B/R NBA Future Rankings: Projecting Every Team's Next 3 Years

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured Columnist IVAugust 30, 2022

B/R NBA Future Rankings: Projecting Every Team's Next 3 Years

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    Nikola Jokić and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

    No one can predict the future, at least not with certainty. But with the NBA, that doesn't prevent us from trying.

    In this week's edition of the power rankings, we're going to sort teams by a combination of subjective factors, most of which will have an eye toward the future.

    Who will have the most regular and postseason success over the next three years? Who has the best young cores? Who'll be at the top of the league at the end of the three years in question? Whose recent performance suggests future success? Which stars will find themselves on different teams at some point in the next three years?

    Answers to those questions and more inform the order below.

30. San Antonio Spurs

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    The San Antonio Spurs entered the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes in earnest this summer, trading Dejounte Murray for Danilo Gallinari (who was later bought out) and multiple future first-round draft picks.

    And though there are a few promising young players left over (like Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell), there doesn't appear to be a clear path toward winning for the foreseeable future.

    Even if they do indeed land Wembanyama, he's probably a few years away from star-level contributions.

    With Johnson and Vassell both 22 years old, San Antonio probably can't even think about being competitive till the third year of this three-year exercise.

29. Indiana Pacers

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    The Indiana Pacers already traded one of their win-now veterans (Domantas Sabonis) for a promising guard in Tyrese Haliburton last season.

    Earlier this summer, The Athletic's Bob Kravitz wrote, "everybody on the planet, not to mention some distant constellations, knows the Pacers are looking to trade Myles Turner and Buddy Hield."

    Assuming those two go for a rebuilding-friendly package like Russell Westbrook and picks, it's safe to assume the Pacers will be one of the league's worst teams for the next few years.

    As good as Haliburton is (his 17.5 points and 9.6 assists for Indiana last season suggest he's already a borderline All-Star talent), the rest of the prospect cupboard is relatively bare.

28. Houston Rockets

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    The Houston Rockets don't have to rely as heavily on the Wembanyama hypothetical as San Antonio or Indiana. The prospects already on the roster constitute one of the league's more promising young cores.

    Over his last 25 games as a rookie, 20-year-old Jalen Green averaged 22.0 points, 3.2 threes and 3.1 assists, while shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from three. Kevin Porter Jr., who's only two years older than Green, averaged 15.6 points, 6.2 assists and 2.5 threes in his third season. And 20-year-old Alperen Şengün posted a 19.1 assist percentage and a 14.5 rebounding percentage. Bill Walton and Alvan Adams are the only rookies in NBA history to match or exceed both marks.

    Add Jabari Smith Jr., who garnered top pick buzz in this summer's draft, and it's easy to get excited about this group.

    However, like the Spurs and Pacers, it feels like Houston is at least two or three years away from being competitive. If we were dealing with a five-year window, it wouldn't be hard to push the Rockets higher.

27. Charlotte Hornets

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    Assuming they're done, the 2022 offseason couldn't have gone much worse for the Charlotte Hornets.

    And after LaMelo Ball, their trove of young talent is probably even lighter than those of the Spurs and Pacers (and certainly the Rockets).

    They do have LaMelo Ball, though. And while the three teams behind the Hornets have a handful of players that could become All-Stars, Ball already is one.

    And he just turned 21 years old. He's going to get better.

    Ball has the size of a wing (6'7") and the vision and passing ability of the league's best guards. And the one weakness he was supposed to have when coming into the NBA already looks like a strength.

    Kyrie Irving and Anfernee Simons are the only players in the league who exceeded both of LaMelo's marks for three-point percentage (38.9) and three-point attempts per game (7.5) last season.

    As long as Ball is in place, there will at least be a glimmer of hope for the Hornets.

26. Utah Jazz

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    We kind of have sit on a fence with this one.

    Donovan Mitchell hasn't been traded yet, but ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Tim MacMahon opined that the Utah Jazz want to get a deal done before training camp.

    If we knew with certainty that that would happen, the Jazz would be lower here, even with a significant stockpile of picks from the Mitchell and Rudy Gobert trades.

    On the off chance Mitchell, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic and the other vets remain on the roster, this team might actually compete for a play-in spot.

