Take a deep breath basketball fans; you deserve it. That was literally the wildest offseason, there have never been so many all-stars to switch teams. Paul Milsap is a Nugget, Gordon Hayward and Kyrie are Celtics, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George are in OKC with the MVP, Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, and Dwyane Wade are Cavs, Chris Paul is in Houston, and Jimmy Butler is in Minnesota. Teams like the Warriors and Spurs essentially stayed as is, besides some slight changes. How does this all stack up?
Fuck, if I know?! Where’s your crystal ball?
Here is the exercise in futility that is the Day 1 NBA Power Rankings…
1. Golden State Warriors
Yes, the Cavs had a great offseason but how can number one not go to the basketball Death Star that is the Golden State Warriors? Fully operational and loaded with long-range missiles, this squad isn’t going anywhere. They could very realistically be the number one all year.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs may have lost Kyrie Irving but they also solved a lot of their problems from last season. Most notably, they have a much better bench. Going into the season, Derrick Rose will assume responsibilities as the starting point guard. Eventually, he or Isaiah Thomas will be coming off the bench which is beyond a luxury for a team whose backup point guard was the ancient and bad, Derron Williams. Furthermore, the Cavs added Jae Crowder. Crowder is a perfect fit for the LeBron stretch for that has been played by the likes of Richard Jefferson and Shane Battier. This role player’s job is to play terrific defense (something they lacked in a big way last season), knock down open threes, and be an excellent passer. Dwyane Wade is a little less sneaky of a pickup. Expect him and LeBron to pick up right where they left off, adjusted for some added mileage of course. This looks like it could very well be the best LeBron Cavs yet.
3. San Antonio Spurs
The last time the Spurs missed the playoffs was in 1997. David Robinson broke his foot and the Spurs drafted Tim Duncan over the summer. You know the rest of this story. While the pieces have changed over and over again, they have not changed as much as you would expect. Manu Ginobili and Toni Parker seem like they have been playing since the Cretacious era but they are still playing at a high level. Meanwhile, Pau Gasol, yes Pau Gasol, shot 53.8 percent from 3-point range last season. That is actually the best 3-point shooting season ever. Let that sink in… I know, it makes no sense. It happened though and it represents the Spurs ability to evolve. Therefore, despite being dinosaurs, the Spurs are still a juggernaut on both sides of the ball that will be one of the best teams in the NBA. Also, expect Kawhi Leonard to have an absolutely bonkers year.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
So… the Thunder… Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook on the same team. The lack of 3-point shooting looks to be alleviated by Melo and PG13. Westbrook gets some much-needed help and Steven Adams should take another step forward as he continues to emerge as an elite enforcer and defensive minded rebounding monster that is sure to win any Vlad the Impaler look-a-like contest. Score extra points for intimidation. No one is gonna drive the lane on you when they are subconsciously thinking about being turned into a human shish kabob.
5. Houston Rockets
Mike D’Antoni is the craziest mad scientist since Dr. Frankenstein. Like Frankenstein’s monster, however, this 3-point frenzied attack is just crazy enough to work. Unlike Frankenstein, the Rockets are real and so is their addition of Chris Paul. Mike D’Antoni made Jeremy Lin look like an All-Star and had Kendall Marshall among the league leaders in assists. What is he going to make Chris Paul look like? This two-guard offense is going to be must-watch TV. Look for the Rockets to simply outrun and outscore their opponents regularly.
6. Boston Celtics
The only real concern here is the fact that the Celtics are only returning three players from last years’ 53 win roster ( Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford). It is reasonable to assume that there may be a bit of a stretch where the team finds chemistry together and meshes into the team they can and should become. That team is a power-house and likely the greatest threat to upset the Cavs to come out of the East. Kyrie Irving is going to show the world how great he is now that he is no longer under the shadow of LeBron James. Gordon Hayward will prove how prolific of a scorer he is now that he is not in Quin Snyder’s snail-paced (yet effective offense). Look for the Celtics to be really good but their best days will not come for a few years when Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are starting to reach their primes.
