As day turns to night, and vice versa, as certain is the fact that an NBA is actively rebuilding at any time.
But lately, more teams have begun, or are in the process of reshaping their roster through myriad ways. Philadelphia is eternally rebuilding without getting anywhere, Minnesota has laid the foundation for a successful future off a promising young core, Chicago could end up hitting the big red demolition button this summer, and the Lakers and Knicks are in respective transition situations as well.
Then there’s the Brooklyn Nets that won’t see their own pick until 2019, which is the most extreme and discouraging process - if you can even call it that - in the league.
In fact, you could argue that only six teams are all-in this season, a number that changes as the playoffs near and the wind of the trading deadline has swept the landscape.
Those are, obviously, Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Cleveland, Toronto and the Boston Celtics.
Oh yes, the Celtics. With the knowledge of having high lottery picks coming their way the next three years via Brooklyn, they see no reason to wait around and are currently making a lot of noise in the Eastern Conference. And why not? Getting three future stud rookies into a winning program is basically a shared wet dream for any GM in the league.
Oh sure, there’s Memphis and Atlanta following suit to some extent, but not really. Memphis knows Mike Conley’s situation this summer and are undoubtedly making inquiries about potentially getting younger this deadline, so they can overcome such a loss. The Hawks are shopping their squad despite a winning record because they have no chance of really breaking through in the playoffs, and lord knows they don’t want another Joe Johnson/second-round maximum era on their hands.
Some speculate that the turning waters are because of the Warriors and their assumed stronghold on the title in the following years. It’s a fair point, even if it seems callus to concede their path. Some teams are just transcendent, and the Dubs have a shot at becoming this generation’s Chicago Bulls, which more or less guarantees a certain aura that makes them impenetrable.
(And let’s not even mention that Kevin Durant could possibly land there. I’ll forfeit my “callus” comment should that be the case.)
But as it stands, so many teams are left in either no-man’s land or in the process of building something up, or tearing something down, that the league as a whole is potentially looking at lots of roster turnover in the coming years. That won’t necessarily hurt the product, and given how so many are trying to sell, somebody who’s buying is bound to get better, but it pegs the question if the league will have just a few title contenders each year over the next few?
Unfortunately my magic 8-ball is broken, but looking at the rosters of the current contenders and you’re left uninspired with some. The Cavs are faulty and are paying through their nose for a team that looks…well, just not good enough. Most of their upgrades will have to be made from within, and with LeBron at 31 with the burden of almost too much experience, things could go south fairly quickly.
It’s a weird situation totally, but also an intriguing one. If Boston ends up with the right rookies, they could conceivably represent the East for the next many years, leaving little to anyone else in the conference.
How would a three-year Warriors/Celtics Finals matchup look? If the talent is there and the system is doing its job, then you could argue it’d be the best basketball available, but still…after Year 2, you’d want something else, no? Now, I concede that writing this prior to the trading deadline seems premature, but are there any moves out there that really changes the needle for anyone at this point?
We’ll see what happens, but the amount of teams rebuilding, retooling, tinkering, breaking down or building up their roster is high enough that you at least have to wonder how the league is going to look just a year down the road.
That’s not to say the league won’t be better because of it. In fact, with the talent level of players coming into the NBA today, imploding your roster to get a sound foundation in place is probably the best thing you can do. Just ask the much-mentioned Warriors. They went from Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and the Thunder (Sonics) also turned their entire fortunes around by finally accepting they were going nowhere with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
Hell, even the Lakers in a year’s time could be on their way back to respectability just by having Kobe retire.
So no, rebuilding isn’t a bad thing. But when so many teams are doing it concurrently, you at least have to stop at times and take a wholesome look at the league and its health in terms of current production. The worst development here would be having the same two or three teams go on a five-year domination quest, leaving little interest in anyone else.
Somehow, though, I doubt this will be the case. Not everyone takes as long time to get their foundation laid as Philadelphia, after all.