Oddsmakers of course adjust their metrics as the NBA season wears on, so it gets tough for squads on either side of the coin to stay virtual over/under locks. But the overarching point stands: Knowing which teams thrive on offense and which teams don't can go a long way. And with this in mind, we've compiled our list of predictions for the top five best and worst offenses for the 2020-21 campaign.
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Not only did the Mavericks finish with the NBA's highest offensive rating last season, but they posted the best mark in league history. Even after prioritizing defense during the offseason, they're basically a surething to field a top-five offense next year—as is any team who is piloted by superstar Luka Doncic.
Keep an eye on their overs.
Los Angeles Lakers
The reigning NBA Finals champs finished 11th in points scored per possession last year, but it wasn't pretty. Their half-court attack struggled, they lacked secondary ball-handling, and they didn't always have enough shooters on the floor.
A lot of these same issues will follow them into next year. But the fact of the matter is, having both LeBron James and Anthony Davis on your roster essentially guarantees top-five placement. Though their defense is also so good you'll want to monitor the under, this is a team that could surprise with a lot of over covers.
Bettors should be ready to hammer the over on a lot of Nuggets games. They finished fifth in points scored per possession last season on the back of Nikola Jokic's passing wizardry, and they're primed for improvement.
Young star Jamal Murray made major strides during the playoffs, which will help. On top of that, rookie Michael Porter Jr. flashed infinite offensive upside. Denver will have a chance to post a top-three rating, and they'll pair that with a defense that just lost its best stopper in Jerami Grant. Overs galore, my friends.
Los Angeles Clippers
Rolling with the Clippers is a little bit of a risk. They finished second in points scored per possession last year, but their offense collapsed in the postseason pressure-cooker during the second round.
Complicated still, while Serge Ibaka is an upgrade over Montrez Harrell Jr., who now plays for the Lakers, the latter was one of the most potent offensive players off the bench. The Clippers could technically take a step back. We're betting the addition of head coach Ty Lue adds some creativity to how they play. Watch their overs.
Another risky pick. The Celtics ranked fourth in points per possession during the 2019-20 crusade, but they just lost one of their five best players during free agency in Gordon Hayward. They could feasibly take a step back.
Still, Boston continued to muster about 1.12 points per possession without Hayward on the floor last year, and their best player, Jayson Tatum, is only at the beginning of his superstar rise. They should be in play for a top-five ranking so long as Kemba Walker remains healthy.
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New York Knicks
Go ahead and book this one. The Knicks finished second to last in points per possession last year, and while they have made some nice additions to their roster, they don't project to be much better.
Inexperienced and suboptimal playmaking are at the route of their problems now. They've acquired some shooting, which they also badly needed, but when your best passers are RJ Barrett and Elfrid Payton, you'll have issues putting guys in positions to score. Their games will be strong under candidates.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Though the Thunder were a fireball on offense after Thanksgiving last year, they have zero hope of matching that level this season. The reason: an all-out talent bloodletting.
Oklahoma City has traded away or lost all of Chris Paul, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder and Danilo Gallinari—four of its five best players. Realistically, unless Shai Gilgeous-Alexander goes boom (possible!), the Thunder will be in contention for a dead-last ranking.
This pick is a little dicey. The Hornets were 27th in offensive efficiency last year, but they just signed Gordon Hayward, a borderline All-Star playmaker when healthy. That could beget some improvement.
Then again, they also added rookie LaMelo Ball, who should play a prominent role. And any time you're giving the keys of an offense to a newbie, disappointment should be the expectation. The Hornets' games are strong under candidates unless they prove otherwise.
We're stepping out on a limb here. The Pistons 22nd in points per possessions during the 2019-20 campaign—not quite bottom five. And they maintained this position while Blake Griffin, an All-NBA star, essentially missed the entire year. If both he and Derrick Rose remain healthy, Detroit could be slightly more efficient than expected.
And yet, the Pistons went wild in free agency with adding questionable shooters and non-floor-spacing bigs. We also fully expect D-Rose to finish next year on a different team, and no one has any business banking on a full year of health from Griffin. Detroit should be viable under bets on a game-to-game basis.
Make no mistake, this one could backfire. Any team that has James Harden is basically guaranteed a top-10 offense.
But James Harden has asked for trade out of Houston. We expect him to get it at some point. And when he does, the Rockets will have little to no offensive firepower left, even if they secure a nice return for his services. Monitor their stock. Their games should be good under plays before long.
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