NBA Power Rankings 1.0 – Lakers Start off Where They Left Off
With regular season just around the corner, and we’re ramping up for another season of NBA coverage here at BALLnROLL. Heading into training camp, here’s where every NBA team currently stands within the NBA landscape.
#1. Los Angeles Lakers
While losses of Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, and Danny Green surely hurt, the Lakers have made a lot of additions to replace the production from the veterans they lost in the offseason.
Denis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell look to add a much needed jolt of youth and athleticism to the rotation. Marc Gasol is the team’s bonafide big stopper, and can also provide playmaking out of the post while still being a respectable shooter.
Picking up Wesley Matthews and re-signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ensure that the Lakers have the necessary spacing for LeBron and AD to operate inside. The Lakers are primed to make another run at the title.
#2. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have made strides this offseason to convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to stay in town by adding two-way specialist Jrue Holiday via trade. It did come at the expense of some depth at the guard spot, losing Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, but Holiday is the proven playoff performer out of the three.
The signings of D.J. Augustin, Bobby Portis, and Bryn Forbes have a real chance to be impactful in the Bucks’ rotation, and the team drafted one of the best shooters in the draft with Jordan Nwora joining the roster.
Combine these additions with another year of MVP-level Giannis, Middleton’s steady regular season production, and increased roles from Donte DiVincenzo and Pat Connaughton, the Bucks will likely be at the top of the East standings again this year.
#3. Los Angeles Clippers
A lot of the Clippers’ success this season will likely depend on how Tyron Lue and his coaching staff approach the managing of player personalities and egos in the locker room, but like last year, it’s hard to deny the talent on this roster.
The Clippers lost out on energy bigs JaMychal Green and Montrezl Harrell, but added Serge Ibaka’s defence and shooting. Luke Kennard adds a consistent shooter and underrated secondary playmaking that could slot into the starting lineup or come off the bench.
Roster mainstays in Patrick Beverly and Lou Williams should be able to provide similar numbers from last season, and it will be another year for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to figure things out on the basketball court.
#4. Miami Heat
The Heat are more or less a similar team from last season heading into the current one. Additions of Avery Bradley, Maurice Harkless, and rookie Precious Achiuwa highlight newcomers to the roster. The Heat retained rotation pieces throughout the roster aside from letting Jae Crowder walk.
It’ll be another year for Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro to improve, and should the duo take another step to stardom, the Heat will be a formidable force in the east with Jimmy Butler and the rest of the squad looking to once again prove the doubters wrong.
#5. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets’ spot in the ranking is banking on the notion that the on-court fit between Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant will work out. The latter is returning from a torn-achilles suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals, but when healthy is one of the greatest scorers the league has ever seen.
Rookie Head Coach Steve Nash heads into his first NBA coaching gig with a ton of pressure, but he has an experienced coaching staff to help guide him along the way.
The cast of supporting players is plentiful, and on their own are a low-seed playoff team. The Nets should be primed to take a major leap forward if all the marbles fall into place, and it’s a safe bet to assume so.
#6. Boston Celtics
Boston lost key rotation piece Gordon Hayward in the offseason, but added Tristan Thompson to help out on the glass and drafted sharpshooting wing Aaron Nesmith out of Vanderbilt. Despite the absence of Hayward, the roster is more or less similar to last season’s squad that went to the Eastern Conference Finals.
While not an ideal offseason, especially with reports that the Celtics missed out on a potential Myles Turner trade, banking on the improvements of Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown should keep the C’s at near the top of the east standings.
#7. Portland Trailblazers
Last season’s Blazers were plagued by injuries throughout their campaign. Robert Covington is the three-and-D presence this team has sought for a couple years now on the wing and should be a difference maker on both ends.
Bringing back Enes Kanter should help with depth at the centre position, and hopefully a clean bill of health for Jusuf Nurkic, C.J. McCollum, Damian Lillard, and Zach Collins should help this team back to the higher tiers of Western Conference contenders.
#8. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets should remain extremely competitive among the best in the west, as they have three young stars in Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and potentially Michael Porter Jr. If Porter Jr. is able to take step forward in his development and production, the Nuggets could break into a new tier of contention.
The loss of Jerami Grant in free agency hurts less with JaMychal Green stepping into the roster and Bol Bol will likely get more minutes this upcoming season. All in all, the development of Porter Jr. and Bol Bol this season will determine this team’s ceiling and floor.
#9. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors on the surface may have taken a step back this season after losing two key rotation pieces in free agency. The losses of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol seemed inevitable, and the Raptors pivoted by adding Aron Baynes, Alex Len, and re-signing Chris Boucher to take on a larger role on the team.
