The 2020-2021 NBA season will be interesting, to say the least.
After a three-month hiatus, a Disney Bubble restart, the Lakers being crowned champions again, and a shortened offseason, the NBA is back in action. Of course it's way too early to make any predictions, but I'm doing it!
Side note: The NBA is playing a 72-game season with play-in games.
For years the West has been the superior conference, but the East is starting to rise. I believe the East will have six teams capable of making a legitimate push for the ECF.
1) Milwaukee Bucks
2) Brooklyn Nets
3) Miami Heat
4) Boston Celtics
5) Toronto Raptors
6) Philadelphia 76ers
7) Indiana Pacers
8) Washington Wizards
Milwaukee: Once again, my top dogs in the East are led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and his scoring sidekick, Khris Middleton. 2019-2020's best team on both sides of the ball completely floundered in the playoffs - this year they are not fooling around with the key additions of Jrue Holiday and savvy veteran DJ Augustine. I think losing George Hill and Wes Matthews will hurt. Getting rid of Eric Bledsoe will not.
Brooklyn: With a recovered Kevin Durant and a healthier Kyrie Irving, the Nets are poised to do some damage in the East. KD is essentially un-guardable and paired with offensive-minded Kyrie this could make for a deadly duo. The Nets already had an improving core in Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Caris LeVert. Add in DeAndre Jordan and you're looking at a tough lineup that is led by new coach Steve Nash.
Miami: In losing to big, bad LeBron in the Finals the Heat turned a lot of heads and will continue to do so this season. With little change to a good roster that competes every night, I would be surprised if this team did not make it to the ECF. One thing going for Spoelstra and his crew that many other teams don't have; they can continue their momentum from the Finals due to the shortened offseason.
Boston: Boston took a big step back when Gordon Hayward departed for Charlotte. But talented young players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are capable of carrying this team far into the playoffs. Jeff Teague will prove to be a huge pickup, especially if Kemba is unable to stay healthy. With Kanter gone, the C's acquired Tristan Thompson, who was once a vicious rebounder and defender until Kardashian fame diverted his focus. Come at me if you think I'm wrong. For the Celtics' fortunes, they're hoping Thompson returns to his old form.
Toronto: The 2019 NBA Champs have suffered some losses in the last two seasons, first with Kawhi and now Ibaka and Marc Gasol. They will attempt to fill that void with bruiser Aaron Baynes and Alex Len, two players who could fit in well with their 'team first' approach. The team will be carried by Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, and Fred VanVleet, and Toronto will look to add a player before the trade deadline to bolster their unique combinations of youth and experience.
Philadelphia: Oh boy. The Process blah blah blah. The Embiid/Simmons experiment continues, but this time with a top coach coming into town in Doc Rivers. Look for a step up in Tobias Harris' numbers who was very successful under Doc. Dwight Howard will be a solid addition to back Embiid but I wouldn't hold my breath with this perennial disappointment.
Indiana: The Pacers have been a good team for a number of years, always a good player away from being a great team. If Indy acquires a star before the deadline we could see this team create some waves in the playoffs.
Washington: The Wiz traded John Wall for Russell Westbrook in the offseason. Triple-double threat Westbrook paired with an effective scoring machine in Bradley Beal could spell doom for opposing backcourts. Their issue lies in the frontcourt, which is young but improving. Don't be surprised when this team wrestles for an 8-seed.
Now onto the harder-to-predict West.
1) LA Lakers
2) Utah Jazz
3) LA Clippers
4) Denver Nuggets
5) Dallas Mavericks
6) Phoenix Suns
7) Portland T-Blaze
8) New Orleans Pelicans
LA Lakers: They brought home the Larry O'Brien trophy and they're prepared to defend it. LeBron and Anthony Davis, 'nuff said. Mix in Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroeder, and Wes Matthews and you're looking at a better version of the 2020 Champs. The Lake Show is primed for another exciting season and possibly another title.
Utah: You cannot ignore the strides this team has made over the last few seasons. They're good and getting better. Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, and Rudy Gobert have proven to be dynamic stars for Quin Snyder. The Jazz play pretty good defense and have depth with Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Jordan Clarkson, and Bojan Bogdanovic.
LA Clippers: On paper this team is pretty damn good with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and a strong supporting cast in Pat Beverley, Marcus Morris, Ivica Zubac, and Lou Williams. Harrell is a big loss for the team as he provided tenacity, defense, hustle, and muscle, but they will try to fix his departure with Ibaka and Nicolas Batum. I see the Clips making a decent run in the playoffs and not an embarrassing exit like we saw in 2020.
Denver: Denver is an exciting team to watch with the Jokic/Murray combo killing defenses every night. The team will need to make up for the loss of Jerami Grant, Torrey Craig, and Mason Plumlee - this means they will rely heavily on young gun Michael Porter Jr., who showed some flashes in the Disney Bubble. Paul Millsap, Will Barton, and Gary Harris will once again be holding it down as key role players.
Dallas: The Mavs can be contenders this year. A 2020 first round exit in a hotly contested series against the Clippers was not how they wanted things to end, but they showed some positive signs. Statistically, they're one of the better offenses, led by future MVP Luka Doncic whose game continues to improve by leaps and bounds. Defensively, they have been lackluster and they aimed to correct that issue in the offseason with Josh Richardson and James Johnson. Kristaps will miss the beginning of the season but the team needs him to remain healthy upon returning.
Phoenix: This team was unstoppable in the Bubble but unfortunately was unable to get help from other teams to make a playoff berth. The acquisition of CP3 to bolster a lineup featuring sharpshooter Devin Booker and athletic big Deandre Ayton is huge. The Suns also feature versatile players in Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges, Dario Saric, and Cam Johnson. It'll be fun to see what happens with this team as my Western Sleeper.
Portland: The T-Blaze have been a potent regular season team in years prior and made a splash in the 2019 playoffs, but will they do it again this year? I think they have the potential with an A+ backcourt in Lilliard and McCollum and healthy big man Jusuf Nurkic. The Blaze could do damage with this 'Big 3' complemented by a revamped Carmelo Anthony, Robert Covington, and the return of Enes Kanter.
New Orleans: The Pels are a very young team led by the nucleus of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Zion is a freak of nature and Ingram is a discounted Kevin Durant who will pour it on this season. With a lineup that features JJ Reddick and playmaker Lonzo Ball to piggyback on top of Zion and Ingram, the Pelicans could be a dangerous team. They also picked up reliable big man in Steven Adams who will be a force down low. I also think, and it might be a stretch, that James Harden could join this team in the March trade deadline, which would instantly turn them into an offensive juggernaut.
The NBA is always exciting to watch. Like any season of professional sports, there will be surprises. It will be a thrill to watch this season unfold.
Subscribe now for updates on the latest and greatest banter from the Peanut Gallery!