NBA 2019: New Year, New League, New Threats

Updated: Oct 20, 2019

Oh, NBA, how we’ve missed you so much!


After one of the most entertaining off-seasons of the past decade, fans all around the world are ready to see the new-look NBA in action. Almost none of last year's top contenders retained the entirety of their cores. We saw some of the biggest names switch teams and form a new era of superteams. In this preview, we will look at each team and what to expect from them, playoffs and awards predictions, and a few bold predictions. So sit back, take a seat, and get ready for one of the most entertaining NBA seasons we have had in a while.


Standings Predictions


Eastern Conference

1. Milwaukee Bucks

2. Philadelphia 76ers

3. Brooklyn Nets

4. Indiana Pacers

5. Toronto Raptors

6. Boston Celtics

7. Detroit Pistons

8. Miami Heat

9. Orlando Magic

10. Atlanta Hawks

11. Chicago Bulls

12. New York Knicks

13. Cleveland Cavaliers

14. Washington Wizards

15. Charlotte Hornets


Western Conference

1. Los Angeles Clippers

2. Houston Rockets

3. Denver Nuggets

4. Los Angeles Lakers

5. Utah Jazz

6. Portland Trail Blazers

7. Golden State Warriors

8. San Antonio Spurs

9. New Orleans Pelicans

10. Minnesota Timberwolves

11. Dallas Mavericks

12. Sacramento Kings

13. Oklahoma City Thunder

14. Memphis Grizzlies

15. Phoenix Suns


EASTERN CONFERENCE


1. Milwaukee Bucks


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Eric Bledsoe

SG: Wesley Matthews

SF: Khris Middleton

PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo

C: Brook Lopez


When you have the reigning MVP and the best player in the conference, you’re going to be the favorite in what is a weak east. Throw in the supporting cast Giannis has, and opponents should be terrified of this team. Bledsoe looks to build on last year, and even though he is not a top PG, he is a quality guard who will get the job done. In a league where three-point shooting is vital for success, retaining Khris Middleton was a necessity for Milwaukee. The Bucks added Robin Lopez, Wes Matthews and sharpshooter Kyle Korver to a team that lost some of its depth with Malcolm Brogdon’s departure. The Bucks now have one of the most reliable benches in basketball, which is extremely important for a deep playoff run. Giannis will control the paint and be the most feared player in the east for a second straight year. If the Bucks stay healthy, and their new acquisitions play their part, they will end up right where they left off. The east is a cakewalk; the big question is whether this team will be able to compete with the powerhouses out west.


2. Philadelphia 76ers


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Ben Simmons

SG: Josh Richardson

SF: Tobias Harris

PF: Al Horford

C: Joel Embiid

Last year, Philadelphia tried to build a superteam by acquiring both Harris and Jimmy Butler during the season, but fell short of a deep playoff run after losing in a crushing game 7 versus the to-be champs, Toronto. After trading away Butler and losing sharpshooter JJ Redick in free agency, the 76ers look to fix their issues and make a run for the title. Al Horford will be a major help on both sides of the court, and Josh Richardson is about to enter his prime, so we haven’t even seen the best of him yet. Look for the Sixers to be a possible trade deadline destination for many players, as their lack of depth may present an issue as the season progresses. At the end of the day, this team runs through Embiid and Simmons. If Embiid can stay healthy, we’re looking at one of the most gifted big men the sport has ever seen. Simmons, on the other hand, needs to fix his shooting issue right now. There has been some off-season footage which shows that he has improved his shooting game, which is a good sign, but it means nothing if he cannot shoot like that in an NBA game. The path in the east is an easy one, so expect this Sixers squad to be one of the last teams fighting for the title.


