The 2020-21 NBA season is here!
With Opening Night set for Dec. 22, the fast-moving offseason is officially behind us. Which teams came out the other side ready to compete for a title? Which teams took a step back from the last time we saw them take the court?
Check out our NBA Power Rankings heading into the new season to find out where your favourite team stands.
All projected 2020-21 records are based on Action Network's win total over/unders.
10. Golden State Warriors
Preseason record: 2-1
Projected 2020-21 record: 39-33
Opening week: at BKN, at MIL, at CHI
For the Warriors, preseason was all about seeing Stephen Curry return to action to evaluate how the former two-time MVP looked following an injury-riddled 2019-20 season. With All-Star guard Klay Thompson already ruled out for the second consecutive season, this time with a torn ACL, it is pivotal that Curry stays healthy for Golden State to be competitive.
Curry looked like his usual self in limited preseason action, averaging 22.7 points on 39.4% shooting from 3 over three games.
Certified bucket getters.- Golden State Warriors (@warriors) December 18, 2020
Steph (29p), Kelly (22p), & Andrew (19p) paced the Dubs' preseason finale win in Sacramento. 📽️ pic.twitter.com/MAu8GqD1VB
We also caught a glimpse of newly added Kelly Oubre Jr. and last year's trade deadline acquisition Andrew Wiggins, but No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman did not see the floor during preseason after reportedly contracting the coronavirus during training camp. He has ramped up basketball activities and will be ready for opening night against the Brooklyn Nets, and head coach Steve Kerr even went as far to say, "James is going to be our starting center before too long. It might happen (in the season opener)."
Unfortunately for the Warriors, they may have to start the season without former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green, who is dealing with a muscle strain in his foot, but with the aforementioned core all suiting up, Golden State should be able to stay afloat until Green returns.
9. Utah Jazz
Preseason record: 3-0
Projected 2020-21 record: 42-30
Opening week: at POR, vs. MIN
The most encouraging part of the Jazz's preseason was getting scoring forward Bojan Bogdanovic back into the mix after missing the entire NBA restart with a wrist injury. Bogdanovic picked up right where he left off last season, averaging 16.3 points while shooting 50% from the field and 45.5% from beyond the arc.
Between his performance and the scoring outbursts of the re-signed bench spark Jordan Clarkson - who led the team with 17.0 points during three exhibition games - Utah has some much-needed firepower to assist All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
And speaking of Gobert, the most noteworthy part of the Jazz's offseason came just two days before the season opener with the two-time Defensive Player of the Year signing a five-year, $205 million max contract extension. The deal is the largest in NBA history for a centre and third-largest in NBA history regardless of position as Utah now has its franchise cornerstones locked up until the 2026 offseason.
With the team's future pieces determined and plenty of assets in place to succeed this season, let's see if the Jazz can make the playoffs yet again and pursue a deeper run.
8. Philadelphia 76ers
Preseason record: 2-0
Projected 2020-21 record: 43-29
Opening week: vs. WAS, at NYK, at CLE
We didn't get much of a taste of what the All-Star duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid might look like under a new head coach in Doc Rivers because Embiid only appeared in one preseason contest - a win over the Celtics.
However, it was encouraging to see Simmons back on the floor after missing the back end of the pre-bubble regular season and the entire NBA restart with a back injury. In limited playing time, Simmons looked back to full strength on both ends of the floor and gave us a taste of how he can improve as a playmaker surrounded by new shooters like Danny Green and Seth Curry, as well as a lob threat in Dwight Howard.
With an easier opening week schedule, the Sixers have an opportunity to get this new season off on the right foot.
7. Boston Celtics
Preseason record: 0-2
Projected 2020-21 record: 46-26
Opening week: vs. MIL, vs. BKN, at IND
It's only preseason and you can very rarely take anything away from these exhibition games, but that doesn't mean we can ignore what we saw from the Celtics duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
It wasn't the best showing from the dynamic duo, struggling to get much of anything going during their limited playing time. Tatum averaged just 14.5 points while shooting 30.0% from the field and 15.4% from 3. Brown averaged only 10.5 points while shooting 30.8% from the field and 16.7% from beyond the arc. That isn't exactly the level of production you're looking for as the team gears up for the regular season, but again, it's preseason where minutes are inconsistent, as are lineups and shot attempts.
The Celtics played both preseason games without All-Star guard Kemba Walker (knee) and newly acquired centre Tristan Thompson (hamstring), two players expected to make a big impact this upcoming season. While Walker is expected to be out until after the new year, Thompson is nearing a return for the start of the 2020-21 season.
With a tough opening week schedule of the Bucks, Nets and Pacers, Boston will need its superstars to snap out of this funk quickly to avoid a rocky start.
6. LA Clippers
Preseason record: 0-3
Projected 2020-21 record: 48-24
Opening week: at LAL, at DEN, vs. DAL
Don't let the 0-3 preseason record deceive you - we didn't see much of the real Clippers at all during their exhibition games. While the star tandem of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both appeared in all three contests, they averaged less that 20 minutes and 10 field goal attempts per game, and the same could be said for Lou Williams and Serge Ibaka.
