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With the first half of the 2020-21 NBA season schedule coming out late last week, get a quick look at all the teams the Wine & Gold will face off with in the campaign's first 38 games.
The Hornets have reached the postseason just once since they became the Hornets again, but with a big draft – tabbing LaMelo Ball at No. 3 overall and Vernon Carey Jr. at the top of the second round – and another big free agent signing – luring Gordon Hayward from the Celtics – Charlotte is looking to make their move.
Last year, P.J. Washington was an All-Rookie Second Teamer, DeVonte Graham was one of the league’s most improved players and Youngstown native Terry Rozier showed that he could be the man.
Record vs. Last Season: 1-1 | 2020-21 Home: 12/23
Blake Griffin was limited to just 18 games last season and the Pistons won just 20. Andre Drummond is now a Cavalier. Things are changing in Motown, and the Pistons come into the season feeling optimistic about their group of young guns.
Detroit snagged crafty international combo-guard Killian Hayes with the 7th overall pick and got rugged forward Saddiq Bey a dozen picks later. On the veteran end, Derrick Rose goes into his 12th season, coming off a campaign averaging 18.1ppg off the bench.
Record vs. Last Season: 2-2 | 2020-21 Home: 1/27 | 2020-21 Away: 12/26
The Sixers didn’t make a ton of roster changes in the offseason, but they really didn’t have to. Their problem hasn’t been talent; it’s been getting it to translate into postseason success. Enter Doc Rivers, looking for redemption after a frustrating end in L.A.
The Sixers tweaked things with the additions of Dwight Howard and Seth Curry, but essentially Doc will try to get Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons, one of the best two-way players in the game, to get Philly past the Second Round for the first time in 20 years.
Record vs. Last Season: 1-3 | 2020-21 Home: 2/27 | 2020-21 Away: 12/27
The Knicks would consider getting to the Second Round pretty sweet, last having reached the Playoffs in 2012-13, with J.R. Smith as their second-leading scorer. But after seismic changes in the front office – with Leon Rose taking over as team president – at head coach – bringing in Tom Thibodeau – and big Draft night, getting Brooklyn native Obi Toppin without having to trade up from No. 8.
New York will now try to build from a young core that already includes Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and last year’s top pick, R.J. Barrett. Mix in veterans Julius Randle and Austin Rivers and maybe this is the year the Knicks finally get back to the postseason.
Record vs. Last Season: 1-3 | 2020-21 Home: 12/29, 1/15 | 2020-21 Away: 1/29
Speaking of coaching changes, the Pacers made the Playoffs in each of the last five postseasons (but were swept out in three of them) and made a coaching change, replacing Nate McMillan with former Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren.
Victor Oladipo was limited to just 19 games last year and Domantas Sabonis didn’t play in the Bubble. That shortened Indiana’s postseason run, but it did allow T.J. Warren to emerge as the squad’s leading scorer.
The issue for Indiana now is getting it back all together healthy. Add Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon to the mix and the Pacers could re-emerge as legitimate Eastern Conference contenders.
Record vs. Last Season: 1-2 | 2020-21 Home: 3/3 | 2020-21 Away: 1/21
The Hawks seem like a team ready to make their move.
Trae Young proved to be a piece to build around and John Collins has been a revelation in just his third year. Last year’s class – DeAndre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Bruno Fernando – had solid but not spectacular rookie seasons. And last month, the Hawks beefed up in the middle, drafting shot-blocking big man Onyeka Okongwu.
But this offseason, the Hawks fortified that youth movement, bringing in Rajon Rondo, off his second NBA title, along with Tony Snell, Danilo Gallinari and emerging young vet, Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Record vs. Last Season: 2-0 | 2020-21 Home: 2/23 | 2020-21 Away: 1/2
Steve Clifford proved his coaching chops once again last season, taking Orlando back to the postseason and giving the Bucks a series once it got there. But aside from inking veteran scorer Eric Gordon, they were awfully quiet in the offseason and the gap between the Magic and their in-state, interdivisional rivals to the south is beginning to grow.
The Magic still boast one of the best big men tandems in the East in Nikola Vucevic and Eric Gordon and hope that Mo Bamba and Markelle Fultz begin to fulfill their draft promise. Evan Fournier remains one of the more underrated 2-guards in the Conference and is coming off a career year and Jonathan Isaac continues his gradual improvement.
Record vs. Last Season: 0-3 | 2020-21 Away: 1/4, 1/6
It’s not easy to crack the top of the Playoff picture out West, but the young Grizzlies are definitely knocking on the door. With back-to-back bumper crops in the past two Drafts, Memphis only needs to nurture their growth.
Last year, explosive point man Ja Morant won Rookie of the Year and his teammate Brandon Clarke earned All-Rookie First Team honors. Jaren Jackson Jr. has multiple All-Star appearance potential and Dillon Brooks – who fell the 45th overall pick in 2017 – emerged as the squad’s second-leading scorer.
