This off-season may not have looked like it on the surface but, there were some major shifts in the NBA this summer. A perennial contender in Oklahoma City was weakened and as a result a heavy favorite became even more powerful.
Legends among other franchises hung it up and retired. We will see the San Antonio Spurs without Tim Duncan for the first time next season since the 1990s.
There was also other player movement like Miami losing their franchise superstar in Dwyane Wade as he returned home, which left South Beach with a drastically different path to competing this fall.
So the question becomes, can one of the franchises that has not seen postseason success in a while finally find a way to break through this season?
If so, here are the three best bets among the teams that have not reached the playoffs in 3 years:
The Florida franchise has led a charmed life since its introduction to the NBA in 1989.
They have been a very regular sight in the playoffs and reached an NBA Finals in just their fifth year of competition behind the contributions of young stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardaway.
Early success was not sustained as Superman ended up heading to Los Angeles and Penny would be traded years later. Similar troubles happened a few years ago when fellow Superman, Dwight Howard, forced a trade to the Lakers.
After a few years in the lottery, the Magic finally have what resembles a competitive roster. Young players like Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton and Evan Fournier are ready to contribute. Joining them are veteran presences like Serge Ibaka, Jeff Green and Dj Augustin.
With these adjustments maybe Orlando can regain the magic touch and get back to the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Minnesota fans have been waiting patiently for this moment since the day that Kevin Garnett was traded to the Celtics in 2007. The Big Ticket made the Wolves a prominent figure in the postseason from the mid-1990s until his departure.
Kevin Love was the next big name to emerge for the franchise and while he put up eye-popping numbers for the club, they never reached the playoffs with him. But, by trading Love to Cleveland, Minny found a way to land a star prospect in Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins still looks like a future star and the franchise has paired him with transcendent talent in Karl Anthony-Towns. The young squad looks to return the organisation to the playoffs this season. They might finally have the talent to get it done.
Salt Lake City has some of the most profound success in the NBA during the 1990s. They had Hall-of-Famers like Karl Malone and John Stockton willing the team to back to back finals appearances in 1997 and 1998.
After then, it’s been largely respectable but nothing amazing. The last few years come as a shock to Jazz fans as they have been steadily rebuilding. But, this season they are a dark horse favorite to re-enter the playoff picture.
Gordon Hayward has some help in elite rim protecting big man Rudy Gobert. The team will finally get to see Australian sensation Dante Exum play extended minutes. Veterans like Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson will help the former mainstay navigate their way back to the postseason.