The most difficult part of playing professional sports is losing. It’s something almost all NBA franchises experience at some point. In many cases, it is short-lived, largely depending on the culture surrounding the team as well as the management and coaching staff in place. However, some teams struggle to get through the hard times and can’t seem to shake the losing mentality. Here are three NBA teams that need to start rebuilding.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers got the ball rolling in this department by drafting a few promising players in Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, and Larry Nance Jr. in the last two years. These players have been bright spots on the team during what has been arguably the most difficult stretch in franchise history. What the Lakers need to do is allow their youth to play in more extended roles, which will help them gain much-needed experience on the court.
Outside of Clarkson, the three other young competitors have only notched one first full seasons in the NBA, a major transition for any player. The pressure that was on head coach Byron Scott last year will now come down on Luke Walton: to let L.A.’s young players off their leashes and allow them to learn from their mistakes while still attempting to remain competitive on the floor. It’s clear that the Lakers won’t make the playoffs this season, which only makes increasing their playing time more justifiable, as the number of wins and losses shouldn’t limit their amount of time on the floor.
Sure, it was it’s a tricky spot for Scott to manage Kobe Bryant’s minutes in his final season and give Clarkson, Randle, Russell, and Nance ample playing time, but now that the Lakers don’t have to worry about sending Bryant, one of the greatest players to play the game, off in a blaze of glory, things should be easier.. However, there are plenty of opportunities to play their young core. Unlike the other teams on this list, Los Angeles has a bright future ahead; it’s just a matter of managing these players correctly to allow them to fulfill their potential.
2. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets are going nowhere fast due to their salary cap situation, which handicapped their ability to make any significant moves of the last couple of seasons. However, there could be a beacon of hope with the organization finally freeing themselves from Joe Johnson’s monster contract last year, which made him one of the league’s highest paid players over the duration of the deal.
The Nets entered this offseason with $26.9 million in salary cap space, in hopes of reshaping the team. Brooklyn has made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons but they haven’t made it past the second round of the playoffs since Jason Kidd was the face of the franchise. The front office attempted to put together an aging group of players in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, and Deron Williams, but that one-year project resulted in getting trounced in the second round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat.
Since then, the Nets have been one of the most uninspiring teams in the league, with no apparent foundation set for the future. This, coupled with the fact that there isn’t much stability outside of a couple established veterans (Brooke Lopez and Jeremy Lin come to mind first) makes it difficult to feel encouraged about the franchise’s future. Lopez has injury concerns, and the rest of the roster is essentially filled with role players.
There are a few young players in Shane Larkin and rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (the latter sidelined with an ankle injury), but aside from those two, the future of the team seems bleak. What makes matters worst is that the team doesn’t have a first-round draft pick for the next two years and only possesses a second-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. In short, the Nets are in need of major changes regarding their roster.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers have become the epitome of the term “tanking” by missing the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, including 60-plus losses in last two campaigns. They also set a franchise record with three straight seasons losing more than 60 regular-season games. The 76ers have become the laughing stock of the league over that span, losing an NBA-record 28 straight regular season games.
They do possess a handful of young players with potential, such as Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid. However, Philadelphia doesn’t have the right mix of veteran leadership and talent to take the team to the next level. This could be because the franchise isn’t an attractive draw to free agents, but above all else it’s clear that they’ve developed a stigma of a team with a culture of losing.
There hasn’t been a strong push to shake this brand, which has stuck with them over the last few seasons. It’s something that requires change from the top down, with the organization shaking things up from a management perspective by hiring a well-respected basketball mind in Bryan Colangelo. The franchise has a few players — Simmons and Embiid are arguably the most exciting — who they can build around. It’s just a matter of figuring out the logjam at the 4 and the 5.
They will also possess more than $50 million in cap space this upcoming offseason, which they can use to bring in some talent that can solidify the team. In truth, the 76ers have everything needed to turn the franchise around. It won’t be a quick fix, but Philadelphia has the potential to make significant steps in the right direction this upcoming season.