By Eduardo Monk Jr
Basketball gods, you have blessed us yet again. Even though you held out on every smidge of entertainment value in the Finals, you oh so gracefully gave us the greatest offseason of all time and a Summer League that is actually producing more than just a mindless basketball past time. With the probably historical draft behind us and the Summer League giving us our first glances into the future of the NBA one Markelle Fultz sprained ankle, Jayson Tatum sexy fadeaway and De’Aaron Fox Flash impression at a time, there is suddenly some excitement going into this season.
With the Warriors consistently eating top competition for brunch (with bottom competition for breakfast) this past season and absolutely nothing changing that, the chase for second place is a much more interesting storyline than who’s winning the Finals. But now the question remains is who wins third? Or sixth? Or 14th? Well, you’ve come to the right place today, fellow NBA fan. Before this season gets wet and wild in the West and dry and simple in the East, let’s power rank every team in the NBA before things get too wet and wild.
30: Brooklyn Nets
The addition of D’Angelo Russell is going to do wonders for the stagnant offense in Brooklyn but there is a scarily low amount of competent basketball players on the roster that nearly negates any of Russell’s production. He’s going to be the cornerstone but there is jack diddly to build around him. Another year in the deepest, darkest basement for you, Brooklyn.
29: New York Knicks
The fact the Knicks have roughly 47.25 million dollars wrapped in Tim Hardaway Jr, Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee sums up New York pretty well. The Carmelo Anthony trade/buyout rumors are running rampant and the only other player with actual talent on the roster is Kristaps Porzingis. Back to the dungeon with you, New York.
28: Orlando Magic
The Magic are staying afloat due to the excess amount of role players they have playing for them, which is still better than an excess amount of benchwarmers playing for them. There is just so much to be unexcited for on this roster. Evan Fournier was the top scorer, their first round pick was defensive yet quiet stud Jonathan Isaac and they rely heavily on two whole players who have either won or appeared in the dunk contest. Have fun in the cellar, Orlando.
27: Dallas Mavericks
Mavs fans, I’m sorry but it’s time to move on from the only great player in your team’s existence. Dirk Nowitzki has hit the end of the line and your universally respected Mavericks are now nearing laughingstock levels of incompetence. Dennis Smith Jr. is going the face of your franchise real soon but with only Harrison Barnes (yes that Harrison Barnes) as the only other player not a total scrub on the roster, it’s officially rock bottom for the Mavericks.
26: Indiana Pacers
Last season the Pacers lived and died by Paul George. Now they die by Victor Oladipo. Myles Turner hasn’t taken the next step and at this point, it really doesn’t matter if he does or doesn’t with surrounding talent on the roster. It’s tank time in Indiana.
25: Phoenix Suns
Devin Booker is a bonafide future superstar, Eric Bledsoe is one of the better point guards when healthy and Josh Jackson should be the heart and soul of the team. Why not higher? Because there is no help or talent anywhere besides that. Being stuck in the loaded West doesn’t help the record either.
24: Los Angeles Lakers
Lonzo Ball has the potential to be a great point guard but that doesn’t change the fact the Lakers are chock full of scrubs. They could be a deceptively better team than we had thought if Brandon Ingram develops further but there just isn’t much else to look forward to on this roster. One day the Lakers may be able to compete but that day is not today.
23: Chicago Bulls
Moving Jimmy Butler will no doubt help further down the line. Zach LaVine is going to be a strong scorer, Kris Dunn will be a defensive ace and Lauri Markkanen is, at the minimum, the discount Dirk. But for now, this is a team relying on Dwyane Wade for points. I’m sure that’s going to turn out great. The years of respectability in Chicago is officially over.
22: Detroit Pistons
The move for Avery Bradley will do wonders for the defense in Detroit but the star of the show Andre Drummond is still one of the laziest players in the league. This team is full of wasted potential that has just burned itself out. Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson, Drummond, all these players should have been good but they’re just not. Hopefully first round selection Luke Kennard can flaunt his shooting prowess to keep this team’s offense from completely collapsing on itself.
21: Sacramento Kings
The Kings are coming off a splendid draft, bringing in college superstars in both De’Aaron Fox and Justin Jackson. Buddy Hield should hopefully take another step in becoming the “next Steph Curry”. This team has a lot to be excited for and given a few years, are going to be able to somewhat resemble a contender. Key word a few years. The draft will be massive in this team’s success but there’s too much raw potential to truly compete just yet.
20: Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks have endured a rough past few offseasons. They’ve been completely gutted from the inside out with the entire starting lineup from the first seed squad in 2015 not even on the roster anymore. Dennis Schroeder has become a pleasant surprise but the loss of Paul Millsap puts the final nail in the coffin for the years of contention in Atlanta.
19: Miami Heat
The Heat have been living on borrowed time ever since LeBron skipped town back to Cleveland. Now the Big Three era is officially over with the cutting of Chris Bosh and the Dion Waiters era has begun. Being in the East means they’ll probably still pull off a playoff appearance courtesy of Justise Winslow and defensive stud Hassan Whiteside but betting anything above the 8 seed is heavily optimistic.
18: Charlotte Hornets
Kemba Walker is one of the top offensive point guards in the league in my book and the addition of Malik Monk is going to turbo drive their offense. Bringing on Dwight Howard is more than likely going to be a bust but his rebounding and shot blocking won’t hurt. It’s a sturdy roster that could very well compete for the 6 seed in the dreadful East.
