NBA Power Rankings: Los Angeles Clippers Have the Best Shot at a Title

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterSeptember 27, 2019

NBA Power Rankings: Los Angeles Clippers Have the Best Shot at a Title

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    For the first time in years, the window to win an NBA championship is wide open.

    Across the board, the league is as competitive as ever, and few teams head into the 2018-19 season with little to no playoff hope. With so many superstars (Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Kemba Walker) switching teams this summer, the balance of power is far more spread out.

    One thing that's stayed the same? The dominance of the Western Conference, which could have seven of the top 10 teams in the league, led by the new-look Los Angeles Clippers.

    With the 2019-20 season nearing its start, here's how every team stacks up.

Battle for the No. 1 Pick

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    30. Charlotte Hornets

    Biggest Adds: Terry Rozier, PJ Washington

    Worst Losses: Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb

    With Walker and Lamb leaving in free agency, the leading returning scorer for Charlotte is a tie between Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller at a whopping 10.1 points per game.

    Rozier should get all the shots he can handle, but his true shooting percentage last season (50.1 percent) ranked 87th out of 96 qualified guards. Charlotte doesn't have any other go-to options, meaning the Hornets offense should be the league's worst.

    The growth and development of Miles Bridges, PJ Washington and Malik Monk will be the lone bright spots on a team that should have traded Walker when it had the chance.


    29. Cleveland Cavaliers

    Biggest Adds: Darius Garland, Dylan Windler, Kevin Porter Jr.

    Worst Losses: Channing Frye, David Nwaba

    The health of Kevin Love will ultimately determine how far the Cavaliers fall this season, and the team needs to be among the bottom 10 to keep its 2020 first-round pick stemming from a 2017 Kyle Korver trade.

    Consider the pick safe.

    Three first-round selections (Darius Garland, Dylan Windler, Kevin Porter Jr.) join 2018-19 All-Rookie second-teamer Collin Sexton, who averaged 16.7 points while shooting 40.2 percent from three.

    The locker room will miss the retired Frye, and losing their best perimeter defender in Nwaba could mean an even worse defense than their record-setting performance (117.6 defensive rating) from last season. Cleveland has some nice young talent and lots of expiring contracts but still won't be able to stop anybody this year.


    28. Washington Wizards

    Biggest Adds: Rui Hachimura, Isaiah Thomas, Davis Bertans

    Worst Losses: Trevor Ariza, Tomas Satoransky, Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis

    The Wizards only won 32 games last season and lost a ton of talent in free agency. Combine that with John Wall's Achilles injury and Washington should be a serious contender for the No. 1 overall pick.

    Bradley Beal will be in trade talks all year as the Wizards sink to the bottom of the East, and trading him with two years left on his contract would probably be the best play for all involved. Beal could challenge for the league scoring title as long as Thomas, when healthy, doesn't attempt to hijack the offense. Thomas is among the NBA's worst defenders and made just 36.7 percent of his shots over the past two years. 

    Bertans was third in three-point shooting among all forwards last season (42.9 percent), Hachimura could be a sneaky Rookie of the Year pick, and Thomas Bryant should outplay his new three-year, $25 million deal. There are some positives on this bad Wizards team, but not enough to keep them out of the basement.


    27. Memphis Grizzlies

    Biggest Adds: Ja Morant, Andre Iguodala, Tyus Jones, Jae Crowder, Brandon Clarke

    Worst Losses: Mike Conley Jr., Avery Bradley

    The last time a Grizzlies team didn't feature Conley or Marc Gasol, Allen Iverson led the NBA in minutes per game, Brandon Roy won Rookie of the Year, and the "We Believe" Golden State Warriors shocked MVP Dirk Nowitzki's 67-win Dallas Mavericks.

     Yeah, it's been a while.

    The good news? Memphis already has a pair of future stars and franchise building blocks in Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. Others like Brandon Clarke, Grayson Allen and De'Anthony Melton could turn into solid role players, as well.

    Center Jonas Valanciunas was uber-productive following a midseason trade to Memphis (19.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks in 27.7 minutes per game), and the team should get some decent draft picks and young talent back for Iguodala and Crowder from wing-hungry playoff teams closer to the deadline.

    Morant should be among the Rookie of the Year finalists with the offense flowing through him from Day 1.


