Hey NBA fans, the season is starting in less than two weeks! Are you excited? I am, in fact so much so that I am going to be kind and give you my NBA Power Rankings, talking about how each NBA team looks and how they should do this season. Where is your team? Are they going to make the playoffs? Well, you should probably read the article. Enjoy!
Golden State Warriors
To me, the NBA Champions are No. 1 to start any season. The Warriors are different as they also happen to still be the best team in the NBA and can actually improve next season. They have three of the best players in the NBA in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green; a defensive anchor in Andrew Bogut; the best sixth man in the NBA in Andre Iguodala,; young players like Festus Ezeli and Harrison Barnes, who should continue to develop. Beyond that, Golden State has incredible depth and coaching. This is the best team in the NBA.
I don't know if Tristan Thompson will play for the Cavaliers this season, but they don't need him for them to be the best team in the Eastern Conference. They have LeBron James, the best player in the NBA, while Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are two of the 20-best players in this league. Cleveland also has strong depth with the signing of Mo Williams and getting Anderson Varejao healthy. I don't see any team that isn't the Cavaliers winning the East this season, and yes, that means my beloved Bulls, too.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers haven't won much in the playoffs, but I love their roster. With Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers have three of the NBA's best players, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce. Those three are elite role players, and the team has much stronger depth this season. With Doc Rivers and their talent, to me the Clippers have the second-best roster in the West, as they had arguably the best offseason of any team not named the Spurs.
San Antonio Spurs
Hey, the Spurs. Yes, the San Antonio Spurs are considered the biggest challenge to the Warriors in the Western Conference and had a perfect offseason, but I have questions. Tony Parker may be slowing; Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are almost 40; and I don't love the fit of LaMarcus Aldridge as much as most. He is used to getting the ball when he wants and shooting when he pleases, and with him hating playing center, I don't know if he will fit into San Antonio's "do anything to win" culture. Make no mistake, Aldridge is a winner, but winning takes priority with the Spurs; it doesn't matter if you are Tim Duncan or Matt Bonner, the player who is performing and fits the team's current situation will play.
Regardless, the Spurs still have Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, and Leonard, the Defensive Player of the Year, should continue to improve plus the organization also signed David West. San Antonio might have the best best roster in the NBA, but I really need to see how the pieces fit and how the team's veterans look.
There is an excellent chance that me being a Chicagoan and a noted Bulls fan makes this ranking a question mark, but the Bulls are still the second-best team in the East regardless of the health of Derrick Rose and Fred Hoiberg being their coach. I expect Jimmy Butler to actually improve on his Most Improved Player season, Joakim Noah to have a much stronger and healthier season and for Pau Gasol to continue to play elite into his mid-30s. Also, look for Nikola Mirotic, Tony Snell and Doug McDermott to become bigger parts of this team. If the Bulls want any chance to beat the Cavaliers in the playoffs, Rose must be healthy, but to me, Cleveland is just too talented.
The Grizzlies will continue playing elite defense in a conference known for offense, but their best players, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, keep improving and this club is doing well at fixing its mediocre offense. If Zach Randolph's age and health isn't a problem, this team has the defense and depth to win a title this season. I say it season to season, as the Grizzlies' defense and slow-Eastern Conference style of ball can beat any team in the Western Conference.
Houston got lucky that it didn't have to play the Spurs in the playoffs and that the Clippers had normal Clipper problems (losing), because the Rockets are not the second-best team in the West. Regardless, James Harden and Dwight Howard make up what is still the NBA's best duo in my opinion. The team also traded for Ty Lawson and has several elite role players alongside a strong offense and defense. Houston is going to win a lot of games. I do not see the Rockets winning more than two playoff series again this season, however, if they are healthy and Ty Lawson plays to his potential and fits, I will change that opinion.
Oklahoma City Thunder
If Kevin Durant wasn't coming off a lost season and they still had Scott Brooks, no matter how mediocre he may have been as a coach, the Thunder would be third on this list. But, I want to see a few things first: if Durant and Serge Ibaka are healthy, if Enes Kanter can play defense, if Durant and Westbrook have chemistry, and how Billy Donovan coaches. Regardless, Oklahoma City has two of the NBA's best 10 players and the talent of a title team.
These first nine teams (Warriors to the Heat) are the only teams I can see winning a title this season. The Heat have the second- or third-best team in the East, but health and age is a problem with numerous players. Regardless, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh make up the best starting five in the East, while Justise Winslow is an excellent fit and one of my favorite rookies. Additionally, Miami has strong role players in the second unit. If healthy, this team has a chance to win the East - a stronger chance than Chicago actually - but the health status is a big if.
