go.
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