Best and worst cases for the Warriors, the Knicks and the teams we haven’t seen since March


Subsequent season will reintroduce the eight groups that did not make the minimize for the NBA’s restart this summer season in Orlando, Florida.

For the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks, the tipoff to the 2020-21 season will likely be their first time on an NBA court docket since March.

The Warriors plan to select up their championship pursuit after accidents to Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry derailed final season. For the Bulls and Knicks, front-office and training shake-ups give hope for a brighter future.

What do success and failure appear to be for these eight groups after such an extended layoff? Our consultants element what may go very proper or very improper for every.

MORE: The 25 greatest free brokers obtainable in 2020


Finest case
A younger, gifted staff normally breaks by means of sooner or later. There was a thought, briefly, that final season can be that point for the Hawks. The beginning was promising and there have been indicators of an upward transfer. However John Collins‘ suspension, some accidents and a scarcity of defensive growth put them proper again within the lottery.

Subsequent season is one other shot at making that progress. Trae Younger‘s offensive capacity and stardom have been established. The younger gamers have improved. Clint Capela could possibly be the inside bulwark wanted to stabilize an abominable protection.

The Hawks can rating. They simply let their opponents rating much more. In the event that they make some defense-minded strikes this offseason — along with a number of such strikes within the final year-plus — these selections would possibly begin to present outcomes. In the event that they enhance on protection — even simply to center of the pack — they could possibly be an Japanese Convention playoff staff.

Worst case
At their core, the Hawks have a easy however probably unsolvable problem: Their greatest participant can be their largest legal responsibility of their largest space of weak point. Younger’s protection has been a difficulty, and whereas there have been strikes made to attempt to cowl for his limitations, enjoying a defensively poor participant for 40-plus minutes a sport can take its toll.

Including Capela was an effort to handle a few of that on the again finish, but it surely’s not simply Younger. The Hawks haven’t developed an id past operating and gunning, they usually aren’t offensively elite sufficient to easily outscore opponents each night time.

The Hawks have set themselves as much as function on a process-oriented plan, and it is about time to see these investments yield outcomes. If the Hawks do not progress into the playoff hunt subsequent season, change could possibly be coming.

— Royce Younger


Finest case
Within the dream situation, the Hornets discover a future star. There was sufficient competence on Charlotte’s roster final season to hold across the fringes of the playoff race, however no big-time upside. Devonte’ Graham‘s leap ahead in his second season was spectacular, however he is restricted by his measurement and poor ending. At 25, Terry Rozier in all probability is not going to enhance dramatically. Miles Bridges has but to create his shot effectively sufficient to mission as greater than a top quality starter at greatest.

That leaves two good choices for the Hornets: PJ Washington and this 12 months’s No. three decide. As a result of Washington scored with common effectivity and was a weak rebounder, his rookie marketing campaign did not charge as nicely by superior stats as per-game ones, however at 22, it is too early to outline his ceiling. The No. three decide is Charlotte’s highest since 2012. Greater than every other staff on this 12 months’s draft, the Hornets ought to swing for the fences.

Worst case
The Hornets miss on one other excessive decide. Their document within the lottery since returning to the NBA in 2004 is ugly:

Of the 14 lottery picks Charlotte has revamped the previous 16 years, solely Walker made an All-Star Recreation. Moreover Walker, there are some high quality position gamers on this group, however such a participant will not transfer the needle for the Hornets. As a lot as Charlotte must draft for upside, lacking can be painful and depart the staff no nearer to returning to the playoffs for the primary time since 2016.

— Kevin Pelton


Finest case
After no matter this previous season was for the Chicago Bulls, seeing the staff’s younger core keep wholesome sufficient to play collectively and compete for the eighth seed can be a step in the suitable path.

Good well being would permit the Bulls to see what they’ve in Otto Porter Jr. earlier than his contract expires after the season. The identical can be true of restricted free agent Kris Dunn, one of many NBA’s greatest perimeter stoppers, assuming Chicago brings him again regardless of his struggles to remain on the ground.

