The 2020-21 NBA Season Preview

December 20th, 2020

By Alan Lu

The Los Angeles Lakers are the reigning, defending champions as they have two of the best players in the NBA right now in superstar forwards, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and they will be looking to repeat their championship win for the 2020-21 season. 

Get ready for a fun-filled, action-packed NBA season that will be headed your way. The 2020-21 NBA regular season starts on December 22nd, and LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers are favored to win the NBA championship in 2021. Also, superstar forward Kevin Durant will be playing for the Brooklyn Nets this season.
(Photo:
Tony Avelar/Associated Press, via Bleacher Report)

Meanwhile, there are plenty of contenders that are also hoping to win a title.  The Milwaukee Bucks made a big splash and they shook things up by trading several key rotation players to get former Pelicans’ guard, Jrue Holiday via trade, and the Brooklyn Nets will finally have a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for the upcoming season.  The Denver Nuggets surprised everyone and made it to the Western Conference Finals by defeating the heavily favored Los Angeles Clippers in 7 games in the second round series of the 2020 NBA playoffs, and they will look to build off of that.  The Miami Heat went to the 2020 NBA Finals, and they will look for a repeat run back there.  A lot of moves were made in the offseason, and we will get to watch another fun and enjoyable, yet also intensely competitive NBA season that will start in a few days.

2020-21 Season Projections:

The Western Conference

The Los Angeles Lakers are the clear favorites to come out of the West and to win the title this season, but the Los Angeles Clippers are also a very talented team that could make a deep playoff run in 2021.
(Photo:
Harry How/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Hoops Habit)
  1. The Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are a tremendously talented team that has two of the best active players in the NBA in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and their ability to dominate basketball games is basically unparalleled.  They also did a good job of adding complementary role players to fit their team, as they signed NBA champion and one-time defensive player of the year award winner, Marc Gasol and sixth man of the year award winner Montrezl Harrell, as well as defensive-minded veteran stalwart Wes Matthews to strengthen their bench.  They also traded to acquire former Thunder point guard Dennis Schroder to provide some scoring punch. 

On the downside, they lost Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard via free agency, and they had to part with Danny Green and the 28th pick (rights to Jaden McDaniels) to get Dennis Schroder, but sometimes you have to give up to get.  The Lakers had prepped themselves for the likelihood of losing Rondo in free agency, and they have built a really nice ten-man rotation, with head coach Frank Vogel leading the charge to help them defend the title in 2021.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 50-22, 1st in the Western Conference

2. The Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are a rising, up and coming team that defeated the favored Los Angeles Clippers in the second round series to advance to the 2020 Western Conference Finals, and they are a deep and talented, offensive-minded team that boasts having two stars in Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.  Jokic is a tremendous passing big man that operates well in the post, and Jamal Murray is a scoring point guard that can really put up points at will.  They also have a solid second-year player in Michael Porter Jr., a tall, athletic combo forward that can also really score, and Bol Bol and Facundo Campazzo could be poised to make an impact as rookies next season.

While they re-signed Paul Millsap, they lost Jerami Grant in free agency to Denver, so others in the lineup will have to step up in his place.  Mike Malone has developed into being one of the best coaches in the NBA game right now, and Denver could very well challenge again to make a deep playoff run in 2021.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 45-27, 2nd in the Western Conference

3. The Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers had made a big splash in the 2019 offseason by acquiring both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George at the same time, and it was thought that they would be serious contenders for the title.  However, after a surprising second round loss to the Denver Nuggets, they fired their head coach, Doc Rivers, and hired Tyronn Lue, who was the head coach of the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers to be their head coach for the 2020-21 season.

The Clippers maneuvered a few pieces around.  They traded Landry Shamet to get Luke Kennard, signed Serge Ibaka, and re-signed Marcus Morris, and added Daniel Oturu and Jay Scrubb in the draft, but they lost Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green in free agency.  The Clippers are a very talented team, but they look to mostly be the same team as they were before.  They certainly could be poised to pick up a lot of regular season wins, especially if they don’t rest players as often, but they will need Kawhi and Paul George to come ready for the playoffs this time around.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 42-30, 3rd in the Western Conference

4. The Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz are a solid defensive team that is led by two-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner, Rudy Gobert, and star guard Donovan Mitchell, and with head coach Quin Snyder at the helm, the Jazz have been a solid mid-tier playoff team annually.  They signed Derrick Favors, re-signed Jordan Clarkson, and added Udoka Azubuike and Elijah Hughes in the draft, but the Jazz made rather small moves that may not put them any closer to contending for the title than they were last year.  Still, their defense is what defines their team, and at the very least, they will be poised to make the postseason and will be a tough out in the playoffs.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 41-31, 4th in the Western Conference

