A thrilling weekend of Game 7′s has given way to exit interviews and thoughts about the future for the five teams that lost deciding games in the first round of the playoffs. Some of those teams, like the Hawks and Mavs, can take encouragement that a seven-game series means they’re farther along than they probably thought they were. Others, like the Warriors and Grizzlies, probably didn’t envision sitting at home for the second round when they laid out their plans for the season.
Regardless of where the Hawks, Raptors, Mavs, Grizzlies and Warriors began the season, they’re all in similar positions now. Each team has reason to believe it can be better next year.
Atlanta is on target to have a healthy Al Horford for next season, with close to $15MM in potential cap space this summer. Toronto appears to be a team on the rise, with young talents like DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas and seemingly the inside track to re-sign Kyle Lowry. Dirk Nowitzki remains an elite talent for Dallas, which can clear enough cap room to once more pursue another major star, or at least recruit free agents who can upgrade the team’s defense. The Grizzlies might have advanced beyond the first round if Marc Gasol had been healthy all season and they’d earned a higher seed, and the Memphis front office showed a knack for acquiring useful rotation players on the cheap this year. Golden State is another team on the come, and the series against the Clippers might have been drastically different if Andrew Bogut hadn’t been injured.
All five teams enter the offseason poised to make improvements that can take them beyond the first round next season. Let us know which club you think has the greatest chance to achieve that goal in 2014/15, and feel free to elaborate on your choice in the comments.