2020/2021 NBA Preview
Brooklyn Nets 52-20 (2)
“Where Brooklyn at, Where Brooklyn at?” This should easily be the best team the Nets have suited up since their relocation to Brooklyn. Kevin Durant is finally healthy, and he will be playing alongside fellow superstar Kyrie Irving. Kyrie proved when playing alongside LeBron James that he is better suited as a number two option, which he will be playing with Durant. Some of Brooklyn’s young guns showed promising growth during Durant and Irving’s absences last year. Guys like Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen seemed to hit their stride at times. While they have one of the most talented rosters in the NBA, there are still questions to be answered. Can first-year head coach Steve Nash guide this team? Will Durant stay healthy? Will Kyrie have a meltdown at some point? Stay tuned, answers to come….
Philadelphia 76ers 47-25 (4)
Doc Rivers walked into a loaded roster in Philadelphia. Although it appears unlikely the 76ers will acquire both James Harden and keep Embiid and Simmons in Philadelphia, this is still a roster to be very excited about. Ben Simmons is finally going to take the next step in his game to establish himself as a perennial superstar. This will be the season his jump shot comes around, and teams will be forced to respect his presence on the perimeter. Pair this with the continued improvement of superstar Joel Embiid and the offseason additions of Seth Curry and recent NBA Champs Danny Green and Dwight Howard. This Philly team could be scary.
Boston Celtics 45-27 (5)
The Boston Celtics have been to the conference finals three of the last four years but can’t seem to get over the hump. What will it take to break through and make it to the NBA finals? Step one: Jayson Tatum needs to become a legitimate superstar. He has all the tools to be dominant and is now entering his fourth season, so youth is no longer an excuse. He has a running mate in Jaylen Brown, who is a very formidable number two option. Losing Gordon Hayward may turn out to be a blessing. At times with Hayward in Boston, it seemed as if Tatum, Brown, Kemba Walker, and Hayward weren’t sure who should take the next shot. Well, that is now clear….It’s Jayson Tatum. However, losing Hayward will hurt bench production as Marcus Smart will be forced into the starting lineup. The Celtics will need bench production from Jeff Teague, Tristan Thompson, and some of their younger players next year.
Toronto Raptors 44-28 (6)
Nick Nurse has proven the Raptors are more than capable of playing at a high level, even after the departure of Kawhi Leonard during the 2019 offseason. Expect this to continue. Although the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division has vastly improved over the offseason, this Raptors team will find themselves in the mix come playoff time. The consistency of Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet matched with the emergence of OG Anunoby will have this Raptors squad chasing their second Eastern Conference Title in three years. Nick Nurse will once again have himself in the conversation for the Coach of the Year award.
New York Knicks 14-58 (15)
“Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York.” Where do we start with the Knicks? With their inability to attract big-name stars during free agency? Of leaving their fans disappointed year after year? Tom Thibedeau is the new man in charge for the Knicks, and he will have his work cut out for him moving forward. The bright spot for Knicks fans, though, “Ain’t no stoppin’ Obi Toppin.” This Knicks roster is flooded with young talent, including Obi Toppin. RJ Barrett, Frank Ntlikina, and Nerlens Noel. The Knicks have prioritized developing this talent as opposed to making a big splash in free agency. New York City is a huge market, and Madison Square is the biggest stage of them all, but the Knicks will be a distant second-place team in the NYC area and will miss the playoffs yet again.
Milwaukee Bucks 58-14 (1)
Giannis got PAID!! The MVP signed an unreal five-year $228.2 million supermax extension with the Bucks. Many were speculating Giannis was out of Milwaukee if they did not add additional stars to support his quest for a championship. However, the addition of Jrue Holiday could have been a key factor in getting Giannis to stay in the Cream City. Antetokounmpo pairing up with Holiday and Kris Middleton will make up a lethal three-headed attack for the bucks as they look to forget about their embarrassing playoff series loss to the Miami Heat in the 2020 bubble. This Milwaukee Bucks squad should be a 50 win team and a lead contender to capture the Eastern Conference Title. Fear the Deer!!
