Toronto Raptors – (46-18) – 2nd in East: This one hurts, as a Raptors fan, but one of the East’s elite is bound to fall. They have the likely coach of the year and have been a great story, but it’s hard to see the Raptors as a top 4 seed again next season. As well, as they try to lure Giannis in 2021-22, this may be the summer to dump some cap. Losing one or two of their big contracts in Ibaka, Lowry or Gasol will really hurt them, and we are yet to see if their young players, apart from Siakam and Vanvleet, can contribute consistently in main roles.
Miami Heat – (41-24) – 4th in East: The Heat have been nothing short of superb this season. Jimmy Butler should have started in the All-star game, and they have multiple players bound for all-rookie teams. However, the Bucks, Celtics, 76ers, Nets and Pacers all seem likely to me to be better than Miami next season. It has been a great story, with young players having career years all over this team, but they will likely regress next season. Still, the Heat are a lock to make the playoffs.
Orlando Magic – (30-35) – 8th in East: It was difficult to decide on a third team from the East, but the Magic are likely to fall a bit next season. They are in no man’s land, with veterans like Vucevic and Fournier leading the team, neither a true #1 option. They’ve missed on a few young players in recent years, like Isaac and Bamba, who do not seem to have the all-star potential they once had. Their last 2 years have been impressive, but with the Hawks, Bulls, and Wizards knocking on the door next season, there does not seem to be a playoff spot for Orlando in 2020-21.
Utah Jazz – (41-23)- 4th in West: The Jazz have a very good team, with an excellent backcourt of Conley and Mitchell, an elite center in Gobert, and countless role players and shooters. So why would this team regress? The issues between Gobert and Mitchell are apparently not salvageable, likely leading to one being traded this offseason or general team chemistry issues. There are also too many west teams getting better for the Jazz to stay in contention.
Oklahoma City Thunder – (40-24) – 5th in West: The Thunder have been one of the best stories this season. Chris Paul has shown the league that he is not finished yet, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looks like a future star, and Dennis Schroder may be the 6MOTY. However, this success does not seem sustainable. With rumors of Paul potentially being traded, and the number of guys who have had career years this season, it is unlikely the Thunder will return to the playoffs in 2020-21.
San Antonio Spurs – (27-36) – 12th in West: Sure, the Spurs are already in 12th in the West, so they are not having a great season, but they sit only 4 games out of the 8 seed. Unfortunately, the core of this team has probably played their last year together, and it is time to finally rebuild. DeRozan and Aldridge need to go, and they need to play young guys like Walker, Poeltl, White and Murray considerable minutes. This team, for at least next year, will be one of the league’s worst.