NBA 2020-21 Season Preview

The brand new NBA season is set to tip-off on 22nd December in what could potentially be the most captivating season yet.

Due to you-know-what, this season is going to be slightly shorter, with 72 regular season games instead of 82.

We can’t wait for the action to get underway, and here at Betfred, we’re going to give you a run down of every team – the contenders, pretenders and everything else in between.

 

Atlanta Hawks – 100/1 for NBA Title

The Hawks will be looking to end a three-year postseason drought when this season gets underway.

They’ve managed to keep hold of the majority of their core, but the roster still looks very different from the 2019-20 season.

In addition to Clint Capela, who did not play a game with the team after being acquired near the trade deadline, the team has added a rookie big man in Onyeka Okongwu as well as free agents Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn, and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

The prospect of pairing Trae Young with big man Capela is an enticing one, and the Hawks did some marvellous work in free agency.

Danilo Gallinari is coming off of a season in which he averaged 19 points and Rajan Rondo, another big-time veteran addition, played an integral role in the Lakers title run. Kris Dunn is an elite on-ball defender and Okongwu has the potential to be an elite rim protector while he’s still raw offensively.

Bogdanovic provides clutch scoring as a veteran, filling a much-needed void in the team.

On paper, this is the most talented Hawks team in a long time, and it will be interesting to see if they can make a playoff push.

 

Boston Celtics – 14/1 for NBA Title

The Celtics have locked up their star wings in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to long term contracts, giving Celtics fans an insight into where the future of the franchise lies.

Brown is coming off the best season of his career, averaging 20 points, six rebounds and two assists, while Tatum took a leap into superstardom last year, earning an All-Star selection. Surely the first of many.

Tatum could potentially blossom into a potential MVP candidate should he pick up where he left off in September.

Tristian Thompson is probably the biggest signing the Celtics made in the offseason, and he immediately gives them a physical presence in the paint that can keep up with the likes of Bam Adebayo or Joel Emiid.

The big question mark heading into the season is the health of Kemba Walker. The Celtics have already said that Walker could miss the opening few games, and if they want to make a push for the title, they need Walker back at full strength.

 

Brooklyn Nets – 6/1 for NBA Title

In the league, there are few teams as interesting as the Nets entering the 2020-21 season.

From the one-two punch of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant (both below) to the supporting cast of Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, to a coaching staff headlined by first-time head coach Steve Nash, it will be fascinating to see how it all plays out at the Barclays Center.

At long last, we will see Irving and Durant take the court as teammates this season. Durant, of course, tore his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals as a Golden State Warrior, therefore he missed the whole season last year.

Together, Irving and KD form one of the league’s most dynamic duos. On paper, they certainly have the ability to turn Brooklyn into title contenders. However, a lot of that could hinge on how Durant recovers from tearing his Achilles.

The job of putting the pieces together falls on Steve Nash, a two-time MVP and first ballot Hall of Famer, and widely regarded as being one of the greatest point guards in NBA history. However, coaching is different to playing, but Nash has aligned himself with experience with his coaching staff, including the likes of Mike D’Antoni and Amar’e Stoudemire.

 

Charlotte Hornets – 200/1 for NBA Title

The Hornets drafted LaMelo Ball with the No.3 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, and with their existing guard line-up of Terry Rozier and Devonte Graham, their backcourt just got even better.

It’s clear that Charlotte’s backcourt is their main strength but adding a playmaker like Ball to it allows the Hornets to use it in multiple ways.

It remains to be seen whether LaMelo can make an immediate impact on the franchise or whether he’ll take time to evolve into the cornerstone that the Hornets expect him to be.

The other notable addition was the signing of Gordon Hayward in free agency.

They may have overpaid, but it’s worth remembering that Hayward has played in three of the past four NBA playoffs, bringing a ton of a experience to the Hornets’ young brigade.

 

Chicago Bulls – 100/1 for NBA Title

The Bulls are all set for a fresh start with a new head coach in Billy Donovan, and a young core consisting of Coby White, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markannen and Wendell Carter Jr., plus rookie Patrick Williams, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2020 Draft.

There’s no doubt the franchise would love to return back to the iconic status they achieved in the 90s with a certain Michael Jordan leading the charge.

Donovan seems to be a great fit in Chicago, given his experience working with younger players at the college level in winning two national championships with Florida and, more recently, taking the youthful Oklahoma City Thunder to the playoffs.

Can this young core push for the eighth seed in the East?

