Hornets, Cavaliers, Pistons can improve dramatically in a short time

Are LaMelo Ball and Charlotte ready to take the leap to the next level?

Are LaMelo Ball and Charlotte ready to take the leap to the next level?
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In the NBA, teams with stars and veteran leadership often create waves in the post-season and win championships. It’s rare to see a team of inexperienced young players go so far into the post-season, no matter how talented they may be. Of course, everything has exceptions.

The OKC Thunder entered the Western Conference Finals for consecutive seasons from 2010 to 2012, reaching the NBA Finals that second year. Their core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka is are all under 24 with less than five full NBA seasons under them. Apparently, three of those players became the MVP of the tournament, that we may never see again.

A decade later, the Memphis Grizzlies have a good track record of qualifying for the long-term playoffs similar to the 2012 Thunder baby. They don’t have a single player on the team older than 28. Player of the Year and also as MVP candidate, Ja Morant, is only 22. Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr are 22, and Dillon Brooks is 26. Just last year, the Grizzlies were a reserve team, then won the eighth seed and eliminated after five games by the Utah Jazz. After this season, they will probably be Seed number 2 and got a good shot to run to the Western Conference Finals.

So it’s possible, though rare, that really young teams can sustain deep runs into the post-season. There are a few other teams that have the potential to be the next Grizzlies as early as next year.

Charlotte Hornets

Wasps Have Their Future Superstars /franchise player in place of LaMelo Ball. Miles Bridges is the team’s top scorer and will rank well in the Most Improved Player of the Year poll. Kelly Oubre Jr seems to have finally found a good fight for her skill set in Charlotte. Terry Rozier is third in goals for the Hornets and only turned 28 a few weeks ago. The oldest member of Charlotte’s core is Gordon Hayward, 32 years old, but I don’t think he will be in the team’s long-term plans.

Charlotte is currently a reserve team, but they may be ready to take the big leap up the east coast championship standings next year with another successful season.

Cleveland Cavs

Cleveland can own the best young nucleus of the tournament next to Memphis, because their top 5 scorers are all 24 years old or younger. With Darius Garland leading the way alongside Collin Sexton as he gets fit, the Cavs could be the next youth team awaited. This team is huge on the front lines, with Jarrett Allen having a breakout campaign, Lauri Markkanen and Evan Mobley, possibly Rookie of the Year. All three are 6 feet-11 or more tall.

The Cavs have been on fire this year and hovered around the top four in the east for the first few months of the season. They appear to have hit a wall over the past six weeks and have fallen out of the top six and into the play-in league range. They are currently seventh in the east but are only one game behind Toronto in sixth. The Cavs are packed with young talent with veteran leadership paired with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, though he missed a big time this year. Caris Levert recently returned from injury, and he is another young player (27 years old) capable of dropping 20 points at any time.

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons may be the longest-running team here, but they also may have the young star with the best comeback ability of all of these teams. Cade Cunningham will become a big star in this tournament. As a rookie, he’s second in scoring for Detroit and is likely to finish second in Rookie of the Year, voting behind Mobley.

Cleveland has seven players averaging double digits this year, and only two of them are greater than 23. Jerami Grant is the oldest of the bunch (27) and top scorer with 19.2. ppg. But he will likely be transferred during the off-season. But the Pistons will still be stacked with young talents like Saddiq Bey, Marvin Bagley III, Hamidou Diallo, Killian Hayes and Cunningham, as mentioned above. They’ll need another piece or two, but if the Pistons can keep buying and keeping the right pieces around Cunningham, they’ll be back in the playoffs soon.

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