With the Piston's season underway tonight, here are our first NBA Power Rankings of the season:
30. Cleveland Cavilers – The Cavaliers have a first-year head coach (John Beilein), and there were no improvements made via free agency during the summer. Darius Garland/Collin Sexton back court will need time to work. Expect the Cavs to compete for the number one overall pick in next year's draft.
29. Charlotte Hornets – Kemba Walker's departure will be too much to overcome. They also lost Jeremy Lamb to the Pacers this off-season. Charlotte should also be competing for the number one overall draft pick along with the Cavs barring any major changes.
28. Memphis Grizzlies – Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. will be a nice one-two punch for years to come, Memphis still in rebuild mode this season after losing veteran point guard Mike Conley this off-season.
27. New York Knicks – Struck out during the off-season, but drafting RJ Barrett and signing Julius Randle is a step in the right direction. Mitchell Robinson has the potential to be a force on defense if he can cut back on the fouls.
26. Chicago Bulls – A young nucleus of Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and Coby White makes this an interesting team to watch. Bulls added veteran Thaddeus Young this off-season via free agency.
25. Washington Wizards – John Wall is still injured, and Bradley Beal could be traded. No reliable second option behind Beal.
24. Atlanta Hawks – Trae Young and John Collins will look to build more chemistry this upcoming season. Those young stars will be fun to watch along with fellow first-round picks Cam Reddish and De'Andre Hunter.
23. Phoenix Suns – Devin Booker has a chance to be an all-star this season. Deandre Ayton is looking to build off of a solid rookie season. Suns were able to acquire Monty Williams for their head coach vacancy.
22. Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl Anthony Towns is still improving, and that’s scary for the league.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Losing Russell Westbrook and Paul George is a huge blow to the team. The draft picks they were able to acquire will help them out in the long run but it won’t save them for what’s to come this season. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chris Paul, and Steven Adams will lead the charge this season, assuming Chris Paul isn't traded by the trade deadline.
20. New Orleans Pelicans – Would be higher on the list, but this summer's top overall draft pick Zion Williamson is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. Jrue Holiday and company will have their hands full in the meantime.
19. Detroit Pistons – Off-season acquisitions Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris add depth behind All-Stars Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. Blake is dealing with a hamstring and knee injury and will be out through the first week of November. Keeping Blake healthy will be important if the Pistons plan to make it back to the playoffs.
18. Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III all have a serious upside. It may take time for it to all come together, but this team will be fighting for a playoff spot into April.
17. Dallas Mavericks – If Kristaps Porziņģis can stay healthy, this team has serious first-round upset potential. Reigning rookie of the year Luka Dončić has a good chance to be an All-Star his second season in.
16. San Antonio Spurs – DeJounte Murray is healthy again. Even in a loaded Western Conference, the Spurs will be in the playoff mix as long as Gregg Popovich remains their coach.
15. Miami Heat – Signing Jimmy Butler to a team that barely missed the playoffs bodes well for the Miami Heat. If Bam Adebayo has the breakout year some are expecting, then Miami can be a scary team to face in the first round of the playoffs.
14. Indiana Pacers – Victor Oladipo is still on the shelf due to an injury he suffered last season, but he is expected to rejoin the team later on this season. Myles Turner will keep the team afloat while VO is missing in action.
13. Orlando Magic – The Orlando Magic went from winning 25 games during the 2017-18 season to winning 42 games and taking a game from the current NBA Champions in the first round of the playoffs last season. All without their prized first-round pick Mohamed Bamba. This year Bamba will return along with former number one overall pick Markelle Fultz. Orlando’s arrow is pointing up.
12. Brooklyn Nets – The Nets lost D'Angelo Russell to the Warriors this off-season, but gained Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan during free agency. They signed Kevin Durant, but he is not expected to play this season due to suffering a torn achilles tendon during the NBA finals. Caris LeVert (if he can stay healthy) should take another leap forward this upcoming season.
11. Boston Celtics – Losing Kyrie Irving was tough, but the Celtics were able to recover quickly by signing Kemba Walker in the off-season. Losing Al Horford may have hurt this team's chances of making it to the Eastern Conference Finals, with Philly getting stronger and Milwaukee keeping their core together. Jayson Tatum is expected to take a big leap this upcoming season and should help the team make it beyond the first round of next year's playoffs.
10. Golden State Warriors – Kevin Durant left to join the Nets and Klay Thompson is nursing a torn ACL. Stephen Curry could return to MVP form this season. D'Angelo Russell joined the team via free agency and should be able to contribute right away. The Warriors are not the heavy favorites to win it all this time, but the team is still expected to make it back to the postseason.
9. Toronto Raptors – The Raptors were 17-5 last season when Kawhi Leonard sat out of games. The Raptors will still be in the mix once April comes around, but face an uphill battle to make it beyond the first round in the Eastern Conference. If last night's game is any indication, they intend to rise to the challenge.
8. Portland Trailblazers – Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum form (arguably) the best backcourt in the NBA. They also signed former Heat center Hassan Whiteside to fill in for injured center Jusuf Nurkić. They are coming off a tough loss to the Warriors in last season’s Western Conference Finals, and will be looking for redemption this season.
7. Utah Jazz – Do not sleep on Utah. The Jazz were able to sign Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanvic during the off-season, adding to a team that already included All-Star center Rudy Gobert and rising star Donovan Mitchell. Could make it to the Western Conference Finals if everything goes well.
6. Houston Rockets – Houston had a busy summer, adding Russell Westbrook to their roster. The Rockets now have two former MVPs on their roster. They played together during their time in OKC, but will they be able to pick up where things left off before they both became superstars?
5. Los Angeles Clippers – The Clippers had a busy summer as well, trading for All-Star Paul George, and winning the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes during the off-season. Paul George is currently nursing an injured shoulder, but he should be able to return before the end of the year. The Clippers are expected to compete for a trip to the NBA Finals, and if last night's game with the Lakers proved anything, it is that the Clippers are for real.
4. Philadelphia 76ers – Philly is coming off a tough loss to the Toronto Raptors during the second round of last season’s playoffs. Even after losing Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick, they were able to recover by adding Josh Richardson and Al Horford. This team is hungry after last season's defeat to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors and is an early favorite by some to make it to the NBA Finals.
3. Denver Nuggets – Nikola Jokić should be a household name by now. The Nuggets added Jerami Grant this off-season and will have their 2018 first-round pick Michael Porter Jr. with them when the season starts. Not losing any key players, the Nuggets look to build on their success from the following season.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – The Lakers were able to pair up Anthony Davis with LeBron James this off-season in a blockbuster trade. They will be competing for a title as early as this season as long as everyone can stay healthy. They suffered a loss last night to the Clippers, but should be able to bounce back nicely. LeBron is no stranger to slow starts in his career.
1. Milwaukee Bucks – The Bucks are coming off a 60 win season, Giannis Antetokounmpo winning MVP, and making it to the Eastern Conference Finals. They were able to keep Kris Middleton and Brook Lopez this off-season. The Bucks have a solid rotation and will be competing for a trip to the NBA final’s this season. The Bucks have a solid chance to win it all this year.