• Rick Niedermayer Jr

NBA 2020-2021 Season Preview

With the Los Angeles Lakers taking the NBA title last season in the bubble of Orlando Florida, this upcoming season looks to have some major story lines going forward, with impending free agency of Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar DeRozan (USC Alum) and LaMarcus Aldridge are among a handful of former All-Stars having Player options, which team will come out and challenge the Los Angeles Lakers. Here is the outlook for all 30 teams for this upcoming 70 game season.

Atlanta Hawks (14th Eastern Conference 20-47)

Key player: Trae Young

Key Additions: Rajon Rondo, Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kris Dunn Key Subtractions: Vince Carter (Retired) Jeff Teague

Outlook: Atlanta retooled in the free agent market by focusing on the defensive side of the ball with the additions of Kris Dunn and Rajon Rondo, but the leadership that Rondo will bring will play a crucial role with the young Hawks, along with drafting USC big man Onyeka Okongwu to come off the bench behind Clint Capela who was acquired during last season but never played due to injury, the young hawks look to improve on last season and fight for the 8th seed in the East.

Boston Celtics (3rd Eastern Conference 48-24)

Key player: Jayson Tatum

Key Additions: Jeff Teague, Tristian Thompson

Key Subtractions: Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter

Outlook: Boston didn’t subtract anything major from last season, with Gordon Hayward battling major injuries during his time with the Celtics. They did add Tristian Thompson to play in the front court after losing Enes Kanter. The addition of Jeff Teague to their back court gives them a very capable back-up point guard to Kemba Walker so Marcus Smart will not have to see minutes at the point. The Celtics have arguably the quietest superstar in the league with Jayson Tatum, and along with Walker, the Celtics look to be one of the top 3 teams in the East this season.

Brooklyn Nets (7th Eastern Conference 35-37)

Key Player: Kevin Durant

Key Additions: Jeff Green

Key Subtractions: Jamal Crawford, Wilson Chandler, Michael Beasley

Outlook: The Brooklyn Nets are wildcard this coming season. They added Jeff Green as well resigning Tyler Johnson and Joe Harris. They lost Jamal Crawford, Wilson Chandler and Michael Beasley, but in a way they still have gained more. Kevin Durant who signed last off season with the Nets hasn’t played a game after he ruptured his right Achilles in the 2019 NBA finals. In a way he is an addition to a team that has Karis LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie to thank for making the playoffs last season after Kyrie Irving missed from February 1st to the end of the season. So, look for the Brooklyn Nets to battle with Boston and Milwaukee for the best record in the East this coming season.

Kevin Durant, right, and Kyrie Irving, left, look to improve the Nets 7th seed last year in the East.

Charlotte Hornets (9th Eastern Conference 23-42)

Key Player: Gordon Hayward

Key Additions: Gordon Hayward, LaMelo Ball,

Key Subtractions: Nicolas Batum, Willy Hernangomez

Outlook: After missing out on the playoffs last season, the Hornets, the Hornets actually got a stroke of luck with getting the 3rd pick in the draft. LaMelo Ball, who many people argued should have been the number 1 overall pick in the draft, has the talent to be able to help a franchise turn things around, combining that with the scoring talent of Gordon Hayward, and the Hornets are actually looking like a team that will compete for the 5-8 spots in the eastern conference playoffs.

Chicago Bulls (11th Eastern Conference 22-43)

Key Player: Zach LaVine

Key Additions: Garrett Temple, Noah Vonleh

Key Subtractions: Kris Dunn

Outlook: The Chicago Bulls look to be falling into a lottery spot this season. They didn’t make any real noise with any pick-ups and losing Kris Dunn and his 2 steals a game make being competitive harder, even with Zach LaVine and young big man Lauri Markkanen who can stretch the floor with his shooting. The bulls have a nice couple players to build on for their future.

Zach LaVine looks to lead the future of the bulls.

Cleveland Cavaliers (15th Eastern Conference 19-46)

Key Player: Colin Sexton

Key Additions: JaVale McGee (trade), Damyean Dotson

Key Subtractions: Tristian Thompson

Outlook: Losing 4 offensive rebounds a game is a big loss for any team, let alone the cellar dwellers of the East. The Cavs are rebuilding from losing both Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. The Cavs do have something to build on with Colin Sexton emerging as a possible star. The Cavs are destined to be a top 3 draft pick based on record alone. The Cavs are not going to get any better any time soon.