Indiana Pacers 39-33 (7)
The Pacers return an experienced team hoping to make a run in the Eastern Conference. Nate McMillan was canned after his career 3-16 playoff record, which most recently included a 4-0 sweep at the hands of the Miami Heat during the 2020 playoffs. Nate Bjorkgren is now the man in charge for Indiana, who branches off the Nick Nurse coaching tree. Pacers faithful should be excited about the emergence of T.J. Warren and Domantas Sabonis last season. Pairing them with the always dangerous Victor Oldadipo and Malcolm Brogden, this Pacers team will be a problem. Look for the Pacers to make some noise in the Eastern Conference Playoffs this season.
Chicago Bulls 21-51 (12)
The team from the Windy City cleaned house in the front office and hired Billy Donovan in the offseason. Rightfully so after failing to win 30 games for three straight seasons. Zach Levins is an absolute star who goes unnoticed because the Bulls have been horrid. There is good news for Bulls fans. However- there is nowhere to go but up! There is an influx of young talent on this Bulls roster with Lavine, Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr, and Lauri Markkanen. Chicago is going to need members of this young core to take a leap this year if they want to challenge for a playoff spot.
Cleveland Cavaliers 19-53 (13)
The John Beilein experiment was nightmare fuel in Cleveland last season. J.B. Bickerstaff has since replaced him. Bickerstaff looks to take over a team with some promising young pieces in Collin Sexton, Darrius Garland, and 2020 first-round selection Issac Oroko out of Auburn. Match the young guns with veterans Kevin Love and double-double machine Andre Drummond; this Cavaliers team should have an opportunity to win some games this year. However, they are still the Cavs.. and located in Cleveland. A team and city just can’t get it going since LeBron broke their heart for the second time. Look for the Cavs to have another top-five selection in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Detroit Pistons 17-55 (14)
Dwayne Casey is going to have his hands full in Detroit. Outside of former “Rookie of the Year” Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, this team will not feature the top-level NBA talent possessed by other teams across the league. Even Griffin and Rose have struggled to stay healthy over the course of their careers. A setback for either of these two this season would be the worst-case scenario for Detroit. The Pistons also traded away a promising star in Christian Wood this offseason to Houston, arguably the most consistent performer over the course of last season. A 20 win season would be an impressive accomplishment for the Pistons, but don’t be surprised to see the Pistons in contention on lottery night for the #1 overall pick in the 2021 draft.
Miami Heat 48-24 (3)
Erik Spoelstra solidified himself as one of the best coaches in the NBA last year. Pat Riley did Pat Riley things by acquiring Jimmy Butler and putting on a clinic in the draft. The Heat will officially have a target on their back after their trip to the finals, and this means their young talent will need to take an even bigger step than they took last year. The off-brand splash brothers in Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson will need to continue to be lights out from three, allowing Bam and Jimmy Butler room to operate. Speaking of Bam, as well as he played last year, he still has room for improvement. He needs to understand when he can take a game over and improve on his jump shot. The Heat will have a shortened offseason after a trip to the finals, but this shouldn’t bother their roster full of young legs.
Atlanta Hawks 35-37 (8)
The Atlanta Hawks should be one of the most improved teams in the NBA. Trae Young is an absolute problem on the offensive side of the floor, and they added both size and shooting to surround him. Although they went out and signed a defensive anchor in Clint Capela, they should struggle defensively. But do not fret Hawks fans. This team is going to light it up offensively. If Trae Young can continue to put up video game numbers, this team can double their win total from the previous season. Look for Bogdan Bogdanovic and De’Andre Hunter to have breakout seasons.
Washington Wizards 33-49 (9)
The Wizards made a huge splash this offseason in acquiring Russell Westbrook and sending John Wall out to Houston. This brings back an Oklahoma City reunion for Westbrook and head coach Scott Brooks. Also, the pairing of Westbrook and Bradley Beal is going to be a PROBLEM for opposing teams. With Beal’s ability to light up the scoreboard and Westbrook’s determination as a competitor, this team may just find themselves playing important basketball games come to the end of the season. One thing this Wizards’ team may lack is depth. Outside of Westbrook and Beal, the Wizards may struggle to find consistent scorers. They are going to need strong efforts from Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant on a nightly basis for hopes of securing a playoff spot.
