NBA 2020-21 Season Preview: These Five Teams Benefit Most From Short Turnaround

The new campaign is fast approaching


Don’t look now, but the start of the 2020-21 NBA season is right around the corner.

The new campaign is scheduled to kick off Dec. 22., a mere 72 days after the 2019-20 season came to a close. All 30 teams are slated for a 72-game regular-season schedule, followed by a standard playoff format.

For a team like the Los Angeles Lakers, this short turnaround could prove to be costly. The Purple and Gold hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy two-and-a-half months ago and franchise cornerstone LeBron James turns 36 at the end of the month.

But for other teams, this unprecedently brief offseason might serve as an advantage. Here are five teams that could benefit from the league’s limited time off.

Golden State Warriors
The Warriors were one of eight teams not invited to the NBA’s Orlando bubble, meaning they haven’t played in a real game since March 10. Golden State’s poor 2019-20 season was due in large to serious injuries sustained by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Thompson will be sidelined for the duration of the upcoming campaign due to a torn Achilles tendon, but Curry is expected to be fully healthy, well-rested and ready to go.

Golden State likely isn’t bound for one of the top seeds in the Western Conference, but it could be a threat to sneak into the postseason picture. Curry and Draymond Green are proven vets with a wealth of championship experience. Andrew Wiggins will have a chance to level up, newcomer Kelly Oubre Jr. very well could thrive with the Dubs and No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman is poised to be a Day 1 impact player.

Again, the Warriors probably aren’t championship contenders this season, but playoff hopes probably are legitimate.

Atlanta Hawks
Many of the sentiments issued to the Warriors can be tagged to the Hawks as well. Atlanta also wasn’t given an invite to Walt Disney World, so it will enter the new season following nine months of rest.

The Hawks quietly put together an encouraging offseason, headlined by the additions of Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari. Both players should provide scoring punches to complement point guard Trae Young, who will be coming off a terrific rookie campaign. Young also should benefit from the mentorship of first-year Hawk and two-time champion Rajon Rondo.

The Eastern Conference’s seventh- and eighth-seeded teams both entered the 2020 playoffs with sub.-500 regular-season records. Those spots probably will be as wide open in the new campaign, and the new-look Hawks are set up to compete for one of them.

New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans’ stay in Orlando was a brief one, as they were sent packing following their eight seeding-round games. But that slate offered New Orleans an opportunity to compete and provided more hope about the franchise’s exciting, young core.

The Pels, to the surprise of some, let Zion Williamson go out and play in the bubble. The star forward since has revealed he’s not expecting to be bogged down by a minutes restriction this season. Williamson, 20, and running mate Brandon Ingram, 23, should have plenty of pep in their step when the new campaign commences.

Jrue Holiday’s departure undoubtedly is a loss for New Orleans, but Eric Bledsoe is a solid replacement. Former Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, meanwhile, should bolster the Pelicans’ frontcourt.

New Orleans still is building for the future, but don’t be surprised if the team exceeds expectations this season.

Milwaukee Bucks
The top-seeded Bucks underperformed in Orlando. After a five-game, first-round series against the Magic, Milwaukee was bounced after as many semifinals contests against Miami.

But this early exit could end up being a blessing for Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co.

Let’s run through the Bucks’ expected strongest competition in the East. The Heat played through mid-October, including six-game series against the Celtics and Lakers. Boston will be shorthanded to start the season, as Kemba Walker is expected to be sidelined for at least the first few weeks due to a knee injury. The Philadelphia 76ers will be learning first-year head coach Doc Rivers’ style on the fly, and the Kyrie Irving-Kevin Durant experiment in Brooklyn likely will be a work in progress, at least to an extent.

So while all of these teams deal with their respective issues, the Bucks could begin their fast track to another No. 1 seed.

Phoenix Suns
It’s up for debate how long momentum truly lasts. But if you believe it can carry over multiple months, the Suns have momentum in spades.

The Suns were one of the feel-good stories of the Orlando bubble, where they went a perfect 8-0 in the seeding round. This flawless run wasn’t enough to vault Phoenix into the playoffs, but it showed Devin Booker and Co. clearly are trending in the right direction.

Phoenix also made one of the biggest offseason splashes, trading for star point guard Chris Paul. The 10-time All-Star undoubtedly will be the best facilitator Booker ever has played alongside, and his arrival in the dessert positioned the Suns with one of the better backcourts in the West. The veteran leadership Paul and fellow newcomer Jae Crowder also will be welcomed by Phoenix.

The young Suns are primed to take off from the get-go in a few weeks, and earning their first playoff berth since the 2009-10 season certainly isn’t out of the question.

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