Today I will be highlighting 3 teams I believe will break through next season, and 3 teams that will fall big time. This will be based on drafting, free agency predictions, as well as overall growth of existing players on the roster.
- Phoenix Suns
Phoenix has been waiting for a breakout season for some time now. Despite adding more and more pieces every season, they can’t seem to escape the Top 5 Lottery Odds. I believe this year could be different. Devin Booker is ready to breakout, and the Suns have a great young core in Booker, Ayton and their upcoming draft pick that awaits them. The Suns are also looking for a veteran point guard on the trade market. Names like Mike Conley, Chris Paul and Goran Dragic come to mind. Among others, these names all have what it takes to earn the Suns a playoff spot once again. Around the Suns current core, as well as a potential veteran point guard, the Suns could make some noise and either make the playoffs, or miss them by just a few games.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Clearly we didn’t see the Lakers we expected to see this season. Lebron couldn’t get his young, improved squad into a playoff seed, something very rare in Lebron’s case. I think this season was a buffer year. Whether LA gets AD or drafts a new young stud, the Lakers are highly expected to perform better this year by most. Players like Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma could all breakthrough at any given moment. This puts the Lakers in a special position. They could either come out with Anthony Davis, a young superstar, or potentially enjoy an inevitable breakthrough year from one of their young stars.
3. Dallas Mavericks
This was an easy call, the Mavericks finished with an underwhelming 14th seed at the end of the year. Despite Luka Doncic’s exceptional rookie campaign, the Mavericks failed to make any noise in the West. This year could be different, with the acquisition of superstar Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavericks could be due for a new era. Dallas is also a prime landing spot for free agents like Kemba Walker, Tobias Harris and even a dark horse landing spot for Kyrie Irving. Regardless the Mavericks are close to acquiring a solid point guard, if they can finish the job, I see the Mavericks comfortably securing a playoff spot in a competitive western conference.
- Orlando Magic
It’s well known that the Magic shocked the world and secured a 7th seed playoff berth. But the question we need to be asking ourselves is, “can they do it again”. Personally I have my doubts. The Magic will need to acquire a real star. They are currently headlined by an injured Mo Bamba, and injured Markelle Fultz, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and a potentially departing Nikola Vucevic. The last name will hurt them the most. Nikola Vucevic brought life to a dead Magic franchise, and honestly gave them this playoff berth. I see Vucevic leaving Orlando, he doesn’t seem overly attached to the franchise, and will receive plenty of interest from teams like the Kings and Lakers. Without Vucevic, I can see the Magic falling back into the lottery. I was high on Bamba and Fultz initially, however now they are a high risk – high reward squad.
2. Denver Nuggets
DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND THIS. I am not saying Denver is going to be bad next year, I think they will be a top 5 seed. However, I don’t see the Nuggets performing to the same extent they did this past season. Denver simply over-performed. 54 wins and the second seed in the competitive West doesn’t seem realistic to me. I think Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets are due for some bright days ahead, but let it be heard now, Denver will not be a conference finalist next season. I am a huge fan of the Denver Nuggets, but they’re going to need to step up BIG time if they want to hold on to their status as a top team in the league.
3. Indiana Pacers
Personally I’m a big fan of the Indiana Pacers, but it seems inevitable that they slip out of the elite teams list. Headlined by Victor Oladipo, the Pacers have been making noise in the East for years, but now Oladipo will watch from the sidelines, for who knows how long. The Pacers haven’t provided updates on Oladipo’s status, which isn’t promising. Without Oladipo, the Pacers are in a tough position. What could make it worse you ask? Losing the rest of their team. Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdonavic and Thaddeus Young will all be free agents this offseason, with no reasonable evidence that they seem committed to returning to Indiana. Without these guys, the Pacers could be without their entire lineup (excluding Myles Turner). Not to mention Tyreke Evans has been suspended from the NBA for violating the Anti-Drug agreement implemented in the league. The Pacers are not in a great position for this upcoming season. The only players who received significant minutes last season for the Pacers that aren’t either injured, suspended or potentially leaving in free agency are Doug McDermott, Myles Turner, Damontas Sabonis and TJ Leaf. Ouch. The Pacers will need to strike gold in free agency if they want to hang on to a playoff spot.
Who do you guys think will be most improved/un-improved this season? Leave your thoughts in the comments! Thanks for reading.