Keys to Success: What Does Every NBA Team Need to be a Title Contender?

Philadelphia 76ers: Trade Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid. Really, there’s a lot that Philly can do. But I’ll start by saying that either Noel or Embiid need to go. This is because Jahlil Okafor looks like the real deal. Also, you do not need three centers competing for time. Add Ben Simmons to the picture, and you have a crowded starting lineup. Joel Embiid has not played a minute in the NBA due to injury, even though he was drafted in 2014. It’s 2016, and he looks like the next big draft bust. Also, Nerlens Noel is a terrible offensive player, with a career average of 10.5 ppg, but is a stellar defensive player. My call is to trade Embiid.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Sergio Rodriguez

Jerryd Bayless

Ben Simmons

Jahlil Okafor

Nerlens Noel

6TH MAN: Joel Embiid

Los Angeles Lakers: Embrace the two-guard system. D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, along with rookie Brandon Ingram, will pose as the future of the Lakers. I could see Clarkson sliding into the shooting guard position and thriving there. Russell and Ingram should form a good big 3 with Clarkson. The way I see it, if the Lakers run this system, they should return to glory.

2016-17 STARTERS:

D’Angelo Russell

Jordan Clarkson

Brandon Ingram

Julius Randle

TImofey Mozgov

6TH MAN: Luol Deng

Brooklyn Nets: Get a point guard. Okay, they got Jeremy Lin. But ever since LinSanity, he has basically been a role player. The Nets really are weak at basically every position except center, where they have All-Star Brook Lopez. But Rondae Hollis-Jefferson looks to pretty good at defense, and Sean Kilpatrick’s offensive production wasn’t terrible. They also signed Luis Scola in the offseason. So basically, if they get a good point guard, they can compete for a playoff spot.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Jeremy Lin

Sean Kilpatrick

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Luis Scola

Brook Lopez

6TH MAN: Bojan Bogdanovic

Phoenix Suns: Make Devin Booker the focal point. Sure, they have Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, too. But Bledsoe averaged 20 points and 6 assists a game last year… in 31 games. Also, Knight also missed 30 games. The two injuries contributed to Phoenix’s 23-59 record last season. But Booker, who averaged just under 14 points a game last year, missed just 6 games. If Bledsoe and Knight can stay healthy, then along with Booker, they could form an intriguing Big 3. And to go along with that, a few wins as well.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Eric Bledsoe

Brandon Knight

Devin Booker

Marquese Chriss

Dragan Bender

6TH MAN: Tyson Chandler

Minnesota Timberwolves: Get rid of Ricky Rubio. Sure, Rubio is an excellent playmaker. But with the drafting of Kris Dunn, is should be that Rubio is on the way out. Dunn, I think, is a better scorer, and has about the same playmaking skills as Rubio. Plus, I like the whole “youth movement” lineup in Minnesota: Dunn (rookie), Zach LaVine (3rd year), Andrew Wiggins (3rd year), Gorgui Dieng (4th year), and Karl-Anthony Towns (sophomore), are all younger than 25, with the exception of Dieng (26.) I say, trade Ricky Rubio, to a team without a point guard, like the Nets, and that will mean success.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Kris Dunn

Zach LaVine

Andrew Wiggins

Karl-Anthony Towns

Gorgui Dieng

6TH MAN: Ricky Rubio

New Orleans Pelicans: Get Anthony Davis a supporting cast. The Pelicans’ top player is All-Star Anthony Davis. Other than that, they have a few players who have regressed (Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans), a rookie (Buddy Hield), and a big hole at center in the starting lineup. I mean, with this team, Davis would have to average 35 points, 15 boards, and 5 assists for the team to win 50 games. I say trade Evans and Holiday for two young players, acquire a center, and you have a winning formula.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Jrue Holiday

Buddy Hield

Tyreke Evans

Anthony Davis

Alexis Ajinca

New York Knicks: Jell with each other. With the acquisitions of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to go along with Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony, I think New York is primed for a playoff run. However, they need the bench to step up, and for the starting lineup to get along. If they can do that, New York can be a dangerous thing.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Derrick Rose

Courtney Lee

Carmelo Anthony

Kristaps Porzingis

Joakim Noah

6TH MAN: Brandon Jennings

Milwaukee Bucks: Learn from mistakes. Okay, so last yer didn’t pan out the way I thought it would. But it was the first year with the lineup of Michael Carter-Williams, a former Rookie of the Year, Khris Middleton, a sharpshooter, Giannis Atetokununmpo, an all-around talent, Jabari Parker, a pretty decent player, and Greg Monroe, a master rebounder. If this team can learn from mistakes, they’re playoff bound, baby!

