NBA Power Rankings: How teams stack up entering 2019-20 season
BOSTON -- The NBA season will get going this week and that can only mean one thing … POWER RANKINGS ARE BACK!!!
And as we look at the NBA landscape at the start of the 2019-2020 season, it’s clear that this season has a predictably unpredictable feel about it.
Teams that for years began the season at or near the top like Golden State, are no longer a top-five lock out of the gates. Others who have spent the bulk of the last four or five years in basketball purgatory, seem to have a new lease on their basketball lives and find themselves among the top half of the league rather than being a perennial bottom-feeder.
It all sets the tone for what should be an exciting NBA season!
And with that, here’s NBC Sports Boston’s inaugural power rankings.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers
You don’t like to give too much credit or criticism to what happens in the preseason. But when the Celtics left most of their rotation players at home, went on the road and won by 20-plus points with Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson suiting up … it’s gonna be a rough season for the Cavs.
29. Charlotte Hornets
The good news is Terry Rozier is going to get as many minutes as he wants in guiding the Hornets. The bad news? He’s guiding the basketball equivalent of the Titanic where the losses will pile up in waves.
28. Washington Wizards
John Wall says he’ll spend this season coaching while rehabbing his knee. Scott Brooks is viewed as the first head coach most likely to be fired. Insert thinking emoji. Right. Here.
27. New York Knicks
Marcus Morris recently pointed out how the Knicks don’t have to worry about the pecking order conundrum when you have a bona fide star. Winning lots of games? No need to worry about that, either.
26. Memphis Grizzlies
Teams need to beat up on the Grizzlies now. Because these basketball babes are going to be a problem in the coming years once Ja Morant, Jared Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke gain experience.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder
Just imagine the Celtics circa 2013 when they trade KG, Paul Pierce for a boatload of picks from Brooklyn. The Russell Westbrook/Paul George trades will be the gift that’ll keep giving for years to come as they steadily rebuild themselves into a contender.
24. New Orleans Pelicans
This team had top-15 potential in the NBA with a healthy Zion Williamson. But with him sidelined for 6-8 weeks, the Pelicans will be a bottom-10 team in the meantime.
23. Chicago Bulls
The youthful core of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr., will be more competitive this season but still a year or two away from being a legit playoff team.
22. Minnesota Timberwolves
If the Timberwolves get off to another lackluster start, don’t be surprised if those whispers about Karl-Anthony Towns grow louder and louder to where he’s on the move by the trade deadline.
21. Phoenix Suns
Ricky Rubio and Aron Baynes will provide great veteran leadership to this team, but Devin Booker’s evolution into more of an all-around player will speed of this young team’s learning curve.
20. Detroit Pistons
Similar to Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota, Andre Drummond might also be due for a change of scenery having been in Detroit seven years and posting an 0-8 playoff record. Ouch!
19. Dallas Mavericks
Look for a fast start to the season for Dallas which opens against Washington and New Orleans, especially with a stronger, healthier Kristaps Porzingis.
18. Atlanta Hawks
One of the best young cores in the NBA, look for the Hawks to make a serious playoff push this year lead by all-stars-in-the-making Trae Young and John Collins.
17. Sacramento Kings
With four of their first six games at home, establishing home court out the gates could go far in helping the Kings end the longest playoff drought in the NBA.
16. San Antonio Spurs
Look for Dejounte Murray, armed with a four-year, $64 million extension despite missing all of last season with an ACL injury, to be a strong candidate out the gates for the league’s Most Improved Award.
15. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are another team that will likely finish in the top 10 in the NBA if Victor Oladipo bounces back from ruptured quad injury in his right knee, and Malcolm Brogdon does Brogdon-like things this year.
14. Brooklyn Nets
Kyrie Irving seems to be enjoying his time with his new teammates, and the organization loves his leadership. Sounds familiar Celtics fans?
13. Toronto Raptors
It’s hard to imagine the Raptors will be able to play at or near the level we saw last season minus Kawhi Leonard, even as Pascal Siakam ascends into being a star in this league.
12. Miami Heat
Jimmy Butler showed up several hours early for the first day of training camp. Was it another “look-at-me,” Jimmy Butler moment? Or was it a more subtle, “time to go to work or else” message delivered, Jimmy Butler style?
11. Orlando Magic
Last season the Magic snuck up on teams, winning 11 of their last 13 games to get into the playoffs. With their length, talent and experience, no late season surge needed this year.
10. Boston Celtics
Losing Kyrie Irving and the Celtics’ “Plan B” winds up being Kemba Walker, is one of Danny Ainge’s better offseason acquisitions ever.
9. Golden State Warriors
Even with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson on the shelf until sometime in the spring, the Warriors are not the team to sleep on even at less than full strength.
7. Houston Rockets
James Harden and Russell Westbrook are going to be fun to watch, but getting out of the rugged West with elite defenders around the corner, won’t be easy.
6. Utah Jazz
Deep playoff runs have eluded Mike Conley Jr. most of his NBA career. That’s likely to change this year with a Jazz team filled with talent, depth and battle-tested veterans.
5. Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic is Denver’s go-to man, but their ascension into legit title-contender status hinges on the growth of Jamal Murray.
4. Philadelphia 76ers
There may not be anyone happier on the Sixers roster than Joel Embiid, who only has to worry about being tormented by Al Horford in practice now instead of games against Boston.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the headliners, but the Lakers’ gritty supporting cast of Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo, Danny Green and company, should not be overlooked.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Malcolm Brogdon’s departure to Indiana is a big loss, but adding Kyle Korver and Wes Matthews isn’t too shabby of a haul to play alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are two of the best two-way players in the NBA. Surround them with a group of tough-minded but talented players led by Doc Rivers, and you have the team everyone will be chasing this season.