5. The Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks were one of the most exciting teams in the NBA last season, and they received a stellar season from Luka Doncic, who averaged nearly 30 points per game, and was a consistent triple-double threat in games.  He and center Kristaps Porzingis formed a potent scoring duo, and Dallas could be a very good offensive team once again this season.  The Mavericks didn’t add major pieces to their roster, but they managed to add James Johnson in free agency, and they acquired Josh Green, Tyrell Terry, and Tyler Bey in the draft.  The Mavericks took the Clippers to 6 games before losing in the first round, and the Mavs could be one of the more underrated teams in the playoffs in 2021.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 39-33, 5th in the Western Conference

6. The Portland Trail Blazers

After having struggled through the early part of the season, the Blazers made a late run and played well in the bubble to get to both the play-in game, and to the playoffs after defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in games.  Meanwhile, they were certainly busy in the offseason.  They traded Trevor Ariza and draft picks to get Robert Covington, and they signed Enes Kanter and Derrick Jones Jr. in free agency while having re-signed Carmelo Anthony, and also added C.J. Elleby in the draft. 

They did lose Hassan Whiteside in free agency, but the Blazers are strong offensive team that has one of the best backcourt duos in having Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.  If they can get more offensive firepower and defense in the playoffs, that could help them a long way, and as long as they have Lillard, the Blazers will certainly at least be a tough out in the playoffs.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 39-33, 6th in the Western Conference

7. The Phoenix Suns

After having a roller-coaster ride of a season, the Phoenix Suns played tremendous basketball in the Orlando bubble, and when they had Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton play together, they were terrific with those two on the court.  Ayton did miss time due to being suspended after violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy, but he’s helped provide the Suns a strong interior presence with his solid scoring and rebounding skills, and defensive potential.  Devin Booker is a superstar that can really shoot and score the basketball, and he could potentially end up being one of the league’s best players in 2021.

The Suns also made a splash to add Chris Paul in a blockbuster trade with Oklahoma City that sent Ricky Rubio and Kelly Oubre away, and the Suns also signed Jae Crowder, Damian Jones, E’Twaun Moore, and Langston Galloway, and they also added Jalen Smith in the draft. 

Chris Paul will need to stay healthy, but he’s a terrific starting point guard when he can remain healthy.  Jae Crowder is a prototypical 3 and D player that is coming off an NBA Finals appearance.  However, the West is very competitive, and Paul has been very injury-prone over the years, so the Suns might not be able to reel off as many wins as expected, but if they can get to the playoffs, they could be surprisingly competitive and they could sneak up to maybe win a series or two in the postseason.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 38-34, 7th in the Western Conference

8. The New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans are a talented team that has a solid group of young players, as they have All-Star forward Brandon Ingram, and rising star forward, Zion Williamson, who played very well in 24 games, but battled with injuries and conditioning issues throughout the season.  The Pelicans have shuffled things around, as they fired their head coach Alvin Gentry and hired Stan Van Gundy to be their new head coach.

They traded Jrue Holiday to acquire Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams in a trade, and they also signed Wenyen Gabriel via free agency, and also drafted Kira Lewis.  The Pelicans also will be bringing back solid role players such as J.J. Redick, Lonzo Ball, Jaxson Hayes, Josh Hart, and Nicolo Melli. 

The Pelicans are a potent offensive team that will need to make sure Zion can stay healthy and in shape, and they will need to defend much better than last season, but one thing is for sure, is that they are a talented team that could contend for a playoff spot if they can put things all together.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 36-36, 8th in the Western Conference

9. The Golden State Warriors

The Warriors seemed all set to be sleeper contenders for the title when suddenly Klay Thompson injured his Achilles and will miss another NBA season, as this unfortunate news delivered a massive blow to their title hopes.  Still, they may have enough pieces to vie for a playoff spot in the West in 2021. 

Mainly, they added Kelly Oubre this year in a trade with Oklahoma City, and they also drafted rookie center James Wiseman, whose strong interior skills and vast size and athleticism could make him a good candidate to win the Rookie of the Year award.  They also acquired Brad Wanamaker and Kent Baazemore in free agency, while also having drafted Nico Mannion. 