Toronto also re-signed Fred VanVleet, securing their point guard for the future. The core pieces are still here in Lowry, OG Anunoby, VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam. Much of the Raptors season will depend on how Siakam responds after a disappointing bubble performance, but there’s no doubt Nick Nurse will get the most out of the roster put in front of him.
#10. Dallas Mavericks
With Kristaps Porzingis set to be out for the start of the season, it will be up to Luka Doncic and co. to pickup the slack and make up for Porzingis’ absence.
The Mavericks added some defence, shooting, and toughness with their offseason moves. Adding Josh Richardson in place of Seth Curry is an upgrade on the defensive end, and James Johnson is a legitimate tough guy that can be the enforcer to protect Luka Doncic.
The Mavericks could end up higher in the rankings at seasons end if Doncic takes another leap in his so-far historic start to his career.
#11. Philadelphia 76ers
Daryl Morey might’ve just pulled it off. Somehow, Morey transformed the Sixers from a team that had a bleak outlook, especially financially, while also acquiring pieces that would complement Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on the court.
The additions of Danny Green and Seth Curry in particular will greatly benefit the two superstars, and Dwight Howard should be able to slot in as an effective backup centre.
It’s time to retire #hinkiediedforthis and start up a new hashtag for all the great changes Morey and his team have made so far.
#12. Golden State Warriors
Golden State will should be able to remain very competitive even with Klay Thompson once again out of the season. Kelly Oubre Jr. brings a two-way presence that should help replace some of the production Thompson could’ve given them.
The big x-factor is if Andrew Wiggins is able to realize some of his potential as a defender this season. Steph Curry will still be the most lethal shooter in the league, and hopefully Draymond Green awakens his competitive drive amongst the talent on the roster. Look for James Wiseman to also play a crucial role right out of the gate.
#13. Houston Rockets
The uncertainty surrounding James Harden’s future in H-town is a looming storm cloud hovering around the franchise, but heading into training camp, Harden is still on the roster. As long as Harden is still in Houston, the Rockets will remain among Western Conference playoff teams.
John Wall, if healthy and is somewhat of the player we last saw before his injury, could serve as a better playmaker compared to Westbrook, allowing Harden to thrive in more off-ball looks.
The additions of Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins officially signal the end of the small-ball era in Houston, and P.J. Tucker can go back to playing on the wing. If Harden isn’t traded, this team could end up being sneakily good, and a lot better than the position they currently have on this list.
#14. Utah Jazz
The Jazz are bringing back a familiar roster heading into 2020-2021. A clean bill of health for Bojan Bogdanovic should help ease the scoring load from Donovan Mitchell, and they still boast the best interior defender in the league.
Bringing back Derrick Favors also gives the team some insurance in the front court, and Jordan Clarkson will provide them with a scoring punch off the bench. Unless the Jazz are able to swing a deal for a top point guard, it’s likely similar results from last season will happen again this year in Utah.
#15. Phoenix Suns
It’s definitely easy to look at the Suns and the moves they’ve made this offseason and immediately consider them among the West’s elite. Chris Paul is the franchise’s best point guard since Steve Nash, and Paul is slotted next to budding superstar Devin Booker.
DeAndre Ayton will also receive some of the best passes from CP3 in the pick and roll, and the team boasts a variety of shooters and role players that will contribute to the team’s success.
Still, the West is a stacked field to compete in, with many teams jockeying for playoff spots throughout the regular season. The Suns can make the playoffs this year depending on how Booker and Paul co-exist on court together, and their ability to develop a comfortable on-court fit quickly could decide how high they finish in the West standings.
#16. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are another team that’s bringing back a similar roster to last season’s. A lot of Indiana’s success this year will be dependent on if Victor Oladipo can replicate his All-Star campaign. If an All-Star Oladipo is slotted into a roster featuring fellow All-Star Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdan, and T.J. Warren, the Pacers could be among some of the best teams in the east.
#17. Atlanta Hawks
The moves by Atlanta’s front office firmly place them in the ‘win-now’ boat, with additions of Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Danilo Gallinari highlighting their offseason.
Drafting Onyeka Okongwu gives them a contributor on the glass and defensive end from day one. Kevin Huerter and Cam Reddish will come off the bench, easing the pressure for them to be major contributors, and possibly allowing them to thrive as bench pieces.
Trae Young looks primed to build on his breakout 2019-20 campaign, and the Hawks look to soar into the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
#18. Washington Wizards
Adding Russell Westbrook to the backcourt with Bradley Beal certainly sounds intriguing. Westbrook will likely be the primary facilitator, while Beal will still be the top scoring option but will also operate more off-ball, which Beal has shown a proficiency for in the past.
Davis Bertans also gets to play with a point guard that is a legitimate scoring threat off the dribble, which should only benefit his three-point shooting. The Wizards should be fun to watch, will likely put up a ton of points every game, and are a definite contender to make the postseason.
