30. Charlotte Hornets
Kemba Walker took the plunge and left Charlotte for Boston. When looking to replace the All-Star guard, Charlotte pivoted to Terry Rozier — a point guard with a career shooting percentage below 40-percent. P.J. Washington appears to be a good pick in the first round, though the rest of the team is really weak. It could be one of the worst NBA teams from a talent standpoint over the last 10 years.
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29. Washington Wizards
Outside of Bradley Beal, the team is chock-full of fringe NBA guys. It’s a really shambolic state of affairs for this once proud franchise. One could see Beal flanked with a starting five including Isaiah Thomas, Troy Brown, Mo Wagner, and Thomas Bryant. In other words, yikes.
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28. Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland made the most curious coaching hire of the offseason by hiring John Beilein away from the University of Michigan. Known as a guard-oriented coach, it wasn’t a surprise to see Cleveland take three guards (Kevin Porter Jr., Dylan Windler, Darius Garland) in the first round. This is an obvious rebuild, and Beilein will be given the time needed to turn it around.
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27. Phoenix Suns
We really don’t know what Phoenix is doing. The decision to trade down and draft Cam Johnson in the lottery was rather strange. Johnson is one of the oldest players in the draft, and most projections had him going in the late first-to-early-second round range. The team also jettisoned former top-five pick Josh Jackson for essentially peanuts. Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton remain on this team, though many are perplexed at the direction (or lack thereof) of this franchise.
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26. Chicago Bulls
Chicago quietly had a very nice offseason. Thad Young and Tomas Satoransky provide the young team with some veteran leadership. Coby White should be given a long leash when leading the team next to Zach LaVine. When further factoring in Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr., this team might surprise some people and finish with a better record than expected.
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25. Memphis Grizzlies
The core of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke is rather promising. The Grizzlies figure to be pretty bad this year, though the injection of talent does help their future tremendously. Morant in particular has the ability to be an elite guard. He’ll be given the keys to the car right away.
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24. New York Knicks
Though the Knicks predictably struck out on all the major free agents, the team did get better (even if it signed 1,000 power forwards). Julius Randle should put up decent numbers, and R.J. Barrett will be given every opportunity to play extensively. The team is gearing up for the 2021 free agency period, and thus only signed players this offseason to 1-2 year contracts.
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23. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are one of the most interesting teams in the entire league. Trae Young and John Collins both look like potential All-Stars. A draft day trade netted Atlanta both Cam Reddish and DeAndre Hunter. All of a sudden, the Hawks have a core to get excited about. They’re a few years away from contention, but all the ingredients are there for a potentially lengthy run of relevance.
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22. Oklahoma City Thunder
By the beginning of the regular season, OKC will be without both of its primary building blocks (Paul George, Russell Westbrook). Landing five first-round picks in the George trade (as well as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari) was a major coup for Sam Presti. The Thunder are now headed for a major rebuild at this point. While this upcoming season may not be a fun one, the supporters of the franchise should be optimistic going forward. A group of Chris Paul-Gilgeous-Alexander-Gallinari-Steven Adams-Terrance Ferguson is good enough to battle for a playoff spot.
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21. Detroit Pistons
This team will live and die with the health of Blake Griffin. If he’s healthy, the team can contend for a playoff spot. If he’s injured for large chunks of the season, Detroit is hopeless. There’s optimism that recent signee Derrick Rose can help the backcourt. However — as is the case with Griffin — his health is far from a certainty.
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20. Orlando Magic
Orlando did very well to make the playoffs last year. Outside of Al-Farouq Aminu, the team will largely look the same as last season. The big wildcard is Markelle Fultz. No one has any idea what he resembles heading into the 2019-20 season. If he’s anything close to the player he was billed to be out of high school, the Magic will be doing cartwheels.
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19. New Orleans Pelicans
With the Anthony Davis trade now behind them, the team can build around No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson. There’s a lot to like about what David Griffin has done this offseason. He’s paired two established vets (Derrick Favors, J.J. Redick) along with a suddenly replenished young group of exciting players (Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jaxson Hayes). This team will be a total League Pass favorite in 2019-20.
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18. Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota continues to sit in a weird spot. Nabbing Jarrett Culver No. 6 overall was a major plus, though the team still likely isn’t a playoff team. Jeff Teague is mediocre, Andrew Wiggins is underwhelming, and there isn’t a whole lot the team can do from a flexibility standpoint. Assuming Minnesota can get off Wiggins’ contract, a move for a more established player — perhaps such as D’Angelo Russell — can occur.
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17. Miami Heat
Jimmy Butler came to town, giving the Heat their first superstar in years. Butler’s dogged nature on both ends of the floor should work well with the team’s defensive-minded identity. However, multiple questions still persist — particularly as it pertains to the future of Goran Dragić. This team’s current ceiling is that of a first-round exit. This could all change should the Heat trade for Russell Westbrook.
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16. Dallas Mavericks
The Dončić-Porzingis show brings a ton of optimism to Dallas. Rick Carlisle is an offensive genius, and likely will extract everything he can from this pairing. There’s not a ton of high-end talent around these two — though most of the roster is comprised of gritty, hard-nosed role players. If both play near an All-Star level, don’t be shocked to see Dallas make the postseason.
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15. Sacramento Kings
After surprising everyone last year, Sacramento should take another step towards fighting for the No. 8 spot in the loaded Western Conference. De’Aaron Fox looks like an All-Star in-the-making, and Marvin Bagley III showed enough flashes to get excited about. Much of this season will hinge on whether Harrison Barnes can be above-average. If the team stays healthy, they could be a problem down the stretch for contenders fighting for playoff positioning.
