It is still technically the offseason, but with rosters taking shape (and in some case finalized, barring injury). Once you get out of the top 10, the rest of ranking are scattered with teams that are benefiting from other squads tanking to win order to win the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes.
Also, we have not seen any of these rosters play yet so it is a little tough to gauge. Some teams look horrible on paper (Utah Jazz) and others look surprisingly decent (Pelicans?). In any event, welcome to the first installment of the Blue Man Hoop Power Rankings.
1. Miami Heat
They are the Champs. So of course they are number one. Also, they have the best player in the world in his prime, that doesn’t hurt either. The question from Day 1 will be can they Three-Peat. I say no given the lack of production from Chris Bosh in the playoffs, the declining health of Dwyane Wade and the fact that can’t add really any impact players due to being over the cap. But, with that James guy, anything is possible because he’s pretty darn good.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
They caught a horrible break with the Russell Westbrook injury in the playoffs. With him healthy, there is not a better tandem between him and Kevin Durant. Serge Ibaka is developing into a solid 2-way player so you could say the Thunder have a Big 2.4, or something close to that. Jeremy Lamb has to step up and fill the void left by Kevin Martin though, which may be asking a lot.
3. Brooklyn Nets
They added potentially two Hall of Fame players to the roster without giving up really anything of significance. The question is can these old dogs still hunt. Their key core players are all 32 or older with the exception of Brook Lopez. But, they have the experience of being in the trenches and actually winning. If Keving Garnett can anchor the defense, this team could be very hard to beat down the stretch.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
They added possibly the best coach in the league, kept the best point guard in the league, and upgraded their wing position with one of the best shooters in the league. They did not really fix their toughness, though, which was lacking in their series with Memphis. Doc Rivers should instill some of that just by his presence, but who mixes it up on this team other than Matt Barnes.
5. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers were a dark horse pick to make the Finals next year. I think they are still the dark house, but it won’t be a surprise to anyone if they do. They are built to wear you down. Roy Hibbert and David West provide to be tough to stop. Paul George announced his presence with authority during the playoffs (and on Birdman’s head) while become the Eastern Conference’s newest anointed “Superstar.” With Luis Scola coming off the bench, the Pacers are poised to make their first real run since a man named Reggie pushed off on Michael Jordan.
6. Memphis Grizzlies
Their ability to grind you down is unquestioned. But, where to they go to score? This problem surfaced during the playoffs, but they still made the Conference Finals. However, by not adding anybody of significance during the offseason, they may be bound to be the bridesmaids again. But their core is very deep and should carry them pretty far. Beyond though, not so sure.
7. Golden State Warriors
As pointed out by JA Adande, the Warriors were the only top-six team in the West to add an All-Star to their rotation. Andre Iguodala will be a boon to this team, taking pressure off of Stephen Curry for playmaking responsibilities. Barnes off the bench will be interesting as well. I see lots of small ball in the future. But, what remains to be seen if is if this bench is ready to hold the ship with the departure of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. If they can, this team will be fun to watch (as always) and extremely dangerous.
8. San Antonio Spurs
At some point, you have to figure the Spurs’ age will catch up with them, which is why they rank behind teams they beat in the playoffs. Their run last year was probably their last real chance at a title with Tim Duncan and company. But their style of play and cohesiveness always plays a huge role in their success, so they can’t be left out of the discussion. The loss of Gary Neal will hurt, but, the elevation of Kahwi Leonard cannot be understated. He is already and elite ball defender while evolving into a capable offensive threat.
9. Houston Rockets
They “won” the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, but he does he mesh with their style of play. Many of their players flourish in a wide open style, such as Jeremy Lin or Chandler Parsons. In fact, their style of play is pretty similar to the one he just left. It is up to Kevin McHale to make this work.
10. New York Knicks
They likely will have the same problem they always have, lack of ball movement with Carmelo Anthony on the floor. If ‘Melo can change his game and not be the a black hole, they can make some noise. Their acquisition of Andrea Bargnani helps, but, it is not enough to overcome the moves by others in the East.
