Assessing the frontrunners for the 2019-20 NBA season
The NBA 2019-20 season has already seen many a great performance, and if we are to go by what has happened in the beginning, fans are in for a treat.
Franchises have improved their rosters largely, and as a result, quite a lot of teams look great on paper. The draft saw impressive recruitments, and we assess the possible frontrunners for this season.
The Rockets sat out the first week and a half of the NBA offseason before signing off on maybe the most shocking trade of the summer: Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul and picks.
Houston goes from someone with a demanding manner to another who will possibly drive everyone crazy with his shot selection.
We don’t know whether Westbrook’s supremely inefficient 2018-19 performance was a sign of age or injury or a fluke.
We don’t know just how friendly the dual stars will be now that they have to play together again, like they did for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
We don’t know how Mike D’Antoni, himself in a precarious situation, will handle the duo or the roster as a whole. We don’t know whether Daryl Morey has another move coming down the road.
But, the Houston Rockets are definite contenders this time around.
The Bucks had the best record in the NBA last season and brought back everyone of importance, save for Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic.
Milwaukee will again have a top defense and Giannis Antetokounmpo should remain an MVP frontrunner. You can’t expect the Bucks to be better in the regular season.
The question is whether Giannis, Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, and Mike Budenholzer figure out how to make it work a little more efficiently in the playoffs.
The good news for the Bucks is that with Kyrie Irving and Al Horford out of Boston and Kawhi out of Toronto, there are only two teams who look like legitimate threats to make the NBA Finals out of the East at this point, assuming that Kevin Durant doesn’t play in 2019-20.
This makes the Bucks a sure-shot frontrunner for the title.
The Philadelphia 76ers have the most intriguing line-up in the East outside of Brooklyn with the big three of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris plus sage Al Horford and electric Josh Richardson.
However, the bench remains shallow, with Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick, having left.
The line-up is intriguing, and the biggest question maybe in the entire league is whether Simmons can be a legit star level player in the NBA playoffs. As has been discussed at length, for long stretches of the 2019 playoffs, Butler was essentially the team’s point guard. Butler’s gone now. It’s Simmons or bust.
This team came a couple of crazy Kawhi Leonard game-winners from beating the eventual NBA champion. That matters. They are a prime contender to follow it up and go further. And that would be an incredible story!
2. LA Lakers
The Lakers missed out on Kawhi Leonard, and the wait for him took LA out of the running for several other free agents. And the Lakers were pretty mediocre last season.
However, adding Anthony Davis is a huge deal and you can’t sleep on the infusions of Danny Green and DeMarcus Cousins.
The latter might be the most important non-max signing of the summer, depending on whether Boogie accepts his role and comes back from injuries suffered in the NBA playoffs.
For spells last season, Cousins looked like himself. Every bit of that he can give the Lakers in the regular season and in the playoffs will matter.
LeBron James is neck and neck with Kawhi as the best healthy playoff performer in the NBA.
Even if the Lakers aren’t a No.1 seed due to load management for LeBron and some adjustment period to find the right lineups and balance, the Lakers seem strong this time around, and are definite contenders.
1. LA Clippers
When the Clippers pulled off the LA coup by getting the Kawhi Leonard-Paul George combo, it turned out to be a brilliant one-two punch on both ends.
It’s beautifully interchangeable and should allow both to rest during the season.
And that duo is being added to a team that made the NBA playoffs in the West last season, albeit replacing Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Given Kawhi’s historic playoff run and PG-13’s top-3 MVP finish last season, this Clippers team looks incredibly imposing and it’s difficult to imagine what could derail them outside of major injury or some other team going on an absolute tear at the right time.
The Clippers are definitely among the frontrunners for the NBA 2019-20 season.