Golden State Warriors – Whether the Warriors were worried about the up and coming Celtics, nervous from their postseason scare to the Rockets, or just concerned about the team LeBron James was piecing together in LA, they still had their core of players that had brought them 3 out of the last 4 NBA championships. And then they added 4 time all star, DeMarcus Cousins. If Cousins can successfully return from his Achilles injury the West has very good reason to be terrified. This along with the additions of Jonas Jerebko and Jacob Evans, sees Golden State primed for a 5th straight trip to the finals.
Boston Celtics – This young team made it to the finals of the Eastern Conference without Gordon Hayward or Kyrie Irving. The late season loss of Kyrie Irving forced Terry Rozier into action, and forced Al Horford to lead an inexperienced core of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Even though they didn’t manage to reach the NBA fnals, this is an exciting time for Boston fans. Both Hayward and Irving are set to return fully healthy, Tatum and Brown have some experience under their belts, and most importantly, Lebron James has left the East.
Houston Rockets – Had it not been for an unfortunate Chris Paul injury, there could have easily been a different team representing the West in the NBA finals. It is yet to be seen how the addition of Carmelo Anthony will factor into this season’s game plan. If Houston can utilize Melo’s talents to their fullest, unlike how he was used in OKC, Houston could be able to give Golden State a run for their money.
Toronto Raptors – DeMar DeRozan must have been the happiest person in the world on July 1. LeBron James was finally gone from the East, the one man standing between him and NBA finals glory. But the Raptors decided that sacking the coach of the year wasn’t enough. They were also going to get rid of their best player, someone who was devoted to the organization and had no plans of leaving. They managed to get Kawhi Leonard from the deal, a two time All-NBA first team, but it is more than likely that he leaves at the end of the season. Unless they can sell Kawhi on the idea of the Toronto, this could be Toronto’s last chance at an NBA finals for a while.
Philadelphia 76ers – The 76ers were one of the top candidates to land LeBron, and with the amount of young and ready assets they had, Philly was a likely location for the King. But, LeBron elected to join LA and Philly has the same issues as last season. Their Rookie of the Year, Ben Simmons, still hasn’t hit a 3-pointer in the NBA, in a league where the 3-point shot is becoming more and more dominant. Also, it still isn’t clear if Joel Embiid can remain healthy year after year, so Philly will have a lot to prove this season if they are to give the Celtics and Raptors a run for their money.
Oklahoma City Thunder – The Thunder managed to hold on to Paul George, and get rid of Carmelo Anthony. Many people have pegged Melo as a toxic player, saying he can never help a team win, yet the Rockets still picked him up. Melo simply wasn’t used to his full potential in OKC. Never before in his career had Melo been a spot-up shooter, but when you play with Russell Westbrook, that’s what you inevitably become. Paul George has begun to adjust to this new role alongside Russ, and with the addition of Dennis Schroder, the Thunder have filled a lot of their needs.
New Orleans Pelicans – Some believe that Anthony Davis was most deserving of the MVP award after he brought his team to a 48-34 record, good enough for the 6th seed. Although they did lose DeMarcus Cousins to the Warriors, Davis proved that he can carry this team on his own, and with the addition of Julius Randle, this team looks set to climb up the ranks of the West.
Utah Jazz – This young team led by Donovan Mitchell, didn’t exactly give the Warriors a scare, but they gave them a wakeup call. This Jazz team has only gotten better with experience, and they can only hope Grayson Allen can get over his phase of trippings, and cheap shots.
Los Angeles Lakers – A team led by LeBron James hasn’t missed the playoffs since the 04-05 season and this year will be no different. Although this season most likely will not end in yet another finals appearance, a solid finish is in order after a LeBron-less Lakers finished 11th last season. LeBron told Magic Johnson not to worry about trading away the teams young assets to grab a star like Kawhi Leonard. Instead, LeBron made it clear that he was content waiting until next summer to use the Lakers abundant cap space to grab someone like Kawhi Leonard. With Lebron leading this young team, and more stars on the way, this Lakers team is poised for the future.
Indiana Pacers – In a relatively weak Eastern Conference, Victor Oladipo hopes to elevate his game even further, and lead this young core to the top of the Eastern Conference. Tyreke Evans should be an immediate help to this young team, who almost managed to knock LeBron James out in the first round.
Portland Trail Blazers – After a breakthrough season where Damian Lillard led them to a third place finish in the West, the Trail Blazers did not have much cap space to work with if they were going improve on their playoff performance. The additions of Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry help improve the already solid perimeter shooting. After an offseason where almost everyone in the West has made some sort of big move, it will be difficult for this team to repeat their success.
Denver Nuggets – Following a 9th placed finish in the previous season, the Nuggets added a motivated Isaiah Thomas, and can hope to add Michael Porter Jr. to this young and growing team. If this team can bounce back from their near miss of the playoffs, they should be set to return Isaiah Thomas to the playoffs.
San Antonio Spurs – The turmoil Kawhi brought to San Antonio last season is finally over. In the process of getting rid of Kawhi, Pop knew he would not sell to another team in the West. So instead, he shipped Kawhi off to Toronto, and in return receiving DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl plus a protected first round pick. Pop also his hoping for an impact from Lonnie Walker IV.