This year, with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green as the main part of their core, with head coach Steve Kerr leading the way, even with Klay being out for the season, the Warriors could be a borderline playoff team in 2021.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 36-36, 9th in the Western Conference

10. The Houston Rockets

For a time, it seemed as if the Rockets’ uber, small-ball experiment was working, and they even managed to win a game in the 2nd Round series against the eventual 2020 champions, Los Angeles Lakers.  But then the Lakers won the next 4 games, and the Rockets were eliminated, with their GM Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D’Antoni decided to step down and re-sign at the end of the season.  In the meantime, the Rockets signed new big men, Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins in a bid to declare the very small-ball experiment over, traded away Robert Covington in a sign-and-trade to get Wood, and they also added Sterling Brown, Jae’Sean Tate, and Kenyon Martin Jr. to their team.

They’ll be bringing back former MVP James Harden, but they traded Russell Westbrook away to acquire John Wall this season.  It will be interesting to see how well Wall plays, especially since he hasn’t played in 1 ½ years.  Harden was tremendous under former head coach, Mike D’Antoni, but the disgruntled superstar has reportedly requested trade demands, and there are even rumors saying that he may even be out of shape right now. Normally, Harden would project to have a terrific, MVP-level season, but there are concerns this year that he may try to tank his stock to force his team to trade him.

But a healthy and in-shape Harden paired with Christian Wood, Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins, the Rockets could secretly be a dangerous playoff team, especially in the early rounds.  As long as they have superstar James Harden, the Rockets should be in playoff contention every year that they have him on the roster.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 36-36, 10th in the Western Conference

11. The Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies snuck up on teams and got off to a fast start due to the strong play of 2019-20 Rookie of the Year award winner, Ja Morant, as well as others such as Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas, and Dillon Brooks. 

The Grizzlies did not add many pieces in the offseason, but they acquired Desmond Bane and Xavier Tillman in the draft, and also signed Mario Hezonja.  On the downside, they won’t be able to sneak up on teams like they did last year to get quick, early wins, and they will miss Jaren Jackson Jr.’s presence inside as he is currently injured.  In a tough and competitive Western conference, the Grizzlies will be fighting hard for a playoff spot, but it’s uncertain if they’ll be able to get one this year.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 35-37, 11th in the Western Conference

12. The San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs are a well-coached ballclub that will bring back two former All-Stars in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, and they have a slew of promising guards in Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Tre Jones, and Lonnie Walker. 

They didn’t make big, splashy moves in the offseason but they drafted well, as they added rookies Devin Vassell and Tre Jones to their team.  They don’t have any elite players and it’s a crowded field out in the West, and they’ll likely fight for a backend playoff spot in 2021.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 34-38, 12th in the Western Conference

13. The Sacramento Kings

After hiring Luke Walton to replace Dave Joerger for the 2019-20 season, the Kings lost more games than expected, and they again missed the playoffs, as they were one of the worst teams in the Orlando bubble.  On the other hand, De’Aaron Fox has been a bright spot, as he is a speedy scoring point guard that looks like he could be a future All-Star, and they drafted well by adding three potential impact rookies in Tyrese Haliburton, Robert Woodard, and Jahmi’us Ramsey. 

To shore up their defensive woes, they also signed Hassan Whiteside to be their defensive ace and anchor of their team.  While it’s uncertain if the Kings have enough offensive firepower to make the playoffs while being in a very competitive Western conference, they have been improving their overall talent base, and it’s now up to Luke Walton and company to try to get their team to the playoffs in 2021.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 31-41, 13th in the Western Conference

14. The Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves started the 2019-20 season on a promising note, but then they suddenly went on a massive losing streak, and things quickly snowballed from there.  Karl-Anthony Towns missed a lot of time due to being injured, Andrew Wiggins stopped shooting as well as he did earlier and regressed to the mean, and he was later traded midseason for D’Angelo Russell. 

Russell and Towns have not actually played much together, and this will be a brand new season for them to test out how well they can play together.  The Timberwolves also acquired Ricky Rubio back via trade, as they got their fan favorite, and passing wizard back, and they also drafted Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels to join their team. 

Head coach Ryan Saunders is unproven and has not won his team many games, and he may find himself on the hot seat if the T-Wolves are near the bottom of the standings once again.  The Timberwolves still may not have enough shooting or defensive prowess on their roster yet.  On the other hand, the Timberwolves finally can muster enough exciting to provide at the very least, an entertaining season, even if they may be a long-shot to reach the playoffs in 2021.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 28-44, 14th in the Western Conference

15. The Oklahoma City Thunder

After having a surprisingly successful season recently, the Thunder opted to go for a rebuild, as they let head coach Billy Donovan go to the Chicago Bulls, and they traded superstar point guard Chris Paul away to Phoenix.  They also dealt fan favorite, center Steven Adams to the New Orleans Pelicans via trade, and they also traded Dennis Schroder to the Los Angeles Lakers. 

