The NBA season is just four days away, which means it’s almost time for real NBA action! The offseason was torturously long as usual, but at least it was filled with plenty of league-shifting moves that should make the 2019-2020 season extremely spicy. It also means that the preseason is just about over, but don’t let the current standings change what teams you bet on for both long-term and upcoming games!
While the preseason and regular season are just days apart, there is a major shift in mentality and strategy when it comes to playing actual games on the NBA schedule. The preseason doesn’t mean anything to season standings, nor does it have an effect on the playoffs. This means that teams can give new players plenty of playing time, while also letting veterans get some rest.
There are also several teams that are missing star players due to injuries. When a team is missing key components of the roster, you just can’t judge their performance based on what you see in preseason standings. However, there are also teams that outperform, meaning that what you see is really fool’s gold because they’re playing against weaker competition.
Let’s take a look at two teams that you shouldn’t rule out and two teams that you shouldn’t put much stock in as far as preseason performances showed.
Underperforming Playoff Teams (Standings as of 10/17)
The squads that did poorly in the preseason compared to how they should do in the regular season are from the Western Conference. The Eastern Conference standings aren’t actually too much different from how teams should play out during the season, but seeding and win percentage will definitely change.
- Utah Jazz (1-4) – Of all 30 teams, the Utah Jazz definitely put up the worst showings of the preseason. After finishing with a 50-32 record good for the 5th seed last season, they acquired a great point guard in Mike Conley in exchange for losing Ricky Rubio. They also acquired guard Bojan Bogdanovic fresh off an 18 PPG season in Indiana. Their sole preseason win came against the Adelaide 36ers, an Austrailian NBL team, while they lost the next four against actual NBA teams.
Defensive savant Rudy Gobert did miss the first game, but he played in the last three losses. Donovan Mitchell, Conley, and Bogdanovic all played in those four losses and they still couldn’t pick up a victory. As shockingly disappointing as their preseason was, expect them to still win close to 50 games this season as they will make the playoffs.
- Golden State Warriors (1-3) – Considering that the Dubs have been to 5 straight Finals, you might think they’d do better than winning just once so far in the preseason. It’s important to remember that (injured) Kevin Durant is now a Brooklyn Net and star guard Klay Thompson will miss a majority of the season with his ACL tear. Nonetheless, the trio of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and offseason acquisition D’Angelo Russell have all played three games, although not all of them together.
In their single win, Curry did go off for 40 points against the Timberwolves, so it isn’t like they are lacking firepower. Instead, it’s more an indicator that Golden State doesn’t care much for the preseason, instead giving reserve players an opportunity to prove themselves. Don’t listen to any nonsense saying that the Warriors will miss the playoffs this year, because they’ll definitely be there and a force like always.
Overperforming Lottery Teams (Standings as of 10/17)
Much like the underwhelming teams, the two biggest overperformers are also from the Western Conference. The two teams here have the 1st and 2nd overall picks of the 2019 NBA Draft, so to see them with wins in the preseason is definitely promising. However, it is very clear that teams were not giving 100% effort, meaning that Zion and Morant will have a much harder time actually producing during the regular season.
- New Orleans Pelicans (4-0) – If the 4-0 start by the Pelicans is making you jump on the Zion hype train, now is a fantastic time to pump the brakes. Yes, Zion has been great in all four games, but you can be certain that defensive strategies will focus on shutting him down during the regular season. It’s also worrisome that Zion is already missing a game, albeit a preseason game, due to knee soreness. 285 pounds is just too much for his knees. That said, he will still have a solid rookie campaign and is still the favorite to win Rookie of the Year.
Williamson does have a solid supporting cast in Jrue Holiday and the young players banished from the Lakers, but there is a reason why Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball were shipped to New Orleans. They both have talent in their own right, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to NBA victories. Despite a great preseason performance, expect the Pelicans to miss the playoffs this year.
- Memphis Grizzlies (3-1) – Memphis had a pretty solid preseason, but it is critical to note that two of their victories came against non-NBA teams. One was an Israelian basketball team in Maccabi Haifa and the other was another NBL team in the New Zealand Breakers. Those two games aside, the Grizzlies are just 1-1 in the preseason against actual NBA teams.
Making matters worse, Ja Morant didn’t even play in the victory, although Jaren Jackson Jr. did participate in both games. If not for a 30 point explosion from Dillon Brooks against the lowly Thunder, Memphis would be 0-2 against actual NBA teams during the preseason. Their 3-1 preseason is more realistically 1-1, and barely at that, so it would be a major surprise to see them win more than 30 games this year. Memphis will miss the playoffs by a wide margin this year.