By RICHARD FISCHER
Hotard Huddle Contributor

As the NBA calendar sits in this little nook of a dead period between the draft and free agency, I found myself wondering which teams have the best and the worst asset collections in the league.

I was so curious that I started writing. And writing. And writing.

Nearly 6,000 words later, I’ve got my answer!

Boy, how big of a loser am I that I actually enjoyed this crap!?

Anyways, I hope you get half the joy out of reading this that I got in writing and researching it. Consider it a nice, little offseason cheat sheet for all 30 teams.

And just so you totally understand what I’m doing here, if there were an alternate universe where I could take over as all 30 GMs, this is a ranking of the best and worst of those jobs. In other words, which teams possess the most and least stars on NBA 2K’s “Trade Finder.” I’m also taking into account an easier path to the postseason in the East as well as where the expectation level is upon taking over.

Here we go.

  1. Brooklyn Nets

Football Outsiders measures the quality of units with an analytical metric called DVOA. (Trust me, this is a basketball column) The Saints were last in defense in DVOA last season. No surprise, right? Well the 31st ranked Eagles were closer in DVOA to the 12th ranked Colts than New Orleans.

Good God almighty.

Well, along those same lines, the Brooklyn Nets are last on this list and the second-to-last-team is much closer to No. 12 than they are to Brooklyn. That’s how hopeless this situation is. And here’s why….

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Brooklyn didn’t have its first round pick this year, has to swap with Boston next year and doesn’t have its first round pick in 2018. And this team won 21 games last year and traded its second best player for the 20th pick just to get back into the draft. Short of a miracle in free agency, there is no road map to respectability for the next half decade.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None for the first time in years. See ya Joe Johnson.

Flexibility:

Roughly two max contracts worth of cap space, but good luck convincing free agents to play here when 20+ teams also have max cap room and haven’t sold their future down the river. Putting Brook Lopez on the table could garner a nice return, and when you consider his foot issues can flare back up at any time, I’d move on that sooner than later.

Hopes:

Lopez nets a nice trade return (bad pun, well, get used to it!) and maybe you can build a playoff team in five years. Or Moses parts the Red Sea and free agents actually take Brooklyn seriously.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies

Tip your hat to the Grizzlies for making the playoffs six straight years. Seriously, that came out of nowhere and congrats. Well, that streak likely ends next season. Mike Conley hits the free agent market and will have many max-level suitors. Marc Gasol is recovering from a season-ending foot injury. Those are never fun. Other than a Zach Randolph one-year rental, there’s not much other teams value on that roster.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Top five protected 2017 first to Denver; top eight protected 2019 first to Boston. If this team is going to be rebuilding, not having a pair of future firsts, albeit protected firsts, is not a great start.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None, assuming Gasol returns strong.

Flexibility:

Potentially room for two max contracts, but Memphis isn’t exactly a free agent destination and free agents won’t jump through hoops to play the Grizzlies’ 90s style of basketball. If Conley leaves, expect Gasol to become available. At 31, the time is now to trade him, but coming off foot surgery, now isn’t really the time to be trying to move him. Rock, see, hard place.

Hopes:

Conley re-signs, Gasol recovers and Memphis squeaks into the postseason again.

  1. Sacramento Kings

Dysfunctional. Mess.

But the purpose of this exercise is to clean house and do it yourself, right?

Well, this is going to take some work.

The good thing is that I have DeMarcus Cousins, unquestionably in my mind, the best center in the NBA. If I can’t mend fences with him, I trade him by the deadline. That can surely attain a king’s ransom in return. After that, there isn’t much to write home about on this roster.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Philly has the upper hand in a 2017 first round pick swap (Philly is a good team to have to pick swap with, so meh) but the crown jewel that made this the most under-talked about horrific trade in recent NBA history is Sacto’s unprotected 2019 first going to the Sixers. With Boogie’s contract set to end in the summer of 2018, surrendering that pick could be a time bomb waiting to explode.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None

Flexibility:

Max level cap room, but who’s joining this tire fire? Despite that, there are players with middling trade value such as Rudy Gay, Kosta Koufous, Darren Collison, Willie Cauley-Stein, Ben McLemore and Omri Casspi.

Hopes:

Boogie gets his act together and actually wants to play here. If not, hope he nets a significant return.

