WHO GOT BETTER?
CAVS – Adding Donovan Mitchell in his prime is a big get. Losing Markannen hurts but this is one of the deepest rosters in the league. Ricky Rubio coming back healthy and bringing in Neto solidifies their point guard behind budding superstar Garland who is more of a combo guard. This team will go as far as the defense of Mobley and Allen take them.
NETS – Added Ben Simmons, Royce O’Neal, Markieff Morris, and TJ Warren. If KD and Kyrie stay healthy they’ll be dangerous along with if Joe Harris returning to form.
SIXERS – Adding strength and toughness in PJ Tucker and Montrezl Harrell will take this team a long way. De’Andre Melton was a very underrated pickup as well. Very deep and hungry roster.
WARRIORS – The Champs got better adding Big Man James Weisman, JaMychal Green and Winner Donte DiVencenzo. They also return their core lineup aside from Otto Porter Jr. and Bjelica which opens the door for more minutes to Kuminga and Moody. Draymond Wiggins, Igoudala and Looney are back in fold too along with “The Splash Brothers” Steph and Klay. They won’t catch teams off guard this season though.
CLIPPERS – Adding Kawhi Leonard to this roster is cause for concern for the rest of the league. The rest of the playoffs roster aside from Hartenstein is back along with the addition of former All Star James Wall who seems motivated to contribute in a major way.
LAKERS – Mostly because they could not get worse. They were disjointed and injury prone. If Anthony Davis and LeBron James can stay healthy, they will be a playoff team. Adding Patrick Beverley was brilliant for chemistry purposes. His leadership will have a great effect on the Lakers and hopefully Russell Westbrook. Adding Shroeder, Walker IV, Thomas Bryant and Toscano-Anderson were underrated moves. If Kendrick Nunn can see the court then they’ll have themselves a deep team.
MAVERICKS – A Team that went to the Western Conference Finals did indeed improve. It all starts with Luka who is still getting better in front of our eyes. Losing Brunson takes away an injury insurance policy, but Spencer Dinwiddie will step into that Shooting Guard Role along with Tim Hardaway Jr., who got injured last season. Gaining Big Men JaVale McGee and Christian Wood adds flexibility to a front court that was undersized last season. The rest of the team returns and we may see rookie Jaden Hardy make the rotation and become an asset.
TIMBERWOLVES – Yes, Rudy Gobert drives us nuts on offense, but they brought him in to anchor KAT more than anything. That is a Twin Tower duo that is going to dominate the paint. Additionally, Anthony Edwards is on the verge of superstardom if he can stay focused and locked in on both sides of the court. They lost some rotational pieces in Vanderbilt, Beasley, and Beverley but they replaced them with under the radar pickups Kyle Anderson, Brynn Forbes, and Eric Paschall. If D’Angelo Russell can be a star for them then this team will take a step forward this year.
TRENDING UPWARDS. BUT MUST PROVE CONSISTENCY
DENVER – If you only counted the additions of Jamal Murray and/or Porter Jr. to go with MVP Jokic, that would be enough to make our list. But since those two are coming off of major injuries we will be conservative with our expectations. They also made a deal for Champ KCP and veteran Point Guard Ish Smith – two players who will single handedly win them games this season. Bones Hyland and Aaron Gordon help round out a roster that could take a big step forward this season. Jokic has some beef behind him in DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan now so hopefully he will be able to rest here and there.
BLAZERS – Damian Lillard is back in action which automatically makes them better. They also added Champion Gary Payton II and Olympic Gold Medalist Jerami Grant while bringing back Nurkic, Simons, and Hart. Their young players got a lot of competitive run last season which makes their floor higher. Last season they were bad and this season they can be good.
PELICANS – This team is on the verge of being a major league problem but they need to earn it. This was a playoff team without Zion. Now it’s time to see if they are Contenders or Pretenders. McCullom, Valancunias, Ingram, and Nance Jr. will keep them in check. If Herbert Jones, Jaxson Hayes, Trey Murphy III, and Alvarado can improve, they’ll be a really hard team to beat on any night.
KINGS – On paper an immensely improved team. Fox, Sabonis, and Top Pick Keegan Murray can be a fearsome Big 3. Davion Mitchell will see increased minutes in his sophomore season. Adding Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk (who created a fantastic backcourt with Fox in College at Kentucky) was huge. The West is deep but Sacramento is trending upwards with a champion head coach in Mike Brown.
KNICKS – Added competitors Jalen Brunson and Isaiah Hartenstein. RJ Barrett is a rising star. If Julius Randle can be a team player and Derrick Rose can stay healthy, they will be tough to beat every night. Toppin, Quickley, Grimes, and Mitchell Robinson need to improve to gain more consistent minutes.
PISTONS – They’re going for it. Trading for veterans like Bogdonovic, Burks, and Noel while drafting Ivey and Duren shows us there’s going to be real toughness and scoring to go along with Cunningham, Bey, and Bagley. If Stewart can learn defensive dominance from Noel, they’ll be back to being Bad Boys.
