NBA Season 2019/20 – Short Team Previews and Predictions

NBA Season 2019/20 - Short Team Previews

NBA Season 2019/20 - Short Team Previews

NBA Season 2019/20 – Short Team Previews and Outright Predictions

The preseason has come to a close, meaning there are only a couple of days separating us from the opening fixtures of 2019/20 NBA, which is set to kick off on Tuesday, October 22, with a fixture between Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Pelicans.

While the NBA is still days from its first match of the season, we already got to see the 30 teams show off their strength in the offseason, which got us the first glimpse of how they fare against opponents, how the players work with each other and most importantly, how strong the teams look like as they venture into the 74th installment of the NBA. Now let’s look over the teams, the changes inside the teams and ultimately our predictions on how do we believe this season will end.

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE – Atlantic Division

 

Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics will enter 2019/20 season after a rather disappointing 2018/19 season, where they finished third in Atlantic Division, below both 76ers and Raptors. Adding salt to the would be their painful exit from the playoffs, where they got trashed by Milwaukee (1-4), who ultimately fell against the NBA Champions. That said, Boston showed how running a successful franchise is not all about having a star-studded roster, but there is a lot more that goes into it.

Ahead of the 2019/20 season, Boston added Romeo Langford (#14), Grant Williams (#22), Carsen Edwards (#33) and Tremont Waters (#51) via Draft. On top of that, Celtics waved goodbye to Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, and replaced them with Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter. Celtics also re-signed Daniel Theis, Brad Wanamaker and Vincent Poirier.

All things considered, Celtics seem to be a level below both Bucks and Philadelphia, mostly due to their lack of any quality big men. That said, we will never know for sure how strong will Tantum and Brown be this season, and even if Hayward can put up a solid performance. Nonetheless, if Stevens can make those three functioning well, we could imagine seeing Celtics emerge as one of the strongest offensive teams in the league.

 

Brooklyn Nets

Nets were looking for a way to lift themselves out of the abyss, and from what we have seen from the Brooklyn outfit, they have struck big this summer with the addition of Durant and Irving. That said, there is still one huge question mark above the team and most importantly above Durant, who has suffered a nasty Achilles tear in game five of the finals. While he will surely recover and return on the court, there are some concerns namely when will that happen and will he ever be as good as he was. As far as Irving is concerned, he is a great addition for the team on the court, however, there are some concerns whether his chemistry issues from last year will continue at Nets as well.

The biggest addition to Brooklyn Nets this season are previously mentioned Irving and Durant as well as DeAndre Jordan. On the other side, Nets lost D’Angelo Russel who went to the Warriors, DeMarre Caroll, Ed Davis and Jared Dudley. As replacements came Wilson Chandler, David Nwaba and Garrett Temple.

Looking ahead of 2019/20 season, Nets have plenty of problems on their hands. Durant’s return is yet unknown, with some speculations suggesting he will be out for the whole year. On top of that, their new addition Chandler suffered a suspension due to violations of the league anti-drug program, leaving Nets very thing at PF position. Another big concern is also the departure of veterans from the bench. On a more positive note, LeVert is developing nicely and should he step up this season, Brooklyn could fight for a solid finish in the East.

 

New York Knicks

New York Knicks wrote history last year, but not in a way they had hoped. With a 17-65 record next to their name, Knicks managed to match the worst record in the franchise history, meaning there is a slight hint of positivity in the team, knowing there is only one way the team can go and that is up. That being said, Knicks’ summer plans went the other direction that what they wanted, seeing how they failed to get Zion Williamson, Durant and Irving on the board. Instead, Knicks will enter the next season with a team that features veterans and a young core, which still needs some time to develop. Nonetheless, there is hope the young core has a hidden gem, which will help the franchise climb out of the hole they are now in.

The 0.43 record last season earned Knicks number three pick in the Draft, which they used to sign RJ Barrett. Joining him will be three veterans Julius Randle, Marcus Morris and Bobby Portis, to name a few key moves. As mentioned above the arriving veterans will play a key role here in a sense, they will be responsible to help the youngsters grow. That ultimately means the season will be in the hands of the young players, considering the veteran lineup can win the Knicks only so many games.

Knicks will enter 2019/20 season with a six-year playoff drought, which is the longest in the Eastern Conference’s history and from the looks of it, Knicks should be making peace with ending the season extending the drought to seven years. While East does not look as strong this season, meaning there will be a chance for Knicks to turn things around and surprise, they seem to lack playmakers and solid defense, which makes us believe they are still far from being able to compete with the top teams in the East. In the end, it will all come down to how well and how quickly can their young players develop. If they show significant growth, Knicks can achieve something, but in the end, it’s all just one big “IF”.

 

Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers looked very strong last season, yet they suffered an unfortunate defeat against Raptors in game seven of Conference semi-finals. While a painful end of the season, it’s safe to assume 76ers will aim high this term and while there are some improvements needed in the team to see them as serious contenders for the title, Philadelphia will enter the season ready to impress.

