It doesn’t truly feel like the NBA season ended after the Raptors won the title, as the NBA Draft and the absolute insanity that unfolded during free agency kept hoops fans glued to their TV’s and to Twitter for updates. As the Summer League grinds on, our staff took some time to put together our NBA Preseason Power Rankings.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
Everyone on staff had the Sixers and Bucks as their top two teams in the east, and it makes sense. However, Philly managed to get one more first place vote to put them over the top, and it’s no surprise. Even with Jimmy Butler leaving for Miami, the 76ers managed to land on their feet with signing Al Horford in free agency. Pairing him with Joel Embiid, along with Ben Simmons at point and the other great pieces on the roster, that’s a lot of size teams will have to deal with.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Like I said, everyone had the Bucks at the top of the East. Even with free agent Malcom Brogdon deciding to sign with division foe Indiana, Milwaukee still has this Greek dude named… *checks notes* … Giannis Antetokounmpo. So they’ll be fine.
3. Brooklyn Nets
Even with Kevin Durant out for the season with his Achilles tear, our staff at The Bench thinks Kyrie will lead the Nets to a three seed in the East. Irving seemed to lift a weight from his shoulders last season by apologizing to LeBron about the fallout in Cleveland, and now he’s been able to control his own destiny in making the move to Brooklyn with KD. Throw in the already solid core they had, plus DeAndre Jordan at center, and this Nets team is poised for a run.
4. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers continue to climb the ladder of national respect in the league by making more free agent moves in an offseason than I can remember (I’ve followed the Pacers from a young age, being an Indy native). Indy signed Malcom Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb, while trading cash to the Suns for T.J. Warren (lol), but they also lost leadership & post presence in Thad Young, along with a great shooter and playmaker in Bojan Bogdanovic. These moves could, at the very least, balance out, if not improve the team if Oladipo can come back into the same shape he was in last season.
5. Boston Celtics
Kyrie and Horford are gone, but the Celtics look like they could still be a threat this season. With Kemba at the point, Tatum and Brown sticking around, a stud of a rookie point guard in Carsen Edwards, and of course Gordon Hayward, what could go wrong?
6. Toronto Raptors
The defending champions will look a bit different heading into the 2019-2020 season, as the guy who led them to a title is now a Clipper. Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakim, and company will have to try leading the Raptors as far as they can.
7. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons added everyone’s favorite point guard, Derrick Rose, this offseason, giving them more explosiveness off the bench. Already running with the new “Twin Towers” in Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, Detroit is looking to maintain their upward trend.
8. Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young finished last year’s campaign really strong. Had he played that way for more of the year, he would’ve had a serious chance of taking home the Rookie of the Year award. With that, Young, Collins, and Len, along with new additions in Alan Crabbe and rookie Deandre Hunter, are one of the most exciting young cores who could slip into the playoffs this season in the East.
9. Miami Heat
10. Orlando Magic
11. Chicago Bulls
12. Cleveland Cavaliers
13. Washington Wizards
14. Charlotte Hornets
15. New York Knicks
1. LA Clippers
This team was already pretty good, but now they’re destined for greatness. Kawhi Leonard managed to bring Paul George along for the ride via trade from OKC, and now this duo of CA natives plan to be the best team in Los Angeles. This deep Clippers team with reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, along with a re-signed and locked in Pat Beverly, are a force to be reckoned with.
2. LA Lakers
Obviously the Lakers are going to be damn good; they have starting point guard extraordinaire LeBron James and Anthony Davis! The Lakers seemed to go all in on the now as opposed to the future after trading Ball, Ingram, and Hart to the Pelicans for AD, but with an aging LeBron, you almost have to. Oh yeah, and they got Boogie.
3. Denver Nuggets
“RUN IT BACK!” That’s what they’re shouting from the Mile High City, as the Nuggets remain intact from last season. Murray, Jokic, and company will look to keep their high energy from 2018-19 and find continued success.
4. Houston Rockets
WHOA. As I was writing up the East breakdowns, the Thunder traded Russell Westbrook to the Rockets for Chris Paul and some draft picks. With that, this is easily one of the top backcourts in the NBA, as former teammates Westbrook and James Harden are reunited in Texas.
5. Utah Jazz
Utah made some great moves in the offseason to make their team better, with Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic being the most notable. While they also finished fifth in the West last season, this isn’t a knock on them. The rest of the west just got a whole lot tougher at the same time.
6. Portland Trailblazers
The Blazers were very quiet in the offseason, but they did upgrade at center by bringing in Hassan Whiteside. The additions of Rodney Hood and rookie Nasir Little are also valuable, as Portland will cruise into the playoffs again this year amid a powerful West.
7. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors aren’t nearly as mighty as we’re used to. KD left; Boogie left; Klay fore his ACL. It’s going to be pretty ugly in The Bay Area for a while, but Steph Curry and Draymond Green are still there, and they’ve added D’Angelo Russell. This team could try to get back to their roots of being that organically-made powerhouse, but it might be a struggle. A low playoff seed is their ceiling, but don’t be shocked if they just barely slip out of the playoff race.
8. Dallas Mavericks
This is it. This is the year we finally get to see Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis play together. This Euro duo could do some serious damage this year, but the lack of some other pieces around them and depth could be their downfall.
9. San Antonio Spurs
10. New Orleans Pelicans
11. Minnesota Timberwolves
12. Sacramento Kings
13. Memphis Grizzlies
14. Oklahoma City Thunder
15. Phoenix Suns
Los Angeles Lakers
Out of the five of us who voted, three said the Lakers and two said the Clippers, so the Lakers win this spot in our rankings. Even with the Clippers being the favorite to win the West, our staff believes the Lakers will make the big plays when it matters most and bring the Larry O’Brian Trophy back to the purple and gold.