In 2010, LeBron James’ decision to take his talents to South Beach created a paradigm shift that caused the rest of the league to build teams capable of stopping LeBron and his Big Three. That offseason doesn’t hold a candle to this past summer. Superstars have been switching teams left and right, half of the All-Star starters from last season are now on a new team. All this change has led to the NBA having the most parody on paper in years.
With so many major pieces moving around, seeing which team looks the best heading into the season may seem tough. For one thing though, it seems that any team could have the potential to hold up the Larry O’Brien trophy next June. But let’s take a shot at some pre-camp ranking with the NBA season just around the corner.
30: Charlotte Hornets
Key Subtractions: Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky
Key Additions: Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington
The Charlotte Hornets finally gave into rebuilding, and they might end up with the No. 1 pick next season because of it. Losing Kemba Walker was huge, as he was the heart and soul of the team, but they lost other young pieces such as Frank Kaminsky and Jeremy Lamb. Lamb especially was a big loss, as he was experiencing career numbers. While Terry Rozier isn’t a terrible option for the Hornets, paying him close to $20 million a year is borderline idiotic, as they could’ve resigned Lamb for the same money. The Hornets will be a surefire lottery team next year.
29: Cleveland Cavaliers
Key Subtractions: none
Key Additions: Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr, Dylan Windler
While not having any major subtractions does seem like a positive for the Cavs, it’s not a great sign when a team with only 19 wins the year before only adds rookies. The Cavs are exploring a potential deal for Kevin Love however, and that could potentially give them more assets in the future. For their current team though they’re banking on the fact that Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, two ball dominant point guards, can mesh together successfully. Kevin Porter Jr was a good value pick at No. 30, and Dylan Windler has shown signs of contributing in Summer League. Those guys, mixed with Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson, are an interesting young core, but not good enough to have any success in the near future.
28: Atlanta Hawks
Key Subtractions: Dewayne Dedmon, Taurean Prince
Key Additions: Cam Reddish,Deandre Hunter, Jabari Parker Evan Turner, chandler parsons
The Atlanta Hawks have one of the best young cores in basketball at the moment, with rookie sensation Trae Young leading the charge alongside big man John Collins. They have a knockdown shooter in Kevin Huerter who has shown signs of a complete game as well. In this year’s draft they selected Cam Reddish, who was viewed as a Top 3 pick going into the season but experienced a down year. They also took Deandre Hunter, who was viewed as the best defender in the draft and knows how to win, coming off a national championship with Virginia. While this team may have light at the end of the tunnel. It’s going to be dark for at least this year. They took on the massive contract of Chandler Parsons for assets, but he won’t be a game changer for them. They also traded Taurean Prince, who was a talented small forward who is better than both Parsons and newly acquired Evan turner. It looks like another trip to the lottery for the Hawks.
27: Memphis Grizzlies
Key Subtractions: Mike Conley, Avery Bradley
Key Additions: Ja Morant, Josh Jackson, Brandon Clarke, Andre Iguodala, Tyus Jones
The Grit-and-Grind era in Memphis is officially over after the Grizzlies traded Mike Conley. They finally accepted a rebuild state, clearing cap space by waiving Avery Bradley and trading C.J. Miles. The youth movement is taking over in Memphis, as No. 2 pick Ja Morant has been given the keys to the franchise, forming a dynamic duo with big man Jaren Jackson Jr. for years to come. Brandon Clarke looks like he could be one of the steals of the draft with an impressive summer league that saw him win MVP. Tyus Jones is a good backup point guard and Andre Iguodala, if he doesn’t get bought out, will bring excellent veteran leadership to a young team. They also traded for Josh Jackson, a Top 5 pick that hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations. It was a low risk high reward trade for Memphis however, as Jackson has another chance to show the talent that made him such a coveted prospect.
26: Oklahoma City Thunder
Key Subtractions: Russell Westbrook, Paul George
Key additions: Chris Paul, Danillo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerami Grant
A team destined for mediocrity for the next half-decade, the Thunder traded Paul George to the Clippers for a proven veteran in Gallinari, a high upside prospect in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and draft picks that will benefit Oklahoma City until 2025. This caused Russell Westbrook to ask for a trade as well, which led to him getting dealt to the Rockets for Chris Paul and even more picks. While a core of Paul, Gallinari, Alexander, and Steven Adams could be a decent team, the Thunder want to trade Chris Paul before the season starts, which causes the team to become much less talented. Adams and Gallinari will be a solid frontcourt, but Alexander is too young to lead a backcourt. After that the bench gets extremely thin, as the Thunder will have to rely on young guys like Terrance Ferguson and Darius Bazley. With an uneven starting lineup and no bench, the Thunder are destined for the lottery.