  1. Chicago Bulls

The Bulls wlll be one of the few teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year that won’t have max-level cap room this summer which is … um … not smart. Not that it matters anyway because the vibe here seems to be getting worse and worse by the day.

Fred Hoiberg took over from Tom Thibodau and immediately turned the once vaunted Bulls defense into a flaming dumpster fire. And with Jose Calderon and Robin Lopez now in tow from New York, that won’t be getting much better.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Top 10 protected 2017 first round pick from Sacramento that becomes a second if it is not conveyed. Sacramento sucks. It won’t get conveyed. So meh.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None.

Flexibility:

I’d expect more of the Bulls we knew and loved under Thibs to be shredded from this new iteration of the team. Taj Gibson can really help a contender off the bench, and the Bulls youngsters have some value, but not enough to acquire a star.

For the love of good basketball, get Jimmy Butler out of this toxicity. You can’t be half pregnant, and the Bulls can’t half ass their rebuild. Boston has assets. Denver has assets. So does Philly, Minnesota and the Lakers. Do it. Do it now.

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Hopes:

Hoiberg learns how to coach at the NBA level, and Butler nets a bounty of a return.

  1. New York Knicks

The Knicks rented Derrick Rose for spare parts. If it works out, you have to overpay him next summer. If it doesn’t, you let him hit free agency and get cap room. You can’t beat Cleveland anyway, so what should Knicks fans really be hoping for?

Notable pick debts/receipts:

None

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

Having the Zinger matters, and it would place New York much higher on this list …. if …. they weren’t dumb enough to give Carmello Anthony a no trade clause. Ohhhh, the Knicks.

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Flexibility:

There’s max level cap room in the Big Apple, and the New York factor will always warrant a meeting with free agents, but do Melo and Rose look like players you’d like to play with?

Hopes:

Porzingus becomes an All Star stretch-5 and Anthony allows the Knicks to move him.

  1. Orlando Magic

This list is a fluid one, constantly changing, and maybe no team has dropped more spots in the past year than the Orlando Magic. From a young team with untapped potential to one that blew a pair of prized assets on….. Possibly one year of Serge Ibaka and a couple SVG cast offs. With room for two max contracts, free agency has to be good to Orlando this year or next if the Magic are to compete anytime soon, and that’s a hell of a risk when everybody else has cap room too.

New coach Frank Vogel must be asking for a mulligan on his decision to join the Magic.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

2019 first from the Lakers that could become two second round picks if something completely out of their control happens. Another example of Rob Hennigan banking on sheer chance. Hear that? That’s the mating call of a bad GM.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None

Flexibility:

Where Hennigan deserves credit is he’s drafted well. At least each player, in a vacuum, has played well. Too bad this isn’t a vacuum and the pieces have to fit together for your team to win. Aaron Gordon, Mario Hezonja and Elfrid Payton all have trade value, but we haven’t seen much of an on-court fit yet. This is a real NBA team Hennigan. Not a fantasy NBA team. There’s room for two max contracts, and you can be sure Orlando will target shooters next month.

Hopes:

Pray to the free agency gods.

  1. Phoenix Suns

Despite boneheaded decisions like firing the assistant coaches before firing the head coach, leaving no one to coach the team last year, and somehow ending its three guard experiment by winding up with worse guards AND fewer assets at the 2015 deadline, the future may be sunnier (step your pun game up!) than it appears.

Health permitting, Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe are actually on reasonable contracts, and the Suns have max level cap room. And, oh yeah, DEVIN BOOKER!!!!!!

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Top 7 protected 2018 first round pick and 2021 unprotected first round pick from the Heat.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

Tyson Chandler with three years and $39M left on his deal. Woof. Chandler is a prime stretch candidate. (For those who don’t know, stretching a player is, in essence, cutting him and spreading his remaining salary over the course of twice the remaining length of the contract plus one year. So if Phoenix were to stretch Chandler this summer, they’d pay about $5.5M over each of the next seven years against the cap)

Flexibility:

Max-level cap room and two guards not named Booker on moveable contracts.

Hopes:

Future picks and trades put players around Booker. This team is far more than a year away, but there’s real potential here.

  1. Dallas Mavericks

Mark Cuban took a calculated risk after winning the 2011 title and went down hard. He chose to bet on his ability to attract top tier free agents to Dallas over staying the course and came up with a 2 and 7 draw time after time. With room for two max contracts and then some, here’s another go at it.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

None

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None

Flexibility:

Goards of cap space and no one with any real value to dangle in a trade. Does Dirk Nowitzki return or does to chase another ring elsewhere? I’d suspect that will come down to who Cuban can persuade to sign with Big D.

