Though it certainly looks like we could be in for a fourth-straight matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, the NBA playoffs are sure to feature at least a few new teams this year.
With all the trades and free agent signings this offseason, several star players are on different squads heading into the 2017-18 campaign.
That means different teams will be competing for the 16 playoff spots, as certain teams that made the postseason last year will likely fall out of the picture this time around.
The Warriors and Cavaliers are still forces to be reckoned with, but teams like the Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls have all undergone major changes this offseason.
Meanwhile, teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves and several Eastern Conference teams have made moves to try to reach the playoffs this time around.
Here are three teams that should crack the playoff picture when the regular season ends:
The Timberwolves had a busy offseason, adding star forward Jimmy Butler and point guard Jeff Teague, among others, while also signing guard Andrew Wiggins to a max extension.
With star center Karl-Anthony Towns still in the mix, the T-Wolves should be a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference this year.
The West won't be easy to compete in this year, but with the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz all potentially taking a step back, the Timberwolves may be poised to slide into the playoffs as a No. 6, 7 or 8 seed.
A lot has to happen before the Wolves get to that point, but if they can figure out how their new players fit in together, it could be a special season in Minnesota.
The Hornets finished five games out of the playoff picture last season, but after adding Dwight Howard and Malik Monk this offseason, expectations are high in Charlotte.
As long as Howard doesn't become a locker room distraction and continues to be one of the NBA's best rebounders, the Hornets should be much better defensively.
And, with a backcourt that features Monk and Kemba Walker, the Hornets will have no shortage of scoring options late in games.
The Hornets have a fun roster and should be an exciting team to watch in the Eastern Conference this season.
After starting the season 10-31 last year, the Heat went 31-10 in the second half to finish with an even 41-41 record, missing out on the playoffs thanks to a tiebreaker with the also 41-41 Chicago Bulls.
This year, the Heat return almost all of their players and will look to play more like they did in the second half of last season for the entire 2017-18 campaign.
With Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters leading the way, the Heat should easily slide into one of the playoff spots that will likely be vacated by the Bulls and the Indiana Pacers this year.
The Eastern Conference playoff picture could be drastically different this season, but the Heat should be a part of it in some capacity.News Now - Sport News