Today we power rank all of the NBA teams after the final superstar free agent, Forward Kawhi Leonard, signed.
While the LA Laker’s duo of forwards LeBron James and Anthony Davis could outmatch that of for the LA Clippers (Swingman Paul George and Forward Kawhi Leonard), the Clipper’s supporting cast outmatches the Laker’s easily. LA only had to give up guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet (and a plethera of draft picks) for the aforementioned George yesterday. Still, if Kawhi Leonard continues as the best player in the basketball and Paul George continues his MVP-like play, the Clippers will remain in this spot.
If the Lakers had landed Kawhi Leonard’s services they would easily be in this top spot. But having two of the top five players in the world (Anthony Davis and LeBron James) will put them at number two behind their LA counterparts. The key signings that bolstered the Lakers bench were 3 and D wing Danny Green, combo Gurd Quinn Cook, and Center DeMarcus Cousins.
Adding former Boston Celtics big Al Horford and retaining Forward Tobias Harris were big wins in free agency for the 76ers. Philadelphia traded star wing Jimmy Butler for young wing Josh Richardson (Butler didn’t want to be in Philadelphia). Richardson is not a guy that will replace Butler’s production but will do the same things Butler did. The only loss the 76ers had was losing veteran sharp shooter JJ Redick to the New Orleans Pelicans.
The most important moves the Bucks could make this offseason, they made, re-signing both wing Khris Middleton and Center Brook Lopez. Milwaukee should be a favorite in the east along with Philadelphia next season, as reigining MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo looks to keep Milwaukee in the title hunt.
Trading just a few pieces for former Memphis Grizzlies Guard Mike Conley was huge for a team in the thick of things in the west. Bojan Bodganovic will give Utah elite shooting and help Conley and young star Donovan Mitchell with ball handling duties.
Denver was the two seed and ahead of schedule in their revamp. Denver has to hope that combo Guard Jamal Murray lives up to his max extension, Center Nikola Jokic is a possible MVP candidate, and young players like Michael Porter Jr. are successful next season. Then, Denver will be in the thick of things in a loaded western conference.
Houston missed out on Jimmy Butler but are looking to add Thunder Guard Russell Westbrook through trade. Houston still has All-Star James Harden in the backcourt and have pieces to move to get the next superstar to pair with Harden, aging Chris Paul, and their supporting cast.
8.Portland Trail Blazers
Extending Damian Lillard with the super max (five-years almos $200 million) will keep this core roster intact. Adding rim-protecting Center Hassan Whiteside to use when incumbent big man Jusuf Nurkic is hurt is a big deal for the Blazers. Portland returns pretty much the same team that made it to the western conference finals, just with a few more players that will improve the depth of the team. Despite losing veteran forwards Al-Farouq Aminu and Mo Harkless will hurt but the addition of Whiteside is bigger than you think.
Yes–the team that lost Kyrie Irving and replaced it with Kemba Walker are higher than the team that Kyrie Irving went to. But it is a perfect fit for Brad Steven’s offense. Kemba will give opportunities to wings Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, and Jaylen Brown and possibly put Boston back in the top three in the east.
Replacing D’Angelo Russell with Kyrie Irving is a win but they don’t get Kevin Durant with full health possibly until February of 2021. KD may return in 2020 but I don’t see full health for the former All-Star until 2021. The Nets also return an overachieving bench and young players to complement their two stars.
11.Golden State Warriors
Golden State might have lost Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala. They do get combo Guard D’Angelo Russell to pair with Steph Curry while Klay Thompson is out for at least half the season in 2019-2020. Golden State also signed Willie Cauley-Stein and re-signed Kevon Looney to replace the production of DeMarcus Cousins. Overall, Golden State might’ve lost its championship core, but things are looking up for the team that has been in the NBA Finals the past five seasons.
The Pacers got younger. They shifted their timeline to better fit with Victor Oladipo’s prime. While they paid a lot of money to get Malcolm Brogdon, plus gave up some future draft assets in the deal, Brogdon is a valuable player who almost helped Milwaukee to an NBA Finals berth this past season. Drafting the talented big man Goga Bitadze only makes sense if Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner can play together, which means Indiana would like to do so. While they won’t be at the top of the east, if Victor Oladipo returns to form as a solid player, these Pacers seem like a playoff lock.
13.New Orleans Pelicans
Yes–the Pels are this high on my list. I like their future but what about the present. Adding Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart are pieces that will be able to replace the production of Anthony Davis together. I haven’t even mentioned Zion Williamson and tenured Guard Jrue Holiday who very well could lead New Orleans into a final playoff spot in the western conference.
Hiring former Lakers Head Coach Luke Walton was a huge win for the Kings. De’Aaron Fox keeps improving, Marvin Bagley had a good not great rookie year and they added Cory Joseph for guard depth. Joseph is a guy with championship expierence (Spurs and Raptors). If Sacramento keeps improving (one spot out of the west playoffs last year) they will be in the playoffs as soon as next season.
