Monday, 22 Jul 2024

10 Key Questions: Which Team is Poised for a Surprising, Breakout Season?

For the next 10 days, we’ll be answering one key question surrounding the 2021-22 NBA season. Here’s question nine:

Which Team is Poised for a Surprising, Breakout Season?

If I were to predict it here, would it really be surprising? Okay, that’s not the answer you’re looking for, but there is something to be said for it. Some of the biggest improvements this offseason have been made by teams like the Brooklyn Nets, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the LA Clippers. It’s no surprise that these powerhouse teams are expected to perform well. The Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets, and Philadelphia 76ers have already broken out as top contenders. And let’s be real, jockeying for a slightly higher finish in the lottery doesn’t qualify as a breakout either.

So, after careful consideration, I’ve narrowed it down to two candidates: Miami and Chicago.

For the Bulls to reach “breakout” status, they’ll need to secure a playoff spot. This means surpassing or surviving the Play-In route in the East. Adding Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan to a lineup that already includes Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, and Patrick Williams should significantly boost an offense that ranked 21st last season. Chicago has desperately needed a point guard for years, and Ball fills that void on both ends of the court. With a revamped bench, the Bulls have the potential to push above .500 after finishing at 31-41 in 2020-21.

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Miami’s breakout season will be on a much grander scale, with aspirations to reach the Finals beyond their bubble experience in 2020. The acquisition of Kyle Lowry was a perfect move, bringing in someone to organize the Heat’s offense and provide an emotional counterpart to Jimmy Butler. The sting of an early playoff exit will fuel Bam Adebayo, and with players like Duncan Robinson, P.J. Tucker, and Markieff Morris joining the roster, the Heat are poised for a strong postseason run. When Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra switch into win-now mode, this team will be a force to be reckoned with. Expect around 55 victories, a top 3 seed, and potentially a trip to the Eastern Conference finals or beyond.

Other questions:

  • Which second-year players will flourish?
  • Can the Hawks build on their playoff success?
  • How can Zion improve his game next season?
  • How will Kidd help Doncic in Dallas?
  • Will experience push the Lakers to the top of the West?
  • Are the Nets clearly the team to beat?
  • Can the Suns return to the Finals?
  • How can Lowry help the Heat?
  • What will be the Bucks’ biggest challenge?

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him [here](), find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter.

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