Hopes:

A wing like Nic Batum and/or a point guard like Mike Conley join the fold. With just about everyone having cap space, Cuban better have one hell of a pitch ready. It’s impossible to rank Dallas because they only have three players expected to get minutes next year currently under contract so above the dreadful situations and below the more optimistic ones seems about right.

Note: From here on out I’ll switch from “Hopes” to “Fears” as situations get more optimistic.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks

Jason Kidd’s experiment to play without a true point guard and pester the hell out of teams defensively with long, athletic bodies that can switch every position is just crazy enough that it might work. The problem, however, is the freak defenders the Bucks have found mostly haven’t been able to shoot – a kind of important facet of today’s game.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

None

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

Greg Monroe gets $17.1M next year and a player option for $17.9M in 2017-18 that the Bucks are praying he opts out of. Still paying Larry Sanders $5M against the cap this year and next sucks too.

Flexibility:

The Bucks have just enough cap room to offer a max contract, but Milwaukee has never attracted free agents. I don’t expect that to change.

Fears:

No one thinks Monroe is a positive asset to take off your hands and Kidd’s mad scientist puzzle is fatally flawed with the wrong pieces. But if Greek Freak and MCW develop even an average jumper, this squad skyrockets up these rankings.

  1. Toronto Raptors

Will DeMar DeRozan stay or will he go? If he stays, he’ll cap the Raptors out. If he goes, good luck attracting free agents to The North, and you can start worrying about Kyle Lowry leaving in a year. With or without DeRozan, this team has little chance of catching Cleveland in the East.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Lottery protected 2017 first rounder from the Clippers. Meh.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

Three years, $46.2M plus a $17.6M player option for Jonas Valanciunas doesn’t look great on the books, but he can score and is certainly moveable even though one could argue Toronto got better in the postseason after he got hurt and Bismack Biyombo took his minutes.

Flexibility:

Toronto would likely have to go over the tax to keep DeRozan and Biyombo. That ain’t happening, and it means the Raps are either capped out and can’t improve or are losing DeRozan and wouldn’t want to improve. Lowry, Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson and Terrence Ross could all help contenders get better, so hope for future assets is not lost if DeRozan bolts.

Fears:

DeRozan leaves, followed by Lowry, and by that point it’s too late to get assets for the above-mentioned guys. If I were running this team, I’d quietly have a contingency trade in place for Lowry if DeRozan leaves.

  1. Denver Nuggets

In a lot of ways Denver is the Boston Celtics of the West. Many low-tier assets, but as Boston is finding out, it’s really hard to find a trade partner to surrender a quarter for a bunch of nickels and dimes. Denver has a trade, or several, in its future if it is to rise back into postseason contention. In fact, the Clippers thought enough of the Nugs’ collection of young talent they reportedly offered Blake Griffin. Until trade opportunities arise that Denver is prepared to pull the trigger on, they’re just a scary, young team full of talent that nobody is talking about.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Top 5 protected 2017 first from Memphis

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None

Flexibility:

Roughly max level cap room, but I’d expect modest improvements and not a swing for the fences attitude.

Fears:

A superstar trade doesn’t arise and Denver’s array of young talent doesn’t pan out.

The strength of the West knocks Denver down a couple spots here. Honestly, I probably have Denver too low here, but I need to see one of their youngsters show star-power flashes before I can put them higher.

  1. Atlanta Hawks

It’s an offseason, or two, in flux for the Hawks. Step one was trading PG Jeff Teague to Indiana for the 12h pick because Atlanta won’t be able to pay everyone (as you’ll soon see). Now, what to do with unrestricted free agents Al Horford and Kent Bazemore? Both will fetch max-level salaries or close to it on the open market, and Atlanta also has to worry about paying Dennis Schroeder and likely Paul Millsap next offseason. That’s four players who will warrant max or near-max money on the market, none of which would be the best player on a title-winning team. Decisions, decisions.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Lottery protected 2018 first round pick from Minnesota

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None

Flexibility:

The Hawks have room for two max contracts, but as I’ve already gone through, that money is needed to retain current players. Or they could tear everything down. Kyle Korver, Thabo Sefalosha and Tim Hardaway would be cheap expirings sought after like gold at the deadline. All could make a contender better and load Atlanta up with picks and youngsters.