PACERS – They get a lot of their returning talent back so they’ll be better by default but must prove that they can play together. Halliburton and McConnell are two of the highest IQ players in the league. Added tough veterans James Johnson and Daniel Theis to pair with Myles Turner, who has to play more like a big and less like a guard. Buddy Hield and Chris Duarte are 2 of the top 15 shooters in the league and Mathurin, the rookie, has serious star potential. Pile on the return of Rick Carlisle, and teams can’t overlook the Pacers as real competitors.
MAGIC – Outside of the Raptors you won’t find a longer team outside of Orlando. Adding Paolo Banchero was a stroke of genius. They’re really athletic but need to become more consistent on defense. Losing Gary Harris to an off season injury was a blow, but they may get back the likes of projects Jonathan Isaac and Bol Bol at some point, which would add front court depth. If Franz Wagner, Cole Anthony, Okeke, Carter Jr., and Jalen Suggs become more consistent with Fultz staying we will see a better Magic team.
WIZARDS – Only slightly, but like the additions of Monte Morris and Will Barton add winning pedigree to the roster. Beal locked into a long term deal and Porzingis looks poised for a good season if he can stay healthy. Johnny Davis could become a difference maker on this team that has a lot of paper talent with Kuzma, Hachimura, and Avdija. Kispert and Taj Gibson round out a balanced roster that should improve from last year.
SUNS – DeAndre Ayton had his offer sheet matched and returned to Phoenix after some obvious friction with Head Coach Monty Williams. We will see how that plays out. They’re losing a big piece in Jae Crowder who is due for a trade, but getting back a piece in Dario Saric coming back from injury. Aside from adding nominal players Damion Lee, Josh Okogie, and Frank Jackson, it’s the same team as last season in Phoenix.
CELTICS – Added Brogdon who is oft-injured but lost Coach Udoka (added Gallanari too but tore ACL). Returning the same roster that made it to the finals, but Robert Williams is starting the season on the injured list.
RAPTORS – Core talent returns and adds Otto Porter Jr. They have the longest and most versatile team that doesn’t have a prototypical Center.
BULLS – Lonzo Ball is a long way away. They added Dragic and Drummond but they won a lot of games last year on the backs of DeRozan and LaVine, but the latter wore down later in the season. They need Patrick Williams needs to take a major step forward and Vucevic to return to All Star level.
HAWKS – Picking up Dejounte Murray grabbed the headlines and will help the defense, but they lost depth with Kevin Huerter and Gallinari going elsewhere. If Trae Young plays at an All-NBA level every night, they’ll still be a playoff team with Capela, Bogdonovic, Hunter, Okongwu and Collins, but cannot say that they drastically improved.
WHO GOT WORSE?
BUCKS – Not a slight to the former champs or MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, but they just didn’t do much to improve the roster. Hopefully Brook Lopez and Joe Ingles can stay healthy but that’s no guarantee. Nice rookie pickup of Marjon Beauchamp, who may be thrust into a larger role should Khris Middleton be hindered by injuries again. They resigned Portis, and Jrue Holliday is still in the fold, but they’re too Giannis reliant.
HORNETS – Charlotte is in trouble without Miles Bridges. He plugged a lot of holes on both ends and without him they are extremely thin in the frontcourt outside of Mason Plumlee and rookie Mark Williams. Maybe Kai Williams can make a leap but that remains to be seen. They’ll need to outscore teams with LaMelo, Rozier, and Hayward. Their defense is a major concern.
HEAT – Only slightly since nearly their entire team returns, but they didn’t add any bodies and lost rotation glue guy PJ Tucker. They were the #1 seed in the East last season and we do not foresee a repeat.
ROCKETS – These young players will get better individually, but as a team unit they are far from a competitive bunch. Aside from top pick Jabari Smith Jr., they made no major additions and lost Christian Wood. They’ll be fast paced no doubt, but with no defense in sight the Rockets will be a bottom five team.
GRIZZLIES – This isn’t a knock on their current roster, but Jaren Jackson Jr. is starting the season injured, and trading away De’Andre Melton may come back to bite them. They made no major additions which could put a strain on the likes of Morant, Bane, Clarke, Adams, Brooks, and Jones. Lofton Jr. may be a bright spot, but in a long season and hyper competitive West, they’ll have a target on their backs.
SPURS – They’ll play hard under Poppovich but this team does not have a ton of go-to talent, and they lost their best player in Dejounte Murray. Keldon Johnson is currently their best player. They’ve got some players who are looking for expanded roles in Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, and Rookie Jeremy Sochan, but this is easily one of the worst teams in the NBA.
THUNDER – With Chet Holmgren out for the year and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander starting the season hurt, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Oklahoma City. We like how hard they play and see talent in Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Tre Man, and Pokusevski, but this isn’t team did not improve upon their roster from last season outside of draft picks and trading for Mo Harkess. This is a bottom five team this season.
JAZZ – It’s easy to put the Jazz in this bucket because they lost their two foundational all stars in Mitchell and Gobert, along with their Head Coach in Quinn Snyder, so it’s going to be an uphill climb for this disjointed team unit. They have talent and scored pickups in Markannen, Beasley, Horton-Tucker, Vanderbilt, Sexton, and Olynk, but we can’t say that they got better yet. Going to be a borderline playoff team if Clarkson and Conley return, but we may see some trades from this team looking to collect assets.