 

Cleveland Cavaliers – 200/1 for NBA Title

In the six seasons the Cavaliers have played without their prodigal son LeBron James since 2003, they’ve only finished higher than 13th in the East, once.

To me, it still feels like the Cavaliers haven’t figured out their backcourt – it’s pretty crowded. They currently have six guards on the roster, at the time of writing.

Isaac Okoro was selected fifth by Cleveland in the 2020 NBA Draft, a smart move considering their offence-heavy guard line-up.

With an astonshinly poor record without LeBron James, the Cavs need to lay a foundation with some of the young pieces they have. Nobody is denying the talent in Ohio but there seems to be a lack of direction.

 

Dallas Mavericks – 25/1 for NBA Title

In last season’s first round of the playoffs, the injury-plagued Dallas Mavericks were eliminated and will be without Kristaps Porzingis for the start of the 2020-21 season.

Luka Doncic has lived up to the hype so far but the question is whether he can continue to lift his status as a possible candidate for MVP and take the Mavericks as far as they can go.

His first playoff performance certainly didn’t disappoint last season. He dropped 42 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in his playoff debut before topping that performance with a triple-double of 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists, capped off by a game-winning buzzer-beater against the L.A. Clippers.

It seems the stage is set for the Slovenian to take the basketball world by storm in his third year in the league.

If he can lead Dallas toward the top of the Western Conference, winning MVP is a reasonable goal for the superstar.

 

Denver Nuggets – 22/1 for NBA Title

The Nuggets have lost some key pieces from their Conference Finals run from last season.

Will they be able to overcome those losses to again be among the contenders out West?

Jerami Grant became a central part of the Nuggets defence but he decided to opt for pastures new with Detroit.

Along with Grant, Mason Plumlee also found himself accepting a lucrative deal in Detroit, robbing the Nuggets of their every night backup centre behind superstar Nikola Jokic.

There’s also question marks over whether Jamal Murray can maintain his superstar bubble play?

In the bubble in Orlando, Murray averaged 27 points, 7 rebounds and shot 45% from behind the 3-point line. It will be interesting to see if the 23-year-old has made the permanent step into the superstar category or was this simply a bubble phenomenon?

 

Detroit Pistons – 200/1 for NBA Title

The Pistons had a very busy offseason.

They selected young French guard Killian Hayes with the No.7 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, and we’ve touched on the aforementioned moves for Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee from the Nuggets.

In terms of general direction, the Pistons got younger. On draft night, general manager Troy Weaver acquired a couple of first-round picks, giving Detroit a total of three selections in the top 20. After choosing Hayes with the seventh pick, he selected Isaiah Stewart with the 16th overall pick and Saddiq Bey with the 19th overall pick.

Now, the Pistons have a number of promising prospects, all of whom play different positions. How these young talented players turn out, only time will tell, but if put under the right development plan, the Pistons could be looking at a great young core in a couple of years.

In terms of this season, entering the postseason will be the aim. But, with the Eastern Conference becoming more competitive, it’s hard to see them joining the playoff picture.

 

Golden State Warriors – 22/1 for NBA Title

The Warriors had the worst record in the league last year, mainly due to injuries.

Klay Thompson, who missed the entire 2019-20 season through injury, sadly tore his Achilles in November and is likely to miss the entirety of this upcoming season, also.

Thompson is widely considered one of the best two-way players in the league, and he will be a big miss for the Dubs.

That means the offensive burden will likely fall to Stephen Curry (below), who let’s not forget is a two-time league MVP. With Thompson side-lined, the Warriors will be hoping that Curry can stay healthy and lead them back to the promised land once more.

Golden State also selected James Wiseman with their No.2 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, who fills a need at the centre position now, but also carries significant upside into the future. If Wiseman can hit the ground running, then the Warriors would benefit greatly from it.

 

Houston Rockets – 33/1 for NBA Title

The Rockets have undergone major changes in the offseason. Russell Westbrook was traded to the Washington Wizards in a deal that involved sending John Wall the other way.

It’s been nearly two years since Wall has appeared in an NBA game, after undergoing surgeries on his left heel and his left Achilles tendon. Now, two questions emerge; Will Wall return to a level near his All-Star calibre play? And, simply put, will a backcourt of James Harden and Wall work?

There are still rumours that James Harden (below) wants out of Houston but that remains to be seen.

It’s not just the roster that has undergone change but the head coaching position too. After the Rockets, playoff elimination last season, Mike D’Antoni and the franchise agreed to mutually part ways.