On the other hand, they do still have some talented players to work with.  Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a rising star and is a tall, athletic playmaker that can run the point or play off the ball, and he is a solid scorer that can distribute the basketball.  Lu Dort proved to be a standout defender as a rookie as he was able to hold superstar guard James Harden in check, and Dort could end up being like a Marcus Smart type of elite defender in this league.

The Thunder also traded to get veteran center, Al Horford, a skilled center that has strong passing skills and will provide wisdom and veteran guidance and leadership to his team.  They also added Serbian big man, Aleksej Pokusevski and French point guard Theo Maledon via the draft, and Pokusevski is a very talented playmaking big man that has shown flashes of his enormous upside in the NBA preseason. 

The Thunder may not likely contend to win the title this season, but they did a great job of accumulating assets and stockpiling draft pick capital, which will put them in a better position to succeed in the future.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 20-52, 15th in the Western Conference

The Eastern Conference

Giannis recently signed a 5-year extension to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks, and Kevin Durant will be healthy to play for the Brooklyn Nets. The odds are very high that either Giannis or KD will be in the 2021 NBA Finals that will take place later this season.
(Photo:
Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)
  1. The Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks pretty much decided to overhaul parts of their roster in a bid to keep their reigning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo for the long haul.  After having their playoff shortcomings for the second year in a row, they traded both their point guards, Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, along with three first round picks to go all in for Jrue Holiday, which had received rave reviews from numerous analysts online. 

Sure, Bledsoe was absolutely terrible in the 2020 playoffs, and Holiday’s shooting and defense is an upgrade over Bledsoe, but it’s uncertain if Holiday will be the difference maker that will finally make the Bucks a legit title contender, and giving 3 draft picks is a lot.  Still, the trio of Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday is very good, they also have Brook Lopez, and they should win a lot of games, and they should at least make a deep playoff run in 2021.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 49-23, 1st in the Eastern Conference

2. The Toronto Raptors

The Raptors won the NBA championship in 2019, and they had a solid season in 2020 even when Kawhi Leonard left them in free agency.  They received strong performances from Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, and numerous role players chipped in to help them win many more games than expected.  Also head coach, Nick Nurse won the Coach of the Year award.  They lost to the Boston Celtics in 7 games in their second round series, but the Raptors’ talent, depth, and strong coaching could help them get many wins this season once again.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 46-26, 2nd in the Eastern Conference

3. The Brooklyn Nets

Now that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are expected to be healthy for the 2020-21 season, the Brooklyn Nets could be sleeper contenders to emerge as the team out of the East to make it to the 2021 NBA Finals.  They have two of the top players in the game, and they also have solid role players such as Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, and DeAndre Jordan, with Caris LeVert having really emerged to shine in the Orlando bubble. 

They’ll get a new head coach in former Phoenix Suns’ superstar point guard, Steve Nash, and the Nets are the new wildcard team that has enormous potential to succeed this season in the NBA, but people will be watching to see how cohesive this team can be to gel together or not, as the Nets might depend on their team chemistry to bolster their titles hopes this season.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 42-30, 3rd in the Eastern Conference

4. The Miami Heat

The Miami Heat had a terrific playoff run in 2020, as they were led by the strong coaching of head coach Erik Spoelstra, and star players in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, as well as solid performances from their role players, which included a tremendous, 37-point performance in Miami’s Game 4 Eastern Conference Finals win over the Boston Celtics by then-rookie guard, Tyler Herro.  The Miami Heat played excellent defense, and they consistently were effective in moving the basketball and making shots, as they reached the NBA Finals before losing in 6 games to the now defending champions, Los Angeles Lakers.

On the downside, they lost some key players, as they lost Jae Crowder in free agency to the Phoenix Suns, and Derrick Jones Jr. also signed with the Portland Trail Blazers.  The Heat did manage to sign Maurice Harkless and Avery Bradley via free agency to help make up for the loss of Jae Crowder, and they also added athletic big man, Precious Achiuwa in the draft while also re-signing Meyers Leonard to strengthen their big man depth. 

There is a lot of competition in the East, and the Heat tend to save their best basketball for the playoffs, as they were a 5th seed in 2020, but managed to get all the way to the NBA Finals.  They may decide to take that approach once again, which paid off for them last year, and their strong coaching combined with the talent and depth of their overall roster could help them get back there in 2021.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 41-31, 4th in the Eastern Conference

5. The Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics had a better than expected season in 2020, as they were able to reach the Eastern Conference Finals with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, and Marcus Smart before losing in 6 games to the Miami Heat. 

