Typically by this point in the year, the NBA season preview is two months old and the season’s well underway. But this season tipped off on December 22nd. This season will be a historic one in many ways. Teams will only play 72 games instead of 82. In addition, most arenas won’t have fans in them, much like how we’ve seen in college ball. Finally, masks will be worn by coaches and players on the bench. But at the end of the day, it’s still NBA basketball. It’s still one of the most competitive sports on the planet, and the parity is as strong as ever. So with that said, here is the 2020-21 NBA season preview.
2020-21 NBA Season Preview
Western Conference Playoff Race
The more things change the more they stay the same. Entering the 2019 season, the West was looking more competitive than it’d been in years. And in 2020, almost every team from the West can compete for a spot in the playoffs.
The Golden State Warriors are back and have a healthy Stephen Curry who played lights out in the preseason. The New Orleans Pelicans added some veteran presence to their young star-studded core in Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe. And finally, the Phoenix Suns added Chris Paul to take them to the next level after an undefeated run in the bubble.
I have to add that the play-in tournament is a factor. Essentially, the seventh through tenth “seeds” at the end of the regular season will have to play a tournament to decide who earns the final two seeds. Info on the full tournament can be found here.
Eastern Conference Isn’t Weak Anymore
While the West has been the more competitive conference over the last decade, the East is on that level again.
The Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, and Brooklyn Nets all have legitimate title chances. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will finally share the court together for the Nets. The Heat is looking to run it back and make it to back to back NBA finals. And the Bucks added all-star Jrue Holiday to compliment Khris Middleton and their back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But the rest of the conference will be highly competitive too. The Philadelphia 76ers made solid moves bringing in Seth Curry, Dwight Howard, and Doc Rivers as head coach. And the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and Indiana Pacers are wild cards who can finish anywhere in the postseason. The bottom line is this conference is legit and will be able to compete with the west’s best. This isn’t something we weren’t able to say in last year’s NBA season preview.
When taking a look at the MVP candidates, there are a handful of legitimate threats. Although trying to rank them is incredibly difficult. Antetokounmpo has won back-to-back, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be dominant again this year. But as usual, LeBron James is rightfully in the conversation as he has yet to show any signs of slippage.
Then there are the wild cards of James Harden, Damian Lillard, and Luka Doncic. Harden’s been in the top five of MVP voting in seven of his eight seasons as a Houston Rocket. No matter what team he’s on, he’s one of the best offensive players of his generation. Then there’s Lillard, who put up career highs in points and assists a year ago. On top of that, his efficiency from the floor and from three were career highs.
Last but not least, there’s Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks. His stats in his sophomore season jump off the page. 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. He’s only 21 years old but is already one of the faces of the NBA for the next 15 years. There’s still work for Doncic to do to become a more complete player. He’s shot 32 percent from three in his career, and his defense leaves much to be desired. With that out of the way, it’s incredible to see how far Doncic has come in two seasons. Even if Doncic doesn’t win MVP, he’ll be must watch this season. Predicting the winner in this NBA season preview is impossible.
Some Teams To Watch For
The stories to watch above are the biggest ones, but they’re not the only ones. The Celtics were mentioned earlier as being a team who could finish anywhere in the playoff seedings. A lot of eyes will be on the dynamic duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown who’ll have to carry the team until Kemba Walker returns from injury which might not be until after the first month of the season. They’re a team who can make the Finals depending on if their young depth pieces prove to be enough.
Another story to watch if you’re a fan of the NBA will be the progress of the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks roster is still built around Trae Young and John Collins. But additions Rajon Rondo, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Danilo Gallinari should help take Atlanta from a fringe playoff team to a playoff team. Young averaged more points than Doncic last year and will only get better as he and his teammates get better.
Enjoy The Ride
No matter who your favorite team is, there are so many stories to watch for in the 2020-21 season. The talent in the league is at a special place right now. We still have legends in James and Paul playing phenomenal in what’ll be their age 36 seasons. We have a plethora of multiple time all-stars in their prime like Kevin Durant, Lillard, and Harden. And the future of the game is here now in elite talents like Doncic, Antetokounmpo, and Young. We’re set to have NBA basketball back in our lives, and we should all take a moment to be grateful for it.