Dallas Mavericks (7th Western Conference 43-32)

Key Player: Luca Doncic

Key Additions: Wes Iwundu, James Johnson (trade)

Key Subtractions: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Seth Curry (trade)

Outlook: Luca Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis look to be an exciting young duo in the west. Doncic looks to be on his way to becoming an MVP caliber player averaging nearly a triple double last season with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assist a game to go along with Porzingis averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds a game. The Mavs adding James Johnson from Philly for Seth Curry could be considered an upgrade on the defensive end. Look for the Mavericks to be fighting for a 4-6 spot in the west playoff picture.

Is this the year Luca takes the next step and proves he is among the NBA elite?

Denver Nuggets (3rd Western Conference 49-23)

Key Player: Nicola Jokic

Key Additions: JaMychal Green

Key Subtractions: Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant, Torrey Craig

Outlook: Adding JaMychal Green adds another 7-footer to an already tall team. Michael Porter looks to add to his break-out in the bubble last season and become the third star behind Jokic and Jamal Murray. The Nuggets didn’t necessarily get better adding JaMychal Green but losing Plumlee and Grant could have an effect on the defensive end. Finishing 3rd in the west would definitely be an over achievement.

Detroit Pistons (13th Eastern Conference 20-48)

Key Player: Blake Griffin

Key Additions: Wayne Ellington, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Josh Jackson

Key Subtractions: Brandon Knight, Christian Wood, Langston Galloway, Tony Snell

Outlook: The Pistons look to get out of the cellar this season. Derrick Rose looks to continue his comeback and prove he is an all-round player, as he has improved his outside shooting. Look for Blake Griffin and company try to get into contention for a playoff spot, even though it looks more like the same place this season.

Steph Curry returns from injury and looks to lead the Warriors back to the playoffs.

Golden State Warriors (15th Western Conference 15-50)

Key Player: Steph Curry

Key Additions: Kelly Oubre (trade) Kent Bazemore, James Wiseman

Key Subtractions: Ky Bowman

Outlook: Steph Curry is back, Draymond Green is still here, Andrew Wiggins will get a season with Steph on the court, and the Warriors are now adding a big man to a team that was missing a big that could get up and down the court for years. James Wiseman was the second overall pick, and Kelly Oubre Jr. was brought in to help as Klay Thompson tore his Achilles when returning from tearing his ACL. The Warriors are arguably the best team in this decade and adding a couple tenacious young players to the team, look for the warriors to be in the playoffs and trying to rekindle the magic that they have had in the past.

Houston Rockets (44-28 4th Western Conference)

Key Player: James Harden

Key Additions: DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall(trade)

Key Subtractions: Jeff Green, Austin Rivers

Outlook: What is going to happen with James Harden? After Houston hired a new GM and head coach, James Harden still wants to leave after he was critical of Mike D’Antoni and the front office. The Rockets traded for John Wall by giving up Russell Westbrook, and by doing so are taking a chance as John Wall hasn’t played in almost 2 seasons because of injury. The Rockets also signed DeMarcus Cousins, another former all-star to go along with Harden and Wall. The Rockets have gotten size they were missing and a point guard in Wall that will take better, more efficient shots and will make the extra pass to the open player, but this season comes down to whether the Rockets trade Harden or not.

James Harden wants to be traded from Houston, but to where is still up in the air.

Indiana Pacers (45-28 4th Eastern Conference)

Key Player: Victor Oladipo

Key additions: None

Key Subtractions: None

Outlook: Victor Oladipo and TJ Warren are looking to continue on from last season’s playoff bubble to propel the Pacers into the second round of the playoffs this season. With the teams in the East getting better and getting key pieces back, it’ll be hard for the Pacers to stay in the playoff picture with no upgrades made, even though they also kept all their key pieces from last season as well. Look for the Pacers to be a playoff team in the east, but probably in the bottom half of the playoffs.