Despite the ongoing rumors, after the playoffs loss, Brett Brown remained the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. While there are no changes in the coaching department, there are a few changes on the court. 76ers will welcome Matisse Thybulle, who they brought into the team as 20th pick in the Draft. On the other side, Jimmy Butler left for Miami in a sign-and-trade deal that brought in Josh Richardson, Horford arrived from Celtics and J.J. Redick left for New Orleans. Philadelphia also re-signed Tobias Harris for five years, extended the contract with Simmons and re-signed Ennis and Mike Scott as a few most notable roster changes.

Looking at the Philadelphia 76ers ahead of 2019/20 season, they look like a team that can impress. They are without a doubt one of the most unique teams and not only that, they do come off as a very strong team, especially with the addition of Horford, who will help 76er defense, which let them down in the playoffs fixture against Raptors. That said, with the departure of Butler and Redick, there is a reason to believe 76ers lost some offensive power, however, only time will tell if that is true or not. All things considered, 76ers should be a strong contender for the Eastern Conference title. Will they manage to compete for the league title, however, remains to be seen.

 

Toronto Raptors

After claiming their first-ever championship, Toronto Raptors will enter the new season without the Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, who they badly wanted to stay, however, he had other plans. With that, there is a huge question that needs an answer and that is, can Raptors defend the title without the player, who led them to it?

Kawhi Leonard signed for Clippers, whereas Danny Green went to LA Lakers. Replacing them will be Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson. Other noteworthy transfer news include the extension of the contract with Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry.

When it comes to predicting where will Raptors end this season, we could easily see them claim the top-four seed in the East for the seventh straight year. That said, a lot of their success will come down to how well can Pascal Siakam perform in the offense and of course the overall performance from Lowry and Gasol, who are both entering the twilight of their careers.

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE – Central Division

 

Chicago Bulls

Chicago Bulls can’t be too happy with what they have shown last season, seeing how they finished with a 22-60 record, which was miles from what many expected from them. It was easy to see Bulls instead of competing, decided to went taking, however, it was not as shameless as it may sound, considering they had a handful of injury issues on top of the coaching change. That, however, does not change the fact Bulls ended the season with one of the worst records in the league on top of a dismissal 9-32 home record.

With a 22-60 record last season, Bulls earned number seven pick in the Draft, which they used for White, who looks like a very solid addition for Bulls’ offense. On the other side, Chicago lost the veteran Robin Lopez in free agency, meaning they lost some veteran leadership in the locker room. They fixed the problem to some degree by signing Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky. Joining them will be round two pick Daniel Gafford and former Knicks member Luke Kornet.

Looking at the team ahead of 2019/20 season, we can confidently say they will approach the league with more enthusiasm as they will look to claim the playoffs, spot. That said, a lot will have to go right for Jim Boylen’s side for them to claim .500. In our eyes, Bulls look much stronger than how they did in the last two seasons, however, seeing them finish with .500 with the lineup they have now, seems a bit far fetched and unlikely.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers enter their 50th season with their hands full of work that needs to be done before they can call themselves a strong team once more. Last season, Cleveland found themselves in a downright spiral, which saw them losing 31 more games than the year prior. And no, we did not mean to say 31 games overall, but 31 games MORE. All in all, a 19-63 season is nothing to be proud of and while there is always some hope in Cleveland they can bounce back, it won’t be an easy road for them.

The biggest addition to the team this summer is without a doubt John Beilein, who will take over for Larry Drew as the head coach of the team. There are some concerns about the challenges which await the 66-year old boss, seeing how he will have to transition from NCAA to the NBA, however, we don’t see that as an issue, considering he is a perfect fit for Cleveland and their young roster. With a 19-63 finish, Cleveland “earned” themselves the number five pick in the Draft, where they snagged Darius Garland. Joining him we will see Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr., who are all expected to play crucial roles in the team this term.

There is no going around the fact Cleveland are still miles away from being a team that can threaten to take the title, however, they are taking the right steps to become one in the future. The franchise already turned in the right direction with young players and looking at the team ahead of 2019/20 season, they doubled down on their plan. While not of big importance as far as Cavaliers season is concerned, their 50th season in the NBA will not be one to celebrate, seeing how they had to say their final goodbye to their play-by-play announcer Fred McLeod who passed away in September. While the 50th anniversary won’t call for a celebration, Cleveland will be a team worth keeping an eye on as they start the development of their team.

 

Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons found their way into the playoffs last season, where they had to admit defeat to Milwaukee Bucks who made easy work of them (0-4). Nonetheless, it was a big achievement for Pistons who will look to build on that and improve in the years to come. As it stands now, the team heavily relies on Blake Griffin to deliver and while he looked exceptionally strong last season, more of the team will have to step up for Detroit, if they wish to reach for the start in 2019/20.

