Building the 3-Year Plan for Every NBA Lottery Team

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJune 24, 2021

Building the 3-Year Plan for Every NBA Lottery Team

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    No NBA team's path back to relevancy is the same, and for the 14 squads landing in the lottery this season, some couldn't be more different.

    While a team like the Golden State Warriors should have championship aspirations heading into next season, a squad like the Houston Rockets is only just beginning its rebuild.

    The offseason plan for each team is taking shape more than ever following the draft lottery (congrats, Detroit Pistons!), but it's those who look further into the future who are usually the most successful.

    Here's how all 14 teams who fell short of the postseason should attack the next three years.

Charlotte Hornets

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Year 1, 2021-22

    This is the final year the Hornets should find themselves in the lottery for a while, especially if Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball continues to improve his overall game. Charlotte's main area of need is at center, but with so many quality ones on the free agent market, they shouldn't be afraid to take the best player available (outside of point guard) at No. 11 in the draft.

    The Hornets can open up $22 million of cap space this offseason if they renounce Malik Monk and Cody Zeller, money they should use to chase a center like Nerlens Noel, Richaun Holmes or Jarrett Allen (restricted).

    Charlotte can still use its cap space and then re-sign Devonte' Graham, a restricted free agent. He fills a role as a high-level backup point guard who could be used as trade bait later if needed.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    If he has another season like 2020-21, Terry Rozier will be a hot free agent who the Hornets will want to re-sign. The team's leading scorer with 20.4 points on 45.0 percent shooting will be key to Charlotte making the East playoffs in 2022 and beyond and should be brought back.

    Miles Bridges will be a restricted free agent if the two sides haven't previously agreed on an extension, and he made a huge jump in Year 3 playing alongside Ball. Finding fair value on a contract (Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby's four-year, $72 million deal seems fair) is important, especially if it keeps Ball happy.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    Ball will be extension-eligible for the first time, and there's a very good chance negotiations will be brief. Another two years of him looking like one of the best playmakers in all of basketball will automatically mean a rookie max extension, with the only possible haggling being a player option in the final season of a five-year contract.

    Gordon Hayward will be entering the final year of his deal, and his expiring salary ($31.5 million) would be a good salary matcher if the Hornets want to chase another superstar on the trade market. By now, the team should know if Ball looks like a No. 1 option on a title team, or if they should be aggressive in going after an alpha with their star point guard playing a high-level supporting role.

Chicago Bulls

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Year 1, 2021-22

    One of two teams in the lottery that traded its pick, Chicago can still have a productive offseason even after trading its first-rounder to the Orlando Magic in the Nikola Vucevic deal.

    Zach LaVine can sign a four-year, $105 million extension but will almost certainly wait until next offseason when he'll be eligible for over $30 million annually. Chicago at least needs to make sure LaVine intends on re-signing on the off chance they need to explore trades before he can walk for nothing in free agency.

    The Bulls can clear cap space now, but at the cost of letting Lauri Markkanen walk in free agency and waiving Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young, two valuable rotation pieces. Even if Markkanen isn't viewed as a core piece moving forward, re-signing him at a reasonable rate or working out a sign-and-trade at least keeps Chicago from losing an asset.

    Finding a franchise point guard (Lonzo Ball?) won't be easy given the limited cap space and no first-round pick, but should be pursued, especially if Markkanen can be used as trade bait.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    Assuming the team hasn't traded LaVine, re-signing him is perhaps the most important part of Chicago's next three seasons. He's developed into an All-Star and one of the game's most efficient volume scorers, and will be one of the top free agents available in the summer of 2022. It will almost certainly cost the Bulls a max deal to bring him back, one they should be perfectly happy to give out.

    With Coby White and Patrick Williams still on rookie contracts, the Bulls could enter free agency with two max cap slots. One will ideally be used on LaVine, with the other to go star chasing for a player like Bradley Beal, Julius Randle or Chris Paul.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    Vucevic will become an unrestricted free agent at age 32, and the Bulls could already have two max deals on the books with some rookie extensions on their way. It's unlikely Chicago will want to throw huge money at a past-his-prime center, but perhaps Vucevic takes a discount at this point if the Bulls are making deep playoff runs.

