The NBA officially tips off tonight, which means we are just in time for the first set of power rankings. With still so much unknown, these rankings could fluctuate a lot in the first few weeks as the dust from the offseason settles.
Without further ado…
- Brooklyn Nets
The Nets will be bad, but they have the very small beginnings of a plan. They averaged 33 threes a game in the preseason, third most in the league, and new coach Kenny Atkinson even has Brook Lopez launching from deep in an apparent attempt to the Nets into a Hawks-lite squad. That may be worth tuning in for occasionally.
- Philadelphia 76ers
How good they will be depends largely on Ben Simmons. If Philadelphia plays it safe, and it’d be hard to blame them, the 76ers will probably end up with the league’s worst record yet again. If Simmons returns and figures out how to play with some of the intriguing young talent Philly will likely stay out of the basement and may even win more games than the Lakers. Trust the Process!
- Los Angeles Lakers
D’Angelo Russell is going to have a monster sophomore season, but this team has little to no defensive talent and, given that it still owes a top-3 protected pick to Philadelphia, will still be very bad.
- Phoenix Suns
I like the pieces the Suns have assembled. Devin Booker looks legit. I’m very intrigued by Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender. Only time will tell if it will all fit together. The three guard rotation of Booker, Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe, all three of whom have starter-level talent, might be too much a logjam.
- Denver Nuggets
The young guys on this Nuggets team look good and they have a good mix of talented veterans as well. I just think it will take time to gel together in a tough Western Conference.
- Orlando Magic
On the flip side, I don’t like the fit of the pieces in Orlando at all. There are way too many guys in the front court and their best chance for a super star, Aaron Gordon, is going to play out of position far too much. They’re higher only out of respect to Frank Vogel.
- Sacramento Kings
This team could crater and drop very quickly. But DeMarcus Cousins is a top-20 player and that’s enough to keep them out of the basement for now.
- New York Knicks
I’m very low on this Knicks team. Their hypothetical starting unit of Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah had very little playing time together this preseason. That is less than ideal.
- Chicago Bulls
Shooting isn’t important in the modern NBA right? Good, then the Bulls will be just fine.
- New Orleans Pelicans
This feels too high and its almost entirely out of respect for Anthony Davis. If he’s limited at all this team has little chance. Prayers up for Lauren Holiday.
- Miami Heat
There’s a template of something interesting here. Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside running pick-and-roll around Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson is intriguing.
- Milwaukee Bucks
Bring me all of the Point Giannis. Khris Middleton’s injury will hurt a lot, but Antetokounmpo running pick-and-roll with Jabari Parker is an exciting thought.
- Atlanta Hawks
I didn’t like the move for Dwight Howard, but I trust Mike Budenholzer. There’s still enough shooting to put around Howard and Dennis Schroeder and Paul Millsap is still awesome.
- Washington Wizards
John Wall desperately needs a sidekick. I’m hoping Bradley Beal finally turns into that. I think Beal does take a step in the right direction and that Scott Brooks has enough coaching smarts to get this team back to the playoffs.
- Charlotte Hornets
I’m not entirely convinced this team will score enough without Al Jefferson and Jeremy Lin, but Steve Clifford is going to get them to play great defense and make sure they won’t beat themselves.
- Minnesota Timberwolves
I know the Timberwolves are the next darling of the NBA, but I’m trying to be patient. Let’s not expect a 46-win season in Tom Thibodeau’s first year, ok? Give the young Wolves time and enjoy every minute Karl Anthony-Towns is on a basketball court.
- Detroit Pistons
Reggie Jackson’s injury complicates matters, but this is another team that will play hard every night. They’ll need big shooting improvements from a lot of guys to make any serious noise, but I think they do enough to get back to the playoffs.
- Indiana Pacers
The offense has a ton of potential and I love almost everything Paul George does, but I’m worried this team won’t be able to stop anyone. Is Myles Turner truly ready to anchor a defense in just his second year?
- Dallas Mavericks
I’m not convinced this team has enough left to make the playoffs again, but I know better than to doubt Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki. Until they truly show signs of decline I’m keeping them in the playoff picture.
- Memphis Grizzlies
I’m ready for one more year of Grit-N-Grind. Chandler Parsons adds a much-needed dose of shooting and if this team stays healthy, admittedly a big if, they’ll get back to the playoffs.
- Utah Jazz
I love this Jazz team. They’re going to play great defense and George Hill is going to make people realize how good he is. Plus, with Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and the return of Alec Burks this team has the depth needed to endure a long regular season.
- Houston Rockets
The Rockets need to be the second best offensive team in the league. That’s the only way they stay afloat because James Harden, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson are not going to stop anyone.
- Oklahoma City Thunder
I’d be terrified to play Russell Westbrook this season. He’s going to put up monster numbers, but even he can’t do it all himself. That said, he needs to create opportunities for the Thunder’s secondary players, Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo, if this team wants to contend.
- Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard told reporters his goal for the season is to win the MVP. I think it’s a longshot, but I’d be a fool to think it impossible. Lillard’s ability to will his team to another level is beyond impressive.
- Boston Celtics
I’m excited to watch Brad Stevens cook up plays for Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas and confuse the crap out of opposing defenses. This team will also play suffocating defense and could challenge for the two seed in the East.
- Toronto Raptors
It’s easy to forget how efficient the Raptors’ offense was last year. They have all the key contributors of that offense back and DeMarre Carroll might finally be healthy.
- Los Angeles Clippers
It’s do or die time in Lob City. Blake Griffin needs to have a monster year and return to being a two-way terror if the Clippers want to challenge Golden State.
- San Antonio Spurs
Gregg Popovich will quietly go about his business and this team will win close to 60 games even without Tim Duncan. Kawhi Leonard is ready for even more.
- Golden State Warriors
They look admittedly formidable already, but there are depth and rim protection concerns. And, if I recall correctly, they blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals to….
- Cleveland Cavaliers
They’re still No. 1 until someone beats them. It’d be hard to begrudge LeBron for coasting through this regular season, but it doesn’t sound like that’s his intention. Even if he does, this team still has two offensive superstars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love and is going to come away with the one seed in the East.