4 squads that were playoff no-shows but might bounce back in 2024

NBA Power Rankings, early edition

As the offseason basketball maneuvers draw to a close — perhaps you caught wind of Portland’s potential big play before autumn — it’s the right time to predict next season’s playoff contenders.

Diving deeper, we ponder: Which squads that missed out last year might be on track to land a spot in 2023-24?

Juggling positions within each conference won’t be straightforward, especially in the East, considering teams like Bucks, Celtics, Sixers, Cavs, Knicks, and Heat are returning with a similar skill set. That’s a solid six contenders for eight playoff berths, not to forget the Nets and Hawks, who appear to be top contenders.

The West presents its own set of hurdles. With Nuggets, Kings, Suns, Warriors, Clippers, and Lakers almost guaranteed spots, only two remain. Notably, the Grizzlies, having secured second place with 51 wins last season, are in the shadow because Ja Morant faces a 25-game suspension. If Memphis can navigate this phase, then that’s seven teams with firm playoff aspirations.

However, in NBA, the unpredictable is predictable. Surprises are an annual affair. Hence, here are four lottery teams from 2022-23 that seem most likely to punch their playoff tickets next season, three from the West and one from the East:

Dallas’s absence from the playoffs in 2022-23 caught many off guard. The delayed arrival of Kyrie Irving, who then missed vital matches, played a part. Also, certain… tactical moves by the Mavs towards the season’s end ensured they retained their No. 1 pick from the Knicks.

However, this trend is likely to change this season. Given they remain injury-free, the dynamic duo of Kyrie and Luka Doncic is too potent to miss out on the playoffs. Moreover, the Mavs fortified their lineup during the offseason, recalling Seth Curry and introducing a robust defender in Grant Williams. Players like Richaun Holmes and Dante Exum remain variables.

Keep in mind, this squad, even without Kyrie, reached the Western Conference Finals just two years back. Though rivals have intensified, Dallas boasts two All-Stars, and teams of such caliber rarely miss the postseason.

Seeing the Mavericks benched last season was surprising, but it would be even more startling if history repeats itself. If everything aligns for Dallas, tanking will be off the table.

New Orleans’ narrative for the upcoming season can be summarized in one word:


The prefix to any Pelicans’ 2023-24 discussion will be “If Zion stays fit…”. Historically, Zion’s inconsistent health has kept the Pelicans in limbo.

Without Zion, the team did give the Suns a run for their money two years back. Still, the next season, a Zion-less team finished 25-28.

Assuming Zion remains injury-free, the Pelicans are certainly playoff contenders, possibly even for the Play-In Tournament. With Zion’s undeniable talent, could they replicate what Sacramento achieved last year?

Talented players are aplenty: Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, Trey Murphy III, Herb Jones, Jose Alvarado, and Jonas Valanciunas. The Pelicans also have draft assets, giving them trade leverage.

Indiana’s recent acquisition played a pivotal role in Denver’s 2023 championship win, but, alas, it wasn’t Nikola Jokic. Bruce Brown, the new entrant, could potentially elevate the Pacers, albeit not to championship levels, but possibly to the playoffs.

However, it will take more than Brown’s magic. Several Pacers need to up their game. Players like Tyrese Haliburton, who’s just signed a rookie max extension, and Bennedict Mathurin, who had an impressive rookie season, need to shine. Additionally, Myles Turner’s progression is critical, and the Pacers expect more from Obi Toppin than the Knicks did.

While the Pacers need things to fall in place, among the Eastern teams that missed 2023’s playoffs, they seem best poised to escape the lottery’s grasp.

The league’s greenest team last year, boasting an average age of 23.14, unsurprisingly infused young talent this summer. Notable additions include Chet Holmgren, whose rookie season was postponed due to injury, Cason Wallace from the 2023 Draft, and two-time EuroLeague MVP Vasilije Micic, who had impressive stats last season.

This doesn’t imply OKC’s progression is stalled by this youth influx. The Thunder seem on the brink of something promising after a commendable rebuild. We’re not suggesting championship material — just playoff-worthy.

Holmgren is expected to be a primary contributor, and alongside Jalen Williams, could pose matchup issues for adversaries.

Key players like Josh Giddey and Lu Dort were pivotal in OKC’s previous season success. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander emerging as a star, their postseason hopes look bright. If he further elevates his game, OKC’s chances amplify exponentially.

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About the Author

Born in Chicago in 1985, Alex Thompson, a renowned betting expert, obtained a Master’s in Sports Analytics from the University of Michigan in 2011. From 2012 to 2018, he collaborated with several NBA teams, specializing in play pattern recognition and player efficiency evaluations. Thompson has contributed to 14 peer-reviewed papers, emphasizing the importance of transitional play and on-court decision-making. In 2019, he shifted his focus to journalism. Thompson currently writes analytical pieces on basketball and is a regular contributor to various sports platforms, employing his expertise to dissect game dynamics and player performance.

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