    White will be a restricted free agent and Williams will be extension eligible in 2023, and it's likely the latter will be the Bulls' biggest priority to re-sign. If Williams' potential has shown through and he's become a two-way force and borderline All-Star, this Chicago team could be stacked (and also very, very expensive).

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Bart Young/Getty Images

    Year 1, 2021-22

    Getting the No. 3 overall pick was huge for Cleveland, who actually fell back in the lottery the past two years. Either Evan Mobley or Jalen Green will be available, giving the franchise a legit future All-Star to pair with the young talent already on the roster. The Cavs should take whichever player is available and not even consider trading back or moving the pick.

    Re-signing center Jarrett Allen (13.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 60.9 percent shooting in 51 games with the Cavs) is important. At 23 he's a proven starting center who has All-Defensive team potential and help make up for Cleveland's small, defensively-challenged backcourt. A five-year deal worth $16 million to $18 million annually (a la Clint Capela and Myles Turner) should be good value for both sides.

    Extension talks with Collin Sexton should take place. He scored 24.3 points per game as a 22-year-old on good efficiency (57.3 percent true shooting) and is a relentless worker and franchise pillar. If he's willing to take $25 million annually or less on a new deal, there should be no hesitation on Cleveland's side to extend.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    There's a good chance the Cavs end up back in the lottery one more time, as a core of a rookie (Green/Mobley) with Sexton, Darius Garland, Allen and Isaac Okoro probably needs an additional year of seasoning.

    Extension talks with Garland will be taking place, especially if he makes another jump like he did from Years 1 to 2, now looking like one of the better young point guards in the league.

    Kevin Love will now be on the final year of his deal ($28.9 million), making a trade or buyout far easier. Even if the Cavs are starting to look like a playoff team, he'll probably still want out to join a title contender.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    This is Cleveland's best chance at making a splash in free agency.

    Love's contract will finally be off the books, with Sexton and Allen likely taking up $45 million in cap space. Even a previous extension for Garland should leave the Cavs with cap room.

    If they fail to land a big name in free agency, this is a draft that could feature LeBron James Jr. should the NBA do away with the one-and-done rule. While he doesn't appear to be a franchise-changing superstar like his father, a team like the Cavs should still be plenty interested in bringing the Northeast Ohio native home 20 years after drafting his father.

Detroit Pistons

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    Brody Schmidt/Associated Press

    Year 1, 2021-22

    Despite Pistons general manager Troy Weaver stating on record that trading the No. 1 overall pick is a possibility, Detroit's selection should already be in. Cade Cunningham complements this young core extremely well, giving them a supersized backcourt with 6'5" point guard Killian Hayes. This is the easiest offseason decision any team will make.

    The Pistons should waive backup point guard Cory Joseph, who has just $2.4 million of his $12.6 million contract guaranteed for next season. That's over $10 million in cap space to snag another useful veteran with now that Detroit is getting a ball-handler with the first overall pick.

    Despite his presumably high trade value, Jerami Grant shouldn't be dealt. A team this young needs a leader, especially one who passed on the Denver Nuggets' similar offer to come to a rebuilding Detroit team last year. The rookies and sophomores will be even better because of Grant's presence.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    This is Detroit's first big chance to land a star in free agency, as Blake Griffin's $29.8 million worth of dead money will expire. While the Pistons may not be the premier destination for the league's top talent, a big rookie season from Cunningham with growth from Hayes, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart could convince one of the second-tier guys to join an exciting young core.

    Given how early they are in the rebuild, Detroit should be back in the lottery again next season, possibly for the final time with this core. Getting one more impact rookie is important, and going best player available will be the right decision given Cunningham's size and versatility.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    All three rookies from the 2020 class (Hayes, Bey, Stewart) will be up for extensions. Despite playing in just 26 games this season, Hayes has the highest ceiling of the three and will likely get the biggest payday if he has strong sophomore and junior years. Bey and Stewart could be high-level starters but don't look like future All-Stars, at least not yet. If all goes to plan, the Pistons will want to extend all three.

    With Grant and Mason Plumlee's nearly $30 million coming off the books, Detroit will have some cap space to use as well, especially if they struck out the summer before. This will likely be the last chance to spend for a while, with up to three rookie extensions kicking in the following year and Cunningham's potential max looming in 2025.

