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1. LA Clippers
2018-2019 Record 48-34 Previous Rank: 11
That escalated quickly. Los Angeles signed Kawhi Leonard, and then sent the farm for Paul George. This is adding to a signing of Pat Beverly and JaMychal Green. The Clippers look to have one of the best balanced rosters in the game, and Leonard is on another planet right now. Lou Williams coming off the bench just adds to why the Clippers could be taking home their first NBA title.
2018-2019 Record: 60-22 Previous Rank: 2
The departure of Malcolm Brogdon is going to hurt, but the Bucks are still bringing back one of the best players on the planet and a very similar roster to last season. Signing both Lopez brothers will give them what they need at the center position. The downside is that they don’t have a ton of bench scoring which is needed deep into the year and postseason.
2018-2019 Record 37-45 Previous Rank: 7
The offseason in Los Angeles has been eventful. The Lakers missed out on Kawhi Leonard, but that actually isn’t the worst thing in the world. LeBron James is going to play point guard, and they signed a strong three point shooter in Danny Green. They also added Quinn Cook and Avery Bradley. Signing DeMarcus Cousins on a minimum deal was a win too, despite if he flames out because of the Achilles. While they had to be savvy with money, the Lakers roster turned out okay.
2018-2019 Record 54-28 Previous Rank: 3
Denver will take just a slight step backwards given the Los Angeles teams are filled out. The Nuggets have one of the deepest rosters in the game, and will bring back the same starting five as last season. Their bench was a big success, and if Michael Porter Jr comes back strong, watch out. The Nuggets are still the team I am most excited for this season.
2018-2019 Record 51-31 Previous Rank: 4
The Sixers had an eventful offseason, trading Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia for Josh Richardson in a sign and trade. Not a bad move given J.J. Redick decided to take a one-year deal with the Pelicans. The big surprise was signing Al Horford. This improves the defense and is a very good pairing with Joel Embiid. Tobias Harris resigned on a max deal, giving the 76ers one of the top lineups in basketball.
6. Utah Jazz
2018-2019 Record 50-32 Previous Rank: 9
The Jazz had a terrific offseason, trading for Mike Conley. This gives them a legitimate backcourt with Donovan Mitchell also alongside him. The Jazz added another sharp shooter in Bojan Bogdanovic who will pair well with Joe Ingles at the small forward position. Derrick Favors was on his way out, but the Jazz nabbed Ed Davis to fill a similar role. Despite the moves of everyone else, the Jazz are one of the best teams in the league.
2018-2019 Record: 53-29 Previous Rank: 6
As every other team made moves in the west, Houston stayed put. There were talks of them feeling trades for names like Chris Paul and Clint Capela, but nothing came about. At the moment they will bring back the same roster, and in an improved western conference, I am curious to see how this group holds up. Houston might be outside of the top four given both Los Angeles teams, Utah, Portland, and Denver have all strengthened their rosters.
2018-2019 Record 53-29 Previous Rank: 8
The bench is going to look extremely different next year, and they will have to wait for Jusuf Nurkic to get back. However, Portland is ready to contend yet again. They have one of the best backcourts in the league, and will get some help with Kent Bazemore, Mario Hezonja, and Whiteside. They also added Anthony Tolliver and kept Rodney Hood. It is going to be a brutal fight in the west, but Portland is prepared.
2018-2019 Record: 57-25 Previous Rank: 5
We knew what we knew, as Kevin Durant left to Brooklyn. Klay Thompson re-signed on a max deal but won’t be back until after the all-star break. Golden State traded Andre Iguodala and waived Shaun Livingston. This roster is looking even more different as the days go on. The shock sign and trade deal was for D’Angelo Russell. It will be interesting to see what they do with him, as even another trade could go down.
10. Brooklyn Nets
2018-2019 Record 42-40 Previous Rank: 12
Brooklyn got their guys. They signed Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, and Kyrie Irving. The Jordan signing was a bit unnecessary for me, with Jarrett Allen on the roster. Needless to say, the Nets had one of the top offseasons. While Durant won’t play this year, the Nets roster is still built to compete. We might not see the immediate impact of this free agent class just yet, but the Nets are set for the next few years.
