Last season was a very strange year. The offseason was short and went by way too quickly. Players were not ready physically, while having to deal with Covid protocols.
Then there was the season itself. Last season was only 72 games and you never knew who was playing on a given night. There was also the play-in tournament; where two teams from each conference had one final shot of making the playoffs.
The season was difficult and some teams couldn’t find their footing, which led to them missing the playoffs. Some teams had no shot, but there were other organizations that made it their mission to get to the playoffs.
However, only eight teams in each conference can make it. The play-in tournament is nice to give teams an extra chance, but you still have to win to actually get in.
That was last season though, and we are entering a new one. Some of those teams that just missed the cut will have a shot at redemption. There are three non-playoff teams that you should put your money on for them to make the playoffs this season.
Charlotte Hornets (+164 to make playoffs)
The Charlotte Hornets last year were close to making the postseason. They qualified for the play-in tournament, but lost to the Indiana Pacers. However, things are getting better in Charlotte.
Gordon Hayward is coming back healthy, Terry Rozier is ready to earn that nice contract extension he just received, and Miles Bridges is coming into his own as a rim-rocking, versatile forward. They also have the reigning Rookie of the Year in LaMelo Ball.
Ball was exceptional last season, but a wrist injury derailed him. The same happened to Hayward, as he succumbed to some injuries. This team fully healthy will be a fun watch; with a good chance of cracking into the playoffs.
Chicago Bulls (-154 to make playoffs)
This might be a make-or-break year for the Chicago Bulls. They have not made the playoffs since 2017 and that is not good for their franchise guy, Zach LaVine. LaVine has never made the postseason in his career, which has been mostly spent with the Bulls.
He finally made the All-Star team last season and made good strides as a real player in this league. They added Nikola Vucevic, another All-Star, to help elevate the Bulls into the playoffs.
However, that did not happen. There were chemistry issues to go along with LaVine in Covid protocol, which hindered their postseason chances. That is why they took this offseason very seriously.
The Bulls ended up signing Lonzo Ball and Demar DeRozan in free agency to help this organization reach the postseason again. The roster has other guys that are ready to help the push like Coby White and Patrick Williams as well.
It all ends with LaVine though. He is in the final year of his contract. If the Bulls want him to stay, they must make it to the playoffs.
A lot has happened this summer with the New Orleans Pelicans and their superstar talent, Zion Williamson. Zion and the organization seem to be at odds with one another. The friction is so bad that Zion might not even sign an extension after his rookie contract expires.
The Pelicans have had issues with superstar talent before and their ability to keep them. This one is different because of how early in the relationship it is. The biggest remedy for all of this will be a playoff berth.
The biggest thing standing in their way is the difficulty of the entire Western Conference. In the West, the competition seems to be a lot tougher compared to the East. This Pelicans team has an uphill battle to climb.
However, the talent is there. Zion is on the verge of superstardom. Brandon Ingram is a former All-Star, who is only 24 years old. Jonas Valaciunas is an upgrade from Steven Adams.
Some other teams in the West need to implode a little, but anything is possible. The Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers are dealing with injuries to star players that will keep them sidelined for most of the season. Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers might be done with one another by midseason.
Anything is possible in the NBA. That is why the Pelicans have a legitimate shot at making the postseason.