5 NBA Teams Better off Tearing It Down

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterNovember 4, 2020

5 NBA Teams Better off Tearing It Down

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    With the NBA draft and free agency just weeks away, now is the time for teams to decide which direction is best for the long-term future of the franchise.

    The choice is typically the most difficult for those stuck in the middle, teams not quite good enough to compete for a championship and not bad enough to land a top draft pick even with more favorable lottery odds.

    While some teams have begun their teardowns, it's now time to complete the process and get ready for a fresh start for the 2020-21 season.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Wait, haven't the Cavs already torn it down?

    A 19-46 record would certainly indicate so, although recent roster decisions make it look like the team is trying to win now.

    A trade for veteran center Andre Drummond at the deadline sparked a mini-surge in play (4-4 with Drummond, 6-7 after the trade in general) following a 13-39 start to the season.

    Kevin Love is somehow still around at age 32 with three years left on his deal, and Cavs general manager Koby Altman noted there is "mutual interest" in 29-year-old Tristan Thompson re-signing with the team in free agency.

    Keeping a few veterans on a team trying to develop players is one thing, but actively trading for and re-signing guys in or past their prime isn't typically what rebuilding teams do.

    All of the Cavs' cornerstone young talents reside in the backcourt, and the team is in desperate need of a wing or big man to build around and match the timeline of Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr.

    Drafting a player like Onyeka Okongwu, Isaac Okoro or Devin Vassell with the No 5. pick would help balance out the backcourt, but the Cavs should be actively exploring trades involving Love and Drummond (assuming the latter picks up his $28.8 million player option).

    Love is worth holding on to if teams are asking Cleveland to attach a draft pick to his $30.5 million average annual salary, but Drummond could be an attractive trade piece for teams in search of help at center and looking to clear cap space for 2021.

    The Cavs should also be exploring sign-and-trade options for Thompson, helping him get the contract and destination he wants while also bringing back a draft pick or young player in return.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Oklahoma City Thunder were always going to rebuild when they traded Paul George and Russell Westbrook in the same summer, with a surprising All-Star season from Chris Paul serving as a mere detour.

    Paul has gone from an untradeable contract to a player teams should happily part with assets to acquire, a transformation that puts OKC's rebuild back on track.

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander showed he's capable of running a team even when Paul was on the bench (21.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per 36 minutes on 47.0 percent shooting). At 22, he still has plenty of room to grow.

    Trading Paul should be the first priority with teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers all looking for point guard upgrades. While draft picks and young players are nice, OKC should be looking for expiring contracts first, a move that would open up $44 million in cap space in 2021.

    Dennis Schroder and Steven Adams are both 27 and entering the final years of their respective deals, which means the Thunder should be open to trade offers but shouldn't feel pressured to move off either if the offers aren't right. Danilo Gallinari, 32, is a prime sign-and-trade candidate to move to a contender looking for floor-spacing.

    The Thunder could have an incredibly quick turnaround to being a title contender, as well.

    OKC owns a whopping 15 first-round picks over the next seven drafts thanks to trading George, Westbrook and Jerami Grant, selections they could wait and use or package together to create a Godfather offer for whichever disgruntled star requests a trade next.

    Darius Bazley, 20, is a prime breakout candidate if he wins the starting power forward job next season, and Luguentz Dort looked like a future Defensive Player of the Year at times during the postseason.

    The Thunder won't come close to being a No. 5 seed in the Western Conference playoffs next season but could become a title contender as soon as 2021-22 if they go young and utilize their 2021 cap space and draft picks correctly.

Orlando Magic

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    The Magic made the playoffs for the second straight year, although they did so with a far inferior record (33-40 compared to 42-40). They became just the fourth team in the last 20 years to reach the postseason despite finishing seven games or more below .500, per LandofBasketball.com.

    The East won't be as forgiving next season, either.

    The Washington Wizards will get a healthy John Wall back, the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls could each make leaps with their young talent, and the Brooklyn Nets will get Kevin Durant to suit up for the first time following an Achilles injury.