11. Boston Celtics
2018-2019 Record 49-33 Previous Rank: 11
Kyrie Irving and Al Horford both moved on. Boston also made questionable moves on draft night, leaving them with a depleted roster and a lot of question marks on who can step up. We have seen this young core for a few years now, and we might see them in more singular roles instead of being the secondary options. Signing Kemba Walker gives them a replacement at the PG position. They also signed Enes Kanter, who leaves a massive defensive hole at center.
12. Indiana Pacers
2018-2019 Record 48-34 Previous Rank: 12
The Victor Oladipo injury derailed the Indy season last year, and they will look to regroup. The draft wasn’t anything to write home about for the Pacers, but Goga Bitadze is a big man out of Georgia who can produce behind their current backcourt. The Pacers also traded TJ Warren, who is a good add at the moment. They should bring back a similar roster, and could take advantage of Boston’s declining roster. Adding Malcom Brogdon was a big add to replace Darren Collison to retire. Adding Jeremy Lamb also adds some wing depth.
13. Miami Heat
2018-2019 Record 39-43 Previous Rank: 77
Trading Hassan Whiteside gets a bad contract off the table, and they signed Jimmy Butler. While the rest of the roster needs some work, it seems Miami is in contention to trade for Russell Westbrook. Overall this group is worthy of making a run in the east just because of Butler’s presence, however they are not quite on par with the teams above. It will be interesting to see what the next move is.
2018-2019 Record 48-34 Previous Rank: 14
It is never overly exciting in San Antonio, but they won 48 games last season and will bring back the same core. While I don’t think they can crack the top of the western conference, they will be in the mix for a middle seed. They had plenty of picks in the draft, and while they won’t jump off the page, they are solid picks with decent upside. They just continue to produce year in and year out, so hard to knock them down further.
2018-2019 Record 33-49 Previous Rank: 16
The Pelicans moved on from Anthony Davis, getting a massive haul from the Lakers. They will get Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart. They turned their picks into Zion Williamson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jaxson Hayes, and Marcos Louzada Silva. The Pelicans had a terrific draft, and this team is going to be ready to compete even with all the youth. Do not forget about Jrue Holiday, who has been a strong shooting guard for the last few seasons. Adding J.J. Redick gives them a shooter and the Pelicans have a strong roster after the quick loss of AD.
16. Toronto Raptors
2018-2019 Record: 58-24 Previous Rank: 2
Weeeee. The Raptors take a major slide down the rankings losing out on Kawhi Leonard. There would need to be a major trade to get the Raptors back on top, and that just doesn’t look likely. They have a lot of aging players, and Pascal Siakam isn’t in a position to carry a team. It was a nice run, and while they will be competitive, this is now a middling eastern conference team.
17. Dallas Mavericks
2018-2019 Record 33-49 Previous Rank: 17
Dallas won over 30 games last season, and Luka Doncic is paying off on Dallas trading for him. Kristaps Porzingis is the big question mark, with the off-court issues and him coming back healthy from the knee injury. Dallas did not add any major free agents and that is a disappointment. The Mavs still have great potential, especially if Porzingis returns as his usual self.
18. Sacramento Kings
2018-2019 Record 39-43 Previous Rank: 18
Sacramento didn’t do much in the draft to improve their roster, and they decided to let Willie Cauley-Stein walk. Not a bad choice to do so. While they over paid Trevor Ariza a bit, he gives a veteran presence and this team is loaded with young talent again. The Kings took a major step forward and we will look for that growth in 2019.
19. Atlanta Hawks
2018-2019 Record 29-53 Previous Rank: 21
Much like Memphis, the 19th ranking is not a reflection on what they have done over the offseason. The Hawks are coming again with a young core. Trae Young and John Collins look to be excellent draft picks over the last two years, and this year’s draft was interesting. They signed some SF in De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. They also added a big man in Bruno Fernando, which was a need heading into the draft. If the second half is an indicator on what’s to come, look out.
20. Orlando Magic
2018-2019 Record 42-40 Previous Rank: 22
The Magic needed to have a crucial offseason, and while Nikola Vucevic resigning was a big add, they failed to address the backcourt. Having Michael Carter-Williams and D.J. Augustin as point guards does not scream potential. They still have a good front court, and will be in contention for the back half of the eastern conference. A trade for a guard would push them up the rankings a few spots.
