NBA Power Rankings: Week 1

Tommy Beer

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.''


16. Orlando Magic
Last season: 42-40
Key additions: Al-Farouq Aminu, Chuma Okeke
Key subtractions: None
One player the entire league will be keeping an eye on early in the year is Orlando PG Markelle Fultz. The former No. 1 overall pick in the draft just two years ago, Fultz has appeared in just 33 games over his first two pros seasons and had converted only 26.7% of his 3-point attempts and 53.4% of his free throws. Still, the talent he showcased as a freshman at Washington is somewhere in there. He averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.2 blocks, and 2.1 treys, while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor and 41.3 percent from downtown at UW. 

17. Dallas Mavericks
Last season: 33-49
Key additions: Delon Wright, Seth Curry, Boban Marjanovic
Key subtractions: Trey Burke, Dirk Nowitzki
In 2018-19, Luka Doncic averaged a whopping averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game. He joined Oscar Robertson to become just the second rookies in league history to average at least 20 points, seven boards and six assists per game. This year, he gets to play alongside Kristaps Porzingis, who looked healthy in the preseason.

18. New Orleans Pelicans
Last season: 33-49
Key additions: Zion Williamson, J.J. Redick, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Derrick Favors, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jaxson Hayes
Key subtractions: Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton
When you lose Anthony Davis and Julius Randle, you are supposed to take a significant step backward. Well, the Pels and GM David Griffin weren’t willing to stick to the script. They won the “Zion Sweepstakes” and then reloaded the roster by trading AD to LA for a bevy of young players and picks. Let’s hope Zion stays healthy this season. 

19. Sacramento Kings
Last season: 39-43
Key additions: Trevor Ariza, Cory Joseph, Dewane Dedmon, Richaun Holmes, Kyle Guy
Key subtractions: Willie Cauley-Stein, Frank Mason, Alec Burks
It appeared the Kings might enter the season with some tension hanging over the team; however, it was reported on Monday that Buddy Hield has agreed to a four-year, $86 million contract extension with the Kings.

20. OKC Thunder
Last season: 49-33
Key additions: Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Darius Bazley
Key subtractions: Russell Westbrook, Jerami Grant, Paul George, Patrick Patterson
Over the past ten seasons, Oklahoma City has compiled the second-best record in the NBA. The only team with a better overall record is the San Antonio Spurs. They’ve lost two all-NBA players in PG-13 and Russ, but still have enough talent to compete this season. 

21. Minnesota Timberwolves
Last season: 33-49
Key additions: Jarrett Culver, Noah Vonle, Shabazz Napier
Key subtractions: Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, Dario Saric, Tyus Jones
The Big 12 Player of the Year in 2018-19, Jarrett Culver led Texas Tech to an NCAA Final Four appearance while averaging 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.7 dimes, 1.5 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.3 treys. During preseason play, he averaged 12.4 points, 3.4 boards and 2.0 assists in 23.7 minutes. 

22. Detroit Pistons
Last season: 41-41
Key additions: Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris, Tony Snell
Key subtractions: Ish Smith, Glenn Robinson
After undergoing surgery on his left knee during the offseason, Blake Griffin is now dealing with a nagging hamstring issue. The Pistons need their best player to be healthy if they hope to take a step forward this season. 

23. Atlanta Hawks
Last season: 29-53
Key additions: Jabari Parker, Evan Turner, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Allen Crabbe
Key subtractions: Kent Bazemore, Dewayne Dedmon, Omari Spellmam, Taurean Prince
We know the high-powered Hawks will put up plenty of points. The question is whether they’ll be able to stop anybody on the defensive end. Last season, Atlanta was one of only three teams in the league to allow more than 113 points per 100 possessions.  

24. New York Knicks
Last season: 17-65
Key additions: Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, RJ Barrett, Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis.
Key subtractions: Emmanuel Mudiay, Noah Vonleh, Mario Hezonja, DeAndre Jordan
New York needs solid point guard play if they want a shot at being competitive in 2018-19. Unfortunately, the Knicks three points guards were all incredibly inefficient on the offensive end during the preseason. Dennis Smith Jr., Elffird Payton and Frank Ntilikina were a combined 14-for-58 from the field (24.1%) and 3-of-20 from downtown (15%).

25. Chicago Bulls
Last season: 22-60
Key additions: Tomas Satoransky, Thaddeus Young, Coby White, Luke Kornet, Daniel Gafford
Key subtractions: Robin Lopez, JaKarr Sampson
The top of the Bulls rotation is undeniably interesting: Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter and Wendell Carter. Chicago may be able to sneak up on teams and make some noise this year. 

26. Memphis Grizzlies
Last season: 33-49.
Key additions: Ja Morant, Jae Crowder, Brandon Clarke, Tyus Jones
Key subtractions: Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Avery Bradley, Delon Wright
The Grizzlies averaged the fewest points per game in the NBA last season, tallying just 103.5 points per game. If they want to improve in 2019-20, they will need a healthy Jonas Valanciunas. JV was shut down during the preseason due to foot soreness. He did some conditioning work last week, but we are still awaiting word on his availability for the season opener on Oct. 23 vs. Miami.

27. Phoenix Suns
Last season: 19-63
Key additions: Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric, Ty Jerome, Cameron Johnson, Aron Baynes, Frank Kaminsky.
Key subtractions: Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, Dragan Bender, Richaun Holmes
Over the Suns first 19 games following the All-Star break last season, Devin Booker averaged 32.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 2.3 made treys - including a three-game stretch from March 25th-30th, when he scored 59, 50 and 48 points. Per Basketball-Reference, at 22 years, 148 days old, Booker became the youngest player in NBA history to record consecutive 50-point games.

28. Cleveland Cavaliers
Last season: 19-63
Key additions: Darius Garland, Dylan Windler, Kevin Porter Jr.
Key subtractions: David Nwaba, J.R. Smith
Cavs have some depth issues at center. John Henson (right groin strain) remains unable to practice with the team fully and Ante Zizic (left foot plantar fasciitis) will miss approximately four weeks. Cleveland many need both Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson to log more minutes than they had anticipated. The Cavs have to be hoping this ends up helping boost their trade value. 

29. Washington Wizards
Last season: 32-50
Key additions: Isaiah Thomas, Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith, Moritz Wagner, Garrison Mathews, Davis Bertans
Key subtractions: Tomas Satoransky, Bobby Portis, Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green, Jabari Parker
The Wiz may not rack up many wins this season, but they started off the season on a high note by inking franchise cornerstone Bradley Beal to a two-year, $72 million extension last week. Beal's extension will kick in at the start of the 2021-22 season.

30. Charlotte Hornets
Last season: 39-43
Key additions: Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington
Key subtractions: Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky
Last season, Kemba Walker posted a Usage Rate of 31.5 percent, which ranked just ahead of Russell Westbrook and just behind LeBron James. Jeremy Lamb also left via free agency, signing with the Pacers. Those two players, Kemba and Lamb, accounted for 3,310 points 2,663 FG attempts. That's over 36% of the team’s total points and shots.

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