It's been a prosperous start to the 2019-20 NBA season for teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers, but not every franchise has been so fortunate. Two teams that faced off in the Finals just a couple years ago are now among the worst in the league.
The Cleveland Cavaliers sit at 5-15 and may already be looking at another lost season. Of course, the chances of a quick turnaround after LeBron James' departure were always slim, so another year of rebuilding shouldn't come as a surprise.
Nor should the fact that contenders are interested in picking off potentially available players from Cleveland's roster. According to Sam Amico of SI.com, the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers are among teams targeting veteran Cavaliers:
"On the trade front, the Cavs have not taken part in any serious discussions. That is highly likely to change as the trade deadline nears in February. Opposing teams are expected to make serious runs at Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson, both players with expiring contracts. Toronto is said to have a high interest in Thompson, Philadelphia supposedly among those with interest in Clarkson."
According to Amico, the Cavaliers are open to re-signing both Thompson and Clarkson, so there's no guarantee that either can be had. If they are, however, dealing them before the deadline could net Cleveland some future draft assets to put toward the rebuilding process.
The Golden State Warriors aren't in as much of a rebuild as the Cavaliers, though their 4-19 record might suggest otherwise. This has been a disaster of a season with both Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry injured, but the turnaround for Golden State should be relatively quick.
As long as Curry and Thompson are back to pre-injury form by the start of next season, the Warriors should be back in contention.
However, this doesn't mean that Golden State cannot use this season to build for the future. The Warriors are likely headed toward a lottery pick in next year's draft, and trading that pick could land them another top-tier player. In fact, this is a prospect that teams are afraid of, according to NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh.
"The people I talk to around the league are really worried they are going to trade that first-round pick, the 2020 pick, because if they load up with an All-Star-type player with that pick, they are terrified," Haberstroh said during the Warriors telecast on Wednesday (h/t Ali Thanawalla of NBC Sports Bay Area).
If the Warriors do flip their pick for a high-end veteran, it could set them up for another title run in 2020. They were virtually unstoppable with a healthy Kevin Durant completing their big three, and while landing a Durant-type talent may be unlikely, Golden State could forge a new core trio.
Of course, the Warriors already have a pretty strong trio in Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green. Keeping the draft pick and adding a premier prospect could be just as beneficial, especially in the long term—and this could be Golden State's game plan.
"I've been told that, if the Warriors get the No. 1 pick, they will almost definitely keep it," Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote. "If Golden State got another pick in the top five, I still think there's a good chance it holds onto the selection."
The Warriors' recent success—at least before the addition of Durant—was largely built through the draft, so it would make sense if they did prefer using a top pick to trading it.