Three NBA teams that shock everyone next season.

Atlanta Hawks

Added: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo, Danillo Gallinari, Onyeka Okongwu (Draft)

2020 was a disappointment for everyone one.  The Atlanta Hawks were a disappointment for me.  I had them as a sleeper team to make the playoffs out of the east.  They never found their groove last season.  The Hawks finished the season with a 20-47 record.

The Hawks went wild in the offseason adding serious depth around their two young stars Trae Young and John Collins.  Atlanta added proven champ Rajan Rondo, forward Danillo Galliinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic.  They also drafted uber-talented USC Trojan Onyeka Okongwu, a player that some had as a top 5 pick.   

Despite playing one of the fastest paces in the league (7th fastest) the Hawks offense was not efficient last season.  They ranked 25th in the league in offensive efficiency.  While Atlanta moved quickly they had some serious shooting issues ranking dead last in 3-pt percentage (33%).  The addition of Bogdanovic and Gallinari immediately addresses the issue, they shoot 37% and 38% respectively.  Early reports are saying that Gallinari will be coming off of the bench along with Rondo.  The Hawks bench was one of the worst in the league last year. That won’t be the case in 2021. 

Atlanta had defensive issues last season.  A full year of Clint Capela meaning the middle will help with the rim protection.  Having the stopper in the middle will allow the lengthy wings DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish to be more aggressive to create steals.  This team improved on every aspect that they lacked last season.  Hawks will make the playoffs and create problems for a lot of teams in the East. 

New Orleans Pelicans

Added: Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams, Kira Lewis Jr (Draft)

The west is stacked and the Pelicans traded away Jrue Holiday.  There is no way this team gets better…wrong.  The Pelicans made headlines when they traded their All-Star guard to Milwaukee.  The thought from many is that the Pelicans are going to have another developmental year.  Most have ignored what the Pelicans added in the offseason.  

Eric Bledsoe is a veteran that should fill in the role as the #2 guard.  Bledsoe has a very similar skill set as Holiday.  Both players finished the season with a PER of 17,  both shoot the three around 35% and both are box score stuffers.  Holiday averaged 2 more assists per game, but it is likely that Bledsoe will see more time at the shooting guard position while Lonzo Ball will be at the point, where most of the distribution will occur. Bledsoe’s biggest attribute is coming from a winning organization that played great team defense.  A 2-time all NBA defensive player will help set the tone for a Pelicans team that was putrid on that end. 

Along with Bledsoe the Pelicans added a big man known for toughness and defense in Steven Adams. Adams will be a protector of Zion Williamson and does not need the ball on the offensive end. He will set screens for Lonzo Ball and allow him to work towards the rim utilizing the pick and roll.   Adams is the perfect fit for a team that needs toughness.

Adding two veterans to a team with the league’s most improved player Brandon Ingram and of course the “franchise” Zion Williamson makes this team an immediate threat for a playoff spot. Stan Van Gundy has the pedigree to lead a still very young team.  The mix of veterans and young rising stars ready to make an impact put them in position to make an impact. 

Phoenix Suns

Added: Chris Paul, Jae Crowder, Jalen Smith (Draft)

The Phoenix Suns made an impact in the 2020 Bubble.  The Suns came in with low expectations but left with the fanbase and the NBA excited for what next season will bring.  Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges are all 24 or younger and now have the leadership of future Hall of Famer Chris Paul.  

The Suns also picked up a solid swingman, Jae Crowder in free agency.  Crowder has played major minutes for playoff teams in his career.  Spending time with the Celtics, Jazz and recently the Heat.  Crowder is a locker room leader and defender that will bring toughness and playoff experience to a team that needed it to make a real run for the playoffs.  

The Suns had to give up Kelly Oubre and Ricky Rubio in order to acquire their new pieces.  The offense will have a different identity but the defense will be the biggest change in culture.  The offense will come through Booker and Ayton, the addition of veterans with experience will help them stay in control down the stretch of a tight game.  Teams can no longer key on just Booker.  Paul is reaching the later stages of his career but he showed what he can do for a team that doesn’t have near the talent that Phoenix has.  

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