Many teams improved drastically, while some regressed heavily. For the next few days, a set of rankings will be released and as to why a team deserves that ranking.
And then there were 5. These last 5 teams are the teams with the best chance of winning the NBA Finals this year. Here are the rankings from 5 to 1:
5. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors made a surprising trade, trading away their franchise star Demar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected first round pick for disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard. Leonard immediately makes the Raptors Finals contenders, and have one of the best chance to defeat the Warriors in a 7-game series. Kawhi Leonard is one of the best two-way players in the league and can improve under new head coach Nick Nurse, whom Kawhi Leonard was impressed with. Another player slept on is Danny Green, who has the 3 point range and is a starting caliber SG. Although the loss of DeRozan destroys the chemistry within the team, the Raptors have the chance to bounce back and become the 1 or 2 seed this year.
4. Houston Rockets
The Rockets had an above average offseason, as they resigned their PG Chris Paul to a 4-year extension and C Clint Capela to a 5-year extension. However, they did lose their good defender/shooter in Trevor Ariza and replacing him with Carmelo Anthony, who is a subpar defender and a mediocre shooter. While Anthony isn’t good defensively and has been off-rhythm in the shooting aspect, he is back in his former head coach’s system, Mike D’Antoni, and can play in the same level he used to before on the Knicks. As long as Anthony isn’t a ball-hog like he usually regressed to while he was on the Thunder, the Rockets can continue to give the Warriors a run for their money and possibly defeat them in a 7 game series.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers are once again finally a playoff team, as they will now have the chance to compete for a championship. With the additions of LeBron James, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, and Lance Stephenson, the Lakers have a good chance in advancing to the Finals. Although McGee, Stephenson, and Rondo are all players that aren’t at that superstar level, they can still help teams and can mentor the young ones. Magic Johnson has done a good job this offseason, and won’t be done after this year, as he will be eying other stars in a loaded free agency class next offseason. Expect the Lakers to be in the top 4 seed discussion.
2. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics quietly had a good offseason, resigning their free agents in Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart, as well as adding bench players in Euroleague guard Brad Wanamaker and Robert Williams via the draft to replace Greg Monroe and Shane Larkin. They have their whole team intact and have the best shot to represent the East and defeat the Warriors. Coming off a year where they were minutes shy of advancing to the NBA Finals without 4 of their players, 2 All-Stars, and 2 key bench players, 1 of them injured during the playoffs. Keep an eye on All-Star Gordon Hayward, who is returning from a freak injury that occurred the first 5 minutes of the opening night, as he will look to complement Kyrie’s offensive abilites. Expect the Celtics to improve from next year.
1. Golden State Warriors
Ah, the rich get richer. Still have 4 other All-Stars as well as a Finals MVP coming off the bench, Curry, Klay, Green, Durant, and Iggy, respectively, the Warriors just added arguably the best center in the NBA in Demarcus Cousins to barely the mid-level exception. However, he is not to be blamed, as Cousins received no significant contractual offers from contenders and only got such contracts from bad teams, which he didn’t want to experience once again. Many didn’t want to take a chance, as he tore his Achilles and believe he won’t be the same after a horrific injury like that and his alleged issues in the locker room. It is incorrect to assume that Cousins made a cowardly move, as he himself had barely any good choices. It is also incorrect to assume that the Warriors will once again win the championship this year, as teams in the Eastern Conference always have a chance. However, they do have the best opportunity in coming out of the West and winning the NBA finals for a 3-peat.