The 2019 NBA season is set to begin on Tuesday, and with it comes teams with Championship aspirations. While some may have a better case than others for an NBA title, every franchise has a respective strength. Here is one major strength for every organization:
Atlanta Hawks- Pace of Play
The Hawks, who finished with the third-worst record in 2018, still have a sense of hope. Most would consider their youth as a strength, as they rank with the tenth-youngest roster in the league. However, with their youth comes a faster pace of play. In 2018, the team ranked with the fastest pace of play in the NBA.
Boston Celtics- Defensive Grit
Most considered the Celtics a heavy favorite in the Eastern Conference in 2018, and since then, the roster has seen more than a few alterations. Their biggest edge will come on the defensive side of the ball, as their +1.8 SPG differential led the NBA. In addition, the team’s +1.4 BPG differential trailed only the Golden State Warriors. Without Kyrie Irving or Al Horford on the roster, we will see if these numbers hold up.
Brooklyn Nets- Winning From Long Range
The 2019 Nets will look far different than last year, as the front office essentially replaced D’Angelo Russell with Kyrie Irving. Even without Irving and Kevin Durant, Brooklyn was efficient from 3-point range last season. The team ranked 5th with 12.8 3PM per game, and ranked 3rd with a +2.4 3PM differential. With an altered roster, this becomes one of the most electric teams in the East.
Charlotte Hornets- Taking Care of the Ball
With Kemba Walker departing via free agency, it’s likely that the Hornets will look far different this season. However, one aspect that shouldn’t change is their ability to take care of the basketball. Last season, Charlotte had the fewest turnovers per game with 11.7.
Chicago Bulls- Youthful Play
The Bulls, who rank with the second-youngest roster in the NBA, have an average age of 24.2-years old. The only team with a younger roster would be the Phoenix Suns. Youth doesn’t always correlate with success, but at least Chicago knows there is plenty of time on the clock.
Cleveland Cavaliers- Time to Develop
It sounds rather odd, but with LeBron James out of town, the Cavaliers have been granted time to develop. In 2018, eight of their players averaged 10+ points per game, and only Cedi Osman and Collin Sexton were forced to play 30+ minutes per game. With low expectations this season, the Cavaliers should continue to focus on their young and developing talent.
Dallas Mavericks- Forcing Foul Trouble
Dallas is one of the more overlooked teams in the Western Conference, but with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzginis at the helm, they should be able to hold their own. In 2018, the team drew 23.2 fouls per game; 2nd in the NBA. However, free throws need to be a focal point in 2019, as the Mavericks averaged 74.2% from the line; 25th in the NBA.
Denver Nuggets- Sharing the Ball
Assists are always a centerpiece to success in today’s game, and the Nuggets found that to be true. In 2018, the team averaged 27.4 assists per game, which only trailed the Golden State Warriors. With a majority of the roster intact for the upcoming season, following a similar formula should see Denver as a contender in the West.
Detroit Pistons- Stopping the 3
Defense is a major focal point for even some of the most elite teams, but the Pistons have a formula to limit their opponents from deep. In 2018, Detroit allowed only 9.6 3PM per game. They were one of only two teams, along with the Utah Jazz, to allow less than 10 3PM per game. With the 3-point game becoming a regularity in today’s game, the Pistons have an edge on other franchises.
Golden State Warriors- Outscoring Opponents
The Warriors have been ahead of the curve for quite some time, consistently adding superstar talent to bring up their scoring total. In 2018, only the Milwaukee Bucks (118.1) scored more points per game than Golden State (117.8). Even with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson injured, the Warriors have enough firepower to outscore their opponents on a nightly basis.
Houston Rockets- Deep Ball Consistency
Today’s game requires teams to shoot the ball from three-point range, and the Rockets have had no issues doing so. In 2018, Houston had 16.1 3PM per game; 2.6 more than any other team. In fact, their 3PM differential (+5.9) was more than double the next-closest franchise. Even with Russell Westbrook taking some attempts, the Rockets will remain near the top of the league in this category.
Indiana Pacers- Perimeter Defense
Efficient defense is key for the Indiana Pacers, who were a top six team when it came to points allowed (1st), FGA (3rd), and FG% (6th). With a virtually similar roster and a depleted Eastern Conference, the Pacers should find themselves in the playoffs with relative ease.
Los Angeles Clippers- Getting to the Line
With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George coming in, there is no telling what the Los Angeles Clippers are capable of. However, both players ranked in the top ten among most free throw attempts per game in 2018. The Clippers themselves totaled 22.6 FTM last season; the most in the NBA. Adding two players with the tendency to get to the line on a nightly basis only supports this theory.
Los Angeles Lakers- Experience
Whenever LeBron James is the focal point of the roster, experience is going to be key. The Lakers have multiple former NBA Champions on the team, with Danny Green being the most recent. This is a roster with 7.8 average years of experience; the most in the NBA. Sometimes youth can come in hand, but the Lakers have concrete expectations: Championship or bust.
Memphis Grizzlies- Underrated Defense
Not many would it expect it by their 33-49 record in 2018, but the Memphis Grizzlies had one of the best overall defenses last year. With 27.6 FG allowed, this was also an elite defense in points allowed (106.1). In a competitive Western Conference, it will be difficult to tell what direction the Grizzlies head in. However, their defensive formula is justified.
