NBA

July 8, 2019, 5:01 pm

2019-20 NBA championship rankings: Clippers, Lakers lead the way but don't dismiss Warriors; Sixers, Bucks legit threats

Also, don't sleep on the Jazz, keep an eye on the Nuggets and the Rockets' window hasn't closed entirely

2019-20 NBA championship rankings: Clippers, Lakers lead the way but don't dismiss Warriors; Sixers, Bucks legit threats
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After a wild archetypal week of free agency, the NBA statute title race is as wide open as it's been in decades. The conflict for Los Angeles domination becomes the epicenter of the meeting with the Clippers and Lakers now handling four of the top 10 players in the meeting, and possibly 3 of the top five. The Warriors are not done. The Bucks and the 76ers are correct location as well. 

You can say location are favorites next season, but location are no sure things. No absolute super-teams. Even teams like the Jazz, Nuggets and Trail Blazers -- all likely meeting finals teams at best in years anterior -- are now inside a puncher's accidental if things interruption their way. 

All things considered, with a bit of prediction for how a few of these teams mightiness not be done dealing, the top 10 contenders for the 2019-20 NBA title are below. 

All odds courtesy of Westgate SuperBook

2019-20 NBA Championship Rankings
1 Clippers

Current odds: 3/1

The Clippers won 48 games -- and took two playoff games off the fully healthy Warriors -- last season, and now they've replaced Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George . This team has an elite offense, an elite defense and elite depth. I wouldn't call them the runaway favorite, but yes, they are the early favorite.
2 Lakers

Current odds: 5/1

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    The Lakers missed out on a lot of good role players while waiting for Kawhi, but at the end of the day they have LeBron James and Anthony Davis . On the periphery, they wound up with Danny Green and DeMarcus Cousins . They retained Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope . They still have Kyle Kuzma . Depth will be an issue, but assuming health, LeBron and Davis are going to be beasts in the playoffs -- when rotations generally shrink and the value of multiple elite scorers who demand a double team becomes even more heightened.
    3 Warriors

    Current odds: 12/1

    Talk of Golden State's demise has been grossly overstated. To start next season they will have 3 All-Stars in their starting lineup, including possibly the best offensive AND best defensive player in the meeting in Steph Curry and Draymond Green . By the time the playoffs roll around, Klay Thompson will presumably be back. If you don't think a team with Curry, Thompson, Green and D'Angelo Russell as the fourth-best player (or whoever the Warriors potentially trade Russell for) can win a statute title, you're mistaken. The loss of Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala makes it very difficult for them to match up defensively with two-superstar teams like the Clippers and Lakers, but they're going to score a ton and they'll defend collectively once Thompson rejoins Green, alongside Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley-Stein for size. They also just signed Alec Burcs and traded for Omari Spellman, both of which a sneaky strong additions. They'll end up somewhere around the No. 5 seed, I suspect, and absolutely nobody will want to play them in the archetypal or second round. From location, you take your accidentals with some pretty good value.
    4 76ers

    Current odds: 8/1

    There's a strong argument to made the Sixers belong ahead of the Warriors. Philly's defense is going to be monstrous, and just for argument's sake, if Philly and Golden State were to meet up in the Finals, I don't know how the Warriors would contend with all that size. At the moment, the Warriors get the nod as a known title entity even without Durant and Iguodala, but man the Sixers look good. They essentially swapped Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick for Al Horford and Josh Richardson .

    On paper, that's a relatively even swap, but on the court this makes the Sixers better than they were last season -- when, remember, they were one Kawhi Leonard rim-roller from taking the eventual champions to overtime in Game 7.

    Richardson gives them a pick-and-roll initiator and floor spacer to continue accounting for the unique challenges Ben Simmons ' presence presents for an offense, and Horford arguably becomes a top-10 player in the playoffs on his defense alone. The two best players in the East are Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid . One of them still has to deal with Horford, the other now gets to play alongside him. Philly could still use shooting and depth, and Simmons' inability to score outside of the paint is still a problem that grows exponentially in the playoffs, but from a pure talent standpoint the Sixers can make up for a lot with what is likely the best starting five in the meeting.