One different space to observe with this membership: the way it delivers within the clutch. The Bulls have been one of many NBA’s worst groups in shut video games final season, as Zach LaVine typically performed with tunnel imaginative and prescient in placing the membership on his shoulders late. Against this, the Thunder, who have been led by new Bulls coach Billy Donovan, completed with a league-high 30 clutch victories throughout the common season.

Worst case
It could be a waste to realize no readability on the query of whether or not Coby White is best as a lead guard, alongside the high-usage LaVine, or because the backup capturing guard. And it would be a disgrace if the membership does not search extra probabilities for Wendell Carter Jr. He is one in every of Chicago’s greatest passers, however he typically barely appears to be like on the rim. Donovan, who coached former Bulls star Joakim Noah at Florida, ought to be capable to assist Carter notice his potential.

An ignored blemish on this staff’s résumé is its brutal efficiency in opposition to stable competitors. The Bulls have been an NBA-worst 2-23 mark in opposition to groups .500 or higher final season. To play that poorly in opposition to the league’s greatest in consecutive seasons — with a good roster — can be a failure, particularly because the staff tries to showcase its progress to free brokers in 2021.

— Chris Herring


Finest case
After back-to-back 19-win seasons within the post-LeBron James period, contending for a playoff spot can be an enormous success for the Cavs.

Cleveland should hit on its No. 5 decide within the upcoming draft to assist a roster with loads of holes. A full season underneath head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, employed full time in March after John Beilein agreed to half methods 54 video games into his first season, would set up stability for younger guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, with added management from All-Star veterans Andre Drummond and Kevin Love.

Ideally, the Cavs struggle all season to hover round .500 and contend for the No. eight seed within the East.

Worst case
If Cleveland fails to enhance defensively after giving up 42.eight factors per sport within the restricted space final season — probably the most by an NBA staff within the final 23 seasons, per NBA.com/stats — issues may go bitter.

Sexton, coming into 12 months three after rising as the most effective scorers within the NBA after the All-Star break final season — 25.5 factors per sport on 53% capturing in 11 video games — cannot take a step again as he turns into a focus of opposing defenses.

If strikes by GM Koby Altman and the entrance workplace, comparable to including Drummond and Bickerstaff, do not translate to wins in 2020-21, the franchise may endure its third straight sub-20-win season.

— Eric Woodyard


Finest case
The Pistons hope to get one other borderline All-NBA season from Blake Griffin, which, regardless of his bloated contract for this season and subsequent, may permit them to maneuver on from him earlier than the commerce deadline to make sure Detroit finishes on the backside of the NBA standings.

The Pistons may then use their cap house to accumulate extra draft belongings to assist new basic supervisor Troy Weaver start to show across the franchise. These plans would get one other large enhance if the Pistons win the 2021 NBA draft lottery, giving them an opportunity to select on the prime of a deep class and provides them a shot at touchdown the franchise’s first homegrown celebrity since Grant Hill within the mid-1990s.

Worst case
If the franchise watches its star spend the season on the shelf with extra accidents and does not get the possibility to flip a resurgent Griffin for future constructing blocks, that might spell hassle. In the meantime, it may imply the Pistons try to get higher rapidly in free company by spending cash on long-term offers that each clog up the staff’s books for years to return and do nothing to enhance Detroit’s standing on the backside of the league.

If the staff’s younger expertise — together with second-year ahead Sekou Doumbouya and the staff’s newest lottery decide — each look extra like busts than long-term suits, that will likely be an issue. And if the staff’s lone different potential intriguing younger participant, Luke Kennard, is not wholesome sufficient to be become a draft asset by the commerce deadline, that may elevate different points.

Detroit may discover itself within the spot it was in after the 2019-20 season: close to the league’s basement however not unhealthy sufficient to realistically have a shot on the No. 1 general decide.

— Tim Bontemps


Finest case
This can be a proud group seeking to compete for an additional NBA title. In a season that goes based on plan, the Warriors turn into the Warriors once more: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Inexperienced stay wholesome and lead the staff again to prominence as a younger bench finds its means. Golden State hits on the No. 2 general draft decide or flips it in a deal to land one other star-caliber participant.