Add savvy big man Jonas Valanciunas to the mix – along with the arrival of Justise Winslow – and the Grizz should continue to make noise at the Grindhouse.
Record vs. Last Season: 1-1 | 2020-21 Home: 1/11
At this point, the Bucks are now in the ‘where-do-we-go-from-here’ stage of their saga. They have the league’s current MVP and Defensive Player of the Year – Giannis Antetokounmpo – and were easily the most dominant regular season squad over the past two years. But in each season, they’ve fallen short.
The Greek Freak led the Bucks to the Conference Finals two years ago, but Miami stunned them in the Second Round last season. The veteran-heavy Bucks didn’t make many significant offseason moves, other than inking Bryn Forbes and Torrey Craig as a free agents.
Otherwise, it’s much the same in Milwaukee – relying on veterans like Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, Donte DiVicenzo and Kyle Korver.
Record vs. Last Season: 0-3 | 2020-21 Home: 2/5, 2/6 | 2020-21 Away: 1/9
Utah is another team out West that falls into the category of needing to take that next leap into the upper strata of the Conference – with Quin Snyder’s squad reaching the postseason in each of the past four seasons but not getting past the Second Round in any of them.
The Jazz still boast a pair of superstars – one on each end of the floor. Donovan Mitchell, who topped the 20.0ppg plateau again, and two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, who earned First Team honors again last year.
If Mike Conley can stay healthy through the season and the newly re-signed Jordan Clarkson simply does his thing, the Jazz might finally make their move out West.
Record vs. Last Season: 0-1 | 2020-21 Home: 1/12
The Wizards (and Rockets) definitely made the biggest splash of the offseason – swapping All-Star guards, John Wall – who hasn’t played a game since Christmas 2018 – for Russell Westbrook – coming off a seemingly rocky stint in Houston.
With Wall’s yearlong absence, Bradley Beal had a career year – averaging 30.5ppg in 2019-20. Now the Wizards will try to build around him and their young pieces, including All-Rookie Second Teamer Rui Hachimura and this year’s top pick – 19-year-old Deni Avidja, who they snagged with the 9th overall pick last month.
Record vs. Last Season: 2-1 | 2020-21 Away: 1/17, 1/18
If there’s a big ticket in the East this season, it’s in Brooklyn, where the superstar pairing of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant will finally come to fruition. For a little extra spice, they’ll be coached by future Hall of Famer, Steve Nash.
The Nets were impressive without either star last year – getting solid performances from some of their bright young guns like Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LaVert, Jarrett Allen and our old friend, Joe Harris, who inked a tasty contract this offseason.
Brooklyn also imported some solid veterans to shore up the squad, including Jeff Green and Landry Shamet.
Record vs. Last Season: 0-1 | 2020-21 Home: 1/20, 1/22
Even if the Knicks don’t take a step up, the Atlantic Division looks to be a powerhouse in the Conference this year, with the Nets, Raptors, Sixers and this squad – the Celtics – all entering the season with Championship aspirations.
Boston reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four seasons last year before finally falling to Miami. But they added to their young core this offseason, including signing longtime Cavalier Tristan Thompson as a free agent.
Add Tristan to a mix that already includes Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and All-Defensive First Teamer Marcus Smart – along with up-and-comers like Grant Williams, Robert Williams and potentially Aaron Nesmith – and you’re looking at a team that can win it all.
Record vs. Last Season: 0-4 | 2020-21 Away: 1/24
The rich got richer in Tinseltown, with the World Champs poaching the league’s top Sixth Man from their cross-town rivals – inking Montrezl Harrell and boosting an already-loaded squad.
As big as the arrival of Harrell is – joining LeBron and the newly re-signed Anthony Davis – it might not be the Lakers’ most significant. That very well could be Dennis Schroeder, who joins L.A. after a strong season in Oklahoma City. But the Champs didn’t stop there, adding rock-solid veterans Wesley Matthews and Marc Gasol.
Record vs. Last Season: 0-1 | 2020-21 Home: 1/25
Since reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first and only time in franchise history in 2003-04, the Timberwolves have made just one postseason appearance, dropping a ‘gentleman’s sweep’ to the Rockets in 2018. Do they finally have the weapons to get back there?
Karl-Anthony Towns is a two-time All-Star and D’Angelo Russell is coming off his first appearance, giving the T-Wolves a solid foundation. And they’re obviously hoping this year’s top overall pick, dynamic guard Anthony Edwards, will reach plenty of midseason classics of his own. Jarrett Culver, last year’s top pick, would like to build off a steady rookie season.