#19. New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans’ season is dependent on if Zion Williamson can play at least three quarters of a season, in actual starter-level minutes on a consistent basis. When in the rotation, Williamson’s impact can be seen across the board. He changes the dynamic of the team dramatically.
Brandon Ingram will likely see even more improvement after getting a well-deserved contract extension. Veterans Eric Bledsoe and George Hill also look to bring a vet’s presence to a locker room filled to the brim with young, budding talents.
#20. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs face the challenge of competing in a much tougher field of competitors this season, but the consistency of having Gregg Popovich will always make the Spurs a threat to make the playoffs.
DeMar DeRozan is still an effect isolation scorer and playmaker, and LaMarcus Aldridge is still an extremely sold offensive big in the league. All it could take is for one of their young guys to really take the next step in their development, and the Spurs could see themselves in the postseason hunt once again.
#21. Charlotte Hornets
The addition of Gordon Hayward, while expensive, was much needed for a team that hasn’t been able to get much production from the wings in recent years. Drafting LaMelo Ball and adding him to the backcourt along with Devonte’ Graham should bring a new dynamic on offence.
Steps forward from youngsters PJ Washington and Miles Bridges could very well be the determining factor on the Hornets’ playoff hopes this season.
#22. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have one of the best young rosters in the league, featuring Jaren Jackson Jr., Ja Morant, and Brandon Clarke. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, Jackson Jr. will be out for the foreseeable future due to an achilles injury, and the West has gotten a lot better with key players returning and new additions shaking things up in the West.
They probably won’t be a playoff team next season, but will remain super competitive among the Western Conference.
#23. Orlando Magic
Orlando is likely the odd team out of the new competitors looking to grab a low-seed in the east playoffs. The strides made by Atlanta, Washington, and Charlotte could prove too much for the Magic, who didn’t really make any moves to improve in the immediate future.
They will still have the production from Nikola Vučević and Aaron Gordon, but the absence of Jonathan Isaac and D.J. Augustin could prove crucial to the Magic’s postseason hopes.
#24. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls can take a step forward this season depending on how Head Coach Billy Donovan innovates the Bulls offence, which under Jim Boylen was hard to watch at times. The roster has potential, with Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, and Coby White providing the offensive punch.
Wendell Carter Jr. and Patrick Williams will be relied upon as defensive anchors, and could be difference makers on that end this season.
The likely projection for the 2020-21 Bulls is a competitive lottery team with lots of developing young talent to be excited about.
#25. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves suffer from the unfortunate circumstance that comes with playing in the Western Conference. They made some notable moves this offseason in drafting Anthony Edwards and bringing back Ricky Rubio, but despite their best efforts, the Timberwolves may struggle to compete with the west’s best.
The T-Wolves still have many questions, especially on the defensive end, that will keep them from cracking the next tier of fringe playoff contender.
#26. Oklahoma City Thunder
OKC is a team that has an extremely bright future, but in terms of their upcoming season the outlook is pretty grim. Chris Paul was integral to the team’s success last season, and his absence will be felt across the roster.
Veteran centre Al Horford could see a bounce back season after a lacklustre campaign in Philadelphia, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could have a breakout regular season, but otherwise, all signs indicate towards a down season in Oklahoma.
#27. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons made a lot of additions to their front court this offseason, most notably adding bubble breakout Jerami Grant. Jahlil Okafor, Mason Plumlee, and Isaiah Stewart round out their front court which also still has Blake Griffin.
The Pistons also drafted French guard Killian Hayes to the roster who could develop into one of the better players from his draft class.
All in all, there aren’t enough visible signs currently to indicate that the Pistons can be playoff contenders this season.
#28. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers have their eyes on the future. They drafted defensive-wing Isaac Okoro fifth overall to add to their core of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. The next steps would be to move off of Kevin Love and Andre Drummond’s contracts in exchange for some assets.
A lottery appearance, preferably in the top five of next year’s draft should be in the best interests of the franchise moving forward.
#29. Sacramento Kings
Sacramento, like many other fringe playoff teams from last year in the West will find themselves among a much improved conference. Losing out on Bojan Bogdanovic was a tough loss, and it looks like the Kings are banking on Buddy Hield to thrive in an increased role.
Rookie Tyrese Haliburton should also provide an impact on the floor from day one as one of the more polished prospects from his draft class. If Marvin Bagley III can be at least 50% of what the Kings envisioned when they drafted him, or if De’Aron Fox develops into one of the best point guards in the league, the Kings could make this ranking look extremely silly.
#30. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks don’t have much to be excited about this upcoming season. This season serves as another transitional season for the club, and a successful season in NY would see youngster RJ Barrett take a step in the right direction for his development.
The Knicks are lottery bound, and that’s just the brutal reality.