If Curry finds his capturing stroke rapidly after enjoying in simply 5 video games final season due to a hand harm, and Thompson once more turns into the most effective two-way swingmen within the league after lacking all of final season due to an ACL harm, the Warriors have an opportunity to get again into the NBA’s higher echelon.

That course of accelerates if Andrew Wiggins suits into the offense by enjoying off the Warriors’ stars, Kevon Looney turns into a productive participant once more after a 12 months filled with harm issues, and Eric Paschall builds on a stable rookie season and develops right into a trusted member of Steve Kerr’s rotation.

Worst case
If Curry cannot dominate at age 32, or if Thompson struggles to regain his All-Star type greater than a 12 months and a half faraway from his ACL harm, the Warriors will not be the staff we knew. The identical goes for Inexperienced on the defensive finish — they want him to be nice once more.

A powerful supporting forged is important, too. Wiggins and the younger gamers are unproven, and Looney’s well being is a query. It stays to be seen if Curry, Thompson and Inexperienced can discover the identical chemistry with the most recent Warriors that that they had with the previous group, which included glue guys and multifaceted contributors Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. And naturally, the Warriors’ final title staff featured Kevin Durant, who’s now in Brooklyn.

Within the worst-case situation, the Warriors should face the conclusion that their run as title contenders could possibly be ending earlier than they anticipated.

— Nick Friedell


Finest case
The Timberwolves need to see Karl-Anthony Cities and D’Angelo Russell, who performed just one sport collectively after the commerce that united the longtime associates, click on on the court docket and emerge as one of many NBA’s greatest 25-and-under tandems. With this duo combining for near 50 factors per sport, the Timberwolves may crack the NBA’s prime 10 in offensive effectivity.

Earlier than that, the Timberwolves hope to discover a third franchise cornerstone with the No. 1 general decide or by buying and selling the choice. Minnesota particularly wants the trio of Malik Beasley, Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie to be sturdy defensively to assist make up for the shortcomings of the staff’s stars and supply additional proof that they’re high quality rotation gamers.

If the Timberwolves compete for a playoff spot within the loaded West, that is a significant step ahead and a profitable season in Minnesota.

Worst case
Within the worst-case situation, the Timberwolves proceed to be unhealthy defensively. That is a definite danger when constructing round a middle and some extent guard who lack defensive instincts and whose effort on that finish of the ground can typically be politely described as detached.

If the event of the opposite younger potential core gamers on the roster stalls — or in the event that they draft a dud with the No. 1 decide — the Wolves may once more be one of many NBA’s worst groups. And subsequent 12 months, the pingpong balls may not bounce Minnesota’s means. If the Timberwolves slip to No. 4 — simply outdoors of the top-three safety on the decide owed to Golden State because the tax for taking over Andrew Wiggins’ contract within the Russell deal — that might guarantee one other 12 months of distress in Minnesota.

— Tim MacMahon


Finest case
Success subsequent season will not be measured in wins and losses. As an alternative, the Knicks hope to develop a profitable tradition underneath new coach Tom Thibodeau — and particularly an improved protection — and determine the younger gamers who present probably the most promise as centerpieces for his or her rebuild.

The most effective-case situation is that RJ Barrett develops into the celebrity scorer he was drafted to be. And the staff desires to see Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle mesh into an influence entrance line.

The Knicks have six gamers 25 and underneath — together with former lottery picks Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox II — and three of the highest 38 picks in subsequent month’s NBA draft, together with No. eight general. The Knicks want to seek out a place to begin guard and wing amongst these gamers and picks.

Worst case
Absolutely the worst case is that if not one of the younger guys acquire traction or present they’re future NBA influence gamers. Rebuilding is troublesome, however step one is figuring out and creating younger centerpieces. In the event that they squander their alternatives to seek out that younger expertise, the Knicks will proceed to be caught within the lottery purgatory during which they’ve resided since 2013.

If the Knicks proceed to usher in overpriced free brokers, and if Thibodeau takes a “win-now” strategy, the rebuild could possibly be halted earlier than it actually will get going. Thibodeau must be keen to play the children and to keep away from shrinking the rotation for short-term acquire. All in all, the franchise should embrace the chance to construct for the lengthy haul — taking the time to put money into the younger gamers and assess them.

— André Snellings



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