15.San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio has made very few moves this off-season. Their only free agent move was signing veteran Forward DeMarre Caroll. But their Dejounte Murray-Derrick White backcourt should be elite defensively. As Greg Popovich streaks of playoff appearances may end this upcoming season, San Antonio will look to make the playoffs in a loaded western conference.
If Kawhi had stayed, the Raptors would be in contention for No. 1 on these Power Rankings. Without Kawhi, they can certainly still make the playoffs. But they are more likely heading toward an abbreviated rebuild around youngsters like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and O.G. Anunoby. If the Raptors fall out of the playoff race, don’t be surprised if veterans in Guard Kyle Lowry and big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol are dealt before or at the trade deadline.
Re-signing Center Nikola Vucevic after his first All-Star season was key. Continuing to develop young players like Markelle Fultz and Mo Bamba will be key as Orlando looks to stay in the playoff hunt.
Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t going anywhere as a restricted free agent. Prozingis signed a five-year max with the Mavs to make the foreign duo between reigining rookie of the year Luka Doncic and himself a reality. As this team improves, the Doncic-Porzingis duo will become one of the best in the league.
Detroit will be able to contend for a lower seed in the eastern conference with bigs Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. That’s all I have to say about the Pistons as they will probably get bounced in round one of the NBA playoffs next season.
The T-Wolves failed to get D’Angelo Russell to pair with young pieces Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and rookie Jarrett Culver. So, Minnesota is stuck with overpaid Jeff Teague as their starting point guard for just a season more. Former Ohio State Forward Keita Bates-Diop looks to get better in his “sophomore” season in the NBA as Minnesota’s new front office looks to reshape the Timberwolves future.
Pat Riley will have to add something to a Jimmy Butler-led Heat team. Could it be trading for Russell Westbrook or waiting until next summer? That means the Heat will have another mediocre team that won’t have a good draft pick to trade for that superstar on draft night or during free agency next summer. So the Heat will either have a low playoff seed or a team that just missed the playoffs. If the Heat land OKC Thunder Guard Russell Westbrook through trade top pair with Jimmy Butler, they should be a playoff team in 2020.
22.Oklahoma City Thunder
OKC traded Guard/Forward Paul George back to his hometown of LA (Clippers) after he demanded a trade. So, OKC will likely trade Russell Westbrook and start a rebuild with the plethera of young talent (Guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet) and a ton of draft picks that they acquired through the Paul George trade. So, no playoffs are likely for OKC.
Three or four years from now, the Hawks could be at the very top of this list. Not yet, though. They’re just too young. But Travis Schlenk has done a remarkable job at surrounding Trae Young with players who fit his unique skill set. John Collins could be an All-Star in the making. Kevin Huerter is a stone-cold gunner. And Schlenk drafted two long and athletic wings in De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish who could wreak havoc as two-way forces. It’s going to be a joy to watch this team grow together.
A fascinating group of talented youngsters, though I’m not sure one of them stands out as the team’s alpha. Unless Coby White turns into that player. I’m hoping we can see this group play a healthy season together so we can see how Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. can coexist together.
Well, they still have an All-Star in Bradley Beal. So that’s something, I guess. But the Wizards feel like prime candidates to trade Beal at the deadline for massive future assets. That John Wall contract is going to be a weight around this franchise’s neck for years to come.
26.New York Knicks
New York did not have the off-season it wanted. While they didn’t get Zion Williamson, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, or Kemba Walker they settled in and got young pieces to make a core of them. Drafting RJ Barrett out of Duke was a grea pickup. In free agency, while they striked out on the stars, they added rising star Julius Randle and other pieces during free agency. I’m sorry Knicks fans, but you don’t have to put your head down about your 2019 Free Agency, but you probably won’t make the playoffs again in 2020.
Well, bully on the Suns for getting rid of the disaster that is Josh Jackson. But that doesn’t mean this organization has an actual direction for the future. Let’s hope the overdraft of Cam Johnson works out well — after all, he’s 6-9 and could be the best shooter of this draft — that Deandre Ayton develops into the elite big man some think him capable of, and that Devin Booker finally has some consistency and some help around him.
Cleveland drafted another ball dominant guard in Darius Garland to pair with another ball dominant guard in Collin Sexton. How will this workout? John Belein will have to figure that out.
Memphis has begun their rebuild by adding two potential superstars in Guard Ja Morant in the 2019 Draft and Forward Jaren Jackson in the 2018 Draft. This is a whole new Memphis team as Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are gone to championship contenders (Marc not so much now as Kawhi has left for the Clippers). Even so, Memphis needs one or two more years in the lottery before they have a chance to make a run in a loaded western conference.
No hope for Charlotte. At least the Hornets didn’t commit an absurd supermax contract to a small and aging point guard in Kemba Walker. That would have hurt the franchise for the future. But the Hornets will be markedly worse this season without Walker and Jeremy Lamb. Poor Terry Rozier. This team has a chance to be one of the worst Hornets teams of all time, and that’s saying something.