Golden State Warriors

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Year 1, 2021-22

    There's no slow rebuild here. The Warriors need to maximize what's likely the remaining few years of their title window around Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, sacrificing long-term potential for instant help.

    This means the entire cupboard of trade assets (James Wiseman, the Nos. 7 and 14 overall picks) need to be on the table for whatever star becomes available. The Warriors should already be making healthy offers for players like Bradley Beal, Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam, Myles Turner or anyone else who could help make a title push.

    Finding a solution to Kelly Oubre Jr.'s future is key. He was actually pretty good for the Warriors following a rough start (17.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 47.2 percent shooting over his final 34 games), but a wrist injury sidelined the 25-year-old down the stretch. Golden State should at least try to find sign-and-trade options so they don't lose him for nothing.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    Stephen Curry will be an unrestricted free agent, and could become the first player in NBA history to sign multiple $200 million-plus deals. Golden State can sign Curry to an extension in 2021, and it seems inevitable a deal will get done at some point. There's no point in Curry signing for less than a max, given how far over the salary cap the Warriors will already be.

    Andrew Wiggins, who looked like one of the worst contracts in basketball just a year ago, will be entering the final season on his deal. He's become a useful, defensive-minded wing for Golden State, and could actually be a strong trade chip given his play and expiring deal. If the Warriors have kept their young talent to this point, Wiggins would serve as a great salary-matcher in trades.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    Draymond Green has a $27.6 million player option, one that could go either way at this point. Green will be 33 in the summer of 2023, and despite his ever-impressive defense and playmaking, has fallen off a cliff with his own bucket-getting abilities. There's the possibility of signing a new, multi-year deal, but the Warriors should be happy with Green playing on his option and going from there.

    This will be the final year that Curry (then 34), Thompson (33) and Green (33) will all be under contract assuming Curry has signed a new deal. It'll also most likely be their very last chance at another title together. If the Warriors have used Oubre, Wiggins and Wiseman correctly to this point, there should still be a fourth star—and possibly another title—in Golden State.

Houston Rockets

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Year 1, 2021-22

    The Rockets were lucky enough to land a top-four selection and keep their early pick, the key to a quick rebuild in Houston. Assuming Cade Cunningham is off the board, the Rockets will have a selection of Evan Mobley, Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs to pick from—some fine consolation prizes.

    If Houston is willing to be patient, Mobley could be an Anthony Davis-like big man with time. He's already an all-world defender in the paint who can switch onto guards with ease, and only needs some development with his overall offensive gain while putting on muscle.

    Green is the answer if the Rockets want immediate pop, and a wing of he and Kevin Porter Jr. could become one of the NBA's most devastating offensive forces in a few years.

    Houston is probably stuck with John Wall and his two-year, $91 million deal. They have to hope he'll stay healthy and be a good mentor for whoever the draft at No. 2.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    Wall will be in the final year of his deal, a $47.4 million player option that he is definitely picking up. Houston shouldn't be close to the playoffs in the West yet, and a buyout of Wall seems inevitable.

    If Christian Wood is still on the roster, the Rockets need to explore a trade. Wood will be 27 when the 2022-23 season starts, significantly older than Porter and whoever the team takes at No. 2 in 2021. He'll also be entering the final year of his deal, one that will be one of the NBA's best bargains at $14.3 million. Houston needs to maximize his trade value while they can.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    This is the summer the Rockets have been waiting for. Wall's contract is gone, Eric Gordon's $20.9 million is non-guaranteed and the No. 2 pick in 2021 will still be on a rookie contract. Porter will be a restricted free agent, and even giving him a hefty new deal shouldn't affect the team's ability to sign a max free agent.

    Houston is going to have some bumps over the next few seasons, but should be eyeing the 2024 playoffs as a reasonable return date.

Indiana Pacers

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    Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

    Year 1, 2021-22

    It's time to break up the frontcourt pairing of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, especially after a year in which the Pacers failed to even make the playoffs in the East. Sabonis and Caris LeVert should be viewed as the only untouchables on the roster, with Turner likely to draw plenty of trade attention from teams like the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans.