They have a couple of rising wing players in Tatum and Brown, Walker is a very speedy, skilled scoring point guard, and Marcus Smart is one of the best defenders in the league.  They also added Jeff Taegue and Tristan Thompson in free agency, as well as Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard in the draft, and the Celtics could be poised to make another deep playoff run in 2021.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 40-32, 5th in the Eastern Conference

6. The Philadelphia 76ers

With Ben Simmons having been injured in the postseason, the 2020 Philadelphia 76ers were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round, as they were unable to win a playoff game, even though they were led by superstar center, Joel Embiid.  The 76ers have since fired their head coach Brett Brown, and hired new head coach Doc Rivers, and hired former Houston Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey to be the new 76ers president of basketball operations.

The 76ers also managed to acquire solid 3 and D role player, Danny Green in a trade, and they also added sharpshooter Seth Curry, as well as big men Dwight Howard and Tony Bradley to their team, with Terrance Ferguson also being added to round out their rotation.  They drafted a slew of promising rookies in Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe, and Paul Reed. 

It’s uncertain how fast the 76ers will turn things around with their new operation, or if Doc Rivers can yield significantly better results with Embiid and Simmons than their previous coach, but this 76ers group definitely looks promising, and they look like they could be serious contenders for the title in a few years if this group can gel together.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 39-33, 6th in the Eastern Conference

7. The Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers have been a solid mid-tier playoff team for awhile, and they have a core group of solid players in Domantas Sabonis, T.J. Warren, Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, and Myles Turner that lead the way.  Though they may not have an elite player, T.J. Warren was excellent in the Orlando bubble, and the Pacers have a fairly solid roster top to bottom. 

In the 2020 playoffs, the Pacers were swept by the Miami Heat in the first round.  Nate McMillan was fired, and they hired former Toronto Raptors’ assistant coach, Nate Bjorkgren to be their head coach to lead the way.  In a tough and competitive East, the Pacers are not likely to make it to the NBA Finals, but their solid group of players could lead them to get plenty of wins, which could lead them to a play-in game out in the East this year.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 37-35, 7th in the Eastern Conference

8. The Washington Wizards

The Washington Wizards have re-tooled around superstar guard, Bradley Beal, and they swung a blockbuster trade to land former MVP Russell Westbrook to bolster their team.  It will be interesting to see how these two will play together, and there may be excitement building amongst the Wizards’ fanbase. 

They also drafted well, as they selected Deni Avdija and Cassius Winston to play for them, and they also have a group of intriguing young players in Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans, and Troy Brown.  The Wizards also signed Robin Lopez away from Milwaukee.  It’s uncertain if Westbrook can regain his MVP form as his jump shot has fallen off recently, but he is still a tremendously athletic point guard that can put up very good numbers, and the Wizards could be primed to make it back to the playoffs in 2021.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 33-39, 8th in the Eastern Conference

9. The Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks have two very good young players in Trae Young and John Collins, and those two can really score the basketball.  The Hawks last season were not a very good defensive team, and so they added Clint Capela in a midseason trade last year.

They were very busy in the offseason, too.  After having drafted Onyeka Okongwu and Skylar Mays, the Hawks acquired Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn, Solomon Hill, Tony Snell, and Bogdan Bogdanovic in a major overhaul to try to get their team to the playoffs immediately. 

They now have a lot more depth than last year, but there may be a question if there are enough minutes to go around for some of their other younger players such as De’Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, or Cam Reddish.  This season, the Hawks are going all in to try to make it to the playoffs, even if they end up sacrificing the development of their other young players in the process.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 32-40, 9th in the Eastern Conference

10. The Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic have made the playoffs for two years in a row as a low seeded team out in the East.  They haven’t made much noise in the playoffs, but they did get a solid Game 1 win over the Milwaukee Bucks before losing to them in the first round in 2020.  In their lone playoff game win, they received a tremendous performance from Nikola Vucevic, who scored 35 points and made 5 threes to get them their rare playoff victory.

For the Magic, they’ve been treading water, and while they are a fairly athletic team that generally plays solid defense, they don’t really have an elite player nor playmaker on their roster.  They did receive a much-improved season from starting point guard, Markelle Fultz and also will be adding Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke to their team this year.  Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, and Evan Fournier have been solid veterans for them.  Jon Isaac will be out for the season, though. 

