The 2020-2021 NBA Season kicks off on Christmas Day this year. After winning the 2020 NBA Championship, the Los Angeles Lakers begin their title defense. Other teams will also look to challenge the Lakers this year for the championship. There are some legit contenders and a lot of possible pretenders. We will preview some of the contenders this upcoming season.
Los Angeles Lakers
Departures: Rajon Rondo (Atlanta Hawks), Dwight Howard (Philadelphia 76ers), Avery Bradley (Miami Heat), JaVale McGee (Cleveland Cavaliers), and Danny Green (Philadelphia 76ers).
Additions: Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews, Alfonzo McKinnie, and Dennis Schröder.
After beating the Miami Heat to win the 2020 NBA Finals, the Lakers had every opportunity to stand pat during free agency, but that was not the case. The Lakers did lose some key contributors, but they could retool their roster for a potential repeat. The Lakers were able to acquire the Sixth man of the year in Harrell and Schröder, the runner up for the award. Gasol provides defense and rim protection, and Matthews is also a capable defender and knockdown three-point shooter. Given the Lakers’ moves, while also retaining Anthony Davis, the Lakers are the early season favorite to repeat.
Los Angeles Clippers
Departures: JaMychal Green (Denver Nuggets), Montrezl Harrell (Los Angeles Lakers), Landry Shamet (Brooklyn Nets).
Additions: Nicolas Batum, Ky Bowman, Serge Ibaka, and Luke Kennard.
The Clippers last season were viewed as a legit title contender, but they lost to the Denver Nuggets in the second round of last season’s playoffs. Losing reigning sixth man of the year Harrell to the Lakers was a massive loss along with Green, a quality perimeter defender. The Clippers still have Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and should always be in the Championship hunt this season. One glaring need for the Clippers is a pass-first point guard. Patrick Beverly, the current starting point guard, is a defensive specialist but not known for his offense or playmaking abilities. The Clippers re-signed Reggie Jackson as well, but Jackson is a score-first point guard.
Departures: Torrey Craig (Milwaukee Bucks, Jerami Grant (Detroit Pistons), and Mason Plumlee (Detroit Pistons).
Additions: JaMychal Green
Losing Craig and Grant, both exceptional defenders, will hurt, but Denver has depth. If forward, Michael Porter Jr takes another step in his development that will offset Grant’s loss. Expect shooting guard Gary Harris to have a bounce-back season this year. This team will go as far as their dynamic duo Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic take them.
Departures: Seth Curry (Philadelphia 76ers), Justin Jackson (Oklahoma City Thunder), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (New York Knicks), Delon Wright (Detroit Pistons).
Additions: James Johnson and Josh Richardson
The Mavericks lost some shooting with Curry, but they have enough with Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Kristaps Porzingis. The Mavericks lost in the first round last year, but they missed Porzingis, who dealt with a knee injury. If healthy, this Dallas Team can make some noise come postseason time.
Departures: Eric Bledsoe (New Orleans Pelicans), George Hill (Oklahoma City Thunder), Ersan Ilyasova, Kyle Korver, Robin Lopez (Washington Wizards), Wesley Matthews (Los Angeles Lakers), and Marvin Williams.
Additions: D.J. Augustin, Torrey Craig, Bryn Forbes, Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis, and Nik Stauskas.
The Bucks have come up short the last two postseasons failing to reach the NBA Finals after being the prohibitive favorite representing the Eastern Conference. After rehauling their roster this past offseason, the Bucks, led by MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, look to finally get over the hump.
Departures: Gordon Hayward (CHA), Enes Kanter (POR), Vincent Poirier (OKC), Brad Wanamaker (GSW)
Additions: Jeff Teague, Tristan Thompson
Kemba Walker’s ongoing knee troubles will be a story to monitor throughout the year. Jeff Teague is a capable backup if Kemba misses any time. Hayward’s departure provides more opportunities for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to have the ball in their hands. Adding Thompson provides more defensive support and rebounding.
Departures: Jae Crowder (Phoenix Suns), Solomon Hill (Atlanta Hawks), Derrick Jones Jr. (Portland Trailblazers).
Additions: Avery Bradley and Moe Harkless
The Miami Heat look to build off last year’s playoff run, which put them in the Finals for the 1st time since 2014. Bradley and Harkless are both capable defenders, and Bradley is a great three-point shooter. Expect Miami to be in the thick of things come playoffs led by Jimmy Butler.
Departures: Alec Burks (New York Knicks), Al Horford (Oklahoma City Thunder), Josh Richardson (Dallas Mavericks)
Additions: Seth Curry, Terrance Ferguson, Danny Green, Dwight Howard,
The Sixers are looking to respond after last years 1st round exit. Green and Curry provide three-point shooting, while Ferguson is an excellent young wing player. Howard is a capable backup to Embiid. Philadelphia
Departures: Justin Anderson (PHI), Michael Beasley, Wilson Chandler, Jamal Crawford, Garrett Temple (Chicago Bulls),
Additions: Bruce Brown, Jeff Green, Landry Shamet
Kevin Durant will make his debut after missing all of last season recovering from a torn Achilles. Along with Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert, Brooklyn is a serious threat to come out of the Eastern Conference this year. Rookie head coach Steve Nash will have his work cut out for him.
This season promises to be very exciting, mainly because the conferences appear to be more balanced. All-Star James Harden (Houston Rockets) will get traded at some point, an ongoing storyline to monitor throughout the season.
Other teams to watch include Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, and the Utah Jazz.