10. Golden State Warriors- You knew that the Warriors were going to take a step back no matter what. But under the extreme circumstances, they actually came out pretty good. They did lose Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala, and Klay Thompson will be out at least until January. But the Warriors were able to add 22 year old All-Star D’Angelo Russell to play next to Steph Curry. Russell and Curry should be able to play off of one another. They also added Willie Cauley-Stein for dirt cheap as he should be a much better fit than DeMarcus Cousins. Golden State isn’t the team everyone feared a great ago, but they’re still a dangerous one.
9. Los Angeles Lakers- Lebron James and Anthony Davis alone gets LA into the top 10. It’s after those 2 where the Lakers may struggle. The Lakers added a bunch of explosive personalities and things could go really bad fast. The 2 major x-factors for them to become legit title contenders will be the health of LeBron and the revival of DeMarcus Cousins. LeBron will be entering his 17th season and he has to cut down his minutes to last the whole season. As for Boogie, he doesn’t need to be what he was with Sacramento but he needs to prove he can a consistent player once again.
8. Indiana Pacers- Indiana quietly had one of the best off-seasons of anyone in the league. They got TJ Warren for basically free from the Suns. They then signed 2 great role players in Jeremy Lamb and TJ McConnell. But their big get was the surprise sign-and-trade of Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon is a future All-Star who will get an expanded role with the Pacers. The only thing holding the Pacers back from becoming true title contenders is the health of Victor Oladipo. He’s expected to be back by January but will he have the same explosiveness?
7. Boston Celtics- Everyone knows that Kyrie Irving is better than Kemba Walker. And yet, everyone seems to agree that the Celtics are better off with Kemba over Kyrie. The Celtics have made it a point this off season that they need to regain their culture and Kemba is a no nonsense leader. If he can be 90% off Kyrie with 0% of the drama, then the Celtics should be better. But ultimately, Jayson Tatum’s and Jaylen Brown’s development will decide if Boston can get back to the Finals.
6. Portland Trailblazers- Portland was part of the Final 4 last year and brings most of the core back. They’re big acquisition was Hassan Whiteside who should fill in at center while Jusef Nurkic continues to recover (out till February). But for Portland to get over the hump, they need to get a consistent 3rd scorer next to Dame and CJ. Will that come eternally or is their once last move left to be made? Kevin Love perhaps?
5. Utah Jazz- Similar to the Pacers, the Jazz quietly had a fantastic off-season. Their big move was trading for Mike Conley Jr who is a huge upgrade over Ricky Rubio. Conley should serve as a great mentor to Donovan Mitchell as Mitchell tries to take the next step to super-stardom. But they also added Bojan Bogdanovic who was one of the best scorers on the market. That is something the Jazz desperately needed. With added bench depth from Emmanuel Mudiay and Jeff Green, the Jazz are loaded.
4. Milwaukee Bucks- The Bucks were the best team in basketball during the regular season last year. They were able to resign Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez but lost Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers. While they return most of the roster from last year, losing Brogdon will be huge. The Bucks signed Wes Matthews to replace him but Matthews isn’t as dynamic as Brogdon is. For the Bucks to get over the hump and get to the Finals, Giannis needs to play like best player on basketball.
3. Philadelphia 76ers- The 76ers were one of the busiest teams this off season. Out goes Jimmy Butler and JJ Reddick and in comes Al Horford and Josh Richardson. They also resigned Tobias Harris to a max deal. I personally feel the 76ers got better. Horford’s big brother like presence should wear off on guys like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The Sixers have the talent but as we know, they need to get better at shooting. Harris has the potential to be a 40% 3 point shooter and he’ll have to be that for Philly next year. Oh yea, Ben Simmons also needs to attempt a few jump shots too.
2. Denver Nuggets- No one is talking about the Denver Nuggets and that’s exactly what they want. They were the 2nd team in the West last year and everyone is returning. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray form one of the best pick and pop combos in the league and they’re only going to get better. The real x-factor for the Nuggets this coming year will be Michael Porter Jr. After sitting out his entire 1st year, Porter Jr. will have high expectations. If he can live up to the hype, Denver will win the West. But if he continues to struggle with injuries, Denver may be a piece away.
1 Los Angeles Clippers- Sometimes the obvious answer is the right one. The Clippers just got the best player in basketball right now in Kawhi Leonard and he brought Paul George with him. Those two form may be the best dynamic duo in the entire NBA. LA did pay a huge price to get George but they did keep most of their team intact. Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell should be perfect compliments to those two as they could be the best defensive team in the entire league. Having a coach like Doc Rivers will be such a gift as he’s great at relating to superstar personalities. Mix that all together and the Clippers are the favorites right now.