Due to a shortened 72-game NBA season and complications caused by COVID-19, several teams lost the opportunity to get into the NBA playoffs this year. As injuries piled up for the majority of the league, we saw teams that were on the cusp of a playoff berth suddenly lose that chance. Moreover, the NBA play-in tournament resulted in some favorites getting eliminated and some unexpected entrants into the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
5 teams that will make the NBA playoffs next season
If a team finishes above .500 and makes the original 8 seeds, they may still face elimination due to the newly-introduced play-in tournament. As a result, we saw many teams lose the opportunity to make the NBA playoffs. Let's take a look at 5 teams that missed the NBA playoffs this season but might make the postseason next year.
#5 New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans finished the 2020-21 NBA season as the 11th seed in the Western Conference, barely out of reach of the NBA play-in tournament. Their star player, Zion Williamson, got injured during the final stretch of games and many analysts speculated that the Pelicans would have made the playoffs had he remained healthy.
They have a young and talented squad and many were surprised at how their season progressed. Many basketball fans were of the belief that the Pelicans are simply too talented to be a below .500 team.
Zion Williamson recorded one of the best sophomore seasons any player has ever had. He averaged 60%+ from the field as a volume shooter, attempting 17 shots a night and averaging a remarkable 27.0 points per game. 2020 'Most Improved Player': Brandon Ingram was the second-highest scorer on the team, averaging nearly 24 points per game.
Others on the roster like Lonzo Ball, Steven Adams, Josh Hart and Eric Bledsoe are all incredible players. If they improve their defense and start next season with sharpness, it isn't far-fetched to imagine them in the NBA playoffs.
#4 San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs entered the NBA play-in tournament as the 10th seed but unfortunately lost in the first game to the Memphis Grizzlies. They had the second-toughest schedule in the league towards the end of the season and several analysts expected them to stumble. However, coach Gregg Popovich's winning mentality wouldn't let that happen as they defied all odds and ended up in the play-in tournament.
The young core of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker IV, and Jakob Poeltl have shown incredible promise and they have developed quite well this season. Adding to DeMar DeRozan's All-Star performance and veteran experience, the San Antonio Spurs have a very real shot at getting back into the NBA playoffs next season.
#3 Charlotte Hornets
A young and fired-up team - the Charlotte Hornets came extremely close to ending their playoff drought this season. They were the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference at one point in the season and unfortunately, Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball got injured which resulted in a string of losses. The Hornets play with a lot of passion and it looks like the young group has fun on the court when they play.
The Charlotte Hornets ended the season as the 10th seed losing in the NBA play-in tournament. Miles Bridges, LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Devonte' Graham and PJ Washington are all developing at a good pace and have wowed everyone with their chemistry. If health issues don't plague them next season, they can grab a spot in the NBA playoffs next year with their brand of basketball.
#2 Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers ended their season closest to the NBA playoffs seeds, at 9th in the Eastern Conference. They were one play-in game away from grabbing a postseason berth without a chunk of their roster. TJ Warren, Myles Turner, Jeremy Lamb and Caris LeVert were all injured and the team still made it to the NBA play-in tournament.
They have Myles Turner - who ranks first in blocks per game this season - and T.J. McConnell, who is ranked first in steals. Caris LeVert joined the team by the end of the season but was incredible in the little time he played. Moreover, the team is planning on getting a new head coach to help achieve their playoff goals. If everyone is healthy next season and the Indiana Pacers develop chemistry from the get-go, there is no reason why this team shouldn't be in the NBA playoffs.
#1 Golden State Warriors
The most obvious team on this list - the Golden State Warriors - are the one team everyone expects to see in the playoffs season after season. They are the only team on this list who ended the season with a winning record of 39-33 (.542). They ended the regular season as the 8th seed, which is technically a playoff berth in normal conditions.
However, the Golden State Warriors are expected to have Klay Thompson back next season, and also sign a supermax extension with Stephen Curry. With "The Splash Brothers" coming back, many analysts have predicted that the Warriors will not only make the playoffs but in fact reach the Western Conference Finals.
Stephen Curry put in the best shooting season of his career and the team went 15-5 in their final 20 games of the season. Their role-players have developed well and they are certainly going to make noise in the Western Conference next season.