Last year, the Minnesota Timberwolves ended 23-49. This year they finished 7th in the West at 46-36. The Memphis Grizzlies also went from the 8th seed to the 2nd seed in one year. It feels that every year young teams are stepping up and becoming playoff contenders. With the regular season being over, it’s time to speculate which teams can make this leap for next year.
NBA Teams That Can Make That Next Leap
NBA Teams With Contender Leap Potential
This type of team is a young team that can compete for a championship as soon as next year. They have proved they can win, yet haven’t put it all together yet. This would be similar to this year’s Grizzlies team. The following teams hope to be top seeds in the years to come.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans finished this year as the 8th seed with a 36-46 record. This team has shown a lot of potential from their young players. Brandon Ingram has shown he can be the number one option on a playoff-caliber team. They also have great young role defenders in Herbert Jones and Jose Alvarado. On top of that, they have some great veterans such as CJ McCollum and Jonas Valančiūnas that can provide a winning mentality. This has all been without debatably their best player Zion Williamson. This All-Star level player returning with great role players around him, and a secondary star could make a scary Western team.
The Cavaliers were one of the east’s top teams this year before injuries plagued their season. Although they sadly lost in their play-in games, this team has a lot to be optimistic about. Evan Mobley is an All-Defensive caliber player in his first year. They also saw two new All-Stars this year with Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen. With this team continuing to add players, as well as having a surprisingly deep roster, this team could easily be an Eastern Conference contender.
NBA Teams With Playoff Pushing Potential
Not every team can compete for a championship. Some teams end up making pushes for the playoffs after being a bad team for years. Last year this team was the Timberwolves who finished with a terrible record, to being an efficient playoff team. These teams hope to make the leap to the playoffs, and possibly even avoid the play-in game.
Yes, the Magic do have the worst record in the Eastern Conference. This also means they will have a top pick in the draft this year. On top of this pick, they have great young players in Franz Wagner and Cole Anthony who have shown they can play quality minutes and put up decent stats. They also have some players who could pan out nicely for them in Jalen Suggs, Wendell Carter Jr, Mo Bamba, and Chuma Okeke. If a couple of these players play how they hope, Orlando could see a serious leap in their standings.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have been in full rebuild ever since they traded Chris Paul. This could all change soon if the Thunder make a push. Sam Presti has done a great job acquiring picks for this team. Picks can only get a team so far though and if they packaged some of these picks together to help build a team, they could be in serious playoff contention. They have found their guys in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. They also have young quality role players in Lu Dort, Tre Mann, and Darius Bazley. If the Thunder make some winning moves, playoff contention isn’t impossible.
Is This Likely?
Not every team can make the playoffs, or be in contention. These teams have big off-seasons ahead of them to help reach these goals. If they have a successful off-season, they currently have some decent pieces in place to reach any expectations they set for themselves.
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