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Wait ’Til Next Year: Injuries Haunt NBA Playoff Losers in East

The NBA playoffs have already lost one round of teams, including some that had some high NBA Finals odds at one point this season. But, instead of realizing those dreams, the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic and Miami Heat have to start focusing on the 2024-25 campaign as the rest of the postseason proceeds without them.

So what’s next for these teams? Some have a solid nucleus in place and are just going to do some tweaking while some may be looking at some major changes over the next few months after their first-round exits. Let’s take a closer look at each team and the challenges it faces this offseason.

Wait ’Til Next Year: Injuries Haunt NBA Playoff Losers in East
Jaime Jaquez Jr. #11 of the Miami Heat -Gregory Shamus/Getty Images/AFP


Miami Heat (46-36): Health a Chronic Issue

Despite being one of the most consistent teams in the Eastern Conference as far as finding the postseason, the Heat may be in flux a little bit this offseason. It was a rough season for the Heat in regards to injuries, especially star forward Jimmy Butler, who missed the second Play-In Tournament game and the first-round series with the Boston Celtics with a knee injury.

The Heat used a franchise-record 37 different starting lineups, with 18 different players making at least one start. All-Star center Bam Adebayo and rookie forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. were the most resilient Heat players, playing in 71 and 75 games, respectively, in the regular season.

Health would be a key component for more success next season, as would some more size up front alongside Adebayo, who could use some help battling against other tall front lines. Miami will have a first-round pick just outside of the lottery to try to target that need.

Keeping Butler happy will be a key as well. He is eligible for a contract extension and will certainly want plenty.


Philadelphia 76ers (47-35): Roster in Flux

The 76ers were going all-in for this season with a lot of veterans on expiring contracts. And after going out in the first round of the playoffs, the changes are coming.

“We’re not going to have continuity,” 76ers team president Daryl Morey said about the team heading into 2024-25. “We’ll have continuity with our stars and our head coach, but we’re going to have a lot of changes this season.”

Coach Nick Nurse isn’t going anywhere, and neither are center Joel Embiid and guard Tyrese Maxey. But players like Kelly Oubre Jr., Kyle Lowry and Nic Batum are likely moving on – all three were on expiring contracts and are reaching the tail end of their NBA careers.

Morey will have plenty of salary cap space to play with, as well as an NBA draft first-round pick to either use or deal away. One of the most active NBA executives will certainly be looking at all possibilities when it comes to filling out his roster around his two star players.


Orlando Magic (47-35): Banchero Heads Solid Young Nucleus

The team that got the closest to the second round before being eliminated, the Orlando Magic are hoping the seven-game first-round series loss will help the team’s young players grow for the future. Orlando had the fourth-youngest roster during the regular season and has a solid nucleus to build around.

Players like forwards Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner and guard Jalen Suggs are all 22 or younger and gained their first playoff experiences this season. Orlando jumped up quickly in the regular-season standings, and it should only get better since few of the players in the current rotation are approaching free agency.

One area the team could improve on is 3-point shooting, which it can possibly use its first-round selection to try to find. Orlando ranked 24th in 3-point shooting in the regular season, so improvements from the perimeter could help this team take the next step.

The Magic can also use some of their current cap space to possibly target a veteran shooter like a Klay Thompson or Buddy Hield to fill a shooting role. The future is bright in Orlando, and this offseason should be focused on building around the young players already on the roster that are making it that way.


Milwaukee Bucks (49-33): Injuries Derail Title Hopes

Injuries were a major factor in the Milwaukee Bucks being sent home in the first round of the postseason after being one of the top teams in the East for much of the season. All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t play a single second of the first-round loss to the Indiana Pacers, while All-Star guard Damian Lillard played in just four of the six games against the Pacers, both due to injuries.

Getting those players back to full health, and having a full season with coach Doc Rivers, who replaced Adrian Griffin midway through the regular season, will certainly help the Bucks some, but there are other questions to be answered.

The core of this team is aging, with Antetokounmpo (29), Lillard (33), forward Khris Middleton (32) and center Brook Lopez (36) forming the constants for the Bucks. There is little wiggle room as far as trades that can be made after the team dealt for Lillard last summer, so there may be some hard decisions to be made with the supporting cast.

Milwaukee has a pair of picks in the top 34 of this year’s draft, but neither will be a lottery selection. The Bucks have to be able to build on what they have, with Rivers getting an offseason to implement things that he couldn’t when he took over on the fly.

All of these teams had enough to make the postseason this year, but can they return in 2024-25 without some major moves? All want to be part of the NBA expert picks for title contention next season, so these next few months could be interesting for all of them.



Questions Of The Day

Which Eastern Conference first-round loser has won the NBA title most recently?

The Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA title in 2021, the most recent championship for any of the first-round losers this season.

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