The 2019-20 NBA season is just around the corner and the league’s 30 teams are going to battle it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy. But before the Finals, teams must go through the grueling postseason.
Last season, the Milwaukee Bucks topped the NBA regular season standings and got home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. However, they were eliminated by the eventual champions Toronto Raptors. Toronto ousted back to back NBA champions Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals to win their first-ever NBA title.
The NBA landscape changed a lot during the summer. Kawhi Leonard left Toronto in favor of the Los Angeles Clippers. Their cross-town rival Lakers acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans. Meanwhile, the Warriors lost Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets and Klay Thompson to injury. The Houston Rockets added Russell Westbrook. Out East, Kyrie Irving went to Brooklyn to join KD while the Sixers added Al Horford while trading Jimmy Butler. Milwaukee lost Malcolm Brogdon but replaced him with Wesley Matthews. And so on.
With the odds already out, here are some of my favorite picks:
To Win the NBA Title?
- Eastern Conference Champion (+220)
- Western Conference Champion (-260)
The Eastern Conference houses the current NBA champions but with Kawhi Leonard transferring to the Los Angeles Clippers during the summer, the Milwaukee Bucks are the only real serious threats to win the NBA title. When you take a look at the current NBA betting odds board, six out of the top 8 favorites are from the West, including the top two. Of course, only one team from each conference makes the finals but when you look at the teams, the West is the more talented conference, as it has been in recent years.
The two Los Angeles teams are the favorites to win the 2019-20 NBA title while the Milwaukee Bucks are third followed by the Philadelphia 76ers. The Rockets, Warriors, Jazz, and Nuggets follow them. Of course, the Bucks had the best record in the NBA last season but remember what these two Los Angeles squads did during the summer. The Lakers added Anthony Davis while the Clippers brought in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. I think the West regains the title this year. Prediction: Western Conference (-260)
Atlanta Hawks to Make the Playoffs
- Yes (+220)
- No (-260)
The Atlanta Hawks finished fourth from the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings during the 2018-19 season. Atlanta started the year on the wrong foot as they sent 18-year old Luka Doncic to the Dallas Mavericks on draft night, only to see the Slovenian take the league by storm and win the 2019 Rookie of the Year award. As their ‘consolation’, the Hawks got Trae Young and a 2019 protected pick. Young had a rough start to his NBA career but would settle down and finish the season strong. That 2019 pick became Cam Reddish from Duke at #10 and the Hawks were also able to trade for 2019 4th pick DeAndre Hunter by giving up their two first-round picks.
To shore up their backcourt, they added Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe during the offseason. The Hawks also have a formidable frontcourt with the improving John Collins and veteran Alex Len. Jabari Parker and Chandler Parsons also add depth to this young team.
Trae Young scored at least 20 points in 28 out of the last 33 games played by the Hawks last season and he seemed to justify the Doncic trade with that strong finish. However, for the Hawks to make the playoffs, the other pieces must come together and play around him. I think the Hawks are still a couple of years from making noise and the playoffs if they keep this unit together longer. Prediction: No (-260)
Brooklyn Nets to Make the Playoffs
- Yes (-250)
- No (+210)
The Brooklyn Nets made the first big moves of the summer by adding Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to their fold. Sorry Knicks fans but when Irving and Durant said a long time ago that they wanted to play together for a New York franchise, they meant the Nets, not the Knicks. Brooklyn also added big man DeAndre Jordan, swingman Taurean Prince, and Wilson Chandler. Then Brooklyn is also returning the likes of Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris, who were key in the Nets making the playoffs last season.
However, Durant is going to miss the entire season after his infamous injury season at Golden State. Durant returned from an ACL injury to play in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals only to rupture his Achilles during the game. Even if Durant makes a speedy recovery, I doubt if the Nets will risk their investment this year. That said, Irving will have to lead the Nets and given how he struggled to lead the Celtics last season, I’m not sure how high he’s going to lead the Nets this coming season. I think the Nets will be contending for the playoffs but they will likely be fighting for the 7th or 8th seed. Will there be a chance they miss the playoffs? Yes, but given the veteran presence, I think they barely make the postseason. Prediction: Yes (-250)
Detroit Pistons to Make the Playoffs
- Yes (+125)
- No (-145)
The Detroit Pistons went 41-41 last season and edged out the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Detroit was relatively quiet this summer, with only Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris as their biggest additions. The Pistons made the playoffs last year because of a rejuvenated Blake Griffin. The former Clippers star returned to form last season and took the Pistons to the postseason. However, when Griffin got hurt in the playoffs, the Pistons suffered. Given, Griffin’s injury history, the Pistons are a high-risk team.
Detroit depends too much on Griffin and while Rose and Morris are going to help unload him of the load, both don’t look to be the players that complement Griffin’s style and make Detroit’s offense more dynamic. If Griffin stays healthy, the Pistons have a shot but I think they will be easy to defend against. Griffin played 75 games last season but the risk is always there. Am I going to take the risk? Maybe not. Griffin’s health is always a red flag and Detroit didn’t get better during the summer. Prediction: No (-145)
Miami Heat to Make the Playoffs
- Yes (-280)
- No (+240)
The Miami Heat won 39 games last season and missed the playoffs. They lost Dwyane Wade to retirement and Hassan Whiteside to the Portland Trail Blazers. But Miami got Jimmy Butler from the Philadelphia 76ers and Whiteside’s departure is going to give Bam Adebayo the minutes he didn’t fully get while Whiteside was in South Beach. Then add the fact that Goran Dragic is still there. The Heat also has rookie Tyler Herro who could be the steal in the 2019 NBA draft.
Miami could opt to start with Dragic, Dion Waiters, Jimmy Butler, Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo. Throw in Justise Winslow as the 6th man, Herro and Derrick Jones off the bench. UD is back for leadership and Coach Spo’ just got an extension. The East is a weak division and Indiana lost Bogdanovic and won’t start the year with Oladipo. Detroit hasn’t done much to improve and Blake Griffin’s health is questionable. Brooklyn is going to play without KD and Toronto lost Kawhi. I think Miami has a very strong chance of making the playoffs. Prediction: Yes (-280)
Sacramento Kings to Make the Playoffs
- Yes (+250)
- No (-300)
The Sacramento Kings finished a far 9th place with 39 wins last season but with De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley expected to improve after impressive seasons last year, the Kings are contenders to make the playoffs this year. Sacramento also returns Bogdan Bogdanovic who was impressive in the FIBA world championships. Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes are also back and they not only bring scoring but veteran leadership. Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza, and Yogi Ferrell add depth to the team as well.
The West is a stacked division but given what happened to Oklahoma City and with San Antonio not doing much during the summer, there is a good chance that Sacramento steals a playoff spot. The Lakers are likely getting to the postseason and taking over OKC’s spot but if the Spurs blink this year, the Kings should be the top team to replace them in the top 8. Prediction: Yes (+250)