Success on the horizon? Four teams who can make progress this season
Sporting success can be garnered in several ways. The most obvious way to succeed is to be the champion of the respective sport. Another path to achieving relative success is to improve on past performances, and in NBA terms, that would be qualifying for the postseason from a previous lower standing, for instance.
For the teams who finished at the foot of both conferences last season, any improvements on those efforts would surely be a point in the right direction. Just a handful of extra victories this coming campaign could help form real optimism and the potential to turn around a once struggling franchise, into a leading team. In this article, we will look at four clubs who can kick on in 2016/17 to better things ahead.
Although a likely arrival into the postseason in 2017, it will be fun to see how well the Utah Jazz go this time around – and it could be very well indeed. The Jazz lost 42 games last season, but with the deep level of talent available to Quin Snyder – especially now that his roster is relatively injury-free, the fan base in Utah can hope for a much improved effort for the coming season. On the surface, the Jazz look to have a fine balance in their roster with some veteran help arriving this offseason. George Hill has swapped from Indiana, while the Jazz have also brought in Boris DIaw from San Antonio and Joe Johnson has signed a two-year-deal in Utah after his short period in Miami. If you consider the returning talents of Alec Burks and Dante Exum, then it’s easy to see why the Jazz are an outside pick this year.
The Philadelphia 76ers won just ten games last season, and hopes sprang eternal for the upcoming campaign with the arrival of 2016 Number One Draft Pick, Ben Simmons. Things have already turned sour for Simmons and the 76ers, as the star rookie is to undergo a long rehabilitation process following a metatarsal injury in the final day of training camp. It is a huge blow for Philly, but not a total disaster. Ironically, center, Joel Embiid is returning from a two-season layoff this term for the 76ers, and his influence alone can help Philadelphia get back on the winning path to a certain degree. Simmons should be healthy to return before the end of the season, maybe not, but although a huge leap is not guaranteed for his team, some progress in the win column can be expected.
Another team who has suffered pre-season injury woe are the Milwaukee Bucks, by losing Khris Middleton to a hamstring issue that required surgery. Middleton is expected to be out for around six months. The news of Middleton’s injury somewhat dampened the announcement of forward Giannis Antetokounmpo’s new bumper four-year deal with the Bucks. However, this roster gap will give extra opportunities to second-year-pro Rashad Vaughn, who will be expected to cover Middleton’s absence. After winning 41 games in 2015, the Bucks were expected to make a real push towards the postseason last year, but it never materialised with just 33 victories last term. Milwaukee have a relatively young team though and a play-off push would be a huge boost before their stadium move in 2018.
A healthy Anthony Davis will be key to any hopes of the New Orleans Pelicans progression this season. The face of the franchise is being steadily returned to full health following a serious knee injury suffered back in March. Provided that Davis can stay healthy this campaign, scoring points is hardly likely to be an issue with the Pelicans. and with the expected influence of rookie Buddy Hield offering further youthful skill and exuberance, then New Orleans could potentially be a dark-horse for the postseason in the Western Conference.