The NBA season is upon us after a historically short offseason.
It probably will be anything but normal, but come Dec. 22 the new slate of games will begin as the teams will get right back to it.
This year will feature 72 games followed by the NBA Playoffs.
Fans saw a play-in tournament during the Orlando bubble to determine which team got the eighth seed, And that will happen once again this year.
Some teams narrowly missed out on the postseason, while others had been on the outside looking in from the beginning. But with some moves being made during the offseason and teams getting star players back from injury, those who didn’t see playoff action last year may not see the same fate this year.
Here are five teams that could make the playoffs this year after missing out last season.
The Suns were a perfect 8-0 in the bubble over the summer, leading fans to believe that maybe the decade-long playoff drought was over. That wasn’t the case, though, but Phoenix only got stronger in the offseason.
Devin Booker, who’s entering his sixth NBA season, is getting better and better with time. Couple that with the addition of Chris Paul, who’s easily the best backcourt teammate Booker has had, and Jae Crowder, who’s fresh off an NBA Finals appearance with the Miami Heat, and you’re looking at three dangerous players right there.
Don’t forget about Jalen Smith, the Suns’ only draft pick from 2020. Smith certainly knows how to post double-doubles, while also being able to block shots.
The West is a difficult conference, yes, but don’t sleep on Phoenix making its first postseason appearance since 2010.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
The loss of Klay Thompson for yet another season after suffering a torn Achilles certainly will hurt. But Golden State will see the return of Steph Curry, who missed significant time last season after breaking his hand Oct. 30.
Not to mention Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins are healthy. Plus, the Warriors have had sufficient rest between the NBA pausing operations back in March and missing the postseason. They also added James Wiseman with the No. 2 pick in the draft, and has a chance to start right away, but possesses the skillset to become a franchise player.
So while losing Thompson certainly hurts and it will be difficult to get out of the West, their playoff hopes can be salvaged if the Warriors get a big rookie season from Wiseman and a breakout season from Damion Lee. It’s a long shot, and this may be a dark-horse pick, but there’s no time like the present.
It’s been a disappointing two seasons for Wizards fans having been bounced from the playoffs in 2018 by the Toronto Raptors and missing the postseason completely the next two years, but 2021 has the potential to be different.
Washington traded John Wall for Russell Westbrook, who will be playing under Scott Brooks once again. And it’s worth noting that Westbrook and Brooks made the postseason with the Oklahoma City Thunder in five of their eight seasons.
It’s fair to assume the Wizards will be more competitive this year than in seasons past, especially with Bradley Beal, Thomas Bryant and Rui Hachimura alongside Westbrook.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
We can’t overstate how difficult the West will be, but there’s no denying how bright New Orleans’ future is.
Zion Williamson seems to be a full-go this season and won’t face any restrictions when the season begins. The team also boasts Brandon Ingram and upgraded their head coach when they hired Stan Van Gundy.
The Pelicans defense also has been upgraded by adding Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams, so making the postseason certainly is within reach this year.
No one team, on paper, anyway — improved more than the Hawks this offseason with the additions of Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn, Danilo Gallinari and Onyeka Okongwu to a core that already is made up of Trae Young, Clint Capela and John Collins.
The young guns of the team also will continue to improve, specifically Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter, who had rookie seasons that should have left fans with some hope for this season.