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5 lottery teams primed to return to the playoffs | NBA 2020-21

Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors walks on to the floor for player introductions
Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors walks on to the floor for player introductions
ANALYST
Modified 22 Feb 2021
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With the NBA season closing in on the 2021 All-Star Game, let's take a moment to revisit some intriguing developments this campaign. The 2020-21 NBA season is witnessing new teams making a big splash, powered by huge roster moves and player trades that have proven to be the difference-makers.

While there is a lot of basketball left to be played, the playoff picture is beginning to emerge. Like most seasons, it appears there will be some new contenders fighting their way back into the postseason.

5 lottery teams that have the potential to return to the playoffs in the NBA 2020-21 season

The 2020 offseason saw multiple teams make jaw dropping moves in order to put them back in playoff contention. While some moves like Chris Paul joining the Phoenix Suns proved to be successful. Others, like the point guard swap between the Washington Wizards and the Houston Rockets, has been a failure up until now. The New York Knicks have surprised everyone under the leadership of coach Tom Thibodeau and are looking primed to end their playoff drought this season.

Meanwhile, elite teams like the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors are taking the West by storm, playing at a high level that fans have come to expect from them. The new-look Charlotte Hornets are on the rise, with the likes of Gordon Hayward and new sensation LaMelo Ball transforming the team into a new playoff contender.

On that note, let's take a look at five teams primed to return to the playoffs in the NBA 2020-21 season:

#5 Phoenix Suns

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns celebrates with Chris Paul #3 after defeating the Dallas Mavericks
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns celebrates with Chris Paul #3 after defeating the Dallas Mavericks

The Phoenix Suns have been out of the playoff picture for a while now, ending their previous NBA campaign at the 10th spot in the West with a 34-39 season record. The Suns' front office made a power-packed move in the offseason by adding veteran point 'God' Chris Paul to their roster. The move worked wonders for them as the Phoenix Suns have placed themselves among the top teams in the West this time around.

The Suns' trio of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton are working well together and have been able to strike a balance between front and backcourt roles. Another positive for them this campaign is the team's wealth of role players that are performing at a high level, helping carry the load on both ends of the floor.

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Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, and Jae Crowder have sparked a light with their stellar gameplay this campaign and could cause some serious damage in the postseason. As things stand now, the Phoenix Suns will not only clinch a playoff berth but could pull off a deep run thanks to a home court advantage in round 1.

#4 New York Knicks

Immanuel Quickley #5, Obi Toppin #1, Derrick Rose #4, and Alec Burks #18 of the New York Knicks talk with head coach Tom Thibodeau
Immanuel Quickley #5, Obi Toppin #1, Derrick Rose #4, and Alec Burks #18 of the New York Knicks talk with head coach Tom Thibodeau
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At the start of the new campaign, the New York Knicks appeared to be on the brink of another tough season that would keep them out of the playoff picture. However, the 2020-21 season could mark a turning point in the franchises' postseason woes as the Knicks are looking primed to re-enter the post-season this year.

The Knicks have elevated their game under the leadership of coach Thibodeau, who has transformed them into an elite defensive unit. Then there is the emergence of a re-energized Julius Randle, who is undoubtedly having the best season of his career in the NBA.

RJ Barrett and rookie Immanuel Quickley are making strides, while new acquisition and former Knick, Derrick Rose adds another layer to their offense. The New York Knicks are home to one of the largest fan bases in the NBA and their elevation back into a contender is a great sign for Knicks' fans and the league.

#3 San Antonio Spurs

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Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs instructs his team during an NBA game against the New Orleans Pelicans
Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs instructs his team during an NBA game against the New Orleans Pelicans

The 2020 NBA playoffs marked a monumental shift for long-time Spurs fans as the team did not reach the postseason for the first time in more than two decades. As a result, many wrote of the Spurs even before the current season began, given that they were unable to pull off any highlight move in the offseason.

Fast forward to February, San Antonio Spurs have taken the league by storm, even defeating the defending champions LA Lakers in a fixture where the odds were firmly set against them.

The resurgence of the team serves as a testament to one of the finest coaches in league history, Greg Popovich. He has successfully weathered the storm, guiding his side back into the top eight by doing what the Spurs do best โ€” playing team basketball. The best example of this would be the fact that 8 different players on the Spurs roster are averaging double digits for the season.

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DeMar DeRozan has been the difference-maker, evolving his game to be more of an all-around player, who can score the ball while dishing out assists to create opportunities for the rest of his teammates. Meanwhile, Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson are having a terrific season themselves. The Spurs are not going anywhere and are looking primed to return to the 2021 NBA playoffs.

#2 Golden State Warriors

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr talks to James Wiseman #33 and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr talks to James Wiseman #33 and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors

Like the Spurs, the Golden State Warriors fans were left shocked as the team ended their previous season in the lottery with a 15-50 record. The team that had been in a league of its own till the 2019 season witnessed a drastic U-turn as Kevin Durant parted ways with the franchise to take his talents to the East coast.

Steve Kerr already had his work cut out for him as his team suffered another punch to the gut when news broke that one half of the splash brothers duo, Klay Thompson was not going to be available for the entirety of the the 2020-21 season.

League experts and pundits acted with haste to count them out and for good reason. However, former league MVP and 3x NBA champion, Stephen Curry had other ideas. He decided to prove a point this campaign and has silenced his critics with an MVP caliber season, keeping his team well within the playoff picture so far.

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Curry has received help from Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. as the second and third scoring options but for most parts, it has been the Stephen Curry show and the fans are rejoicing every moment of it. If the 32-year-old can shoot the ball with high accuracy, the Dubs will certainly be returning to the postseason this year.

#1 Charlotte Hornets

LaMelo Ball #2 and Gordon Hayward #20 of the Charlotte Hornets react in a game against the New Orleans Pelicans
LaMelo Ball #2 and Gordon Hayward #20 of the Charlotte Hornets react in a game against the New Orleans Pelicans

The Charlotte Hornets have been one of the most exciting teams to follow this season. LaMelo Ball is electrifying the NBA universe with his stellar play in year one in the league. His playmaking abilities matched with his improving shooting display could prove to be a lethal combination come playoff time.

Meanwhile, the addition of Gordon Hayward has proven to be a winner for the Hornets front office. Hayward got paid like an All-Star in the offseason and the 30-year-old is giving them their money's worth thus far as he leads the team in the scoring department.

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The Eastern Conference will have several teams competing to clinch the final few spots in the post-season, the Hornets being one of them. Terry Rozier has leveled up his game, making a big impact as an elite scorer. Another great sign for coach James Borrego comes in light of seven players averaging in double digits so far. The Charlotte Hornets have all the right pieces this season and could be on their way to end the playoff drought and reach new heights.

Published 22 Feb 2021, 00:24 IST
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