This led to Stephen Silas becoming the new man in charge. Silas comes to Houston after spending a few seasons in Dallas, where he was credited with manufacturing the Mavericks’ historically-efficient offence.

Now, he has the opportunity to craft an offence around perhaps the most gifted scoring guard in the league in Harden.

 

Indiana Pacers – 80/1 for NBA Title

The Pacers have qualified for the playoffs in five consecutive seasons but all five appearances have resulted in a first-round exit.

With their core group of Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo all expected to start the season at full health, this could be the year that the Pacers make it past the first-round.

TJ Warren became a household name for his performances in the Orlando bubble, but when the Pacers faced the Miami Heat, they made life much more difficult for him.

Will we see the seeding games version of Warren or have the Heat given other teams the blueprint on how to stop the prolific scorer? Because if it’s the former, then Indiana could be in for a cracking season.

 

Los Angeles Clippers – 6/1 for NBA Title

The Clippers will be terribly disappointed with their second round playoff exit in last season’s bubble.

With a new head coach in Ty Lue, there’s no doubt that the Clippers will have championship aspirations and a point to prove heading into the 2020-21 season.

They’re still headlined by Kawhi Leonard (below) and Paul George and they’ve now added Serge Ibaka to the mix giving the Clippers a more versatile look in the frontcourt, with his elite rim protection, floor spacing, and the defensive flexibility to switch out onto the perimeter.

Not only are the Clippers adding a playoff-tested veteran, but his relationship with Leonard, who he won a ring with in Toronto, could prove invaluable given the locker room issues that appeared to unsettle them during the postseason last year.

The battle for L.A. could be back on.

Kawhi Leonard

 

Los Angeles Lakers – 11/4 for NBA Title

The Los Angeles Lakers tied the Boston Celtics for the most titles in NBA history with 17, finishing the 2019-20 season as NBA champions.

It was the first franchise championship since 2010 and it helped them retain their record of being the only franchise in the history of the league with at least one appearance in each decade in the Finals.

Superstar duo LeBron James (below) and Anthony Davis were both locked up to long-term deals in the offseason, which poses the question of whether this team can become a dynasty.

You could also claim that the Lakers have ‘won’ the offseason – their roster has become younger, deeper and most importantly – better.

For every player, they let go or traded, they acquired a viable replacement at the same spot on the depth chart. Wesley Matthews for Danny Green, Dennis Schroder for Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol for JaVale McGee and Montrezl Harrell for Dwight Howard.

Can they repeat as champs?

 

Memphis Grizzlies – 100/1 for NBA Title

We’ve mentioned several times that the Western Conference is set to be competitive as ever.

The Grizzlies finished ninth last season, and will be hoping that this year, they can push for that eighth seed.

The problem that they could have is that they are one of several teams hungry to secure a playoff berth.

Ja Morant enjoyed a sensational rookie campaign, landing the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award as a result. What we saw last season from Morant surely looks like a taste of what’s to come.

Jaren Jackson Jr. is another promising talent on the Memphis books, but question marks remain over his health. Leg injuries side-lined him for 24 games in his rookie season and his sophomore season ended with a meniscus tear.

With both Jackson and Morant both only 21 years of age, they could develop into one of the league’s best one-two punches in years to come.

 

Miami Heat – 16/1 for NBA Title

What a season it was for the Miami Heat last year, reaching the NBA Finals.

However, while the defending champions of the Eastern Conference made some changes this offseason to their roster, will it be enough to fend off other rivals?

Milwaukee acquired Jrue Holiday, Boston added Tristan Thompson and the Philadelphia 76ers underwent an overhaul that included a coaching change, the East looks much different than it did last year.

Jimmy Butler was sensational in Miami’s charge to the Finals, and there will be question marks over whether he can produce similar performances this season.

 

Milwaukee Bucks – 6/1 for NBA Title

Championship or bust?

It’s been 46 long years since the Bucks made the NBA Finals, but with a two-time MVP in their ranks in Giannis Antetokounmpo and the addition of all-star Jrue Holiday, they should be the winners of the East, again.

The good news for Milwaukee is that Antetokounmpo signed his max contract extension before the season started, putting an end to needless speculation about his future, that surely would have crept in when the season go underway.

The ‘Greek Freak’ stated that Milwaukee is “home” and is “his city”. What better way to prove that then by winning a chip.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

 

Minnesota Timberwolves – 150/1 for NBA Title

With the No.1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Anthony Edwards, joining the dynamic duo of D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns, the Minnesota Timberwolves have their sights set on the postseason, but they’ll have their work cut out for them in a competitive Western Conference.

