For the 14 teams who saw their numbers drawn in the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery, the focus is rightfully on the future. These next five franchises could very well get a jump-start on things as soon as next year. Here's 5 Teams Who Could Crash The NBA Playoffs Party In 2016.
Perhaps the most obvious choice on this list, the OKC Thunder automatically become a title contender once again if both Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka can return somewhere close to 100% healthy. The team will have to get its sea legs under new head coach Billy Donovan, but a new vision may very well be the best thing for a franchise surrounded by what if's the past few years.
This is a two-fold prediction. Firstly, the bottom of the Eastern Conference may very well improve, but it's still going to be a top-heavy field with some likely surprises rounding out the bottom half of the playoff field. Secondly, Charlotte will have a motivated Lance Stephenson and Al Jefferson ready to put a miserable 2014-15 campaign behind them. If Jefferson can stay healthy, he's one of the league's best one-on-one low post threats. If Stephenson can get his 3-point stroke in order, he's young and talented enough to do some serious work.
Get one or both of those cogs going strong, and the Hornets can easily make the final sixteen.
Miami is considered by most to be the odds-on favorite to re-sign PG Goran Dragic, especially with Dragic's reported preference to ink a five-year deal instead of a four-year pact. If they get him locked down, the addition of a recuperated Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts vaults this team from the also-ran pile to a potential spot in the East's top four.
Paul George. Paul George. And more Paul George. If the Pacers can get a full season out of their superstar, they're instantly a much bigger threat in a muddled Eastern Conference. The Pacers are reportedly nudging Roy Hibbert towards declining his $15.5 million player option for 2015-16, and that would only give the Pacers some major financial ammunition to play with on the free market. Add in the impending return of George Hill, and you've got a recipe for a return to past glories.
The Lakers have been adrift in a sea of injuries and replacement-level players for the past two years. However, a top-two pick in the 2015 NBA Draft will likely yield them a franchise low-post threat in either Duke's Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns. There's also a motivated Kobe Bryant set for his likely NBA swansong and enough cap space to some serious roster rebuilding in free agency. The Western Conference is going to be stacked once again, but there's a reason this franchise has never missed the playoffs in three consecutive years.
Keep your heads up, Lakers fans. The good times may be just around the bend.Back to the NBA Newsfeed