2023-2024 NBA Season: Four Non-Playoff Teams From Last Year to Keep an Eye On

  • Victor Wembanyama is looking like the next legendary San Antonio Spurs center
  • Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving give the Dallas Mavericks one of the NBA’s best duos
  • The Orlando Magic finished strong last season after a miserable start
  • A healthy Indiana Pacers team could have one of the most electric offenses in the league
Victor Wembanyama
The Spurs, Mavericks, Magic, and Pacers missed out on even reaching the play-in round of the postseason last year, but should be interesting teams to watch this season. [Image: Facebook.com / Spurs]

Let us basketball!

The 2023-2024 NBA season is set to begin and while there are realistically only a handful of title contenders, just about every fan base has reason to be excited for the new season. Even if you think your team will be a bottom feeder, it can be fun to watch the rookies develop and see how the team improves as the year goes on.

squads that didn’t even make the play-in round

Before the season tips off tonight with the Los Angeles Lakers versus the defending champion Denver Nuggets and the Phoenix Suns versus the Golden State Warriors, let’s look at four teams that missed the playoffs last year that could be intriguing this season. For this exercise, we’ll go with squads that didn’t even make the play-in round, even though the play-in games are not technically the “playoffs.”

As with our similar articles for other sports, we’re not saying these teams will make the playoffs (but oh, check out our baseball teams to watch from this season – that was nice), just that they should be interesting. Futures odds provided by FanDuel.

San Antonio Spurs (+980 to make the playoffs, +25,000 to win the Western Conference, +50,000 to win the NBA title)

Victor Wembanyama. That’s the reason to keep an eye on the Spurs. They have been bad for several years now and got whooped most of the time last season, but now they have Wemby.

Wembanyama is 7-foot-4, yet can dribble almost like a guard and can hit step-back threes. He’s the most hyped NBA prospect since LeBron James two decades ago and if the preseason is any indication, he very well might live up to the hype. He is an absolute unicorn if there ever was one. I mean, look at this:

Thomas Bryant is 6-foot-10, 248 pounds, and led the league in two-point shooting percentage several years ago. He is a full-grown man and Wembanyama made him rethink everything he knew about basketball:

It should be fun to watch Wemby and to see what all-time great coach Gregg Popovich can do with him and such a young roster, even if it still takes them a while to figure out how to win.

Dallas Mavericks (-170 playoffs, +1,300 Western Conference, +2,500 title)

The Mavs were a massive disappointment last season, not managing to even reach the play-in round after acquiring eight-time All-Star Kyrie Irving during the season to pair with Luka Dončić, generally considered a top-five player in the league. Heck, they tanked their final two games so that they would have a better chance at keeping their draft pick, which would have gone to the New York Knicks had it dropped below No. 10. It also gave them a better chance of moving up in the draft.

The star power in Dallas is so bright, Luka Dončić has to wear shades. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

But that was then, this is now. Dončić and Irving are back, which is going to be a scary duo for opposing teams to guard. Their combined shot-making ability is off the charts. That duo alone has them favored to at least make the playoffs.

The question is the rest of the team. There isn’t a whole lot of depth and their defense might be pretty bad. Dallas is unlikely to go very far in the postseason, especially in stacked West, but this season could be important in the team’s effort to keep Dončić long-term.

Orlando Magic (+142 playoffs, +12,000 Eastern Conference, +50,000 title)

The Magic have had one winning season (and barely) in the last decade and have been truly terrible for many of those seasons. Last year started like more of the same, as Orlando was 5-20 through its first 25 games, but then things turned around, as they went 29-28 in their final 57 games behind the NBA’s sixth-best defense during that span.

Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero looks like a budding superstar and Franz Wagner is turning into a really good player that people might be sleeping on.

they could start making the climb if a few of the young guys make strides

Like a lot of bottom-rung teams, Orlando is young as they try to build for the future. There aren’t many guys on the roster who jump off the page beyond Banchero and Wagner, but with the confidence the team built through the final two-thirds of last season, they could start making the climb if a few of the young guys make strides. They still probably aren’t ready to make the leap into the playoffs, but the bottom of the Eastern Conference’s playoff seeds could be vulnerable and it might not take much to at least make the play-in.

Indiana Pacers (+118 playoffs, +11,000 Eastern Conference, +26,000 title)

Pacers fans are expecting their team to at least compete for a play-in spot and if all goes well, it feels like this squad could get up into the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff seeds. Could.

Regardless of what happens, Indiana should be a really fun team to watch. They like to run and can be very explosive on offense when healthy. Their leader is Tyrese Haliburton, who averaged over 20 points and 10 assists and earned his first All-Star selection in just his fourth NBA season. He missed 26 games last season and the team was significantly worse without him. Had he stayed healthy, the playoffs were definitely in the cards.

Pacers players were all smiles at the recent FanJam. [Image: Facebook.com / Pacers]

Bennedict Mathurin was electric in his rookie season – he and Haliburton will be a must-see combo this year. The team also added a couple first round draft picks and solid two-way player Bruce Brown as a free agent from Denver. Buddy Hield is still there (for now) raining threes and both T.J. McConnell and Daniel Theis are good veterans on an overall very young team (youth is a theme today).

Defense could be a problem. As exciting as the Pacers are on offense, they were miserable on the other end last season. Even with Myles Turner swatting shots in the paint, they need more from everyone else. But hey, most of us don’t watch teams because of their defense, right?

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