The wait for basketball’s return will soon end. Adam Silver announced the NBA will be resuming their season at Disney World. The tentative start date is July 30th. 13 teams from the West and nine from the East will play eight regular-season games before the playoffs start. And, for the first time ever, if the nine seed is four or fewer games behind the eighth seed, a play-in tournament will take place. Obviously, a big question will be how everyone is going to perform at Disney. Will players come in out of shape and rusty? It’s impossible to fully project how teams will play after months away from each other. But here we will be predicting an NBA team from each conference will surprise us.
Which NBA Team From Each Conference Will Surprise Us?
Eastern Conference: Miami Heat
At the time of the season’s suspension, the Miami Heat were in fourth place in the East. They were 41-24 and one of the most surprising teams in the league. One of their biggest strengths was their dominant 27-5 record at home. When play resumes with no fans in Disney, that strength will be taken away. However, this Heat team is poised to surprise us when the season resumes. For starters, the Heat are known for having a culture and work ethic few teams have. Conditioning and a good attitude are huge if you want to play for the Heat, and the current roster has no shortage of it. After four months off, coming in shape will be critical. Having a head coach with 12 years experience and one of the most accomplished GM’s ever in Pat Riley also gives the Heat an edge over an inexperienced team.
But it’s not just a great culture and organizational structure that makes Miami a surprise candidate. The roster itself is talented and has plenty of strengths. Thanks to young guys Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, and Kendrick Nunn stepping up, the Heat is the best three-point shooting team in the NBA (38.3%). Another strength is the team’s selflessness. The Heat assisted on 65.6% of their shots in 2019, which was the third-most in the NBA. Finally, there are defensive stoppers Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala to complement stars, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
Last Word: Miami Heat
The Heat have the experience, rebounders, shooters, and playmakers that make them a tough out. The caveat? Their eight regular-season games will be tough. They will play the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, and Boston Celtics twice each. That said when choosing which an NBA team from each conference that will surprise us, it’s hard not to choose the Heat.
Western Conference: Memphis Grizzlies
Now then, I want to see a Zion Williamson vs LeBron James matchup in round one as much as anybody else. But I can’t see the Memphis Grizzlies losing the eighth seed over the New Orleans Pelicans or any other team in the West, even if a play-in tournament occurred. I also can’t see the Grizzlies upsetting the favorite Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. But the Grizzlies aren’t going to leave Disney without announcing their presence. In fact, along with the Pelicans, the Grizzlies have one of the brightest futures of any team in large part due to Ja Morant. The rookie of the year favorite was shooting 40 percent from three in his last ten games and ranked 13th in the NBA in assists per game with 6.9. Morant is a future all-star for years to come and will be the engine that keeps the Grizzlies running for years to come.
Don’t think Morant is alone in his quest to surprise the NBA. The Grizzlies have surrounded him with a young core that has the ability to grow and win together. Two years ago, they drafted Jaren Jackson Jr. fourth overall, and he has star potential as well. He averaged 16.9 points a game, while Morant averaged 17.6. At the trade deadline, the Grizzlies traded for 24-year-old facilitator Justise Winslow from the Heat who should be a great fit. Not to mention diamond in the rough rookie Brandon Clarke. In fact, Clarke was one of the most productive rookies in NBA history by advanced metrics. When you throw in scoring threats Dillon Brooks (24) and De’Anthony Melton (22), the Grizzlies have a legitimate core.
Last Word: Memphis Grizzlies
Overall, the Grizzlies might be a couple of years away from contending. After all, they are the youngest team in the league. But their selflessness (second-most assists per game in the NBA), seventh-ranked field goal percentage, and sixth-ranked rebounds per game are all promising. Whenever it’s time for the Grizzlies to bow out, it won’t be without putting the league on notice.
NBA Fans: Rejoice
Alongside the Heat and Grizzlies, there will be plenty of teams that surprise us. Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks have the potential to do so as well. In a year unlike any other, surprises can come out of nowhere. But until basketball resumes, fans can rejoice in knowing they will be watching NBA basketball by the end of next month.
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