Miami Heat- Forcing Missed Shots
Only one team ranked in the top five in both points allowed and forced an opponent’s FG% under 45%, and that was the Miami Heat. Adding Jimmy Butler to the mix gives the Heat a defensive advantage, but departing from Hassan Whiteside will hurt in the paint. With the East losing out on superstars such as Kawhi Leonard and D’Angelo Russell, Miami could sneak their way in as a playoff team.
Milwaukee Bucks- Outscoring Opponents
The Bucks made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018, and were two wins away from their first Finals appearance since the 1973-74 season. Last season, the Bucks scored 118.1 PPG; the most in the league. They also lead in point differential, and led by +2.4 more than the next-closest franchise. It’s no surprise the Bucks will contend this season, and very well may be the favorites in the East.
Minnesota Timberwolves- Taking Care of the Ball
The Timberwolves were disappointing in 2018, but they did manage to take care of the ball. The team finished with the most forced steals per game (6.6), and ranked 8th in turnovers forced per game (14.5). The fundamentals are there, and now the team should prepare themselves to develop.
New Orleans Pelicans- Potential in Youth
This 2019 Pelicans roster won’t resemble last year’s roster, as they added big talents in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and JJ Redick. More importantly, the potential of New Orleans is difficult to quantify. Three of their players averaged 10+ points in 2018, and by adding top 10 picks in Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes through the NBA Draft, this will translate to an interesting headline through the upcoming season.
New York Knicks- Salary Cap Flexibility
After missing out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving through free agency, the expectations are awfully low in the ‘Big Apple’. Only three players on the Knicks are worth more than $10M this season, and only one (Julius Randle) of those names are signed to a guaranteed multi-year deal. The average player on the Knicks is making $7.1M, which is the third-cheapest average in the NBA.
Oklahoma City Thunder- Second Chances
Although Steven Adams is on the trade block for Oklahoma City, this was a team in 2018 that was great with second chance opportunities. The Thunder finished last year with the most offensive rebounds per game (12.6) and finished second in the league with 1,271 second chance points. Although this will be a rebuilding team, taking advantage in the paint will be important.
Orlando Magic- Height
Most wouldn’t guess it, but the Magic actually have the tallest team in the NBA. With an average height of roughly 6’6″, this can be a major advantage with categories such as rebounds and second chance points. The Magic are still a developing team in the East, but this type of length can be useful.
Philadelphia 76ers- Protecting the Paint
The 76ers added a big name in Al Horford via free agency, and pairing him up with Joel Embiid will be quite the show. Even without Horford in 2018, Philadelphia averaged the second-most defensive rebounds per game (36.9). As long as the injury bug stays away, the 76ers are elite contenders in the East.
Phoenix Suns- Forcing Turnovers
Although Phoenix allowed the third-most points (116.8) per game in 2018, they actually forced the third-most turnovers (15.2) and totaled the second-most steals (9.0) per game. For a team that finished with the worst record in the West, this is a weird, but refreshing statistic.
Portland Trail Blazers- Rebounding
There are multiple teams with rebounding as their strong suit, but Portland finished with the highest rebounds per game differential (+5.1) without the addition of Hassan Whiteside. Many are claiming that the Lakers, Clippers, or Warriors are the favorites for the 2019 Championship, but we shouldn’t consider writing off the Trail Blazers.
Sacramento Kings- Forcing Turnovers
The Kings are a young team with a developing head coach in Luke Walton, but forcing turnovers will be a key. In 2018, their 15.3 forced turnovers per game only trailed the Oklahoma City Thunder (16.0). With further progression through the upcoming season, this could be one of the more aggressive teams in the NBA.
San Antonio Spurs- 3-Point Efficiency
There is a reason the Spurs have made the playoffs under Gregg Popovich every season since 1997. In 2018 specifically, the team shot 39.2% from deep; the best in the NBA. With somewhat of a quiet offseason, we aren’t expecting San Antonio to be a title contender, but they are a playoff threat.
Toronto Raptors- Playoff Efficiency
Even without Kawhi Leonard, we need to remember the Raptors are still a playoff team in the East. In 2018, they went 16-8 during the playoffs. The three seasons prior to that, Toronto saw three consecutive Eastern Conference Semifinals appearances to go along with one Eastern Conference Finals appearance. Regardless, this an efficient playoff team that can compete with just about anyone in their respective conference.
Utah Jazz- Blocks
When Rudy Gobert is the face of your franchise, it makes sense for blocks to be the respective strength of that franchise. With 5.1 blocks per game in 2018, the Jazz finished 2nd in the NBA in that category. However, this could change over the course of the upcoming season. Derrick Favors, who is now apart of the New Orleans Pelicans, finished 2nd on the team with 1.4 blocks per game.
Washington Wizards- Underrated Leader
When John Wall went down with a torn Achilles, most wrote off the Wizards. However, there is a reason the front office paid $111 over three seasons to Bradley Beal. Even when Wall was healthy, Beal was the leader in points per game with 25.6. Although the expectations are low for Washington, maybe that’s exactly when Beal will thrive.
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