The Magic will compete for a playoff spot, but as the Eastern Conference is getting tougher, it’s no guarantee that they will be able to lock down a playoff spot this season.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 31-41, 10th in the Eastern Conference

11. The Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls have been a bad team annually for quite awhile now, and the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen days, and the Derrick Rose-Joakim Noah era are long behind them. On the plus side, they managed to hire new head coach Billy Donovan away from the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Donovan was able to lead the Thunder to many more wins than expected in 2020.  Zach LaVine had a solid individual season for the Bulls, and he is a rising star that will team up with Donovan to try to help the Bulls get into the playoffs this season.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 30-42, 11th in the Eastern Conference

12. The New York Knicks

The New York Knicks are still in the midst of their rebuilding process, and they were able to clear some playing time by letting Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis go to clear some playing time for their new draftee, Obi Toppin, who is an athletic, very skilled big man that was the best player on one of the best college basketball teams in 2020.  Toppin will be an integral player to the Knicks’ team, and the Knicks will be building around him, as well as athletic scoring wing R.J. Barrett, and interior defender Mitchell Robinson.

Kevin Knox had a sophomore slump in 2020 as he struggled to make shots that season, but Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton will return, as both played fairly well in their roles for the Knicks.  They also added Nerlens Noel, Austin Rivers, and Alec Burks in the offseason. 

The Knicks might not make the playoffs in 2021, but they have been accumulating assets and draft picks, which could help them in the long term, as they finally might be on the right track this time around with new management having come to town led by new Knicks’ president of basketball operations, Leon Rose late in the 2020 season.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 30-42, 12th in the Eastern Conference

13. The Charlotte Hornets

The Charlotte Hornets came into the 2020 draft having a quartet of promising young players in Devonte’ Graham, Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington, and Miles Bridges, and they quickly added more talent to their stream in selecting very talented playmaker, LaMelo Ball in the draft, and they also used their free agency to sign former Boston Celtics’ forward, Gordon Hayward to a massive contract to lead their team. 

That might not be enough to help them get to the playoffs, but the Hornets could be making strides to get there, and plenty of people will be intrigued to see how this team performs this year, and for the long haul.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 28-44, 13th in the Eastern Conference

14. The Cleveland Cavaliers

They are led by a group of solid veteran big men in Kevin Love and Andre Drummond, as well as promising combo guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, and the Cavaliers added athletic rookie wing, Isaac Okoro in the draft, while also having signed JaVale McGee to bolster their big man depth. 

The Cavs likely didn’t add nearly enough to their roster this season, but they could be well-positioned to add a high lottery pick in the 2021 draft, and the talent pool from the upcoming draft could be intriguing enough for them to want to lose a lot of games to try to accumulate as many ping pong balls as possible to try to land a top 3 pick in 2021.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 27-45, 14th in the Eastern Conference

15. The Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons signed Jerami Grant to a sizeable contract, as they managed to pull him away from the Denver Nuggets’ stable, and Grant will have an important role on the Pistons’ team this year.  However, they let Christian Wood go, and while Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose have turned in some great seasons at times, they also have been very injury-prone in their careers, and Griffin is coming off his worst season yet in a long time. 

The Pistons did draft well as they added Killian Hayes, and acquired Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey, and Saben Lee, while also having signed underrated free agents such as Delon Wright, and they also signed Mason Plumlee.  However, unless if any of their new players go on to have a breakout year, the Pistons may project to finish near the bottom of the standings, but trying to accumulate as many ping pong balls to try to land a top 3 pick in 2021 might not be a bad plan for them, either.

Projected 2020-21 Regular Season Result: 25-47, 15th in the Eastern Conference

So, now with the basic write-ups out of the way, here is what the projected 2020-21 NBA season could look like.

Forecasting The 2020-21 NBA Regular Season Standings:

Western Conference

  1. Los Angeles Lakers (50-22)
  2. Denver Nuggets (45-27)
  3. Los Angeles Clippers (42-30)
  4. Utah Jazz (41-31)
  5. Dallas Mavericks (39-33)
  6. Portland Trail Blazers (39-33)
  7. Phoenix Suns (38-34)
  8. New Orleans Pelicans (36-36)
  9. Golden State Warriors (36-36)
  10. Houston Rockets (36-36)
  11. Memphis Grizzlies (35-37)
  12. San Antonio Spurs (34-38)
  13. Sacramento Kings (31-41)
  14. Minnesota Timberwolves (28-44)
  15. Oklahoma City Thunder (20-52)

Eastern Conference

  1. Milwaukee Bucks (49-23)
  2. Toronto Raptors (46-26)
  3. Brooklyn Nets (42-30)
  4. Miami Heat (41-31)
  5. Boston Celtics (40-32)
  6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-33)
  7. Indiana Pacers (37-35)
  8. Washington Wizards (33-39)
  9. Atlanta Hawks (32-40)
  10. Orlando Magic (31-41)
  11. Chicago Bulls (30-42)
  12. New York Knicks (30-42)
  13. Charlotte Hornets (28-44)
  14. Cleveland Cavaliers (27-45)
  15. Detroit Pistons (25-47)