25: New York Knicks
Key Subtractions: Emmanuel Mudiay
Key Additions: R.J. Barrett, Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Elfrid Payton, Marcus Morris
Yes, the Knicks did not get any superstars and did not select Zion Williamson in the draft, like many Knicks fans thought would happen, but that doesn’t mean they completely failed this offseason. Julius Randle quietly had a strong season last year averaging 21 and 9 for the Pelicans. He has been improving every year and could become an All Star for the Knicks. Marcus Morris is an offensive assassin, who was surprisingly one of the best players during the Celtics playoff run. Bobby Portis is more than the guy who punched out his own player during practice, and has become a solid player for the Wizards this past season. The biggest pick up came on draft night when they drafted Rj Barrett, who will try to lead the Knicks into the next era. Their new additions added to the group of Mitchell Robinson, Alonzo Trier, and Kevin Knox could lead to an interesting season, but when is a Knicks season not interesting?
24: Minnesota Timberwolves
Key subtractions: Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, Dario Saric, Tyus Jones
Key Additions: Jarrett Culver, Noah Vonleh, Jordan Bell
The Timberwolves needed a true running mate to go alongside star big man Karl Anthony-Towns, and believed that they found it in rookie Jarrett Culver. You can already tell that the team is high on the Texas Tech product, choosing not to play him in summer league in order to “fully integrate” himself into the Timberwolves system. He is set for significant minutes at the guard position in the absence of Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones. Those minutes may even set to increase, as Minnesota is looking to trade former number 1 pick Andrew Wiggins. They also reached in into the bargain bin to sign Jordan Bell and Noah Vonleh, who will try to fill in for the minutes they lost with Taj Gibson. Though both players experienced struggles last season, they are still very young, with Bell being 24 and Vonleh being 23. Those two signings were low risk high reward signings that could end up accelerating the rebuild process.
23: Chicago Bulls
Key Subtractions: none
Key Additions: Coby White, Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky
The Bulls have seemingly given up their dreams as Kris Dunn leading the charge in the new era, choosing to draft Coby White with the No. 7 pick in this year’s draft. He may be the fastest player in the draft, and has shown elite playmaking ability in summer league so far. Matching White with high flyer Zach Lavine could lead to one of the most highlight heavy backcourts in the NBA. The Bulls also have some high potential bigs in Lauri Markannen and Wendell Carter Jr., Lauri especially looks like a potential All Star. They also signed veterans Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky to not only bolster the bench unit, but to mentor the younger players and show them how to act like professionals in the league, something that is integral to the development of a player. If things go right for the Bulls, they could surprise a lot of people this season.
22: Phoenix Suns
Key Subtractions: Richaun Holmes, Josh Jackson, TJ Warren
Key Additions: Ricky Rubio, Frank Kaminsky, Cameron Johnson, Dario Saric
The Shaq and Kobe references that Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton got were crazy, but the duo look to be a force in this league for years to come. The problem is there has been so much turmoil in the past half decade for the Suns, with five head coaches in the past five years. They also didn’t help themselves by reaching for Cameron Johnson with the No. 11 pick, with talent like Tyler Herro and Romeo Langford still on the board. Phoenix did do some good things in free agency though, by finding a starting point guard in Ricky Rubio and upgrading the backup center position with Frank Kaminsky. Dario Saric is a swiss army knife of a player, and will fit in alongside Ayton. Though the Suns will not make the playoffs, expect them to be competitive throughout the season.
21: Washington Wizards
Key Subtractions: Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis, Tomas Satornasky
Key Additions: Rui Hacimura, Isiah Thomas
The Wizards would be a lot higher on this list if they had a healthy John Wall, but he’s out all of next year with an Achilles injury. The team is led by Bradley Beal, one of the best two players in the entire league, other than him though there isn’t much. Thomas Bryant has the potential to be a very effective two-way player, but he is still raw. Rui Hacimura is a good all around player and will fit in seamlessly next to Beal and Wall when he returns. There’s always a chance that Isiah Thomas could become the player he was in Boston, but he hasn’t consistently seen the court in the past two seasons. The rest of the team is young, inexperienced players that will cause Beal’s back to hurt from carrying this Wizards team.