    The Pacers don't rebuild, but taking a small step back to take a bigger step forward is what this franchise needs to get out of the first round. Trying to get James Wiseman from the Warriors or Nickeil Alexander-Walker from the Pelicans in a trade for Turner would be a nice addition to the core.

    Re-signing T.J. McConnell and Doug McDermott should only be done at the right price. Anything above a mid-level exception ($9.5 million or more) isn't worth it for a team already paying a lot of average-to-good players.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    If Turner is still on the roster, he, Malcolm Brogdon and LeVert will all be entering the final year of their deals. This will certainly spark some trade conversation, especially if the Pacers miss the postseason for the second successive year. LeVert could set himself up for a max deal with a strong 2021-22 season.

    Indiana could be a sneaky trade destination for stars as well. The Pacers own all of their future first-round picks, have established talent on the roster to send back and aren't a free-agent destination. Swapping a pair of good players and a pick or two for a great one to pair with Sabonis and LeVert would form a core no longer in danger of missing the playoffs.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    Sabonis is the only player under contract for the 2023-24 season, giving Indiana a near blank slate to work with if they haven't given out new deals to LeVert, Brogdon or Turner.

    A smart Pacers team has already turned Turner into a younger, high-upside player (Wiseman, Alexander-Walker) who should be starting to look like an All-Star by now. Pairing this player with Sabonis, already a two-time All-Star, and cap space to ink some additional talent should have the Pacers in a strong spot.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Year 1, 2021-22

    Watching their first-round pick go to the Golden State Warriors isn't all bad for Minnesota, who now get to keep their own 2022 unprotected pick instead.

    Anthony Edwards could very well be an All-Star in Year 2, someone who's already begun to match physical gifts with a great work ethic. As one Timberwolves coach told Bleacher Report, "I think Ant will be better than D-Wade."

    Simply getting a healthy season out of Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Edwards would be an accomplishment, with some growth from Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels and Jarrett Culver as an added bonus.

    While trading a veteran like Ricky Rubio to get another pick back may be tempting, his leadership has been invaluable to Edwards and should keep him in Minnesota.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    If McDaniels doesn't look like the long-term answer at power forward, it's time for the Wolves to find an upgrade using Beasley, Culver and future picks as bait. Towns needs a defense-minded four beside him, someone who's willing to take on the toughest assignment on a nightly basis. Ben Simmons could be a sneaky option here.

    Rubio will become an unrestricted free agent, and the Wolves should look to bring him back at a smaller number ($17.8 million expiring contract in 2021-22). Adding a few other vets in backup roles would help this team make a playoff push as well.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    The Wolves' Big Three will either be hitting free agency (Russell) or be extension-eligible (Towns, Edwards). Getting a deal done with Edwards should be easy, as he'll likely be in line for a full five-year max.

    Russell's friendship with Towns may make him want to re-sign even if Minnesota hasn't become a playoff lock yet, and getting the now veteran point guard to return could convince Towns to sign another extension himself.

    If the Wolves are still struggling to make the playoffs, we could see yet another rebuild, this time around Edwards with Towns shipped off for a maximum return.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    Year 1, 2021-22

    New Orleans has to make the playoffs in 2022. While missing out this season was disappointing, falling in the lottery again would be the last straw for David Griffin and the rest of the front office.

    The Pelicans have the draft capital necessary to make sweeping changes to the roster, and should be eyeing players like Myles Turner (the perfect fit next to Zion Williamson at center) and Damian Lillard (the perfect fit, period) via trade.

    Moving Eric Bledsoe and opening up more minutes for Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis Jr. is important, and bringing back Lonzo Ball on a deal under $20 million would make for a terrific offseason in New Orleans.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    Williamson will be extension eligible, a five-year max deal with a player option at the end he'll almost certainly sign. Even if the Pelicans miss the playoffs and he's unhappy, that's a lot of money to turn down.

    If Bledsoe is still on the roster, only $3.9 million of his $19.4 million salary is guaranteed. That's an easy decision for Griffin and one that opens up nearly $16 million in cap space.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    New Orleans should be looking to turn assets into talent, especially before the 2024 draft comes around. The Pelicans will have three first-round picks, their own and ones coming from the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers stemming from the Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis trades.