The Projected 2021 NBA Playoffs

Western Conference:

Play-In Games

(7) Phoenix Suns defeats (8) New Orleans Pelicans – Suns clinch a playoff spot
(9) Golden State Warriors defeats (10) Houston Rockets
(9) Golden State Warriors defeat (8) New Orleans Pelicans – Warriors clinch a playoff spot

1st Round of the 2021 Western Conference Playoffs:

(1) Los Angeles Lakers over (8) Golden State Warriors in 5 games
(5) Dallas Mavericks over (4) Utah Jazz in 7 games

(2)Denver Nuggets over (7) Phoenix Suns in 6 games
(3) Los Angeles Clippers over (6) Portland Trail Blazers in 6 games

2nd Round of the 2021 Western Conference Playoffs:

(1) Los Angeles Lakers over (5) Dallas Mavericks in 5 games
(3) Los Angeles Clippers over (2) Denver Nuggets in 7 games

2021 Western Conference Finals:

(1) Los Angeles Lakers over (3) Los Angeles Clippers in 6 games

Eastern Conference:

Play-In Games:

(8) Washington Wizards over (7) Indiana Pacers – Wizards clinch a playoff spot
(9) Atlanta Hawks over (10) Orlando Magic
(7) Indiana Pacers over (9) Atlanta Hawks – Pacers clinch a playoff spot

1st Round of the 2021 Eastern Conference Playoffs:

(1) Milwaukee Bucks over (8) Indiana Pacers in 5 games
(4) Miami Heat over (5) Boston Celtics in 7 games

(3) Brooklyn Nets over (6) Philadelphia 76ers in 7 games
(2) Toronto Raptors over (7) Washington Wizards in 6 games

2nd Round of the 2021 Eastern Conference Playoffs:

(4) Miami Heat over (1) Milwaukee Bucks in 7 games
(3) Brooklyn Nets over (2) Toronto Raptors in 7 games

2021 Eastern Conference Finals:

(3) Brooklyn Nets over (4) Miami Heat in 7 games

2021 NBA Finals:
(1) Los Angeles Lakers over (3) Brooklyn Nets in 6 games

The 2021 Los Angeles Lakers are the favorites to win the NBA championship this year, and they will look to defend their title in the 2021 NBA playoffs.
(Photo:
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

2021 NBA Finals MVP:
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

So, those are my regular season and playoff predictions, as well as my NBA Finals MVP pick. 

Below, our staff made predictions as to who may get awards and be named to various teams for the 2020-21 NBA season.

2020-21 NBA Award Projections:

Our staff voted on whom we would give the awards to based on our projections for the upcoming season.  There wasn’t always much consensus, but based on the polling, this is how the results turned out for our preseason award picks.

Los Angeles Lakers’ legendary forward, LeBron James led his team to win the 2020 NBA championship, and he could be poised to lead his team to win another title in 2021.
(Photo:
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press, via Bleacher Report)

Projected 2020-21 MVP:
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

2nd: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
3rd: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Brooklyn Nets’ head coach, Steve Nash will be getting a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this year, and the Nets will likely win a lot more games this season, which could make Nash the favorite to win the Head Coach of the Year award.
(Photo:
Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Projected 2020-21 Head Coach of the Year:
Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets

2nd: Monty Williams, Phoenix Suns
3rd: Stan Van Gundy, New Orleans Pelicans

Others Receiving Votes:
Mike Malone, Denver Nuggets

Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar big man, Anthony Davis had a terrific 2020 season, and he was excellent in the bubble, and he could be poised to win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2021.
(Photo:
Kim Klement/USA Today Sports, via DraftKings Nation)

Projected 2020-21 Defensive Player of the Year:
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

2nd: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
3rd: Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

Others Receiving Votes:
Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

Our Preseason 2020-21 All-Defensive 1st Team:
C Rudy Gobert, UTA
F Anthony Davis, LAL
F Kawhi Leonard, LAC
G Jimmy Butler, MIA
G Ben Simmons, PHI

Our Preseason 2020-21 All-Defensive 2nd Team:
C Bam Adebayo, MIA
F Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL
F Lu Dort, OKC
G Marcus Smart, BOS
G Jrue Holiday, MIL

Others Receiving Votes:
Dorian Finney-Smith, DAL, Kyle Lowry, TOR, LeBron James, LAL

Golden State’s 7-1 rookie center, James Wiseman was the second overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, and many people will be anticipating his regular season debut this year.
(Photo:
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images, via Golden State of Mind)