20: Sacramento Kings
Key Subtractions: Alec Burks, Willie Cauley-Stein
Key Additions: Dewayne Dedmon, Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza, Richaun Holmes
After a surprising season for the Kings which saw them contend for a playoff spot most of the year, the Kings added bench depth in hopes for a playoff run. Led by dynamic backcourt De’aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, those two will provide a majority of the offense for Sacramento. Marvin Bagley also made strides during his rookie year, and seems poised for a breakout. Bogdan Bojdanovic is a sharpshooter who is perfect alongside fox as he drives and kicks to the outside. Harrison Barnes is a good all-around player who, though overpaid, is a perfect glue guy for Sacramento. Adding bench depth like Trevor Ariza and Cory Joseph allows for the Kings to bring championship experience to a young roster. If Fox, Hield, and Bagley makes leaps this season, the Kings can be a dark horse candidate for the playoffs this season.
19: Miami Heat
Key Subtractions: Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson
Key Additions: Jimmy Butler, Meyers Leonard, Tyler Herro
After another year of missing the playoffs, the Heat needed to make a change. They cleared up cap space by trading Hassan Whiteside to the Blazers, with the extra cap space they made their biggest signing since Lebron James, signing Jimmy Butler away from the 76ers. The Heat now have their star player to build around, but it came at the expense of their best young player in Josh Richardson. For the rest of the roster, Goran Dragic is still a reliable point guard, but years removed from his All Star days. The Heat drafted Tyler herro, a sharpshooter who unfortunately can’t do much else at high level yet. Kelly Olynk and Meyers Leonard will help stretch the floor but don’t have the inside ability on either side of the ball. The wild cards of this team are Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow, two young players that haven’t lived up to the hype, if they can start playing better, the Heat have the potential to be a playoff team in the East, if not though, they’re looking at another lottery selection.
18: New Orleans Pelicans
Key Subtractions: Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton
Key Additions: Zion Williamson, JJ Reddick, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball
The era of Anthony Davis is officially over in New Orleans, trading him to the Lakers after years of speculation. The Pelicans did receive a lot of compensation however, and has them primed for the years ahead. They got Brandon Ingram, a man who looked like a beast in the second half of the season last year, Lonzo Ball a stat sheet stuffer who, if he can overcome his shooting, could be an All Star Point guard. They also received reliable role played Josh Hart and draft picks that carry for the next half decade. The pelicans also received the No. 1 pick in the draft and selected Baby Bron, otherwise known as Zion Williamson. Williamson has Hall of fame potential, and has shown feats of freakish strength and athleticism very early in his career. The team still has one of the most underrated players in the league in Jrue Holiday, and signed sharpshooter J.J. reddick to be in the backcourt. If Zion lives up to the hype and the young guys properly develop, the Pelicans could be a low seed leading into the playoffs.
17: Orlando Magic
Key Subtractions: None
Key Additions: Al Faroq-Aminu
After last season’s surprise playoff appearance, which included stealing a game over the eventual champions. Orlando’s goal was to resign all of their key players. They started with All Star center Nikola Vucevic, who was the main factor in the teams first playoff berth since 2012. They also resigned offensive firecracker Terrence Ross, who could take over games if his shot is falling. They also signed veteran forward Al Faroq-Aminu, whose ability to switch onto multiple positions will help the Magic, who struggled on defense. They still have the uber athletic Aaron Gordon slasher Evan Fournier, and combo forward Joanathan Issac to round out their lineup. They also have Mo Bamba off the bench, a high upside prospect who will be fully healthy. The only problem is the point guard position, as D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter Williams are not starting point guards on a dangerous playoff team. Markelle Fultz is on the roster, but there is no word if he even plays again. A team with a loaded frontcourt, they need to find a floor general if they want to make any real noise in the playoffs.