    There's no way this roster will want three rookies on a core that's ready to win, and the Pelicans need to continue to eye available stars around the league to come play with Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Garett Fisbeck/Associated Press

    Year 1, 2021-22

    With three first-round picks and six overall selections in the 2021 draft, the Thunder will have plenty of options to add young talent to the roster. This needs to be a "best player available" strategy throughout, as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is versatile enough to play either backcourt position and is the only proven star on the roster.

    Gilgeous-Alexander is also eligible for a rookie extension. His play this season looked max-worthy (23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 41.8 percent from three), and the Thunder should be thrilled to get him at anything under this amount.

    Now with Kemba Walker on the roster, OKC should field any and all trade offers but not feel rushed to make a decision. He's good enough to not attach a draft pick to, and the Thunder are still in really good financial shape.

    With the possibility of over $40 million in cap space, the Thunder should also be eyeing young talent, including restricted free agents (Lonzo Ball, Talen Horton-Tucker, Gary Trent Jr.) who they could sign to hefty offer sheets and force their incumbent teams to match.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    If Walker is still on the roster, he'll be playing on a $37.7 million player option that expires after the season. While a buyout is possible, if Walker's knees have held up to this point he should be far easier to trade, especially for teams looking for a veteran point guard who can still fill up the basket.

    Even with all the future picks coming in, the Thunder should be considering flipping their position from sellers to buyers. If there's another young star beginning to emerge next to Gilgeous-Alexander, OKC should start paying attention to disgruntled players around the league.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    The Thunder have probably collected enough young talent on the roster to start flirting with the playoffs and now have the draft ammo to go out and get another star. What team could outbid them at this point?

    Cap space could also be plentiful with Walker's $37.7 million deal off the books, unless OKC has flipped him for another overpriced vet in exchange for a pick. It's a strategy that's worked brilliantly so far.

Orlando Magic

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    Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

    Year 1, 2021-22

    Orlando is going to be bad for a while, and should be one of the leading contenders to land the No. 1 overall pick in 2022. Draft prep this season is crucial, as even selecting at Nos. 5 and 8 is far from a guarantee to land a star.

    Speaking of current draft position, the Magic's wish list should consist of Jonathan Kuminga, Scottie Barnes, Franz Wagner and Jalen Johnson, all forwards who can complement Orlando's collection of guards. Adding two off this list gives them a real chance at two high-level starters, at least.

    Of course, the return of Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz from torn ACLs will have the most impact on Orlando's 2021-22 season. Both should take all the time they need, and then take more. This team will need another high pick.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba will both be restricted free agents, with neither likely signing an extension in 2021 considering the uncertainty regarding their roles. Orlando should let the pair battle it out in 2021-22 and reward the best with a nice contract while looking for a sign-and-trade for the other.

    Terrence Ross will be entering the final year of his deal, one of the few veterans remaining on the team who's owed a reasonable $11.5 million. Orlando should reward him (and themselves) by moving Ross to a contender for a pick.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton and Chuma Okeke will all be extension eligible going into the final year of their rookie deals. By this time, we should know if Anthony or Fultz looks like the team's franchise point guard, and where exactly the other two fit either as starters, important reserves or busts.

    Orlando can probably try to start thinking about the playoffs next season, especially if one of those 2021 lottery picks is looking like a star.

Sacramento Kings

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    Year 1, 2021-22

    Outside of De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, there's a lot of unknowns on this roster.

    Richaun Holmes should be brought back at the right price. If he leaves, the Kings will need to find another center in free agency (Nerlens Noel) or the draft at No. 9 overall (Isaiah Jackson).

    While Sacramento isn't going to offer Marvin Bagley III a big extension, they shouldn't be in a big hurry to trade him, either. Essentially playing on a one-year, $11.3 million deal, there's still enough potential there to keep him on the roster for another season.

    This team also needs to trade Buddy Hield already. The arrival of Haliburton means Hield needs to find a new home, and the sharpshooting guard could be shopped to the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors or Los Angeles Lakers.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    After a full year of a hopefully healthy Bagley, the Kings can now make a decision on his future in restricted free agency. If a productive season means matching a big offer sheet, so be it. If he misses the majority of the season with injuries once again, Sacramento can simply let him walk in free agency and use the cap space on someone else.