Sekou Doumbouya joined Pistons as number 15 pick in the Draft, who looks to be a very solid addition. While he needs some time to develop, he has plenty of time to do so, seeing how he is not even 19 years of age. Jon Leuer came to Detroit from to Milwaukee for Kevin Porter Jr. and veteran Tony Snell, the former of which got later shipped to Cleveland. Other than that, Pistons got Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris and Tim Frazier on board, while said their goodbye to Ish Smith, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington and Zaza Pachulia.

Detroit Pistons will look to finish the season at .500 or above which is something we can expect to see, especially considering they have Dwane Casey who managed to finish at .500 or above for six consecutive seasons. All in all, Detroit looked solid in defense last season, yet it was their poor shooting that caused the most issues. If the new additions can pick up the slack Detroit could have a fairly successful season.

 

Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers enter 2019/20 season a 48-34 record last term, which surprisingly enough was the record Indiana Pacers achieved in 2017/18 as well. Their record suggests Indiana Pacers are a very consistent team and it would be hard to argue with that. Despite all the issues, roster changes and injuries they endured last season Indiana proved their worth and once again proved how consistent they can be. What does the next season bring, however, remains to be shrouded in mist, however, with all the changes in the team, we can be sure Indiana will be a team to watch.

Entering 2019/20 season, Indiana Pacers will be without Tyreke Evans, who was suspended for two years due to violation of the league’s anti-drug program. On top of that, Darren Collison decided to retire at 31 years of age, which surprised many and left Pacers without a guard. Other departures include Bojan Bogdanovic, Cory Joseph, Kyle O’Quinn and Thaddeus Young. On the other side, Pacers drafted Goga Bitadze as number 18 pick and Jarrell Brantley in the second round. Other notable arrivals are Jeremy Lamb, T.J. Warren, Justin Holiday, Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. McConnell.

We can once more rely on Indiana to deliver in the defensive end this season, however, there are still some concerns in the backcourt and frontcourt. A lot of Indiana’s success will come down to how well and for how long will Oladipo be able to play following his gruesome injury last season. If he and the whole team can deliver, Indiana could easily find their way into the playoffs, however, from what we have seen from them up to now, we don’t expect to see much more from Nate McMillan and his men.

 

Milwaukee Bucks

In the first year under a new coach (Mike Budenholzer), Bucks impressed everyone with a 60-22 record, which was not only a +16 improvement compared to last season, but also earned Bucks a number one seed in the league. Unfortunately, their fairytale ended in conference finals, where they lost to Toronto Raptors (2-4), who went on to win the whole thing. Despite missing out on the title, it was a very successful season for Bucks and everyone involved. Mike Budenholzer earned the Coach of the Year award, Giannis Antetokounmpo won Kia MVP award and Jon Horst won the Executive of the Year award. With a few changes, which more or less kept their core intact, it’s safe to say Bucks will make another push for the finals.

Bucks will arrive into the season with Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews, Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Robin Lopez as four most notable additions. Bucks also re-signed Khris Middleton, George Hill and Brook Lopez. On the other side, Malcolm Brogdon’s decision to leave for Indiana Pacers is the most notable departure from the team in addition to Colson, Frazier, Gasol, Mirotic and Snell. It’s also worth noting Bucks signed Dragan Bender, who is one of the low-profile signings, seeing how he failed to live up to the expectations at Phoenix.

A lot of Bucks’ success will come down to how well can Giannis and Middleton perform. The latter just re-signed with the Bucks for five years for US $177 million, meaning he will be paid close to US $5 million more compared to Giannis and that alone is a reason enough to believe he will step up and perform. On the other hand, Brogdon’s departure is expected to leave a void in the team, who will venture into 2019/20 season without an elite two-way player, who shot the ball at an extremely high level, making over 50% of all his shots on top of holding onto a 90% from the free-throw line. But on a more positive note, Bucks are not the only team in the East who have lost a valuable player and in a conference without James and Leonard, Bucks look like very strong contenders to finish at the top once more.

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE – Southeast Division

 

Atlanta Hawks

By now it’s clear Atlanta Hawks are in a process of building a team that can win them a title… in the future. The 2019/20 season will mark the third year of Atlanta’s franchise reboot under Lloyd Pierce, who oversees a young and promising roster with plenty of future assets. Looking back at last two seasons, Hawks failed to impress and it’s safe to say nothing will change this season, yet it’s all in the plans of Hawks who look to rebuild and come back stronger.

During offseason, Kent Bazemore was traded over to Portland, in exchange for the veteran Evan Turner, Taurean Prince moved to Brooklyn, Dewayne Dedmon moved to Sacramento, Plumlee to Memphis and Spellman to GSW to name a few. On the other side, Hawks signed Charlie Brown, Allen Crabbe, Goodwin, Damian Jones, Jabari Parker, Chandler Parsons, Cam Reddish and Evan Turner. Vince Carter decided to return back to the Hawks for one last season, meaning he will become one of four players who will appear in the NBA game at the age of 43 or older.