2016-17 STARTERS:

Michael Carter-Williams

Khris Middleton

Giannis Atetokunumpo

Jabari Parker

Greg Monroe

6TH MAN: Thon Maker

Denver Nuggets: Role players step up. Danilo Gallinari looks like the best player on the team… but he can’t stay healthy. Emmanuel Mudiay is young and unproven. Will Barton is more of a 6th man than a star player. Gary Harris is one of the worst starters in the league, and Kenneth Faried is terrible on offense. And oh yeah, the rest of the team sucks, too. If all of these problems can somehow be fixed, Denver will make the playoffs.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Emmanuel Mudiay

Gary Harris

Danilo Gallinari

Kenneth Faried

Nikola Jokic

6TH MAN: Will Barton

Sacramento Kings: Build around Boogie. Demarcus Cousins is, in my opinion, the best center in the NBA. So why do the Kings suck? Becuase they have almost no one else who can step up for them! Rudy Gay is beyond his prime, Darren Collison is just okay, and no one else can play defense. But with new coach Dave Jeorger, who helped the Grizzlies become a top defense, who knows? The Kings might actually be worth watching.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Darren Collison

Arron Afflalo

Rudy Gay

Willie Cauley-Stein

DeMarcus Cousins

6TH MAN: Omri Casspi

Orlando Magic: Youth steps up. Along with the acquisition of Serge Ibaka, the Magic boast a young, intriguing starting 5.  Elfrid Payton looks like a great playmaker. Evan Fournier is coming off a career year, in which he had career highs in just about everything. Aaron Gordon looks like a good young player as well, and Nikola Vucevic is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. The Magic improved by 10 games last year. Maybe they can make a playoff push this year.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Elfrid Payton

Evan Fournier

Aaron Gordon

Serge Ibaka

Nikola Vucevic

6TH MAN: Mario Hezonja

Utah Jazz: Build on youth. I think that Utah has a pretty good young team. Gordon Hayward looks like a legit go-to scoring option, while Rudy Gobert is a stifling defensive player. Also, Derrick Favors is a solid player, and Alec Burks is okay as well. But now the Jazz have something that they didn’t have in the past few years: a point guard. After acquiring George Hill from the Pacers, the Jazz have a pretty solid starting 5 and should make a push for the playoffs.

2016-17 STARTERS:

George Hill

Alec Burks

Gordon Hayward

Derrick Favors

Rudy Gobert

6TH MAN: Joe Johnson

Washington Wizards: Obtain a frontcourt.Sure, John Wall and Bradley Beal form one of the league’s best backcourts, but the frontcourt is pretty bad. Otto Porter, Jr. is set to start at small forward, and Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris are just okay. However, if the upgrade the frontcourt, then Washington should be able to make some noise in the playoffs. But until then, Wall and Beal should keep them competitive in some ways.

2016-17 STARTERS:
John Wall

Bradley Beal

Otto Porter, Jr.

Markieff Morris

Marcin Gortat

6TH MAN: Trey Burke

Houston Rockets: Build around James Harden. Shooting guard James Harden is one of the NBA’s best players. But the team’s starting lineup other than Harden (Patrick Beverley, Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, and Ryan Anderson), all are pretty solid but not great players. Also, they lost Dwight Howard to Atlanta, which leaves a big hole at center. If they can build around Harden and surround him with some star power, Houston will be a powerhouse.

