As we near the end of 2021 there's still a Covid cloud hanging over all of the major professional sports and the NBA is no exception. With that being said, there is some light at the end of the tunnel with quarantine lists getting shorter and hopefully a return to normalcy (relatively-speaking) around the corner.
Here's a look at three teams that are in line for some positive regression after slow starts to the season.
New York Knicks
Last year's Eastern Conference upstart, the Knicks got off to a shaky start this season. However, they enter Wednesday's game in Detroit within two games of the .500 mark and fresh off back-to-back wins. They have a very favorable schedule coming up over the next few weeks (starting with a three-game road trip with stops in Detroit, Oklahoma City and Toronto) and should be able to gain ground on some of their division and conference rivals. I like the depth and balance up and down the Knicks roster (we've seen some of their young talent emerge as steady contributors when given extra minutes) and think we'll see R.J. Barrett in particular take off and lead this team on a run in early 2021.
The Hornets have quietly gone on a 9-3 ATS run, even if the outright wins haven't exactly been piling up. Having moved back over the .500 mark, Charlotte now gets a chance to find some consistency with three of its next four games coming against the likes of Indiana, Washington and Detroit. Few teams were more affected by Covid protocols and the Hornets not surprisingly struggled as a result. After allowing 120 or more points in nine of 13 games, we've seen them turn things around defensively, holding their last two opponents to just 107 and 99 points. Note that Charlotte has played 22 of its first 35 games on the road this season so a favorable schedule lies ahead. There's too much talent on the roster to not put together a serious run in the near future.
Los Angeles Lakers
Yes, the Lakers have been one of the league's biggest disappointments so far this season as they enter Wednesday's action sitting at 17-18. I'm not about to count them out just yet, however. Save for a few matchups against the Grizzlies and Jazz (they get two of the three games at home), their schedule over the next month is very reasonable. After Wednesday's stop in Memphis they'll play seven of their next nine contests at home. As bad as things have seemingly gone lately (during a 1-5 SU slide), the Lakers actually check in 5-4 ATS over their last nine games. Perhaps Tuesday's 132-point explosion in Houston (their second highest scoring total of the season) will prove to be a turning point.