    26. New York Knicks

    Biggest Adds: RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis, Marcus Morris

    Worst Losses: DeAndre Jordan, max cap space

    New York could win 10 more games than last season thanks to a rise in overall talent, even if no superstars came flocking to Madison Square Garden this summer.

    Barrett carries star potential, while Dennis Smith Jr. (21) and Randle (24) are still young enough to become standouts, as well. The rest of the veteran signings should at least help keep things competitive, and nearly all have small enough guarantees to be bought out and transformed into cap space again next summer.

    New York's goal should be trying to establish a more attractive culture for future free agents while developing Barrett, Smith, Randle, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Frank Ntilikina.

In the Lottery

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    25. Phoenix Suns

    Biggest Adds: Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric, Cameron Johnson, Ty Jerome

    Worst Losses: TJ Warren, Josh Jackson

    The Suns probably messed up by trading back in the draft and passing on Jarrett Culver and Coby White, even if Johnson will give them a much-needed floor-spacer between Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

    Rubio was a huge signing for Phoenix as a veteran who cares about ball distribution and defense. The Suns were just 19th in assists per game last season (23.9) and next to last in defense (115.1 defensive rating).

    Kelly Oubre Jr. (16.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals) is still 23 and could be Phoenix's answer at small forward, while Ty Jerome and Mikal Bridges should be key rotation pieces.

    The roster still isn't playoff-worthy, but at least it'll be fun to watch.


    24. Chicago Bulls

    Biggest Adds: Coby White, Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky

    Worst Losses: Robin Lopez

    The Bulls have assembled a nice, young roster that should be in the running for the playoffs. But unless they can develop a star or trade for one, they'll once again be on the outside looking in.

    Only the 17-win Knicks had a worse offense than Chicago last season (104.8 offensive rating), and starting point guard Kris Dunn has unimpressed to this point. White and Satoransky should help jumpstart the scoring attack, which is led by Zach LaVine (23.7 points), Lauri Markkanen (18.7 points) and Otto Porter Jr. (17.5).

    Injuries hit this roster hard last season, so even a clean bill of health could add five to 10 wins. Chicago will need a strong sophomore season from center Wendell Carter Jr., who could be the next Al Horford with his defense and impressive overall game.


    23. Atlanta Hawks

    Biggest Adds: De'Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe, Jabari Parker

    Worst Losses: Dewayne Dedmon, Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore

    Looking for a surprise team to surge into the Eastern Conference playoffs? This is it.

    Following a miserable 6-23 start to the 2018-19 season, the Hawks finished a respectable 23-30 behind Trae Young's 19.1-point, 8.1-assist rookie campaign. Power forward John Collins averaged 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds after the All-Star break, while 6"7" shooting guard Kevin Huerter drilled 39.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes.

    Mix in a pair of lottery picks, a versatile forward in Turner and some scoring off the bench with Parker, and this could be a sneaky seventh or eighth seed in the East.


    22. Dallas Mavericks

    Biggest Adds: Seth Curry, Delon Wright, Boban Marjanovic

    Worst Losses: Dirk Nowitzki

    Like the Knicks, the Mavericks entered free agency with lots of cap space and big free-agent targets who ultimately went elsewhere. Unlike the Knicks, the Mavericks have Kristaps Porzingis to fall back on.

    Signing Porzingis to a five-year, $158 million contract means he and Luka Doncic will both be under team control for at least the next four years, giving them perhaps the most talented young duo in the entire league.

    The rest of the supporting cast (Tim Hardaway Jr., Curry, Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson) isn't good enough to make this a playoff team in the loaded West, no matter how dominant Doncic and Porzingis will be.

    Even though he had little left to offer on the court, Nowitzki soaked up a lot of the media attention last season and was beloved in the locker room. Not having him in a Mavericks uniform for the first time since Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were breaking the single-season home run record in 1998 will just be weird.


    21. Oklahoma City Thunder

    Biggest Adds: Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

    Worst Losses: Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Jerami Grant

    After punting on their George-Westbrook combo, the Thunder stockpiled eight first-round picks and a new face of the franchise with Gilgeous-Alexander.

    Having Paul on board, at least to start the season, is a bit awkward since neither party likely wants to be together. Unless Oklahoma City wants to give up a draft pick or two to dump his remaining three years and $124.1 million, Paul will guide this Thunder team to be a competitive lottery squad in the West.