Los Angeles Clippers 49-23 2nd Western Conference)

Key Player: Kawhi Leonard

Key Additions Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, Tyrone Lue (coach)

Key Subtractions: Montrezl Harrell, JaMychal Green, Doc Rivers (coach)

Outlook: After an extremely disappointing second round exit at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, the Clippers parted with Doc Rivers. Now with Tyrone Lue on the bench how will the Clippers react, with questions around Paul George and his performance in the playoffs, will the Clippers be able to get into the conference finals this season?

Los Angeles Lakers (52-19 1st Western Conference)

Key Player: Lebron James

Key Additions: Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder, Marc Gasol, Wesley Mathews

Key Subtractions: Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, JaVale McGee, Dwight Howard

Outlook: The Lakers won title number 17 last season and are looking to repeat, even with the loss of key pieces like Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, the Lakers actually look better this year and are on a mission to cement the legacy that is the greatest franchise in NBA history. Lebron James and Anthony Davis lead the squad, and until proven otherwise this team is the team to beat for the title.

Lebron James and Anthony Davis celebrating the title victory for the Lakers.

Memphis Grizzlies (34-39 9th Western Conference)

Key Player: Ja Morant

Key additions: None

Key Subtractions: Josh Jackson

Outlook: The Grizzlies didn’t get any better, that’s for sure. They lost Josh Jackson to the Detroit Pistons and didn’t add anyone to the roster to help last season’s Rookie of the Year Ja Morant which, in the west, is looking to make it harder to make the playoffs. Last season they lost to the Portland Trailblazers in a best of three play in series to keep the 8 seed. Expect the grizzlies to fall further down in the west.

Miami Heat (44-29 5th Eastern Conference)

Key Player: Jimmy Butler

Key Additions: Avery Bradley, Maurice Harkless

Key Subtractions: Jae Crowder, Derrick Jones Jr.

Outlook: After making the Cinderella run to the NBA finals last season, the Heat look to improve and fight to get back there. Being led by Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic, Miami is a serious contender for the conference finals. Even with team rebuilding and becoming better in the East, the Heat are hungry and tenacious on the defensive side of the ball, and Jimmy Butler is a bona fide star in the league.

Bonus: the Miami ViceVersa uniforms and logo are arguably the best-looking alternate uniforms in the league.

Milwaukee Bucks (56-17 1st Eastern Conference)

Key Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Key Additions: Jrue Holliday (trade), Bobby Portis, D.J Augustin

Key Subtractions: Wesley Mathews, Eric Bledsoe (trade)

Outlook: With arguably the best player in the game signing an extension with the Bucks, look for them to try and get over the hump and get to the NBA Finals this season. Giannis is being partnered up with Jrue Holliday after Holliday was traded for Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, which in fairness is an upgrade defensively for the bucks who focus big time on the defensive end. Giannis is stretching his game out to shoot 3’s at a higher rate. The Bucks are a top 3 in the East favorite but the conference as a whole has gotten better so it might be a little tougher for the Bucks to repeat for the best record in the East.

Minnesota Timberwolves (19-45 14th Western Conference)

Key Player: Karl-Anthony Towns

Key Additions: Rondae Hollis Jefferson, Anthony Edwards

Key Subtractions: Evan Turner, James Johnson

Outlook: Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell are being joined by number 1 overall pick from this year’s draft, Anthony Edwards, to try and turn around a once great franchise. Towns continues the history of big men in Minnesota who are franchise players with no help, Kevin Garnett could get no help to get past the Lakers in the 90’s and early 2000’s, Kevin Love couldn’t get help to actually get the team wins, so here is good luck to the wolves because they are going to need it. D’Angelo Russell is an all-star and Anthony Edwards jumped 2 spots in the draft, but can both Russell and Edwards play without the ball in their hands? Look for the wolves to move out of the cellar of the west but not much more this season.

New Orleans Pelicans (30-42 13th Western Conference)

Key Player: Zion Williamson

Key Additions: Corey Brewer, Willy Herangomez, Eric Bledsoe(trade)

Key Subtractions: Jrue Holliday(trade), Derrick Favors, Jahlil Okafor

Outlook: The young nucleus of the Pelicans gets to stay together with Brandon Ingram signing an extension. The Pelicans also brought in Stan Van Gundy to lead this young group and improve on last season. Zion Williamson will be playing with no minute’s restriction, plus Steven Adams being brought in is a bigger deal than it looks. Zion, Ingram and Lonzo Ball are going to be on the court at the same time this season, and they looked great together with Zion on his minute’s restriction, they are ready to make the leap to the play-off team.

