The 2019-20 season is underway that has brought forth plenty of excitement and buzz around the league. It has also further ramped up talk about early predictions for teams that could contend for the NBA title next June, such as the new-look L.A. Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers. There are a few other teams that are flying a bit under the radar that could make a serious push toward hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The Nuggets took a tremendous step forward this past season, earning the second-best record in the stacked Western Conference.
It saw their core group led by Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray demonstrate much growth in their respective games. However, their downfall in the playoffs came from their lack of experience on that stage as they struggled to pull through in crucial moments late in the game that led to the playoff-tested Portland Trail Blazers edging it out.
Denver should come back more experienced and improved with Jokic looking to secure his spot as one of the best big men in the league while Murray could challenge for his first All-Star selection. The Western Conference is even more stacked this season, but the Nuggets are returning much of the same group that should keep them in the title conversation.
Portland Trail Blazers
Over the last several seasons, the Trail Blazers have been a constant in the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
Since the departure of All-Star big man LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland has been driven by the strong play of one of the top backcourts in the league with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Despite them reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first time with that unit, many are still overlooking them this season.
Big man Jusuf Nurkic may still be recovering from a broken leg, but the Trail Blazers added more talent to the mix over the summer with the likes of Hassan Whiteside and Kent Bazemore to help revamp their efforts. Portland is a proven team in the Western Conference and could possibly be another move away from being considered a top contender out west.
If the Blazers can remain healthy, there is no reason to believe they won’t be a factor once the playoffs swing around, especially with Lillard leading the charge.
Golden State Warriors
Like many of the top teams in the league, the Warriors underwent some significant changes to their roster. It was highlighted by the departure of Kevin Durant in free agency but led to the arrival of All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell.
The Warriors are entering the year overlooked for the first time in several years despite coming off their fifth straight NBA Finals appearance. Part of which has been influenced by Durant’s departure, along with Klay Thompson potentially being out for the entire season due to his recovery from a torn ACL.
The Warriors do have other questions concerning their size in the frontcourt, but the team is still headed by two-time league MVP Stephen Curry along with All-Star big man Draymond Green and a new offensive spark from Russell. There will be an adjustment period to find fluidity on both ends of the floor with their revamped roster, but Golden State will certainly be in the mix come playoff time.
Their chances to compete for an NBA title will only increase if Thompson can get back on the court at some point this season. There will be some stiff competition in the Western Conference with the likes of the Clippers, Nuggets, Lakers, and Trail Blazers, but it’s quite difficult to count out the Warriors completely.