The most important part of the Clippers preseason was something that happened off the court, signing All-Star wing George to a four-year, $190 million max contract extension that could escalate to as much as $226 million with incentives. The contract comes off of an up-and-down first season in Los Angeles where the team fell well short of expectations, but it's become clear that George is a key part of the team's future with a deal that will keep him with the Clippers until 2025.
Expected to be heavyweights in the Western Conference again, let's see if the Clippers can live up to expectations in their second season with their All-Star duo.
5. Miami Heat
Preseason record: 1-1
Projected 2020-21 record: 43-29
Opening week: at ORL, vs. NOP
As one of the two last remaining teams in the Orlando bubble, the Heat took things easy this preseason. All-Star forward and NBA Finals standout Jimmy Butler didn't suit up for either of the team's exhibition games, and former All-Star Goran Dragic only appeared briefly in one game. We saw glimpses of All-Star centre Bam Adebayo, who was equally as impressive as the last time we saw him in action, as was playoff breakout performer Tyler Herro.
We already know what that core is capable of but it appears as though Miami has found a quality new addition in the No. 20 overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, Precious Achiuwa. Achiuwa averaged 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds over both preseason contests and looks poised to crack the Heat's rotation as a versatile frontcourt piece.
They've been playing together for years 🤫@Goran_Dragic ➡️ @PreciousAchiuwa pic.twitter.com/74avwOLw8V- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) December 19, 2020
4. Denver Nuggets
Preseason record: 2-1
Projected 2020-21 record: 44-28
Opening week: vs. SAC, vs. LAC
The Nuggets enter the 2020-21 season with hopes of Michael Porter Jr. blossoming into a starting small forward to try and take the team to another level. Porter didn't have the best preseason, averaging 12.3 points while shooting 38.7% from the field, but he did shoot 41.2% from 3. He'll compete with the likes of Will Barton and Gary Harris for a starting role, and head coach Mike Malone hasn't committed to what the opening day starting lineup will be just yet.
All eyes will be on Denver when it hosts the Clippers on Christmas Day in the first meeting since the Nuggets pulled off a 3-1 comeback to knock out LA in the Western Conference Semifinals. We'll see how the pairing of All-Star centre Nikola Jokic and rising superstar Jamal Murray can build off of the best playoff run of their young careers.
3. Brooklyn Nets
Preseason record: 2-0
Projected 2020-21 record: 45-27
Opening week: vs. GSW, at BOS, at CHA
The Nets were one of the most highly anticipated watches of the preseason as we finally saw All-Star forward Kevin Durant return to action after missing the entire 2019-20 season with an Achilles injury. Durant's first taste of live basketball did not disappoint, going for 15 points in his debut followed by a 25-point outburst against the Celtics to close the preseason.
25 points. 3 blocks.- Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) December 19, 2020
📼 @KDTrey5 reminding us who he is on both ends tonight 📼 pic.twitter.com/65niI8BXFM
All-Star guard Kyrie Irving was equally as impressive in his return to play after only appearing in 20 games last season with a shoulder injury, averaging 17.5 points per game while shooting an efficient 58.3% from the field and 55.6% from 3. If Brooklyn's two preseason games were a sign of what's to come, the rest of the league is in trouble.
We'll get to see this team put to the test immediately, facing off against the Warriors on opening night and the Celtics on Christmas Day.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Preseason record: 0-3
Projected 2020-21 record: 50-22
Opening week: at BOS, vs. GSW, at NYK
It wasn't the prettiest preseason from the Bucks but their on-court results were secondary to the biggest news of the 2020 offseason.
In danger of entering the 2020-21 season without a contract extension for reigning back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, all of Milwaukee's worries went away just days before opening tip. The All-Star forward inked a record-breaking five-year, $228 million supermax extension, the largest deal in NBA history. His loyalty to the city reigned supreme as Antetokounmpo has unfinished business in trying to win a championship with the Bucks.
With that uncertainty no longer looming large, Milwaukee will shift gears to returning to the top of the Eastern Conference for a third consecutive season. We'll get our first real taste of the new-look Bucks when they open their season against the Eastern Conference runner-up Celtics, followed by an entertaining matchup against the Warriors on Christmas.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Preseason record: 4-0
Projected 2020-21 record: 48-24
Opening week: vs. LAC, vs. DAL, vs. MIN
It's no secret that the reigning champion Lakers got better this offseason, but they exposed another hidden gem that was tucked away on their roster during the preseason. Second-year player Talen Horton-Tucker was the talk of the preseason, averaging 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game while shooting 54.7% from the field and 53.8% from 3 over four exhibition games.
