In the modern era of basketball there are several components to a team that a championship contender must have in order to compete; a guard that can lead the team’s offense, high-quality outside shooters and big-men who can clean the glass whilst effectively scoring and protecting the paint. This is the modern NBA championship quality template and this is what many teams are working towards. With years of struggling and top picks, in the foreseeable future, some of these teams will go on to winning the coveted Larry O’Brien championship trophy.
*For this list I am excluding the New Orleans Pelicans as I wanted to break down other teams who aren’t getting the recognition and media attention that they deserve*
Flashback to what the Kings had three years ago; a drama queen in DeMarcus Cousins who hadn’t led them to the playoffs in his entire career, and several other role players who helped the Kings get to the third worst record in the western conference with 32-50 for the season. Since then, the Kings have accumulated many promising and determined young players who have the potential to take them all the way. Starting off with a trade that occurred during the All-Star break, Cousins was shipped off to the New Orleans Pelicans in return for Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, two future draft picks, and the main piece Buddy Hield. Since the trade, Hield has demolished records and has been a main factor in the Kings recent success. (For a more in-depth look into Hield refer to the article published on the NBA’s underrated players). In the 2017 NBA Draft, the Kings selected the electrifying point guard out of Kentucky; De’Aaron Fox, with the 5th overall pick. In his rookie season, Fox average only 11.6 points per game and 4.4 assists per game whilst shooting 41% from the field. These may not be numbers that jump off the page but overall; not a disappointing season at all. In the 2018-19 NBA season, Fox stepped up his game averaging 17.3 points per game and 7.3 assists per game while shooting 46% from the floor, playing and starting in 81 games. This is an incredible leap from his rookie year and was enough to place him in the final three for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. Fox is clearly showing that he is and will continue to further prove that he is the leader and the facilitator the Kings need to go all the way. As the Kings had their backcourt set, they went on the hunt for their forwards and big men. In my opinion, they hit the jackpot. With the 2nd overall pick in the 2018 draft, they selected Marvin Bagley III out of Duke University. Bagley was a stud in college breaking the ACC record for the most 30 point and 10 rebound double-doubles in a season. Since coming into the NBA, Bagley wasn’t thrown into the deep end like most high picks are; he only started in 4 of the 61 games he played in his rookie year even though he averaged a very impressive 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. He will continue to develop and is expected to be a pivotal element in the Kings very successful future. If all the key pieces continue to develop in the direction that they appear to be going, all NBA fans should expect the Californian team to be dominant for years to come.
Phoenix Suns fans have had a tough time since 2010; the last time they made the playoffs. Very few shining lights have made their way through the dark abyss that is known as the rebuilding of the Arizona team. This includes Devin Booker and his Kobe-esque style of play and DeAndre Ayton with his ability to control the paint and bring a dominant double-double every game. Aside from this, the Suns fans don’t have a lot to look forward to. I’m saying this truthfully and honestly because I hate to break it to everyone reading this; I am one of those fans who having been waiting for my Suns to break out. This will all depend on the front office, who have been consistently drafting poorly or trading down in the draft which in turn has stunted the growth and possible success of the team. For example, in the 6 years besides Booker and Ayton, the Suns have left each seasons draft with the likes of Josh Jackson (disappointing in his first 2 seasons), Mikal Bridges (solid on the defensive end but not outstanding offensively), TJ Warren (traded in a cash deal), Dragan Bender (the definition of a high pick turned bust), and Alex Len (less than mediocre centre who is now performing decently average for the Atlanta Hawks). However, if Booker continues to grow at the same rate as previous years after already averaging 26 points and seven assists per game, as well as Ayton continuing to develop and get double-doubles nightly, then the Suns will prove themselves as a force to be reckoned with.
If anyone is debating which team came out of the 2019 NBA Draft with the most improvement to their team, their answer should be the Atlanta Hawks. Now of course, most would argue that it would be the New Orleans Pelicans, with the introductions of Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker; all who will surely be dominant, but to me, the Hawks executed their trades perfectly and have started to complete their rebuild and are all about progressing their players now. With the addition of De’Andre Hunter and Cameron Reddish, they have filled the gaps in their line-up to accommodate the growth of Trae Young and John Collins. A young core of Young, Kevin Huerter, Collins, Reddish and Hunter is a winning core. Since trading away Taurean Prince (who was a solid wing player), it was clear that they had big hopes for the draft and were looking to add some star-power into the mix. All they are missing now is a defensive-minded centre who will clean the glass and protect the paint for them while leaving the offense up to their guards and forwards. Young is a prime example of a championship quality point guard who can potentially lead this franchise to a title within the next few years. Post all-star break, he averaged a whopping 24.7 points per game as well as 9.2 assists per game. For reference, in Chris Paul’s two best years on the New Orleans Hornets, he averaged 22.4 points per game and 11.3 assists per game. This is the type of quality that Young would bring to this team and is a perfect mixture of Stephen Curry and Steve Nash. Hunter and Reddish are proven ballers who both bring different abilities and improvements to the table. Reddish has been known for his offense and scoring ability since high school and Hunter brings the defensive ferocity that has been lacking in the squad. These young, talented, and motivated players mixed with the leaping ability and potential of Collins will surely strike fear into the rest of the NBA. All that can be said for this franchise is that if they can keep their current young core and develop together, everyone should be expecting multiple championships and a competitive team for many years.