Thought It Was a Drought
Before the NBA season starts, I wanted to examine the teams around the league that have gone the longest without making the playoffs, and what better way to do so than by using the title of Future’s banger on a slightly different type of drought. So go ahead and slap this while you read about the teams who have gone years without seeing the postseason promised land and my thoughts on when they could possibly get back.
Sacramento Kings (12 seasons): The Kings haven't made it to the playoffs since all the way back in 2006, when their squad led by luminaries Bonzi Wells, Mike Bibby, Metta World Peace (then Ron Artest) and Brad Miller lost in the first round. It would be an absolute stunner if the Kings snuck into the postseason in 2018-2019, since their roster is littered with rookies with major holes in their game. That said, Sacramento has amassed a core I feel is one of the 10 most promising in the league, so there is hope in California's capital. As a franchise that has never had much draw for free agents, and with next year's pick on the way to Boston, the Kings will need this young group to come together and develop over the next few seasons if they hope to end the league's longest playoff drought.
Phoenix Suns (8 seasons): Phoenix hasn't entered postseason play since Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire were still running the pick and roll out in the desert back in 2010. There's reasonable optimism that Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton can mimic that duo, with Josh Jackson providing a facsimile of Shawn Marion as well. It's a solid plan, but one that's unlikely to land the Suns back in the playoffs for another year at least. The Suns will have their developing core plus a ton of cap space for the 2019 offseason, so the sights of both the fans and front office should be on returning to the playoffs in 2020.
Orlando Magic (6 seasons): The post-Dwight Howard era has not been kind to the Magic, and until the team finds a non-Dj Augustin point guard the future doesn't look much brighter. Orlando has a promising frontcourt trio in Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon and Mo Bamba, but the fit with all three might not be perfect, and it certainly won't look great next season with a below average floor general setting them up. Although they probably won the gruesome three-team trade that sent Howard to LA back in 2012, the Magic spent the following years aimlessly trying to contend, so even though they're on the right track now, playoff contention still seems at least a season away and a few major roster moves away.
Los Angeles Lakers (5 seasons): LeBron James makes the Lakers a solid bet to be removed from this list, regardless of my colleagues' hot takes. The King immediately takes a young roster that likely would've been due for a win jump anyways and immediately vaults them near the upper echelon out West. It will be interesting to see if young Luke Walton can harness the combination of talent and personalities on the Lakers, as with this volatile of a supporting cast any prolonged losing stretch could destroy the chemistry in LA and force LeBron to not only miss the Finals for the first time in eight years, but to miss the postseason entirely.
Denver Nuggets (5 seasons): The Nuggets have just as long a playoff drought as the Lakers, and an equally solid chance of ending that streak in the coming season. Denver missed the postseason by just a game last year, and a full season with a healthy Paul Millsap, development from the young core, and whatever contributions Isaiah Thomas and Michael Porter Jr. can provide should put them back in the playoffs. Head coach Mike Malone will have to work hard to help round out Denver's 25th ranked defense, but if he can find a way to get a Nicola Jokic-anchored squad to at league average defensively, the offense should be good enough for Denver to be a contender out West and snap their playoff drought.
New York Knicks (5 seasons): The Knicks are on the right track to ending this drought, and with a weak bottom of the Eastern Conference New York could possibly contend for a playoff spot with a fully healthy Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis' health remains iffy to start the year, however, and now is not the time for New York to return to their short-sighted ways and do what the Spurs did with Kawhi Leonard by rushing him back from injury and jeopardizing their franchise centerpieces trust in the franchise. Instead the Knicks should be content to return to this list one for one more year and let their young players outside of Porzingis stretch their legs for a year before they take swings at the stacked 2019 free agent class.