After one of the busiest off-seasons in NBA history the regular season is almost ready to start! Who are the top teams heading into the 2019-20 season?
October is officially underway which means the NBA is finally back. A lot has happened throughout the NBA since we last saw the Raptors win the Championship. Kawhi Leonard switched teams, as did Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and many many more. This should be one of the most exciting and evened out NBA seasons in a while. Without further ado, here are where all teams stack.
30. Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets lost their franchise cornerstone this off season and replaced him with a quality point guard in Terry Rozier. They also lost their second top scorer, Jeremy Lamb which will be a bigger loss than most people assume. The Hornets have some dark days ahead of them. Miles Bridges and PJ Washington may be the only bright young pieces that Charlotte fans can look forward to in what should be a minus 20 win season.
29. Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland added some nice young pieces this past off season during the draft, but they are mainly bringing back the same squad from last year which lost 63 games. I am a huge believer in Darius Garland’s game and it will be interesting to see how he and Collin Sexton fit together this year. Head Coach John Beilein said Kevin Love will rest some games this year. The Cavs will lose a lot this year, but at least they will have some interesting prospects to watch.
28. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies have a pretty decent core going right now with Jaren Jackson Jr and Ja Morant. Brandon Clarke could be a good player and they added some solid players like Josh Jackson, De’Anthony Melton, Tyus Jones, and Grayson Allen. In a couple years this team will definitely be a playoff team, but they are still young right now and need some time to develop. Their future is bright, but they will have to go through another losing season.
27. Washington Wizards
This is going to be an interesting year for thr Wizards and not in a good way. Everyone is waiting for Bradley Beal to request a trade soon because with John Wall out, he is the only real superstar on the team. They have solid role players, but Beal will have to do the heaving lifting almost every night. Rui Hachimura could turn out to be a good player and Isaiah Thomas could revive his career, but it is almost guaranteed the Wizards will find themselves in the lottery next year. Buckle up Wizards fans, it is going to be a long season especially if Beal requests to be traded.
26. Phoenix Suns
For the first time in a while, the Phoenix Suns finally found themselves a decent point guard, Ricky Rubio, and someone who can compliment Devin Booker. They acquired Dario Saric and Aron Baynes on draft night and signed Frank Kaminsky to solidify their front court. Sorry Suns fans, but the Suns will probably miss the playoffs yet again, but at least this year they will be fun to watch.
25. New York Knicks
It is a brand new season for the NBA and yet again, the New York Knicks are expected to be near the bottom of the conference. Same old, same old. The Knicks drafted RJ Barrett and he is expected to become a future all star. They also signed a bunch of power forwards and role player type free agents to 1+1 deals (1 year plus team option) that could turn into some nice draft compensation if/when the Knicks struggle. The Knicks will definitely win more than 17 games, but it will be hard to find them in the playoff picture.
24. Chicago Bulls
Now, this is the part of the Power Rankings where even though these guys are ranked low, there is still a chance that they can make the playoffs. The Bulls improved a lot this summer, but the key to their success will be health and especially defense. They had the 6th worst defensive rating last year (112.8), but they added some solid pieces to help on that end such as Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky. This team is a superstar away from being an automatic playoff team, but as for now they will have to trust Zach Lavine to lead them back to the playoffs.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves’ season will depend solely on Andrew Wiggins. He has the potential to be a star, but his lack of work ethic keeps holding him back. If Ryan Saunders can finally break out the Wiggins that everyone has been waiting for, this team is in a good spot. Karl Anthony-Towns is an All-Star lock, Jarrett Culver could be a steal, and Robert Covington will remain the most underrated player in the game. The point guard spot is their biggest weakness, but the Timberwolves could ride Towns and Wiggins to the playoffs for the second time in three years.