16: Toronto Raptors
Key Subtractions: Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green
Key Additions: Stanley Johnson, Rondae-Hollis Jefferson
The Toronto Raptors, after winning the finals last year, are at a crossroads in their franchise. They just lost star player Kawhi Leonard and starter Danny Green. Between those two players, that’s a loss of 36 points per game, that’s a giant hole to fill. They can either rebuild and look to trade their veterans like Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, or they could run it back and try to be a dark horse pick for the finals. Their decision is centered around one player, most improved player Pascal Siakam. He became a star during the playoffs, turning himself into the second best player on a championship. Now the 25-year-old has the keys to the Raptors future, and if he plays like he did in the finals, this team can compete in the wide open East. For free agency, Rondae-Hollis Jefferson is a good defender who had a bad year offensively last season with Brookyln, the same could be said for Stanley Johnson. Both players will have a chance to prove they can be contributors in the league, and it’s good for the Raptors as both players are on cheap contracts. The Raptors will make the playoffs, the question is how far will they go?
15: Detroit Pistons
Key Subtractions: Ish Smith, Wayne Ellington, Glenn Robinson
Key Additions: Derrick Rose, Sekou Doumbouya, Joe Johnson
The Pistons, fresh off a four game sweep by the hands of the Bucks last season, didn’t make any major changes this offseason. The biggest signing was former MVP Derrick Rose, who will join yet another team and provide scoring, whether starting or coming off the bench. Rose will be paired with All Star Forward Blake Griffin, who would’ve led the Pistons to a higher seed if he hadn’t hurt his knee which caused him to miss the last 5 of the last 7 games. Injuries aside Griffin played his best season in years, and looks ready to lead the Pistons in the future. The Pistons still have Andre Drummond, double double machine who is only 25 years old, and has shown flashes of an expanding offensive game. They added Joe Johnson and Michael Beasley as well, two veterans that could provide offense off the bench. They also drafted Sekou Doumbouya, who was viewed as the best international prospect in the draft. Shooting will be an issue for this team, but most teams don’t have a powerful of a duo as Griffin and Drummond, and Rose will only help those two get open down low. This team can easily make the playoffs, but they can also land in the lottery just as easily
14: San Antonio Spurs
Key Subtractions: Davis Bertans
Key Additions: Demarre Carroll, Trey Lyles
If there’s one thing we know about the Spurs, it’s that they will always know how to win. Though they did make the playoffs and pushed the Nuggets to 7 games, the cracks in the armor began to show. Lamarcus Aldridge was his usual All-Star self, and Demar Derozan improved his shooting percentages while not hurting his per game averages. The Spurs were good, but they had a hard time competing against the upper echelon in the West. There is good news for the Spurs, as the new young core is looking very promising. Dejounte Murray, a lockdown defender, is back following an ACL injury and will be taking over the starting point guard duties. Derrick White had a coming out party in the playoffs, and his two way game will be perfect under Popovich. Lonnie Walker IV, who tore his meniscus in the preseason and struggled to get in the rotation, was the best player in summer league and could be perfect alongside Derozan and Aldridge with his slashing mindset. The Spurs also picked up Demarre Carroll, a two way player that will help bolster the bench. The Spurs will be the Spurs no matter what, and expect another playoff berth for San Antonio
13: Dallas Mavericks
Key subtractions: Dirk Nowitzki,
Key Additions: Delon Wright, Seth Curry, Boban Marjanovic
The Mavericks, though had a poor season last year, realized they have a future All Star in Luka Doncic. The rookie of the year had an amazing season, and showed why he was one of the best European recruits in history. The Mavericks decided that they wanted to pair him up with a fellow European, so they traded for All-Star big man Kristaps Porzingis. If Kristaps can come back to form following his torn ACL, this duo could rule the league for the next decade. Just imagining the pick and pop game between Doncic and Porzingis makes my mouth water. The Mavericks aren’t just their dynamic duo, as they have a decent supporting cast. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee are marksmen who will make almost every wide open shots they attempt. They also signed fellow shooter Seth Curry to make this team pretty dangerous from the outside. Dwight Powell and Boban Marjanovic are two bruisers that will do whatever their team asks of them. Delon Wright will be their starting point guard for the future, a do it all player who could walk away with a triple double. If Kristaps stays healthy, the skies the limit for this team, this season and beyond.