3. Brooklyn Nets


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Kyrie Irving

SG: Caris LeVert

SF: Taurean Prince

PF: Rodions Kurucs

C: DeAndre Jordan

Injured: Kevin Durant


This Brooklyn team looks nothing like their team from last year. This off-season they added two superstars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, and landed DeAndre Jordan and Taurean Prince as well. The Nets’ core young players stay the same, with LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Kurucs and Spencer Dinwiddie still on the team, but their playmakers will look completely different. Despite being sidelined for at least the majority of the 2019-20 season (and perhaps even the whole season), Kevin Durant was a massive signing for the Nets franchise and gives fans a lot to look forward to for years to come. Expect the Nets to still be around in May due to a weak east, but this team is not at their peak yet. In addition, chemistry could be a major issue with this team, as we’ve seen it take Kyrie some time to adjust to being in a new city. Being consistent championship contenders is on the horizon, but they aren’t yet.


4. Indiana Pacers


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Malcolm Brogdon

SG: Victor Oladipo

SF: T.J. Warren

PF: Domantas Sabonis

C: Myles Turner


After losing star Victor Oladipo early in the 2018-19 season, a lot of people thought the Indiana Pacers were going to fall down the eastern standings. But the whole team picked up the slack and played hard for the rest of the year. Despite being swept by the Celtics in the first round, I think that given the circumstances it was a good season for the Pacers. Young frontcourt duo Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner is one of the best in the league, and will be giving teams problems on both ends of the court. As a whole, the Pacers are one of the best defensive teams in the league, and getting former rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon will only help them be elite in that department. With all of this said, make sure to watch out for Oladipo. He may be a little rusty when he comes back, which may not even be at the beginning of the season, but once he returns to what he was, the Pacers could be a legitimate threat to the top teams in the east. But, for now, they are a dark horse candidate.


5. Toronto Raptors

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Kyle Lowry

SG: Norman Powell

SF: OG Anunoby

PF: Pascal Siakam

C: Marc Gasol


The Raptors did not have a fun time this off-season. After winning their first championship in franchise history, the Raptors thought they had done enough to keep Kawhi in Canada in the long run. But they were wrong, and he left for sunny Los Angeles. As every team in the east went to stock up on more weapons for the upcoming year, the Raptors did not do much to fill the gaps left by Leonard and Danny Green. However, they still have a good roster mixed with potential and experience. Veterans Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka look to lead the group this year. Pascal Siakam will be a force to be reckoned with, as he will be getting even more offensive attention this year. Even without Leonard, teams will get extra motivation from beating the defending champs, so expect this to be a rough season for “The North”. We will see them in the playoffs again, but I don’t expect them to make much noise come April.


6. Boston Celtics


Projected Starting Lineup

PG: Kemba Walker

SG: Jaylen Brown

SF: Gordon Hayward

PF: Jayson Tatum

C: Enes Kanter


The Celtics went into last season with very high expectations, being picked by many to win the NBA finals after going to game 7 of the ECF the year before without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. However, they lacked chemistry, and lost in the second round to Milwaukee. In the off-season, they lost two of their top players in Kyrie and Al Horford, as well as important role players in Terry Rozier and Aron Baynes. Their young core is still intact with budding superstar Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown all under contract. Instead of Irving, the Celtics will have newly-signed Kemba Walker running the point, with Enes Kanter playing down low in the post. They have a lot of young prospects who can turn into highly effective players, but they won’t be a contender this year. Brad Stevens is an absolutely incredible head coach, and he will make the most of the squad he has right now. Therefore, due to their ample talent and playoff experience, any team they face in the playoffs should be on upset watch.


