There are two prevailing methods of building a team in today’s NBA — one, the Miami Heat/Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers method, involves uniting talented players under one roof through free agency. This is typically referred to as the win now approach, and it’s typically undertaken by teams that are on the cusp of title contention, or at least have a superstar player who just needs the right supporting cast. The Dallas Mavericks recently went in on a win now move when they acquired Rajon Rondo, for example. Obviously that didn’t pan out.
On the other end of the spectrum are the homegrown teams. Typically built around pieces that are acquired when the team is terrible, and hanging out around the top of the NBA Draft for an extended stay, teams accumulate assets and hope that their players achieve their potential. If you were thinking of Oklahoma City, that’s because they’re easily the most successful version of the idea. Philadelphia’s front office goes to bed each night hoping they’ll be the next Thunder.
There’s a lot of debate about which method works best, but we’re not here to look at that, explicitly. Instead, using data from the good folks at FiveThirtyEight, we’ve stumbled upon the seven NBA teams that are most likely to win a title between now and 2019. Essentially, it measures how good the players are (in terms of wins added) in combination with the average age of the core group of players. So who’s got the best look for the next five years? Onward!
7. New Orleans Pelican
The Pelicans have Anthony Davis. The Pelicans have Anthony Davis. His name is Robert Paulson. See what we’re saying? Davis, the number one pick in the 2012 draft, has become something of a mantra for everyone regarding New Orleans’ eventual hopes for championship contention, but he’s so good, his ceiling is so high, and the rest of their core is young enough that the future looks good for the Pelicans.
6. Memphis Grizzlies
On the other end of the spectrum are the Memphis Grizzlies, who have been one of the teams no one wants to face in the postseason for the last three or four years. To quote Nate Silver, though “this year is probably their best hope of a championship drive,” based on their age and the fact that they don’t have a truly transcendent talent — even if they do boast the best front court in the league.
5. Houston Rockets
Well, they still have James Harden and Dwight Howard — guys who might not be at that top, top, Durant and LeBron tier, but are certainly more than capable of winning a heck of a lot of basketball games. The twist here is that Daryl Morey, the Rockets GM, is somewhat obsessed with always building a better mousetrap, and anyone who has followed the Houston roster changes through the years knows that he’ll swap out anyone at anytime, so it’s hard to project much of anything onto the Rockets.
4. Toronto Raptors
One of the best Eastern Conference teams is also one of the youngest, and Toronto’s 26-year-old roster (in the average, obviously) is good enough, deep enough, and well rounded enough to stand to to toe with anyone. Plus, you know, they’ve got the benefit of beating up on the basement of the NBA, also known as the bottom of the East, in order to secure home court advantage for the playoffs in the years to come, and their first round sweep of the Wizards was just a temporary setback. (That’s what we’re telling Drake, anyway).
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
So far, Cleveland hasn’t really shown the same scary next level that defined the most successful versions of the Miami Heat, but Kevin Love (R.I.P. your shoulder) and Kyrie Irving are two young guys who happen to be very good at basketball, and they’ve got a 29-year-old teammate who happens to be universally regarded as the best player on Earth. These are the sort of things you want to have in your favor, although it’s worth noting that they’re the highest ranked team from the (L)East.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
Hovering just under the age of 28, with an excellent coaching staff and established veteran talent, the Clippers are the second team that’s most likely to win an NBA Championship. In a vacuum, the Clips could win a ring tomorrow, and Chris Paul’s inability to reach a Conference Finals has about as much bearing on the future as a past coin flip does in determining the next flip’s result — that is to say, none at all.
1. Golden State Warriors
No one can stop Golden State, and they’re the closest thing to an assured winner the NBA’s got right now. Not what you expected? Truth be told, we’re a little surprised, too, but Silver raises a really salient point amidst all the numbers, “This isn’t rocket science: the Warriors are really good.”
For the total breakdown, as well as the math behind the rankings, make sure to check out the FiveThirtyEight article here.