    But even in that case, the countdown appears to be on for the Mitchell era in Utah. If he isn't moved this offseason, the rumors will persist up until the trade deadline and probably throughout the rest of his current contract.

25. Detroit Pistons

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    The Detroit Pistons have a solid group of promising young players that includes Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Saddiq Bey, Jalen Duren, Marvin Bagley III, Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes (no, I haven't given up on Hayes yet).

    Cade, of course, is the headliner, but there are varying degrees of intrigue with all of the above.

    What gives Detroit the boost to No. 25 here is the combination of those prospects with a handful of win-now veterans that will add regular-season wins in at least 2022-23.

    Nerlens Noel, Kelly Olynyk and Alec Burks are 69th, 94th and 110th, respectively, in box plus/minus over the last three years.

    That's three starting-caliber role players. If Cunningham and one or two of the younger core make a leap at some point in the next three years, Detroit is going to be competitive.

24. Orlando Magic

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    The Orlando Magic were plus-4.0 points per 100 possessions when Wendell Carter Jr., Franz Wagner and Gary Harris were all on the floor last season.

    And in 2022-23, they'll presumably add fully healthy versions of Markelle Fultz (who only managed 18 appearances in 2021-22), Jonathan Isaac (who looked like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate when he last played) and No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero.

    With Wagner, Banchero, Isaac and Chuma Okeke, Orlando has an intriguing group of potentially positionless forwards. Bump Isaac up to the 5 with Carter and Mo Bamba, and there's a fun corps of bigs. And Fultz, Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs have plenty of potential as playmakers.

    Even if they're near the bottom of the East again this season, it's not hard to imagine the Magic turning a corner sometime shortly after that.

23. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    News that Chet Holmgren will miss all of 2022-23 with a Lisfranc injury puts a damper on the Oklahoma City Thunder's three-year prospects, but they should still be one of the league's most interesting teams between now and 2025.

    Though he hasn't made an All-Star team, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has All-Star-level talent. That alone probably puts OKC around Charlotte's level for this exercise, but it also has plenty of long term talent beyond SGA.

    Josh Giddey already looked like one of the 10-15 best passers in the NBA as a rookie. Aleksej Pokusevski averaged 13.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists over his last 10 games of 2021-22. And rookie Jalen Williams will add even more playmaking on top of that.

    What really boosts the Thunder above some other recent rebuilders, though, is that it's still sitting on a massive trove of future draft picks. They can use those to supplement the core already in place by taking promising talent in the draft (duh), or by packaging them together with some salary filler to land a star.

22. Washington Wizards

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    You might have higher expectations for a team with a supermaxed guard who's averaged 28.3 points over the last three seasons, but there are just too many questions after Bradley Beal for the Washington Wizards.

    In fact, Beal himself might be one of those questions. If the Wizards toil in mediocrity for a few more years, will he request a trade to a winning franchise? Such a move would almost certainly move the Wizards to the realm of the rebuilders, but they should have at least one more season of trying to add wins.

    Kristaps Porziņģis averaged 22.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.7 threes after coming over from the Dallas Mavericks. A group of young players that includes Kyle Kuzma, Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija should have the forward position in decent shape. And the addition of Monte Morris at point guard should add stability.

    All of that should be enough to have Washington in the hunt for a playoff spot, but will that be enough for Beal?

21. Sacramento Kings

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    For the first time in years, Sacramento Kings fans should enter the season with a decent amount of optimism.

    A starting lineup of De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk (or Kevin Huerter), Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray and Domantas Sabonis is balanced, talented and capable of playing a modern, spread offense.

    Davion Mitchell, Kent Bazemore, Trey Lyles, Richaun Holmes and whoever doesn't start at the 2 could give the team a decent bench, too.

    With Sabonis, Fox, Monk, Huerter, Murray and Mitchell all 26 and under, Sacramento has a chance to be competitive for a few years, too.

20. Portland Trail Blazers

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    The Portland Trail Blazers went 27-55 last season, but Damian Lillard only played in 29 games (and he may have been physically compromised in those).

    Assuming he and Jusuf Nurkić enter 2022-23 at 100 percent, Portland should be right back in the hunt for a playoff spot.

    Jerami Grant and Gary Payton II will provide instant credibility for the defense, and Josh Hart looked ready for a more significant role after he came over in the CJ McCollum deal.