The Timberwolves has the third worst record in the league last season, which obviously helped them secure the No.1 pick.

Anthony Edwards will surely add some much-needed scoring to a Timberwolves offense which was ranked 24th in the league last season.

Minnesota will be hoping to get some consistency from D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. Injuries disrupted their time together on the court last year, but the pair combined for 45 points and 12 assists in a loss to the Toronto Raptors, giving fans a glimpse of how damaging their one-two punch combination will be.

How far can that duo take them? The fans will be hoping to a playoff spot – they’ve only made the post-season just once in the last 16 seasons.

 

New Orleans Pelicans – 40/1 for NBA Title

The Pelicans come into this campaign with high expectations.

Injuries, and mainly the league’s hiatus made it difficult for Zion Williamson to make an impact in his rookie season.

With an offseason now under his belt, he’ll be determined to show the league what he can do at full-flight.

New head coach Stan Van Gundy has made it clear that defence is the priority for the Pelicans this season after they ranked 21st in efficiency last year.

They’ve only made the playoffs twice in the past nine seasons, so surely that is the aim this year.

With a healthy Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram coming off an All-Star appearance, plus the additions of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams, the Pelicans have a strong mix of youth and experience to make a push in 2020-21.

 

New York Knicks – 250/1 for NBA Title

Can new head coach Tom Thibodeau get the Knicks back on track?

Thibodeau joins the Knicks following stints with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves. He compiled a 352-246 record with the two franchises, giving him the sixth-best winning percentage among active coaches.

Thibs is notorious for giving his teams a defensive identity, and the Knicks have been craving that for a number of years.

They last made the postseason back in 2013 when Carmelo Anthony was the hottest ticket in town.

Nowadays, they have some talented young pieces in the form of RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin, who was the No.8 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Barrett had an up-and-down rookie season but ended it on a high.

In New York’s final eight games before the season was suspended, Barrett posted averages of 18 points, four rebounds and four assists. Can he pick up where he left off?

 

Oklahoma City Thunder – 80/1 for NBA Title

This upcoming season looks set to mark the start of a new era for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

With 14 new players and a new head coach, thing certainly look much different.

Third-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looks to be leading the way, but can he lead the Thunder to a playoff spot?

With the departure of Chris Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander will have a more expansive role for the Thunder this season, and he comes into this campaign having led Oklahoma City in scoring last year.

While Gilgeous-Alexander is without question the franchise player, newly-hired head coach Mark Daigneault is the team’s new leader.

Daigneault has come from the OKC’s G-League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, therefore, he seems like the perfect voice to lead a young Thunder roster.

A playoff spot may be too tall of an ask for this young OKC team, but management will be hoping to build a foundation this year to be a title contender in years to come.

 

Orlando Magic – 100/1 for NBA Title

The Magic have made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and will be hoping they can make it for a third consecutive year, this season.

Without young defensive star Jonathan Isaac, who will miss the entire season with a torn ACL suffered in the bubble, Orlando won’t get to see what its fully healthy roster looks like.

All-Star centre Nikola Vucevic and former top-five pick Aaron Gordon will have the task of carrying Orlando to the postseason, but with the Eastern Conference becoming increasingly competitive, it might not be so straightforward.

The Magic will be hoping that Gordon can make the next step in becoming the player that they need him to be. Although, this feels like a recurring question every season since Gordon was drafted back in 2014.

A young backcourt of Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony also gives Magic fans plenty of reasons to optimistic about the future.

 

Philadelphia 76ers – 20/1 for NBA Title

Is this the season for the Philadelphia 76ers?

They’ve been ‘trusting the process’ for several seasons now, with little to show for it.

All-star duo Joel Embiid (below) and Ben Simmons are entering their fourth season together, and expectations are higher than ever.

Doc Rivers’ arrival ushers in a new era in Philly, and with a talented roster at his disposal, they’re expected to take the next step under his stewardship.

With the arrivals of Seth Curry and Danny Green, the Sixers now have a supporting cast of shooters who can space the floor for Simmons’ and Embiid’s benefit.

They’re a potential dark horse for the title next season, if the pieces fall into place.

 

Phoenix Suns – 40/1 for NBA Title

The Suns haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, which is the second-longest drought in the league.

However, with the addition of Chris Paul, is their fortune about to change?