22. Orlando Magic
GM John Hammond added one new player (two if you count Fultz), to a team that made the postseason last year, so why rate them so low? The rest of the NBA got a lot better and they returned a team that finished 7th in the East and won only 42 games. Al-Farouq Aminu is a very good addition, but they already have a logjam in the front-court. This team could make the playoffs again, but in order to be a playoff lock Markelle Fultz needs to prove why he was the number 1 pick and Vucevic needs to prove his stats last year were not a fluke.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder
With Russell Westbrook gone, there is now a completely new era in OKC. Now, it is not all that bad, they have their point guard of the future in former Clipper Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a solid 20 PPG scorer in Danilo Galinari, a boatload of draft picks, and for now, Chris Paul. It is almost a foregone conclusion that Chris Paul will not finish the season in Oklahoma City. This team is not all that bad and could potentially fight for a the 8th seed, but it is far more likely that Sam Presti finds himself in the lottery.
20. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are one of the most interesting teams this year. They are young, but they also added some veterans on some ugly contracts such as Allen Crabbe, Chandler Parsons, and Evan Turner. Those three can all contribute to this team, but they are nowhere near what their contracts indicate. Trae Young and John Collins are rising stars, Kevin Huerter can shoot the ball really well, and Cam Reddish and Deandre Hunter are two really good rookies. This team could very well make the playoffs, but their youth could put them in the lottery yet again.
19. Miami Heat
If I told you that the Miami Heat would acquire Jimmy Butler during free agency, you would think I am crazy because Miami had one of the worst cap situations in the NBA. Yet somehow Pat Riley made it happen, but it did cost the Josh Richardson and a pick. Jimmy Butler will make this team better, but they are at best a 5th seed. There are a bunch of overpaid role players on this team and maybe if they acquire Chris Paul, like many have expected, they could find themselves as a playoff lock. This might end up being a season where they finish around .500 yet again.
18. Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are arguably the best young duo in the entire NBA when healthy. The Mavericks had a lot of cap space this summer and had their eyes on the big fish such as Kemba Walker, Kris Middleton, and more, but they settled for Delon Wright, Boban Marjanovic, and Seth Curry. They are all solid players, however it does not put them over the top. I think they will miss the playoffs due to a stacked Western Conference, but expect Porzingis and Doncic to put on a show every night they are on the court.
17. Detroit Pistons
Blake Griffin put on a career year last year in his first full season with the Pistons. The Pistons snuck into the playoffs last year as the 8th seed and then got obliterated against the Bucks. Their biggest weakness has always been the wing position and this off-season they addressed it by signing Joe Johnson and trading for Tony Snell. Derrick Rose was a great pickup for this team if he can stay healthy and it seems Luke Kennard is ready to be a real threat on the court. Their season will rely on Rose and Griffin’s health, but at best I can see them near the 5th seed. They are still a second star away from being a legit threat in the East.
16. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs will most likely prove me wrong and make the playoffs because Gregg Popovich just does not know how not to play in April no matter which team he is given. This off-season they almost made a huge signing in Marcus Morris, but he left them in the dust and went to the Knicks. They did end up signing Demarre Carroll and Trey Lyles. Dejounte Murray will be coming back from a torn ACL however and DeMar DeRozan and Lamarcus Aldridge are aging but are still capable of giving a young 20 points each per night. The West got a lot better and the Spurs kept the same team that was knocked out in the 1st round last year. I believe they will fall just short of the postseason, but I would not be shocked whatsoever if they find themselves back in the playoff picture yet again.
15. Sacramento Kings
De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley proved last year that they are the future of the Kings. Vlade Divac finally did something good this past off-season and signed quality veterans such as Trevor Ariza, Cory Joseph, Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes. They also hired Luke Walton who I believe is the perfect coach for this young Kings team. If Fox and Buddy Hield can carry the Kings like they did last year, this team will be in the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. Kings fans will be happy no matter what this season brings because even if they miss the playoffs, they will be very fun and competitive to watch every night.