Record vs. Last Season: 1-1 | 2020-21 Home: 2/1 | 2020-21 Away: 1/31
After coming up short of expectations in the Bubble this fall, Tyronn Lue moves up into the head coaching spot, replacing Doc Rivers at the helm. But aside from the aforementioned Montrezl Harrell’s departure for the Lakers, but the Clips essentially stood pat.
Of course, Kawhi Leonard is one of the game’s greatest two-way players and Patrick Beverly, one of its best individual defenders. The Clippers picked up Luke Kennard in a three-team deal to fill the scoring void and Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka for veteran leadership, trying to make the franchise’s first trip to the Finals.
Record vs. Last Season: 0-2 | 2020-21 Home: 2/3 | 2020-21 Away: 2/14
Every year, there’s sexy team pick entering the upcoming season – and this year that team is the Suns, who made an incredible Bubble run to end last season and now feel they’re close enough to compete that they dealt for future Hall of Famer Chris Paul in the offseason.
The pairing of scoring machine Devin Booker and 2018’s top pick DeAndre Ayton proved to be an excellent tandem as the Suns found their identity late last year. Cameron Johnson is a solid long-range threat and Dario Saric has averaged double-figures in all four seasons in the league. And this fall Phoenix nabbed one of college hoops premier defenders in Jalen Smith.
Record vs. Last Season: 0-0 | 2020-21 Away: 2/8
Mike Malone’s deep young squad comes into this season after one of the most incredible postseason runs in recent memory – becoming the first team to overcome 3-1 deficits in back-to-back Playoff series, reaching the Conference Finals before falling to the eventual Champs.
The Nuggets didn’t tinker much in the offseason, and that’s because they didn’t have to. They’re already stacked with accomplished talent like Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton. And that doesn’t even account for talented players who’re even younger – like Michael Porter Jr., Monte Morris and Bol Bol.
Record vs. Last Season: 2-0 | 2020-21 Away: 2/10
Speaking of going nuts in the Bubble, Damian Lillard put on a clinic to close the previous regular season, averaging 44.2 pts over the final five games and willing the Blazers into the Playoffs.
The Blazers got close to the Finals two years ago and would love to see if they can get back with a healthy roster. That roster has plenty of talent besides Lillard – including C.J. McCollum, Zach Collins, Rodney Hood and Robert Covington, who Portland dealt for this offseason.
Carmelo Anthony looks to continue his career revival in the Pacific Northwest and the Blazers would love to see last year’s pick, Nassir Little, take the next step as a sophomore.
Record vs. Last Season: 1-0 | 2020-21 Away: 2/12
If Klay Thompson hadn’t suffered an offseason Achilles’ injury, we might be talking about the Warriors making another run at the title – and if the rest of the squad stays healthy, we still just might.
The Dubs have done anything but stand pat since falling to Toronto in the 2019 Finals. Last year, they tabbed Eric Paschall, who was named All-Rookie First team, traded for former top pick Andrew Wiggins last year and Kelly Oubre Jr. this offseason. And last month, they tabbed James Wiseman with the second overall pick.
Add these youngsters to a mix that already includes Steph Curry and Draymond Green and coached by Steve Kerr, and the Warriors might just be back in business out West.
Record vs. Last Season: 0-1 | 2020-21 Away: 2/15
The last time the Spurs missed the postseason before this past year, their top pick in the most recent Draft – Devin Vassell – was still three years away from being born.
One of two Western Conference squads the Cavs swept last season (along with Denver), the Spurs finally fell short of the Playoffs. And Greg Poppovich’s squad is still an odd mix of young unproven guys like Trey Lyles and Lonny Walker IV and veterans on the back nine like LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Guy.
Florida State’s versatile Vassell – taken with the 11th overall pick – should breathe some life into a team uncharacteristically searching for its identity.
Record vs. Last Season: 2-0 | 2020-21 Home: 2/17
Has any team gone through more renovations that the Thunder over the past two seasons?
After re-making the squad following the departures of James Harden and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder looked like they’d found something last year, riding Chris Paul to a surprising Playoff run. But when it was all said and done, OKC eventually traded Paul to Phoenix, Steven Adams to New Orleans and moved on from head coach Billy Donovan.
What remains is a young core – highlighted by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lugentz Dort – (and a ton of future draft picks). The Thunder might not compete this year, but they’re hoping the future is bright.
Record vs. Last Season: 0-2 | 2020-21 Home: 2/21
Houston is another team that made some major offseason changes – seeming to move on from their small-ball experiment and the pioneers of it, head coach Mike D’Antoni and GM Daryl Morey.
The Rockets – who still have the league’s most prolific scorer in James Harden – also made the deal of the offseason, exchanging Russell Westbrook for John Wall. The Rockets also picked up DeMarcus Cousins the improving Christian Wood, hoping to rebuild their frontline.
Record vs. Last Season: 0-1 | 2020-21 Home: 2/24 | 2020-21 Away: 3/1