Fears:

Picking the wrong free agents to pay.

Atlanta is smart. I trust their decision making, but with so much in the air and out of their control, I can’t put them any higher.

  1. Detroit Pistons

The Pistons are on the rise under SVG, but how much better can they get? They’ll have to go over the cap to resign Andre Drummond, so the team we saw get swept (albeit a competitive sweep) by Cleveland in the first round last year is pretty much the team we’re gonna get – at least until next summer when the horrible, no good, very bad Josh Smith contract finally comes off the books. That’s when Detroit can make its move.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

None

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

Smith, Josh.

Flexibility:

No cap room after Drummond gets paid. Word is Jody Meeks is on the block, but that’ll likely be a dump for space maneuver.

Fears:

Drummond never develops a back to the basket game, Reggie Jackson never develops a consistent three-point shot and SVG never reaches Tobias Harris (although early returns have been good).

Atlanta and Detroit only get the nod over Denver here because they’re in the East.

  1. Miami Heat

On paper, Dallas and Miami have very similar situations. But Dallas ain’t Miami. South Beach has a track record of attracting highly sought after free agents, and that’s why the Heat are several spots higher. The Heat will go hard for Kevin Durant, and if he considers leaving OKC, he’ll surely give them an attentive ear. If Durant passes, the other top wings on the market such as Nic Batum, Kent Bazemore, Chandler Parsons and Harrison Barnes will certainly look for a max offer from Miami. The kicker is that if they sign one of these, they likely can’t keep both Hassan Whiteside and Dwyane Wade.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

2018 and 2021 firsts go to Phoenix in the Goran Dragic deal. Something tells me Pat “I don’t need no stinkin’ first round picks” Riley is just fine with that.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None

Flexibility:

Not enough players under contract or picks to make any legitimate trade offer unless it’s a salary dump. Because Miami doesn’t have his bird rights, most of the cap space will need to be used to re-sign Hassan Whiteside, who will surely get multiple max offers. Dwyane Wade is a free agent as well but as a full-fledged member of the Miami Mafia, I’m sure he’d be happy to wait a few days to sign to allow the Heat to make cosmetic moves around his future cap slot.

Hopes/concerns:

Hope you make the right free agent decisions. The downside of having options is the ability to make the wrong choices.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans

Despite having a superstar and cap room, New Orleans is one reckless summer from being back to square one….. again. I hate almost everything New Orleans has done since acquiring Anthony Davis, but management still has four (or five) years to get it right, and that’s tantalizing.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

None

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

Omer Asik will be stretched this summer or next. There’s just no getting around it. Tyreke Evans, who doesn’t mesh with Alvin Gentry’s style, is coming off an injury and although he is of course tradeable, with one year until unrestricted free agency his value is lower than it’s been at any point in his tenure in New Orleans. Some of it has been bad injury luck, but Dell Demps has been dog shit awful at maximizing the value of his assets. Sorry, rant over.

Flexibility:

No assets for a blockbuster trade for a superstar, but max-level cap room and an exciting rookie coming in are there for the first time in years.

Fears:

Anthony Davis’ trend of missing 5-25 games per year continues.

As tough as it will be to watch Ryan Anderson walk for nothing, discretion will be the better part of valor if the Pels strike out on the top wings on the market next month. How they navigate not overpaying a mid to low tier player in a desperate attempt to regain relevancy in the West will go a long way in jumping or dropping the Pelicans several spots on this list.

  1. Charlotte Hornets

Kemba Walker finally making teams pay when you go under screens didn’t warrant nearly enough Most Improved Player Award consideration. He’s a force to be dealt with now as Charlotte enters a crucial offseason with tons of cap space, but Al Jefferson, Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams hitting unrestricted free agency.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

None.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None.

Flexibility:

Cap room for two max contracts and more but no pieces for a trade.

Fears:

Charlotte gets left out in the free agent spree and has to choose between overpaying someone or taking a massive step back. However resigning Batum and Williams will go a long way in putting Buzz City back in the playoffs. Despite being in the East, the fact that so much is out of their control is why Charlotte is so low, but I’d want to play with Kemba if I were a free agent.

Again, Charlotte gets the nod over New Orleans thanks to being in the East.