14. New Orleans Pelicans
There will be no debate, this will be the most fun team to watch in 2019-20. In case you may have missed it, they drafted Zion Williamson who most believe will be the next Lebron James. They also drafted Jaxson Hayes who really impressed in Summer League and showed he could be a very good player in the future. In free agency they added, JJ Redick and in trades they added a bunch of picks, Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Derrick Favors. Jrue Holiday remains the most underrated player in the game as he is capable of putting up 20 points and guarding the opposite’s team best player every night. I am a huge believer in this team and can easily see them sneaking into the playoffs if Zion proves he is worth the hype and Lonzo and Ingram prove why they were the 2nd overall pick.
13. Brooklyn Nets
This may not be a popular place to put the Nets, but I am not a believer in all the hype around them. Kyrie Irving was an excellent pickup and DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler, and Taurean Prince were all really good acquisitions as well. Oh and they signed Kevin Durant even though he most likely won’t play until the 2020-21 season due to a torn achilles. On the negative side however, Kyrie needs to prove he can be a leader. He explained his grandfather’s death was the main reason behind his lack of leadership in Boston, which is obviously understandable, but now there will be no excuse. This team is good, but not great and I don’t see any way they make the Conference finals unless Kevin Durant somehow heals before the season’s end.
12. Toronto Raptors
Everyone assumed once Kawhi left that the Raptors would be awful and need to rebuild. That is not true whatsoever. They have very good veterans and a young star in Pascal Siakam. They added Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson who are nice, cheap pickups for this team. Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol are all on expiring contracts so even if they do not play as well, they can trade them for some solid assets. Nick Nurse proved he is a good coach and I think this Raptors team will be a lot better than most assume. They most likely will not win the Championship again, but they could make the semifinals. Not all is lost up North.
11. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics changed a lot of personnel over the off-season. They exchanged Terry Rozier, Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and Marcus Morris for Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter and three rookies. Al Horford will be dearly missed in Boston due to his excellent play all around, but the one thing Kanter will bring that the Celtics have lacked for years is offensive rebounding. Brad Stevens thrives with point guards in his system, which leads me to believe that Kemba Walker may have his best year. Gordon Hayward is also looking like his former self according to multiple teammates. Their defense may be their demise however, but the Celtics can easily get a top 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
10. Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard and company will be looking to build off a Conference Finals appearance last year with a different team. They lost Al-Farouq Aminu, Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard, and Evan Turner, but brought in Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore, Pau Gasol, and Nassir Little who could be a huge steal. The reason they are ranked so low is because the West just got that much better and also there is no timetable for Jusuf Nurkic’s return. Lillard and McCollum will continue to prove people wrong however and could push themselves into a top 4 seed yet again.
9. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers were always considered the team that is good, but not great. This off-season however, the Pacers improved tremendously. They added Malcolm Brogdon, TJ Warren, Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday, and TJ McConnell. Once Victor Oladipo comes back this team will be a real threat in the East and a dark horse to make the Eastern Conference finals. If Myles Turner can take that leap forward towards all star status this team will definitely be in the conversation for the number one seed in the East.
8. Houston Rockets
Russell Westbrook and James Harden are reunited yet again and they are looking to prove everyone wrong and dominate the NBA and win the finals. There are doubts however that they can coincide due to them constantly needing the ball, but they are determined to make it work. They made a good under the radar signing in Thabo Sefolosha and resigned Danuel House, Austin Rivers, Nene, and Gerald Green. If Harden and Westbrook can each put up the great numbers that they have, the Rockets will be one of the best teams in the entire league, but I am not so confident that they will make it work so a finish around the 4th seed seems more likely to me.
7. Golden State Warriors
If Steph Curry is still on the Golden State Warriors, they will definitely be in the title conversation. Although Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala leaving is a huge loss to this team, the last time the Warriors were without Durant, all they did was win the most regular season games in history and have the first ever unanimous MVP in Stephen Curry. They may get off to a slow start however with Klay Thompson out until after the All Star break and D’Angelo Russell getting used to a brand new offense. Minor additions such as Alec Burks, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Glenn Robinson III will help a lot more than most think. If Curry can be Curry and Draymond Green continues to be one of the best defenders in the entire NBA, watch out for these Warriors sneaking their way into the Finals again.
6. Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic is one of the league’s most underrated stars and the Nuggets have one of the best core’s in the entire NBA. Last season they shocked everyone and finished as the 1 seed, but their inexperience knocked them out in the second round. They now have experience and they also added Jeremy Grant who is an extremely good player who can shoot the three and play some great defense on the other end. The West did get better however so the Nuggets do slide down in the rankings, but the Nuggets will definitely be in the fight for the 1 seed all season long. Expect Jokic to give you a highlight every night and he could be a dark horse candidate for MVP this year.
5. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers went through a complete roster change this summer and they improved tremendously. First they brought in MVP candidate Anthony Davis who most believe is the most talented partner LeBron James has ever had in the NBA. Then they reached for the stars and tried to dominate the NBA for years to come when they tried to sign Kawhi Leonard, but fell just short. Moments later they signed Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook, Avery Bradley, Jared Dudley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Alex Caruso, DeMarcus Cousins, Dwight Howard, and Troy Daniels. Although unfortunately DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL and is also in an alleged misdemeanor case, he still is technically a part of their roster. This team has depth and shooting and could very well win the Finals, but this team is almost entirely brand new and there could be chemistry problems. With LeBron James on board, they will always be near the top of Finals favorites.
4. Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz were tired of being the team that wins in the first round, but gets dominated in the second. This past off-season, they finally did something about it when they acquired Mike Conley, signed Bojan Bogdanovic, Jeff Green, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Ed Davis. They finally have a good backup big for Rudy Gobert, a point guard who can defend very well and can also score around 20 points a night, a power forward who can stretch the floor, and a bench that they can rely on. If Donovan Mitchell is ready to lead this team and become a true superstar, watch out for the Jazz. Their defense will be among the best in the league and they will finally have a decent offense which is something they have lacked these past few years. If all the pieces click together, do not be surprised if you see the Jazz on your TV in June.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
After finishing as the 7th seed in 2018, the Bucks came out of nowhere in 2019 and finished 1st in the Eastern Conference and reached the Conference Finals. Giannis Antetokounmpo put himself in the conversation as the best player in the NBA after winning MVP last season and looking completely dominant every single night. They did downgrade however in my opinion by losing Malcolm Brogdon and exchanging him with Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver. It will be funny though seeing both Lopez brothers on the same team. Unless Eric Bledsoe takes a leap forward, the Bucks will be finishing the year as the 2nd seed behind……
2. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers were one of the best teams last year and yet somehow they improved a lot over the off-season. They added the Joel Embiid stopper in Al Horford, exchanged Jimmy Butler for Josh Richardson who is a very good two way player, and re-signed Tobias Harris who is determined to prove his struggles last year with the 76ers was a fluke and he is a guy who can put up 20 a night. Ben Simmons also added a 3 point shot and if he can shoot around 35% on threes this year, that brings the 76ers to a completely new level. Their bench is still not the best, but they could at least keep the Sixers in the game. If the 76ers do not finish near the top, this may be Brett Brown’s last hurrah with this team.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
Last years Clippers were very fun to watch and every night they always put up a fight no matter how big the deficit was. They got eliminated in the first round however and an off season of uncertainty begun. There were rumors Patrick Beverley and JaMychal Green were going to leave, which would have been a big blow for them and it seemed like a summer full of promise was about to end in the worst way possible when the Lakers were rumored to be the favorites to land Kawhi. Then, on July 9th everything changed. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that the Clippers have agreed to sign Kawhi Leonard. Moments later, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the Clippers have acquired Paul George in exchange for a record number of draft picks. From that day on the Clippers were viewed as NBA Finals favorites and rightfully so. They could be one of the best defensive teams we have seen in a while and they will be a very deep team with a lot of talent. Lou Williams will always be a 20 PPG scorer off the bench and Kawhi and Paul George will be Kawhi and Paul George. It is going to be an amazing year for Clipper fans after years of disappointment and losing.