The NBA season is just around the corner and most free agents have finally found a home. Though many organizations are likely to explore the buyout market and look to improve their rosters later on in the season, as of today, most teams are pretty much set.
Various sports news outlets have shared their opinions on a handful of teams and Las Vegas has already released their projected win totals for bettors to use. With that in mind, although no one knows which injuries will unfold and what dramatic changes might occur during the regular season, there are still a couple of teams that are being overlooked, despite making roster changes, and contrarily, teams that could regress from last season. Here is the list of teams that can potentially overachieve/underachieve.
Last season, Trae Young was the second runner up to the Rookie of the Year winner, Luka Doncic, and John Collins proved he was a quality prospect that is extremely effective in the open court; a young duo that can possibly take another step in a year or two. But going into the 2019-2020 season, there will also be some new faces in their locker room.
This past summer, the Hawks added Jabari Parker via free agency and drafted Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter.
Drafting rookies is always a gamble and a huge what if — since no one knows how well their game will translate to the NBA level — but based on the skills they showed in college, Reddish and Hunter fit in perfectly into what the Hawks are trying to build: a Warriors/Curry like personnel. Young and Collins have shown their defensive limitations last year, but depending on how quickly they learn to adjust to the NBA game, adding defensive-minded wings like Hunter and Reddish can only help.
The Parker addition, on the other hand, is something to keep a close eye on. Parker was a bad fit in Chicago and really struggled, but upon being traded to Washington, he flourished in his bench role matching up against opposing second-unit fours. He’s likely never going to be the franchise player he was expected to become coming out of the 2014 draft, primarily due to his two ACL injuries, but he can still be very effective in the right situation.
By reason of their acquisitions, the Hawks jumping from 29 wins to the mid to high 30s is very realistic.
Las Vegas projected them to have 30.5 wins, which is only a three-point increase from their win projections last year. However, the Bulls also managed to make several under the radar moves this offseason. Besides drafting Coby White to address their point guard issue, they also completed a sign-and-trade deal with Washington for veteran point guard Tomáš Satoranský, signed Thaddeus Young and Luke Kornet, and made significant changes to their coaching staff.
Given the roster’s personnel going into the season, there will be potential lineups where the Bulls can go five out, primarily centered around Lauri playing the five position.
On top of that, Chris Fleming, who was a huge part of the Nets’ core development last year (e.g. D'Angelo Russell) and Roy Rogers, the defensive-minded former assistant of Doc Rivers, have both chosen to jump aboard Jim Boylen’s staff.
Boylen made some questionable decisions last season, but Paxson has made it well known that he wants the Bulls to play faster. By adding veteran assistants Rodgers and Fleming, new voices will be present to help guide Boylen in implementing an uptempo styled offense that he’s not entirely accustomed to.
Victor Oladipo might miss the entire the 2019-2020 season, but there is also a chance he can come back towards the end of the season when the Pacers are competing for a playoff spot. According to IndyStar, when asked on Oladipo’s timetable for his return, Pacers President Kevin Pritchard said, “He might be out a little bit. “I’m hopeful he’ll be back December or January.”
Bojan Bogdanovic left for the Jazz and Thaddeus Young went to the Bulls, but the Pacers did an excellent job replacing them with Jeremy Lamb, Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren, and T.J. McConnell. This Pacers group has more than enough to hold its ground in the weak Eastern Conference, but Oladipo’s return will definitely be coveted.
If Oladipo is available to play once the playoffs start and does not show much rust, their postseason matchup will certainly have their work cut out.
Various analysts have said the Nets are a team that will contend once Durant returns two years from now, but as far as the 2019-2020 season, many believe there is a chance the Nets will barely sneak into the playoffs, while others have gone as far as to say the Nets won’t qualify at all.
Their sentiment is understandable given Irving’s questionable leadership skills last season and the losing seasons Cleveland endured with him as their best player, prior to LeBron’s arrival in 2014. But make no mistake, the Nets quietly added several quality veterans to their bench that no one seems to be discussing. Instead, the NBA headlines this offseason have rather focused on the big blockbuster moves such as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant signing with Brooklyn, the AD trade, and the Clippers acquiring George and Leonard.
Outside of the DeAndre Jordan signing, the Nets front office shrewdly added Wilson Chandler, Garrett Temple, and Taurean Prince. These three veterans that can be described as the typical 3-and-D players: a skillset that prevents constant substitution for offense versus defense and is highly valuable in 2019, due to the league's high emphasis on pace and space.
Irving hears all the media noise and given the close relationship he has with Kobe Bryant, he will likely be motivated to prove critics wrong. Surrounding him with 3-and-D specialists — unlike what he saw in Boston with Brown and Tatum (i.e., young prospects with high upside) — will allow him to thrive on both ends since he can be hidden on defense, but also have enough floor spacing to iso and go downhill on offense.
Teams That Will Regress
Life in the NBA is different when there isn’t an NBA superstar walking through that door. Those open shots that role players were getting all of a sudden become heavily contested with a great player no longer drawing attention. With Leonard’s departure, Pascal Siakam will now be the defense’s primary focus on the scouting report; he’s going to be asked to fill in Kawhi’s shoes on both ends of the floor.
Though he is already a good player, can he take an enormous step from last year and become the star or even superstar that Toronto is craving in light of Kawhi going out west? Only time will tell. Regardless, it’s not crazy to expect the Raptors to take a step back this season, especially if Masai Ujiri chooses to trade away an aging Kyle Lowry at the deadline and do a full rebuild.
Durability might be an issue with this team. Adding Derrick Rose will improve their point guard depth, but after the 2010-2011 season, he’s had a hard time staying on the court and the most games he's played in have only been 66. And that was all the way back in 2015. With Rose out, the Pistons would have to rely heavily on the production from streaky Reggie Jackson and third-string point guard, Tim Frazier.
Yet this is a cause of concern only at the point guard position. The Pistons were also fortunate enough to have Blake Griffin active for 75 games only to see him sit out the first 2 games of the playoffs, due to a right knee injury. After his first five seasons in the league (an injury actually forced him to redshirt following the 2009 draft), Griffin became injury prone. As a result, there is a strong chance he won’t play in as many games this coming season.
In fact, Keith Langlois, writer for Pistons.com, believes Detroit will monitor Griffin’s workload next season. Not only are the Pistons not deep enough at the four position to overcome Griffin’s load management, which might cost them some wins, but he is also their primary scoring option. Drummond’s strength is rebounding rather than scoring and Derrick’s body can’t allow him to be the focal point of an offense anymore. That small margin of games Griffin misses could be the difference-maker on whether or not the Pistons sneak into the postseason as a bottom seed.
Back in April, the Magic made their first playoff berth since the Dwight Howard era but would go on to be eliminated in five games by Toronto.
At season’s end, Orlando immediately shifted their focus on their free agents, Aaron Gordon, and Nikola Vucevic, and eventually resigned them to close max deals. As for addressing the rest of the team’s issues, however, they opted to remain status quo.
In their defense, the Magic didn’t have that many other options to improve their roster since they had limited trade assets and used plenty of their cap space on Gordon and Vucevic, but scoring will continue to be an issue for them. The Magic might have been above .500 last season, but a few of the teams that missed the postseason last year (Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and oddly even New York to an extent) also got slightly better. There will possibly be more competition for those last spots next season, unlike last year.
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