With the draft, free agency and trades, NBA franchises can take varying paths towards contention for an NBA championship.
The romantic road to the top for fans likely involves drafting a young stud who grows into a superstar Finals MVP winning legend. Realistically, that trajectory is the road less travelled in the current NBA, with player movement dominating the headlines at this time of year.
With that in mind, let's take a look at how the projected contenders for the 2021-22 championship have pieced together their rosters.
Roster construction for 2021-22 season (via Real GM)
|Draft + Draft Trade||Free Agency||Trade||Roster Total|
|Golden State Warriors||8||7||1||16|
|Los Angeles Lakers||1||12||2||15|
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers sit at the very bottom of the table when it comes to home grown talent, with Talen Horton-Tucker the only player on the roster to start his career in the purple and gold. Twelve of the players on the current squad have been acquired via free agency, with DeAndre Jordan likely to add to that total in the coming days.
As for the players added via trade?
Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. A pair of All-Stars. Acquiring the star duo saw drafted talent, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma exit.
Remember when I mentioned earlier that fans would love to see a young talent rise with the team and become a Finals MVP?
Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly ticks the box there.
Outside of the two-time MVP, the Bucks landed a blockbuster trade for Jrue Holiday last offseason, while Khris Middleton was incredibly a trade throw in to help facilitate the Brandon Jennings-Brandon Knight trade eight seasons ago.
Outside of the jackpot of Antetokounmpo, the Bucks haven't had a lot of success on draft night, with Donte DiVincenzo the only player locked into the rotation. Brook Lopez has been the marquee free agent signing on the current roster.
The youthful Suns came agonsingly close to winning the title in 2021.
Given the nature of player movement and salary cap constraints in keeping multiple young stars beyond their rookie scale deals, Phoenix struck while the iron was hot. Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson were all draft night acquisitions for Phoenix who played major roles in the Suns run to the Finals.
Of course, the trade for Chris Paul was the other major needle mover. Given the age profile of the young stars on the roster, natural development should leave the Suns in a position for another long playoff run.
Golden State Warriors
Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. 3-time champions with the franchise they were drafted by.
Recent injuries over the last two seasons for the trio have boosted the Warriors draft day number as they took advantage of rare early selections. James Wiseman, Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga were all snaffled in the top-15, the earliest picks the franchise has used since they grabbed Harrison Barnes with the 7th overall selection in 2012.
Andrew Wiggins was acquired via trade, while free agent additions include Andre Iguodala, Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bejelica.
The Warriors method is rare. Extremely rare.
The Nets have used the modern day superteam building strategy.
Acquire major stars via free agency and then trade everything else including the kitchen sink for additional stars.
Next minute, high quality veterans will be ready to sign at the drop of a hat.
We know about the big three, but now Brooklyn have added Patty Mills, Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge via free agency.
Ahhh, South Beach. A free agent haven.
Nine of Miami's current roster have made the decision to head for the Florida Sun. Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker chose Miami this offseason, while the franchise also negotiated a sign-and-trade to acquire Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo made the decision to stay with the team.
The Heat haven't quite landed the superstar name in recent seasons, with the pursuit of Giannis Antetokounmpo falling short. They are still expected to contend and as long as Miami remains Miami, they are a serious threat to land the biggest of fish any offseason.
The Clippers traded for Paul George and signed Kawhi Leonard in free agency during the 2020 offseason.
As currently constructed, Terance Mann is the only player on the roster who was drafted by the team prior to 2021.
The Clippers have attempted to fill their roster with veterans. Key additions include Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka and Nic Batum.
If you can manage to draft a future MVP in the second round you are likely going to be cooking with gas pretty soon.
The Nuggets did exactly that with Nikola Jokic, while also adding Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. on draft nights.
Not seen as a major free agent destination, the Nuggets were able to secure Aaron Gordon via trade last season. The Nuggets contention hinges on the return of a healthy return of Murray from an acl tear, but to this point, the Nuggets success has largely been due to some excellent drafting.
Similar to Denver, the Jazz drafted two franchise stars in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic were free agent acqusitions, while Mike Conley Jr. and Jordan Clarkson were acquired via trade.
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