Community Shootaround: Which 2020 Lottery Teams Will Make 2021 Playoffs?

Free agency opened less than a week ago, which means that in a typical NBA offseason, today would be about the equivalent of July 5. But in 2020’s warp-speed offseason, the start of training camps are, incredibly, just five days away. Opening night will tip off in less than four weeks.

So even though there may be more free agent signings and trades on the way in the coming days and weeks, it’s not too early to start considering what the on-court impact of this offseason’s roster moves will be.

[RELATED: 2020 NBA Free Agent Tracker]

With that in mind, we’re looking today at which 2020 non-playoff teams have the best chance at returning to the postseason in 2021.

Let’s start in the East, where the Hawks look like perhaps the best candidate to get out of lottery territory. They finished 14th in the conference last season, but an offseason roster overhaul that saw them add Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn, and Onyeka Okongwu  – plus a healthy Clint Capela – suddenly makes Atlanta’s roster a whole lot more interesting.

There’s also some intrigue in Washington and Charlotte. Will John Wall‘s return be enough to help buoy the Wizards into a playoff spot? Will the arrivals of No. 3 pick LaMelo Ball and free agent splash Gordon Hayward improve the Hornets significantly?

The other four Eastern teams didn’t necessarily upgrade their rosters in a major way, but the Bulls could be intriguing after hiring Billy Donovan and drafting Patrick Williams, especially if Otto Porter is back to full health. The Pistons, Cavaliers, and Knicks are probably at least a year or two from playoff contention, but if their young talent takes bigger immediate strides than expected, maybe they could make some noise.

Over in the West, there are handful of intriguing candidates to make the move from the lottery to the postseason.

The Warriors, who will have a healthy Stephen Curry back in their lineup to go along with Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre, and No. 2 pick James Wiseman, are an obvious team to watch. So are the Suns, who have added Chris Paul, Jae Crowder, Langston Galloway, and E’Twaun Moore, and No. 10 pick Jalen Smith to the mix after an 8-0 run during the NBA’s summer restart.

The only major moves the Pelicans and Grizzlies made in free agency involved re-signing their own players, and New Orleans traded away Jrue Holiday. But both teams were knocking on the door of the playoffs in 2020, and young cornerstones like Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Ja Morant, and Jaren Jackson should only get better.

[RELATED: 2020 NBA Offseason Trades]

That leaves the Timberwolves, Spurs, and Kings. Minnesota has a long way to go after finishing last season with a 19-45 record, but adding No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards and having a full season with Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and Juan Hernangomez shouldn’t hurt.

As for San Antonio and Sacramento, neither team was too far removed from the postseason in 2020. Continued improvements from young players like Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, De’Aaron Fox, and Marvin Bagley should help keep them within striking distance, and both teams got nice draft-lottery additions in Devin Vassell and Tyrese Haliburton.

It’s also worth noting that any team that finishes in the top 10 of a conference has a chance to make the postseason this year as a result of the NBA’s new play-in tournament. The No. 9 and No. 10 seeds will play each other at season’s end, and the winner will face the loser of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 game for the final playoff spot. As a result, more teams than ever could remain in the playoff hunt until late in the season.

What do you think? Which teams do you like to make it back the playoffs this year after missing out in 2020? And which of last season’s playoff teams do you expect to fall into the lottery to make room for those newcomers?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

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42 thoughts on “Community Shootaround: Which 2020 Lottery Teams Will Make 2021 Playoffs?

  1. hiflew

    My opinions (none are in a particular order, just the teams I think fall into that category)

    Bottom 5 in the East – Hornets, Knicks, Bulls, Pistons, Cavaliers

    Play In 4 in East – Wizards, Magic, Pacers, Raptors

    Top 6 in East – Hawks, Nets, Sixers, Celtics, Bucks, Heat

    Bottom 5 in West – Spurs, Kings, Thunder, T-Wolves, Pelicans

    Play In 4 in West – Grizzlies, Jazz, Suns, Blazers

    Top 6 in West – Rockets, Warriors, Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Mavericks

    I am a lot more confident in the East bottom 5 and the West top 6 than in any other category. All of this is assuming health as well. As we saw last year, a player the caliber of Steph Curry gets hurt and the best team becomes the worst.

    Man, just looking at my picks is boring. But that is the perfect metaphor for the NBA regular season, pretty boring and fairly predictable.

    • Loyo675

      I believe Raptors will get into Top 6 in place of Hawks, and in west Pelicans at play in with Grizzlies bottoming

      • hiflew

        Very possible that happens. I just think the Raptors have been playing too far about their level and the Hawks are on the come. And in the West I think the Grizzlies are further along in their rebuild than the Pelicans. But like I said, it could easily happen your way too.

        That’s the best thing about preseason, everybody is right in their predictions for now.

    • harden-westbrook-mvps

      Warriors in the top 6 is a very big stretch without Klay.

      Portland and Utah should both finish with more wins.

      • hiflew

        I think they would have been top 6 without Klay last year. It’s Curry’s team. Klay is a big cog, but cogs are replaceable. Oubre should be a competent replacement. Not good enough for this to be a 60 win team, but probably good enough for 50.