    Orlando has already ruled out forward Jonathan Isaac for the 2020-21 season with a torn ACL, and he's perhaps the team's best young player and a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

    Nikola Vucevic took a step back with respect to his efficiency and overall production after he was named an All-Star in 2018-19. Now, at age 30, he probably isn't going to get any better. The Magic should get internal improvement from Aaron Gordon, Markelle Fultz and Mo Bamba, but not enough to make them a threat to win a playoff series, should they even make it that far.

    Instead, the Magic should test the trade waters for Vucevic, Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier (if he picks up his $17.0 million player option), opening up more minutes and shots for players like Bamba, Gordon, Fultz and redshirt rookie Chuma Okeke.

    Orlando could even look to package a veteran and the No. 15 overall pick in order to move up in the draft, grabbing another potential star to build around.

    The Magic should have already been thinking about a restart before Isaac's injury. With the 23-year-old not scheduled to play again until the 2021-22 season, they need to tear things down.

San Antonio Spurs

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    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    All good things must come to an end, including the Spurs' place as a powerhouse in the Western Conference.

    As good as the West was this season, next year will be an absolute bloodbath with the Golden State Warriors returning to full strength and teams like the New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves all on the rise.

    The Spurs simply can't keep up as currently constructed, especially with DeMar DeRozan possibly leaving in free agency.

    DeRozan can opt out of his $27.7 million player option if he so chooses, leaving 35-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge as the team's leading scorer.

    San Antonio has done an admirable job building up its young talent base with no lottery picks over the past two-and-a-half decades, with Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker IV and even Luka Samanic looking like franchise building blocks. The Spurs also own the No. 11 pick in the draft, a spot where good talent still projects to be found this year.

    The Spurs should be working on deals to find a new home for DeRozan, either via trade or sign-and-trade to make sure they get some value back before the four-time All-Star leaves as a free agent. The Brooklyn Nets, Portland Trail Blazers and Milwaukee Bucks could all use his scoring, playmaking and leadership.

    Aldridge only has one year remaining on his deal, which means he would bring value to teams as both a productive veteran and salary relief with his $24 million contract coming off the books in 2021.

    While the Spurs could choose to cash in all their young talent for win-now vets to try maximizing Gregg Popovich's last remaining seasons, the smart long-term approach is to find new homes for DeRozan and Aldridge while they can.

Washington Wizards

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    No one could blame the Wizards for at least starting the season with a healthy John Wall and Bradley Beal to see how far the two can carry the team, although history has shown us the Eastern Conference semis is about the duo's ceiling.

    Wall hasn't played in almost two full calendar years, and even if he returns to his pre-Achilles-injury form, the 30-year-old wouldn't solve the Wizard's biggest issues.

    Before entering the bubble with no Beal or Davis Bertans, the Wizards were actually a top-half offensive team (111.1 rating, 13th overall) with the eighth-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the league (1.80). Their issues primarily resided on the other end of the ball and on the glass, areas where Wall isn't going to make nearly as much of an impact.

    Only the Cleveland Cavaliers registered a worse defensive rating (114.8 to 114.7), and no team was as incompetent at rebounding the ball as Washington (47.8 rebounding percentage).

    Getting Wall back is great and should help Washington's 25-47 overall record, but what the team really needs is a Rudy Gobert-type player to make them a serious playoff threat, even in the East.

    Bertans was the team's second-leading scorer behind Beal in 2019-20, but he'll be an unrestricted free agent with no guarantee to return. Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr. offer some upside but aren't ready to help fuel a contender just yet.

    The Wizards should also be cognizant of the incredible haul of talent the New Orleans Pelicans received for Anthony Davis, essentially resetting the team's ceiling and allowing Brandon Ingram to immediately turn into an All-Star.

    While Beal isn't on Davis' level, he's got two guaranteed seasons left on his contract with a $37.3 million player option in 2022-23. He would become the best player on the trade market should Washington make him available, with Davis-like offers likely coming in from a number of teams.

    Washington still has real issues even with Wall back but has the opportunity to flood the team with young talent and draft picks by trading Beal now.


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