The NBA standings have never been less relevant. With over four months separating the NBA's hiatus in March from its proposed restart date in July, teams and players will have had plenty of time to get healthy and strategize for the home stretch and playoffs, which will take place neither home nor away.
As the NBA approaches its return, fans should keep an eye on these five teams. They may not be high seeds or touted as championship contenders, but they are definitely ready to put their opponents on upset alert for the first round.
5. Orlando Magic
If the Orlando Magic can avoid facing reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, they have a great chance at pulling off an upset. Steve Clifford coaches one of the most disciplined teams in the league, ranked tenth in defensive rating. They will also be the team closest to home, playing just over 20 from the Amway Center. The Magic could easily become the quickest to adjust to playing in a bubble.
4. Dallas Mavericks
Two words: Luka Doncic. Luka is one of the best players in the league currently: he can pull from feet behind the arc, finish with finesse, and set up teammates with ease off the dribble. Having a steady hand with the ball will be key as teams adjust to playing in Orlando. Having Porzingis well rested and championship coach Rick Carlisle at the helm will also contribute to a potential Mavericks upset.
3. Indiana Pacers
No player may benefit more from the time off than Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo. Oladipo returned from a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee in January and has looked extremely rusty since. His points per game (13.8) and field goal percentage (39.1%) are both career lows. If Oladipo returns to form after the time off, he and 2020 All-Star Domantas Sabonis could form a dangerous inside out duo. Of course, Oladipo may simply decide not to play, too. Keep an eye on this one.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder weren't supposed to be in the playoffs this season. Now, Chris Paul has led the underdog squad to fifth place in the West with a chance at nabbing a higher seed. If they enter as a fifth seed or lower, be on upset watch. Chris Paul and Steven Adams are two of the most composed players in the league, and will be completely unfazed by the change of scenery in Orlando.
1. Portland Trail Blazers
If they get into the playoffs, the Portland Trail Blazers will be the most dangerous eight seed the league has ever seen. Damian Lillard has put the Blazers on his back this season, putting up career highs in points per game (28.9) and assists per game (7.8). With the criminally underrated CJ McCollum by his side, and Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins returning from injury, the Blazers suddenly have the star power and depth of a contender.