With all due respect, Hawks do not come off as real playoffs contenders, and we believe they need at least one or two more years to become one. That being said, their future looks bright. The ownership, coaches and front office seem to be in sync with their plans and with a young and promising roster in their control, Hawks are the team who could easily make a strong comeback. All will, of course, come down to how well can Pierce uses all the potential he has in his control. All things considered, Hawks have the foundation and the right plan to make something out of it.

 

Charlotte Hornets

The biggest news about Hornets is the departure of Kemba Walker, who will leave a huge void the Charlotte outfit will need to fill. With the departure of the league’s top scorer, it’s hard to be too positive about the team, and we can’t help but wonder how will they approach this season. Do they have a player who will be able to step in the shoes of Walker and who that player might be? If not, can Hornets remain competitive or will they fall flat? There are a lot of unknowns about this team, and if we were to pick a side, it’s easy to see Hornets won’t be as strong as they were last season.

With number 12 pick in the Draft, Charlotte Hornets selected P.J. Washington from Kentucky. Unfortunately, he missed the summer league due to a sore left foot, and is expected to spend some time in G-League to prepare for the NBA, meaning we will most likely have to wait a bit longer before we get to see him play. On top of the departure of Walker, Hornets also waved goodbye to Jeremy Lamb, which is just another huge blow to the team, who now don’t have a single player who averaged 10.0 ppg or more. On the other side, Hornets signed Terry Rozier, and saw Michael Kidd-Gilchrist return to the team for one last season.

It’s hard to be too positive about this team, which missed out on playoffs last season and we wouldn’t be surprised if they miss out again. James Borrego will have a tough season where he will heavily rely on Rozier. It’s safe to say Rozier’s ability to transition from a sub to a starter will play a crucial role for his team. All in all, Hornets are expected to struggle, and even if we see Rozier step up, the team is still miles away from being a serious playoff contender.

 

Miami Heat

Miami missed out on playoffs last season, which was quite unfortunate, considering it was Wade’s farewell campaign, however, them missing the playoffs should not come off as a shock to anyone, seeing how Heat missed out on the postseason three times in last five years. With Wade’s retirement, it’s safe to say Dwayne Wade ear has officially come to an end, meaning it’s time for Miami to star a new one and there are some hopes it will be Butler who will be the main man behind a new era for Miami.

In order to secure Butler, Miami had to send Josh Richardson to Philadelphia and Hassan Whiteside to Portland, out of which it’s Richardson’s departure, which will be the biggest loss for Miami. There were some talks about Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul joining the team, however, in the end the speculations fell into the water as we got to see the two traded for each other. Joining Butler, we will see Meyers Leonard from Portland, Daryl Macon from Dallas as well as Tyler Herro, KZ Okpala and Chris Silva.

It’s rather clear, but we will go on and say it. Jimmy Butler will be the man who will need to step up and deliver for Miami. As we see it, Butler is a huge addition to Miami who will add some much-needed quality in many aspects of the game. Should Butler live up to the expectations and if Dragic manages to remain healthy, Miami could easily make their way into the postseason. How deep can Miami go into the postseason, however, will heavily depend on how well can the remaining cast perform. If all pieces come together, Miami are set for a successful season, but as with anything, we will never know their true strength until we see them play.

 

Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic impressed everyone with their performance last season, when they went on to finish 42-40, reached the playoffs and then went down 1-4 against Toronto Raptors. Nonetheless, it was a very successful season for the Magic and seeing how they decided to stick with the same recipe for this season, it’s easy to see Magic will enter 2019/20 season with high hopes.

It should not come off as a surprise Magic re-signed Nikola Vucevic for four years in a US $100 million deal, meaning they will enter the upcoming season with the same starting five which earned them a postseason appearance. Adding to the already strong roster, Magic signed the veteran from Portland, Al-Farouq Aminu on a three-year deal. Michael Carter-Williams re-signed for another year, whereas Khem Birch decided he will stay at Magic for two more years. During the Draft, Magic selected Chuma Okeke as number 16 pick, however, he will not play in his rookie season, but instead join G-League where he will recover from torn ACL.

All in all, Magic did not make many changes ot the team, and to be completely honest, they don’t need to. From what we see, Magic should be even stronger than they were last season, however, there are no guarantees they will once again break through and reach the playoffs. If, however, all players can deliver and reach the expectations put on them, a postseason is not out of the question.

 

Washington Wizards

Washington Wizards are more or less Bradley Beal’s team, in a sense that it Wizards’ performance this season will heavily rely on how well can he perform for them. And while expectations were high for him to begin with, John Wall’s injury, which will see him miss the entire season means all the weight is now on Beal’s shoulders. That being said, it’s clear by now that WIzards are not chasing the top spot in the conference, but are rather focusing on the future and with Sashi Brown added to the executive team, there is a lot of optimism about Wizards and what next couple of years will bring.

