1. In-house improvement
We said that bringing back the same core and hoping to replicate/improve on the results from the season before is usually a bad idea, but we failed to mention one critical exception.
The beautiful thing about having a handful of young, developing players is that you never know when one/some/all of them are going to take a leap. And if they leap significantly enough, that could change the math on your entire season.
Outside of Hawkins, Williamson, Trey Murphy III, and Dyson Daniels are all also 23 or younger. Now, Murphy will be missing the early portion of the season. But when he does return, I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts to look like a top-50 player in the league.
I know it is hard to believe, but Williamson is still only 23 years old. He’s still got room to be better than the All-Star Starter he was last year when he was healthy. What if Williamson not only stays healthy this year (please, please, please), but also ascends from All-NBA player to fringe MVP candidate?
As for Daniels, while he didn’t have the best time at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, he flashed some really promising skills during his rookie campaign. He doesn’t need to finish his development in 2023-24. But if he can come in a little bit more aggressive on offense, he becomes much more playable, which means the team can lean more on his already impressive defense. Maybe this year, Daniels solidifies himself as a constant contributor off the bench.
We probably won’t be lucky enough to have all of these events take place. If they did, we’d probably be a serious title contender. But if we can just have one or two of these leaps take place, you can almost guarantee that we will be an improved team this season.