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Even though the Golden State Warriors may have already won the 2019 NBA Finals, there are some second and third-tier teams who have quietly gotten better and better over the past few years and could be competitive very soon.
Here are four of those teams:
2018 record: 27-55 (12th in the West)
Player to watch: Marvin Bagley III
While the Kings are currently an afterthought in the NBA, they possess an interesting and talented young core. They have 11 players under the age of 25, and all are skilled.
The frontcourt will be comprised of second-overall pick Marvin Bagley III and Willie Cauley-Stein, who is entering his fourth year in the league. Both players are very versatile on offense, and in this era of the NBA, that's invaluable for your big men. This duo has the potential to develop into one of the NBA's best.
The Kings back up their young big men with two more young versatile players. Skal Labissiere is a forward you should keep your eye on as he continues to develop. The 6-foot-11 former Kentucky star has the ability to fill it up when he gets minutes.
After missing last season due to injury, Harry Giles is also finally available for the Kings, and he showed in the Summer League that he can hurt defenses from inside the paint as well as beyond the arc.
Sacramento also has a group of young guards that could take the NBA by storm. De'Aaron Fox had a decent rookie season and is already one of the fastest players in the NBA. He can get to the rim in a flash, has great vision and is a pest on defense.
Former Naismith Award winner Frank Mason III also could have an impact on the Kings this season. Like Fox, he's a good ball handler and a high-energy defender, but has a better shot.
After the Kings decided to sign Yogi Ferrell in the offseason however, Mason III will have to fight for minutes in the backcourt.
The Kings may be a couple years away from the playoffs, but they are taking all of the steps necessary to be competitive very soon.
2018 record: 24-58 (13th in the West)
Player to watch: Luka Doncic
The end of the Dirk Nowitzki era is upon us, and the Dallas Mavericks have done a good job preparing for life without him.
Dallas was able to sign three-time All-NBA center DeAndre Jordan, who automatically should bolster their offense. He also should help take the pressure off of Nowitzki in his last season, who has been playing without an established center for several years now.
The Mavericks also made a good selection at ninth overall in last season's draft with Dennis Smith Jr. In his rookie campaign, he proved that he's an athletic guard who can “wow” people either with his post game or his larger-than-life dunks.
The real reason to be excited about the Mavericks however is Luka Doncic. It's possible that he could be the best player in this class and has been called the best European prospect in history.
He's a combo guard who can dictate the pace as a floor general or serve as a spot-up shooter. Doncic is as dangerous attacking the rim as he is beyond the arc, and due to his versatility, can operate on the floor at the same time as Smith Jr.
It's going to take a few years for the Mavericks to reach their potential, but their young guards could end up being superstars.
2018 record: 35-47 (11th in the West)
Player to watch: Lonzo Ball
Even if the Lakers didn't land LeBron James in free agency, they still would have made this list. While having LeBron does help your chances in obtaining an NBA title, the roster the Lakers have put together to support the NBA's greatest player also has people excited.
Lonzo Ball is a player I'm expecting to have a tremendous sophomore season. He missed 30 games due to injury in his rookie year, but still averaged 10.2 points, 7.2 assists and 6.9 rebounds per game. That's only 2.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds a game away from a triple double, which he had two of last season. He's a pass-first point guard, which helps get the rest of the Lakers' young talent involved as well.
Kyle Kuzma was one of the bigger surprises of last year's draft class. He averaged 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in his rookie campaign and proved himself to be a versatile stretch four who likes fighting in the paint as much as shooting the deep ball.
Josh Hart was also a pleasant surprise for the Lakers last season. The No. 30 overall pick in 2017 averaged 7.9 points per game in his rookie season and shot 39 percent from deep. He just won the NBA Summer League MVP two weeks ago and will challenge Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for the starting shooting guard position.
Brandon Ingram took a significant step forward in his second season as well. He averaged 16.1 points per game and shined as a ball handler when Lonzo was out due to injury.
The Lakers added several veterans to their roster who will help this young core develop as well. Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee were all signed to one-year deals and will provide depth as well as experience in those late-game situations.
I like what the Lakers did in the draft as well. Moritz Wagner out of Michigan will get minutes due to his ability to stretch the floor as well as bang with the big bodies and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is a sharp-shooter who the Lakers are excited about.
Los Angeles is a shoo-in for the playoffs this season, and I wouldn't be surprised if they made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
2018 record: 21-61 (15th in the West)
Player to watch: DeAndre Ayton
While the Suns have several young players who fans should be excited about such as Mikal Bridges and Josh Jackson, the two pieces that are going to elevate the Suns from the worst team in the NBA are Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton.
In 54 games played last season, Booker had 21 games where he scored over 30 points. He has the potential to fill it up every single night and is a must-have for your fantasy team this year. He averaged 24.9 points per game last season, and he finally has some help with the addition of DeAndre Ayton.
The No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft is a physical specimen who can contribute from either the inside or outside and should develop into an NBA star.
The Suns may be a few years away from the playoffs, but they could end up with one of the most dangerous NBA tandems in Booker and Ayton.