Orlando Magic 29-43 (10)
The Magic exceeded expectations last season by sneaking into the Eastern Conference Playoffs as an 8 seed and giving the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks all they wanted (Bucks won 4-1). The Magic suffered a major loss in the bubble by losing Jonathan Issac. He will likely miss all of the upcoming season. Orlando will miss his presence in the paint. However, Orlando currently possesses one of the most dominant big men in the game with Nikola Vucevic. He has been the model of consistency during his Orlando tenure. There is also a lot of hype surrounding the Magic’s first-round pick Cole Anthony out of UNC. Look for Anthony to immediately make an impact on this Magic team. With Vucevic, the still improving Fultz, Fournier, and Aaron Gordon teaming up with Anthony, this is a Magic team that could find themselves back in the playoffs for consecutive years.
Charlotte Hornets 27-45 (11)
The Lamelo Ball experiment will officially begin in Charlotte this year. It’s hard to hand the reins over to a rookie and expect immediate success but this guy is no ordinary rookie. Playing overseas should give him the experience and edge he needs to lead a team from day one. Oh yeah, they also paid Gordon Hayward 120 million dollars in the offseason. Hayward never looked like himself in Boston due to injuries and the fact that he had to play with Kyrie Irving. The Hornets’ top four scorers from last year all return and are all under the age of 26. If Hayward can return to his all-star self and Lamelo Ball can push for ROY, this team could be in the hunt for a play-in game at the very least.
Denver Nuggets 51-21 (3)
“The bubble bursters”…? No? Well, anyway, the Nuggets did go on a tear in the bubble defeating the Los Angeles Clippers in an epic seven-game series coming back from down 3-1. Jamal Murray was unconscious in the bubble setting multiple scoring records. Pretty impressive for a guy who might be the second-best player on the Nuggets roster. Nikola Jokic still seems to be top-dog, but Murray may change that early in the 2020-2021 season. A big question mark leading into the season for the nuggets is Michael Porter Jr., An uber-talented guy who can play nearly every position on the floor but didn’t seem to click with his teammates’ times last year. If he can stop whining about not getting the ball enough in post-game pressers and gel with his teammates, the Nuggets are a real title threat.
Portland Trail Blazers 45-27 (5)
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better scoring backcourt in the NBA with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum running the show for Portland. The Blazers also added some much-needed athleticism and depth with the additions of Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr., and Enes Kanter. This is the year for the Blazers to make a push as several key pieces are signed to one-year deals or options. Their frontcourt should be much improved, along with their defensive rotations. When can this team finally get over the hump? Will their defense show improvement? Time is running out for Portland, and those questions need to be answered quickly.
Utah Jazz 44-28 (6)
You know you’re a confident head coach when you wear a capri/jogger hybrid on the sideline during the bubble. Quin Snyder is that dude, and he has an excellent team coming back for the 2020-2021 season. Donovan Mitchell played at an MVP level in the playoffs, and Rudy Gobert bounced back from his coronavirus debacle. Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson, and Bojan Bogdanovic provide shooting from the perimeter, and all three are legitimate scoring threats. Let’s be real- Jordan Clarkson sucked on the lakers, but everyone sucked on the Lakers at that time. He has transformed himself into a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. If Donovan Mitchell can continue to play at an MVP level and avoid trading Rudy Gobert due to contract issues, this team will make some noise in the playoffs.
Oklahoma City Thunder 23-49 (13)
One of these days, the Minnesota Timberwolves will be able to put it all together and make a run deep into the playoffs. Karl Anthony Towns can be one of the best players in the league, but the Wolves cannot seem to get the formula right as his time in the Twin Cities is starting to resemble that of Kevin Garnett. Andrew Wiggins, also a #1 pick, has yet to reach his full potential and is likely to be traded as he does mesh in Ryan Saunders’ system, as the Wolves will continue to disappoint.
