NBA: LA Clippers top 2020 power rankings, Hornets bring up rear

Tom Musick, Field Level Media via Reuters

Posted at Oct 23 2019 12:11 PM

LA Clippers guard Lou Williams (23) is defended by Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) at Staples Center. Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Finally, basketball is back.

A flurry of offseason activity left NBA observers buzzing about the possibilities heading into the 2019-20 campaign. At least a handful of teams (or is it six, or eight, or maybe 10?) can make a good case for making a championship run this spring.

Yes, a few franchises remain in rebuilding mode and will be lucky to win 30 games -- hi there, Hornets, Knicks -- but increased talent and improved parity across the league should make for a compelling season. 

Here is an educated guess at the power rankings as the opening tipoff approaches.

No. 30: Charlotte Hornets

A lack of star power plus a lack of quality depth equals a good shot at the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft for the Hornets.

No. 29: Washington Wizards

The Wizards wisely signed Bradley Beal to a contract extension, but he is the only star on what otherwise is a very thin roster.

No. 28: Cleveland Cavaliers

John Beilein made the jump to the NBA, but he has a serious rebuilding project on his hands with the Cavaliers.

No. 27: Memphis Grizzlies

Ja Morant was electrifying in college, and Jaren Jackson is a real threat, but this could be a long season in Memphis.

No. 26: New York Knicks

R.J. Barrett looks to make a big splash as a rookie for the Knicks, who will be better but likely will fall into the lottery yet again.

No. 25: Atlanta Hawks

Trae Young can score from anywhere, but the Hawks might not have a deep enough roster to compete for an 82-game regular season.

No. 24: Phoenix Suns

Ricky Rubio and Devin Booker comprise an intriguing backcourt, and Deandre Ayton figures to be even better in his second season.

No. 23: Detroit Pistons

There is plenty of parity in the league, and the Pistons certainly are in the playoff mix, but can they count on Blake Griffin's health?

No. 22: Sacramento Kings

The young trio of De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III provide excitement to what has long been a sleepy franchise.

No. 21: Chicago Bulls

The Bulls are climbing again -- finally -- thanks to some smart acquisitions and the continued development of a young roster.

No. 20: Oklahoma City Thunder

All eyes will be on Chris Paul in Oklahoma City, where a boom-or-bust season could be on the way.

No. 19: Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns provides star power, and Andrew Wiggins can fill up the basket, but Minnesota never seems to put it all together.

No. 18: Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic and the Magic are getting better, which is great news for their fans, but they aren't a finished product quite yet.

No. 17: Indiana Pacers

The middle-of-the-country, middle-of-the-road Pacers added Malcolm Brogdon to a group that includes Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.

No. 16: New Orleans Pelicans

Top draft pick Zion Williamson is a monster and joins a talented group, but a knee injury already has delayed his regular-season debut.

No. 15: Dallas Mavericks

The duo of Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic will be fun, but do they have enough help to put the Mavericks over the hump?

No. 14: Miami Heat

The Heat are trending upward with Jimmy Butler joining a rejuvenated lineup that includes Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow.

No. 13: San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs certainly do not have the most talent in the league, but nobody gets more out of his roster than Gregg Popovich.

No. 12: Brooklyn Nets

Kevin Durant might not play this season, but the Nets still have a formidable team with Kyrie Irving, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and others.

No. 11: Boston Celtics

Kyrie Irving is out, Kemba Walker is in as the Celtics look to make a deep playoff run in the Eastern Conference.

No. 10: Portland Trail Blazers

The backcourt combination of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum -- plus the addition of big man Hassan Whiteside -- makes for a fun squad.

No. 9: Toronto Raptors

What's-his-name is gone (his name is Kawhi Leonard), but the Raptors retain a capable group of starters led by Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.

No. 8: Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are very solid, if not elite, and Nikola Jokic leads an established roster that could pile up a bunch of regular-season wins.

No. 7: Utah Jazz

Utah had a sneaky-good offseason, adding Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic to join star playmaker Donovan Mitchell.

No. 6: Golden State Warriors

Maybe this is too high for some, but Stephen Curry alone can carry Golden State on many nights and D'Angelo Russell is no slouch as a Klay Thompson stand-in.

No. 5: Philadelphia 76ers

If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, he gives the 76ers (who lost Jimmy Butler but added Al Horford) a legitimate chance to get past the Bucks and into the NBA Finals.

No. 4: Los Angeles Lakers

Yes, LeBron James will turn 35 years old this season, but it would be foolish to count him out of the title hunt -- especially now that he has a second superstar on the team in big man Anthony Davis.

No. 3: Houston Rockets

If Russell Westbrook and James Harden can figure out how to share the spotlight and play without the ball in their hands, the Rockets will be a dangerous title contender.

No. 2: Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo is an absolute star, and he could lift the Bucks to a championship this season along with a starting lineup that includes Eric Bledsoe, Wesley Matthews, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez.

No. 1: Los Angeles Clippers

Kawhi Leonard wins championships everywhere he goes, and Paul George is the best No. 2 player in the league, but it's the Clippers' depth that could put them over the top for the title.

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