The NBA is sure to be a cannot miss event during the 2018-19 season. There have been a lot of changes that have taken place during the whole off-season that have had heads turned. LeBron James will be dawning the purple and gold colors this season as he signed a four year deal in the off-season with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Boston Celtics are also looking to take the next step in their championship contention with the return of arguably their two best players, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. There were also smaller signings that took place during the off-season such as Carmelo Anthony signing with the Rockets and the Lakers signing veterans like Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley, JaVale McGee, and others to support LeBron and the young core forming in Los Angeles.
With all of the moving pieces, what will happen in the league this year? Of course, the Celtics are the favorite in the East with the Raptors and 76ers clipping at their heels. The West looks to have the Warriors going back to the Finals for the fifth straight year with the Rockets, Pelicans, and maybe even the Lakers getting into the mix of trying to knock them off. Who are the teams that can immediately win a championship? Who are some that could fall just short? Who are some of the teams that have miles to go? Let's examine that right now! Here are five NBA teams that can reach the finals within three years, five who won't and 10 that will remain bottom feeders in the NBA.
20 Bottom Feeder: Phoenix Suns
One of the bottom feeder teams that will continue to be bottom feeders for a few more years was Phoenix Suns. The Suns finished last in the Western Conference with a 21-61 record last season. Unfortunately, they will be without the services of star guard Devin Booker for the seasons. They have a great young core with Booker, Dragan Bender, Josh Jackson, and recent number one overall pick Deandre Ayton in the fold.
The West has become even more stacked since LeBron came over, which will make the road to a championship even more difficult than it originally was for Phoenix.
Sorry Phoenix fans, it will probably be awhile before another championship run comes all together.
19 Bottom Feeder: Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland had their run of dominance, but now they will be back at the bottom. The Cleveland Cavaliers are a team that went to the NBA Finals four years in a row with LeBron James leading the way. Now, LeBron is in L.A. and that is a huge hole that needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, the Cavs do not have anybody that can match James's production. They still have Kevin Love who is an All-Star, but he is not the type of player that can carry a team to the promise land. But, Cavs fans have been through this stage of life before.
18 Won't Win: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves are a team that fall short of expectations every year. They have the pieces in place right now. They have a star in Karl-Anthony Towns that they recently signed to a huge extension, which will keep him around for the long term. They have Andrew Wiggins that can be an elite defender and make things happen offensively. Then of course, there is the drama with Jimmy Butler.
Butler wants a trade out of Minnesota which is obviously causing friction in the organization. Even with Butler, the Timberwolves have a tough enough time beating teams like the Trail Blazers and Pelicans, forget about the Warriors and the Lakers.
17 Can Reach: Golden State Warriors
This pick seems like a "no duh" sort of pick for winning a championship within the next three years. The Golden State Warriors have everything already, championships, star players, and an elite head coach. They also had the luxury of adding center DeMarcus Cousins into the fold on a one year contract.
The Warriors basically have a super team filled with five players that would be number one options on a majority of other NBA teams.
The Warriors have the best team in the West and should be able to walk into the NBA Finals for another year or two. Will they win? Probably, unless the Celtics have other thoughts.
16 Bottom Feeder: Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls once had some players to work around with Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo. Those days have passed and now they are trying to re-find their identity like they did in the old days when Michael Jordan and company were around. They have a few guys like Zach LaVine and newly acquired Jabari Parker to hopefully lead the way into a new generation of Chicago Bulls basketball. They have to deal with teams like the Celtics, Raptors, and 76ers just to get out of the East. The Bulls need to be able to draft well in the next upcoming seasons if they want to get out of the bottom feeder team category.
15 Bottom Feeder: Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks will unfortunately be a bottom dweller team once again this season. They finished with a 24-58 record and seem to be trying to alternate between having veterans and letting the youth take over fully. Dirk Nowitzki is pushing 40 years old which means guys like Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. will have to lead the way at a young age. The Mavericks also have guys like Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes in the fold that are not carrying their load to help the Mavericks in a very competitive Western Conference. The Dallas Mavericks will be a bottom feeder team at least for the next few years to come.
14 Won't Reach: Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors made a bold move in moving franchise player DeMar DeRozan out of town and brought in Kawhi Leonard, who is a top five player in the NBA, but is also unlikely to re-sign in Toronto next summer.
The Raptors don't have LeBron to worry about anymore in the East, but they still have the stacked Celtics and the emerging 76ers to worry about.
Odds are the Sixers and Celtics will be trading Finals appearances for the next few years and if Kawhi doesn't stay in Toronto, their window will close very quickly .
13 Can Reach: Houston Rockets
One team that can win it all right now, or within the next three years is the Houston Rockets. The Rockets have the same impact players that they had last year with the addition of Carmelo Anthony to come off the bench. The Rockets were in a situation last year where they were up 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors. If Chris Paul was not out with an ankle injury, then they could have potentially met Cleveland in the Finals. The Rockets have the pieces in place. If they can knock off the Warriors, a potential title could be coming back to Houston since the days of Olajuwon, Drexler, and company.
12 Bottom Feeder: Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings are another team that will be depending on their youth for years to come. Ever since they traded star center DeMarcus Cousins, they are trying to go with their youth movement with guys like De'Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III, and others to get the Kings in a winning position for a number of years. Right now, they are not at their prominence and won't be for quite some time. Vlade Divac will hopefully have a plan to add some veteran pieces to their youth movement mix. Otherwise, they will continue to be a bottom feeder team in the Western Conference for awhile.