    Steven Adams (13.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.0 blocks) remains a fan favorite, and Gallinari carries value both with his production (19.8 points, 6.1 rebounds 43.3 three-point percentage) and expiring $22.6 million contract. 

    At some point, OKC can cash in all its gift cards and build a contender once again. But for now, it'll finish with a losing record for the first time since becoming the Thunder in 2008-09.

Playoff Hopefuls

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    20. Minnesota Timberwolves

    Biggest Adds: Jarrett Culver, Jordan Bell

    Worst Losses: Dario Saric, Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, Tyus Jones

    Minnesota sported a playoff-worthy 111.4 offensive rating last season, but a 24th-ranked defense ultimately doomed it.

    Point guard will be thin with the loss of both Rose and Jones, and Shabazz Napier will now fill in behind 31-year-old Jeff Teague. Karl-Anthony Towns (24.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.6 blocks) is good enough to keep Minnesota competitive most nights, but the ceiling of the team will once again be decided by Andrew Wiggins.

    After he shot just 42.5 percent over the past two years, the Wolves need a motivated and efficient Wiggins to even sniff the playoffs.

    Culver will be a good defender in time, and Robert Covington remains one of the NBA's most underrated players on both sides of the ball. Another 35-40-win season should be expected.


    19. Detroit Pistons

    Biggest Adds: Derrick Rose, Tony Snell, Sekou Doumbouya, Joe Johnson

    Worst Losses: Wayne Ellington, Ish Smith

    Detroit had the worst record (41-41) and net rating (minus-0.2) of any playoff team last season, and it should once again struggle to reach the postseason.

    Rose, when healthy, is an upgrade as the team's starting point guard over Reggie Jackson, and a previously weak group of wings is improved with Snell, Doumbouya and Johnson, fresh off his impressive showing in the BIG3.

    The Pistons need a healthy Blake Griffin to have a chance, and his 75 games played last season were the most he's logged in five years. Andre Drummond can become a free agent next summer by declining a $28.8 million player option and should only build on his 17.3-point and league-leading 15.6-rebound 2018-19 campaign.

    With the Miami Heat improving, look for Detroit, Atlanta and the Orlando Magic to battle it out for the final playoff spot in the East.


    18. Orlando Magic

    Biggest Adds: Al-Farouq Aminu

    Worst Losses: None

    The Magic decided to run back a 42-40 playoff team, handing out $154 million to retain All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and small forward Terrence Ross over the next four years. The Aminu signing didn't make a whole lot of sense given how loaded Orlando already was at power forward.

    For Orlando to make any real jump in the standings, it'll need Markelle Fultz to have some sort of impact. If the 21-year-old point guard can give Orlando's lackluster backcourt a jolt, home-court advantage in the East if up for grabs.

    In the end, the Magic may have to shake up this roster to maximize their talent. Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Vucevic, Mo Bamba and Aminu are all worthy of starting frontcourt jobs, and Gordon's growth has already been stunted by playing on the wing instead of at his natural power forward position.

    Unless Fultz can prove he's healthy or some sort of major trade takes place, Orlando won't be much better than its 42 wins last season.


    17. Sacramento Kings

    Biggest Adds: Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon, Cory Joseph

    Worst Losses: Willie Cauley-Stein, Alec Burks

    The first team out of the West playoffs a season ago, Sacramento did the right thing by signing veterans to complement its young core.

    Unfortunately, even that might not be enough in this West. Though the Thunder might fall out of the playoff picture, the Los Angeles Lakers look ready to take their place. The New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves could challenge, as well.

    To reach the postseason, Sacramento needs star-level play from point guard De'Aaron Fox (17.3 points, 7.3 assists, 1.6 steals), power forward Marvin Bagley III (14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.0 blocks) and shooting guard Buddy Hield (20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 42.7 three-point percentage). Harrison Barnes, Bogdan Bogdanovic and the new free-agent signings will have to play big roles, as well.

    The Kings will be good, but too many teams in the Western Conference will be better.


    16. New Orleans Pelicans

    Biggest Adds: Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick, Jaxson Hayes, Derrick Favors, Josh Hart, Nicolo Melli, Nickeil Alexander-Walker

    Worst Losses: Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton

    Go ahead and plug in the Pelicans as your must-watch team on League Pass this season.

