I’m fascinated by the 2019-20 Pacers. They lost their two best wing-defenders (Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic), two veteran point guards (Darren Collison and Corey Joseph), and two other wing scorers (Tyreke Evans and Wesley Mathews), and Zach Lowe thinks they’re in trouble. He’s probably right, but I don’t care. I’m in on these new-look Pacers. As long as they don’t wear those hideous Hickory jerseys too often, they should be a lot more fun to watch this season. I like that they, and other teams are getting weird and starting two big men. I like that they seem to be counting on TJ Warren as an integral piece after the Suns gave him away for nothing. Victor Oladipo will eventually return. This team has three TJ’s, two Holiday’s, and the almighty Dougie McBuckets. Myles Turner is ascending and yet he or Sabonis could get traded? Maybe the on-court product turns out to be less thrilling than I expect and this team falls flat on its face. Either way, the the storylines are here.

My best guess at a starting lineup sans Oladipo: Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, TJ Warren, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner.

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Larry Drew parted ways with Cavaliers brain trust when they refused to remove the interim from his title or pay him like a real NBA coach. Instead, the team went to the college ranks and provided John Beilein of Michigan the opportunity. He may long for the days of the Big 10 once the season starts and the losses pile up, but for now, he remains optimistic, hoping his young charges can grow, especially at the defensive end.

The Cavaliers tied for the second-worst record in the Association last season with only 19 W’s. The team’s best player, Kevin Love, missed three-fourths of the games which didn’t help. He was not the only player, though, as Larry Nance, Cedi Osman, Tristan Thompson, John Henson, Brandon Knight, and Ante Zizic all missed games. With just a smidgen of better luck, a return of Kevin Love, and any contribution from three rookie additions should make the Cavaliers more competitive.

We could see a Cavaliers fire sale come trade deadline time, as Jordan Clarkson, Thompson, Henson, Matthew Dellavedova, and Brandon Knight are veterans on expiring contracts who could help a playoff-bound team in search of additional pieces. Love and Nance could also be involved in trade discussions, with Love sure to garner interest. If they keep Love, and the youth movement improves, they could at least be a fun team to watch.

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Year in and year out the Spurs find a way to stay relevant. The Kawhi Leonard trade possibly saved the franchise, as he left Toronto after one championship winning season for the sunnier pastures of LA. By getting back a star in DeMar DeRozan and a budding stalwart in Jakob Poeltl, the Spurs are in good hands moving forward and didn’t completely lose out. The key with this team is depth, as they have it through all five positions, with many versatile players who will wear many different hats.

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Not very often do you see a team that surprised the nation as the 5th seed in the West, then do a nearly complete re-haul of their roster. I liken this team to the Spurs who I wrote about earlier this week, a deep team without the newly coveted “duo”, that will play hard and compete. The Jazz have a new stud point guard in Mike Conley who is back to playing for a winning team and is a perfect fit for Jazz Basketball, a new knockdown shooter in Bojan Bogdanovic, and forward depth in Jeff Green and Ed Davis. This is going to be a gritty team that will be playing meaningful basketball deep in the season. Bold prediction: The Jazz will have three top 25 fantasy players and win their first round playoff match up in 2019.

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Even though the Suns finished dead last in the Western Conference last year, and last in the entire NBA the year before that, they’ll always be first in the hearts and minds of fantasy owners everywhere. Their score first and play defense later mentality is fantasy gold, and this year is no different. There is reason to be optimistic this year though, with the arrival of Ricky Rubio and the emergence of Kelly Oubre. The Suns finally get their true point guard to distribute the ball and a veteran mentor for the young guns. Booker is looking healthy (for now) and Ayton should take a big step forward. I love the Suns when it comes to fantasy, and I have a sneaking suspicion they won’t be that bad in real life either.

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Back when Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh were in town, long before the Vice City uniforms and the jersey-swap retirement tour, four iterations of dynastic “Heatles” teams dominated the league and our collective sports consciousness. It was a glorious time. For Miami. For the NBA. For every sports media outlet in existence. Since then, a tidal wave of viral events have swept over the NBA—LeBron James’ homecoming and championship in Cleveland chief among them.

The Heat enter the 2019-20 season with the most buzz since their four-year run of NBA Finals trips. Jimmy Butler has arrived, all of his brashness and baggage in tow. Tyler Herro is set to become the new white-baller-du-jour, though he may have some unexpected competition from Alex Caruso. And the #PointWinslow movement is on the verge of boiling over its sweat and blood-stained cauldron. Let the new post-Bron, post-Wade, cautiously optimistic about Jimmy Butler era of Miami Heat basketball begin.

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The Rockets seem to find themselves knocking on the door in the West often, but not doing enough to get over the hump. Sometimes you need a little change. Russell Westbrook is that change. The Rockets, who already play at a high pace, will now be moving up and down the court at record speeds. Westbrook is the engine that could and may vault the Rockets to the Finals. Yes, I have been touting this for two years now, but I think this was the move to get them there. Let’s take a closer look through a fantasy lens.

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After being in the playoff hunt for a nice portion of the season, the final stretch saw the Magic pull ahead and make a playoff appearance. As a result, the Hornets slowly shifted to the youth movement, seeing their young core get meaningful minutes. Franchise cornerstone, Kemba Walker, moved on to greener pastures, literally and figuratively, and will be running the show in Boston. Jeremy Lamb will assume an important role for the revamped Pacers. The Hornets will be infused with youth and will likely be bottom feeders, but the fantasy landscape is bright.

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Let’s be honest here, the Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC) will be a shell of their former selves, as they no longer are projected to be in playoff contention. With Brodie and PGIII both gone, the rebuilding process is officially underway in OKC. However, they are not without talent, as CP3 looks to replace Russell Westbrook and will have full reign as the leader of their offense. We are not sure how long he will continue to be in OKC for, as they look to trade him at some point this season, but until they do CP3 should lead them to some wins. It doesn’t hurt that Danilo Gallinari was also acquired in the PG3 trade. Overall, Oklahoma City won’t be in playoff contention, but should be better than some of the other bottom feeders in the Western Conference.

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The defending champs are back for yet another year of dominance…Oh wait, they didn’t win last year. Sorry, I’m so used to it that in my mind they’re still somehow the champs, even though it’s really my precious Raptors. The NBA championship is up for grabs again, and for the first time in awhile the Warriors are not the heavy favorite to win the title. Some are even saying they may struggle to make the playoffs. Key pieces in Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala left town, and Klay Thompson will be out for the majority of the season, leaving gaping holes in their starting line up. Newcomers D’Angelo Russell and Willie Cauley-Stein will look to step into the new system and fill some giant shoes. If Steph Curry can stay healthy, I expect the Warriors to be contenders yet again.

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