    Going the "superstar and grit" route with Lillard makes sense, but it's fair to wonder how far it will carry them, especially since Lillard will be 35 when the three-year window in question is over.

19. Los Angeles Lakers

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    If the Los Angeles Lakers can turn the 'Russell Westbrook and picks' package into decent role players before the season starts, the Los Angeles Lakers' short-term prospects will look a lot better.

    But that happening is far from a given. Westbrook's expiring contract doesn't seem to have much value around the league, and The Athletic's Jovan Buha reported that the team might send "him home a la the Rockets with John Wall last season," if they can't find a trade.

    In that scenario, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Patrick Beverley and mostly unproven role players aren't likely to fare a whole lot better than the 2021-22 squad that only managed 33 wins.

    Factor in LeBron's age (38 in December) and AD's lack of durability, and it isn't hard to be skeptical about L.A.'s future prospects.

    Of course, the Lakers can always rely on organizational lore. It's how they got LeBron in the first place. It may lure another star their way, but the front office probably needs to demonstrate some baseline competence, too.

    In the nine full seasons since longtime owner Jerry Buss passed away, the Lakers have a 40.4 winning percentage, which is tied for the fifth worst mark in the league. And that includes one championship season.

18. New York Knicks

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    If the New York Knicks pull off the Mitchell trade prior to training camp, it'll certainly make them better. It won't guarantee future contention, though, especially when you consider the reported cost.

    Emptying the asset and prospect cupboard for a 6'1" shooting guard is a bit of a risk, especially when you just signed a 6'1" point guard (Jalen Brunson) in free agency. That duo is likely to be plagued with some of the defensive issues that doomed Mitchell and Conley and Utah.

    Still, Mitchell is a dynamic scorer (23.9 points per game with a slightly below-average true shooting percentage for his career), and a lineup with him, Brunson, RJ Barrett (assuming he's not in the trade), Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson will at least be competitive.

    The East has taken some real strides in recent years, but that's a team that could compete for a playoff spot in each of the next three seasons.

17. Chicago Bulls

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    There's some temptation to have the Chicago Bulls behind the Knicks.

    Their first and third-leading scorers from last season (DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic) are 33 and soon to be 32, respectively. There are serious questions about Lonzo Ball's durability. And Patrick Williams is still better in theory than he is in practice.

    But early in the season (before injuries started to pile up), the Bulls gave us a glimpse of a small-ball unit that could wreak some havoc for the next couple of years.

    The sample size isn't huge, but Chicago was plus-16.3 points per 100 possessions when Lonzo, Alex Caruso, Zach LaVine and DeRozan were all on the floor.

    More of that, as well as LaVine slowly reclaiming his No. 1 option status, should keep the Bulls in the hunt for Eastern Conference playoff spots for the next three years.

16. New Orleans Pelicans

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    Speaking of relatively small-sample theater, the New Orleans Pelicans were plus-5.2 points per 100 possessions when Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum were on the floor last season.

    Adding Zion Williamson, one of the most prolific scorers of all time (he has the highest true shooting percentage of the 22 players to average 25-plus points per 75 possessions for their career), to those two could make the Pelicans a playoff shoo-in as early as this season.

    Of course, the massive concern with Zion is his health. Injuries or load management have cost him 141 of a possible 226 regular-season games during his career. His combination of size and explosiveness makes it easy to wonder if another injury could be around the corner.

    Until he has a few seasons of good health, that concern is likely to hover over him and the Pelicans.

15. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers were plus-11.4 points per 100 possessions when Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen and Lauri Markkanen were all on the floor last season.

    Considering the fact that the 25-year-old Markkanen is the oldest of that group, it's safe to assume it'll get better over the next few years.

    Of course, that's three really big men and a guard. An ability to play more modern lineups has been hampered by a lack of depth on the wing, but that could also improve with time.

    There's room for development from 21-year-old Isaac Okoro. Having Caris LeVert for a full offseason and training camp should help shore things up on the wing, too. Ditto for incoming rookie Ochai Agbaji, if he's ready to contribute right away.

14. Toronto Raptors

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    Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes was the only first-year player in the league who logged 1,000-plus minutes and finished the season above average in both offensive and defensive box plus/minus. And there's still plenty of room to grow.

