Summer League is already in the history books, which means the NBA season is right around the corner and most rosters are already set, with just a handful of free agents still waiting to be signed.
Naturally, there are a lot of transactions that take place in this league on a yearly basis. Trades, buyouts, call-ups, etc, and this season won’t be the exception to that rule. However, there are obviously teams that will be on the buying side of those transactions.
Those teams are likely to be the contenders, that’ll be looking to add more firepower towards the half of the season to put together a playoff run, while some tanking teams will like to absorb expiring deals. But, who’s going to be who next year? Let’s break it down:
Championship Favorites – Lakers, Clippers
Obviously, the battle for LA is going to be one for the ages this season after all the movements done by both front offices. With LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins on one side and Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George on the other.
The Clippers are the strongest team in the league, at least in the paper, and have one of the brightest basketball minds as their coach, but LeBron had a full summer to restore his body and the Davis-Cousins frontcourt has already proved his value.
Championship Contenders – Bucks, 76ers, Rockets, Nuggets, Nets
The Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets complete the contending picture in the Western Conference, as both teams are a lock to dominate throughout the regular season and get a top-4 seed en route to the playoffs.
The Bucks, 76ers, and Nets are going to fight until the death on the Eastern Conference since day one, and the playoff picture in the East is looking incredibly competitive for the first time in a decade.
Playoff Locks – Trail Blazers, Celtics, Raptors, Jazz, Pacers, Warriors
The Blazers, Celtics, Raptors, Jazz, Pacers, and Warriors have more than enough on their roster to at least make the playoffs, but with all of the competition, at least one of them is going to let us all down.
The Celtics, Blazers, and Jazz could also climb the ladder and become Championship contenders by adding a couple of more pieces, while the Warriors, Raptors, and Pacers will try and prove their doubters wrong.
Playoff Contenders – Heat, Kings, Spurs, Pistons, Pelicans
The Miami Heat is reportedly orchestrating a move to get Chris Paul next to Jimmy Butler, and that would be more than enough to get them to the playoffs. The Pistons could be much better with Derrick Rose this season, assuming he’s healthy.
The Spurs will have Dejounte Murray back but they still lack a true superstar that can take them back to contention. As for the Pelicans, and Kings, they have enough talent to put together a nice run and make it to the playoffs with two of the most entertaining young cores in the league.
Sleepers – Bulls, Hawks, Suns, Magic, Mavericks
Talking about young cores, all of the teams have done an outstanding job rebuilding but still putting themselves in a position to make a playoff run, like the Orlando Magic did the prior campaign.
The Bulls, Hawks, Suns, and Mavericks should be all better this season with the moves the teams have done throughout the offseason, and it wouldn’t be crazy to think they might as well upset a contending team en route to a playoff spot.
Tanking Teams – Knicks, Grizzlies, Thunder, Cavaliers, Wizards, Hornets, Timberwolves
And finally, we found the non-contending teams at the bottom of the pyramid, all those franchises that have absolutely no reason to try and win games next season and are already planning ahead to the NBA Draft.
The Knicks struck out during free agency, while the Cavaliers and Grizzlies will try and develop their young cores. The Hornets just don’t have enough talent to make the playoffs without Kemba Walker, while the Wizards won’t be going anywhere without John Wall. As for the Thunder, they’re a lock to move Chris Paul and continue to pile up 1st round picks.