The NBA world was shook up this off season with multiple stars being traded like sports cards throughout the East and West. From Anthony Davis joining LeBron in Los Angeles, Kawhi choosing the Clippers and bringing Paul George with him, Kevin Durant and Kyrie teaming up in Brooklyn to Russell Westbrook reuniting with James Harden in Houston- it’s clear we’re all in for a great season. What do all these changes do to the power rankings? Here is our Top 10 for the NBA Preseason.
10. Utah Jazz
This summer the Jazz acquired veterans Mike Conley and Bojan Bodganovic, boosting their offensive team while still maintaining their defense. After parting ways with Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver and Ricky Rubio, the Jazz added multiple other pieces to complete their team. Donovan Mitchell is likely to make a splash this year because the new system seems to built around him. Conley and Bodganovic will draw defenders while Mitchell will be free to find shots. Another asset returning on the court is last year’s Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert. The Jazz have been a Top 3 Defensive team for some time so the addition of these new players might give them an offensive edge.
9. Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard and Cj McCollum, arguably one of the best current backcourt duos, returned this season to try to get futher into a play off run this season. Joining them is newcomer, Hassan Whiteside who is sure to help defensively. Lillard, alone, is enough to feel optimistic about the Trail Blazers this season. Over the summer, Portland lost a few defensive players but picked up a few in their place, including Kent Bazemore, Rodney Hood and Mario Henzonja. These three players aren’t as skilled defensively as the departed but they have the agility that the others lacked. On paper, that doesn’t seem like much of a trade but the reality is that last season, even with three highly skilled defensive players, the Trail Blazers fell short in stopping other teams from scoring. It looks like the team is trying a new approach all together. If these players are more likely to contest shots and intercept passes, rather than iso defense, it could prove to be more beneficial for Portland.
8. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford this off season but were able to pick up Kemba Walker in their departure. Walker has been referred to as one of the best ball handlers in the league. Enes Kanter is another great pick up and will likely start as center. These new pick ups are joining returnees Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum and Brown both were expected to make big moves last year but seemed to be stifled by Kyrie Irving. With Irving’s departure, there is more room to develop these players. Losing Horford was a hit defensively, but the team seems determined to figure out both sides of the ball this season. With these talented players, there’s nothing standing in their way.
7. Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelpia picked up Al Horford who will join Tobias Harris on the offensive end. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have spent the summer working on their defense. Embiid has actually shed 20 lbs in the process, which will sure make him quicker for the minutes he plays. Speaking of that, it seems the 76ers will be using load management for Embiid but not the same way that Kawhi Leonard did last season on the Toronto Raptors. Instead of sitting out games, Embiid will be playing less minutes per game in order to keep him in shape for another playoff run. The whole team seems to be focused on defense and with scorers like Horford on the team, this could be a great move for Philly.
6. Los Angeles Lakers
There is a lot of hype surrounding the Lakers this season. Anthony Davis was the first real blockbuster trade during the off season, but we all knew it was coming after all the drama last year. LA picked up a lot of new players this summer, including Danny Green, Jared Dudley and Dwight Howard. DeMarcus Cousins was also picked up but his spot on the roster is still up in the air as he deals with some legal trouble. Most of the team was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in order to obtain Davis, but the Lakers held onto Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo. The team has yet to decide on a starting five but they are exploring all options at the moment. Last year, LeBron didn’t make it to playoffs for the first time in 8 seasons. With new teammates and a new coach, Frank Vogel, there is sure to be some adjustment time.
5. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors took a hit in the playoffs last year. They lost both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to injuries before losing the Western conference for the first time in two years. In the off season, X-factor, Andre Igoudala was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies and of course, Kevin Durant (who will remain out for most of the season) announced his decision to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Klay Thompson isn’t likely to return until late in the season as well. So we have Steph Curry and Draymond Green, along with D’Angelo Russell who was signed this summer. We cannot write this team off just because they lost a few players though. Steph Curry is still the best point guard in the league. Draymond is still a defensive beast. Summer signing, D’angelo Russell will be a great addition offensively, especially in Thompson’s absence.
4. Denver Nuggets
Unlike most of the other teams in the league, the Denver Nuggets made almost no changes to their roster this off season. This is the same group of guys that came close to clinching the first seed in the Western Conference last year, finishing in the Top 10 teams for the first time since 2008-2009. Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets star SF, is already being discussed as a MVP candidate and is in his prime. Last year, the team averaged 7.1 more points per 100 possessions with Jokic on the court. Joining the team on the court this year is Michael Porter Jr, who was a number one player throughout college but fell to the number fourteen draft pick in 2018 after a back surgery. After sitting out last season, Porter Jr. is sure to bring even more of an offensive presence to this team who already has two elite offensive players in Jokic and Jamal Murray. Although they have one of the youngest rosters, this team has a chemistry and momentum going for them. Don’t try to fix it if it’s not broken.
3. Houston Rockets
The general consensus among NBA fans is that James Harden and Russell Westbrook are both ball hogs- how can they possibly play together? These are two outstanding star players who have yet to win a ring. It’s times like those that you suck up your pride and make things happen. The Rockets started the off season not making many moves at all other than signing members of the current roster like Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and Gerald Green. This team went from the 14th seed to the 4th seed and made it to the second round of playoffs last year. They have a working formula but were missing something. The departure of Chris Paul was expected and highly discussed going into the off season. Could Westbrook be the missing ingredient to the formula? Westbrook has averaged a triple-double for the past three seasons. One of Houston’s biggest downfalls last season was their rebounding. Westbrook is sure to help out Pj Tucker share the defensive load. Houston will be the only team with an all MVP backcourt but it’s important to stress the strong chemistry they already have. In addition to Westbrook, the Rockets signed multiple players to small deals. They brought back Ryan Anderson on a non-guaranteed deal. Tyson Chandler, Thabo Sefolosha, Ben McLemore and Michael Fraizer were also given small deals to add to the Rockets depth.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
One of the most discussed trades this offseason was Kawhi’s decision. Teams and fans were on the edge of their seats while waiting for the announcement. It was expected that Kawhi would take the easy way out and form another super team in LA with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The NBA world was floored when it was reported that not only was Kawhi going to the Clippers instead but he was bringing Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder with him. Although they might get a slow start due to George having a shoulder surgery, the Clippers are bound to have one of the best defensive teams in the league. With the best two-way player in the league- Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverly on the court, it’s going to be hard for the other teams to score. These three players are some of the only players in the league that can continually guard the “Unguardable” James Harden. Kawhi is fresh off a championship win in Toronto where he played for just one season and famously sat out multiple games for load management until playoffs. This team is certainly a legitimate contender.
1. Milwaukee Bucks
After completing the regular season with the best record and producing last years Most Valuable Player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, It’s clear that the Bucks are the team to fear. They didn’t make many changes to their roster, other than adding a few players to the roster. Actually, what made the Bucks a clear choice for number one was the fall of the Raptors. With Kawhi leaving the East, the Bucks has a clear and easy path to the top. This team has the chemistry, the talent, and on top of all that, the MVP.
Preseason kicks off tonight with the Houston Rockets taking on the Shanghi Sharks at 7 pm Central!!
Featured Image Credit: NBA
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