NBA approves December 22 start for 2020-21 as frantic offseason looms

Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo
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Ricky Dimon


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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports -- just about any and all you can think of! -- and coaching tennis in Atlanta, GA. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me. For Ricky Dimon media enquiries, please email
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The upcoming NBA season will begin on Dec. 22, which is almost two months later than usual. But it will probably feel early for basketball fans, because the 2019-20 campaign ended in October instead July. That means this offseason will be two to three months shorter than an average offseason, at least for teams that participated in the playoff bubble. Teams that didn’t get invites to Orlando will have gone more than nine months without playing a meaningful game when they finally take the court just before Christmas.

Needless to say, NBA teams are heading into the 2020-21 season in very different situations. Clubs like the Atlanta Hawks and Minnesota Timberwolves surely can’t wait to tip things off. Heck, even the once-proud Golden State Warriors haven’t played since March. The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, on the other hand, could have used some more time on either the couch or the golf course before lacing the sneakers up again. In their cases, there will be no rest for the weary.

The impact of a short offseason

The good news for any team that is short on rest and susceptible to a slow start is that the upcoming season will feature 72 games per team (barring any coronavirus issues, of course). Sure it’s not quite as many as the normal 82, but 72 is a solid sample size. This isn’t going to be crapshoot like the 2020 Major League Baseball season, which had 60 games per club instead of 162.

There is no evidence to corroborate this assertion, but I just don’t see the Lakers being overly motivated in the early stages of 2020-21. They got the job done in 2020 to win a record-tying 17th NBA title, and there isn’t as much time for celebrating as they deserve. LeBron James and company will be fully aware that this coming season will be a marathon as opposed to a sprint, so they could be well into 2021 before a sense of urgency arrives.

LeBron James and the Lakers win the title

Even some players who did not participate in the bubble, such as Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards, weren’t particularly thrilled about last week’s announcement regarding the Dec. 22 start.

“Definitely surprised,” is what Beal said on a recent podcast with J.J. Redick, “because I was under the impression that we wouldn’t start until February at the earliest. It definitely changes my routine and how I’m working out and [how I] approach the rest of the winter up until the season. So it’s tough.”

The 2020-21 season could be tough on a lot of teams, as who knows what kind of chaos the coronavirus will cause? There is already a decent chance that the Toronto Raptors will be impacted more than others, because Canadian restrictions may prevent them from playing at home. During the 2020 MLB season, for example, the Toronto Blue Jays played their “home” games in Buffalo.

Get ready for a hectic month

There is no rest for front offices, either. In the next six weeks before the season starts, we have the NBA Draft (next Wednesday) and free agency (begins next Friday).

Among the top prospects in the 2020 draft class are Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, and James Wiseman. Ball is the wild card, with some reports indicating that he could fall out of the top two while others suggesting that the Timberwolves could take him No. 1 overall instead of Edwards. Those two players are currently -110 co-favorites to be the top pick (Wiseman is +600).

As for free agency, this isn’t the biggest of years. Toronto guard Fred VanVleet could be among the few notable players on the move, only making the Raptors’ 2020-21 season all the more uncertain. But that’s not to say it will be all quiet on the transaction front. Trade rumors are already circulating, for the moment focusing on the Houston Rockets (James Harden, Russell Westbrook) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (Chris Paul). With both teams having undergone coaching changes, as well, they should probably be avoided like the plague in terms of betting.

Early lines that could be intriguing are both the Warriors and Brooklyn Nets at +800 to win it all, while Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic both have decent MVP value as +600 co-favorites.

Pickswise is the home of free NBA picks and predictions. We will cover all the big offseason news before making picks for every game during the 2021 season.

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