    Between Williamson likely winning Rookie of the Year, Ingram turning into a 20-points-per-game scorer and Jrue Holiday and Ball putting the clamps on opposing backcourts, the Pelicans will be as exciting as any team in the NBA.

    Favors should finally thrive in a starting center role, and Hayes is coming off an impressive summer league in which he looked like a future All-Star. Add in a haul of draft picks from the Los Angeles Lakers and this is a team that could still be star-hunting (cough, Bradley Beal, cough) this season.

    While the playoffs are a possibility, this is all about long-term success for executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin and Co. And that's something they should enjoy plenty of.

Postseason Locks

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    15. Toronto Raptors

    Biggest Adds: Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

    Worst Losses: Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green

    Unlike the Cleveland Cavaliers losing LeBron James in 2018, the title-winning Raptors shouldn't collapse with the loss of Leonard.

    This is still a veteran-heavy group with Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka—all players with expiring deals looking to cash in perhaps one last time. There's also a decent amount of youth with Pascal Siakam (25), Fred VanVleet (25) and OG Anunoby (22), who missed the entire title run following an emergency appendectomy.

    Siakam now becomes the Raptors' focal point after averaging 19.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists in the postseason, but he seems more running mate than franchise star.

    The Raptors can point to their 17-5 record without Leonard last season, although that figure slips to 4-5 when playing teams .500 or better. If Toronto stumbles early, Lowry, Gasol and Ibaka may all be on the trade block.


    14. Miami Heat

    Biggest Adds: Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Meyers Leonard

    Worst Losses: Josh Richardson, Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside

    The Heat should be applauded for landing a max free agent despite having no cap space, even if it cost them Richardson and a 2023 first-round pick.

    Butler now becomes the alpha he so desperately desired to be, and he has the talent to back it up. Around him is a strong supporting cast made even better with sharpshooting rookie Herro and Leonard as a backup center.

    Justise Winslow should build on his strong 2018-29 season (12.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists), Goran Dragic (13.7 points, 4.8 assists) is still a quality starter, and Bam Adebayo (11.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.1 blocks as a starter) should thrive without Whiteside.

    After logging heavy minutes on a Tom Thibodeau Chicago Bulls team for much of his 20s, Butler may have to start a load management program of his own now entering his 30s.


    13. Indiana Pacers

    Biggest Adds: Malcolm Brogdon, TJ Warren, Jeremy Lamb, T.J. McConnell

    Worst Losses: Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Wesley Matthews

    The Pacers should only have one returning starter from opening day last season, at least until Victor Oladipo returns around the new year from a quad injury.

    Myles Turner anchors the third-ranked defense in the league with his NBA-high 2.7 blocks per game. He'll likely be joined in the starting lineup by former backup center Domantas Sabonis, who put up 20.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per 36 minutes of play.

    Even while waiting on Oladipo, the combination of Brogdon, Warren and Lamb can carry the scoring load. With Oladipo, the Pacers have four potential All-Stars with plenty of complementary pieces. Home-court advantage is a possibility, even if it takes a while for all the new pieces to settle.


    12. Brooklyn Nets

    Biggest Adds: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince

    Worst Losses: D'Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, Shabazz Napier

    Even if Durant doesn't play a game in 2019-20 following his Achilles injury, this team is deep and talented enough to win a playoff round.

    Irving gets a fresh start as a (temporary) face of a franchise, and he has proven in the past to be a perfect sidekick on a championship team. For all his leadership faults, the 27-year-old point guard should be in the prime of his career following a 23.8-point, 6.9-assist season.

    The team around him is arguably better than last year's Boston Celtics as well. Spencer Dinwiddie (16.8 points, 4.8 assists) should challenge for Sixth Man of the Year, Joe Harris (13.7 points, 47.4 3P%) led the NBA in outside shooting, and Caris LeVert (13.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists) just inked a three-year, $52.5 million extension.

    Mix in the rebounding and rim protection of Jarrett Allen and Jordan, and this is a well-coached Nets team that can no longer sneak up on anyone.


    11. San Antonio Spurs

    Biggest Adds: DeMarre Carroll, Trey Lyles, Keldon Johnson

    Worst Losses: Davis Bertans

    While not technically an addition to the roster, the return of starting point guard Dejounte Murray from an ACL injury should push the Spurs back into 50-win territory.