11 Bottom Feeder: Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks finished last in the Eastern Conference last year. The Hawks have added a guy in Trae Young who was a big commodity last year at Ohio State University. The Hawks a few years ago were a team that was competing for a chance at the Eastern Conference Finals.
Now, they are looking to get out of the basement. Unfortunately, the Hawks do not look like they will be out for a long time. T
he Hawks will need time to develop their young star in Young. They will also have to deal with teams like Boston and Philly for many years to come.
10 Won't Reach: Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards are at a very competitive balance in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, they are just not quite good enough to win in the Eastern Conference. They have a talented back court with John Wall and Bradley Beal leading the way. But the problem is that they do not have much else to help out. The Wizards need to add some pieces in the front court that can help them balance out having to have Wall and Beal do the work a majority of the time. Bottom line is, the Wizards just do not have enough overall talent to win a championship within the next three years or so.
9 Can Reach: Philadelphia 76ers
One team that a lot of people are saying can even maybe defeat the Celtics this year comes from the city of brotherly love. The Philadelphia 76ers are a young, talented group that made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals this past season, only to lose to the Celtics in five games.
The 76ers have a young nucleus of Markelle Fultz, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons that seems to be staying in tact for years to come.
With guys like Robert Covington and J.J. Reddick rounding out the lineup, the 76ers do have a tough team to go against. Watch out for the 76ers now and for years to come!
8 Bottom Feeder: Detroit Pistons
This one might come as a surprise to a lot of people. The Pistons had a stretch at the beginning of the 2017-18 season where they looked to be a formidable foe in the Eastern Conference. They ended up missing out on a playoff spot and now have a lot of questions within this organization. Will Blake Griffin be an All-Star like he was with the Clippers? Will Griffin and Andre Drummond be able to share the ball down low? Will Reggie Jackson take another step forward in his progression? How good will somebody like Luke Kennard be? The Pistons have a lot of questions to answer to get out of being bottom feeders.
7 Bottom Feeder: Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets are still struggling to find their identity and find themselves with a core to bring them closer to playoff contention. The Nets thought they hit the gold mine when they acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Celtics way back in 2012. However, they ended up giving up many first round picks and the Celtics are still reaping the benefits of that trade.
The Nets have guys like D'Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor and others in the mix. But, they have not had the coaching and surrounding talent to bring them to even the eighth playoff spot. It's tough right now to be a Nets fan.
6 Won't Reach: Oklahoma City Thunder
One team that just seems to have bad luck is the Oklahoma City Thunder. They had a big three last year to work off of with Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. Anthony, like mentioned earlier, is now with the Rockets.
George signed with the Thunder long term and looks to be alongside Westbrook for years to come.
However, it does not look like that will be enough to win the West. The West is more competitive and now, and the Thunder have to deal with LeBron as another obstacle to get to the Finals. Tough times are ahead for Westbrook, George, and company.
5 Can Reach: Los Angeles Lakers
Of course, the Los Angeles Lakers will be looked at to do some major damage within the next four years. Obviously, they signed one of, if not, the best player in the NBA in LeBron James. However, it is their talent outside of LeBron that is very interesting. Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball look to make jumps in their second seasons. Brandon Ingram is also another guy to look out for this season as well.
Obviously, they have some other veterans like Rondo and Lance Stephenson. The bottom line is LeBron is LeBron and is fully capable of carrying the Lakers to a Finals appearance. Once LeBron lures another big name to L.A., the Lakers will be a true contender.
4 Bottom Feeder: New York Knicks
Next offseason is going to be a make or break summer for the New York Knicks. The Knicks have not had a lot go right for them with players, coaches, or their organization in general. The Knicks will be without Kristaps Porzingis for a while as he is recovering from a leg injury. The Knicks do have the money available to sign a few big name free agents next summer. But the question is...who is going to sign with them? They do not have much other talent around them and they have been a bottom feeder team for a few years now. The Knicks better pray they can get a Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler combination in some fashion.
3 Bottom Feeder: Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic last season were the second worst team in the Eastern Conference with a 25-57 record. They have a developing forward in Aaron Gordon and then nothing much else with them. Arron Afflalo and Evan Fournier help very little and the Magic do not seem to have good luck with their draft picks.
The Magic have a long way to go to be able to get out of the lower tier level of teams that compete in the already weaker Eastern Conference.
Maybe guys like Jonathan Issac and Justin Jackson can take the next step up. If they don't, it will be another disappointing season for the Orlando Magic.
2 Won't Reach: Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers were a fun team to watch last season. They were not one of the most talented teams on paper. But, they were tough, well-coached, and were led by an up and coming star in Victor Oladipo. The Pacers made some noise last year, but they unfortunately will not be winning a championship anytime soon. The East will be run by Boston and Philadelphia for years to come with their young cores coming into play. The Pacers will more than likely be a playoff team again, but probably will not go far. Then again, they could surprise people again like they did last year against LeBron and Cleveland.
1 Can Reach: Boston Celtics
One of the premier teams in the NBA right now has to be the Boston Celtics. The Celtics have everything going for them. They have one of the best general managers in the game in Danny Ainge. They also have a phenomenal head coach in Brad Stevens. They return Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injuries last season. They have youth in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They have depth pieces in Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart.
With LeBron out of Cleveland, the Celtics are the clear favorites to win the East and go to the Finals to tilt with the Warriors. Could they beat the Warriors this year? That is a whole different story.