12: Indiana Pacers
Key Subtractions: Bogan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Cory Joseph, Wesley Matthews, Darren Collison, Tyreke Evans
Key Additions: Malcom Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, TJ Mcconnell
The biggest addition for the Pacers was nothing that happened during free agency or the draft, but Victor Oladipo coming back from a torn ACL. The All-NBA prospect will exponentially help the Pacers fight for a top spot in the east. Beside Oladipo, they have young big man duo Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, who have the potential with Oladipo to become a championship level big three. They also signed Malcom Brogdon, a shooting point guard who has improved his numbers every year. The biggest problem that faces the Pacers this year though is depth, they lost 6 players who played over 20 minutes a game for them last season, averaging a combined 63 points per game between them. The Pacers did make attempts to add depth, signing Jeremy Lamb, an offensive minded player who seems perfect for a 6th man type role. T.J. Mcconnell is one of the hardest workers in the league, and will be a fine backup guard for Brogdon and Oladipo. The Pacers have a very bright future ahead, but that won’t translate to any major success this year unless they build a complete roster.
11: Brooklyn Nets
Key Subtractions: D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, Rondae-Hollis Jefferson, Ed Davis, Demarre Carroll
Key Additions: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Deandre Jordan, Taurean Prince, Garrett Temple, Wilson Chandler
You must remember that this team does not have Kevin Durant for at least most of next season, which causes them to take a huge hit in the rankings. Even without Durant, this team has the potential to do some damage, led by offensive star Kyrie Irving, he has a chance to prove that his problems in Boston are behind in his hometown. The Nets also signed Deandre Jordan, which was a questionable decision as they have a better version of what he does in Jarrett Allen, but nonetheless adds another talented to the team. Caris Levert was playing his way to an all star selection until a nasty leg injury caused to miss most of the season. Spencer Dinwiddle is one of the best 6th men in the league, and will be in charge of the second unit when Kyrie hits the bench. They still have sharpshooter Joe Harris and traded for two player Taurean Prince. They also added veterans Garrett Temple and Wilson Chandler(when he gets back from suspension) to bolster the bench. Kevin Durant or not, this Nets team is going to be tough to beat this season.
10: Boston Celtics
Key Subtractions: Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris
Key Additions: Kemba Walker, Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards, Enes Kanter
After a disappointing season for the Celtics, people were expecting Kyrie Irivng to leave the Celtics. What fans didn’t expect however was Al Horford leaving as well, this sent the Celtics fan base into a frenzy, but Danny Ainge rebounded and added star point guard and positive locker room presence Kemba Walker. They also signed Enes Kanter, who is slowly turning into this writer’s favorite Celtic. The Celtics also gained a lot of talent in the draft, taking slasher Romeo Langford, and human microwave Carsen Edwards. This team’s success is one of the hardest to predict, as there is a lot of factors going into the team this season. Will Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown finally take the big leap and become all star caliber players? Were last season’s struggles for Gordon Hayward gone, or are his all star days behind him? How much can the rookies contribute right away? When predicting the Celtics, there isn’t just one easy answer, but if everything is right they might be the team that represents the East in the finals.
9: Utah Jazz
Key Subtractions: Ricky Rubio, Jae Crowder
Key Additions: Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Ed Davis, Jeff Green, Emmanuel Mudiay
Utah made one of the first moves of the offseason, bringing in point guard Mike Conley from Memphis. Conley is probably the best player never to make an all star game, and he would have multiple if he had been playing in the Eastern conference. With Mike Conley taking over the playmaking duties, this allows rising star Donovan Mitchell to do what he does best, and that’s score the basketball. While he is a fine playmaker, he’s most effective when he’s looking for his own shot, not someone else’s. Conley adds another good defensive player to Utah, who is turning into one of the best defensive teams in the league. The Defense is anchored by two time defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert, who changes a team entire offensive scheme when he is on the court. They also added Bojan Bogdanovic, a very good offensive player who will get plenty of catch and shoot opportunities from Mitchell and Gobert. They still have two way glue guy Joe Ingles who will do a little bit of everything for Jazz. They also signed bench depth in Jeff Green, Ed Davis, and Emmanuel Mudiay. This is the best team Utah has had since Karl Malone and John Stockton era, but they need a little more to get the championship that eluded the team before it.