  1. Utah Jazz

This team is tough to rank. On one hand, you’ve got an enviable array of talent on reasonable deals. You can be a bitch defensively, and the acquisition of George Hill only makes you stronger. But who can you count on to score enough consistently to win at a high level in today’s NBA? Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors occasionally go off. Rodney Hood can get hot. But is it enough, and, if not, how do you evaluate Hayward and Favors while they inch closer to unrestricted free agency, drastically reducing their value in trades?

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Good news: An extra first in each of the next two years.

Bad news: From Golden State and Oklahoma City, both expected to land in the low 20s.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None. Alec Burks with three years and $30+M remaining is probably slightly above his value, but with the cap skyrocketing, that’s child’s play.

Flexibility:

Cap room in each of the next two offseasons and ammo to make a trade, but the clock is ticking with Hayward set to hit unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2017 and Favors in the summer of 2018. I probably have Utah a few spots too low here, but the question marks are scary. Do they break up their core and go boom or bust or stay the course and be thrilled to win games in the mid-to-high 40s? I don’t know. There’s a road to nailing the future here. It’s just a tough one to find.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers

The best story in the NBA in 2015-16 has a bright future too. Damian Lillard’s leadership is matching his talent, and Terry Stotts is the most under-appreciated elite coach in the league.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Cleveland’s 2018 first. Expect it to be in the high 20s so meh.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None.

Flexibility:

Max contract cap room, but probably not the assets to make an aggressive move for a star unless if they included CJ McCollum in the deal. Making a splash isn’t Portland’s mantra anyway, but it’s enough to keep them from being a little higher on this list.

Fears:

More of a real-life fear than one for this exercise, but the rumored lack of cohesion between Stotts and GM Neil Olshey (two men extraordinary at their jobs) has to be troubling. And can you really win at a high level featuring two small-ish guards?

  1. Los Angeles Clippers

If you think this is too low, you’re wrong. Sure, the Clippers have three players deserving of max-level salaries – the least of which was first team All NBA last year – but I’d be terrified to take over as GM of this team right now. A move has to be made. A Chris Paul-DeAndre Jordan-Blake Griffin trio just won’t bring you a title.

But who do you move?

Paul is 31 and is likely approaching the twilight of his prime. Jordan is unplayable in many fourth quarters due to his free throw shooting. And there’s a lot of data and eye test to back up that the Clips are better without Griffin requiring touches and going spread pick and role with Paul, Jordan and three-point bombers. And, oh, by the way, Griffin punched out a beloved member of the team’s staff.

So, yeah, I don’t want to make that decision with my job on the line and expectations through the roof.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Lottery protected 2017 first to Toronto; lottery protected 2019 first to Boston

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None

Flexibility:

Little more than midlevel cap room – enough to make improvements around the edges.

Fears:

You make the wrong trade and wreck your title window or you stay the course and the status quo isn’t good enough. Lots of potential for disaster here.

  1. Washington Wizards

The Wiz have planned for years to pitch Kevin Durant this summer. But, as Fletcher Mackel would say, hope is not a plan. That’ll leave Washington with space to pursue other wings that could improve their team such as Kent Bazemore, Chandler Parsons, Nic Batum and Harrison Barnes, among others – even after maxing out Bradley Beal which Washington will likely have to do to retain the restricted free agent.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

None

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None unless 32-year-old Marcin Gortat hits an age wall before the rest of his three years and $38.2M contract ends. Of course, there’s a strech for that if need be.

Flexibility:

Being in the East and having John Wall and enough cap room to sign a max-level free agent and retain Bradley Beal is a really good place to be.

That is until Real GM reported that Washington is prepping a max contract for Joakim Noah.

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Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh, what?

On a more reasonable note, I think Washington is a player to acquire DeMarcus Cousins and reunite him with Wall. There’s a deal surrounding Beal, Gortat and stuff that makes sense for both parties. Stay tuned.

Fears:

Gortat gets old, Beal keeps getting hurt and Noah actually does get the max.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

With only $23M committed in salary next year to a young core including D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, plus the expected return of restricted fee agent Jordan Clarkson and the arrival of No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram, the Lakers are in prime position to finally make some noise after a several-year hiatus from relevancy.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Top 3 protected 2017 first to Philly and a 2019 first rounder to Orlando that might become two second rounders.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None.