You have to love Washington's Bradley Beal-John Wall foundation, which is the second-best guard duo in the NBA after the Warriors'. John Wall is already one of the best players in the league, and I see Beal joining him this season, becoming a 20-point-per-game scorer and the team's go-to scorer. I see a big season from Otto Porter Jr., too, and the Wizards have a strong veteran big man duo in Nene and Marcin Gortat, so although their depth is mediocre and this team is still too young to contend, to me, this is easily the fourth-best team in the East.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have the best big man in the NBA with Anthony Davis, who has a strong chance to win MVP this season and to me, is the third best player in the league and I love him, and Omer Asik as the other starting big man. Those two form arguably the best defensive big man duo in the NBA. With Ryan Anderson, New Orleans has an elite big man trio, but then there are a lot of question marks. If Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon are healthy and they have strong chemistry, this team's potential is ridiculous, but one of Holiday or Gordon is usually injured. The Pelicans' frontcourt should get them into the playoffs, but I think they are a second elite second player away from being a contender. Regardless, the Pelicans are likely to make the playoffs and are the seventh-best team in the Western Conference.
The Hawks won't be the first seed in the East next season, but they are still a lock for the playoffs, and that is with them losing DeMarre Carroll to Toronto. Jeff Teague runs the offense perfectly, I love their Paul Millsap-Al Horford-Tiago Splitter big man trio, and Kyle Korver is the NBA's best shooter, but Atlanta's perimeter talent is mediocre at best and the club lacks a true franchise player. Horford-Millsap-Teague is an excellent foundation, but the Hawks need that one marquee player to be a contender.
The Bucks have the second-best young roster in the league after Minnesota, and although lacking the elite, marquee talents of the Timberwolves, Milwaukee's talent is ridiculous. Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greg Monroe and John Henson form a championship caliber foundation, and although the Bucks are a lock to make the playoffs if healthy (the sixth-best team in the East), they are still too young to contend. A series win would be an excellent season.
I have the Mavericks as the eighth-best team in the West, but I can see the Jazz, Kings or Suns in there, too. Regardless, I loved the signing of Deron Williams, and although Dallas gave Wesley Matthews a ridiculous contract, I really like this team when healthy; Chandler Parsons and Matthews are currently hurt. I think the Mavericks will make the playoffs, but if there isn't a trade I haven't heard about, this is a lost season for the them, as contending is the only option, which is a shame, as Dirk Nowitzki only has a few years remaining. Regardless, with a core of Nowitzki, Parsons and Matthews, and money to spend next offseason, Dallas should be an excellent playoff team after next season.
The Raptors are a hard team to analyze. They probably have the fourth-best roster in the East, but they are so inconsistent. I love DeMar DeRozan, who is an elite scorer and a true go-to NBA scorer on a playoff team, and DeMarre Carroll's defense, energy, scoring and hustle is perfect next to DeRozan at small forward, but Kyle Lowry can be elite and mediocre in the same week, while Jonas Valanciunas still isn't the go-to big man he should be and the team's young talent isn't exactly elite. The addition of Luis Scola gives Toronto a scorer at the four, and there is so much depth, but this team needs to prove itself with consistency. The Raptors are still one marquee player from being a contender, but the playoffs are a lock, and they can win at least one playoff series.
The Jazz are trying to make the playoffs for the first time in years, and they have the talent to do so, but a lot needs to happen for them to make it. Utah has one of the best young rosters in the league and as many as 10 solid-to-excellent young players, but Gordon Hayward needs to continue to play like a go-to offensive player; Derrick Favors has to play like the franchise player he proved he could be in the second half of last season; Rudy Gobert must show his second season was for real and that he is a franchise five; Trey Burke has to put together a strong season as the starting point guard; and Alec Burke needs to be healthy. The Jazz have more talent than Phoenix, Dallas, and Sacramento, but their youth to me says they won't be a playoff team.
I think I may love the Sacramento Kings' roster more than any non-Bulls team in history. Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein, Rudy Gay and George Karl together in one locker room, with an owner who has no clue and half of the excellent Kings team of 15 years ago on staff; it really brings tears to my eyes. I can see this team winning 50 games and making the playoffs or winning 25 games and trading Cousins and Rondo. All I know is that I will be watching the Kings as much as I can. I would literally move to Sacramento to report on this team this season if I was asked, that is how much I love the 2016 Sacramento Kings.
I am a fan of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, but the $150 million guard combo and the foundation of the franchise haven't played many games together. Regardless, they are too talented not to work as a starting guard duo, and I also love the signing of Tyson Chandler, who should make Phoenix a league-average defense by himself. and he should help Alex Len become a stronger NBA player. The Suns have a lot of young talents who need to prove themselves (Len, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Archie Goodwin, Mirza Teletovic and Markieff Morris), and if some do, it could be the difference of making and missing the playoffs in the West. Phoenix can get the eighth seed in the West, but there are a number of teams going for it, two of which I think are more talented than the Suns.
The Pacers are my No. 8 team in the East this season. A healthy Paul George is one of the 10 best players in this league, and healthy he is. Indiana also has an elite second offensive option next to him in Monta Ellis, and with George Hill, Solomon Hill, Jordan Hill, Hank Hill -joke - and Myles Turner, this team has the talent to make the playoffs next season. I do think that depth is a problem, and the Pacers could really use a strong veteran big man, but they have too much talent, if healthy, to miss the playoffs.
