I’ve always said that the NBA is the best sports league in the world. The NFL doesn’t have the global reach basketball has and in soccer it’s always the same teams that win everything. To win in soccer all you need is a very wealthy owner and then you can just buy anyone and everyone to keep your team on top.
The NBA is perfect because every team goes through cycles of winning and losing. A team will bring together a great squad and they might win a few championships, then the team breaks up due to age and other factors which allow news, younger teams to take the spotlight.
The playoffs never contain the exact same people as they did the year before which keeps every team competitive and a gives them a chance to succeed. This season will be no different; some teams will fall out the picture and some will seize the opportunity.
Here are my five teams that will make the playoffs that didn’t last season.
5. Los Angeles Lakers
This one is a bit of a long shot. The Lakers have a lot of young, raw talent that hasn’t really established itself yet. With guys like Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. it was always going to take some time for them to mature.
My prediction is predicated on Lonzo Ball being as good of a passer as he has been this summer league. He’s been getting double digit assists with ease and his passing is really living up to all the hype.
I don’t expect Ball to be an efficient scorer next year, but I think he won’t be prioritizing that. In all his post game interviews he always talks about his teammates which is a great sign and will only boost team chemistry.
If Lonzo can get all the young Lakers involved a lot next year and run a very up tempo style the LA will soon be at the pinnacle of the NBA and competing to add more banners to the Staples Center.
4. Miami Heat
Last season was the definition of a tale of two halves for Miami. They started out at 11-32 and were looking set for a very disappointing season then all of a sudden they went on a 13 game winning streak and finished the season 41-41.
The ignition of Dion Waiters was their catalyst as he suddenly gave them another source of offense and when that was combined with the steady hand of Goran Dragic and the defensive prowess of Hassan Whiteside it made for a fearsome trio.
The Heat will have a lot of expectations this season and will be playing with a lot more ferocity and confidence knowing that they can compete with the best teams in the league. Look out for Miami to be back in the Playoffs for the first time since D-Wade’s departure.
3. Charlotte Hornets
What happened to Superman? Dwight Howard just a few years ago was the best center in basketball and the youngest player to ever win the defensive player of the year award. But ever since his back injury in 2012 he hasn’t been the same monster he once was.
He is still a terrific rebounder and defender who still has a lot of athleticism left in him and the move to Charlotte is something that I like a lot. He’ll get to pair up with a true stud in Kemba Walker who is great outside threat (40% from three last year) and he’ll be able to set up Dwight easily in the pick and roll.
Charlotte also has some nice additional role players like Nic Batum and Frank Kaminsky, both of whom can stretch the floor for Howard, allowing him to manhandle anyone guarding him on the inside.
The Hornets can forget the woes of last season where they went 36-46 and should be revitalized in a now weaker Eastern Conference which saw the departure of two massive stars; Paul George and Jimmy Butler.
2. New Orleans Pelicans
This could go two ways; either really really well or just plain horrible. The Pels have the two best big men in the game on the same roster. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are both simply unstoppable on the floor.
They both can shoot, rebound, finish at the rim, pass, handle the ball and play defense. It’s not a question of are they talented enough, it’s can they play together? We haven’t seen a twin towers situation like this since Tim Duncan and David Robinson back in the early 00s.
This style of basketball is untested in today’s NBA climate with lots of three point shooting and pick and rolls. If it works and the two Kentucky products mesh and work off each other then nobody can stop them getting easy shots at the rim or swatting away opponents drives.
The addition of Rajon Rondo to call the shots is good as it gives them a well-established veteran who knows who to run and NBA offense. I really hope they do pull it all together as Davis and Boogie Cousins in the postseason would be must-see TV.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves
Is this the season where the young pups finally shed their baby fur and prove that they are a force to contend with in the pure savagery that is the Western Conference? Well, they sure should be now that they’ve added Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague.
Karl-Anthony Towns is legit. In only his second season he became the youngest ever player to average more than 25 points, 12 rebounds and shoot better the 80% from the line and if we add in a block per game as well then it’s only him and Bob McAdoo.
He is the most talented under 23 guy in the NBA who looks only to get better and better. The Wolves also have Andrew Wiggins who is an extremely explosive athlete who is finding more poise and polish to his offensive game with every minute he spends on the court.
Adding Butler and Teague upgraded them massively and made them into what will surely be on the better defensive teams in the NBA under Tom Thibodeau. The Wolves had a real problem last year in the third quarter where for some reason they would lose focus and any lead that they had earnt in the first half wouldn’t suddenly be wiped out due to carelessness.
Adding savvy veterans like Butler and Teague will ensure that this doesn’t happen and that Minnesota can play to its potential all game. These guys will be ones to watch next year I expect them to be at least pushing the 45 win mark, maybe even making it to 50.