With all the player movement over the summer, several teams are headed into the new season with a fresh roster, and a new sense of expectations.
This season, the league is more open than usual. In each conference, there are multiple teams that see themselves as possible contenders.
Here are a few teams that will be sleepers in the upcoming NBA season.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are easily one of the most interesting teams to watch this year. While they won’t be contenders for a few more years, New Orleans, with a newly formed roster by GM David Griffin, can exceed expectations this season.
Luck was granted to the Pelicans when they received the number one pick in the 2019 Draft, giving them Zion Williamson to become the face of the franchise post-Anthony Davis.
Williamson will have high expectations, but the roster surrounding him will make up for any lulls in his development.
Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday will make for a good, balanced backcourt. Holiday quietly had a great season last year amidst the AD drama, averaging 21 points, seven assists and five rebounds. He now becomes the leader of this young team.
The team signed two veterans somewhat unexpected to go with the young core. Forward Derrick Favors and shooting guard JJ Redick will add experience to the team in head coach Alvin Gentry’s fifth season.
If Williamson hits the ground running as a rookie, and Brandon Ingram can return healthy as an effective scorer, the Pelicans could be a sleeper team that makes the playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed.
The Pacers were the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference last season, managing to stay afloat after Victor Oladipo went out with an injury. If he can return back healthy next season, he and free-agent signee Malcolm Brogdon can elevate the team to another level.
Brogdon was one of the more undervalued guards in the free-agent class. Last season, he averaged 15.6 points on 50-40-90 shooting percentages. A healthy Oladipo will pair well with Brogdon in the backcourt, making them one of the best in the East.
Up front, the Pacers, who were great defensively last year, have Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, both 6’11 and both average nearly a double-double. Turner is a defensive anchor, and another year under his belt will give him more experience matching up with rival big men such as Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
With Kawhi Leoanard leaving Toronto, Boston having questions of their own, and Kevin Durant being out for the year in Brooklyn, the Pacers could be good enough to make a Conference Finals appearance. Their depth, including TJ McConnell and TJ Warren, will be key for the Pacers making it out of the first round this year, which they haven’t done since 2014.
One of best defensive teams in the league last year, the Jazz added two stars to their roster this offseason. With Mike Conley and former Pacer Bojan Bogdanovic being added to the starting lineup, Utah could shock many this season and be a team that ascends to one of the top-three teams in the conference.
In the backcourt, the veteran Conley, a great defender, will join Donovan Mitchell, who is heading into his third season. Look for Mitchell to keep developing into one of the league’s young players.
Bogdonavic is a great pickup for the Jazz, and will make them more of a balanced threat as a team. Bogdonavic averaged 18 points last season on nearly 50 percent from the field, giving them a mid-range scoring option.
Anchored by Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, the Jazz also have solid role players like Joe Ingles, and have brought in new players like Jeff Green and Ed Davis to shore up some of the depth issues.
While Utah was bounced in the first round by the Rockets last season, they responded by making notable moves this offseason. Expect the Jazz to be near the top of the West next season yet again, this time with more offensive capabilities.
Featured image credited to IndyStar.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.