    He only shot 30.1 percent from three, and he was able to show more as a creator for others during his lone season in college. As those two skills develop, Barnes should be an All-Star-level talent before long.

    But he's far from the only intriguing name on this roster.

    With Barnes, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., Pascal Siakam, Otto Porter Jr., Thaddeus Young and Juancho Hernangomez, Toronto's about as well-equipped as anyone to play fast, skill-heavy and positionless basketball.

    And though he doesn't really fit the height requirement for such lineups, Fred VanVleet is the kind of gritty, competitive 1 who can pilot the offense and fit in anyway.

13. Atlanta Hawks

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    Even if the Atlanta Hawks were entering 2022-23 with largely the same roster they had last season, they surely would've made this top 20.

    There are only six players since 1973-74 who had a higher offensive box plus/minus than Trae Young through their first four seasons. As long as he's around, the team will have a potent attack.

    John Collins, a first-round pick taken a year before Young, has somehow become one of the league's more underrated players. Only three players matched or exceeded all of his career averages for points (20.5), rebounds (10.4), blocks (1.3) and threes (1.2) per 75 possessions through their first five seasons.

    With both of those players under 25, Atlanta was in great shape for the next three years, but adding a 25-year-old All-Star defensive ace brings them up a level.

    Dejounte Murray averaged an eye-popping 21.1 points, 9.2 assists, 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals last season. He'll take a little pressure off Young by giving him more catch-and-shoot opportunities and always defending the opposition's top guard.

    With those three backed up by Clint Capela, Onyeka Okongwu, Bogdan Bogdanovic and De'Andre Hunter, it's easy to get excited about this team.

12. Brooklyn Nets

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    On raw talent alone, the Brooklyn Nets almost certainly belong in the top 10.

    Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are fifth and 13th, respectively, in career offensive box plus/minus. In the relatively rare minutes they've played together with Brooklyn, the Nets are a whopping plus-11.1 points per 100 possessions.

    Adding Ben Simmons as a playmaking 5 and surrounding those three with the shooting of Seth Curry and Joe Harris sounds like a recipe for utter dominance.

    Thing is, no team in the NBA feels more destined to resemble a soap opera. For various reasons, availability has been a huge problem for all three stars. And though he recently rescinded his trade request, the foundation of the relationship between KD and the organization feels, at the very least, unstable.

    The best-case scenario for this team is a championship within the next three years, but a teardown and rebuild might be the likelier one.

11. Miami Heat

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    There are only four Eastern Conference teams left, and the Miami Heat earn their spot among them for a few reasons.

    First, and probably most importantly, the rising duo Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro features a 25-year-old and a 22-year-old. Adebayo is a perennial All-Defense candidate who can also play a little point center. Herro is a heat-check scorer who just won Sixth Man of the Year.

    Even as Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry continue to age past their primes, those two younger stars should help Miami remain competitive.

    And since this exercise is only looking at a three-year window, it's fair to assume Butler will still be one of the league's better players by the end of it. He'll turn 33 in September and has a lot of mileage on his legs from his days with Tom Thibodeau, but he's averaged 20.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.2 assists during his three years in Miami.

    Then, there's also the allure of Miami and the vaunted Heat culture. Seemingly every time a star requests a trade or hits free agency, this team comes up as a preferred destination.

    Even if a star or his production falls off a cliff, the organization always seems able to pivot to a new era without sacrificing much competitiveness.

10. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    The biggest reason for the Jazz' success over the last seven years is now on the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Since the start of the 2015-16 season, Rudy Gobert is fourth in the league in win shares. In the same stretch, Utah was fourth in winning percentage and first in defensive rating.

    And though he recently turned 30, Gobert has shown no signs of slowing down in recent years. Last season, he averaged 15.6 points, a league-leading 14.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, while posting a league-leading 73.2 true shooting percentage.

    With him in place as the defensive anchor throughout the next three years, the younger stars should be able to focus even more on offensive impact.

    And that was already pretty high for Karl-Anthony Towns (25.3 points, 4.1 assists and 2.5 threes over the last three seasons) and Anthony Edwards (25.2 points, 3.8 threes and 3.0 assists in his playoff debut last season).

