The NBA playoffs are finally here.
After a season filled with injuries and COVID protocols, the playoffs are beginning this week.
The season was only 72 games.
However, it felt like an eternity with cancelled games and not knowing who is available to play on a given night.
A lot of teams struggled out the gate with the early turnaround from last season to this one.
Also, teams couldn’t find their footing with players missing so many games for a multitude of reasons.
Injuries were hitting teams hard, but COVID hit teams the worst.
Players, such as Jayson Tatum, got the virus and had to miss significant time.
Then there were the players that had to miss a week or more worth of games due to contact tracing.
Certain teams had the expectations to make the postseason, but fell victim to a lot of the issues just touched on.
However, they missed out for other reasons as well.
There were three big team disappointments that should have made the playoffs this season.
The Toronto Raptors were thought to fall down the East standings this season, but not completely out of the playoffs.
They started out with some bad news with having to play their home games in Florida due to travel restrictions.
Technically that means that it was the Tampa Bay Raptors that didn’t make the playoffs.
Either way, for the first time in eight seasons, the Raptors will not be playing playoff basketball.
For the first time in eight seasons, the Raptors have been eliminated from playoff contention. pic.twitter.com/uflo0fuBEy
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 11, 2021
This is crazy to think about with a team who just last year were one game away from the Eastern Conference Finals; and two years removed from winning a championship.
The team kept losing their best players throughout the year.
The guy to take that next step was supposed to be OG Anunoby, but he ended up missing 29 games.
The rotation was subjected to change every night with multiple players out.
Even with fans being able to come back in small portions, they were never able to have their true fans attend the games.
The Raptors probably could have done better in a more traditional season, but they are on the outside looking in this year.
The Chicago Bulls came into the season with very modest expectations.
They had their young star with a new head coach after the two dreadful years with former head coach Jim Boylen.
The thought was that maybe they could crack the play-in game and go from there.
However, things changed when they traded for All-Star center Nikola Vucevic.
The Bulls were at the ninth spot in the East by the time trade happened.
The thought was that this trade would help their All-Star, Zach LaVine, get a taste of the playoffs.
Things didn’t go as planned for the Bulls, unfortunately.
At the end of this season, the Bulls ended up in the 11th spot, just outside of the playoffs.
The Chicago Bulls have been eliminated from playoff contention. pic.twitter.com/dVijrvbBNx
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 15, 2021
LaVine and Vucevic never seemed to quite gel with one another on the court.
Now the biggest issue they are facing is the impending free agency of LaVine next offseason.
With another missed opportunity of the NBA playoffs could LaVine be on his way out of Chicago?
New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans were looked at as a possible NBA playoff team if Zion Williamson was going to be the transcendent player we all hoped for.
Well Zion was that and then some.
He averaged 27 points per game on 62 percent shooting in his first full season in the league.
With Brandon Ingram as the Robin to Zion’s Batman, they should have competed.
However, that was not the case.
The Pelicans were the definition of a first half team.
They looked like a true playoff team until the fourth quarter would arrive.
Their ability to blow leads was impressive honestly.
The Pelicans blew 14 double-digit leads this season. 🤯
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) May 13, 2021
New head coach, Stan Van Gundy, just seemed out of place at times in this new era of the NBA.
There was hardly any cohesiveness with the team and cost them a shot at the playoffs.
Zion looked like a superhuman, but that wasn’t enough to bring this team over the hump.