2020–21 NBA Season Things to Watch for and Predictions

via coachguysports.com

It seems like just yesterday that we all witnessed the Los Angeles Lakers hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy and yet here we are on the eve of the next season just a short 2 months later. With such a quick turnaround and a shortened season coming, there is a lot to look forward to and a few things that I will certainly have my eye on this year.

New Team Player to Watch

If you’ve been following this NBA off-season, it will be no surprise that there is a lot of excitement around the Houston Rockets’ addition of Christian Wood. The 25-year-old big man really came on with the Detroit Pistons last season. Many people, including myself, were surprised to see Detroit let him go this off-season in free agency. This season in a new city and with the potential for a bigger role I am hopeful that Christian Wood will turn more heads this year. This season, I think we will get the chance to see what a difference a winning culture can make for a player. I expect Wood to come out motivated and firing hot. Last season the big man averaged just 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds, but I expect that to take a jump this year while being a little more efficient as well. We aren’t too certain what will happen with Houston’s roster this season, but I do know that Rockets fans should be thrilled to lock down Christian Wood for the next few seasons.

Second Year Leap

via NBA.com

We got a glimpse into the expected leap during “The Bubble” this past summer, and I expect that and a whole lot more from Ja Morant this season. Traditionally speaking, rookies show their improvement at the beginning of their second season, but because of the unique stoppage we had during the last season we got a sneak peak into that leap this summer. For any player entering the league, the game is faster than expected but by the end of that first year you can see them find a good flow. For Ja Morant, it didn’t even take an entire season to get there and he really showed that the rest of the league is going to be too slow for him. This season I expect Ja Morant come out with a whole new level of confidence. Each and every night, Ja will step on the court feeling like he is the best player out there, as I imagined he did last season. The difference this time around will be that many other players will believe it too. Sometimes the obvious answer is the right one, Ja Morant should and will be making a massive leap in his second season.

Overachieving Team

via 1000logos.net

The fan base is tortured and it might not be completely over, but this season will hopefully bring in a glimmer of hope for the future of the New York Knicks franchise. The team will certainly not be competing for a championship in the next couple of seasons, but I think this young core will finally start to have a little bit of success. This season I expect the Knicks to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The biggest weight off the shoulders of this organization is the lack of a Giannis free agency. Each time a big name player has become available to the open market, the Knicks organization has found a way to convince itself that this would be their time to land a big fish rather than shifting their focus to internal improvement by player development and the NBA draft. So far it seems they’ve nailed the draft the last two seasons, and now they can really focus on player development and team chemistry this season. Look out NBA, the Knicks are coming, just very, very slowly.

Underachieving Team

via sportslogos.net

While the Atlanta Hawks should be better than last season, I believe they will fall victim to the burden of expectation. The team is revamped and the overall roster is put together well but there will still be some issues to resolve as well. This team is going to put up some points but they’ll be relying on some young players to play high level defense. While the Hawks should still be competitive for, and ideally make the playoffs, that leap to top 5 seed and a playoff push just doesn’t feel like it is in the books for them this year. Trae Young will make another step forward but for the team to reach it’s peak he will need to be willing to play off the ball at times as well. This season will give some insight to the mindset of Trae Young and whether he wants to be on a winning team or if he prefers to be the ball dominant player putting up big numbers. For the sake of the Hawks and their entire fan base, I hope it’s the former because this team could some day be a really competitive squad, just not quite this season. Happiness is a function of expectations, and while this team should be happy with their results, I think the over-optimism might leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many fans.

NBA Award Predictions

There are plenty of awards, and here I’m going to lay out my predictions. For now since time is limited and the season is upon us (yes I procrastinated), I’ll just list them out with a brief description of my reasoning and when time comes to check on the results I can explain my reasoning and why I was right or wrong more in depth at that time.

Most Valuable Player: Luka Doncic — Big leap in team/personal success + Giannis fatigue

Defensive Player of Year: Anthony Davis — Redemption for last season

Rookie of the Year: Killian Hayes — Good stats, bad team, high skill

Sixth Man of the Year: Danilo Gallinari — Hot new team, winning culture

Most Improved Player: Coby White — OPPORTUNITIES

Coach of the Year: Rick Carlisle — Luka Doncic

In a season that is going to be full of off-court challenges, I am excited to see what the on court action brings. Will we see continued above average play as a result of no fans in the stands? Will we see teams make strong late season pushes to make it into the play-in tournament? With so many possibilities ahead and so much uncertainty, let’s just sit back and enjoy the year. (And don’t shame me when all my predictions are incredibly incorrect)

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Neel Patel

Neel Patel

Just a resident physician trying to get away from the books and think about sports for a while.