New York Knicks (21-45 12th Eastern Conference)

Key Player: Julius Randle

Key Additions: Alec Burks, Austin Rivers, Nerlens Noel, Obi Toppin

Key Subtractions: Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis

Outlook: The Knicks look like the Knicks, a team that is in disarray. This once proud franchise is in the mecca of basketball and they cannot bring in free agents. Julius Randle is the best player on their team, and don’t get me wrong I like Julius Randle, but he isn’t the number 1 option on a team that is trying to get better. This franchise is in need of saving desperately. The Knicks are going to be in the cellar of the East, for the foreseeable future, not just this season.

Oklahoma City Thunder (44-28 5th Western Conference)

Key Player: Al Horford

Key Additions: Al Horford(trade), Frank Jackson

Key Subtractions: Danilo Gallinari, Chris Paul(trade)

Outlook: The Thunder always look like they are rebuilding, and this year is no exception. They traded away Chris Paul and his monster contract, but also picked up Al Horford and his contract from the 76er’s. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is on the rise and will get a chance to be the focus guard of the Thunder, even though the Thunder have lost almost 35 points a game with Gallinari and Paul leaving. The Thunder definitely will have a fight on their hands to get back into the play-offs and didn’t do anything to make it easier for themselves.

Orlando Magic (33-40 8th Eastern Conference)

Key Player: Aaron Gordon

Key Additions: Dwayne Bacon

Key Subtractions: D.J Augustin

Outlook: The Magic Look to try and hold onto the 8th seed finish they had last season. Aaron Gordon and Nicola Vucevic look to carry this squad to the playoffs which will be a tough test this coming season, but the Magic have proved they can scrap and fight their way to some wins, and they will need that plus Evan Fournier could be a difference maker if he can continue to improve his number and break the 20 points a game average threshold. Look for Orlando to fight for 8th seed again this season.

Philadelphia 76ers (43-30 6th Eastern Conference)

Key Player: Joel Embiid

Key Additions: Dwight Howard, Doc Rivers (coach) Seth Curry(trade)

Key Subtractions: Al Horford(trade)

Outlook: Can Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons coexist on the court at the same time? That’s the question in Philly surrounding this team. Simmons and Embiid are similar in skillset and it makes for a big problem, because they could be the best 1-2 in the league. Embiid is a center that can stretch the floor and pull a big defender away from the basket, and Simmons is the tallest point guard in the league and can pass the ball better than most guards in the league. Will Doc Rivers and the shooters brought into Philly be able to right the ship and get back to the Conference Finals? They have the talent for sure.

Phoenix Suns (34-39 10th Western Conference)

Key Player: Devin Booker

Key Additions: Chris Paul(trade), Jae Crowder, Frank Kaminsky

Key Subtractions: Kelly Oubre Jr.(trade)

Outlook: The Suns are going for the playoffs. With the trade for Chris Paul, the Suns are looking to go for the playoffs this season. Devin booker is a break-out star waiting to happen, and Deandre Ayton appears to be healthy which is a major boost to the team. Adding Jae Crowder and keeping Dario Saric makes this team dangerous in the west. Look for the Suns to be playing in the playoffs this season. Chris Paul is on the last year of his deal and depending on how the Suns play he could stay and resign in the offseason to help this young team grow.

Portland Trail Blazers (35-39 8th Western Conference)

Key Player: Damian Lillard

Key Additions: Derrick Jones Jr., Enes Kanter, Cameron Payne

Key Subtractions: Hasan Whiteside, Rodney Hood

Outlook: Portland is a wildcard team. They are a talented team and Damian Lillard is arguably the most clutch player in the league. Carmelo Anthony showed last season that he still can play and contribute averaging almost 24 points a game. While losing Hasan Whiteside in the paint is a loss on the offensive end, defensively adding Enes Kanter is a big upgrade on the defensive side of the ball. The Blazers aren’t a sure-fire pick for the playoffs, as last season they needed to win a best of 3 series against the Grizzlies to get into the playoffs. If they make the playoffs, whoever they play better not take them lightly as Lillard and Anthony can score 40 each before you know it. They will fight until the very last day for playoffs and possibly squeak into the 8th seed.