"You can tell he's been in the lab." @Thortontucker showed off some new tricks in the preseason 🔥 pic.twitter.com/HwzQzvtmLG- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 20, 2020
Horton-Tucker looked like the best player on the floor during the majority of the team's preseason contests and could be poised to make a surprise impact as Los Angeles looks to defend its NBA title.
Oh, and All-Star centre Anthony Davis looked as unstoppable as usual in the two games he participated in, averaging 22.5 points per game while shooting 70% from the field and an unheard of 85.7% from 3.
The league's best team isn't going anywhere any time soon.
The rest of the NBA
11. Dallas Mavericks
12. Portland Trail Blazers
13. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors went 2-1 in the preseason, winning each contest against LaMelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets. The play of rookie guard Malachi Flynn was a pleasant surprise for head coach Nick Nurse and the team, finding a player that looks poised beyond his years. After Kyle Lowry missed the first two games of the preseason, remaining in Tampa while the team traveled to Charlotte, the All-Star guard looks like he hasn't missed a step, going for 25 points on 6-for-10 shooting from 3 in his only exhibition action.
Jacko singing & KLow dropping 3's.- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 19, 2020
Doesn't get any better than this pic.twitter.com/2sIPtosIUg
14. Houston Rockets
The James Harden trade rumour noise is too loud to ignore, but that's to be expected when arguably the greatest scorer the league has ever seen requests a trade. It's been the talk of preseason for the Rockets and it's becoming increasingly unlikely that they find a trade suitor before the first game of the season, so let's focus on the team that's been on the court.
In the one exhibition game free agent signing Christian Wood appeared in, he looked like he's worth all $41 million he received, scoring 27 points on 55.6% shooting from the field with 10 rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block. John Wall has also looked sharp in his first few games back from missing the past two full seasons with an injury, showcasing that he still has a burst of speed to get to the rack.
Serious Speed pic.twitter.com/76NmRiDDqS- Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) December 16, 2020
If Harden stays put with the Rockets, they're a team poised to keep their league-leading playoff streak of eight years going if Wood and Wall can keep that same level of play when the games count.
15. Phoenix Suns
16. Memphis Grizzlies
17. New Orleans Pelicans
18. Atlanta Hawks
19. Washington Wizards
The teams toward the back end of the Eastern Conference playoff picture must be holding on tight after Russell Westbrook was traded to the Wizards. Adding an attacking playmaker of Westbrook's calibre alongside a 30-point-per-game scorer in Bradley Beal, the Wizards will surely be fighting for a playoff spot.
Russell Westbrook finished the first half with eight points, six rebounds, and three assists!#WizPistons | @russwest44 pic.twitter.com/GsIp7WIxMI- Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) December 20, 2020
We didn't get to see much of this tandem in the preseason with Westbrook only appearing in one contest, playing less than 20 minutes, but the pieces around the star duo such as Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant and No. 9 overall pick Deni Advija showed out during the exhibition games.
All of a sudden, Washington is looking like a surprise team in the East.
20. Indiana Pacers
21. Orlando Magic
22. Chicago Bulls
23. San Antonio Spurs
24. Charlotte Hornets
As I'm sure you've already seen all over social media, the preseason looked like the LaMelo Ball show in Charlotte. Ball's highlights were hard to miss as the rookie point guard displayed his playmaking ability that had scouts drooling during the pre-draft process.
#3 pick tossin' some flashy dimes... the BEST of LaMelo Ball (@MELOD1P) in the #NBAPreseason for the @hornets! #NBARooks- NBA (@NBA) December 20, 2020
The 2020-21 NBA season tips Tuesday, December 22nd on TNT. #KiaTipOff20 pic.twitter.com/aXNRXFr2Am
However, Ball did shoot 26.2% from the field and 27.3% from 3 over the three exhibition games - a known weakness that may take time to improve.
In other news, newly acquired All-Star Gordon Hayward suffered a fractured pinky on his shooting hand, continuing his bad luck with injuries. He should be available for opening week, and should Hayward stay healthy, the Hornets appear to have a fun and competitive team heading into the 2020-21 season.
25. Sacramento Kings
26. Minnesota Timberwolves
27. New York Knicks
Preseason can often be deceiving but just based off of the Knicks' four exhibition games, it seems as though New York has a couple promising young pieces on its hands. We've already seen what Mitchell Robinson is capable of and we got a small taste of what RJ Barrett can bring to the table, but the Knicks may have hit on two of their 2020 NBA Draft picks.
No. 8 overall pick Obi Toppin was awesome in his first preseason contest, going for 11 points and seven rebounds with some impressive NBA-level moves to get easy buckets. No. 25 overall pick Immanuel Quickley closed the preseason with a bang, going off for a game-high 22 points to get Knicks fans buzzing.
The rookies showed out in their first preseason 💥 pic.twitter.com/yZwQdjrJom- NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) December 20, 2020
It will be interesting to see if these two first-year players can continue to make an impact during the regular season, giving New York something to be excited about for the first time in a while.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers
29. Oklahoma City Thunder
30. Detroit Pistons
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