2018-2019 Record 36-46 Previous Rank: 23
The hype for Minnesota has bounced around over the last few seasons, and it is hard to rank them any higher at the moment. They finished ten games under .500 last year, and just do not seem sold on their roster. The draft was decent, trading up to get Jarrett Culver out of Texas Tech. While they need a point guard, they can at least ride out the contract of Jeff Teague this year and deal with it at a later date. They were supposed to sign D’Angelo Russell and there was a chance of moving Andrew Wiggins. Neither have happened yet.
22. Detroit Pistons
2018-2019 Record 41-41 Previous Rank: 19
Detroit got a steal in the draft, getting Doumbouya at the 15th pick out of France. They lost in round one to the Bucks, which isn’t anything to be ashamed of with Blake Griffin being banged up. The problem with Detroit is that they have no backcourt scoring or depth. Griffin has taken on a leadership role, and Andre Drummond continues to post strong numbers. A few guys step up and Detroit is in the mix for the playoffs again. The signing of Derrick Rose gives them a much needed scoring guard, but will it be enough?
2018-2019 Record 33-49 Previous Rank: 25
The 23rd ranking doesn’t really mean much for Memphis. They had one of the best drafts of any team, getting Ja Morant and then stealing Brandon Clarke. Jaren Jackson looks like a hit from last year’s draft. They also shipped Mike Conley to Utah, which was going to happen at some point. The Grizzlies rebuild is moving quickly and if I was ranking rebuilds they would be up there. Give it time and they will be out of this position.
24. Chicago Bulls
2018-2019 Record 22-60 Previous Rank: 28
Chicago landed their point guard Coby White out of North Carolina in the draft. While they have said they like Kris Dunn, every action and report says otherwise. We can’t forget this team as Wendall Carter Jr and Lauri Markkanen continuing to grow, which is a step in the right direction. The Bulls could be a team to sneak up a few spots during the season, as they have a young core that could surprise in the east.
2018-2019 Record 39-43 Previous Rank: 24
Charlotte opted to not pay Kemba Walker as much money as advertised, and overall they were not going to spend money in free agency. They decided to make a sign and trade with Boston, which resulted in them signing Terry Rozier. The Hornets are now a big mess after being on the cusp of playoff potential with a bad team the last few seasons. The front office seems to be the biggest roadblock for the franchise to be relevant.
26. New York Knicks
2018-2019 Record 17-65 Previous Rank: 20
The Knicks missed out on the Zion sweepstakes, and also missed out on every big free agent. They were sure of landing a big name, and instead walked away with Julius Randle. They drafted R.J. Barrett, and while this team has some solid players on the roster, it is not the roster they expected coming into the season.
2018-2019 Record 49-33 Previous Rank: 10
The Los Angeles Clippers made a massive trade for Paul George, and it seems this is also the domino falling that leads to Russell Westbrook being trade. This is a looming deal, and it will leave the Thunder current roster in shambles. While they will walk away with plenty of draft picks in the George deal, they have a lot of work to rebuild again. In a small market that can be tough.
2018-2019 Record 32-50 Previous Rank: 26
The John Wall injury is going to knock Washington down, and Bradley Beal is a one man show at the moment. They reached in the draft, and did not sign a player that can immediately help out. While they haven’t actively shopped Beal, he will be a name that teams call about. Defensively they struggled, and the offense is just too predictable. With no moves at the moment, it is going to be another rough year. Their contact situations leave them somewhat limited.
2018-2019 Record 19-63 Previous Rank: 30
The Cavaliers are one of the few teams in a rebuild stage, and what separates them from others is the fact they will not be entertaining any of the major free agents. The Cavs had a pretty good draft, getting Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. In addition to Collin Sexton from last year, the Cavs have a young team. It will be interesting to see if Kevin Love is a guy on the move, as he can draw a pretty sweet return for a contending team.
30. Phoenix Suns
2018-2019 Record 19-63 Previous Rank: 29
The Suns draft did not go as planned, and they made suspect moves landing Dario Saric to trade back. They desperately needed a point guard, and overpaid Ricky Rubio who doesn’t necessarily provide any sort of upside at the position. Phoenix also gave away T.J. Warren for next to nothing. The Suns are sunning, and they have a tough hill to climb.