Minnesota Timberwolves 19-53 (15)
How good has Karl-Anthony Towns been? Coming off a shortened season where he averaged 26 ppg and over 10 rebounds per game, KAT establishes himself as a superstar across the league. D’Angelo Russell also looks to build on the impact he made with the Wolves last season. He is another player who certainly possesses all-star ability. The big addition for Minnesota was the selection of Anthony Edwards with the first overall pick in the draft. Edwards only played one season at Georgia but left very little doubt who the best player on the floor was when he was playing. If Edwards can contribute right away as a rookie, this could be a Timberwolves team that has the potential to contend for a bottom-tier playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference.
Dallas Mavericks 49-23 (4)
Dallas made their intentions very clear in the offseason- get better defensively. Teams in today’s NBA just don’t trade away a 45% three-point shooter, but that’s exactly what Dallas did in the Seth Curry-Josh Richardson trade. Richardson will bring athleticism and defensive prowess to a Mavericks squad that was well below average defensively. The ceiling is the roof for this Mavericks team as they trot out a huge starting lineup and the MVP frontrunner on opening night. Doncic averaged a whopping 29-9-9 last year, and the 21-year-old doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon.
New Orleans Pelicans 38-34 (9)
The Alvin Gentry Era in New Orleans is officially over: enter Stan Van Gundy. He is taking over a youthful Pelicans’ squad with a lot of potential. The bubble was not good to the Pelicans in 2020, though, as they went 2-6 and eventually fell short of securing a playoff bid. All eyes will be on Zion Williamson this year and how the previous first overall draft pick can establish himself in the NBA. Williamson has struggled with injuries both at Duke and during his rookie season, where he only saw action in 24 games last season. Brandon Ingram was a HUGE bright spot for the Pelicans last year in earning the 2020 NBA Most Improved Player Award. The change of scenery from Los Angeles to New Orleans was just what Ingram needed to jumpstart his career. The Pelicans made some big offseason moves in acquiring seasoned veterans Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams. If New Orleans can stay healthy, don’t be surprised to see them sneak in the playoffs this year.
Memphis Grizzlies 36-36 (10)
Ja Morant is very good at basketball. Can anyone question that? After a rookie campaign where he averaged 17.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 7.3 APG, he showed flashes of how dominant he can be on a basketball court. The Grizzlies were close to taking away the 8-seed from Portland last year in the bubble play-in game but ultimately fell short in the 4th. The Grizzlies have some young talent around Morant in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks. However, this may be a team that struggles to win consistently. Memphis will have some great wins on the year, but also some head-scratching losses. The inconsistency will cost them a spot in the Western Conference Playoffs. Never miss an opportunity to watch Morant play though, he is the ultimate entertainer on a basketball court.
San Antonio Spurs 30-42 (11)
If you are a fan of flashy and exciting basketball, I will stay away from Spurs’ basketball this year. Pop will have the Spurs hovering around .500 for most of the year in the least exciting way possible. The duo of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge should carry the scoring load for San Antonio, but this will be a squad that struggles to get buckets consistently. As the Western Conference continues to get tougher with big-name superstars, the Spurs will rely on their veteran coaching staff and disciplined style of play to come away with victories. Don’t be surprised to see Derozan or Aldridge traded before the deadline to a title contender. This would allow the Spurs to stock up on draft picks and build for their future.
Houston Rockets 22-50 (14)
James Harden finally showed up for a preseason game, looking like an absolute tank! Obviously, all eyes will be on the Rockets and how they handle this situation. If they can get Harden to play alongside Wall, Cousins, and Most Improved Player candidate Christian Wood, they could make some noise in the Western Conference. However, it seems like the trade rumors are heating up quicker than the lefty’s step back jumper. If he is traded, this team struggles to make the playoffs, Demarcus Cousins can’t jump over a piece of toilet paper, and their role players around Wall aren’t good enough in a tough Western Conference. Look out for a Harden to Philly for Simmons and draft picks’ deals coming very soon…..