8: Philadelphia 76ers
Key Subtractions: Jimmy Butler, J.J. Redick, T.J. Mcconnell, Boban Marjonovic
Key Additions: Al Horford, Josh Richarson, Kyle O’Quinn
The 76ers, upset with the way last season ended, had to scramble of sorts when Jimmy Butler declined a max contract extension. They rebounded pretty well, executing a sign and trade with Miami and receiving Josh Richarsdon, a slashing forward who has a very high-upside. They also singed Al Horford, which as much as saying this breaks my heart, will make the Sxiers have one of the best starting lineups in the NBA. Adding Horford also allows Embiid to rest more, giving his lengthy injury history. The biggest problem with the 76ers still remains though, and that’s bench depth. The issue may of gotten worse for Philly, as role players TJ Mcconell and Boban Majonovic in free agency. While most minutes will go to the starting core, they need competent backups, especially given the injury history of Embiid. This team will dominate inside but will have trouble shooting the ball from the outside, as they lost JJ Reddick, their best shooter, in free agency. While this team does have some weaknesses, they’re starting lineup might be enough to power them into the finals.
7: Portland Trailblazers
Key Subtractions: Enes Kanter, Al Faroq-Aminu, Seth Curry,Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard
Key Additions: Hassan Whiteside, Mario Hezonja, Nassir Little
The Trailblazers had one of the most fun playoff appearances in the past couple of years. Their round matchup ended with Damian Lillard shooting from almost the logo to send the Thunder home(and start their rebuild), they then went 7 games with the Nuggets that included a four overtime game. When they finally lost to the Warriors, it showed that Damian Lillard and CJ Mccollum were finally ready to take over the west. They needed some more pieces to gt over the hump, so they traded for Hassan Whiteside, a rebounding machine who will clog the paint and be a great pick roll partner. They also drafted Nassir Little with the 25th pick, Little was a player who was a lottery pick before an uneven season in college. The talent is still there for Little, as he has shown flashes in summer league. Speaking of Summer League, Afrenee Hardaway showed that he could get buckets at the NBA level, averaging 22 points a game including a 35 point outburst where he shot 6-7 from Three. They did lose some key role players like Seth Curry and Enes Kanter, but Little and Whiteside will help offset those losses. The Trailblazers by adding Whiteside have a big three, and they could be a dark horse pick to win the finals this year.
6: Los Angeles Lakers
Key Additions: Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Dwight Howard
Key Subtractions: Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram
As much as it pains me to say it, the Lakers are one of the favorites to win the championship this season. Anthony Davis to the Lakers finally happened, and LeBron finally got his running mate. They also were active in free agency, signing former All-NBA talent and current ring chaser Demarcus Cousins, though he won’t be taking the floor due to an untimely torn ACL. Cousins could have tipped the scale for the Lakers to win it all, so he is a big loss early in the season. They also signed a pair of three and D shooting guards in Danny Green and Avery Bradley. They resigned veterans Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Javale Mcgee, and Rajon Rondo as well. No one can deny the talent that this team has, but there could be some off the court issues for the Lakers. Between LeBron, Rondo, Stephenson, and Cousins, there’s definitely a lot of colorful personalities in the locker room. It’s going to be on new coach Frank Vogel to lead the locker room but his job might be in jeopardy as well already. Rob Pelinka picked Vogel’s assistant staff, something that almost never happens in the NBA. With one of those assistants being Jason Kidd, someone who LeBron would have as a head coach, Vogel can’t be feeling too secure. If this team can have no chemistry problems however, they’re going to be a force to reckon with in the West.
5: Denver Nuggets
Key Subtractions: None
Key Additions: Jerami Grant
The Nuggets have one of the deepest teams top to bottom in the NBA, but they still were knocked out in the second round by a tough Portland team. The future is still bright for the Nuggets though, as they still have the best Center in the league in Nikola Jokic, the triple double threat will only get better as he’s still only 24 years old. Gary Harris is turning into a two way menace, while Jamal Murray has a green light to shoot when he gets past the logo. Throw in veteran leadership from players like Paul Millsap and Will Barton, this team has all the potential to make a title run. The Nuggets also traded for Jerami Grant, a player who will improve the Nuggets Defense exponentially with his ability to switch onto most positions. The Nuggets are also getting Michael Porter Jr back this year. The 14th pick last season is a top 5 talent who fell because of a back injury that forced him to miss all of last season. If he can play at the level many thought he can play at, he may take the Nuggets over the hump in the quest to win their first Championship in franchise history.
