LeBron’s Lakers remain the team to beat


Two months later than usual, and after an expedited preseason, the NBA is set to tip off Tuesday night.

Here’s how the league’s hierarchy looks entering the season opener:

A Class of Their Own

1. Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James, Anthony Davis and a strong offseason? Run it back.

The Threats to a Repeat

2. Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo is locked in, but will his supporting cast be enough, even with the addition of point guard Jrue Holiday?

3. Los Angeles Clippers

The talent is there, but the chemistry needs some work.

4. Brooklyn Nets

The Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving partnership is finally in action.

5. Miami Heat

Trying to prove their NBA Finals appearance was no fluke.

6. Boston Celtics

They’ve been close, but need their young stars to take another step.

7. Denver Nuggets

Back for more after reaching the Western Conference finals.

8. Toronto Raptors

“We The North” takes a detour to Tampa.

Missing Pieces

9. Philadelphia 76ers

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are great. Embiid and James Harden would be game-changing.

10. Dallas Mavericks

The Luka Doncic Show could be even better in Season 3.

11. Golden State Warriors

Can Steph Curry and Draymond Green do it without Klay Thompson?

12. Portland Trail Blazers

Strong offseason could give Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum a shot.

13. Utah Jazz

In case there was any question, this is now Donovan Mitchell’s team.

14. Phoenix Suns

Chris Paul joining Devin Booker and Co. could be fun.

15. Houston Rockets

Russell Westbrook is gone (for John Wall), but Harden could be next.

16. Indiana Pacers

They have a solid nucleus as long as Victor Oladipo stays around.

The Next Generation

Zion Williamson
Zion Williamson starts his second NBA season with a new coach and heightened expectations.

17. New Orleans Pelicans

What can they do with a healthy Zion Williamson from the start?

18. Atlanta Hawks

Perhaps the most improved team after an active offseason.

19. Washington Wizards

How will the Westbrook-Bradley Beal backcourt work out?

20. Memphis Grizzlies

Ja Morant is running the show with a year under his belt.

21. San Antonio Spurs

Can Gregg Popovich work his magic on a largely unheralded group?

22. Orlando Magic

Time will tell what kind of a difference-maker rookie guard Cole Anthony can be.

23. Minnesota Timberwolves

No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards needs a nickname to match KAT and DLo.

24. Sacramento Kings

Still rebuilding but a strong backcourt is a good place to start.

25. Charlotte Hornets

The arrival of LaMelo Ball and an Gordon Hayward (though already injured) should be fun.

26. Chicago Bulls

Time to let Billy Donovan go to work with a young roster.

The Lottery Lot

27. Detroit Pistons

Too many big men, not enough rebounds to go around.

28. New York Knicks

Tom Thibodeau wants a star, but the wait continues.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder

Future draft picks mean present struggles.

30. Cleveland Cavaliers

Their rebuild through lottery picks should continue.

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