In the past couple of years, we have seen the landscape of the NBA changing. Like, who would have thought a couple of years ago that the Hawks and Suns would make it so far into the playoffs.
Now with new generational talent entering into the league at the end of the month due to the draft. The landscape of the NBA could change even more with teams like the Pistons, Raptors, Thunder, and Pelicans on the rise. Here are my predictions on how these four teams could change the NBA landscape in the future.
The Detroit Pistons hit the jackpot by earning the number one pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. The Pistons are projected to draft generational talent Cade Cunningham, with the number one pick. Cunningham is known for his high IQ on the court and is the best playmaker in the draft.
It’s not only going to take Cunningham to led the Pistons to a championship. There are three other players besides Cunningham who will need to be high-ranked players to win. But the other players on the team will need to be elite players to bring a championship back to Detroit.
Players like Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, and Killian Hayes will need to be big-time contributors. Bey will need to be one of the best three-point shooters in all of the basketball. Stewart is going to hopefully be a rebounding champion and contender for defensive player of the year.
But Hayes, out of the three, has the most to provide. Last season, he was injured most of the year and showed lots of promise towards the end of the season. He is going to have to lead the Pistons in assists. Besides Cunningham, Hayes is going to need be a facilitator for the Pistons.
The Pistons are going to be a force to wreckin with in the future. The organization is trending to build the next dynasty in Pistons Basketball history.
The Toronto Raptors had a disappointing season last year. The Raptors played all last season in Tampa Bay due to COVID and were struggling all year. At the same time, there were multiple reasons why the Raptors did not perform at their highest level. There is still a very bright future going forward.
The first factor is their first-round draft pick from this year. The Raptors are mainly looking at drafting between Jalen Suggs or Evan Mobley. Suggs is more of a takeover guard who can drive in the paint or shoot from downtown. Mobley is an elite shot-blocker and rebounder. Both players will bring a significant boost to the team next year and down the road.
Another critical factor for the Raptors is the leadership and rise of Fred VanVleet. After getting a major contract during the offseason last year. He needs to perform at an all-star and all-NBA team level night in and night out. Not only does he have to perform on the floor, but he needs to be the leader for the Raptors. Due to Kyle Lowry possibly not coming back to the Raptors next year. VanVleet needs to take over the role of being the leader and one of the franchise’s faces. In the future, people need to look out for VanVleet to provide that he can be a team leader.
The final factor for the Raptors is GM Masai Ujiri. Ujiri has made bold moves that have even gotten the Raptors a ring in 2019. Now, Ujiri will have to start back from the bottom and build the team back up to the top. Raptors fans should have complete faith in him throughout this offseason and in the future. While there may not hope right now, wait until Ujiri makes a move that will change the organization. But it will make an impact on the entire league.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder is another team that has a lot of potential. The franchise has accumulated a total of 36 draft picks for the next seven years. The 36 total draft picks are split into 18 first and second-round picks.
With multiple drafts picks and cap space in the future, the Thunder have lots of scenarios that could help them bring them back to the top. Possibilities include trading for a star to join alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and/or even to move up in the draft to get a player like Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs, or Evan Mobley. There are many directions that the Thunder could take to bring them back to the top of the league.
New Orleans Pelicans
Out of all of the teams listed, the Pelicans have the most pressure to win a championship. In 2019, the Pelicans drafted Zion Williamson as the number one pick. Williamson is known for his strength, speed, and athleticism on the court. But there is pressure to build a championship roster to play alongside Williamson. Or else Williamson could leave New Orleans just like Anthony Davis did in 2019.
The Pelicans are going to need multiple moves and players to step up for them. Brandon Ingram will be playing like an all-star again and be the second option for the team. He will need to average 25 points per game to help ease the pressure off of Williamson.
During this offseason, the Pelicans are going to need to be aggressive. The Pelicans will need to go after a star or move up in the draft to make the playoffs. One player that has been thrown out there to join the Pelicans is point guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry will help bring a boost to the leadership standpoints for the roster. He understands what it takes to win a championship, as he won in 2019 with the Raptors. Lowry could be that final piece that finally gets the Pelicans to the playoffs.
Not only is free agency huge for the Pelicans during the offseason. But the upcoming NBA Draft is significant for them. The Pelicans have the tenth pick in the draft and have plenty of options to choose from. The Pelicans are looking into the draft Corey Kispert, Franz Wagner, or Moses Moody. Another scenario for the Pelicans on draft night is to trade up. Maybe the Pelicans could trade up into the top five to get a better draft prospect. Players in the top five available are James Bouknight, Jonathan Kuminga, and Scottie Barnes.
The Pelicans are going to need to make some significant moves during the next couple of offseason. Or we could see Williamson forcing the Pelicans to trade him to a contender.
A dawn of a new age in the NBA
It’s a new age in the NBA. The narrative of building super teams in a big market is starting to fade away. The Milwaukee Bucks provided that you can win a championship in a small market. The Bucks provided with strategic draft selections, smart coaches and GM’s that teams in a small market can compete for championships year in and year out.
After winning the Finals, Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo stated how we wanted to win for the city of Milwaukee and his perspective on super teams.
Giannis started on his love for Milwaukee, “I couldn’t leave. There was a job that had to be finished. Coming back, I said, this was my city, they trust me, they believe in me, they believe in us, even when we lose, the city was still on our side, and obviously I wanted to get the job done.
Giannis stated on super teams, “It is easy to go somewhere and win a championship with somebody else, it’s easy. I could go to a super team, do my part, and win a championship. But, I did it the hard way.”
Other teams like the Hawks, Suns, and Jazz provided teamwork is more valuable than individual performances throughout the season. It gives hope to all of the small markets or bottom-tier teams that nothing is ever possible.
This new age in the NBA is something special that fans should take in. It’s something that we haven’t experienced in a long time, from the teams at the top to the teams at the bottom. The league is changing from just two teams dominating. Today, anyone no matter the location of the team has a chance to compete and win a championship.