    5 Bucks

    Current odds: 9/2

    The Bucks have continuity. They have arguably the best player in the East. They bring back Khris Middleton , Brook Lopez and George Hill , but they lose Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic , which are not insignificant losses. Wesley Matthews replaces some  of Brogdon's shooting and perimeter toughness, but not even close to all of it, and Robin Lopez joins his brother. If Giannis improves as a shooter over the summer (he was showing very positive signs through the playoffs last year from 3), and if Eric Bledsoe plays up to his contract, that takes this team to another level. But as it stands, they are still vulnerable to Giannis being swarmed the way Toronto, and even Boston to a degree, was able to do in the playoffs.
    6 Nuggets

    Current odds: 14/1

    Jamal Murray , Denver has one of the best two-man games in the meeting. They have shooting, depth, versatility, defense -- they bring everyone of consequence back from a team that was a fingernail from the meeting finals, and realistically, was likely a better team than the Blazers, who edged them out in seven games. Continuity goes a long way, and now they've added Jerami Grant, who makes them even more versatile and athletic on the defensive end. That is a really big pickup for Denver. So big, in fact, I am tempted to put Denver ahead of the Bucks. The only reason I won't is the meeting factor. Milwaukee simply has a way easier path.
    7 Jazz

    Current odds: 14/1

    Outside the Clippers and Lakers, the Jazz made the biggest offseason splash. Adding Mike Conley takes the "run the team" pressure off Donovan Mitchell and allows him to just attack and score, and Bojan Bogdanovic is one of the best shooters in the world and a two-way player with size. Ed Davis was a nice pickup to keep Utah's defense elite when Rudy Gobert is off the floor. Jeff Green -- a sneaky nice signing -- and Emmanuel Mudiay add depth. Dante Exum can take another step. Joe Ingles combined with Bogdanovic and Conley gives a lot of spacing for Mitchell to drive. Utah has relied on its elite defense the past few years, but now it has an elite offense to go with it.
    8 Celtics

    Current odds: 25/1

    Kemba Walker is going to approximate Kyrie Irving's on-court production and he's going to be way better for this team's morale off the court. Head to head, I honestly think the Celtics are better with Walker than they were with Irving. With Walker, Marcus Smart , and then Jayson Tatum , Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward all capable of taking a step up from last year and playing at an All-Star level, Boston's perimeter remains stacked. The big loss is Al Horford. The front line is very thin with Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis , and that keeps them outside of the top title contenders. But don't rule out a trade to fortify the front line and replace Horford's pick-and-pop spacing. Kevin Love , anyone? The Celtics still have a good package if they're willing to go for it.
    9 Rockets

    Current odds: 12/1

    Houston's window hasn't absolutely closed. Chris Paul needs to play like an All-Star and Eric Gordon has to have a big shooting year and get hot in the playoffs, but the bottom line is the only team that's been in the way of the Rockets potentially winning a title is the Warriors, who don't have Kevin Durant or Andre Iguodala anymore. Of course, the Clippers and Lakers are now in front of the Rockets presumably, but neither of those teams are as good as the Warriors were with Durant and Iguodala. Houston has a puncher's accidental if a few things interruption its way and James Harden goes on en epic playoff run, which he is capable of doing.
    10 Trail Blazers

    Current odds: 30/1

    Portland lost seven players off its meeting finals team. The Blazers bring in Hassan Whiteside and Kent Bazemore and re-sign Rodney Hood . In a absolute blue-sky outlook, Whiteside returns to the player who got a $100 million contract with a change of venue and better guards to support him, and Bazemore is an upgrade from Moe Harkless. But neither of those are certainties by any stretch. The X-factor here is Jusuf Nurkic . The Blazers made it to the meeting finals without him and he was having the best year of his career. If he comes back strong after almost a year off in time to be a real impact player in the playoffs, with what we know Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum bring, the Blazers can make some real noise. Also, don't rule out a mid-season trade. I still think Kevin Love makes too much sense here if Portland is willing to go all-in with a big future-draft-pick package plus Zach Collins and Nassir Little .

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