    The supporting cast includes D'Angelo Russell, Kyle Anderson and Jaden McDaniels, but even if there's some turnover over the next three years, the star trio should keep the Timberwolves in the playoff mix.

9. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Joel Embiid is smack dab in the middle of his prime. After finishing second in each of the last two MVP races, it's safe to assume (health permitting) that he'll be among the league's most productive players for the next three years.

    He's currently tied with Michael Jordan for the highest career average for points per 75 possessions (30.3), and now he'll have a full season alongside one of the game's best playmakers.

    Much was made of the demise of James Harden toward the end of last season, but he averaged 10.5 assists after he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Even if he's lost a step as a driver, he can still create openings, find his teammates and hit them in the right spots.

    And with Tyrese Maxey, De'Anthony Melton, Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle in place, the Sixers should be able to compete for a title in 2022-23. Stability may wane a bit over the two seasons after that, but Philly is in the hunt right now.

8. Los Angeles Clippers

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    If there was any way to trust the longterm availability of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Los Angeles Clippers would certainly be higher up this list.

    They've played fewer than 2,000 minutes together, but the Clippers are plus-15.2 points per 100 possessions when both are on the floor.

    And, like the Raptors, the role players throughout the rest of the roster give L.A. loads of versatility and an ability to deploy largely positionless lineups.

    The Clippers can also go more traditional, with a point guard like John Wall or Reggie Jackson and a center like Ivica Zubac.

    The key to deep playoff runs is the ability to adapt to whatever style your opponent throws at you, and L.A. can do that.

    When you're talking about three years, though, it's just hard to count on the availability of Leonard and George.

7. Phoenix Suns

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    Jumping ship on the Phoenix Suns seemed like a pretty popular thing to do following back-to-back humiliating losses in Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Dallas Mavericks.

    The seemingly frosty free-agency period that resulted in the Suns matching an offer sheet as Deandre Ayton signed with the Indiana Pacers didn't help perception either.

    And oh, Chris Paul is 37 years old and missed 17 games last season. There's at least a chance his durability becomes an issue.

    However, Ayton is just 24 years old. Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson are both 26. Devin Booker, who just finished fourth in MVP voting, turns 26 in October.

    Several of the most important players on the roster are still pre-prime. And at a certain point, Booker and Ayton will have to retake the reigns from Paul anyway. That'll probably happen at some point during the next three years.

    Only this time, the minutes' Booker and Ayton have spent with CP3 will have prepared them better to lead.

6. Dallas Mavericks

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    The Suns are probably deeper. Losing Brunson to the Knicks was far from ideal, but the Mavericks find themselves above the last team they knocked off in the playoffs for a couple of reasons.

    For one thing, they just dismantled Phoenix in four of their last five matchups, and the rosters are largely intact (the Brunson loss, notwithstanding).

    The other reason, of course, is Dallas has Luka Doncic. And he's very much the kind of singular talent that could take just about any supporting cast and make it competitive.

    It just so happens that the one he has is pretty solid.

    There's already chemistry between him and a number of spot-up shooters, including Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock and Maxi Kleber. Dāvis Bertāns should grow into that role, too.

    And though he's had some issues at previous stops, Christian Wood has arguably been as productive as Brunson over the last couple of years. He might fit better, too. Luka's one of the best pick-and-roll ball-handlers in the league, and Wood can work with him as a roller or pick-and-pop option.

    They won't completely lose the dual-ball-handler lineups they deployed with Doncic and Brunson, either. Spencer Dinwiddie should be ready to step into a bigger role, and if he looks like the 2019-20 version of himself, those lineups might be even better.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Anderson and Melton were third and fifth, respectively, among Memphis Grizzlies in wins over replacement players over the last three seasons.

    Letting both go this summer is a pretty significant bet on the organization's ability to develop young talent. Given their track record, the confidence is justified.

    But even if Memphis can't replace what was lost with rookies Jake LaRavia and David Roddy, it should remain one of the best teams in the league for the foreseeable future.

    Ja Morant is 23 and just put up MVP-caliber numbers in his third season. Desmond Bane had a Klay Thompson-esque sophomore campaign. Jaren Jackson Jr. has Defensive Player of the Year upside. And young role players like Brandon Clarke, Tyus Jones, Ziaire Williams and John Konchar could all be starters for various other teams around the league.

