It seemed like the majority of the teams in the NBA found a way to get better. For others, remaining dormant is their outlook for the 2020-2021 season. While we cannot predict the future, there are some very clear warning signs that there are some teams in the league that are not going to be very good.
From poor free agent signings to no free agent signings, or lack of overall depth, there are some clear losers are heading into next season. These teams will have their eyes on Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga), Jalen Green (G-League), and Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State). With that said, these teams are the frontrunners to land the No. 1 overall pick for next year’s draft.
3. Detroit Pistons
What do you get when you owe a washed-up Blake Griffin over $40 million, commit $85 million to Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee over the next three years, and Derrick Rose with two ACL surgeries? If you said the Detroit Pistons, then you are awarded 1,000 points. The Pistons are an absolute mess right now and it’s only a matter of time before Dwayne Casey is either fired or realizes he could do better.
The free-agent signings of Grant and Plumlee were overpaid due to a limited free agent pool. There is no way that a combined $85 million should be spread out for two players that would be coming off the bench for any other team. Griffin has played in 75 games just once in the last six seasons. Killian Hayes is going to be a solid guard in the NBA one day, but he is just 19 years old. The Pistons are on pace to be the worst team in the NBA. Hopefully, the Pistons let Rose go title-chasing and find a trade partner.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are the most interesting rebuild project in all of the sports. The Thunder have traded away Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Chris Paul over the last two seasons. Along with other moves, the Thunder own 17 first-round draft picks up to the 2026 NBA Draft. With a 22-year old potential star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the foundation, the Thunder could be on the rise in a couple of years.
However, the 2020-2021 season is going to feature a lot of losing, which is probably what GM Sam Presti wants. With a roster including Hamidou Diallo, Luguentz Dort, and Al Horford, there is not a lot of star power here. Even if the team does not get last in the league, the Thunder have the potential to land a top-5 draft pick. If the Thunder land in the top-5, the team could package that pick with other first-round picks to land the No. 1 overall pick. There are just too many possibilities here and Presti is the GM that can pull off the impossible.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
Ever since LeBron James left two years ago, it hasn’t been the same. However, the Cavaliers are trying to do this rebuild right. In 2018, the team drafted Collin Sexton, who had a breakout year last season by averaging 20.8 points per game with a shooting percentage of 38% from three-point range. Darius Garland produced in his rookie year with 12.3 points and 3.9 assists. First-round pick Isaac Okoro should be a nice rim protector in the future years as well.
This could be the final poor season for the Cavaliers before the team can start building a contender with their young core. Andre Drummond is set to make about $28.5 million in the final year of his contract. The team would love to trade power forward Kevin Love. Love has three more seasons left on his contract, where he will make $31 million in two straight seasons and then close with $28 million.
If the Cavaliers can move Love, that will take away one of the better pieces of the team and a few more wins. The Cavaliers should want to be in the conversation for the No. 1 pick. With a player like Cunningham and a loaded 2021 free-agent class, the Cavs could go from worst to first really quick.