    While DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge will grab the headlines, San Antonio has quietly assembled one of the NBA's best young backcourts with Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Bryn Forbes and Johnson.

    Even with Gregg Popovich at the helm, this Spurs roster just doesn't carry the star power necessary to win a title.

In the Championship Conversation

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    10. Boston Celtics

    Biggest Adds: Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams

    Worst Losses: Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, Terry Rozier

    While Walker isn't as talented overall as Irving, his personality may fit in better with a young Celtics team. 

    Boston, already with 21-year-old Jayson Tatum and 22-year-old Jaylen Brown, added four rookies in the draft and signed 7'7" undrafted rookie free agent Tacko Fall to an Exhibit 10 contract as well. Boston doesn't have a single rotation player in their 30s, with Gordon Hayward the eldest statesman at 29 years and six months.

    If not for Walker, this could easily be a rebuilding roster, although Tatum (15.7 points, 6.0 rebounds) should take the next step towards stardom in year three. Replacing Horford with Kanter at center could mean a significant slide from Boston's seventh-place defensive finish a year ago.


    9. Portland Trail Blazers

    Biggest Adds: Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver

    Worst Losses: Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Enes Kanter

    After reaching the Western Conference Finals last season, Portland will find an even tougher trail back given all the talent they lost.

    Center Jusuf Nurkic is out indefinitely with a leg injury, meaning Whiteside will be called upon for his low-post scoring and rebounding. His effort was lacking at times in Miami, something that likely won't fly with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

    Lillard made the All-NBA Second Team last season following a 25.8-point, 6.9-assist regular season, and McCollum (21.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists) should be eyeing his first All-Star game.

    Portland is far weaker on the wing without Aminu, Turner and Harkless, but getting Nurkic back in time for the playoffs would still make the team a dangerous out.


    8. Golden State Warriors

    Biggest Adds: D'Angelo Russell, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alec Burks, Jordan Poole

    Worst Losses: Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, DeMarcus Cousins, Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook

    The Warriors won't have Durant, Iguodala or Klay Thompson (recovering from a torn ACL) for most if not all of the 2019-20 season, and they could still get home-court advantage in a loaded West. With Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Russell, the dynasty may not be dead just yet.

    Curry was the league's first unanimous MVP the last time he didn't share a court with Durant, and he'll have all the shots he can handle while Thompson's out.

    The fit next to Russell may be awkward at first, but Curry is certainly more than capable of playing off the ball as needed. If the pairing doesn't work, there should be plenty of trade partners willing to take on a 23-year-old All-Star point guard under contract for the next four years.

    This is the deepest the Warriors have been in the past few years, as Kevon Looney, Cauley-Stein, Burks and Glen Robinson III could all play important roles. Assuming Thompson is back healthy before the start of the postseason, these Warriors should still have title aspirations.


    7. Denver Nuggets

    Biggest Adds: Jerami Grant, Bol Bol

    Worst Losses: Trey Lyles

    While the rest of the Western Conference moved heaven and earth this summer, the Nuggets did exactly what they needed to to stay competitive: nothing.

    Trading what should be a very late first-round pick for Grant gives them a springy backup for Paul Millsap, and Bol was a gamble worth rolling the dice on in the second round. If 2018 lottery pick Michael Porter Jr. can overcome his back issues, his addition will take the place of any big free-agent signings.

    These Nuggets already have one top-10 player in Nikola Jokic, and Jamal Murray could soon be joining him. Denver is still extremely young across the board, and the team has the pieces to pull off a blockbuster trade should the opportunity arise. 

    With a surprisingly good top-10 defense last year, all the Nuggets need is time.


    6. Philadelphia 76ers

    Biggest Adds: Al Horford, Josh Richardson

    Worst Losses: Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick, T.J. McConnell

    Philly has all the makings of an elite defense even after losing Butler in free agency.

    Horford can defend any big you throw at him, and he should help preserve Embiid's body and allow him to play more than his career-high 64 games.

    The trio of Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris (who returns on a five-year, $180 million deal) carried a terrific net rating of plus-14.9 last season in 248 minutes. New shooting guard Josh Richardson improved the Miami Heat by 5.2 points per 100 possessions, contributing to nearly every aspect of the game.