4: Houston Rockets
Key Additions: Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler
Key Subtractions: Chris Paul
In one of the more shocking deals over the summer, two former MVPs are teaming up as Russell Westbrook was traded to Houaton to join James Harden and the Rockets. This turns Houston into the best backcourt in the NBA, and allows two of the best playmakers in the game to create magic together. The one drawback is Russell Westbrook only shot 29 percent from three last season, a number that could create some problems considering Houston’s three point attack. It could actually help Westbrook and the Rockets, as space opens up in the lane for Westbrook to drive and kick to outside to the seemingly endless shooters on the wing. Harden should take a step back and let Westbrook run the point, as his shots from the outside will open even more with Westbrook drawing so much attention. The Rockets still have Clint Capela to anchor the defense, and Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker to knock down outside shots. Austin Rivers and Gerald Green will add bench shooting, and Tyson Chandler will help the second unit defensively. The Rockets have all the talent in the world to win the championship, and if Harden and Westbrook gel the right way, clutch city could be making a return to Houston.
3: Milwakuee Bucks
Key Additions: Robin Lopez, Wesley Matthews, Kyle Korver
Key Subtractions: Malcom Brogdon
After a loss in the Eastern conference finals, the reigning MVP Giannia Antetokoumpno said that it was time to bring the big trophy home, and this may finally be their year. They resigned all Star Guard Khris Middleton, who’s sharpshooting and staunch defense makes a great sidekick to Giannis. Eric Bledsoe is a bull of a point guard who has refined his games, no longer relying on his athleticism. Brooz Lopez turned into a 7-foot Steph Curry last season, and seems primed to repeat the same feats this year. They did lose a key piece in Malcom Brogdon however, but they sign considerable bench depth to help cope with the loss. Robin Lopez will join his twin brother on the team, providing interior defense off the bench. Wesley Matthews was a double digit scorer last year and will pair well with George Hill as two way meances off the bench. Kyle Korver can still shoot lights out, even at 38 years old, and Bucks fans should be crying tears of joy for how open he will be when Giannis drives and kicks. This team will go as far as the Greek Freak takes them, and if he can improve his shooting only slightly, the reigning MVP could get even better.
2: Golden State Warriors
Key Additions: D’angelo Russell, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III
Key Subtractions: Kevin Durant, Andre Igduola, Demarcus Cousins, Quinn Cook,Shaun Livingston
Yes, the Golden State Warriors lost one of the best scorers in NBA History, but they still have the best Three Point shooter of all time. People forget just how great Curry is these past few years as he let Durant be the primary scorer, but the two-time MVP can easily still be a focal point of an offense. Draymond Green is one of the best defenders in the league and looked during the playoffs like the player he was in years prior. They did lose Klay for most of the season with a torn ACL, but newly acquired D’Angelo Russell will help with his absence greatly. With Russell running the point guard, it can allow Curry to play more off ball, and become even more lethal from three. The Warriors replaced Demarcus Cousins with Willie Cauley-Stein, and athletic center who will block shots and run the floor for the Warriors. They also signed Glen Robisnon III and Alec Burks, two underutilized players who will look to prove themselves in the Golden State system. This team is a contender even without Klay, and the fact that he’ll be back by playoffs shows that this team is still one of the favorites for the title.
1: Los Angeles Clippers
Key Additions: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George
Key Subtractions: Danilo Gallinari, Sahi Gilgeous Alexander
If someone told me a year ago that the Clippers would be the favorite to win the NBA title, I would have thought you were Steve Ballmer, but the Clippers somehow managed to turn their entire franchise around with really losing any major pieces. It all started with Finals MVP and known board man Kawhi Leonard to sign a max deal with the Los Angeles Clippers, it didn’t stop there, as they then traded for MVP finalist Paul George. There are perhaps the two best perimeter defenders on the same team, throw in Patrick Beverely and Montrez Harrell, and this team has 04 Pistons potential defensively. This team is talented top to bottom as well, and it’s definitely not a two star team. Lou Williams is one of the best sixth men in NBA history, and can score from anywhere on the floor. Ivica Zubac is a solid big man, and thrived in a starting role after being traded by the Lakers. Montrez Harrell is like a human battery off the bench, bringing energy and intensity while producing double digit scoring numbers. Patrick Beverly is a pest who will do whatever it takes to win, and annoy the opponent while doing it. Throw in shooters like Landry Shamet and Jamychael Green and glue guys like Mo Harkless, you have a team that has 9-10 starting caliber players. This team has all the makings of a champion, and if Kawhi and Paul George can gel together, this team is the favorite to win, and it’s not really that close.