A guide to the 2020-21 NBA season

Even after a tragic, horrible ending to last year’s NBA season, it feels good to have the NBA returning Tuesday evening. I’ve been arguing for a shortened season starting around Christmastime, so I love that it begins in late December.

Let me prepare for the 75th edition of the National Basketball Association by going over every team in order of where they finished in the league last season.

Los Angeles Lakers

The defending champions are the favorites to repeat, and boy how lucky we would be if the worst fanbase in sports got to celebrate another ring. LeBron James and a healthy Anthony Davis are one of the deadliest duos in NBA history and won’t be beat unless they decide to take their rest days.

Montrezl Harrell is one of the biggest snakes in history as he took a pay cut to sign with his former crosstown rival. Dennis Schroder and Marc Gasol were also key additions to a Laker team that needed to add depth with the losses of Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. Kyle Kuzma is in a do-or-die season and will compete for precious minutes with rising talent Talen Horton-Tucker.

The Lakers should be in good hands this season.

Potential: Champions

Prediction: Champions

Miami Heat

With one of the most well-run organizations in basketball, Miami should prove that last year wasn’t a fluke. The Heat return all their key players from last year and added a massive piece in veteran guard Avery Bradley.

Miami will once again be a title contender.

Potential: Eastern Conference champs

Prediction: Eliminated in conf. semis

Boston Celtics

Now’s the time for Brad Stevens to use his wise coaching chops and finally get the Celtics in the Finals. They’ve come so close in year’s past, but haven’t gotten over the hump of winning the conference. They have another tough year ahead of them with the Brooklyn Nets being a contender, but now’s the time to get the job done. Maybe, Tristan Thompson catches a second wind in his career and becomes a consistent double-double stat filler on a nightly basis.

Potential: Eastern Conference champs

Prediction: Eliminated in NBA Finals

Denver Nuggets

The Mile High pieces of chicken are in a tough position as they don’t have what it takes to compete with the Lakers without one more piece. It would take a major trade for a wing(Bradley Beal) to compete with them, but what can they give up?

The good news for Denver is they could have three solid rookies on their hand with Bol Bol, RJ Hampton and Markus Howard.

Potential: Western Conference Finals

Prediction: Eliminated in conf. semis

Toronto Raptors

The window for Toronto has closed, but they got their ring. Overpaying for OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet will prove detrimental in the future. Where did Pascal Siakam go?

Potential: Eastern Conference semifinals

Prediction: Eliminated in first round

Los Angeles Clippers

No more excuses. Now losers of two 3-1 series leads, the Clippers have to win it all this year. At the bare minimum, they have to get to the Finals and eliminate one of the Lakers or Nuggets in the process. The jokes are outrageous and it’s time for the culture shift. Get the job done, Ty Lue.

Paul George has to have one of the best seasons of his career after being extended for four years at a $176M toll. Luke Kennard will also be a Clipper for a long time. The additions of Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka could prove to be genius if it means competing with the Lakers and Nuggets.

Good luck, boys.

Potential: Champions

Prediction: Eliminated in conf. finals

Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo made a horrible decision signing the extension with Milwaukee. I don’t even know if the Bucks are a top-five team in the East anymore. Jrue Holiday is going to need to be the second scoring option if we are to take Milwaukee seriously. If they can’t, the Bucks will be out in the first round. Oh, what a fall from grace.

Potential: Eastern Conference Semifinals

Prediction: Eliminated in first round

Houston Rockets

James Harden is begging to leave Houston by putting on 50 pounds and the team flipped Russell Westbrook for a similar player in John Wall, who hasn’t been healthy in years. The Rockets will miss the playoffs.

Potential: Western Conference quarterfinals

Prediction: Miss playoffs

Oklahoma City Thunder

The loss of Chris Paul and Steven Adams means it’s officially tank time in the Great Plains. Justice for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Potential: Lottery pick

Prediction: Lottery pick

Utah Jazz

Utah mostly remained the same, but the addition of Udoka Azubuike will be something to watch all year long. The Jazz will make the playoffs, but can they get past the first round?

Potential: Western Conference first round

Prediction: Eliminated in first round

Dallas Mavericks

While you can say Dallas got better without Kristaps Porzingis in the playoffs, they need him if they want to compete for titles. The Mavericks will be the dark-horse title contenders and could shock the world this year. Luka Doncic will either win or be runner-up in the MVP race. Watch out for this team.

Potential: Western Conference Finals

Prediction: Eliminated in conf. semis

Orlando Magic

On paper, Orlando has a pretty solid roster and can compete for those final spots in the East. Steve Clifford proved he can coach, so lock in Orlando for the first round.

Potential: Eastern Conference first round

Prediction: Eliminated in first round

Indiana Pacers

Another team with a lot of questions as Victor Oladipo’s loyalty seems to be wavering. He could be dealt before the deadline if Indiana is not looking good for a postseason run.

Potential: Eastern Conference first round

Prediction: Miss playoffs

Portland Trail Blazers

Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins need to be healthy for a full season and the addition of Robert Covington is nice, but the West is too top-heavy for Portland to compete with. They’ll make things interesting, but they just don’t have it in them to eliminate either LA team or Dallas.

Potential: Western Conference first round

Prediction: Eliminated in first round

Philadelphia 76ers

The laughing stock of the NBA returns with a new head coach in…Doc Rivers, a new GM in…Daryl Morey…and the addition of Danny Green. Bring on the memes, ladies and gentlemen.

Potential: Eastern Conference semifinals

Prediction: Eliminated in first round

Brooklyn Nets

With Kevin Durant ready to go for the first time since the 2019 NBA Finals, throw the Nets directly into the title picture with one of the deepest rosters on paper. I mean this team is loaded with talent with Durant, Kyrie Irving, Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, rim protectors in Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan and knockdown shooters in Joe Harris and Jeff Green. This team’s potential is through the roof. Can Kyrie keep the chemistry or will he kill it like he did with Boston? Steve Nash should thrive as a head coach.

Potential: Champions

Prediction: Eliminated in conf. finals

Phoenix Suns

Devin Booker gets to take a step back from doing everything for the team with CP3 joining the fold. Booker can go back to being a primary wing shooter as Paul facilitates. Mikal Bridges will be a front runner for Most Improved Player and Deandre Ayton will continue to be a dominant interior presence that he was last year.

Potential: Western Conference first round

Prediction: Eliminated in first round

Atlanta Hawks

I love Atlanta’s offseason moves. They are ready to be playoff contenders with the signings of Rondo and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Trae Young will up his game with Rondo as his mentor and John Collins and Clint Capela will continue to mesh well together. The Hawks are a must-watch team this year.

Potential: Eastern Conference first round

Prediction: Eliminated in first round

Golden State Warriors

We got to take a break from the dynasty last season, but Golden State are playoff contenders once again with the return of Stephen Curry. James Wiseman will be a Rookie of the Year contender as a starter and the addition of Kelly Oubre Jr. could be a nice replacement for another year without Klay Thompson.

Potential: Western Conference semifinals

Prediction: Eliminated in first round

This will conclude my outlooks for individual teams, but I will give some shoutouts to the Charlotte Hornets and Sacramento Kings with the two best rookies in LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton respectively.

Brandon Ingram will be another player to watch as he and Zion Williamson try to carry New Orleans to the postseason.

Award predictions

MVP: Luka Doncic

Rookie of the Year: Tyrese Haliburton

Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis

6th Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson

Coach of the Year: Lloyd Pierce

Most Improved Player: Mikal Bridges

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