    • whoneedsfacts

      I think your biggest over ratings are the Hawks and Golden State, they could be top 6, but it’s unlikely. Your biggest snubs are probably Portland and Toronto.

      • hiflew

        Portland is an enigma. 2 years ago they were the 3 seed, last year they were lucky to even make the playoffs. They could really be anywhere from seed 2 to seed 11 and it wouldn’t be THAT surprising.

  2. phillyballers

    I mean we are talking about which team makes the 8th seed? Suns and Wolves have a shot. Hawks have a shot.

  3. siggers84

    Suns!! Pelicans close behind. Warriors don’t make the playoffs.

    In the East the Hawks don’t make the playoffs despite their signings. Defence is still the issue. Magic still take the 8th seed.

  4. Dxit90a

    This is my prediction for next year ranking as how the team currently rosters are:

    East :
    1. Bucks
    3. Nets
    4. Boston
    5, Sixers
    6. Raptors
    7. Pacers
    8. Atlanta
    9. Orlando
    10. Wizard
    11. Hornets
    12 Bulls
    13. Detroit
    14. Cleveland
    15. NY

    1. LA Clippers
    2. Lakers
    3. Denver
    4. Utah
    5. Portland
    6. Phoenix
    7. GS
    8. Grizzlies
    9. Houston
    10. MAVS
    11. Spurs
    12. Wolves
    14. Kings
    15. OKC

    • C-Daddy

      You really think the Mavs and Rockets won’t make the playoffs as currently constructed? That’s madness.

      • Dxit90a

        The unicorn and Powell are injured . As much as Luka is great he needs the unicorn to be healthy. Houston top two players want to leave and they don’t want to play with each other. Their bench is also weaker

    • Simmons>Russ

      How did clippers get better?
      Lou Will is going to be near retirement, they loss Harrell. They have a new head coach.
      Whereas Lakers added Schroder, Harrell and Gasol while bringing back KCP.

      I also have the Spurs a lot closer to the bottom. DDR and Aldridge aren’t better than the wolves with Russell KAT and Edwards, or the Pelicans with Ingram Zion Adams Bledsloe Ball and etc

      Also think Detroit will lose the east on purpose.
      Cleveland have Secton, Porter Jr, Drummond and Love they won’t be last. Knicks I think drafted well getting Obi Toppin and I just think for a change it won’t be them.

    • harden-westbrook-mvps

      Houston and Dallas behind Phoenix, Memphis, and Golden State is a joke.

    • whoneedsfacts

      GS without Klay with Steph having more injuries again as they get older and with Draymond disappearing will be lucky to make the playoffs. Houston is easily a top 4 team in the West, maybe even better than that, their problem is the playoffs not getting in the playoffs.

      • Ghost82

        So what is Vegas lines always right?? The question is who YOU think will make the playoffs not who Vegas thinks..those teams will be almost every one choices based on their off-season returning injured players etc.

  5. Sillivan

    Las Vegas Championship odds
    76ers went down from 4th One year ago in the east to 6th

    Tier 1
    Bucks Nets Celtics Heat

    Tier 2
    Raptors 76ers Pacers Hawks

    • hiflew

      I agree except I would put the Nets in Tier 2. They have done nothing and Durant is coming off a season long injury and is several years older than John Wall who everyone thinks will turn into dust as soon as he steps on the court. Brooklyn could be top 4, but they could just as easily be 6th or 7th.

  6. El Don

    ATL & maybe WAS depending how it goes with Optimus Dime!
    PHO, NOP & MIN have all a very good chance in that order… UTA, HOU & POR are in dangerous positions!
    MEM, SAS & GSW have no chance at all!

    • harden-westbrook-mvps

      They will make the playoffs for the current NBA-best ninth straight season.

  7. Sillivan

    Las Vegas odds

    Kings 28.5 wins
    Wolves 27.5 wins
    Cavs 22.5 wins
    Knicks 22.5 wins

  8. Simmons>Russ

    1. Celtics
    2. Bucks
    3. Sixers
    4. Heat
    5. Nets
    6. Raptors
    7. Pacers
    8. Hawks

    1. Lakers
    2. Nuggets
    3. GSW
    4. Clippers
    5. Mavericks
    6. Jazz
    7. Blazers
    8. Suns

    Just missing out will be the Pelicans and Rockets

    • hiflew

      Unless the Rockets trade off Harden or Westbrook, I don’t see them missing the playoffs. Harden and Westbrook get a lot of heat here, but they make the playoffs. They might not be as good IN the playoffs, but I have no doubt they would be a top 4 seed as constructed right now. All that could change with a Harden or Westbrook deal, but not now.

    • harden-westbrook-mvps

      Golden State in 3rd place? No chance.

      They’ll be lucky just to make the playoffs dude.

  9. Cowboy Dan

    You heard it here first. Atlanta will not make the playoffs. Minimal upgrade in shooting. No improvement in defense and they got a non shooting pg that only performs well in the playoffs and can’t play off ball. Which means Trey and Rajon don’t compliment each other. People are giving Gallinari Wayyyy too much credit to be injury prone and always a poor defender but now also old. They are a bottom third in the league in defense.

