What do the Los Angeles Lakers, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Utah Jazz have in common? All three teams have young, talented, rosters— primed to be the New World Order in the West. The West is getting older and weaker under our noses. There is a real power shift going on that many may not be taking notice of. If you take a close look at the rosters, within the next three years, things will look so much different. The Spurs are at a crossroads with Tim Duncan being on the verge of retirement…Tony Parker being 35…Ginobli might as well get a walker and a track suit… The the only real youth on the team is 25-year old Kawhi Leonard. Infact, most of the team is 31-years old and up. The OKC Thunder just took a huge blow losing Kevin Durant, and if Westbrook leaves, they’ll be cellar dwellers. The Grizzlies are poorly run and have one star. The Rockets are in the same position, and the Clippers look loaded on paper, but they’re almost always second round exits, and their leader is 32. Only team that will be at the mountain top for a while is the Golden State Warriors. Other than that, the West is going to be wide open real soon, and someone has to take over. So…. here are the three teams that have next!
The Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers fans have a reputation of not being patient, of being spoiled from all the years of winning. As understandable as that is, Laker fan has to realize big name free agents aren’t coming to L.A. any time soon. No one wanted to play with Kobe, and obviously as long as Jim Buss is running the show, this organization is going to have to build a winner the old fashioned way, through the draft.
Looking at the Lakers draft picks over the years, there have not been many players to be proud of. Then again, this organization hasn’t had to develop talent in many moons due to historically being successful; and trading said picks to put themselves in position to be successful. Now the future looks bright with youngsters, D’Angelo Russell (20), and sophomores Julius Randle (21) and Jordan Clarkson (24) being the first Laker draft day finds in position to make an impact since LA drafted Andrew Bynum with the 10th pick in 2005. Before these guys, it was Kobe in 1996, when he was brought to Southern California like Jordan Clarkson — via draft day trade. In the 2016-17 season Russell, Randle, and Clarkson will have free reign; with Kobe gone, and get to be homegrown heros, build chemistry as “the guys” and be one of three Western teams to take over.
This past season all three had up and down, inconsistent roles due to the heavy presence of ball hogging veterans: Nick Young, Lou Williams, and yes even your hero Kobe Bryant didn’t give a shit about young player development last season. I was frustrated watching it; and I’m not even a fan. Watching a nucleus grow together, and being able to see what the future will and/or could hold is part of the fun of being a fan. The addition of rookie-to-be Brandon Ingram, gives the Lakers a great, young line-up.
- D’Angelo Russell
- Jordan Clarkson
- Brandon Ingram
- Julius Randle
Who will play Center is the mystery, but whoever it is better complete the synergy and not stunt the growth of this core. My only real worry with this team is who’s going to score. The Lakers scored a league low 97.3 points per game last season; but again, the team did have a roster full of shoot first, pass (maybe) later guys. This next time around…They are starting fresh with, new Head Coach, Luke Walton who will be bringing that Golden State momentum with him to Los Angeles -See you in the playoffs.
The Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota has the 2015 Rookie of the Year (Andrew Wiggins), and the 2016 Rookie of the Year (Karl-Anthony Towns) , and the back to back dunk champion (Zach Lavine). Two weeks ago they drafted their point guard of the future (Kris Dunn), and judging from his summer league debut, well…. bye bye Ricky Rubio.
The T-Wolves finished 29-53 this year, and I’m not afraid to predict they’ll win at least 42-45 games this year, and be in the playoffs the following 2017-’18 season. So remember you heard it here first, while everyone else is wondering where they hell they came from.
This young Wolves squad still has talent to play with, and can hit you with a variation of line up changes, inserting the likes of Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, and veterans; Tayshaun Prince, and Kevin Garnett.
Minnesota was middle of the pack in points scored per game (102), but was top five in free throws made, attempted, and percentage—for whatever that’s worth. All that’s need now is to bolster that bench, but newly hired coach and President of basketball operations, Tom Thibodeau will do what he did in Chicago, turn Minnesota into a Winner. This roster is up-and-coming, and you can see why they laughed off a potential Jimmy Butler trade.
The Utah Jazz
What the Jazz have that the above mentioned teams don’t is depth. The Jazz have a whole ‘nother starting line-up on the bench, so in all actuality they may be “next” faster than the Lakers or the T-Wolves. Per realgm.com this is next year’s projected roster:
That’s called talent. There is a great blend of young guns, mixed with proven veterans. Their starters can literally sit for an extensive spell, and let the bench continue to give the opponent hell through even more match up problems. All I’m saying is I’ll take my chances using them on 2k16 because I believe in this squad, they’re obviously using the Warriors how-to-build-a-team blueprint.
Since everyone now knows who Mike Conley is, because he became the richest man in NBA history, the passing of the torch for most underrated player goes to Gordon Hayward. At 6-8, Hayward has the length to guard positions 1-4, and has the touch to score from the outside, as well as the quickness to drive and put you on a poster. He’s your favorite player you never heard of. He had an epic duel with Jimmy Butler, and a even better battle with the Hornets— where he almost single handedly took them out! [Credit to Free Dawkins for the great footage].
Additions of Joe Johnson, and George Hill, and now Boris Diaw, the Jazz got much needed veteran assistance. In addition to the incoming veterans, one Dante Exum makes his return this season, after missing all of last year, with a torn ACL. Utah’s front court is much more than the above mentioned Gordon Hayward, as you still have to deal with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors—who by the way are grabbing boards, blocking shots, and causing headaches in opposing coaches meetings. The Jazz as a whole played pretty good defense, only giving up 95 points per game, good for second in the NBA—right behind the San Antonio Spurs. Now that the Jazz have their head coach locked in for the long haul, that’s more long term cohesiveness for the West to deal with in the coming years.
The West is quietly getting older, but the new generation cavalry is coming. You’ve been warned.
Writer for TheCouchSports.com, LiveFromWoodward.com, & PTA. Editor, and Co-Host of The Couch Sports Podcast, and a Certified Beardsman.