7. Detroit Pistons


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Reggie Jackson

SG: Bruce Brown

SF: Tony Snell

PF: Blake Griffin

C: Andre Drummond


The Detroit Pistons made the playoffs last year for the first time since the 2015-16 season, thanks to the All-Pro caliber play from Blake Griffin. He is one of the most underrated and underappreciated players in the NBA. His evolution from just another member of “Lob City” to the point-forward for the Pistons has reached complete transformation. It doesn’t hurt that he is paired with one of the best rebounders in NBA history; Andre Drummond has led the NBA in rebounding in three of the past four seasons. But they need more than those two All-Star caliber players to make a playoff push. Signing former-MVP Derrick Rose to help Reggie Jackson at point guard is a good place to start. Bruce Brown was thrown into the starting lineup last year, and thrived defensively, but was a complete liability on offense. Tony Snell was acquired this off-season, and will be an important piece for the Pistons, who needed to fill their small forward void. Watch out for Luke Kennard, as he may be on the verge of a breakout shooting season. At the end of the day, I think the Pistons have an underrated roster, but also a lot of injury-prone players. Griffin, Jackson, and Rose have all had their fair share of lengthy injuries. If they can stay healthy, maybe they can get to the second round, but I don’t see that happening. This team needs at least another year before even being considered a dark horse candidate.


8. Miami Heat


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Goran Dragic

SG: Dion Waiters

SF: Jimmy Butler

PF: James Johnson

C: Bam Adebayo


The Miami Heat enter a new era. All-time great Dwyane Wade has retired, and Jimmy Butler has come to South Beach to become the new alpha dog. The Heat also cut ties with center Hassan Whiteside by shipping him off to Portland. Besides for these moves, this team looks mostly the same. Dragic and Waiters will try to stay healthy, and form a backcourt that can score at ease. James Johnson will just be an average power-forward. I think that Bam Adebayo is going to be a breakout player this year; look for him to be a force on both sides of the court. At the end of the day, this Heat roster is not very impressive. Jimmy Butler is still a top player in the league, but he does not have the best track record of being a leader. I think that Miami will sneak into the playoffs, but many things can go wrong and force this squad to be watching the playoffs from their couches.


9. Orlando Magic


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: D.J. Augustin

SG: Evan Fournier

SF: Jonathan Isaac

PF: Aaron Gordon

C: Nikola Vucevic


The Orlando Magic made the playoffs last year for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign. Led by All-Star Nikola Vucevic, this team does not have any full-blown superstars, but has a very solid starting lineup and bench. Aaron Gordon has become a player known for more than just his jaw-dropping dunks. Evan Fournier has become a consistent scorer for this team, while D.J. Augustin is an underrated and overlooked point guard. Former No. 1 overall draft pick Markelle Fultz looks to redeem himself, and will join Terrence Ross and Mo Bamba in the second rotation. There is a very thin line in the east between the 8th, 9th, and 10th seed, but as of now I give Miami the edge to make the playoffs, due to Jimmy Butler’s ability to score at will. That said, watch out for the Magic, as they have a very high chance of taking over that spot.


10. Atlanta Hawks


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Trae Young

SG: Kevin Huerter

SF: De’Andre Hunter

PF: John Collins

C: Alex Len

The Atlanta Hawks have one of the best young cores in the NBA. Despite the fact that I put them at the 10 seed, I would not be shocked if this team leapfrogged both Orlando and Miami for the last playoff spot. Trae Young proved all of his doubters wrong last season, with incredibly efficient passing (8.1 APG), but he still has to work on his three-point shooting (32.4%). Kevin Huerter will join Young in the backcourt yet again, and will look to break out even more after a fantastic rookie campaign. John Collins will try to build on his fantastic sophomore season and take on an even larger role in the Hawks offense. The Hawks also brought in two top ten draft picks in De’Andre Hunter (#4) and Cam Reddish (#10), who will help solidify this core. They also have a few veterans on their bench looking to prove their worth in the NBA. Last but not least, the Hawks have the legend Vince Carter playing in his 22nd season, and once he plays in a game in 2020, he will be the first player to compete in the NBA for four decades! Look, the Hawks have a bright future ahead of them. Can they slip into the playoffs this year? They absolutely can, simply because they are in the east. I don’t think it’ll happen this year, but they will be in the conversation late in the regular season.


11. Chicago Bulls


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Zach LaVine

SG: Tomas Satoransky

SF: Otto Porter

PF: Lauri Markkanen

C: Wendell Carter Jr.