    • siggers84

      Exactly mate worst defence in the league gets you nothing. Steve Clifford will find a way to get Magic back in

  10. Based on the moves the most improve teams like the Hawks and suns, also the new Orleans Pelicans will make the playoffs. Beating the out the spurs rockets and hornets. Overall Houston will have issues concerning James Harden and Russel Westbrook being involved in trade talks If they start season with them on their roster. Meanwhile spurs haven’t improve upon going into next season and have still two old all stars veterans that are getting older. While the hornets did sign Gordon Hayward to pair with recent top draft pick Lamelo Ball and along chartotte other young players, this team still isn’t good enough.

  11. mike.honcho

    ** The LAKERS & CLIPPERS seeded 1 and 2.

    The JAZZ, BLAZERS, NUGGETS, MAVS, ROCKETS & WARRIORS will crowd seeds 3 to 8.

    ** I see the NUGGETS possibly falling from the top 4, since they lost some key pieces ……. JAZZ might get a top 4 spot, since they get back a 20ppg Bogdanovich.

    ** If there’s any West team/s that can possibly flame-out and lose their playoffs spots, it should be MAVS (health) & ROCKETS (roster changes).

    Porzingis’ health has always been a big question mark (these agile beanpole-types just don’t last) & this might be the season that Luka hits his wall.

    ** The SUNS, PELICANS, SPURS & GRIZZLIES are in the outside looking in. Best case for any of these teams, the above flame-outs (ex. MAVS. ROCKETS) happens and they can sneak-in for that last playoff spot/s.

    ** The BUCKS and NETS seeded 1 and 2.

    The CELTICS, HEAT, PACERS, SIXERS & RAPTORS will crowd seeds 3 to 7.

    ** The WIZARDS, HAWKS & MAGIC will fight it out for the last playoff spot.

    ** I see the PACERS having a strong season (they were the 4th seed last season), they get back their key guys, except Lamb ………. a starting/closing five of Oladipo, Brogdon, Warren, Turner & a healthy Sabonis looks decent enough to still make a top 4 spot. Plus their new coach, looks to ‘science’ things up some more on the defensive end.

  12. x%sure

    Clearly people have the Warriors too high. They’re not what they were. Clippers will fall too, stagnating. I will assume problems getting all Rockets on court.
    It’s really too early for this; I’m not sure I will agree with this after another look! Random inside 6 groups:
    Three tiers WC:
    1) Lakers Suns Grizz Jazz Nuggets Mavs
    2) Clips Blazers Pelicans Thunder, play-in
    3) Wolves Warriors Spurs Kings Rockets

    EC: No order, three tiers:
    1) Bucks Nets Celtics Sixers Heat Wizards
    2) Pacers Raptors Cavs Hornets, play-in
    3) Hawks Magic Pistons Knicks Bulls

    • whoneedsfacts

      You made so much sense at first, then I saw your tier list it’s the worst on here ban none.

  13. Sillivan

    Blazers and Nuggets are in conference finals last two years
    Warriors can defeat both of them after trading Wolves pick and claim waive players
    Do not forget priority order for waive players

  14. PhillyPhan69

    1 Bucks
    2 76ers
    3 Celtics
    4 Heat
    5 Nets
    6 Raptors
    7 Hawks
    8 Pacers
    9 Magic
    10 Pistons
    11 Bulls
    12 Wizards
    13 Hornets
    14 Knicks
    15 Cavs

    1 Lakers
    2 Clippers
    3 Jazz
    4 Blazers
    5 Nuggets
    6 Mavericks
    7 Rockets
    8 Warriors
    9 Suns
    10 Pelicans
    11 Grizzlies
    12 Kings
    13 Spurs
    14 wolves
    15 Thunder

  15. SteveFiji

    Kyrie will play 50 games…tops. Durant the same. The Nets barely squeak in. Kyrie undermines the entire team by game 30 and the bench quietly mutinies. His poison grows ever more potent by the season. Never underestimate the destructive power of uncapped narcissism.

    Celtics are very complete and Ainge is not even done. Has a lot of chips… a lot! And maybe a huge TPE as a bonus soon to come.

    Bucks and Heat are next, then 76’ers. The Raptors and Indiana follow … then it’s up in the air. I’d go Nets and Hawks by default. The rest of the East is truly terrible.

    Lakers will coast in regular season. Bron Bron will go light on HGH til late season. So. They may be a 2 seed. Why? Because Regular Season Paul makes his shots before he melts into Playoff Puddle… also, both he and Kawhi have something to prove as they have both opt-outs and one of them will leave. Again the playoffs are a different story… they’ll wilt
    Then nuggets, blazers and jazz.
    The mavs, GS and suns are interchangeable and the rest are on the outside looking in.
    This is the way.

  16. Sillivan

    Warriors are 6th to 8th seed
    Unless they trade Wolves pick and sign waive players

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