7. Washington Wizards
Can we all just take a moment to appreciate John Wall? It seems like we never talk about this guy but he is arguably the fastest player in the league with the dribble and has in-air body control rivaled by only Spider-Man. Spider-Man is an Avenger now I think. (I have not seen the recent movies because violence is silly) Anyway, Spider-Man wishes that he had Bradley Beal with him. John Wall does; the Beal and Wall attack is something serious. These two are enough to lead the Wizards to another strong season. All awful Marvel jokes aside, the Wizards are a force in the East. John Wall is surrounded by shooters in Beal, Markief Morris, and Otto Porter, while Marcin Gortat holds down the middle for a fun one-in-four-out offense.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves
The T-Wolves offseason was incredible. Jimmy Buttler, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, and Taj Gibson will all be playing for the pack this season. The Timberwolves went from a fun young team to a potential contender. They went from a bad defensive team to what looks to be a very good defensive team with the additions of Gibson and Butler. For the Timberwolves to be at their best, however, Karl Anthony Towns needs to be a superstar. He is the best player on this team, sorry, Jimmy.
9. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors should be about the same. We can expect DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to play great basketball for most of the year. For the Raptors to finally turn the corner, however, they need two things to go right. Number one, Serge Ibaka needs to carve out his role as a Raptor and contribute in a big way on both ends of the floor. At 25-years-old, it is time for Jonas Valanciunas to put his big boy pants on. The 7-footer has always been solid but if the Raptors want to contend he needs to score more than 12 points a game and finally average double-digit rebounds. Until the frontcourt proves itself, this team is just good, not great.
10. Los Angeles Clippers
The hate has gone too far. Yes, they lost Chris Paul, J.J. Reddick, and Jamal Crawford but come on, man! They got a haul back for CP3 and made some other really nice moves as well. While they will miss Chris Paul, the Clippers have some interesting young stretch fours in Montrezl Harrell and Sam Decker. The real prize of the trade though is Patrick Beverly. Beverly is arguably the best on-ball defender in the league at the point guard position and adds an element of toughness that cannot be quantified. Danilo Gallinari finally gives the Clippers a legit small forward and one that can play the stretch-four better than just about anyone in the league. Finally, the Clippers added the super Serbian, Milos Teodosic. Teodosic is an excellent passer and shooter that will be able to do a lot of the same things that the Clippers did with Chris Paul. Maybe Teodisic will even be healthy for the playoffs! Not only did the Clippers not take that big of a step back but they may have quietly gotten better. We will see…
11. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are still very young but Giannis Antetokounmpo is right on schedule at 22-years of age. Like the Celtics, the best days of Bucks basketball is likely ahead of them. For now, the Bucks guard tandem of Malcolm Brogdon and Kris Middleton will be a problem for almost any opponent on both sides of the floor. The two big ifs, however, are Thon Maker and Jabari Parker… Parker needs to get healthy and stay healthy. Thon Maker is still pretty raw. If Maker can grow up fast and Parker can come back healthy then fear the dear.
12. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets are going to be very fun. Nikola Jokic and company can all move the ball and shoot at a high clip. Unfortunately, Wilson Chandler and Paul Milsap might be the only ones who can play any defense. Look for Denver to be in shootouts on a nightly basis and maybe sneak into the playoffs.
13. Utah Jazz
The Jazz lost their star and that is going to hurt a lot. Gordon Hayward’s void will be attempted to be filled by Rodney Hood. If Hood is able to give the Jazz close to twenty points per game, the Jazz and their incredible defense will be back in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Jazz, that is no guarantee and without Hood stepping up in a big way, the Jazz might take a larger step back than they may like.
14. Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers were a very hard team to place. Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic makeup a really strong core. unfortunately, McCollum and Lillard are far from elite defenders and the Blazers will not make any serious noise until they become a better defensive team. Perhaps they can shoot their way into the playoffs though.
15. New Orleans Pelicans
That is great they have Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins but who else? Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo? Who is going to shoot the ball? Probably Cousins who will continue to jack up 3-pointers and whine. Not really buying the Bayou. Please prove me wrong, Pelicans. If it does work, it will be a lot of fun.