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14. Toronto Raptors
Life after Kawhi will be challenging, to put it mildly. However, there is a path for Masai Ujiri to rebuild. Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol are expiring contracts. Both can — and likely will be — flipped for assets as we get closer to the trade deadline. The team can then rebuild around budding star Pascal Siakam. This is a team in transition, but one that’s set up pretty well for the future.
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13. Brooklyn Nets
Had Kevin Durant been fully healthy for this upcoming year, the Nets would find themselves comfortably inside the top-10. There are questions as to how Kyrie Irving will mesh with a preexisting core of young players. With that said, there’s no question that Brooklyn increased the talent level of its team this past offseason. A Irving-Caris LeVert-Joe Harris-Spencer Dinwiddie-Jarrett Allen-Taurean Prince group is very solid.
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12. San Antonio Spurs
This is a team without a ton of high-level talent. Dejounte Murray and Derrick White have the potential to be an elite defensive backcourt. However, can either of them average close to 20 PPG? Will LaMarcus Aldridge start to break down heading into his mid-30’s? Is DeMar DeRozan capable of repeating last year’s highly efficient season? By trading away Davis Bertans, the Spurs are even more inept as it pertains to three-point shooting.
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11. Indiana Pacers
Indiana tweaked last year’s roster somewhat. Bojan Bogdanović left in free agency, though the team inked Malcolm Brogdon to a long-term deal. Along with that, the team plans on starting Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis next to each other. It will be fascinating to see how this pairing works with one another. Duly, the Pacers are hoping that offseason acquisitions T.J. Warren and Jeremy Lamb work out better than Tyreke Evans did.
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10. Golden State Warriors
With Kevin Durant now on the East Coast, the Warriors are considered one of the most intriguing teams heading into the 2019-20 season. Klay Thompson figures to return later next year after sustaining a serious knee injury. With Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston also gone, the Warriors went out and nabbed D’Angelo Russell. While not a perfect fit alongside Thompson and Steph Curry, Golden State will likely utilize Russell as a trade chip down the line.
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9. Portland Trail Blazers
Portland needs to be respected as a viable threat within the Western Conference. Damian Lillard is a star, and C.J. McCollum is a very good complementary piece. Portland saw some considerable roster turnover — as Enes Kanter, Seth Curry, Evan Turner, Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard, and Al-Farouq Aminu are all gone. However, Portland re-signed Rodney Hood, traded for both Kent Bazemore and Hassan Whiteside, and drafted Nassir Little in the first round. Keep an eye on second-year player Anfernee Simons. He’s been drawing rave reviews during the offseason and in Summer League play.
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8. Boston Celtics
It may be a case of addition by subtraction as it pertains to Kyrie Irving. The talented yet volatile guard never seemed to mesh with his teammates in Boston. As such, the Celtics let him walk — and instead signed Kemba Walker. Walker appears to be a much better fit across the board. Losing Al Horford to the rival 76ers was a tough pill to swallow. Though Enes Kanter is now positioned to start at center, look for the Celtics to try and make a move during the season.
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7. Houston Rockets
Houston’s offseason has been all over the place. The team failed to sign Jimmy Butler. Additionally, reports have come out over potential discourse within members of the team. After everyone made a move, the Rockets went out and traded for Westbrook. We have no idea how a Harden-Westbrook pairing will look at this spot in their respective careers. However, we credit the Houston front office for swinging for the fences.
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6. Utah Jazz
Utah is — and most likely will be — the best team no one is talking about. The team got considerably better/more diverse offensively with the additions of Mike Conley Jr. and Bojan Bogdanović. These moves will shift Donovan Mitchell to his more natural spot off the ball. In the process, the playmaking capabilities of the aforementioned additions will make Mitchell’s life far easier — as well as more efficient. Without question, Utah is a legit contender in the Western Conference.
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5. Denver Nuggets
Denver’s roster is relatively set from a season ago — though the Nuggets shrewdly landed Jerami Grant for a future pick. This team is long, athletic, deep, and talented enough to win an NBA title. The next step for this team is to advance to the Conference final. Michael Porter’s potential involvement also gives Denver another interesting player to utilize.
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4. Los Angeles Lakers
This team looks vastly different than it did a season ago. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart are gone, with Anthony Davis, Boogie Cousins, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Jared Dudley, and Quinn Cook coming in. The team should be far better defensively, and the front office did a nice job in adding shooting across the board. A healthy Cousins could be the difference between a second-round playoff exit and an NBA Championship.
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3. Milwaukee Bucks
Despite losing Malcolm Brogdon in free agency, the Bucks still remain as one of the two primary contenders in the East. Giannis Antetokounmpo still has another level to climb towards. The chemistry built with Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, and coach Mike Budenholzer cannot be overstated enough. Look for Milwaukee to tweak its bench a bit. The hope is that Donte DiVincenzo can join Wesley Matthews and Pat Connaughton as productive reserve players.
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2. Los Angeles Clippers
The additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George now have the Clippers (yes, the Clippers) sitting atop the Western Conference. A Leonard-George-Patrick Beverley trio is as good as you’ll find on the defensive end of the floor. The team also still has Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green, and Landry Shamet within its rotation. Simply put, this team is loaded.
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1. Philadelphia 76ers
In terms of star power, Philadelphia is currently atop the NBA mountain. Much of their success will hinge on two things: Health and the improvement of Ben Simmons. Adding Al Horford gives this team a proven veteran with immense leadership skills. After giving Tobias Harris a max deal, Philly is going all in on him being their closer during crunch time. As has been the case, the 76ers should continue to add shooting. If everything swings in its direction, Philadelphia can win the title this season. This team is clearly the biggest ‘boom or bust’ squad in the league.
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