Wizards saw Thomas Bryant sign a three-year deal to return to the team after a breakout performance last season. Joining him we will see Davis Bertans, Isaac Bonga, Chris Chiozza, C.J. Miles, Ish Smith, Moritz Wagner and Isaiah Thomas, who will look to resurrect his career following his injury, which forced him off the court for the last two seasons. On the other side, Ariza, Dekker, Green, Howard, Parker, Philip, Portis, Randle, Devin Robinson and Satoransky all left the team, chasing for new challenges.

Washington Wizards enter 2019/20 season looking like a team that won’t achieve anything breathtaking. While they have a handful of very talented players, we don’t see Wizards being anything more than competitive, and even then, a lot will come down to how Beal can perform. He has already shown his quality last season, however, with Wall out on the picture, it all the pressure will be on his shoulders. All in all, we don’t see Wizards as a real threat to reach the postseason and while there are arguments to be made they can make it, there was just too much upheaval in the team to make us believe so.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE – Southwest Division

 

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks finished last season 14th in the West with a 33-49 record, which was the franchise’s worst record since 1997/98, which only added the salt to the wound of Mavericks who had to say their final goodbye to Dirk Nowitzki. While Mavs enter the new season with the greatest player in the franchise’s history, there is still some optimism in the team, who have two very talented and promising players on the roster in Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic and Kristap Porzingis.

Dallas Mavericks had some big plans to bring in big names to the team, but to no avail. Instead, they spent most of their money to re-sign the majority of their roster. That said, Mavs did trade away Kostas Antetokounmpo, Trey Burke, Denis Harris and Daryl Macon. On the other side, they welcomed Seth Curry, Boban Marjanovic and the veteran Delon Wright.

The biggest concern surrounding the team is Porzingis’ fitness ahead of the season. While there are rumors he is fit and ready to play, it’s anyone’s guess how long will he need to fully recover from his knee injury. That on its own could be a big problem, seeing how he is expected to do great things in Dallas and with a US $158 contract, it’s only fair he does. Should Porzingis deliver up to the expectations and if we see Doncic continue to develop into a superstar, Mark Cuban’s side could easily find their way into the playoffs. And it’s not only the talented duo that we like about the team but overall roster, with enough talent, versatility and depth to compete against the West.

 

Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets have always been a team that can threaten to claim the title and looking at the movements in the offseason, Rockets will enter the 2019/20 season even stronger, clearly showing their intention this season is the NBA title and nothing else.

The biggest move in the team is one everyone already knows about. We are of course talking Rockets’ decision to send Chris Paul, first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, in addition, to pick swaps in 2021 and 2025 to Oklahoma in order to acquire Westbrook, which makes Rockets a whole lot more scarier. This will mark the reunion of Westbrook and Harden, who played together almost seven years ago at Thunder. Adding to Westbrook, Houston signed Danuel House, Austin Rivers, Gerald Green and veterans Tyson Chandler, Ryan Anderson and Thabo Sefolosha. Gordon also decided to extend his contract for three more years.

When it comes to the expectations for Houston, they are once again a team that many people see as a team that will go and win it all, and to be fair, it’s hard to argue Houston are not capable of doing just that. They have the whole season to find a way to make their star-studded roster work, and if they can use all the potential at their disposal, Houston will look very scary. And their ambitions, which dictate anything less than a title is a failure, only proves how hungry the team is to claim the title.

 

Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies finished last season closer to the bottom of the league that what they had hoped. With a 33-49 season behind them, it’s easy to see Grizzlies will look for a complete rebuild and look further down into the future for more promising results.

A lot has happened in the team on and off the court. J.B. Bickerstaff got fired as a head coach in April, Chris Wallace got demoted from general manager to scout. On the other side Grizzlies brought in Rich Cho as vice president of basketball strategy and president and CEO of Canada Basketball and former general manager of Raptors and Knicks Glen Grunwald as a senior adviser. Jason Wexler is also the new president and Zach Kleiman was appointed as the new VP of basketball. Grizzlies appointed a new coach this summer in Taylor Jenkins, who was formerly an assistant at Hawks and Bucks. As far as on-court changes are concerned, Grizzlies signed Morant as number two overall pick in the Draft in addition to Clarke. Other additions include Grayson Allen, Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill, Andre Iguodala, Josh Jackson, Tyus Jones, De’Anthony Melon and Miles Plumlee. Leaving the team were Avery Bradley, Jevon Carter, Mike Conley, Tyler Dorsey, Justin Holiday, C.J. Miles, Joakim Noah, Chandler Parsons, Julian Washburn, Delon Wright and Tyler Zeller.