Acquiring Paul certainly outlines the Suns’ ambitions this season – make the postseason at all costs.

The veteran guard showed last year in Oklahoma City, that he can still be the difference-maker on a winning team.

Paul is the headline acquisition, but the Suns also added Jae Crowder, E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway and Abdel Nader to an already young and talented roster.

In addition, in the Orlando bubble last season, the Suns went 8-0 in the games they played – no other team managed that. Will that momentum carry over?

Devin Booker was the star in the bubble, and he’ll be expected to take biggest jump while playing alongside Paul.

 

Portland Trail Blazers – 40/1 for NBA Title

Will the new-look Blazers be a real threat in the West this season?

The same core of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic are returning but it the Blazers were one of the more active teams in the offseason, adding Robert Covington, Enes Kanter, Harry Giles III and Derrick Jones Jr. to their roster.

Damian Lillard (below) is one of the best players in the league, and he took his game to a new level in the bubble restart. It will be interesting to see if he can build on those performances.

If he can and the Blazers finish in the top half of the Western Conference playoff picture, expect to hear his name in a lot of MVP conversations this season.

 

Sacramento Kings – 150/1 for NBA Title

For the last 13 seasons, the Sacramento Kings have missed the playoffs – the longest playoff drought in the NBA.

Is this the year that they’re actually returning to the playoffs or are they going to have to wait another year?

A key piece for the Kings is De’Aaron Fox. He’s coming off a season that saw him average career highs across the board, but in a league that’s rich with backcourt talent, Fox seems to be flying under the radar.

From the pieces that the Kings have in place, it seems like Fox will have to do much of the heavy lifting on his own.

It’s hard to see the Kings joining the postseason party with how stacked the West is, but suppose you never know.

 

San Antonio Spurs – 100/1 for NBA Title

The Spurs failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades last season.

Gregg Popovich has been in the hotseat for San Antonio since 1999, and he’s coached some brilliant championship winning teams.

However, this iteration of the Spurs is a far cry from some of the dominant teams Popovich has led throughout his career.

There’s some veteran experience in the form of DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay, meaning they could remain competitive, but this roster is mainly comprised with youth.

Will Popovich persevere with his vets or head in a youthful direction?

 

Toronto Raptors – 20/1 for NBA Title

The 2019 champions lost two key pieces this offseason, with Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol both opting for Los Angeles. Ibaka joined former Raptor Kawhi Leonard at the Clippers, while Marc Gasol followed his brother Pau’s footsteps and joined the Lakers.

However, Toronto re-signed guard Fred VanVleet, and they added a couple of new faces through free agency to bolster their roster depth.

Pascal Siakam’s playoff performances last season didn’t maintain the standard he set himself in the championship winning season, but regardless, he is still one of the rising stars of this league.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse is one of the best in the NBA, so they will be primed for another deep playoff run this season.

 

Utah Jazz – 25/1 to win NBA Title

The Jazz have made the playoffs for the past four years, but can they take the next step towards securing a maiden NBA Championship?

Donovan Mitchell enjoyed a sensational playoff series against Denver in the bubble, and like many players there, we’re now wondering if they have taken the next step towards superstardom, or whether it was just a bubble sensation.

Two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert recently signed the third-richest deal in NBA history – will that come back to haunt the Jazz?

With more teams opting for a ‘small ball’ approach,  the pressure will be on Utah to try and maximise Gobert’s impact while he is on the court.

 

Washington Wizards – 100/1 to win NBA Title

Welcome to the Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal era of Wizards basketball.

It’s fair to say that the Wizards stunned the NBA this offseason in trading John Wall for Russell Westbrook. This move raises Washington’s ceiling this season, but it hinges on Westbrook and Bradley Beal singing from the same hymn sheet.

Together, that can be one of the highest scoring duos in the league, but it depends on how each they adjust to each other’s game.

Westbrook wanted out of Houston, because he wanted a role similar to the one he had in Oklahoma City – basically where he was ‘the guy’. He won’t have complete control of the offence in Washington after the season Beal just had but he should look more like the player we saw in OKC rather than H-Town.

The key area that the Wizards need to improve is defence. They could be one of the most exciting teams to watch this season but ultimately their weaknesses at the defensive end could be their own undoing.

 

So there we have it. Who do you think will be crowned 2020/21 NBA Champions? It looks set to be a brilliant season, and we can’t wait for it to get underway.

For all the latest NBA markets and betting, see here.

 

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