Earlier this week, we asked Hoops Rumors readers to identify the most improved lottery team in the East. While several teams received support, the general consensus was that the Sixers look like the strongest candidate to significantly improve their win total, while the Knicks might be the best bet of those seven teams to earn a playoff spot next spring.
In the Western Conference, the franchise that missed the playoffs by the smallest margin may be this summer’s most improved lottery team. The Jazz finished just a game out of the postseason, but were plagued by injuries all year. With better health, another year of experience for their young players, and contributions from offseason additions like George Hill and Joe Johnson, Utah looks poised to contend for a top-five spot in the West.
But is there another lottery team in the West that’s a strong candidate for most improved? The Kings, Nuggets, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Suns, and Lakers round out the conference’s non-playoff teams, and all six clubs have made some notable moves this offseason.
In the Pacific Division, the lottery teams relied heavily on the draft to improve their rosters, with the Lakers selecting Brandon Ingram, the Suns picking Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, and the Kings adding three first-rounders. However, those teams also dipped into free agency as they attempted to upgrade their rosters — Los Angeles signed Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng, Sacramento added Arron Afflalo and a handful of role-playing veterans, and Phoenix brought back a pair of familiar faces in Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa.
The Timberwolves took a safe approach to the offseason, adding a highly-regarded prospect (Kris Dunn) and only delving into free agency to add complementary players like Cole Aldrich, Jordan Hill, and Brandon Rush. They’ll rely on their core players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to take another step forward, and the same can be said about the Nuggets, who sat out free agency almost entirely.
What do you think? Which franchise is the most improved lottery team in the Western Conference? Do the Jazz deserve that title, or does another club have a stronger case, particularly if we’re looking at the largest projected increase in wins?
Take to the comments section below to share your opinions on the Jazz, Kings, Nuggets, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Suns, and Lakers. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.