We can expect the continuation of Grit and Grind, which will continue to excite the fans with promising young players, who will put up a show. That said, with all the changes, Grizzlies will need some time to make all the pieces work, meaning we can’t expect them to reach the postseason in 2019/20 just yet. A lot of their success will come down to how well can Jackson Jr. and Morant work together and while we believe Grizzlies won’t disappoint, playoffs seem to be out of their reach.

 

New Orleans Pelicans

It’s hard to be too positive looking back at Pelicans 2018/19 season, where they finished 33-49, tied with Grizzlies and Mavericks. That on its own is that much more painful, seeing how Pelicans made it into the playoffs only a year later. Adding salt to the wound is the departure of Davis. That said, the rebuilding process is taking shape nicely.

The biggest change in the team is without a doubt the departure of Davis, who will look for other challenges elsewhere. That move, however, should not come off as a surprise, seeing how Davis told Pelicans he won’t extend his contract in late January. That started a weird turmoil in Pelicans who came close to benching Davis while keeping him on the court for long enough to keep his market value high. At the same time, Pelicans worked hard to try and keep him on board, by making many promising changes. Off the court, Pelicans fired Dell Demps as general manager and brought in Griffin. In addition to that, Pelicans brought in Aaron Nelson from Suns and the new GM Trajan Langdon. Nonetheless, even all that did not convince Davis to stay with the team, who was later sent to Lakers. His departure, however, allowed Pelicans to retool most of their roster. In the deal New Orleans received Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball on top of receiving a collection of first-round picks and swaps, which will allow them to look into the future with a lot of optimism. Adding to the new and improved roster Pelicans signed J.J. Reddick and Derrick Favour as an experienced veteran, who will help the youngsters develop in the right way.

Looking at pelicans, they have a roster built for the future, yet, they are still more than capable of doing some damage now. The only concern about the team is whether they can develop quickly enough and start producing solid results in the 2019/20 season. The potential is surely there, and if all pieces fall in place, Pelicans could make a solid run in the West.

 

San Antonio Spurs

SA Spurs are entering the new era after being left in a seemingly untenable situation, which saw them losing most of their firepower. That being said, Spurs, in their own style impressed everyone last season, finished with a 48-34 record and got themselves in the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive time, which is as of now the NBA record. What does the 2019/20 season hold in store for Spurs is yet to be seen, but we will leave it to them to impress once more.

Spurs did not make many moves during summer, which fits in perfectly with their style, which priorities stability and strong pillars over drastic changes. That being said, Spurs did make some management structure. The former GM R.C. Buford got promoted to the executive officer, while Brian Wright hot moved to a GM position. What is the most important move, or shall we say the decision was to extend the contract with Popovich for three more years, which on its own is a but thumbs up for all Spurs fans. Also, Spurs parted ways with assistants Ettore Messina and Ime Udoka, who got replaced by Tim Duncan and Will Hardy. As far as the on-court changes, the most notable is the arrival of DeMarre Carroll and Trey Lyles.

While SA Spurs are far from being considered as one of the elite teams in the NBA, they are still a team that can impress. With a solid mixture of youth and experience in their roster, we can expect them to reach the playoffs once more and if all the stars align do some damage there as well. They are a team in transition, but they should at least reach the playoffs.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE – Northwest Division

 

Denver Nuggets

While the whole NBA went mad over the free-agent movement and huge trades over the summer, Denver Nuggets remained mostly passive, hoping to keep their core intact, which on its own makes them one of the best teams when it comes to on-court chemistry. And while at the topic of trades, there is simply no reason for any big moves for Denver, who had an excellent season in 2018/19 and will look to repeat their success this term as well.

Denver added Jerami Grand from Thunder ald landed Bol Bol from Miami. Denver also re-signed Paul Millsap for one last year. Other than that, the team made no significant changes.

Unlike most of the league, Denver approach to their improvement is very calculated and slow, which on its own is not as bad as it may sound. Denver are entering each season stronger, and while some teams experience huge jumps from being one of the best back to being a mediocre team, Denver step-by-step approach will do them a lot of good. The improvement of Denver can easily be seen in their season-by-season results, which show 30 victories in 2014/15, 33 the next year, 40 a year later, 46 in 2017/18 and 54 in 2018/19. At this rate, Denver are bound to reach the top of the conference and possibly even contest the title. Is that year this year remains to be seen, but if they can keep up the tempo, we would not be surprised if they go deep in the postseason, especially with their exceptional home record.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

It seemed like Timberwolves were back on the rise, but they fell flat last season with a disastrous performance which saw them with a 36-46 record, meaning 2018/19 was just another season when Minnesota failed to reach the postseason. But their problems did not stop there, seeing how they were fighting with the turmoil inside the team, which was triggered by Buttler’s demand for trade and firing of Tom Thibodeau.