17: Utah Jazz
The loss of Gordon Hayward single handedly rips the Jazz away from contention. The frontcourt of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert is still elite enough to stay afloat but losing their top scorer from a season ago is not going to go down easy, if at all. And in the crowded West, there’s little chance they can even make the playoffs after the loss of Hayward.
16: Denver Nuggets
The blooming star Nikola Jokic is primed to have a breakout season after a year we saw him bloom into a star. Emmanuel Mudiay is starting to piece things together and bringing in Paul Millsap is going to be a massive step in the right direction. If Kenneth Faried can pull together a comeback year, the Nuggets are in much better shape than we had even anticipated.
15: New Orleans Pelicans
How can a team with Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis fail? By having practically nothing else. Welcome to the Pelicans, folks. Jrue Holiday is the only halfway decent guard which makes the Pelicans probably the most top heavy team in the league. Having to reside in the West doesn’t make their chances any better.
14: Memphis Grizzlies
The loss of Zach Randolph is going to be felt more than most would think. The grit and grind era in Memphis could be coming to a close especially with Marc Gasol supposedly being on the trade block. Mike Conley Jr paired with Gasol is a tandem to be reckoned with but there’s little doubt this team won’t be contending for much longer.
13: Washington Wizards
The backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal hasn’t become as awesome as hoped but the Wizards have mastered a team basketball style that keeps them contending despite a less talented roster. Wall is still one of the top guards in the league and few can argue against them making the playoffs in atrocious East.
12: Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard is by far the most underappreciated player in the league. Him paired with CJ McCollum is a deadly duo and is consistently good enough to make the playoffs even without top notch talent. With pass lord Jusuf Nurkic making a return this season, the Trail Blazers are solid enough to be competitive night in and night out
11: Philadelphia 76ers
This spot on the rankings comes with a massive asterisk aside it. That catch being if everyone can stay healthy. On paper, this team is primed to compete big time in the East. With Ben Simmons returning, the addition of Markelle Fultz and the certified star Joel Embiid, the Sixers will no doubt be a top team in the East…if everyone can stay healthy.
10: Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis is a full blown megastar and there’s no way any team with him and Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon will fail. If Jabari Parker stays healthy and Thon Maker continues his upward towards his sky high potential, the Bucks will without a doubt be among the top teams in the East.
9: Toronto Raptors
The Raptors win this offseason lucky award (if that’s a thing) for being able to hold onto Kyle Lowry. DeMar DeRozan is still a superstar good enough to lead a mediocre team to the playoffs yearly and Jonas Valanciunas is a far better player than given credit for. They’re a team walking a thin line between mediocrity and contention but they usually find a way to crawl a little closer to contention than towards mediocrity.
8: Los Angeles Clippers
The runner up for the Lucky Award are the Clippers, who found a way to stay relevant despite trying to rebuild. Moving Chris Paul felt like the end of an era but being able to hold onto Blake Griffin is huge for the Clippers success. Though Lob City be dead, there’s more than enough talent in LA for them to stay relevant.
7: Oklahoma City Thunder
There was no more perfect addition for OKC than Paul George. He’s the ideal secondary star for the Thunder and is going to complement Russell Westbrook almost too beautiful. Rising center Steven Adams simply completes the trio. Despite a rough season surviving due to Westbrook’s 42 triple doubles, the Thunder have made it back to relevancy with the move for PG.
6: Houston Rockets
The trade for Chris Paul is either going to be a legendary move or a complete and total bust. Though both are ball dominant guards, they may find a way to compliment each other. If they do, the Rockets are golden. If not, they may not even compete for a playoff spot with their two stars just stepping on each other’s toes. Either way, any team with James Harden simply can’t not succeed.
5: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves were a team deep in hibernation who are now morphing into one of the most elite the league has to offer. The defense is what screwed over the team flaunting offensive superstars Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns but bringing Jimmy Butler aboard basically solves all of their problems. A Finals win is not out of the realm of possibility for the youthful Wolves as soon as the end of this decade.
4: San Antonio Spurs
Kawhi Leonard seems to just add more and more to his already-elite game every year. He’s an MVP candidate and he’s still only 26. Gregg Popovich is still coaching and despite relying on the aging veterans in LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker for contributions, there’s little doubt the Spurs will keep contending as long as Leonard and Pop are still there.
3: Cleveland Cavaliers
Oh boy, can’t wait to read the backlash on this one. “Ohh, LeBron James is the greatest player of all time, he’ll lead the Cavs to a Finals win”, “Ohh, Kyrie is the best point guard in the league”, “ohh, LeBron LeBron LeBron”. Well, LeBron isn’t getting any younger and the Cavs are wickedly reliant on their Big Three. Said Big Three is more than capable of contending anywhere but the rise of the Celtics is too much for me to consider them better than Boston.
2: Boston Celtics
The addition of Gordon Hayward is what puts the Celtics over the top in the East. This is a team with a certified star in Isaiah Thomas, multiple proven starters in Al Horford and Jae Crowder, brimming with young talent in Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart and they just added Hayward. If anyone is going to give the Warriors a run for their money, it’s Boston.
1: Golden State Warriors
Must I explain this one? Am I getting paid? No? This one speaks for itself then.