The downfall of the Golden State Warriors has been greatly exaggerated, at least in some corners. After all, the team still has an MVP candidate (Steph Curry), a Defensive Player of the Year candidate (Draymond Green), a top-25 player (Klay Thompson) and a 2019 All-star (D’Angelo Russell) on its roster. Combine that with an upper-tier head coach and endlessly deep pockets, and it would be a bad idea to pour dirt on Golden State as a contending entity.
However, it is more than fair to suggest that the Warriors aren’t frontrunners to win the 2020 NBA title and, with that idea on the table, it is the first time in a long time that the NBA doesn’t boast a legitimate “favorite” to capture its championship. Are there teams capable of separating from the pack? Absolutely, but that isn’t the same thing as having a dynasty in progress and, to that end, the 2019-20 season has a wide-open feel to it.
Throughout the season, we’ll chronicle the league in this space, using power rankings to paint the picture of the NBA’s hierarchy. In the preseason edition, there is more leeway to fire off overarching predictions but, with the regular season now on the horizon, it is time to weigh in on what will become a weekly staple.
Onward and upward.
1. L.A. Clippers (Last week — n/a)
The Clippers probably won’t finish with the best regular season record this season, particularly if they exercise “load management” on Kawhi Leonard and/or Paul George (who will miss the start of the season). When June rolls around, though, L.A. might be the best pick on the board and this is a deep, talented, flexible roster. It’s not a Warriors-level projection but the Clippers land in the top spot for now, all while acknowledging they aren’t at full strength in the season’s first week.
2. Milwaukee Bucks (Last week — n/a)
If the Clippers aren’t the best bet to finish with the most wins in the NBA (and they aren’t), the Bucks fill that role. Giannis Antetokounmpo returns as the reigning MVP and, while the loss of Malcolm Brodgon is noteworthy, this is a roster set up to win somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 games in the East.
3. Utah Jazz (Last week — n/a)
It might surprise some to see the Jazz this high but a) Mike Conley is very good, and b) so is Bojan Bogdanovic. It isn’t as if Utah didn’t lose quality players like Derrick Favors but this is the best offensive team Quin Snyder’s ever had and the defense will be good as long as Rudy Gobert is upright. It’s time for the Jazz to take their swing.
4. Denver Nuggets (Last week — n/a)
Denver overachieved a bit on the way to 54 wins last season but they should be legitimately better this time around. Gary Harris is healthy, Malik Beasley is ready for the next step, Jamal Murray is (hopefully) on the verge and Jerami Grant is a great addition. Oh, and the Nuggets have Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap. That’s a good thing.