Following a poor 2018/19 season, Timberwolves enter the 2019/20 season with a revamped team, which they hope will bring better results. Ryan Saunders was hired as a new coach, who will work alongside newly added assistants Pablo Prigioni and David Vanterpool. In the Draft, Minnesota grabbed Jarrett Culver. Other newcomers include Shabazz Napier, Jake Layman, Jordan Bell, Noah Vonleh and Treveon Graham. On the other side, Timberwolves said their goodbye to Anthony Tolliver, Taj Gibson, Luol Deng and Jerryd Bayless, Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones.

All in all, it’s easy to be positive looking at what Minnesota will bring into 2019/20 season, especially with the hiring of Saunders, who will take over the job his father once held. That said, Timberwolves have a lot to prove. The optimism is there, which is reasonable seeing how all the troubled pieces left the club, however, there is still a long way ahead of Timberwolves, if they wish to appear in the postseason.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

Out of all 30 teams, OKC are the biggest question out of all and it’s easy to see why. Last year MVP contender Paul George is gone for Clippers and alongside him, Westbrook is also gone for Houston, and with those two moves alone OKC’s season could be in jeopardy. A team that constantly managed to get into the playoffs could be facing one of the toughest seasons so far and while there is some level of optimism in the squad, there are even more questions that need an answer.

By sending George over to Clippers, OCK got their hands on Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and seven future first-round picks. With the departure of Westbrook on the other side, OKC got four more first-round picks and Chris Paul. Adding to that, the Jerami Grant’s departure to Denver earned OKC another future pick. All that considered, OKC are set for the future.

As far as 2019/20 season is concerned, OKC seem to still have more than enough talent to snatch a playoffs spot and while it may not be with a strong record, we would not be surprised to see them in the postseason. That being said, there is also an option OKC decide for a full rebuild mode and if Paul decided he wants out, a lottery pick will be in place. And while we talk about this season, we have to remember everyone once more, OKC have 15 first-round picks between the next spring and 2026, which is a huge plus, at least as far as the future is concerned.

 

Portland Trail Blazers

After a 53-29 season and the conference finals appearance, Portland Trailblazers will look to make another title run, however, a lot will come down to how well their new and “improved” roster can perform. While there have been a lot of changes in the team, which are still of unknown quality, Damian Lillard seems positive his squad can make it to the top, whether they can do it, however, remains to be seen.

Portland Trail Blazers said their final goodbye to Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Seth Curry, Evan Turner, Enes Kanter, Meyers Leonard and Jake Layman. On the other side, they have added Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore, Mario Hezonja, Anthony Tolliver, Pau Gasol and Nassir Little. Lillard, Rodney Hood and CJ McCollum all agreed on the extension to their contracts.

Portland Trail Blazers are a team that will enter each season with high ambitions and while they can easily be ranked as overachievers, Trail Blazers can also be easily overlooked. They have the talent to make a statement this season, however, with all the added star power in the West, it’s hard to imagine them pushing for top spots in the West.

 

Utah Jazz

After seasons jumping from being considered a good and great team, Utah Jazz seemingly added the needed quality to the roster which would make them the latter in 2019/20 season. Ambitions are surely there for Jazz and while you never know what the next season will bring, the Jazz just might prove to be strong title contenders.

Utah Jazz’s retooling of their roster resulted in them saying their goodbyes to Ricky Rubio, Jae Crowder, Derrick Favors, Kyle Korver and Grayson Allen, while adding Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jeff Green, Ed Davis and Emmanuel Mudiay.

As it seems, Utah Jazz are well on their way to their fourth consecutive postseason appearance and possibly third 50-victory season in the last four years. That being said, a lot will come down to how well will Quin Snyder be able to use all the potential in the team as well as how healthy can Bogert stay throughout the season. If those two conditions are met, no one should be surprised if Utah Jazz find their way into the finals.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE – Pacific Division

 

Golden State Warriors

GSW saw their dynasty crumble to dust last season when they failed to reach their third straight NBA title due to injuries to Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant who both missed the Finals. Other than that, GSW had a stellar season, with Curry once again putting up great numbers, on top of the sudden improvement from Thompson and Durant’s incredible display of skills, when he showcased why he is considered by many as one of the best players in NBA’s history. But in the end, not winning the title is just as painful as it sounds and GSW will surely look to make things right this season.

The departure of Durant will hurt GSW the most this season and while they will never get to replace him, GSW found a solution in a sign-and-trade deal for D’Angelo Russel. Thompson extended his contract, however, we will remain out for most of the season as he still needs to recover from his knee surgery. Iguodala was sent to Grizzlies, and while he is a very good player, his performance started to slowly stagnate, which is only normal seeing he is approaching 36 years.

With Thompson out for at least half the season and Durant moving to Brooklyn, GSW look far less powerful than last season, and we would even go so far to say they will struggle to enter the postseason. And it’s not only the sudden drop in quality due to the absence of two star players but also the fact that West is loaded once more, meaning no one is guaranteed to walk away with anything.

