The NBA playoffs are nearly set as the regular season draws to a close. Many NBA teams who are left out of this year’s playoff picture or have no shot at winning will actually be viable contenders next season.
Certain teams like Dallas and Boston are clearly getting older and older, and these runs may be their last ones with their current makeups. Younger, hungrier teams are ready to take their places as perennial contenders.
Here are five teams that may be under the radar now, but won’t be at all next season.
One thing that wins in the playoffs is size down low. That is something that this Jazz squad has plenty of. Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap have proven to be a dynamic frontcourt duo this season, and young forwards Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter provide great depth.
Gordon Hayward has come along nicely as a perimeter both on offense and defense, and Alec Burks has been a decent scorer off the bench. Raja Bell provides veteran defense and toughness that this team lacks at other positions.
The only question mark is Devin Harris. If he proves that he can lead this team, look out. The Jazz could be the next Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kevin McHale has done a much better job with this team than many though he would. One thing that the Rockets struggle with is the lack of a go-to player to lean on down the stretch. Kevin Martin, Marcus Camby, Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and others form a solid group of decent players, but they need to find that one guy to lead.
If they can do that, then this team will make the playoffs next season and be a serious contender to go far. The overall talent is just too good.
Milwaukee suffered a disappointing year this season, as they’ve lost out on a trip to the postseason once again. However, the pairing of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings has been effective.
Shipping out the injury-plagued Andrew Bogut was a good move, and the team got more athletic and younger in that trade. This time next year, Ellis and Jennings will be leading the Bucks to the postseason and beyond.
Despite what you might have heard, this Cleveland Cavaliers team is much more talented than many give it credit for. Kyrie Irving is the obvious choice for Rookie of the Year, averaging 18.7 points and 5.5 assists per game.
Antawn Jamison has played well, averaging 17.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He could be a huge trade chip for the team in the months to come. Tristan Thompson has come along slowly and looks like he may be a solid player. Anderson Varejao has been there forever, and he is a great low-post defender.
Steve Nash just produces no matter what you put around him. That’s how it seems with this year’s version of the Phoenix Suns, which basically consists of Nash and Marcin Gortat surrounded by three-point shooters.
But they have the groundwork for a top-notch team in the Western Conference. All they need is another scorer who can create on his own and take pressure off of Nash. Eric Gordon might be a perfect fit.