On the eve of a highly anticipated and unpredictable 2019-20 NBA campaign, here are the first Power Rankings of the season.
1. L.A. Clippers
Last season: 48-34
Key additions: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Patterson
Key subtractions: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Garrett Temple
Coming off one of the most impressive offseasons in NBA history, the Clippers deserve to start the season at the top of the charts. Consider this: In 2018-19, Paul George became just the 15th player in league history to finish in the top-3 in voting for both the Defensive Player of the Year award and the Most Valuable Player award in the same season. And Paul George is the second-best defender, and second-most valuable player LA added this summer!
2. Denver Nuggets
Last season: 54-28.
Key additions: Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr.
Key subtractions: Trey Lyles
As I detailed in my over/under column on Sunday, while it seems the rest of the league revamped their roster, the Nuggets brought the same group back. The ten players who logged the most minutes for Denver last season are all coming back in 2019-20. In addition, the Nuggets shrewdly added versatile forward Jerami Grant and will welcome rookie Michael Porter Jr. into the fold.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
Last season: 60-22
Key additions: Wesley Matthews, Kyle Korver, Robin Lopez
Key subtractions: Malcolm Brogdon, Nikola Mirotic, Tony Snell
The Bucks found a formula that works that last season - surround MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo with shooters that can stretch the floor while he dices up defenses inside. Wes Matthews and Kyle Korver are near the end of their careers, but the one thing they can still do is knock down 3-pointers.
4. Philadelphia 76ers
Last season: 51-31
Key subtractions: Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Kyle O'Quinn, Matisse Thybulle
Key subtractions: Jimmy Butler, J.J. Redick, T.J. McConnell
The Sixers were a top-8 offensive team last season but struggled on the defensive end. They finished the year ranked 15th in Defensive Efficiency, allowing 109 points per 100 possesions. By signing underrated big man Al Horford, trading for Josh Richardson, and drafting defensive dynamo Matisse Thybulle, Philly should be much improved on that end of the floor in 2019-20.
5. L.A. Lakers
Last season: 37-45
Key additions: Anthony Davis, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley
Key subtractions: Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Moritz Wagner
The Lakers enter the season with arguably two of the five best players on the planet. It will be fascinating to see how teams attempt to defend King James and Anthony Davis. During the preseason, the Lakers outscored their opponents by 31 points per 100 possessions in 64 minutes LeBron and AD were on the floor together.
6. Houston Rockets
Last season: 53-29
Key additions: Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler, Thabo Sefolosha, Ben McLemore
Key subtractions: Chris Paul.
Speaking of fascinating… how will James Harden and Russell Westbrook share the rock in Houston? The two highest cumulative Usage Rates among all NBA players over the last three seasons are Harden (36.9%) and Westbrook (35.6%). No other player in the league is above 33%.
7. Utah Jazz
Last season: 50-32
Key additions: Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Ed Davis, Jeff Green
Key subtractions: Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder
The arrival of Conley should allow Donovan Mitchell to play off the ball more often this season. It may take some time for the team to develop chemistry and cohesion, but they are a legit championship contender in 2020.
8. Portland Trail Blazers
Last season: 53-29
Key additions: Kent Bazemore, Hassan Whiteside, Anthony Tolliver, Nassir Little, Mario Hezonja
Key subtractions: Al-Farouq Aminu, Evan Turner, Enes Kanter, Meyers Leonard, Seth Curry
We know what Dame Lillard and CJ McCollum are going to bring to the table, but the Blazers completely overhauled their frontcourt this offseason. Thus, they will need significant production from Hassan Whiteside, Zach Collins and Anthony Tolliver.
9. Boston Celtics
Last season: 49-33
Key additions: Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter, Carsen Edwards
Key subtractions: Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Terry Rozier, Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris.
Multiple Celtics have been vocal about the improved vibe around the team after a housecleaning this summer. However, while Kemba Walker should be able to make up for the loss Kyrie Irving, the Celtics will miss Al Horford, whom many considered the team’s most valuable player over the last few seasons. The combination of Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter and Robert Williams will have to hold down the fort down low.
10. San Antonio Spurs
Last season: 48-34
Key additions: DeMarre Carroll, Trey Lyles, Keldon Johnson
Key subtractions: Davis Bertans
The Spurs thought they were also adding Marcus Morris this offseason, after the two parties verbally agreed to a contract in July. However, Morris ended up backing out and signing with the Knicks instead, which was viewed as “unprofessional” by the Spurs front office. Interestingly enough, San Antonio opens its season by hosting New York on Wednesday night. I’m sure Morris will get a warm welcome.
11. Toronto Raptors
Last season: 58-24
Key additions: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson
Key subtractions: Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green
Last season, the Raptors were one of only two teams in the NBA to finish in the top-five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Milwaukee Bucks were the other. They will look to prove they are still a contender in the East despite losing Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
12. Golden State Warriors
Last season: 57-25
Key additions: D’Angelo Russell, Glenn Robinson, Willie Cauley-Stein, Jordan Poole
Key subtractions: Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, DeMarcus Cousins, Shaun Livingston
A crucial question surrounding the Warriors this season is when can we expect Klay Thompson to return to action. As we know, Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, which was on June 13. However, Klay didn't undergo surgery to repair the knee until early July. He will be sidelined until at least late-February, and Klay has made it very clear he will not rush his rehab process.
13. Indiana Pacers
Last season: 48-34
Key additions: Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren, Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday
Key subtractions: Thaddeus Young, Bojan Bogdanovic, Cory Joseph, Darren Collison
Pacers fans got some great news over the weekend when it was reported that Victor Oladipo (right knee) participated in controlled 5-on-5 work in a halfcourt setting for the first time since his surgery. It looks like there is a decent chance he’s back on the court by December.
14. Brooklyn Nets
Last season: 42-40
Key additions: Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, Kevin Durant, Garrett Temple, David Nwaba, Wilson Chandler, Nicolas Claxton
Key subtractions: DeAngelo Russell, DeMarre Carroll, Ed Davis, Jared Dudley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Kyrie Irving’s first crack at leading a team of his own did not go as planned, as the Celtics drastically underperformed in 2018-19. Kyrie will get another crack at serving as the top dog, this time closer to home in Brooklyn.
15. Miami Heat
Last season: 39-43
Key additions: Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Myers Leonard
Key subtractions: Dwyane Wade, Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside
The Heat will play their season-opener without the services of Dion Waiters. He has been suspended for one game due to conduct detrimental to the team and will not play for the Heat against the Grizzlies on Wednesday. "There were a number of unacceptable incidents this week, culminating with his unprofessional conduct on the bench last night,'' Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement on Saturday. "As a consequence, I feel we had to suspend him.''