2016-17 STARTERS:
Patrick Beverley

Eric Gordon

James Harden

Ryan Anderson

Clint Capela

6TH MAN: Michael Beasley

Chicago Bulls: Form a big 3. The Derrick Rose era is over. To replace the injury-prone guard, Chicago signed both assists leader Rajon Rondo and Chicagoan Dwyane Wade. Those two should form a nice big 3 with shooting guard Jimmy Butler who will start at small forward with Wade’s arrival. With these three stars, Chicago should be eyeing a return to the playoffs. Oh, and Bobby Portis and Robin Lopez form a pretty decent front court.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Rajon Rondo

Dwyane Wade

Jimmy Butler

Bobby Portis

Robin Lopez

6TH MAN: Taj Gibson

Memphis Grizzlies: Stay healthy. Sure, Memphis dropped 14 of 17 to end the year and were swept in the first round. But that’s only because of the amount of injuries that the Grizzlies suffered near the end of the season, specifically to Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. But with Conley and Gasol back, along with Zach “Z-Bo” Randolph, the Grizzlies should return to their past form. If all of these players stay healthy, Memphis’ “Grit and Grind” era should continue with another playoff spot.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Mike Conley

Tony Allen

Chandler Parsons

Zach Randolph

Marc Gasol

6TH MAN: Wade Baldwin

Dallas Mavericks: Let the new guys take over. Big D acquired two former Warriors, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut, in the offseason. These two players will team with Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, and Dirk Nowitzki in the starting 5, which looks pretty good on paper. Barnes and Bogut still know Golden State’s gameplan, so if they have a first-round matchup with Golden State, they could spring an upset.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Deron Williams

Wesley Matthews

Harrison Barnes

Dirk Nowitzki

Andrew Bogut

6TH MAN: Devin Harris

Detroit Pistons: Obtain a shooting guard. The Pistons have two really good players in my opinion, and those are point guard Reggie Jackson and center Andre Drummond. Both are about 25 years of age, and are locked in for another four years, so Detroit has their core for a while. Also, Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris should be pretty good in the starting lineup. However, shooting guard is a big hole for the Pistons, as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is only an okay player in my opinion, is set to start at the 2 spot. If Detroit can obtain a better shooting guard, then they will once again be a fixture in the playoffs.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Reggie Jackson

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Tobias Harris

Marcus Morris

Andre Drummond

6TH MAN: Henry Ellenson

Portland Trail Blazers: Build on the second half. After a 19-26 start, Portland went 25-12 the rest of the way to make the playoffs. And over the offseason, Portland re-signed C.J. McCollum to a 4-year deal, AND Kevin Durant left for Golden State. SO yeah, Portland is favored to win the Northwest. All the pieces, including All-Star Damian Lillard, are in place. If Portland can build on their success, then they should be primed for a longer playoff run.

2016-17 STARTERS:
Damian Lillard

C.J. McCollum

Evan Turner

Al-Farouq Aminu

Festus Ezeli

6TH MAN: Allen Crabbe

Indiana Pacers: Build off the offseason. During the offseason, the Pacers surrounded Paul George with many talented players. They replaced George Hill with Jeff Teague, and traded for Thaddeus Young. The Pacers also signed center Al Jefferson. So Indiana has a pretty stacked roster in my opinion. If this roster is as talented as I think it is, Indy can be a top 3 seed in a weak Eastern Conference.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Jeff Teague

Monta Ellis

Paul George

Thaddeus Young

Myles Turner

6TH MAN: Al Jefferson

Charlotte Hornets: Repatch the starting lineup. Charlotte is actually looking pretty good, as they went on a run to make the playoffs and took the Heat to a game 7. The leader of Buzz City is Kemba Walker, a potential All-Star. However, the rest of the starting lineup needs work. Aside from Nicolas Batum, I don’t particularly like the starting lineup. Jeremy Lamb is not very good in my opinion, and the frontcourt is a mess. Sophomore Frank Kaminsky, who did not replicate his outstanding college career in Year 1, and Roy Hibbert, who is coming off a terrible season with the Lakers, are set to start. I think that if Kemba has a big year, Charlotte will win the Southeast.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Kemba Walker

Jeremy Lamb

Nicolas Batum

Frank Kaminsky

Roy Hibbert

6TH MAN: Courtney Lee

Boston Celtics: Be as good as the roster. TBH, I really love Boston’s roster. Isaiah Thomas is coming off an All-Star season, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder are both defensive studs, and Al Horford has solidified himself as a top NBA center. They will be joined in the starting lineup by rookie Jaylen Brown. I also really like Boston’s bench. Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk,  and Amir Johnson, solidify Boston’s 8-man rotation. I think that Boston can make it to the Finals if they are injury-free.

