With the start of the 2020-2021 NBA Season, I have some thoughts about where the 30 teams rank in the playoff picture.
Starting in the Eastern Conference, the Brooklyn Nets have built a solid team, with 2-time NBA MVP Steve Nash as their coach. They have championship experience with Kevin Durant, a 2-time NBA champion, and with Kyrie Irving, A 2016 NBA champion. Also, they just picked up James Harden from the Houston Rockets from a trade where they sent Caris Levert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, and a lot of future first-round picks. With arguably the best big 3 in the NBA, will the Nets be able to win the title this year? I think they have a great chance.
With back to back disappointing performances in the NBA Playoffs, the Milwaukee Bucks are looking to get to the NBA Finals this year and compete for a championship. Giannis Antekounmpo, the reigning MVP has been unstoppable for 2 years in a row now, but the struggle continues. With Jrue Holiday and Giannis as their cornerstones, will the Bucks rebuild or will the 3rd time be the charm? I rank the Milwaukee Bucks as the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference.
Taking the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference will likely be the Boston Celtics. This Celtic team is filled with young rising stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. With an experienced player in Kemba Walker, the Celtics have a big three that can make some noise in the East. I love how Jayson Tatum has been able to lead this team and I think the future is bright for the Celtics.
The Toronto Raptors, the 2018-2019 NBA Champions, have taken a hard hit ever since losing Kawhi Leonard to the LA Clippers in 2019. But, they have found a way to regroup with their leadership in Kyle Lowry and their young core in Fred Vanvleet and OG Anunoby. However, in the 2019-2020 season, they impressed and proved haters wrong by snagging the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference. However, with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks reloading, it will be harder for them to compete without a true superstar. I can see them earning the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference.
I feel that the Miami Heat will take the 5th seed in the East. Even though they were able to beat Milwaukee and Boston in the Playoffs in the 2019-2020 NBA season, they are a very inconsistent team and I just can’t see Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo leading this team to a 1-4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Philadelphia 76ers will take the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. With a lethal duo in Joel Embid and Ben Simmons, along with Tobias Harris, the 76ers are nothing short of special. But, because of how many good teams there are in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers fall in their positioning. They suffer a lot of injuries with Ben Simmons and Joel Embid and that might be their biggest issue for the season.
Barely getting into the Playoffs and grabbing the 7th seed is the Washington Wizards. With a new duo in Westbrook and Beal, the Wizards have prepared for the bright lights. But with 2 players who used to be leaders on their team, I question their team chemistry. Also, they don’t have as much depth in their lineup as the teams listed above them.
The 8th seed in the East will be the Atlanta Hawks. Trae Young, one of the future’s brightest young stars is ready to lead his team to the Playoffs. With the additions of Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, and Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Hawks will be able to score with Trae off the court. Along with John Collins and Clint Capela, the returning pieces for the Hawks, I see them sneaking into the Playoffs with the 8th seed.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets, and Orlando Magic will all miss the Playoffs.
The Western Conference has a stronger balance of teams. Many teams are great, while others are not as talented.
The Los Angeles Lakers, the defending champs are back and hungry. With the pick-ups of Dennis Schroder, the reigning 6th man of the year in Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol, and Wesley Matthews, the Lakers have reloaded! Coming off an amazing season where Anthony Davis was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year and where Lebron James was the runner-up for the Most Valuable Player Award, I feel like they will be able to repeat with the help of their new additions. I have them earning the first seed in the West.
The Los Angeles Clippers. Yes, the team that blew a 3-1 lead last season. Paul George is remembered for struggling in the playoffs… and hitting the side of the backboard in Game 7. Kawhi Leonard is also remembered for choking. With a bad reputation heading into the season, you know that Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are going to be back for more. With new additions in Serge Ibaka, one of Kawhi’s former teammates, the Clippers are going to be able to put up a fight in the West and battle the Lakers for the Western Conference Championship. I have them at the 2nd spot in the West.
With young and coming teams in Denver, Dallas, Phoenix, Golden State, and Utah. But, I have Denver grabbing the 3rd seed. With their outstanding team play and hustle, along with their young stars in Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, this team doesn’t disappoint when you watch them play. I think that Denver can make some noise in the West, and maybe even return to the Western Conference Finals.
At the 4th seed in the West, I think the Mavericks can grab this spot. With a young rising star in Luka Doncic who is expected to win the NBA MVP award this season at the lead position, the Dallas Mavericks are an upcoming team that has shown us in previous years that they can win. If they can get Kristaps Porzingis healthy, I think this team can get 50 wins this season.
CJ McCollum, Damian Lillard, and Carmelo Anthony lead a bright and talented team in Portland. The 3 point shooting ability of their whole starting line-up including Jusuf Nurkic, their center, makes them super hard to guard. They can score from inside the paint, mid-range, and from the three-point line. If the Portland Trailblazers can avoid injuries this season, I think that they will be a solid team in the West. The only issue that I think they might encounter throughout the season is their defense. Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, and the rest of the Trailblazers are mostly an offensive team. Their addition of Robert Covington may help them, but only time will tell how good their defense is. I see Portland grabbing the 5th seed.
Chris Paul and Devin Booker form a dynamic duo. With the basketball IQ and passing that Chris Paul possesses combined with the scoring ability of young star Devin Booker, and with young talent on the roster in Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton, the Phoenix Suns will be dangerous. I don’t think this team will be able to compete for a title because the team is mostly made of young players. Even though they have Chris Paul, an experienced NBA player, I don’t think one player’s experience is enough for a team to be able to win a championship. I think they will be able to win enough games to get the 6th seed in the West.
Will the Utah Jazz be able to compete for a title? I don’t know. But, what I do know is that Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are scary to play against. With the athletic dunks from Mitchell and the defense from Gobert, as well as the shooting from Joe Ingles and Bogdanovic, the Jazz can attack from everywhere. I think that the Jazz still have some time until they can become contenders, but I think that they can make a statement in the league that they will be around for a long time.
Grabbing the 8th seed and barely making the playoffs will be the Golden State Warriors. With leadership and championship experience from Stephen Curry, the Warriors will be guided very well. An issue for this team is that they do not have team chemistry. With a lot of the Warriors that won 3 championships in the last 6 years gone, and Klay Thompson, a superstar shooter and defender, the Warriors need to find a way to make it work. I think this team will sneak into the playoffs and struggle this season.
I don’t see the New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings, and Minnesota Timberwolves making the playoffs, but I think there is a lot of room to improve. Just because I don’t think these teams won’t make the playoffs doesn’t mean that they are not going to, but this is only my opinion.
These are only my predictions after watching these teams play. If you have different ideas, I would love to hear them in the comments.