Overreact much? Let’s do it!
Here’s how I see the standings shaking out at the end of the 2019-20 NBA regular season, based solely on the first 12 hours of free agency
I think Kemba Walker fits what Brad Stevens likes to do better than Kyrie Irving. The offense will have more flow, more pick-and-rolls, and more general motion and ball movement. I’m banking on huge progress from Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum but as well as improvement from Gordon Hayward. Front court is a major question mark though..
Bucks are running it back, but without Malcolm Brogdon. Of course, Khris Middleton’s contract is an overpay, but they have an immediate window that they need to capitalize on. Keeping George Hill as a backup is a big move and the Lopez twins (Brook, Robin) down low is a big move.
76ers lost Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick but added Al Horford (an interesting fit) and Josh Richarson and kept Tobias Harris. Horford’s contract will age poorly, and I’m not sure about the fit next to Embiid, but he’s a valuable veteran addition for them. I like adding Richardson as a cheaper piece to replace Butler (averaged 16 ppg). Keeping Tobias Harris is important, after trading multiple picks and Landry Shamet to get him.
Losing Bojan Bogdanovic and Thadeus Young hurts, but they got their PG (Malcolm Brogdon), and added solid depth with Jeremy Lamb and TJ Warren. Indiana is well coached and will add these guys to a team that already has Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis and will have Victor Oladipo back by Christmas (hopefully).
Nets sent shock waves through the NBA, winning free agency day 1 and pulling off one of the most successful days any NBA franchise has ever had in the summer. That said, Kevin Durant will not debut until 2020-21 season and that means it’s Kyrie Irving’s team for this season. Based on what happened in Boston, are we sure that’s a good thing? Brooklyn’s supporting cast isn’t as strong as Boston’s which is why Nets make a slight improvement from 2019 and are one spot below where Celtics finished.
Pistons move up almost by default. Derrick Rose could be the sneaky signing of the off-season and may be an upgrade over Reggie Jackson. Blake Griffin’s health will determine how good the Pistons can be.
Orlando did well keeping their guys (Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross) and also signed Al Farouq-Aminu. Aminu is approximately the 13th PF on Orlando’s roster and some balance would make me feel better about their future. So would an update on Markelle Fultz’s health. Are they really sticking with DJ Augustin as the starting PG?
Hard to know what to think of the Raptors, as they are in limbo awaiting Kawhi Leonard’s decision. With Kawhi, I put them at #1, though I question how good they might be in the regular season now that the hunger of getting off the schneid is gone. Losing Danny Green (potentially) will hurt but Kawhi returning keeps the championship window wide open. Without him, this team will struggle to compete for a playoff spot.
Jimmy Butler wanted to get paid and win – well he got paid, but I’m not sure about the winning part. Butler’s Chicago teams often underwhelmed, especially the ones where he was the #1 guy. Butler forms a big three with…Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. They do have fun young guys like Justice Winslow and Tyler Herro but this is a weird fit on a not good roster.
Thaddeus Young is a nice signing. Bulls are counting on improvement from within with a healthy Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and the addition of Coby White.
Free agency will be quiet for the Hawks, who have built a strong core through the draft (Trae Young, Deandre Hunter, John Collins, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish). They are a year away from playoff contention.
If you look past the disappointment of Kevin Durant’s decision, Julius Randle is a good player and a quality addition. At this point, Knicks will spend their cap space on short term deals and add solid depth players and let their young players grow. Putting them at 12 is putting a lot of faith on RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr to improve.
Wizards are held back by John Wall’s super max contract and Wall will likely miss most of next season. There are questions about whether or not they will or should trade Bradley Beal.
What is Kevin Love’s future? Will the Darius Garland/Colin Sexton backcourt work out? Will John Beilein work out in the NBA? More questions than certainties in Cleveland right now.
After letting Kemba Walker, the best player they have had during this era of Hornets basketball, for nothing, Charlotte is loaded with overpaid role players and added Terry Rozier for $20 million/year, which is the opposite move they should have made.
Until we see what the Lakers do with their cap space, this is the top team in the West, in my opinion. Mike Conley over Ricky Rubio is a major upgrade and Bojan Bogdanovic adds a new element, replacing Derrick Favors. Ed Davis is a good bench piece too.
Last year’s Western Conference Finalists will run it back plus add Kent Bazemore and Nasir Little. Portland needs to sure up their front court.
After picking up Paul Milsap’s option for 2019, Denver’s FA options are limited but they have assets to make trades. The addition of Michael Porter Jr will likely be their biggest move.
After losing out on Jimmy Butler, Rockets are going to run it back with Chris Paul, PJ Tucker, Clint Capela surrounding James Harden. Rockets will likely tweak bench and bank on the Warriors demise as a source of optimism.
Let’s see how Russell Westbrook and Paul George progress in another year together and how OKC surrounds them.
New GM Davis Griffin has killed it since taking over – Jrue Holiday returns to lead a team that adds Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Derrick Favors and JJ Redick, among others. I expect Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball to both take steps forward outside the LA spotlight and pressure. JJ Redick will help the team’s spacing and has made the playoffs every year of his career.
It’s impossible to forecast the Lakers, who are waiting on Kawhi Leonard’s decision. Without Kawhi, Lakers will miss out on D’angelo Russell and Jimmy Butler giving them some limited options on how they can spend their cap space. Still, a team with a healthy Lebron and Anthony Davis should make the playoffs with or without Kawhi.
I’m a huge fan of what the Kings are doing. Harrison Barnes is an overpay but did average 14 ppg after coming over in a trade from Dallas. They add veteran Trevor Ariza, who could have an impact on a young team. I’m predicting the Kings will snap the league’s longest playoff drought (13 years).
West is much better this year – at least one team from 2019 playoffs will need to miss 2020 playoffs for Lakers, but I predict 3 teams to miss.
When I started writing this I had the Warriors at 11. Then, they added D’angelo Russell and I’ve bumped them to 9. Warriors/Spurs/Clippers are interchangeable for now but the point remains that I see the Warriors on the outside looking in. Russell is as good of a Klay fill-in as they were going to get, given their financial situation but they sacrificed Andre Iguodala to get him. Iggy is up there in age and health is a question mark, but his leadership and presence will be missed and will hurt them.
Demar Derozan and Lamarcus Aldridge can still perform at an All Star level but are also an aging core and while the Spurs have a lot of exciting young talent, there are more question marks than guarantees with those players (Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, and others)
Such a fun team last year and the same core returns, but this is another case of getting passed by teams improving around them. Without Kawhi Leonard, there are no more major stars on the market for the Clippers to add that will make the team significantly better, and therefore they could quickly take a step backwards.
Wolves had a rough day – they missed out on D’angelo Russell and still have Andrew Wiggins on the roster. They have a long ways to go to get back to the playoffs.
Dallas has a strong young core of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis but beyond that this roster still needs a lot of work to get back to playoff contention.
Giving Ricky Rubio $51 million over 3 years is fine, because the Suns haven’t had a PG in two years, but he won’t move the needle or move them out of the bottom 5 of the league.
Memphis will be a fun type of bad. While the Hornets are going to be a boring type of bad while waiting out expiring contracts, Memphis is led by Jaren Jackson and Ja Morant. They need work, but at least fans can start to see progress in 2019-20.
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