2016-17 STARTERS:
Isaiah Thomas

Avery Bradley

Jaylen Brown

Jae Crowder

Al Horford

6TH MAN: Marcus Smart

Atlanta Hawks: New starters learn the ropes. Dennis Schroeder and Dwight Howard will be taking over for Jeff Teague and Al Horford, respectively, in the starting lineup. Schroeder looks like a better playmaker than Jeff Teague, and Howard has been solidified as a top 10 center. I think that if they learn the ropes, and jell with All-Star Paul Millsap, then Atlanta will win the Southeast.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Dennis Schroeder

Kyle Korver

Kent Baezmore

Paul Millsap

Dwight Howard

6TH MAN: Jarrett Jack

Miami Heat: Get a shooting guard. Miami lost Dwyane Wade over the offseason, so they are really weak at shooting guard. But they do have a pretty good team otherwise: Goran Dragic, Chris Bosh, and Hassan Whiteside form a pretty good core, and Justice Winslow is only going to improve. I think that if Miami gets a shooting guard, they will compete for a playoff spot.

2016-17 STARTERS:
Goran Dragic

Tyler Johnson

Justice Winslow

Chris Bosh

Hassan Whiteside

6TH MAN: Derrick Williams

Los Angeles Clippers: Get a small forward and re-sign the core. For the first time in this post, I am mentioning two things a team can do to contend. Sure, the Clippers are contenders already, but they can do both to get even better. First off: get a small forward. After failing to sign Kevin Durant in the offseason, the 3 spot remains a hole for the Clippers. If they can get a good small forward, LA should compete for a title. Oh, and one more thing: Chris Paul AND Blake Griffin are free agents after the season.

2016-17 STARTERS:
Chris Paul :

J.J. Redick

Luc Mbah a Moute

Blake Griffin

DeAndre Jordan

6TH MAN: Marreese Speights

Oklahoma City Thunder: Make Russell Westbrook an MVP-type player. Okay, the lowdown of the offseason: Franchise player Kevin Durant left for the Warriors, and Russell Westbrook signed me an extension. The rest of the roster isn’t very good. I don’t like either Victor Oladipo, who they traded Serge Ibaka for, or Andre Roberson. So now, Steven Adams and Enes Kanter will compete for minutes. If Westbrook wins MVP or has a big year, OKC should be OK.

2016-17 STARTERS:
Russell Westbrook

Victor Oladipo

Andre Roberson

Enes Kanter

Steven Adams

6TH MAN: Cameron Payne

Toronto Raptors: Obtain a good frontcourt. Toronto won a franchise record 56 games last year, and made it to the East Finals before losing to the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers. But their success was mainly due to their All-Star backcourt, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. I like Jonas Valanciunas, but I see that the Raptors have a pretty big hole at small and power forward. With Terrence Ross and Jared Sullinger set to start, I think that if they upgrade at both forward spots, Toronto will be a fixture in the playoffs for years to come.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Kyle Lowry

DeMar DeRozan

Terrence Ross

Jared Sullinger

Jonas Valanciunas

6TH MAN: DeMarre Carroll

Cleveland Cavaliers: Have a Warriors-esque season… with a happy ending. The Warriors set the record for wins in a season… but lost to LeBron James and co. in the Finals. After re-signing LeBron to a 3-year deal, the Cavs will make a big case to repeat. Now, if only they could actually win after taking a 3-1 series lead…

2016-17 STARTERS:

Kyrie Irving

Iman Shumpert

LeBron James

Kevin Love

Tristian Thompson

6TH MAN: Mo Williams

San Antonio Spurs: Keep up the good work. Even with the retirement of Tim Duncan, a franchise cornerstone, the Spurs are destined for another great year. The Spurs now lie in All-Stars Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and recent signing Pau Gasol. The veteran leadership will come from Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. With all the pieces in place, San Antonio shall have yet another 50-win season.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Tony Parker

Danny Green

Kawhi Leonard

LaMarcus Aldridge

Pau Gasol

6TH MAN: Manu Ginobili

Golden State Warriors: Get along. With the signing of Kevin Durant, the Warriors look like a super team. Now, all the Warriors have to do in order to raise another banner is get along. If Steph Curry and KD can figure out how to jell with one another, as well as Kaly Thompson and Draymond Green adjusting to their new roles. One more thing: even though the Warriors will have one of the league’s best records, they will have the NBA’s worst bench unit.

2016-17 STARTERS:

Stephen Curry

Klay Thompson

Kevin Durant

Draymond Green

Zaza Pachulia

6TH MAN: Andre Igoudala








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