    It may take a while for the new pieces to fit in, and Embiid's health is always a concern, but this remains one of the NBA's most talented teams.

Top Title Contenders

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    5. Los Angeles Lakers

    Biggest Adds: Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Quinn Cook, Jared Dudley

    Worst Losses: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Tyson Chandler

    LeBron James' playoff drought shouldn't last much longer.

    After enjoying two-and-a-half more months of rest than he's accustomed to, James should look fresh, even in year 17. He's quickly rising up a number of the all-time leaderboards, with some records in sight as early as this season.

    Anthony Davis should be playing the best basketball of his career alongside willing passers in James and Rajon Rondo, especially with some of the shooters (Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Troy Daniels) the Lakers picked up as well.

    The rest of the supporting cast (Kyle Kuzma, Howard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee) is good enough to put the Lakers in the title conversation, even if they're not quite at the level of their Staples Center roommates.


    4. Houston Rockets

    Biggest Adds: Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler

    Worst Losses: Chris Paul

    Between his age, injury history and contract, it was clear the Rockets weren't going to win a title with Chris Paul.

    While Westbrook's deal is almost as bad, he's four years younger and should have an immense craving to win after already racking up so many individual awards. The backcourt of MVP winners James Harden and Westbrook will be a nightmare to stop for opposing defenses.

    Harden is the most dominant scoring force in the league right now, and his willingness to include Westbrook in the offense should dictate how far this team actually goes. Their talent comes at a price, though, as the pair own the top-five highest turnover seasons in NBA history.

    Houston once again has a brilliant supporting cast with Clint Capela, PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and now Chandler, giving this team a home-court advantage floor with a championship ceiling.

    If Westbrook is even a near-average outside shooter and Harden shows some semblance of a defensive motor, the Rockets will once again be at the top of the West.


    3. Utah Jazz

    Biggest Adds: Mike Conley Jr., Bojan Bogdanovic, Ed Davis, Jeff Green

    Worst Losses: Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder

    The Jazz had a sparkling net rating of plus-12.8 last year when Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles shared the floor with Ricky Rubio and Jae Crowder. Imagine how good they'll be with Conley and Bogdanovic instead.

    As good as Favors was, he didn't fit as a non-shooting power forward next to Gobert, and Utah needed another consistent scorer outside of Mitchell. They now have three players who can go for 20 on any given night and added one of the league's best defensive and rebounding centers in Davis to back up back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year Gobert.

    The Jazz, the NBA's second-best defensive team and winners of 50 games last season, just upgraded two of their starting positions to near All-Star levels and should challenge for the league's best record overall.


    2. Milwaukee Bucks

    Biggest Adds: Wesley Matthews, Kyle Korver, Robin Lopez

    Worst Losses: Malcolm Brogdon, Nikola Mirotic, Tony Snell

    Milwaukee remains the class of the Eastern Conference and perhaps the only team (Sixers?) that can topple any team that comes out of the West.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo is coming off an MVP season, but it's easy to forget he's still only 24 and has gotten remarkably better each year. This season should be no exception.

    Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and George Hill are back on juicy new deals, and the additions of Robin Lopez, Korver and Matthews bring size, experience and floor spacing.

    Eric Bledsoe (15.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists) remains one of the better defensive guards in the league, but he'll have to exorcise his playoff demons for Milwaukee to win a title.


    1. Los Angeles Clippers

    Biggest Adds: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Maurice Harkless

    Worst Losses: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Garrett Temple

    The Clippers had the best offseason of any NBA team since the Cleveland Cavaliers added LeBron James and Kevin Love in 2014.

    Already posting 48 wins and pushing the Golden State Warriors to six games without Leonard and George, the Clippers now have the star power, depth, coaching and experience to not only make a Finals run, but to be considered the favorites for the 2020 title.

    Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams (20.0 points, 5.4 assists) can help take on the scoring load, Landry Shamet (10.9 points, 45.0 3P%) spaces the floor, and Patrick Beverley helps lead what could be the NBA's No. 1 defense.

    The regular-season record may not be great if George misses time following summer shoulder surgery and Leonard frequently sits out back-to-backs. Chemistry may take a while as well. By April, however, this should be a well-oiled machine that destroys anyone in its path as long as Leonard and George are healthy.


    Greg Swartz covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. All stats via Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.