 

Los Angeles Clippers

It’s still remarkable how Clippers finished last season with a 48-34 record and went on to win against GSW on their home court, however, that was the reality of last season. Some speculated that Clippers will tank after they traded their top scorer Tobias Harris away, however, the reality was the complete opposite. Not only did Clippers avoid tanking, they started thriving and it’s safe to say they impressed everyone. Even more, Landry Shamet, who they got in Harris trade played very well. Can they impress this season once more? Most likely. Can they go even further? Probably.

Since Clippers added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on their roster, they instantly became the team to beat in the West and will most likely rival the top spots. In addition to the two signings, Clippers also extended their contract with Patrick Beverly, which is another huge plus. Clippers also added Maurice Harkless, who is also a solid, yet underrated addition.

Looking at Clippers, they look strong. Very strong. With Rivers on boars, who has already won the championship, Leonard, who has won two and George, who needs no introduction, Clippers look to be set for a strong run in 2019/20. Adding to that is an experienced supporting cast and we have got the right recipe for a title-winning run.

 

Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers had a season to forget in 2018/19, when they were eyeing a strong playoff run, only to fall flat and finish the season with a 37-45 record. It was a season Lakers will have a hard time forgetting, however, a solid run this term will surely help wit that.

Lakers saw Walton part ways and be replaced with the experienced Frank Vogel, which on its own is a huge upgrade. That being said, Lakers’ woes continue with DeMarcus Cousins torn ACL during summer, which coupled with his Achilles injury makes us wonder if he will ever be the same player again. Lakers brought in a handful of new faces, the biggest one being Anthony Davis, who will have to prove himself, seeing how much he cost Lakers. On the other side, Ball, Bonga, Bullock, Chandler, Hart, Ingram, Muscala, Stephenson, and Wagner all left the team.

It will be the time to shine for LeBron and Davis, who are bound to cause a lot of issues to any team they face this season. The duo alone should put Lakers among the best teams in the West and possibly even among serious title contenders. That is, if LeBron and Davis remain healthy. All things considered, Lakers should improve compared to last season and if all the stars align even make a deep run into the playoffs. For that to become a reality, however, the Laker’s supporting cast will have to step up and perform up to par, easing the load on LeBron and Davis.

 

Sacramento Kings

Kings have returned on the map of NBA and people seem to have finally started to take them seriously. While they might not be the championship caliber yet, Kings seemingly have the right plan and the right tools to achieve it, which we could see last season. De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are the two main driving forces behind the team and if they can produce anything similar to what they have shown last season, Kings seem fit to leave a mark.

Luke Walton is the new coach of Kings, who arrived at Kings surprisingly fast after being sacked at Lakers. He will be replacing Dave Joerger. As far as on-court changes are concerned, Kings signed Trevor Ariza. At the Draft, Kings failed so sign any first-rounders, because they did not have an option to do so. Willie Cauley-Stein left the team and Kings signed Dewayne Dedmon as his replacement. Also, it’s worth noting Harrison Barnes decided to stay with the team.

The expectations put on Kings are to reach the playoffs, and while it will not be an easy road to achieve that, it’s easy to see why it’s reasonable to ask Kings to make it into playoffs. Looking at the team, we expect them to remain competitive throughout the season and it should not come off as a surprise if they end up in the postseason. What we like about Kings is their young and promising roster which is bound to grow as time goes on. Adding to that the new coach in Walton and Kings become a team to watch out for.

 

Phoenix Suns

After a 17-65 season, Phoenix Suns can at least be happy it can only go up from here. That being said, the expectations were much higher for the team that what they ended up achieving. Suns seem to be in a never-ending rebuilding process and we can only guess when it will end. That on its own is surprising, seeing how they accumulated a massive amount of lottery picks, yet they seem to be moving nowhere.

Suns appointed Monty Williams as the new coach, who will be Suns’ fifth coach in the last five years, which is not something they can be proud of and their stability suffers from that. That especially holds true for younger players. That being said, Williams seems to be a good fit and we will trust Suns they won’t let him go before the season end. TJ Warren left the team to clear the salary cap, which allowed Suns to resign Kelly Oubre and get Ricky Rubio. The decision to let him go, however, seems a bit off, seeing how he comes off as a perfect player a rebuilding team needs. In the draft, Suns grabbed Cameron Johnson.

What exactly are Suns building is anyone’s guess, however, the question needing an answer is whether they can generate wins with that. For once, we expect them to fare much better compared to last season, which is an improvement on its own. That being said, it’s hard to imagine seeing Suns win more than 25. A lot of their success will come down to how well can Rubio connect with Ayton and Booker as well as how much will young players contribute to the team. At the end of the day, the playoffs are out of the question for Suns, who will instead look for season-long improvement.

 

Predictions

PredictionOdds
Philadelphia 76ers To win Conference3.25 Bet365
Los Angeles Clippers To win Conference3.10 Bet365
Golden State Warriors To Not make the playoffs4.33 Bet365
Sacramento Kings To make the playoffs3.75 Bet365