At some point someone has to…right?
Many of us have been asking over the past several years, will anyone else take over like the Warriors?
Unfortunately, as of right now it doesn’t seem like anyone will. The offense firepower that is the Golden State Warriors (Steph, Klay, KD) has transcended the league into a whole different kind of spacing game. Bigs who thrive in the post are no longer the focal point of an offense, teams that lack 3-point shooting are now behind the curve. These attributes have put the Warriors into a tier that has risen above just about everyone else.
However, that will not stop teams from playing catch up.
Over the last several years, young players have drawn comparisons to this modern kind of NBA basketball. Trae Young drew comparisons to Stephen Curry while he was at Oklahoma for leading the NCAA in scoring and assists, DeAndre Ayton drew comparisons to DeMarcus Cousins with his physical play and shooting range, and Jayson Tatum drew comparisons to a sort of Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki hybrid for his polished ball-handling and smooth jumpers.
All of these young players are regarded as franchise cornerstones, and they all embody those qualities that are necessary for the modern NBA game, and while the Hawks, the Suns and the Celtics are all on different ends of the spectrum in terms of contention, they are all on a good path towards success in the future.
With this being said, let’s look at the teams who are most likely to make a run at being the next Golden State Warriors:
New York Knicks
I know what you’re thinking right now…and no I’m not out of my freaking mind.
The Knicks are positioning themselves for a very exciting future of basketball. While they currently have the worst record in the NBA at 10-46, the roster is loaded with young talent.
Dennis Smith Jr. has been a player that I have been a fan of since he was at NC State. Acquired in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, the Knicks found themselves a young point guard that has rare ability. With incredible bounce and athleticism, Smith Jr. has no problem creating space for himself. His awareness on the court is amongst the best in the NBA, and his ability to get to the rack at will opens up good looks for his teammates. Smith Jr.’s shooting is slightly above average, but with how athletic he is and his ability to create space, shooting will come naturally.
Kevin Knox is another young player that the Knicks hope will turn into a star. Knox has a knack for finding his way to the basket. With his long frame, there are many different ways that he can score by using his body or utilizing his long arms to get himself a better look. Still, Knox is just 19 years old and has a lot of room for improvement. However, Knicks fans should be excited by what they see out of the first year wing from Kentucky.
Among the other young excitements the Knicks have are Alonso Trier, Emmanuel Mudiay (who has been disappointing in his first couple of years in the league), and Frank Ntilikina. What the Knicks will do with this plethora of young talent in the backcourt remains to be seen.
The main reason New York is on this list is the amount of future assets the team owns. With two max slots becoming available to them for the 2019 offseason, the Knicks appear ready to make a run at the likes of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving or Klay Thompson. Also armed with the best odds of receiving the number 1 overall pick (and a shot at Zion Williamson), there will be plenty of other talent on its way to the Garden.
The fans may not agree with me, as the team did just trade their franchise cornerstone in Porzingis, but the Knicks have themselves in fantastic position to be one of the hottest teams in the league in the near future.
There may not be a team with more talent in the league, aside from Golden State and maybe Boston. With a core that includes Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr., and Gary Harris, the Nuggets have plenty of talent under contract for the foreseeable future.
With the second best record in the West, behind Golden State of course, the Nuggets have been playing like a high quality playoff contender. After not qualifying for the playoffs the past six seasons, Denver is well on their way to a top 3 seed in the western conference.
Drafting and developing players alongside each other is a great way for team chemistry to take shape, and that is finally starting to pay off for Denver. The team has gelled together in a way that has allowed them to bring out the best in each other.
Jamal Murray is having a career year running the point, with 18 ppg at a 43 percent clip, 5 assists and 4 rebounds per game. Nikola Jokic (somehow) is even more dominant as he was the year before, and has improved every year since he’s been in the league. Those two players give the team reliability at their respective positions, along with vital role players like Harris, Paul Millsap, Monte Morris and Malik Beasley.
The thing that made the Warriors so successful for years and years was the fact that they grew together. They were all drafted into the same situation, and were molded into the players that they are today through teammate reliability. Having incredible team chemistry is what gives a team so many different ways of being successful, both on and off the court.
The Nuggets have it figured out. They have great shooters, rebounding, and are second in the league in assists per game. Having so many high draft picks over the last few years has given them their pieces to build around, now it’s time that those pieces come together to finish the puzzle.
The playoffs are right around the corner for Denver, and a championship may not be far off either.
The Kings are like the Nuggets, just a couple of years behind. Seemingly always having a high draft pick every year, they have slowly put together a team of talent that has captivated national attention since their days in college.
Willie Cauley-Stein, a 7-foot athletic freak that was an integral part of the near perfect Kentucky Wildcat team in the 2014-15 season, has adapted well to the modern NBA since he entered the league. He was a consensus All-American while at Kentucky, and while he did not put up gaudy numbers, his contribution to such a dominant team was just as valuable. For the Kings today, he plays a vital role in cleaning the glass and being a kind of defensive anchor, while also providing good shooting and quickness for a 7-footer. Cauley-Stein served as a backup option behind DeMarcus Cousins for the first years of his career, however, he is slowly beginning to make his own name as a pro.
Another young star in the making for the Kings is none other than Buddy Hield. At Oklahoma, Hield wowed with his accuracy from long range and his ball-handling skills, which made NBA scouts drool every time he touched the ball. Hield is Oklahoma’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made, and is also second all-time in career points. Prior to the NBA Draft in 2016, Hield once again put his name in the headlines at his pre-draft workout with the Celtics, in which he made 85 out of 100 threes. This kind of shooting is highly regarded in the league today, and the Kings made sure to grab hold of that. This season, Hield is averaging a career high 20 ppg and is shooting 45(!) percent from behind the arc. It may not be long before he is considered amongst the best in the league.
Considered one of, if not THE fastest player in the NBA to date, De’Aaron Fox is beginning to show flashes of greatness. He has the ability to blow by any player in the league with his blazing speed, which allows him to draw the defense and open up a scoring lane for one of his teammates (he averages 7 assists a game as a result). Fox is starting to figure out how to play at the NBA level, and it’s only his second year. He has learned how to score more efficiently, while also utilizing his speed on defense as well as on offense. Fox may be the most important piece that the Kings have added thus far, and he isn’t even close to reaching his maximum potential.
The final reason to be excited about the Kings is Marvin Bagley III. One of the most highly touted players in college basketball last year, he has been a solid rotation player in Sacramento that will only develop into a dominant starter down low. In college he thrived by using his big body and soft touch with the basketball to show that he was not just a one-dimensional player. Bagley does it all, and while his 3-point shot hasn’t quite translated to the NBA (just 24% this year), he can still be a force to be reckoned with on the interior.
Pair all of this with fantastic pieces on the bench (Bogdanovic, Giles, Bjelica), along with new forward Harrison Barnes, and you have a young team that may just develop into something great. High draft picks over several years will almost always garner exciting basketball.
It is rare to pull off something like what the Warriors did with their franchise. Drafting perennial All-stars like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, and pulling strings to bring in other pieces like Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins is difficult to do. However, teams will continue to try to emulate what the Warriors did, because it created one of the greatest teams of all time. These three teams may not be the most successful in the league today, however, they might just be on their way to being the NBA’s next best thing.