Flexibility:

Room for two max deals and then some. They’ll pitch Kevin Durant and probably won’t get him. They’ll pitch DeMar DeDozan and probably will get him. They’ll pitch Harrison Barnes and probably will get him.

The Lakers won’t be good enough to make the playoffs next year even with DeRozan and Barnes, but at least they won’t be a laughingstock anymore. Plus, this is LA we’re talking about. Why stop at DeRozan and Barnes? Somehow, the Lakers just get dudes, and that’s worth several spots on this list alone.

Fears:

It’s 2016 and it doesn’t matter where you play anymore. You can sell as many shoes and star in as many commercial if you play in OKC as you can in LA, and you’re a comfy flight away from where you want to be during your down time wherever you play. Maybe the Lakers allure isn’t what it once was.

  1. Indiana Pacers

Thanks to a pair of pre-draft moves to acquire Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young, clearly the second best five-man unit in the Eastern Conference resides in Indy. Not much of a bench though. Keep a real keen eye on what the Pacers do with their cap room in July.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

None.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None.

Flexibility:

Cap room but little to no assets of value outside of their finishing five to dangle in a trade to go from being a good team to great team. That knocks Indy down a couple spots.

Fears:

Roster locked into being good but not good enough to beat the best of the best (i.e., Lebron’s team). Sound familiar Pacers fans?

  1. Houston Rockets

And now the most frustrating team in the NBA. The talent is here. The attitude is not. At least it wasn’t in 2015-16. Maybe new coach Mike D’Antoni, known as a players coach, can find that mojo again.

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Two more years and $34.4M is a steal for James Harden. As is three more years and $16.5M for Patrick Beverly. And two more years and $3.5M for projected starting center Clint Capela, who has shown flashes of brilliance. Believe me, no more Dwight Howard and his huge cap hold will be addition by subtraction.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

None

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None

Flexibility:

Corey Brewer, Trevor Ariza, KJ McDaniels and restricted free agents Terrence Jones and Donatas Motijunas could all be used in trades, but Houston is far behind teams like Boston and Philly in the asset arms race for blockbuster deals. Houston can finagle room for two max contracts too.

Fears:

D’Antoni does nothing to fix the lackadaisical defense from a year ago, and free agents say no thanks to playing will ball hog James Harden.

  1. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are the Spurs, man. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? They’re smart. They don’t overpay. They don’t put themselves in bad positions. And they’re always ahead of the curve. I wanted to make an argument that in the alternate reality that is this list if you removed the Spurs culture from the equation they’d lose a lot of their oomph, but they’ve got Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge under contract both for less than the max. That’s a hell of a foundation even if GM R.C. Buford got abducted by aliens tomorrow.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

None.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

Tony Parker makes $30M over the next two years. Even with the cap rising, teams aren’t breaking down the door to acquire the 34-year-old PG, but you can always stretch him next offseason if he slips dramatically and you can’t give him away. Not untenable.

Flexibility:

Can make max-level cap room fairly easily with Borris Diaw and Patty Mills on tradeable contracts.

Fears:

Gregg Popovich retires and his hand-picked successor isn’t near his level.

  1. OKC

I know, I know, way too low right? Well, I still have no confidence that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are here for the long run. We are talking about Oklahoma City after all. Would you choose to live there if you had options? I didn’t think so. And if they abruptly leave, this ship sinks in a hurry.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Lottery protected 2018 first rounder to Utah. Meh.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None. I would have said Enes Kanter before he really showed his value vs. the Spurs in Round 2.

Flexibility:

They’ll be pressing up against the cap before resigning Kevin Durant, but OKC has guys that can help other teams if they feel they need to make another move. With the Victor Oladipo acquisition, look for Andre Robertson to hit the market.

Fears:

See second sentence.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers

Philly over OKC and San Antonio? I must be crazy, right. Nah, this is an assets game and if Sixers assets were stocks you’d buy, buy, buy because they’re expected to appreciate tremendously. On the court, however, the 76ers currently can only play two of five of their top six guys (Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel) at a time. That’s a serious problem. Good news is they all have very competitive trade values and are still on their cheap rookie deals.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

This is where Sam Hinkie did freakin’ work and he doesn’t get enough credit for it (although, fairly, he didn’t hit to their full potential on any of his lottery picks). Philly has the rights to the Lakers first rounder next year (top-3 protected, unprotected thereafter), a pick swap with the Kings next year and Sacramento’s UNPROTECTED 2019 first rounder, and, by the way, DeMarcus Cousins’ contract happens to have an opt out in the 2018 offseason. That’s real juicy.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None

Flexibility:

Room for two max contracts (if anyone would sign there) and the most and best ammunition in the league for a blockbuster trade.