Minnesota Timberwolves – This young team should look to return to the playoffs again, especially if they can keep Jimmy Butler healthy. They didn’t have much space to add to their team outside of the draft, so they will be forced to rely on their thin bench and hope for some growth from their young stars.
Milwaukee Bucks – This young team did not manage to live up to the lofty expectations for them, and they hope to improve upon that in a very top-heavy East. This team is capable of great things, they just don’t have the consistency to show for it. The hope is for Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez to straighten out this side, and bring nothing but the best out of it.
Washington Wizards – Even though LeBron is now in LA, the Wizards will have difficulty despite bringing back Bradley Beal and John Wall. If Dwight Howard can mesh well with the Washington backcourt, they may be able to jump up a few spots in the East. Even if that trio can have success, it is difficult to see Washington challenge for a top spot in the East.
La Clippers – The Clippers are in the process of revamping their team, as when DeAndre Jordan left for Dallas, the last of Doc Rivers’ former Big Three to leave. The Clippers began their restart with Marcin Gortat, Mike Scott, and Luc Mbah a Moute. They also managed to add Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Boston College’s Jerome Robinson from the draft. At this point Clippers fans best hope is that maybe when Kawhi said he wanted to play in LA, he didn’t want to team up with LeBron.
Dallas Mavericks – The Mavs have Luka Doncic, Dennis Smith Jr., and a Dirk Nowitzki entering his 21st season as a Mav. They could also very likely have $50 million in cap space to potentially add a free agent star. In an interesting move, Marc Cuban signed DeAndre Jordan to a one year, $23 million deal which Cuban hopes can propell the mavs to the playoffs. Many expected this to be a tanking season for the Mavs, as if their pick in the 2019 draft falls outside of the top-five, it goes to Atlanta.
Charlotte Hornets – The Hornets made many additions this offseason, and in a few years time, draft pick Miles Bridges could push his way into the starting lineup, but no one from their recent overhaul will help to propel them near the top of a weak Eastern Conference. The Hornets will have to do a lot better than those additions if they want to keep Kemba Walker, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.
Detroit Pistons – Possibly the biggest move the Pistons made was landing Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey. The hope is that he can find a way for Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin to succeed in a shooter-heavy league. The group couldn’t find a rhythm without injured point guard Reggie Jackson, and if he can stay healthy, a playoff run should be in order for the Pistons.
Miami Heat – The Heat did not have a lot of cap space to work with, nor were they going to find any demand for Hassan Whiteside. A healthy Dion Waiters should return, and Dwyane Wade is now 36. This team lost no key pieces, but didn’t gain any either; they simply brought back all of the team that brought them to 44 wins last season.
Memphis Grizzlies – It is a lofty goal for Memphis to attempt to make the playoffs. After last season’s abysmal 22-60 record Jaren Jackson Jr., Kyle Anderson and Garrett Temple should boost this team’s performance. If the Grizzlies can stay healthy, they should be able to recover nicely from last season’s tankathon.
Phoenix Suns – The Suns landed both Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges in the draft, and also grabbed Trevor Ariza in free agency. It will be interesting to see how Devin Booker can do now that he has some legitimate help on his team. This season will be a solid indicator on just how long this rebuild will take.
Orlando Magic – It appears that Orlando will focus their rebuild on the newly drafter Mo Bamba. This season looks to be very up and down for one of the younger frontcourts in the NBA, consisting of Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac. This season looks to be focused on getting Bamba some solid minutes, and then next summer adding a point guard.
New York Knicks – This is potentially the most pivotal season in recent time for the Knicks. If Kristaps Porzingis and Kevin Knox can perform well, the Knicks can potentially convince a big name free agent such as Kyrie Irving or Jimmy Butler to join their squad.
Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron James has left Cleveland again, but this time it appears there is no hope of getting him back. Kevin Love is now the face of the franchise as he attempts to lead them in a rebuild. Collin Sexton impressed many during the summer league, and the last time the Cavs were forced to cope without LeBron, they landed Kyrie Irving in the draft. So there may still be hope for Cavs fans, but it will take a lot of patience.
Chicago Bulls – By adding Jabari Parker and Wendell Carter Jr., the Bulls are looking to score lots of points. It will be interesting to see how Fred Hoiberg can help this group succeed on the defensive end.
Brooklyn Nets – The last pick of the deal made with the Celtics back in 2013 has finally been used. The Nets have now replenished their supply of draft picks, and they have plenty of cap space heading into another season of rebuilding.
Sacramento Kings – By drafting Marvin Bagley III, the Kings are hoping for an immediate impact on the offensive end. The Kings have a lot of young talent that needs developing, but this year will be a proving ground for players like Bagley, who will have the freedom to lead the team as they please.
Atlanta Hawks – This looks like it will be the Trae Young season. There is hope for Young to be the next Steph Curry, but it even took Curry time to adjust to the league. Young will no doubt be shooting from everywhere on the court, and given the current status of the Hawks, he may even have the opportunity to shoot through his slumps, similar to how he did at Oklahoma.