The playoff picture in last season’s NBA was a little chaotic at the bottom of each conference, so with that point being front and center, which playoff teams might not get back to the postseason? Here’s our NBA picks for the teams that made that will now miss.
1. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are in position to fall from the top seed in the Eastern Conference to a place that’s all the way out of the playoffs. The Pacers are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs outright because Paul George is injured and is going to be out for the entire season. The Pacers didn’t lose a role player. They lost a star. They didn’t lose a contributor. They lost their best player, the one who did the most for them and led the team on and off the court. They lost the guy who helped Roy Hibbert to regain some of his focus when last season threatened to completely collapse well before the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. George’s combination of defense, three-point shooting, above-the-rim play, and his general ability to score in bunches will kill the Pacers this season.
Then, on top of that, you have to factor in the loss of Lance Stephenson, a highly talented and energetic guard who was able to drive, finish at the rim, and occasionally shoot the ball well from 18 feet. He provided hustle and attitude for the Pacers, and since he was replaced by Rodney Stuckey, the Pacers certainly endured a big downgrade at that spot. Cleveland will make the playoffs, so at least one of the East’s eight playoff teams last year will fall out. The Pacers are number one on that list.
2. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are a good team. They will continue to be a good team. However, as everyone in the Western Conference knows, you can be a good team and not make the playoffs. Ask the Phoenix Suns, who went 48-34 last season and did not make the postseason. There’s going to be another team that wins 47 games in the coming season and fails to make the playoffs, and Golden State could very well be that team. The Warriors have to have Andrew Bogut healthy if they want to produce the kind of defense that can complement the team’s obvious stash of offensive firepower with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the “Splash Brothers” of the San Francisco Bay Area. Bogut, though, doesn’t give any indication that he’ll be healthy. He is chronically injured, and with a new coach in Steve Kerr taking over for the very successful Mark Jackson, it seems that the Warriors’ ownership messed with a good thing. If there’s a season in which Golden State stumbles, this is it.
3. Houston Rockets
The Rockets thought they had a championship team on their hands in the offseason. Chris Bosh was deciding between Miami and Houston, and when LeBron James went to Cleveland, it seemed that everything was set for Bosh to go to Houston and give the Rockets that championship piece alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard. Houston was going to be close to unstoppable with that starting five and those three stars at the forefront. Instead, Bosh surprised everyone by staying in Miami, and Chandler Parsons went to Dallas instead of staying in Houston. The Rockets now have some noticeable gaps in their lineup, and they could now become that 48-win team without a playoff berth at the end of a long season. Head coach Kevin McHale might not be good enough to get this roster to the finish line, so bet against them making the playoffs with your NBA picks.