Photo Credit: CBS Sports
The 2016-2017 NBA season is in full swing, and we have created a better understanding of the talent in each team and what is to come in the near future for the NBA. Through this, the sudden contenders and future contenders have began to emerge. While I am a strong believer in long term success and less “reacting” in the moment, I have proof that the Milwaukee Bucks will be the best team in basketball a couple of years from now. Obviously, there is more than a few potential picks, so I am going to go through a couple of teams that have hype around them and show why it will not be them. Then I will explain why Milwaukee will be the best 5-6 years from now.
Let’s start out with the Philadelphia 76ers. This team has been one of the worst teams in NBA history over the past three seasons, but is now hyped up to be one of the best teams in basketball in the future. Nerlens Noel is loaded with potential. Joel Embiid is now getting minutes after a terrible injury, but is slated to be the Rookie of the Year this season. Then, the biggest prize of all is Ben Simmons. Coming out of LSU and growing up in Australia, Simmons has had more media around him in his rookie season then almost anyone else. People are already making bets on him being the next LeBron James. Yes, he is drawing comparisons to one of the best players in NBA history.
This team does have some problems. Jahlil Okafor has had loads of aggression problems off the court. At this point, many are speculating Okafor will eventually be a backup to the twin towers of Noel and Embiid. A player of his talent and aggressive mentality is not going to cope well with that in my opinion. It just doesn’t sound like Jahlil Okafor to settle for a backup role given his personality. He will likely spur up chemistry issues and that could begin a downfall in Philadelphia. This hurts to say next, given anyone who reads my past articles knows I am a die-hard 76ers fan, but I do not have any faith in Ben Simmons. He is very talented, but a LeBron-esque player is a lifetime away. I just don’t think a player like him will ever be that good. I know you cannot put 100% of the blame around him, but LSU could not make march madness last season. It may have been a team effort, but the Wolverines also had a player that was supposed to be a lottery pick in the preseason mock draft, Tim Quarterman. Though he also did not live up to expectations, it makes no sense that a future NBA Legend would ever miss a tournament where 64 teams make it. He couldn’t lead his solid team to a better ranking than teams like Middle Tennessee State or Florida Gulf Coast. Yet, he’s supposed to lead the Sixers deep into the playoffs in a much more competitive league? I don’t think so.
Next, we have the Los Angeles Lakers. They beat the Golden State Warriors earlier this year with their young core, and is now seen as a potential dynasty in the making. I would not disagree. They have my personal favorite active player, D’Angelo Russell, at the point guard position. He has a very bright future with his natural talent, handles and work ethic (and let’s not forget the subtle advantage, swagger). Add that in with who I think is going to be the best player coming out of the 2016 draft, Brandon Ingram. He has been drawing comparisons to 2014 MVP Kevin Durant, and I would say they’re accurate. LA does have hurdles to overcome though. Brandon Ingram needs to become tougher in the post. He has one of the lowest body fat percentages in the NBA, and it shows on the floor. In addition, they have a lot of things to work out as far as sharing the ball. I know it worked out this time, but Nick Young, aka “Swaggy P”, stealing the ball from his own teammate so he can take a less quality shot shows the low team chemistry they have. They have to get a lot more flow in their offense and share the ball much more in order to take steps forward. As much as I love Russell as a player, he is a score first point guard that you cannot rely on to create that flow they need to become more successful.
One of the most highly anticipated teams is the Utah Jazz. Many thought this year, Utah would take a step forward. ESPN had them all the way up to a 3 seed in the West at one point in the offseason. Sports Illustrated planned for them to be a 4 seed. Either way (especially given they play in the west, which is still the most dominant conference), Utah was slated to have home court advantage in the first round and potentially make it relatively deep into the postseason. This young core could easily become one of the NBA’s star lineups. I still would not disagree. They have been fighting through multiple injuries and still grinding out tough victories. Once they get Derrick Favors back, Utah should have the firepower to win around 50 games this year. The problem with the Jazz is simple. They are a superstar away from winning a championship. They have all the pieces, they just need someone to give the ball to with the game on the line. They have no one to take charge and win the game whenever needed. At this point, unless they make a trade for a pick, they are too good to pick early in the draft and select a superstar. They would have to sign someone. Not trying to take anything away from Utah, but there is no way any superstar in today’s league that wants to sign and play in such a small market. I just don’t see that happening, so Utah is out of luck.
Finalizing the contestants, we have the Minnesota Timberwolves. They clearly have a ton of high expectations, given they had the #1 pick for two drafts in a row, and have an overload of other young talent around them to pitch in valuable minutes. It seems there is very few possibilities resulting in the Wolves not heading to greatness. Karl-Anthony Towns is already one of the best centers in basketball, and is still in his early 20’s. However, this team has just one big issue. They cannot close out games to save their life. I get this is a young team, but you have got to be kidding me. It seems every night they have a lead, only to give it up. It doesn’t matter how big the lead is. This is a very frightening problem to have to deal with. Given Wiggins, Towns, and LaVine all are statistically stable, it is safe to say they have the foundation for a contender. But this all depends on what happens in the future as far as getting veteran assets.
And finally, the team I believe is best set for the future: The Milwaukee Bucks. They are not many people’s first choice for future dynasties, however they have that kind of vibe to them. To start off, they were the first team to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the 2015-16 season. This Warriors team was 24-0 at the time. I don’t care what anybody says, Golden State wanted to keep their undefeated streak alive. And still, the young Bucks team did it. They also were competitive in their next meeting. Once again, against a pissed off Warriors team that wanted revenge. This was also at Oracle Arena, one of the hardest places to play. As of right now, the Bucks are 15-15. This is a solid record and will be quickly improving. Giannis Antetokounmpo, nicknamed the “Greek Freak”, is quietly becoming one of the best players in basketball. He leads his team in all 5 of the major categories (points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks). Put a solid core around him, and they could be great. And this solid core is ready to take the NBA by storm. For starters, whoever is calling Jabari Parker a draft bust needs to slow down and remember this man is only 21 years old. He may not be playing as well as his draft class rival Andrew Wiggins, but he is still scoring 20.3 points per game. This team is filled with young talent and All-Stars in the making. John Henson isn’t bad, Thon Maker has a great future ahead of him, and Greg Monroe still has a chance to be good. This group, all playing around Antetekounmpo, is set to take the NBA by storm, hence why they are the NBA’s team of the future.