As the NBA season comes to a close, some teams are looking forward to their playoff aspirations while others are desperately looking to 2019. There are teams around the league that did not hit their goals for a number of reasons but will attempt to put it all behind them. This skill is key in the solid franchises of this league, you can’t linger to long on the things that did not work for your team. You must have the ability to take what went wrong, learn from this misfortunes and apply the lessons to future seasons. With that in mind, here are four teams that didn’t have the 2018 they were hoping for but will have a better 2019.
This team is the easiest choice of all those on this list but they still deserve to be discussed. The Griz have missed their star point guard Mike Conley all season and as a result are among the basement dwellers of the NBA. Conley’s absence is not the only thing that derailed Memphis’s season, as Marc Gasol’s feud with former coach David Fizdale and lackluster performances from multiple players also have contributed to the Memphis mess. Though this team had committed to a “retooling” of sorts before this season, the 2018 squad took a drastic turn from the plan and will be picking within the top three this year. This top draft talent will be a key asset in both getting the Grizzlies back on track in 2019 and being their future guy going forward. He along with a healthy Conley and happy Gasol should bring the Grizzlies back into the playoff race next year.
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks are a team that has been looking to get back on track for over twenty years, including 2018. But fans should not be too stirred up, the Knicks are the closest to stability they have been in a long time. Kritsaps Porzingis is a franchise level talent who, when healthy, is a nightmare matchup for other teams. He took a big step forward at the beginning of this season and is looking like a player who is making the assentation to the next level of talent. While he is out now with a knee injury, his impact on this year’s team and future teams can not be overstated. The Knicks also have a couple of young guards to build around with Porzingis in Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina. While it is unknown at this point if or how these two guards can share a backcourt, their talent and potential should give fans optimism going forward. A key piece in finding the answer to this question will be finding the right head coach as reports are that the team may look to replace Jeff Hornacek in the upcoming offseason. This should be a high interest job for coaching candidates and will likely attract a top level talent. If he can configure their backcourt, optimize Porzingis and groom whomever the Knicks select in the first found of the 2018 draft (they currently have a top ten lottery chance), there is a bright future for New York and their 2019 projection.
Of all the teams that made big moves in the 2017 offseason and were looking to make big steps in 2018, the Nuggets have fallen flat. Despite being in the Western Conference playoff race for almost the entire season, at this point it looks as though they will be left on the outside looking in. Denver suffered some tough breaks this season, such as their shiny new acquisition in Paul Millsap missing multiple months this year and lots of streaky play from some of their younger players. The young core that the Nuggets have is pretty solid in Nikola Jokic, Jamaal Murray, Trey Lyles and Gary Harris. If they can find a way to be more consistent they have what it takes to be a solid team in the West. These players in addition to the veteran presence of Millsap and others will propel this team to the playoffs in 2019.
While the Bucks are likely to make the postseason in 2018, their spot on this list come by the way of preseason expectations. Many analysts and experts projected this team to take a large step forward and establish themselves as an Eastern Conference force on the back of an MVP candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo. While he has played well and had some serious MVP consideration at points of this season, the Bucks are going to finish in the bottom half of the playoff race and will likely play either the Raptors or Celtics in round one of the playoffs. This finish comes with a stir of moves that were made throughout the season, including trading for guard Eric Bledsoe and firing former head coach Jason Kidd. Both moves needed to be made but they will have an impact on the team going into 2019. Like the Knicks and Grizzlies, the Milwaukee job is very appealing as the chance to work with Antetokounmpo would be a coaches’ dream. If the Bucks can land a coach that can expand the offense and solidify their defense they will be a dangerous team next year. Bucks fans should be happy about how their team performed in 2018 but their disappointment in not landing a top four seed in the east is understandable. With a new coach and another offseason of development for Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee will be a frightening foe in 2019.