The NBA season is right around the corner which means ... the end of the NBA season is only about two months away for several teams. Yes, even in an 82-game season, hope can vanish quickly as the tanking begins before Christmas for the worst of the league. However, no season ever goes completely chalk. There are always teams that exceed expectations (and some worse, which open up playoff spots). 

Here's a look at seven teams who should be truly bad this year, and how their season could wind up surprising fans if things go just right. 

Atlanta Hawks

SportsLine win projection: 32.4

What would be a good season?  Crashing the playoffs with a discount roster

The case: Coach Mike Budenholzer is just too good for this team to win fewer than 30 games, and SportsLine agrees. He's had the Hawks in the top ten defensively in each of the last three seasons, and he consistently gets more out of his talent than the sum of the parts would indicate. While the frontcourt is an absolute disaster, they do have some very talented young wings like DeAndre Bembry and Malcolm Delaney to go along with Dennis Schroder. Defense and 3-pointers could be enough for this team to hit 35, and at that point, you're likely in playoff discussion in the Eastern Conference. 

There are smart players on this roster, and some underrated guys like Mike Muscala, Luke Babbitt, and Dewayne Dedmon. With Budenholzer's coaching, it won't take much for their whole to be greater than the sum of its parts. 

Brooklyn Nets

SportsLine win projection: 20.9

What would be a good season?  Busting Cleveland's draft-pick value, winning something close to 30 games. 

The case: Kenny Atkinson is a well-regarded coach by league insiders, media, and his peers. You have to look really deep in the weeds, given the dismal state of this roster, but there's a reason so many folks around the league say there are good things happening in Brooklyn. Sean Marks has done a smart job building the roster, and this summer, he picked up talent. Yes, they lost their best player in Brook Lopez, but Allen Crabbe has sneaky value, D'Angelo Russell could blossom into a star at any moment, and they have underrated guys all over the roster who play hard. They have no incentive to tank, with Cleveland owning their pick. 

Plus, the Nets' record with Jeremy Lin was significantly better (while still bad) last season. They were just a normal bad team with Lin, and an all-time horrible team without him. Is this a route to .500? No, but it could get them in range of 30, and that's a very successful season given what they have to work with, and would put them middle of the pack in the conference. 

Chicago Bulls

SportsLine win projection: 27.9

What would be a good season?  Not being a bottom-three team.

The case: Woof. This one is tough. Zach LaVine is out until who knows when. Dwyane Wade is probably being bought out before Christmas at the latest. Nikola Mirotic still isn't signed and he might be their second- or third-best player. And Fred Hoiberg has struggled, to say the least, in his NBA tenure. 

But let's try. If Kris Dunn becomes the kind of defensive force he's been shown to be, if Wade shows up motivated to prove the kind of professional he is, if LaVine comes back quickly and looks at even 80 percent, and some of the youngsters like Bobby Portis and Paul Zipser take a step forward, there's at least enough talent here to have a good month. One good month could get you in range of 30 wins, two gets you in range of the playoffs and 2 1/2 makes you the Heat. It's not impossible to see them once again surprising folks, but a whole lot has to go right, at the same time, and they're all things with low probabilities, even in a list like this. 

Indiana Pacers

SportsLine win projection: 30.5

What would be a good season?  Sneaking into the playoffs and saving the reputation of the Paul George trade to some slight degree

The case: SportsLine is high on this team, relatively speaking. Yes, they lost Paul George, along with Jeff Teague, and their attempts to fill in the gaps just seemed to exacerbate their veteran mediocrity. The Pacers' first year under new coach Nate McMillan did not go swimmingly and seemed to contribute to Paul George's departure. There's a lot to be concerned with. 

But there are NBA-caliber guys on this roster. Victor Oladipo has been saddled with being "the guy they traded Paul George for" but honestly, Oladipo's best days are still ahead of him. He's not a youngster at age 25, but he's far from having reached his career apex. Also, the Thunder really were high on Domantas Sabonis before they dealt him, and for good reason. He's got the versatility teams are looking for nowadays. 

Meanwhile, Myles Turner is their best player, and Turner is capable of becoming one of the league's best big men. He sported an 18.5 PER with a double-double per-100 possessions last year. His combination of touch, vision, and athleticism just isn't seen much, even if other "unicorn" bigs are talked about more. If Turner makes a leap, the rest of the Pacers' squad of veterans and youngsters could bring them to chase .500. 

Los Angeles Lakers

SportsLine projection: 35

What would be a good season? A surprise playoff appearance. 

The case: Yes, the Western Conference is tough. But the Lakers are already projected to be within range of .500. The West in the past two seasons have not featured exceptionally strong teams or high records in the eighth and final spot. All of the teams vying for the last two playoff spots have flaws. It's not out of the question for the Lakers to surprise folks by outperforming their talent level for a short stint that makes the difference. 

And the Lakers do have talent. Lonzo Ball is the most hyped rookie of the class, Julius Randle's trainers and coaches have raved about his summer, and Brandon Ingram looked like he had taken a full step forward in his evolution at summer league. Throw in the rest of a talented young squad and the acquisition of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and you have the makings of a team that if things go right, could be dangerous with low pressure on them. Imagine if they beat out the Clippers for the last playoff spot. 

New York Knicks

SportsLine projection: 36.3

What would be a good season? Winning 38 games, then winning the lottery as the ninth-best team in the conference. 

The case: The universe is somehow turned inside out and an alternate-reality Knicks where James Dolan is not the owner, the team is competent and Carmelo Anthony is a versatile All-Star who makes his teammates better takes its place? No? 

OK, how about: Porzingis makes the jump, the Knicks get great return on the Melo trade and their overall roster better suits Jeff Hornacek who mends fences with Porzingis while installing a high-pace offense, the youngsters all make the most of what they have, Courtney Lee has a career season and Joakim Noah actually puts in a 60-game season. This one, sadly above all the others seems unlikely, but SportsLine already has them in playoff range. 

Orlando Magic

SportsLine win projection: 25.9

What would be a good season?  Going .500 and snagging a playoff spot. 

The case: I'm not going to say the Magic are being slept on, but the day after Christmas they were three games under .500 before splattering back to Earth. Even then, they hung around. Given what we know of Frank Vogel, it's fair to say if anything the Magic underperformed last season, even after trading Serge Ibaka. Elfrid Payton gets lost in the point guard shuffle, but he also improves every year. If he takes a step forward defensively, Aaron Gordon stays healthy, and Jonathan Isaac gives them anything, there's the core of a 35-win team here. 

Orlando spent a lot of last season doing things backwards, and they still have rotational issues to sort out. (Why are Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic on the roster at the same time?) But there's actual NBA talent through this roster, and Frank Vogel deserves some built-in credit for his time in Indiana. Even if the Magic are only good defensively, that could carry them to near .500. 

Phoenix Suns

SportsLine projection: 29.5

What would be a good season?  Winning more than 35 games and threatening to crash the playoffs for any duration of time. 

The case: Devin Booker takes the league by storm, becoming a next-level scorer with some semblance of efficiency. All of their young guys come into their own with another year together, and that continuity helps things. Eric Bledsoe is traded, and the team brings in a group of veteran role players who, along with Jared Dudley and Tyson Chandler, provide a core that helps guide the kiddos. Josh Jackson's versatility helps him climb the ranks of the Rookie of the Year contenders. 

The players have all vouched for coach Earl Watson. If he turns out to be the guy that they believe he is, they could have a run in them.