Sacramento Kings (31-41 12th Western Conference)

Key Player: De’Aaron Fox

Key Additions: Hasan Whiteside

Key Subtractions: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kent Bazemore, Corey Brewer

Outlook: The Kings are rebuilding. Well, at least they have been for a couple seasons. Marvin Bagley III has been a great player, when healthy. De’Aaron Fox is a player that has shown he can be a capable scoring guard in the league, but he can’t do it alone. Hasan Whiteside returns to a former club and looks to add to a nucleus that is growing every season. If Jabari Parker and Marvin Bagley III can stay healthy the Kings could have something brewing, but they look to be at least 1 more year away.

San Antonio Spurs (32-39 11th Western Conference)

Key Player: DeMar DeRozan

Key Additions: Kieta Bates-Diop

Key Subtractions: Marco Belinelli, Bryn Forbes

Outlook: DeMar DeRozan (USC Alum) leads a weird time for the Spurs, they are not contenders for the playoffs. Under Greg Popovich, the Spurs made the playoffs 23 years in a row. A streak that ended last season in Orlando as the team missed out. The Spurs are now trying to figure out their identity as they had been a model of consistency with a core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. All three have now retired and now the Spurs have to rebuild into a team like they were. With Pop on the bench leading, don’t expect this to be a long term rebuild. Look for the Spurs to unload LaMarcus Aldridge for some draft picks to help the process.

Toronto Raptors (53-19 2nd Eastern Conference)

Key Player: Pascal Siakam

Key Additions: Alex Len, Aron Baynes

Key Subtractions: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Outlook: The Raptors look to be a shell of their-selves. The Raptors have lost two key pieces of their core this off-season with Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka going to the Lakers and the Clippers respectively. Those two losses are big with Gasol’s passing and Ibaka’s defense and ability to shoot the three. The Raptors might take a step back from being a top contender in the East but expect them to still make the playoffs with Siakam and Kyle Lowry leading the team. Alex Len will be able to provide defense in the paint but not too much on the offensive end. Hopefully the Raptors young emerging players Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby will grow and be able to provide the support needed.

Utah Jazz (44-28 6th Western Conference)

Key Player: Donovan Mitchell

Key Additions: Derrick Favors, Shaquille Harrison

Key Subtractions: None

Outlook: The Jazz are an extremely solid and balanced team, with Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles. Ricky Rubio coming off the bench and the addition of fan favorite Derrick Favors makes the Jazz a legitimate playoff team. Donovan Mitchell looks to take the next step and join the conversation for MVP players. Rudy Gobert is arguably the best defensive big man in the league, if not the best defensive player in the league. He anchors a top defensive team and opens the game for Mitchells running on the break. Don’t be surprised if they take the next step and make it to the conference finals.

Washington Wizards (25-47 9th Eastern Conference)

Key Player: Bradley Beal

Key Additions: Russell Westbrook(trade), Robin Lopez, Raul Neto

Key Subtractions: John Wall(trade), Jerian Grant

Outlook: Russell Westbrook joins Washington’s back court to play alongside Bradley Beal, if he isn’t traded. Beal, a perennial All Star has been in trade rumors for almost 2 seasons now, and it is hard to tell whether or not the Wizards are making a run for the playoffs or rebuilding. Having both Beal and Westbrook creates a similar problem that Houston had, with Harden being a ball dominant guard and not being able to get his touches. Beal can spot up and shoot but will Russell pass the ball and not take 20+ shots a game is a question that will be answered. Don’t expect the Wizards to be in the playoffs this season.

Award Predictions:

MVP: Luca Doncic (Dallas)

Defensive Player: Rudy Gobert (Utah)

Rookie of the Year: LaMelo Ball (Charlotte)

Coach of the Year: Stan Van Gundy (New Orleans)

Most Improved: Jaylen Brown (Boston)

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