Fears:

Philly can’t unclog its logjam of a frontcourt for an adequate return.

  1. Boston Celtics

Probably the deepest roster of guys who can play competently in expansion era. Too bad you can only play five guys at a time. Once again, the Celtics failed to turn any of their nickels into a quarter or two leading up to the draft. But hope is not lost. Because….

Notable pick debts/receipts:

After enjoying the 2016 No. 3 overall pick in a 2013 draft day raid of the Nets, Boston still has the right to a pick swap with Brooklyn next year and their 2018 first UNPROTECTED.

And Brooklyn will not be good any time soon.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None.

Flexibility:

Room for two max deals this summer and the picks to make a blockbuster trade.

Fears:

The deals never arise for a bunch of nickels to turn into a quarter or two, and Danny Ainge goes from brilliant asset collector to hoarder.

This is my kitchen! Errrr, I mean, asset collection!

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  1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns under contract for three more years at a total of about $20M. Andrew Wiggins under contract for two more years at a total of about $13.5M. Zach LaVine under contract for two more years at a total of about $5.4M. Kris Dunn hasn’t even started his rookie deal. And all of them will be restricted free agents when their respective contracts end.

holy s

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Lottery protected 2018 first round pick to Atlanta.

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

Ricky Rubio’s three years and about $42M might be a little tough to move in today’s era of shooting value, and Nikola Pekovic (two years and about $24M left) fell off a cliff physically since resigning in the summer of 2014. But these guys would be core pieces if Minnesota didn’t hit black jack in the draft over and over and over, so they’re certainly manageable assets.

Flexibility:

Guys on great contracts other than Rubio and Pekovic and gobs of cap room in each of the next two years, but, see next.

Fears:

No one will want to spend their winters in frigid Minnesota, limiting this team’s ability to go from good to great. Other than that, an asteroid, and that’s about it.

If the Timberwolves were located in a desirable location, I’d have them above the next team on my list and it wouldn’t be particularly close.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Two words: Lebron James. That’s it, right? Do I have to say more? The King has a budding superstar, and more importantly, running mate in Kyrie Irving who showed he could elevate his game when it matters most. That strongly decreases James’ chances of ever leaving, even if he keeps the one and one contract thing going to mess with Dan Gilbert.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

2018 first to Portland. So what?

Awful/Untradeable Contracts:

Three years and a shade over $30M remaining on Iman Shumpert’s deal isn’t great, but it’s by no means untradeable – especially if Cleveland sweetens the deal. Same goes for two years and more than $15M left on Channing Frye’s deal.

Flexibility:

Little to none. Cleveland has almost $80M committed to five players next year. Short of a Kevin Love dump into someone’s cap space for practically nothing in return, the Cavs won’t be major players in free agency.

Fears:

Same two words that got me started with the Cavs: LeBron James. At any point he can up and leave, and if last time was any indication, the franchise will have a hell of a time recovering. But as long as things are looking rosy, Cleveland can’t come in any lower than No. 2.

  1. Golden State Warriors

Steph Curry under contract one more year on the best deal of all time, and there’s practically zero chance he leaves. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green under contract on market-level deals until ’18-’19 and ’19-’20, respectively.

Notable pick debts/receipts:

Both 2017 picks to Utah. Again, so what?

Awful/Untradeable contracts:

None

Flexibility:

Having a stable core of Curry, Klay and Green is enough to be No. 1 by itself. But they can create max level cap room around them fairly easily. Oh man.

BY GOWD KING, THAT’S KEVIN DURANT’S MUSIC!

Fears:

OKC and Cleveland created a blueprint that you can make Golden State uncomfortable with long, athletic and physical defenders, but with Golden State’s flexibility and shockingly high number of great/good players on great/good contracts, improving and tweaking will always be an option.

Steph Curry’s ankles too. I know it’s been a few years, but it’s worth mentioning.

Well that’s a wrap. If you disagree with my rankings, send me your thoughts here.

Just kidding. I’d love to hear your feedback.

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