We are in the midst of one of the greatest off seasons the NBA has ever seen. From superstars taking their talents elsewhere, to role players looking to contribute on a championship contender, many of last years lottery teams, are now in a position to snag a playoff spot. But which teams will indeed take advantage of their opportunity?
Minnesota Timberwolves: This one should be obvious. The Wolves were already the leagues next up and comer, so with the addition of a superstar such as Jimmy Butler, who would be reunited with former head coach, Tom Thibodeau, the Timberwolves are transforming into one of the leagues best teams. they know it too. Realizing that their evolution is coming along quicker than expected, the Wolves made their move in signing veteran sixth man, Jamal Crawford. Crawford is the leagues’ most decorated sixth man and will help some of the organizations more naive guards. In addition, the Wolves signed veteran power forward, Taj Gibson to a 2 year / $28 million dollar contract. Although this is not one of the off seasons sexiest signings, Gibson is still a solid forward who can both score and play defense. And of course, you cannot forget the Wolves younglings in Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Towns is an emerging superstar who has the potential to lead a team to a championship. Where Wiggins is more of a second or third option, who can average up to 20 points per game. However, questions have arisen about his energy on the defensive end and whether or not he is truly committed to playing both sides of the ball. It is for all of these reasons that, barring any serious injuries, the Minnesota Timberwolves can rise as high as the third seed in this upcoming NBA season.
Denver Nuggets: This one is definitely not for sure. The only notable Denver Nuggets move this off season was their signing of all-star forward, Paul Millsap. Although the Nuggets just barely missed the playoffs last year as they ended the season just one game back of the eighth seeded Portland Trail Blazers, the Millsap signing will not secure them a playoff spot. However, there are rumors swirling that the Blazers are engaging in talks with the New York Knicks in order to acquire Carmelo Anthony. If this trade does indeed happen, I do not see any reasonable way, the Nuggets could dethrone them for their spot in the western conference playoff picture. Now the next target is the Memphis Grizzlies, who did not acquire any major assets this off season. Memphis ended with the seventh seed in the playoffs last year and were eventually bounced by the San Antonio Spurs in just the first round. This is why the Nuggets have a legitimate shot at taking the Memphis Grizzlies out of the playoff picture and sneaking their way into one of the lower seeds.
76ers: Trust the Process. Everything is finally starting to come together for Philly. They drafted another promising number one overall pick in Markelle Fultz, and it looks like Ben Simmons will be healthy for the regular season opener. Joel Embiid will also be back and ready to once again break the NBA with his unreal numbers at such a young age. Along with the addition of sharpshooter, J.J. Redick, the 76ers are ready to take that next step in their process. The 76ers also have the advantage of a weakening eastern conference that was withered down this off season. It is because of these reasons that the process will make their march to the eastern conference fourth or fifth seed.
Hornets: The Charlotte Hornets seem to follow the same pattern each and every year. The Hornets start the season out great, and then slowly decline as the season wears on. However, with the addition of former all-star center, Dwight Howard, and a declining eastern conference, the Charlotte Hornets should be able to claw their way into the playoffs. Not to mention former all-star guard, Kemba Walker who will be returning for his seventh season with the organization. Although this is by no means a championship team, it is built to make the playoffs in a decimating eastern conference.
Heat: This team was the first ever to start out 11-30, and still end the season with a .500 record. Although they just missed the playoffs last year, the Miami Heats magical run was inspiring to many and proved that Erik Spoelstra can win with just about any group of guys. The Heat’s returning just about the same group of guys, so in this very weak eastern conference, the Heat could easily turn into a forty-five win team. Although Justice Winslow has proven to be nothing short of a bust, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside are proven NBA veterans, and are capable of carrying a team to a fifth or sixth seed.
All in all, the NBA season is fixing to be crazy, and it should prove that just about anything is possible in the worlds greatest sport. From juggernauts such as the Golden State Warriors to the rebuilding Chicago Bulls, the NBA might just be in the greatest state it has ever seen.