The NBA season is still some four months away but after the busy offseason, let’s take a look at which teams look to be better than the rest in our Top 10 Power Rankings:
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers were the biggest winners during free agency. Not only did they win the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes, but they also added Paul George to their line-up. But the Clippers don’t only have the best 1-2 punch in the league, they also have the best 1-2 punch among reserves. Sixth man supreme Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell should provide their dynamic duo with excellent support off the bench or they can start with them and Ivica Zubac. Patrick Beverley is another key piece here and the Clippers look for their first real run at the world title.
The Bucks were a couple of wins away from advancing to the NBA finals. Unfortunately for them, Kawhi Leonard was on the other team. With Board Man now playing in the West, it’s obvious that the Bucks are the favorites in the East. Led by 2019 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee lost Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic but otherwise kept the core of their 60-win team in 2019. Mike Budenholzer has also added veterans, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews. Look for Giannis to stay happy with the Bucks also signing his brother for good measure. Antetokounmpo ( Giannis ) has been improving at a remarkable rate.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers thought they had Kawhi Leonard. But Board Man chose the other side of town. So the Lakers used Plan B and added the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, and Quinn Cook. Not bad. But they lost Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart to get Anthony Davis. AD and LeBron should be an interesting duo to watch and if they play well together, watch out for the Lakers. Unlike last season where LeBron was surrounded by young talent, the Lakers are putting veterans around him this time. The Clippers may have the better starting unit but the Lakers may be deeper and have more experience.
Philadelphia will be another beneficiary of Kawhi Leonard’s departure. The Sixers, like the Bucks, fell victim to the Board Man’s title-winning season in Toronto. The Sixers lost Jimmy Butler to Miami but got Josh Richardson in return. They also lost J.J. Redick but they’ve added big man Al Horford from Boston. I think Embiid benefits from the departure of Butler as he will get the leadership baton now. If only Ben Simmons will have an outside shot this year, the Sixers are going to be tough to beat.
The Utah Jazz should see Donovan Mitchell improve some more this season. But what makes this team exciting is that they’ve added Mike Conley to pair with Mitchell in the backcourt. Utah’s had a talented team in the last two seasons but without a veteran closer, they have not been able to win games. Mike Conley changes that. The addition of Bojan Bogdanovic gives the Jazz another scorer. Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors, and Jae Crowder are gone but I think the Jazz are going to be faster this season. Better? I think so with a true superstar point guard in Mike Conley.
The Denver Nuggets were the biggest surprise of last season. Nikola Jokic has emerged as a dominant force and he is playing at an MVP level now. While the other teams were busy tinkering their line-ups, the Nuggets were busy keeping theirs together. Why fix something that ain’t broke? Denver will return Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap and the rest of their energy players. They added Jerami Grant and if Michael Porter can play, this team’s for real. I’m also interested in how Bol Bol does. Manute’s kid was supposed to be a lottery pick. He slid all the way to 46 with Denver. Will he be a steal?
How can you not include a team that has two former MVPs, two proven scorers, and two go-to guys? The Rockets ended their CP3 experiment and traded Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Russell Westbrook. Yes, that Russell Westbrook. Now the Rockets have a starting backcourt of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Now how do you stop that? With the likes of Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, and PJ Tucker returning, this is a solid team There’s no question what they can do on offense but the problem is if they will be able to play good team defense. We saw Harden’s defense improve last season. Let’s hope he jells well with his former OKC teammate.
The Celtics were the preseason favorites in the East last year. But they were anything but that last season. Kyrie Irving got hurt and struggled for the most part of the season. Gordon Hayward couldn’t get his old game back and Jayson Tatum looked like he had the sophomore jinx. Irving left for Brooklyn and Horford to Toronto. Terry Rozier couldn’t wait for Kyrie to leave. He went to Charlotte. But the Celtics got Kemba Walker from the Hornets. And if Hayward regains his old form while Tatum and Jaylen Brown get their spunk back, this team is a handful especially with Brad Stevens calling the shots.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have always made the playoffs. They just couldn’t seem to go over the hump though. The Blazers have one of the best backcourt tandems in the league in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. McCollum proved in the 2019 playoffs that he can be as big as Lillard can be in clutch situations. That’s going to make the Blazers more dangerous this season. Portland’s main acquisition was Hassan Whiteside. Now they have the big man they’ve never had in the Lillard era. If Whiteside can play with his upside, this Portland team is going to give plenty of teams a run for their money.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors didn’t just lose the NBA title. They lost Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets and Klay Thompson to an Achilles injury. So it’s just Splash Brother Steph Curry now. But wait, the Warriors added D’Angelo Russell from the Brooklyn Nets. I’m not sure how D-Lo fits long term but with Thompson out, Russell is going to be a great partner for Steph Curry. Draymond Green needs to step up and return to his All-Star form this year for the Warriors to be really competitive.