NBA

4 Lottery Teams That Can Make a Playoff Push Next Year

Apr 11, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) goes to the basket while defended by Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) and forward Naz Reid (11) during the second quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA is more competitive than it’s ever been this year. Several solid teams were unable to make it into the playoff picture. However, some of these lottery teams could easily make a playoff push next year. So today, we’ll look at four of these teams that could be solid playoff squads in the 2021-2022 season.

Toronto Raptors

Apr 26, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (right) and Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (left) look on before the beginning of the third quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

People seem to forget just how good of a team the Raptors are. Firstly, have all-star caliber players in Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, and Fred Vanvleet.

Additionally, they have a solid young core that compliments these stars well. Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, and Malachi Flynn, along with some of their other young players, have all showed a lot of potential.

Their rookie, Flynn, showed what he was capable of with a great month of April. He averaged 12.7/4.8/4.1 on 56.08 TS% and took home the Rookie of the Month award.

Anunoby, Trent Jr., and Davis have all also been impressive lately. 23-year-old Anunoby is averaging 22.5/4.4/3.2 on 64.17 TS% his last seven games. Also, Trent Jr. recently became the second youngest Raptor with a 40/5 game in April. The Raptors organization is excellent at developing young players, and they could make another considerable leap next season.

Unfortunately, Toronto has failed to make it into the playoff picture. This is mainly due to a combination of injuries and bad luck. However, this means the Raptors also have the potential to pick up a high lottery pick this year.

There is so much talent in the 2021 draft class. Four or five players are worthy of being first-overall picks in this upcoming draft. If Toronto can land one of these players, they could be a substantial playoff threat.

Lowry, Vanvleet, and Siakam all have championship experience. Along with their young core, they could easily make a deep playoff run next year if they choose to do so.

New Orleans Pelicans

Apr 26, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) is congratulated by forward Brandon Ingram (14) after making a three point basket against LA Clippers during the second half at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
 Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans are capable of making a deep playoff push next year.

On paper, New Orleans has a remarkable team. Firstly, they have two young centerpieces in Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. This season, Ingram has averaged a solid 23.8/4.9/4.9 on 58.66 TS%. Williamson averaged 27/7/3.7 on 61.1 FG% and is coming off a statistically historic season.

Secondly, they have some great players surrounding those two. For example, they have a terrific young playmaker in Lonzo Ball running point. New Orleans also has a dominant force inside, with Steven Adams as their center. Finally, they have a solid supporting cast filled with a combination of young players and veterans.

So, why haven’t they been winning games this year? Well, New Orleans could not close games this season.

If New Orleans were to win all 14 games where they blew double-digit leads, they would have a record of 45-25. This record would earn them the fifth seed in a highly competitive West.

However, one of the main reasons they were unable to close these games was their lack of experience. Next season, they will be much more seasoned, having played a whole year together.

If New Orleans can play at the level we know they are capable of, they will be scary. They could easily make a playoff run next season.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Apr 27, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard D'Angelo Russell (0) and forward Anthony Edwards (1) celebrate the win over the Houston Rockets in the fourth quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves are another team that could make a strong playoff push next year.

Like Toronto, Minnesota has dealt with lots of injuries this year. D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns have only played a total of 22 games together this year. They will be fully healthy next year, and Minnesota will look to make waves next season.

The Timberwolves have a fantastic offensive team on paper. Anthony Edwards, Malik Beasley, and D’Angelo Russell are all averaging over 19 PPG this year. Also, Towns is still having a great season despite his injuries and COVID. He is averaging just under 25 PPG this year.

In addition, they have a top-two rookie in the NBA to compliment Towns and Russell. Anthony Edwards has already proven to be an elite young player. Since the All-Star break, the rookie is averaging 23.6/5.5/3.3/1.4 on 56.34 TS%. He will only continue to get better, and next year he will have an even stronger season.

Although the Warriors have Minnesota’s pick this year, it is top-three protected. And right now, Minnesota is tied as the sixth-worst team in the NBA. They could still get a top-three pick, and the player they draft could be an x-factor in their playoff push next year.

Minnesota has a solid young team, and they could easily make a playoff push next year. If they stay healthy, they could be a solid team in the West next year.

Chicago Bulls

May 7, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) celebrates his three point basket against the Boston Celtics with center Nikola Vucevic (9) during the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago is another strong team that has found itself in the lottery this year. However, they could make a playoff push next year.

Chicago traded for All-Star big man Nikola Vucevic just before the trade deadline. But the Bulls were still unable to make the postseason, falling just short of the play-in tournament with the eleventh seed.

Next season, they will have a full year of Lavine and Vooch. Lavine is still in his prime, and along with an elite center in Vucevic, they could be a strong team next season.

This season, Lavine is averaging 27.4/5/4.9, and Vucevic is averaging 23.6/11.7/3.9. Chicago will be tough to stop next year once these two are more comfortable playing together.

We have seen with the Knicks that anything can happen in the Eastern Conference. The East is not as strong as the West, and Chicago could easily be a top-six team next season.

The x-factors in their playoff run will be their second-year player Coby White and their rookie Patrick Williams. White has shown strong development as of late, averaging 19.8/5.5/4.8 on 64.71 TS% his last four games. Although Williams hasn’t had high scoring numbers this season, he is establishing himself as one of the best young defenders in the league.

White is 21 years old, and Williams is 19. They will be considerable contributors to Chicago’s playoff push next year.

Chicago is a team that could shock the East next season. With a solid young core and star-studded duo, the Bulls are a team to look out for next year.

In conclusion, all four of these teams could make a playoff push next year. The league could look very different next season. It will be interesting to see if these teams can bounce back from lottery years.

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