4. Denver Nuggets

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    Nikola Jokić is the best basketball player on the planet.

    Beyond winning each of the last two MVPs, he's pulled his career box plus/minus up to second all-time (behind only Michael Jordan).

    His averages of 26.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 8.1 assists over those seasons are marks that no one has ever reached in any two-year span.

    He may be the best playmaker and passer in the league. He can score at all three levels (with prime Stephen Curry-like efficiency). He can dominate the glass. And he's become an underrated defender (thanks to quick hands and the fact that he's huge and generally in the right spot).

    The one player with a legitimate argument for this distinction is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who can't shoot or pass like Jokić, and whose numbers don't quite measure up.

    Andy Bailey @AndrewDBailey

    Player A is Nikola Jokic since the start of 2020-21 (playoffs included). Player B is Giannis Antetokounmpo since the start of 2020-21 (playoffs included).<br><br>I'm fascinated by the general, widespread dismissal of Jokic's "best player in the world" case. There's clearly an argument. <a href="https://t.co/nOVBE8Jtqm">pic.twitter.com/nOVBE8Jtqm</a>

    Now, with all that out of the way, let's talk about the fact that Jokić is about to have a championship-caliber supporting cast around him.

    When he was on the floor last season, the Nuggets had a point differential around that of a 62-win team. And now, minutes played by Monte Morris, Will Barton, Jeff Green, Facundo Campazzo and JaMychal Green will largely be replaced by Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr. and Bruce Brown.

    Of course, that speaks mostly to their prospects for next season, but Jokić, Murray and MPJ all being pre-prime suggests the two years after that should be pretty good, too.

3. Golden State Warriors

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    The 2021-22 season may well have been the Golden State Warriors' Last Dance moment.

    Stephen Curry is 34. Klay Thompson is 32 and has both a torn ACL and ruptured Achilles in his history. Draymond Green is 32 and has had his scoring numbers plummet over the last few years.

    Paying hundreds of millions in luxury tax may make it difficult to keep the young core behind those three together, too.

    But this dynasty has been counted out before. And three years after KD ditched them for the Nets, they scratched and clawed their way back to the top of the league.

    By the end of the Finals, it certainly didn't look like the wheels were about to fall off for Curry. And if he has another couple of years at or near his current level, the Warriors will still be title contenders.

    If they can hang onto Jordan Poole and develop Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and James Wiseman, that window might even extend beyond the next three years.

2. Milwaukee Bucks

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    We already went through the Jokić-Giannis debate, so why are the Milwaukee Bucks ahead of the Denver Nuggets?

    It's pretty simple, really. Giannis is neck and neck with the big man as an individual player, and his supporting cast's health is a lot easier to trust.

    Khris Middleton's injury last postseason went a long way toward ending their title defense, but he's been fairly durable throughout his career. Jrue Holiday has been available when it matters most since joining the Bucks.

    Murray, meanwhile, is coming off a torn ACL. MPJ had back surgery. And that's an issue that has plagued him as far back as his days at Missouri. Back problems can be a massive red flag for basketball players.

    With the exception of 34-year-old Brook Lopez (who had his own back problems last season), the Bucks just don't have those kinds of question marks. And even if Lopez struggles with availability, Bobby Portis has already shown the ability to produce in his absence.

    But really, this placement is about Giannis, a 27-year-old two-time MVP who is, at worst, sitting at 1B on the worldwide player ladder.

    He's going to be on the Bucks for the next three seasons (and probably beyond), and that means they'll be contenders that entire time.

1. Boston Celtics

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    When OKC made the Finals in 2012, KD, Russ and Harden were in their age-23, -23 and -22 seasons, respectively.

    There seemed to be no ceiling for them going forward, and then they made the infamous trade that sent Harden to Houston.

    The Thunder had their chances to compete over the coming years, but nothing that would erase the "what if" that resulted from that deal.

    Ten years later, the Boston Celtics put together a similar run to the Finals.

    This past season, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams and Jayson Tatum were 25, 24 and 23, respectively. And instead of breaking up that core with a trade, Boston added Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari without giving up much more than fringe rotation players.

    With those three and a supporting cast that includes the aforementioned new additions, Marcus Smart, Al Horford, Grant Williams and Derrick White, Boston figures to be a staple of the contending tier for the next three years.

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