The Playoff Lock-Ins Tier of the 2020-2021 NBA Season

The Playoff Lock-Ins Tier of the 2020-2021 NBA Season

by December 9, 2020 0 comments

The NBA is filled with uncertainties. Every team has the capability to ruin everyone’s predictions. Just as the Oklahoma City Thunder had done last season. Nothing is guaranteed in the NBA. However, there are always a few teams that will be guaranteed a playoff spot because of their roster. 

This is the second tier of NBA teams. The tier is called Playoff Lock-ins. This tier is filled with teams from the NBA that will make the playoffs. These teams have almost the same qualifications as the tier above them, but one or more of the qualifications is missing. Thus putting the team in a lower tier. 

Check out the Title Contenders Tier.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets have a former MVP in Kevin Durant and an all-star guard in Kyrie Irving. They are surrounded by a very deep rotation. Most of the bench are potential starters on most average NBA teams. Player talent is there for this team, and making the playoffs should be considered locked in. Especially when the team is in the struggling eastern conference. 

Durant is coming off two major injuries that have held him for almost two full seasons. Irving has been dealing with multiple injuries in the past few years, and has not played close to a full season since his time in Cleveland. Injuries are the main focus of why this team is not considered a contender. 

The Nets also have a new head coach in Steve Nash who had never once been a coach in any form of competitive basketball league. Luckily for Brooklyn, the team hired Mike D’Antoni as an assistant to Nash. Coaching along with injuries could be the Achilles heel to the Nets success this season. 

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers cleared house after a very drama-filled 2019-2020 season. Injuries are obviously a concern for the team. Both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons get injured often, creating a rift in the team’s chemistry. It is hard for a team to solidify when one or both of their star players are injured for a majority of the year. Simmons and Embiid are not quite MVP-level players, due to their health and lack of shooting qualifications. 

With a very disappointing last season, the 76ers decided to fire their coach in Brett Brown and immediately hired Doc Rivers once the Los Angeles Clippers let go of him. Rivers is a premiere coach, a former champion as a head coach with the Boston Celtics. Rivers brings experience in the playoffs that Brown had lacked. The 76ers also hired former Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey. Morey immediately made an impact and traded away two bad contracts in return for bench players that can surround Simmons and Embiid. 

What brings this team down to the second tier of the NBA, is the chemistry. Last season the team imploded, as they would turn on each other for losses and players’ efforts. It is unclear if Simmons or Embiid could even stay on the team before this year’s trade deadline. As it was reported late last season that they did not get along. 

Los Angeles Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers are not gonna be the team of last year. They lost some major players off the bench. The team still has Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, which both players will lead the team to the playoffs. From there the bench is still quite talented. Off the bench, the team has Reggie Jackson, Lou Williams, and Ivica Zubac. The team lost their best big man in Montrezl Harrell to their in-city rivals. 

The front office did not make any big moves to help restore the bench pieces lost. They did bring in Serge Ibaka to fill the need for a starting center. A lack of aggressive moves this offseason will be the reason why the team isn’t in the tier above. 

The Clippers also made a foolish mistake in firing Doc Rivers in favor of Tyrone Lue. Lue has won a championship with the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers as the head coach. However, he had no control over the team. That team was led by Lebron James, and the players. Lue is not a great NBA coach, and is best suited for a team trying to rebuild. 

Houston Rockets

The Rockets are in this tier only if John Wall stays healthy for the majority of the season and James Harden decides to stay for the year. Harden alone can bring the organization to the playoffs, as he has in years prior. Big uncertainties surround this team with Wall and DeMarcus Cousins’ health, Harden’s commitment to the team and the coaching situation. 

Health can hinder a potential contender. Given examples are the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. A star player who gets injured could derail a team’s season entirely. New head coach Stephen Silas is a rookie coach, who has spent the last 20 seasons in the NBA as an assistant. Silas is unproven as the head coach, and with a talented roster filled with big personalities the team could crash under his helm. 

Harden is also a huge question mark for the team, as he requested a trade out of Houston. When a star player is disgruntled, their team play is affected and the team starts to dip rapidly. If Harden eventually makes amends with Houston then this team could make a splash as a contender. 

New Orleans Pelicans

Zion Williamson is healthy, and that is the sole reason why the Pelicans are going to make the playoffs. Without Williamson, the team was barely below .500. With Williamson the team was comfortably above .500, and with a year of experience under his belt the team should make another jump. Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball also took big steps last season and should take another step with more minutes available. The Pelicans are a very talented team and have a veteran bench to help them stay in games when the younger starters are resting. 

Health is a major concern for the team, just like every team listed in this tier. However, if health does become a problem this team could be lowered into the tanking tier. Unlike the 76ers and Nets, the Pelicans play in a very competitive Western Conference. One injury could take them out of this tier into the next lower tier. 

The new head coach Stan Van Gundy is also a matchup nightmare. There were other better candidates to fill the position. The team needed a coach that knew how to represent the players’ growth, and still lead them as a playoff contender. Van Gundy has the experience to lead a team, but his flaw as a coach is maintaining his players’ chemistry. In his last two stints as a head coach, he kept bashing heads with star players. From Dwight Howard in Orlando to Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond in Detroit.

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images

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