Growing Up Together

Photo via @irrelephantdesigns
Photo via @irrelephantdesigns

There are numerous NBA teams that have young talent on their roster. However, only a handful of teams have a young group of players that will set the precedent for years to come.

That list includes the Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, Portland Trailblazers and, of course, the Los Angeles Lakers.

All of these teams have primarily built their rosters through the draft over a few years. In the last three drafts, the T’wolves acquired Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns, Zach Lavine, Tyus Jones and most recently, Kris Dunn. Two of whom, Wiggins and Towns, won NBA Rookie of the Year in their rookie seasons, 2014 and 2015, being the first ever teammates to win ROY in back-to-back seasons.

The NBA’s worst team over the past three years, the 76ers, picked up Nerlens Noel in 2013, who was injured and missed his rookie season. In 2014 they got Joel Embiid who missed his first two seasons to injury. in 2015, the drafted Jahlil Okafor, who, after taking photos holding his draft jersey, purposely dropped it likely in disbelief that the Lakers did not draft him, and got injured later that season. This year, the 76ers’ tanking finally paid off as they had the number one pick and took Ben Simmons, a guy being proclaimed as the next Lebron James. Although Noel, Embiid and Okafor are all healthy now, Simmons recently suffered a fractured foot and is in danger of missing the entire season. The Sixers just can not catch a break, but they have the personnel and are a few seasons out from returning into the playoff discussion.

The Suns, over the last few years, drafted T.J. Warren, Dragon Bender, Tyler Ulis and of course, Devin Booker. Acquiring Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight via free agency and a trade has helped shape out their roster.

Down in Orlando, the Magic, who now have a good head coach in Frank Vogel, drafted youngsters Aaron Gordon in 2014 and Mario Hezonja in 2015. Elfrid Payton came in a draft day trade in 2014. They picked Victor Oladipo number two overall in 2013 but traded him this summer along with 2016 first-round pick, Domas Sabonis, to the Oklahoma City Thunder for forward Serge Ibaka. They also signed Bismack Biyombo in free agency. The talent is there and it is young, now, we just sit and watch.

We know about the Trailblazers. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. arguably one of the best backcourts in the league and were fairly unknown players coming out of lower division one schools. These two, along with Allen Crabbe, Mason Plumlee and Festus Ezeli make for one of the youngest starting fives in the league.

Lastly, and, most importantly, the Los Angeles Lakers. Since 2014, the Lakers have drafted Julius Randle, Anthony Brown, Larry Nance Jr., D’Angelo Russell, Ivica Zubac and Brandon Ingram, having also received the draft rights to Jordan Clarkson. A total of seven players whom make up half of the Lakers’ roster which has to be 15 players by the season’s start. The oldest in this group are Brown and Clarkson at 24. Russell and Randle are already starters. Clarkson started nearly all of last season and hopefully will this year, too. Brown is a defensive specialist, Nance is all over the court and Zubac and Ingram are a couple years away from starting as well. In addition to being one of the youngest teams in the league, the Lakers currently have the youngest coach in Luke Walton who has already developed relationships with his players and claims that the young guys are constantly putting in extra work both in the gym and in the weight room.

The talent is there. The coaching there. The desire and hunger to be great is there. It will not happen right away, but, in a few years, the Lakers will return to the top of the league and when they do, they will remain there for a while.

The most recent team to succeed by building through the draft includes a roster with Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. Oh, yeah, and they just signed Kevin Durant. But, that is a story for another day.