Where Simmons, LeBron sit in new NBA
There's a new world order in the NBA. Figuring out that order is another thing.
After Kawhi Leonard picked the Clippers and made it a stunner by ensuring that Paul George joined him there in a trade from the Thunder, the major free-agency sweepstakes are complete. The number of All-Stars changing teams over the past week has turned the NBA into a wide open race.
The league had largely become predictable in recent years. Before the Raptors made the Finals and beat a crippled Golden State team last month, the Warriors and Cavaliers had met in the Finals for four straight years. With the flurry of off-season moves, the only safe bet for the 2019-20 season is that it should be wild.
With the free-agent dust settled - for now, anyway - here's a look at the league's new power rankings:
Doc Rivers' squad made the playoffs last year then landed Leonard and George in one fell swoop to team up with Patrick Beverley and company. It not only stole the momentum from their Los Angeles counterparts, but instantly made them the team to beat.
The team with the NBA's best record last year, before squandering a 2-0 lead over the Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals, will be back with mostly the same crew. They lost Malcolm Brogdon, but MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is still the Greek Freak.
The Lakers waited for Leonard and whiffed, but tried to rebound by scooping up DeMarcus Cousins and Danny Green to join LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma. It's a top-heavy unit that will need to stay healthy to do damage.
They traded away Jimmy Butler but still had a strong off-season - getting back Josh Richardson, re-signing Tobias Harris and sneakily landing Al Horford. Could this be the year they finish The Process with a championship?
They were arguably the biggest surprise in the West last year and fell a game short of the conference finals. They didn't make any off-season splashes, but may not need it.
Though there were reports of trouble in paradise between James Harden and Chris Paul and a potential breakup of the roster, the Rockets will try to weather the storm. Their biggest roadblock, the Warriors, may no longer be in the way.
Coming off a strong season, the Jazz quietly bolstered their line-up behind Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Veteran Mike Conley comes in to run the point while Bojan Bogdanovic will add a threat from deep.
8. Trail Blazers
The back-court of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum is still one of the best in the league. Trading for Kent Bazemore and Hassan Whiteside - a big presence in Jusuf Nurkic's (broken leg) absence - could help.
The dynasty may be left behind in Oracle Arena as they head across the bay, but Golden State still can't be counted out, especially if Klay Thompson (ACL) is able to return late. While Kevin Durant is gone, D'Angelo Russell will arrive to help Stephen Curry carry the load.
This may not have been the roster they envisioned after losing Kyrie Irving and Horford to free agency, but Boston added Kemba Walker, hoping he can fit better with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward.
NOT THIS YEAR
After making the playoffs with a scrappy bunch, the Nets accelerated the rebuilding by adding Irving and Kevin Durant. They'll have to wait a year to get Durant, but should still be in the mix this season.
Trading for Brogdon will help Indiana as it waits for Victor Oladipo to get back from a knee injury. The Pacers had a strong start last year before losing him mid-season, which is when he may return next year.
The defending champs' time atop the NBA took a shot with Leonard deciding not to come back. They still have Kyle Lowry and a surging Pascal Siakam, but a repeat will be tough.
What will they look like when Kristaps Porzingis returns from his ACL tear? They're dreaming about what he can do with Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic, though they still may need another piece.
Coach Gregg Popovich is still here, which means the Spurs always have a shot. When and if Dejounte Murray takes a step forward from the ACL tear that sidelined him last year may decide their fate.
They showed flashes last year of what's to come and now have a new coach, Luke Walton, to lead the way. With Buddy Hield and De'Aaron Fox headlining the rebuilding, they may not be far off from contending.
They snuck into the playoffs last year before getting bounced by the Raptors, but they have stockpiled some interesting young pieces to go with Nikola Vucevic, who re-signed on a max deal.
Despite losing Davis, it's hard to call their off-season a loss when they landed the ultimate prize, Zion Williamson. With a line-up that includes Jrue Holliday and Brandon Ingram, David Griffin has the Pelicans in a good spot now and in the future.
Will Oklahoma City make one last run for it with Russell Westbrook or trade him and go for the full rebuilding with plenty of first-round picks on the way? They could still be fun with Westbrook and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but their plans are to be determined.
Butler took his talents to Miami through a sign-and-trade, but he'll need some more help around him to become a legitimate threat in the East.
They missed out on Russell, which would have made them intriguing, but No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver adds to the young core led by Karl-Anthony Towns. Finding a way to unload Andrew Wiggins' big contract would help.
Though they made the playoffs as the No. 8 seed last year, they haven't done a whole lot to take a step forward. They added veteran Derrick Rose and still have Blake Griffin, but there's work to be done.
This is a team that could make some noise in a few years, but first their young talent will need to develop. There's plenty of it on the roster - including Trae Young, John Collins and recent draft picks De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish.
LONG ROADS AHEAD
After missing out on the top pick and the top free agents, the Knicks tried to make the best of a bad situation by signing a handful of solid free agents, led by Julius Randle. Rookie RJ Barrett has high potential with Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson back for more.
The rebuilding continues. Lauri Markkanen has some young teammates he can grow with - including No. 7 pick Coby White, who could flourish in the back-court alongside Zach LaVine.
With John Wall perhaps out for the entire season after an Achilles injury, the Wizards have some decisions to make - namely whether they trade Bradley Beal and start from scratch.
A few years of being stuck in the lottery could eventually pay off. Devin Booker is a star, but if Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and others can play to their potential, they may have something there.
They have their playmaker of the future in No. 2 pick Ja Morant to go with another bright young player in Jaren Jackson Jr. Filling out a viable rest of the roster will take some work.
John Beilein takes over a young group that hopes to grow behind recent draft picks like Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Kevin Love may be gone before long.
They got punched in the gut when Walker left for Boston. It will be Terry Rozier's show for now, but they have a long way to go.