For Chicago Bulls fans, it feels like their team has been in the rebuilding process for years. But at some point, every team will crawl out of the dumps and form a competitive roster. The Bulls are still in the process, but they have the pieces who can set up a bright future. Their young core includes players like Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., and Zach LaVine, among others. They drafted crafty point guard Coby White this year, and hope that he will fit into their future plans. Give this team a few more years and maybe one big free agency signing, and the windy city will once again host a winning team.


12. New York Knicks


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Dennis Smith Jr.

SG: RJ Barrett

SF: Kevin Knox

PF: Julius Randle

C: Mitchell Robinson


After having the worst record in the NBA, the New York Knicks went into the draft lottery with hopes of landing the grand prize of Zion Williamson. Well, that didn’t happen, but in my opinion, the Knicks got the best player in the draft at third overall. RJ Barrett is the full package, and is raw and brimming with potential. Dennis Smith Jr. is a pure athlete, and is only 21. Add in sophomores Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, and it really looks like the Knicks have a bright future ahead of them. Also, watch out for second-round draft pick Iggy Brazdeikis to make a sneaky impact on the team. The Knicks are going to be both entertaining and painful to watch, but they are nowhere near a playoff team...yet.


13. Cleveland Cavaliers


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Collin Sexton

SG: Brandon Knight

SF: Cedi Osman

PF: Kevin Love

C: Tristan Thompson


The Cavs did literally nothing to their roster this off-season outside of the draft. Collin Sexton and Kevin Love will try bring this team out of the dumps of the east. Fifth overall pick Darius Garland is going to be good, and they also selected Kevin Porter Jr., who I think could be the steal of the draft. The rest of the roster is not very talented. I don’t see anyone other than the players mentioned stepping up to help this Cavs team make that leap. The biggest addition the Cavs made was on the sideline. After recreating the basketball program at the University of Michigan (2 national championship appearances and two Big Ten tournament championships), head coach John Beilein is finally trying out the NBA. He takes on a Cleveland squad mixed with raw talent and experienced veterans. Give him two or three years and I think that he can build this team up and make a contender out of the Cavs.


14. Washington Wizards


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Ish Smith

SG: Bradley Beal

SF: Troy Brown Jr.

PF: David Bertans

C: Thomas Bryant


The bottom four teams in the east are all absolute trainwrecks. Remove Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards’ roster, and what do they have? I can answer that: a god-awful roster with $44 million locked up with someone who will not be touching the court at all this year (John Wall). This team is a straight-up mess. So, why are they ahead of Charlotte? Because I think Beal is just that good. Assuming that he does not demand a trade after realizing that the Wizards have nothing to look forward to for the foreseeable future, he is going to win this team a handful of games they should not be victorious in. Rui Hachimua is a good starting point to rebuild, but the Wizards and their fans have a long and miserable road ahead of them. So for now, as long as Beal is still on this team, they are better than the Hornets, but take away Beal and oh boy, it will get ugly very quickly.


15. Charlotte Hornets


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Terry Rozier

SG: Dwayne Bacon

SF: Nicolas Batum

PF: Miles Bridges

C: Cody Zeller


After losing franchise player Kemba Walker in free agency, the Hornets have been deprived of any direction they had. To pour salt on that wound, they lost Jeremy Lamb this off-season. Now this team is left with one of the, if not the, worst rosters in the NBA. Nicolas Batum has a player option after this year, so they have $27 million locked up with him. Honestly, I just feel bad for any Hornets fans out there, because it is going to be a very long rebuilding process. Malik Monk looks like he is going to be a bust. Miles Bridges has shown some promise, but outside of that, I don’t see any reason to be hopeful for this team. If you are a Hornets’ fan, all I can say is ‘good luck’.


WESTERN CONFERENCE


1. Los Angeles Clippers


Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Patrick Beverley

SG: Landry Shamet