Utah Jazz fans know better than anyone that teams that are not the most obvious threats can still be the most dangerous. And while Utah is finally being hailed as a serious title contender, they will still have to keep close watch on 6 extremely underrated teams heading into the 2020 season (3 from the Eastern Conference, and 3 from the West). It's probably true that one or two of these teams will not be making a major impact in the playoffs, it is just as likely that one of these teams will be a major shock to the system of some championship favorites. There are the 7 or 8 serious Finals Contenders, these teams go to show that there is no necessarily easy playoff team in today's NBA.
This team has quietly been revamping its roster after trading their former star Jimmy Butler to Minnesota two years ago. Zach LaVine, one of the players traded to the Bulls in the aforementioned deal has the 2nd highest average points per game scored for a player not in the All-Star Game, with 23.7. The former Dunk Contest champion is also helped by PF Lauri Markkanen and new additions Tomas Satoransky, Thaddeus Young and the 7th pick in the 2019 draft Coby White, who was a standout for North Carolina in college. If this team can live up to its potential, then it could easily crack the top 8 in the East. BEST CASE SCENARIO: 7.-8. seed, 1st round exit
Obviously the Warriors have not been slept on in the past 5 years when their dynasty was ruling the NBA. But this is not the same team that was on the court when the final buzzer sounded on Oracle Arena last season. Superstar Kevin Durant tore his Achilles in Game 5 of the Finals, which in part lead to him leaving town for Brooklyn. Other losses included star Klay Thompson to injury, and Andre Iguodola and Shaun Livingston in the offseason. The Warriors could have called it quits after a legendary run, but they saved their spot in the top 10 by swiping All-Star D'Angelo Russell, and resigning Thompson, Draymond Green and playoff standout Kevon Looney to new contracts. And Stephen Curry can be even better then the All-NBA PG he already was now that he will be the primary ball-handler. If Steve Kerr can mold draft picks Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall (Donavan Mitchell's college buddy) into the breakout players they both have the potential to be, this team could make another Western Conference Finals appearance, and would be a scary opponent in the playoffs for the Jazz. BEST CASE SCENARIO: 5.-6. seed, Western Conference Finals
This team snuck into the playoffs last year off of phenomenal performances by Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. However, if this team is going to make it again this year, it will need improved performances from Jonathan Isaac, Mohamed Bamba, Markelle Fultz, and DJ Agustin. Fultz specifically seems like the most likely to improve, after the PG came to Orlando disgraced after becoming the black sheep of the Process movement in Philadelphia that turned them into powerhouses. The opportunity to fix his shot away from the cameras has already seemed to help him dramatically, and could immediately make an impact along with PF free agent acquisition Al-Farouq Aminu. BEST CASE SCENARIO: 6.-8. seed, 2nd round exit
This was a tossup between New Orleans and the Dallas Mavericks, but ultimately it looks like Dallas will be waiting a couple more years until developing into serious playoff contenders (or maybe that's me underrating them) While the Pelicans looked like they were in for a rough time after Anthony Davis demanded a trade, but in the end they became better as a team and a franchise then they could have ever imagined. They got a truckload of future talents and draft picks in the trade with Los Angeles that gives them a exciting young core that looks to be in it for the long haul. While they are not exactly going unnoticed (30 nationally televised games!!!) due to the Zion Williamson hype carnival and Lonzo Ball and the rest of the ex-Lakers, the rest of the team is not getting enough love. Their 2nd draft pick Jaxson Hayesalready looks like a future star, they got veteran additions in JJ Reddick and Derrick Favors, and they have the most underrated point guard in the league, top 25 scorer Jrue Holiday. But the most credit should go to GM David Griffin, who made the wheelings and dealings of a large market team in only 6 months to turn this team into the playoff contenders they will be this year and more to come. BEST CASE SCENARIO: 7.-8. seed, 1st round exit
This isn't a just playoff contender; this is a Conference Finals contender. This is could be a serious dark horse candidate come playoff season, albeit that it might be a tough regular season for them. Star Victor Oladipo went down with a brutal knee injury midway through the season last year. He was playing at a All-Star level, but now he has no timetable for his return, with the earliest being by the end of the year. However, the Pacers were still a top 5 seed thanks to the rest of the team. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Bojan Bogdanovic and his lights out shooting left Indiana to sign with Utah, and the Pacers may end up missing him more then they realize. But this team can still make an impact if Team USA standout C Myles Turner can elevate from being a talented big man to a potential All-Star Candidate. And they also had a great offseason, adding Jeremy Lamb, T.J. Warren (18 ppg. last year with the Suns), and the '16-17 Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, who was arguably the 2nd best player on a loaded Bucks roster. And if Doug McDermott and Domantis Sabonis can add some more depth to their game, it could give this already stacked team another edge come playoff time. BEST CASE SCENARIO: 3.-4. seed, Conference Finals
The Sacramento Kings????? Yes, the former laughing stock of the NBA can now finally start a playoff run. They have quietly been building a prefect blend of young starters and experienced vets that you would expect on a contender. De'Aaron Fox exploded onto the scene last year, with 17 PPG. and 7.3 assists, and was the runner-up for Most Improved Player. The Kings are also deep at the SG position, with Buddy Hield (42% from 3 point range) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (FIBA World Cup All-Tournament Team) both deserving of the starting spot. Add in the dynamic sophomore Marvin Bagley |||, a solid and versatile bench, and a underrated draft pick in Kyle Guy who led Virginia to a national championship and you have yourself a team that is finally deserving of some of the loudest fans in the league at the Golden 1 Center. And even if this team does not make the playoffs, they have a bright future ahead of them. BEST CASE SCENARIO: 7.-8. seed, 1st round exit