Projected 2020-21 Rookie of the Year:
James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors

2nd: Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
3rd: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

Our Preseason 2020-21 All-Rookie 1st Team:
C James Wiseman, GSW
F Obi Toppin, NYK
F Deni Avdija, WAS
G Anthony Edwards, MIN
G LaMelo Ball, CHO

Our Preseason 2020-21 All-Rookie 2nd Team:
C Onyeka Okongwu, ATL
F Isaac Okoro, CLE
G Devin Vassell, SAS
G Tyrese Haliburton, SAC
G Killian Hayes, DET

Others Receiving Votes:
Aaron Nesmith, BOS, Cole Anthony, ORL, Aleksej Pokusevski, OKC  

Brooklyn Nets’ guard, Spencer Dinwiddie had a solid season in 2020, and he will play an integral role for his team this year.
(Photo: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Nuthin’ But Nets)

Projected 2020-21 Sixth Man of the Year:
Spencer Dinwiddie, BRK

2nd: Montrezl Harrell, LAL
3rd: Lou Williams, LAC

Others Receiving Votes:
Seth Curry, PHI

Our Preseason 2020-21 All-NBA First Team:
C Anthony Davis, LAL
F Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL
F Kevin Durant, BRK
G Luka Doncic, DAL
G LeBron James, LAL

Our Preseason 2020-21 All-NBA 2nd Team:
C Nikola Jokic, DEN
F Kawhi Leonard, LAC
F Jimmy Butler, MIA
G James Harden, HOU
G Damian Lillard, POR

Our Preseason 2020-21 All-NBA 3rd Team:
C Bam Adebayo, MIA
F Joel Embiid, PHI
F Jayson Tatum, BOS
G Donovan Mitchell, UTA
G Ben Simmons, PHI

Others Receiving Votes:
Stephen Curry, GSW, Rudy Gobert, UTA

Our Picks for the 2020-21 NBA All-Star Teams (If There Was One):

It’s been widely reported that there will not be an All-Star game, but it still could be possible that selections could be made, nonetheless. If there was one in 2021, it might have looked something like the one below. Anyways, even if there’s no All-Star game, this might be a fun exercise, nonetheless.

The Would-Be Projected 2021 Eastern Conference All-Star Team:
C Joel Embiid, PHI
F  Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL
F Kevin Durant, BRK
G Jimmy Butler, MIA
G Ben Simmons, PHI
___
F Jayson Tatum, BOS
G Kyrie Irving, BRK
G Bradley Beal, WAS
F Jaylen Brown, BOS
G Russell Westbrook, WAS
C Bam Adebayo, MIA
F Pascal Siakam, TOR

Others Receiving Votes:
Kemba Walker, BOS

The would be 2021 alternates:
Kemba Walker, BOS, Trae Young, ATL, Khris Middleton, MIL

Projected Eastern Conference 2021 All-Star Game Head Coach:
Mike Budenholzer, MIL

The Would-Be Projected 2021 Western Conference All-Star Team:
C Anthony Davis, LAL
F LeBron James, LAL
F Kawhi Leonard, LAC
G Luka Doncic, DAL
G James Harden, HOU
_
G Damian Lillard, POR
C Nikola Jokic, DEN
G Devin Booker, PHO
G Donovan Mitchell, UTA
G Stephen Curry, GSW
G Jamal Murray, DEN
F Brandon Ingram, NOP

Others Receiving Votes:
Chris Paul, PHO, Zion Williamson, NOP, Rudy Gobert, UTA, Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN

The would be 2021 alternates:
Chris Paul, PHO, Zion Williamson, NOP, Rudy Gobert, UTA

Projected Western Conference 2021 All-Star Game Head Coach:
Mike Malone, DEN

On second thought, it’s been reported that there will not be an actual All-Star game, so the above lists were made purely for entertainment.

On a side note, I’m wondering why the NBA didn’t just have most of the games either in the Orlando bubble, or multiple bubbles, as they were extremely successful in limiting the COVID cases and keeping people healthy in the summer of 2020. 

Now that more people will be able to go to games again despite the coronavirus not having been eradicated, there is a significant concern that the COVID cases could suddenly spike up as there already have been 48 positive cases out of 546 players, and in college basketball, games are getting canceled left and right.  My concern is that the NBA ditched a perfectly good, working model of scheduling games in the bubble, and going back to not playing games in the bubble might not be the safest way to have basketball games right now.

Anyways, stay tuned for an exciting season that lies ahead, and it will be fun to resume watching NBA basketball, starting on December 22nd.  Thanks for reading.

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