As we mentioned in Part 1 of this series, we will be previewing the NBA season by ranking the clubs in reverse order and revealing those clubs two at a time. Here’s what those rankings look like at this point:
30. Atlanta Hawks
29. Sacramento Kings
28. Orlando Magic
27. Phoenix Suns
26. Chicago Bulls
25. New York Knicks
24. Brooklyn Nets
23. Charlotte Hornets
22. Memphis Grizzlies
21. Dallas Mavericks
Here are the next two clubs:
20. Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Season: 50-32 (0.610) (1st in Central Division, 4th in Eastern Conference)
Head Coach: Tyronn Lue (4th season with team, 128-77 team; 128-77 overall)
Major Off-season Acquisitions: Collin Sexton (8th pick), Sam Dekker, Channing Frye
Major Off-season Departures: LeBron James, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon
Salary Cap Info: $115.7 million ($20.5M over cap, $8.0M luxury tax space available)
Narrative: The Cavaliers have made three straight NBA Finals, and even have a title during that time. So why are they in these rankings as the first Eastern Conference team outside of the playoffs? Umm… it probably has something to do with LeBron James joining the Lakers. Just a guess.
Luckily, the East remains the “lessor” conference, and somewhere around 40 wins might be enough to sneak back in the playoffs for a team that has the experience that the remaining Cavs have. Collin Sexton played in a game last season where he had to play 3 on 5 and almost single-handedly led the team to victory. Maybe the Cavs surprise this year and don’t fall completely off the map? No clue.
19. Los Angeles Clippers
Last Season: 42-40 (0.512) (2nd in Pacific Division, 10th in Western Conference)
Head Coach: Doc Rivers (6th season with team, 259-151 team; 846-624 overall)
Major Off-season Acquisitions: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11th pick), Jerome Robinson (13th pick), Marcin Gortat (trade with Wizards), Mike Scott, Luc Mbah a Moute
Major Off-season Departures: Austin Rivers (trade with Wizards), Sam Dekker, DeAndre Jordan
Salary Cap Info: $120.5 million ($18.6M over cap, $3.1M luxury tax space available)
Narrative: The Clippers are in the 11th spot (in the West) in these rankings, but they will probably still compete for one of the last seeds out west for most of the season, much like they did last season. They did lose two defensive stalwarts, and picked up another, and the two draft picks are sure to help the club – or become options in a trade for disgruntled Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler, who wants to play for the Clippers.
Doc Rivers has won a title before, but those days might be behind him, at least with this team, as well as during the current reign of the Warriors. Rumors have persisted that he could be in his last season, but they’ve also been saying that for the past few years too. Maybe another season outside of playoffs will mean the end of his tenure in Los Angeles, or a trip to the playoffs will give him another season-long reprieve from playing golf full-time.
Until next time…
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