The NBA saw its field of fighters lose three more squads this weekend, with the playoffs party whittling down to 13 as the New Orleans Pelicans, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors said their goodbyes to the season after being swept.
Here’s how each of them should look to change for their 2015-16 campaigns.
The Celtics, from a standpoint of culture, are the shining standouts of these playoff sweep victims. Coach Brad Stevens has turned a glut of so-so role players into all that they could be behind the promising guard trio of Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley. Boston’s rebuild has been accelerated after a second half that saw them competing with the best of the Eastern Conference, and there’s only one thing clearly missing from their equation: a superstar. Expect them to do everything they can to get meetings with free agents Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol and Khris Middleton this summer — as they should.
New Orleans Pelicans
Unlike the Celtics, the Pels already have the centerpiece to their future in Anthony Davis. Any wise NBA team starting fresh today would take the 21-year-old as their first building block, if they could, so with Davis on board there’s a natural trend towards optimism in New Orleans. Simply keeping this team together wouldn’t be a terrible strategy, as a healthier Jrue Holiday could be the answer to many of their needs; the Pelicans struggled at point guard without his full services through most of the year. In all likelihood, their summer mission will include crossing their fingers for better health, plus “still having the best young player alive.”
The Raptors were a mess after a promising start to the season, sputtering after the All-Star break and showing surprisingly little fight against the Washington Wizards. This motley collection of so-so players misses, like the Celtics do, a true superstar. But their variously talented pieces also haven’t been maximized by coach Dwane Casey, who looks to be on the hot seat after an ugly postseason showing. General manager Masai Ujiri is not known for standing pat by any means, so no move this summer would come as a shock. Who knows how the Raptors will look next autumn?
— John Wilmes