16. Miami Heat
The Heat had a very strong finish to what was a rough year once they finally got things going. Hassan Whiteside continued to develop his offense and represents one of the few old-school big men left in the league Miami makes this work with their pick-and-roll artist, Goran Dragic, and a plethora of positionless players who can shoot from deep while Whiteside gobbles rebounds like a possessed hungry, hungry hippo.
17. Charlotte Hornets
Dwight Howard was a nice pickup for the Hornets, who hope to get back to the playoffs. After a hot start last season, they quickly fell apart. While the addition of Howard fills the void at the center position, the Hornets are essentially the same team. They will go as far as Kemba Walker takes them. In the East, that could be the playoffs though.
18. Philadelphia 76ers
Maybe these guys should be closer to 13 but Joel Embiid has still only played 31 games. Ben Simmons is yet to play a regular season game, and Markelle Fultz sightings have been scarce as he has dealt with injuries as well. Trust the process? Get off the crutches and we can talk about it.
19. Dallas Mavericks
Dennis Smith Jr. could rejuvenate the Mavs and could very likely be in contention for Rookie of the Year. Nerlens Noel could also play like a man possessed as he seeks a big pay-day. It would be a stretch to expect this team to be playing in the playoffs, however.
20. Memphis Grizzlies
There are two good players on this team, a few busts (I am talking to you Tyreke Evans and Ben McLemore), and a bunch of scraps. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are great but this almost feels like a tank. I expect a Dave Joerger team to fight every night though. Look for the Grizzlies to be that annoying sub-par team that beats your favorite team on their home floor. Don’t let them ruin your night. You have been warned.
21. Los Angeles Lakers
Get ready for a lot of growing pains but also a lot of fun. Luke Walton will have these guys over-performing. Look for Lonzo Ball and Julius Randle to establish a chemistry that could foreshadow the Lakers bright future.
22. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons upgraded at the shooting guard position by adding Avery Bradley to replace Kentavious Caldwell-Pope but the loss of Marcus Morris is going to hurt. John Leuer and Henry Ellenson are not going to get the job done and Reggie Jackson is not going to turn into the selfless point guard that the Pistons need to thrive. If the Pistons are even halfway decent it would be thanks to Stanley Johnson taking a big step forward.
23. Indiana Pacers
Myles Turner could emerge as a fun young star this season as Paul George has left for Oklahoma City. Victor Oladipo is also playing for Indiana again, how fun is that? The key word here is fun. This will be a fun young defensive team. They will not be a very good team though. This is another annoying team that has the potential to ruin your night if you sleep on them.
24. Pheonix Suns
The Suns are a fun, young team. Devin Booker is a rising-star and Josh Jackson has all the potential to be one as well. Throw in Marquese Chrisss and Eric Bledsoe, not to mention some cool looking new uniforms and you got a fun young team. The Suns best days are a few years away though.
25. Sacramento Kings
The Kings are still the Kings so don’t trust them or expect them to be any good. That being said, if anyone can save this sorry franchise, it is De’Aaron Fox. The jury is still out on Buddy Hield too but the Kings are the most interesting they have been in a while with their ideally dynamic duo.
26. Orlando Magic
The Magic were very disappointing last year and seem to have been trying to find an identity for the last three seasons or so. Despite the relatively appealing young back court of Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja, and Eflrid Payton with Nikola Vucevic down low temper your expectations in Disney World.
27. New York Knicks
Melo, Rose, and Phil Jackson are all gone but as long as James Dolan is there, it is hard to place any legitimate confidence in the Knicks.
28. Atlanta Hawks
Well, at least they aren’t just mediocre again. The Hawks are in full rebuild mode.
29. Brooklyn Nets
As bad as the Nets are, Sean Kilpatrick, Jeremy Lin, and D’Angelo Russell should be fun to watch and the team is actually pretty well coached. The Nets are still hot garbage.
30. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls will be a lot worse this season but they will be a much-improved shooting team that finally has the personnel to run Fred Hoiberg’s space and pace system. The Bulls are a team of IFs. If, Lauri Markkanen pans out if Kris Dunn pans out, and if Zac Lavine is able to come back healthy, and finally if Lavine resigns with the Bulls, then the Jimmy Butler trade was a good move. For now, you can expect Bulls fans to conspire assassination attempts on Gar Foreman throughout the season.