Los Angeles Lakers 57-15 (1)
The defending NBA champs made as much noise in the offseason as anyone in the NBA. They added the sixth man of the year Montrezl Harrell and veteran Marc Gasol, to counter the loss of their two bigs. While they will lose some athleticism and physicality on the defensive side, they will improve vastly offensively. LeBron and AD will see some load management this season, so these key additions will add firepower while the two superstars rest. This Lakers team will reach their maximum potential later in the year and the playoffs. The Lakers are heavy favorites to repeat as NBA Champions, and rightfully so.
Los Angeles Clippers 55-17 (2)
Fire your hall of fame coach and let the sixth man of the year walk doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. The Clippers are hoping to prove me, and the entire NBA, wrong with that logic. Kawhi Leonard is the only player who will receive substantial minutes under the age of 30 (No, Zubac doesn’t count). With all this being said, they still have Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and an absolute assassin off the bench in Lou Williams. Ty Lue was hired by Cleveland to win a championship, and he did just that. Can he do it again with an aging but very talented roster?
Golden State Warriors 40-32 (7)
The most entertaining man in all of basketball is back this year (sorry Zion fans). Yes, that man is Steph Curry, and he should be well-rested after playing in only five games last season due to a broken hand. Losing Klay Thompson should diminish their title hopes, but can you really count Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Steve Kerr out? If so, you’re a braver man than I. Curry, the best shooter this game has ever seen is more than capable of putting this team on his back and carrying them to a top 4 seed in the Western Conference. With young players like Eric Paschall and Marquese Chriss getting experience from a depleted roster last year and Kelly Oubre Jr’s addition, these Warriors are ready to make some noise, specifically SPLASH……
Phoenix Suns 39-33 (8)
Chris Paul found the fountain of youth last year, and it was moving on from James Harden. Paul showed flashes of his lob city days by averaging 18-7-5 as a 34-year-old. His health will be key for these Phoenix Suns next year. If he stays healthy and some of these younger guys (Cam Jonhson, Deandre Ayton, and Mikal Bridges) take the next step, this team could make a push for a top 6 seed in a brutal Western Conference. These young Phoenix Suns also have a guy named Devin Booker- ever heard of him?!? Book is a walking bucket that is capable of dropping 70 on you, literally. The one thing missing from this team was a veteran presence and a leader, and they got both in Paul.
Sacramento Kings 30-42 (12)
Vlade Divac flopped more times as a GM than he did on the court wearing the purple and black. He passed up on Luka Doncic and couldn’t hire a coach who would provide any stability. Finally, the Vladfather’s cigarette has burned out, and he has recently been replaced. The Luke Walton-coached Kings are now a team on the rise. Sacramento has a flashy, young squad that is set to make a playoff appearance after a 14-year hiatus. It starts with point guard De’Aaron Fox, ready to make an All-Star push after averaging 21 ppg 7 apg 4 rpg last season. Hassan Whiteside is returning to his rookie team and is prepared to protect the rim and provide a much-needed boost on the defensive end.
- Rookie of the Year
- Most Improved Player
- Coach of the Year
- Sixth Man
- Defensive Player of the Year
- NBA MVP
- LaMelo Ball
- Michael Porter Jr.
- Steve Nash
- Dennis Schroder
- Anthony Davis
- Luka Doncic
- Charlotte Hornets
- Denver Nuggets
- Brooklyn Nets
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Dallas Mavericks
- Rookie of the YearLaMelo Ball
- Most Improved PlayerMichael Porter Jr.
- Coach of the YearSteve Nash
- Sixth ManDennis Schroder
- Defensive Player of the YearAnthony Davis
- NBA MVPLuka Doncic
- Charlotte HornetsLaMelo Ball
- Denver NuggetsMichael Porter Jr.
- Brooklyn NetsSteve Nash
- Los Angeles LakersDennis Schroder
- Los Angeles LakersAnthony Davis
- Dallas MavericksLuka Doncic
Coaches Who Will be Fired
- James Borrego, Charlotte Hornets
- Dwane Casey, Detroit Pistons
- Steve Clifford, Orlando Magic
- Stephen Silas, Houston Rockets
- Luke Walton, Sacramento Kings