    Harrison Barnes will be entering the final year of his deal, an $18.4 million price point that could easily be moved if Sacramento is still stuck in a rebuild.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    Haliburton will be extension eligible for the first time. If he builds on an impressive rookie season (13.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 40.9 percent from three), the Kings could easily expect to pay him over $20 million a year.

    With Barnes no longer under contract and Haliburton in the final year of his rookie deal, this could be the Kings' first and last chance at real cap space with Fox. Finding the best player available to come help maximize the backcourt should be the goal.

San Antonio Spurs

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    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    Year 1, 2021-22

    The Spurs need to come to a decision on DeMar DeRozan. If he's willing to return on anything at or under $20 million a year, that would be terrific value. If DeRozan is pushing for a max, San Antonio should let him walk instead. The sweet spot may be in the middle, targeting a team without cap space (Los Angeles Clippers) who could use the Southern California native in a sign-and-trade.

    This isn't a roster that should be rebuilding as long as Gregg Popovich is still coaching, however. The 72-year-old likely isn't interested in tanking, making the Spurs a sneaky trade destination for stars that may come on the market. San Antonio should be calling about Ben Simmons, as his talent mixed with Pop's knowledge could bring out the best in the 24-year-old.

    Patty Mills should have a lifetime spot on the Spurs roster if he wants it, and bringing back the veteran free agent is important to whatever San Antonio wants to do.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    Lonnie Walker IV, one of the Spurs' best young pieces who will be 23 in the summer of 2022, will be a restricted free agent. In 38 games as a starter, he averaged 12.4 points, 3.0 rebounds and shot 36.8 percent from three. While the Spurs could extend him, it may be worth waiting to see how he handles a bigger role if DeRozan leaves.

    Keldon Johnson, on the other hand, is worth extending early. As the team's starting small forward, he made a big jump in Year 2 and should only get better with a larger workload. He's a dynamic scorer who can guard multiple positions and was a steal for the Spurs at No. 29 overall in 2019.

    If Luka Samanic hasn't shown the necessary growth by now, the Spurs should look to trade one of their guards or wings for a power forward to play pick-and-roll with.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    Popovich has to be retired by now, right?

    If not, this core could be really good by now, one led by Dejounte Murray, Johnson, Walker, Devin Vassell, Derrick White and whoever the Spurs took with their lottery pick in 2021.

    If Popovich is still around, San Antonio should still be on the hunt for stars and vets who can help him win a sixth championship before he officially calls it a career.

Toronto Raptors

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Year 1, 2021-22

    Much like the Golden State Warriors, the Raptors should consider their trip to the lottery short-lived, with the goal of another deep playoff run starting soon.

    Returning to actually play in Toronto will help, as will the No. 4 overall pick in the draft. Jalen Suggs may very well be the best available at this spot, and a backcourt of he and Fred VanVleet would be really good together. The Raptors should go hard for a trade up to No. 2, however, in an attempt to grab Evan Mobley to become the team's new franchise center.

    Finding a sign-and-trade for Kyle Lowry may be the best path for everyone, especially if the team drafts a guard and re-signs restricted free agent shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. Teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets should all be interested in making a deal for Lowry.


    Year 2, 2022-23

    Chris Boucher will become an unrestricted free agent in 2022 and could be in for a hefty pay day. He'll likely be the starter in 2021-22 unless the Raptors can move up to draft Mobley, and is one of the NBA's best dual shot-blocking and three-point shooting threats. Toronto should look for younger options now to groom under Boucher and avoid overpaying him in free agency.

    Pascal Siakam will be an interesting player to monitor. The Raptors gave him a max rookie extension, yet saw the power forward go from All-Star starter to non All-Star in a year. He's still a terrific talent who many teams would covet, so it may be worth gauging his value on the trade market while he still has two years left on his deal.


    Year 3, 2023-24

    VanVleet carries a player option for $22.8 million, which seems like solid value. Of course, the Raptors backcourt could look different by then if the team drafts a player like Suggs and re-signs Trent, thus reducing VanVleet's role in the offense.

    If Suggs is an All-Star by now, the Raptors may pursue a VanVleet trade either now or the year before so they don't lose him in free agency for nothing.


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