New York Knicks
I actually really like this Knicks team. A healthy Carmelo Anthony can take a team to the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, and I loved New York's offseason. The Knicks signed a strong center who can help their defense in Robin Lopez and found themselves some potential free agent gems like Derrick Williams, Kevin Seraphin and Arron Afflalo. I like rookies Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant as well, and I have feeling New York will be fighting with Indiana for the eighth seed this season. Regardless of making it, it will be fun in the Garden this season. The Knicks are a second marquee player from contention, but could it be Porzingis? No, probably not, but they should have money to spend in the offseason to find one.
The injury to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is big, as he just had his best season, but having Nicolas Batum helps, as they are similar talents and play the same position. Regardless, as much as I like Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker, Batum, Cody Zeller and rookie Frank Kaminsky, the Hornets are just the 10th-best team in the East to me.
This is easily the oddest pick in these rankings; the Celtics just made the playoffs, have improved this offseason and were excellent in the second half of last season, but I just don't think they can do it again. Boston may have elite depth and coaching from Brad Stevens, but the team's two best players are a sixth man and David Lee, who the Warriors traded to help financially. I see a team with nice young players and assets, but the only two young Celtics who I think are cornerstone pieces are Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk, and they likely won't get more than 25 minutes per game. Boston could make the playoffs, but I doubt it.
Brook Lopez is elite, while Joe Johnson and Thaddeus Young are excellent starters, and I like Lionel Hollins, but the Nets have no starting point guard or depth. Although I can see them in the playoffs again, they need to make another trade or two to get them some help at forward and point guard. Brooklyn cannot rebuild though because it still owes two picks to Boston, so Brooklyn has to make some strong mid-season moves, but for now I just do not seem this franchise as stronger than the 12th-best team in the East. At least, the Nets will have cap space and can build something with a Lopez-Young foundation.
With no Greg Monroe, this team lacks the talent to make the playoffs in the East. Franchise player Andre Drummond is one of the best big men in the NBA and will continue to improve, and I love Reggie Jackson, who should have a big season as the go-to scorer. I am also a fan of rookie Stanley Johnson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Pistons' young perimeter duo, but th is team just doesn't have the talent to win the 40-42 games needed to make the playoffs.
Los Angeles Lakers
I love the Lakers' foundation of rookie D'Angelo Russell, the second pick in the 2015 NBA Draft (my second favorite rookie), second-year guard Jordan Clarkson and second-year forward Julius Randle. This team has collected some strong young talent and veterans this offseason to go with Kobe Bryant, but the playoff chances are small at best. The Lakers could be a .500 team if Kobe plays like he is 5 years younger and Russell is the Rookie of the Year.
Portland Trail Blazers
Will the Trail Blazers go from the fourth seed in the West to one of the weakest team in the NBA? Yes. They have their franchise player in point guard Damian Lillard, but then they have little. I like center Mason Plumlee, who they traded for this offseason, and third-year guard C.J. McCollum, but Portland lost four excellent starters and will have a porous season. At least, the Trail Blazers have Lillard to build around, but I cannot see them winning 30 games.
The Nuggets might have found their franchise player in rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who they drafted seventh in the 2015 NBA Draft, and second-year center Jusuf Nurkic and second-year shooting guard Gary Harris are talented, but this organization needs to stop re-signing veterans and just rebuild. Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari got about $100 million combined this offseason from Denver, players who the club should be trading. If I was running the team I would keep Mudiay-Kenneth Faried-Nurkic as the foundation and make as many deals as possible. If the Nuggets run, they could be a fun team to watch, but they need to keep rebuilding, find an identity and know what most already do: they are one of the least talented teams in this league.
This team has a ridiculous amount of young talent alongisde two elite foundation players in Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic, but the Magic lack a franchise player. They have a real chance to have the fewest wins in the NBA this season.
The Timberwolves have the best young team in the NBA and may become the next Golden State Warriors, i.e. a mid-market franchise that drafted superbly enough to end up in the title picture. Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns are the foundation, while Adreian Payne, Tyus Jones and Shabazz Muhammad are excellent young talents in their own rights. Still, Minnesota isn't going to win too many games this season. The Timberwolves could win 25 games, as they have strong veterans to help the young talent, but would be smart to trade Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic. Then Minnesota could just play with its young players for a season while also receiving some assets. The likely result would be losing and getting another strong draft pick. The Timberwolves won't make the playoffs or win 30 games, but they have something excellent in Minnesota. Also, get well, Flip Saunders! #BeatCancer.
Jahlil Okafor was my favorite prospect in the 2015 NBA Draft and gives Philadelphia a franchise player, who is potentially one of the best big men in the league. With Okafor and Nerlens Noel, who is an elite defender in his own right, the 76ers have their foundation, but then? Umm, there isn't too much. I like Nik Stauskas, the shooting guard they traded for and who should start, while Tony Wroten, Robert Covington and Jermani Grant are all nice young talents, but this is another season lost. However, Philadelphia will likely have at least two lottery picks, so this team could be one year from actually winning.