NBA: Four Most Improved Teams Not Named Lakers or Warriors

The Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors are the winners of the offseason, but they are not the only teams that have significantly improved this summer.

With all the key player movements in the NBA likely done, we can now make an accurate assessment on which teams had the best offseason. However, the Lakers and Warriors are already no-brainers on this list, so we decided to leave them out and focus on the other franchises that took a huge step forward ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.

Below is us’s list of teams that undoubtedly levelled up this offseason despite being overshadowed by the LeBron James acquisition of LA and DeMarcus Cousins’ move to Bay Area.

Toronto Raptors

It’s still too early to say that the Raptors won the Kawhi Leonard-DeMar DeRozan trade. After all, Leonard’s future as a Raptor is still uncertain and recent NBA 2018 news is already assuming he will leave Canada as a free agent next year.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t erase the fact that they became a better team with Leonard and Danny Green. When healthy, Leonard is a top-five player in the league, a massive upgrade over DeMar DeRozan. He’s also one of the best two-way players in the NBA, which should bode well for the Raps who are solid defensively.

Green, on the other hand, adds three-point shooting to the team. Kyle Lowry has developed into a three-point threat, and adding Green alongside him makes Toronto even deadlier from beyond the arc.

It remains to be seen how the coaching change will affect them in the upcoming season, but Nick Nurse surely has all the tools he needs to succeed in the relatively weak Eastern Conference.

With Kahwi Leonard in the team, expect that Toronto Raptors will surge to the top in the upcoming NBA season

Former San Antonio Spurs forward Kahwi Leonard talks with coach Gregg Popovich in an NBA game against OKC in March 2016

Oklahoma City Thunder

What the Thunder did this summer is addition by subtraction.

The Russell Westbrook-Paul George-Carmelo Anthony experiment didn’t work last year, and they did well in convincing Anthony to waive his no-trade clause so they can send him to Atlanta (who then reached a buyout agreement with the former All-Star).

Oklahoma couldn’t ask for more this offseason too. George, who was long rumoured to be headed to Tinseltown, chose to stay to give OKC a solid “Big Three” along with Westbrook and Steven Adams. They added a low-risk, high-reward big man in Nerlens Noel and retained a solid role player in Jerami Grant.

Dennis Schroder’s acquisition is quite confusing given that it’s hard to see him playing at the same time as Westbrook and George. However, if Sam Presti and Billy Donovan can persuade him to embrace a substitute role—a la James Harden of 2010 to 2012—the Thunder will have a high chance of contending for a top-four seed in the West.

Dallas Mavericks

Let us be clear on this one: the Mavs aren’t championship contenders. Not even close.

Dallas are still years away from going toe to toe with the likes of Houston, Golden State and Boston. This summer, though, they did something magnificent and worthy of praise: they laid the foundation of a bright future in the post-Dirk Nowitzki era.

Starting from the draft, they moved up to get EuroLeague MVP Luka Doncic, a potential franchise cornerstone. They then selected Jalen Brunson in the second round, a player who could develop into a star in the right environment.

Those two, alongside Dennis Smith Jr., give the Mavs one of the most intriguing backcourts in the NBA.

The team has finally signed DeAndre Jordan as well, three years after he backed out of his “verbal commitment” with the franchise. DJ is already 30 years old and has shown signs of slowing down, but he remains one of the best athletic big men in the league and should complement well with Nowitzki.

Dallas finished 13th (of 16 teams) in the Western Conference last campaign, but the NBA 2018 odds now have them fighting for a playoff spot and barely missing out.

Dallas Maverick's future looks bright next NBA season following the signing of EuroLeague MVP Luka Doncic,

Luka Doncic poses for a picture with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver during the NBA basketball draft last June 2018

Phoenix Suns

For the worst team of the 2017/18 season, there’s no other way but up. But hey, after getting the first pick of the 2018 draft and adding a veteran player, Phoenix are well poised to rise from the ashes (sorry for that cliché).

This one is simple. Imagine a lineup of Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, Trevor Ariza and Deandre Ayton. Pretty lit, right?

Phoenix unarguably have one of the best collection of young talents, and acquiring Ayton and Bridges through the draft and Ariza through free agency should lift them up from a bottom-of-the-barrel team in the East to a high-powered and talented playoff chaser.

It’s up to Igor Kokoskov now to utilise his young Suns to their full potential. Fortunately for Phoenix, the Serbian coach has the experience to lead an up-and-coming squad and develop youngsters, something he proved when he guided the Slovenian team last summer to an improbable run to the EuroBasket title.

 

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