It’s only a matter of time before the 2019-20 NBA campaign resumes, as the new format was approved by the National Basketball Players Association last week.
But here is the thing: the remainder of the season and playoffs will take place at Disney World in Orlando, and only 22 of the 30 NBA teams will be participating.
You can do the easy math: that means eight clubs have not been invited, and those eight squads were the ones that had virtually no chance of making the playoffs.
However, there is reason for optimism in 2020-21 for a few of these teams.
Here are three of the NBA clubs that did not receive an invite to Disney World who could make a jump next season.
3. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks were expected by some to take a small leap this year, but instead, they were pretty terrible. But make no mistake: there is plenty of talent here.
Of course, Atlanta is led by young sharpshooter Trae Young, who had a breakout season in what was his sophomore year. It doesn’t just stop at Young, however.
The Hawks also have youthful pieces such as John Collins, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, and we know that Kevin Huerter can dial it up from long distance.
Plus, Atlanta helped solidify its frontcourt defense by swinging a trade for Clint Capela near the deadline.
Don’t get me wrong: the Hawks still have a ways to go before they can legitimately compete. Even with the addition of Capela, the team remains rather pitiful defensively, and the jury is obviously out on most of the club’s young talent.
It doesn’t help matters much that free agents are not exactly going to flock to Atlanta.
That being said, the Hawks have one of the more enviable young cores in the NBA, so it might just take some experience to finally push them over the hump.
2. Chicago Bulls
Like the Hawks, many thought the Bulls would be significantly better this season, even potentially competing for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference.
Clearly, that did not happen.
Lauri Markkanen took a major step back, Wendell Carter Jr. was banged up once again, and while Zach LaVine was rather brilliant as a scorer, he clearly had his issues with Jim Boylen.
Boylen may very well be the main problem with this Bulls squad right now, as the players don’t seem to like him all that much. Plus, his decision-making has been, uh, questionable, to say the least.
A recent regime change in Chicago may ultimately spell the end for Boylen, which may cause Bulls fans to rejoice even more than they did when the GarPax era was canned.
Assuming Otto Porter Jr. exercises his player option for next season (given that he will make $28.5 million if he does, it’s hard to see him turning it down), Chicago won’t be able to add much to its roster this offseason.
But that doesn’t mean the Bulls won’t improve.
There’s reason to still have faith in Markkanen, who showed tremendous skill over his first couple of seasons. LaVine has turned into a legitimately good player (at least offensively), Carter is a potential defensive anchor and Coby White broke out as a scorer right before the season was suspended.
Look for Chicago to take some steps toward improvement next NBA season.
1. Golden State Warriors
The fact that the Warriors may end up with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft is just a cruel thought for the rest of the NBA.
Let’s not forget that the trio of Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green won a title in 2015 and marched to 73 wins in 2016, so those three guys are kind of good together.
To be fair, those previous Dubs teams also had role players such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, so the 2020 Warriors will likely not be as good as those 2015 or 2016 iterations, especially since the star core is aging.
However, if Golden State lands a top-three pick, the franchise can either draft a possible stud or trade it as part of a package for another star player. (Perhaps the Dubs can attach Andrew Wiggins’ contract to the pick?)
Either way, assuming that both Curry and Thompson come back healthy next season, the Dubs stand to make a major jump in record. Will they be contending for an NBA championship right off the bat? That obviously depends on what else the club does this offseason, as the two Los Angeles teams aren’t going anywhere, and the rest of the Western Conference is no joke.
But you would be remiss to discount the Warriors, especially taking into consideration the potential fireworks they can set off in the coming months.