11. Chicago Bulls
There should not be any questions about whether Derrick Rose is healthy enough to play. He will be a full year removed from the ACL injury and is a former MVP. But, who is backing him up? The loss of Nate Robinson and Marco Bellineli does not allow the Bulls to really limit Rose’s minutes. Mike Dunleavy Jr. may be able to provide some relief. In the end, the Bulls will need to make a move in order to get in the upper tier teams in the East.
12. New Orleans Pelicans
What team is profiting from teams tanking? Call me crazy, but, if they can stay healthy (that means you Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon), they could be decent. The problem is the competition in the Western Conference will likely overshadow how competitive this team may be. But the addition of Jrue Holiday, an All-Star point guard with size, should pay instant dividends. Tyreke Evans, though is a mustery unless his minutes are limited to off the bench, super-scorer status.
13. Dallas Mavericks
Welp, blowing up a championship team to be left with an aging Dirk Nowitizki and not much else. How did that work out for you, Mark Cuban? They added two guards who will likely give up more on defense than they can produce on offense (Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon) and still have Vince Carter to boot. There will be no D in Big-D. Either way, they are a veteran team that should still be able to be around .500 for the year, may eking into the playoffs.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves
Losing Andrei Kirilenko hurts a lot. Losing Pekovic would hurt perhaps even more. This ranking is contingent on the Wolves resigning the bruising center. But their offseason moves were not horrible. Kevin Love, hopefully, plays a whole season without injury. Without him, the Wolves were only 10 games under .500. Rick Adelman is never talked about as an elite coach, and yet, his teams seem to always succeed.
15. Portland Trail Blazers
Where have we seen this experiment before? Two undersized combo guards that can score and do little distributing. Damian Lillard had a breakout rookie season, which is why drafting DJ McCollum made little sense. Yes, they will be able to score. But both guys dominate the ball and need shots. Oh yeah, there’s LaMarcus Aldridge down low also. The Blazers will give teams trouble, but, in the end, two small guards does not work, sorry.
16. Atlanta Hawks
Lose Josh Smith, add Paul Milsap. Definite downgrade. In addition, not signing Dwight Howard does not allow Al Horford to move to his “natural” power forward, which has been talked about forever. This team lacks depth and is going to be playing young guys, but in a weak Eastern Conference, should be able to finish in the top eight for the playoffs.
17. Sacramento Kings
Probably too high, but, they have life now. New ownership has taken notes of how to turn a franchise around (see Joe Lacob Handbook). They drafted Ben McLemore, who could end up being a star. They have pledged allegiance to Boogie, also known as DeMarcus Cousins. The season will hinge on how he performs and is handled by management. If things go smoothly, the Kings will not be the worst team in California.
18. Phoenix Suns
Jeff Hornacek has his work cut out for him in his first season. The Suns have a mishmash of a roster of guys who can play, but, how do they fit together. Does Eric Bledsoe start with Goran Dragic? Do you play the Morris twins together? Does Michael Beasley make it to the game, or get pulled over? Question marks everywhere.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers
They are waiting to see what happens next season with LeBron. But I want to see what Kyrie Irving does next. The guy could be the best point guard in the league. You can’t keep him out of the lane and he creates havoc everywhere. The addition of Bynum, if healthy, creates a huge front line with Varejao and Tristan Thompson. Their success will be linked to Dion Waiters ability to take smart shots and be efficient. Jarrett Jack will help off the bench as well. If things go well, the Cavs could be primed to show enough improvement to lure back the King (probably not).
20. Denver Nuggets
Losing to the Warriors would not have been as bad if they hadn’t had also lost Andere Iguodala to them as well. Danilo Gallinari may not be healthy to start the season and you have to start Javale McGee. Not exactly a playoff team. No team has fallen further since the end last season than the Nuggets. Oh yeah, you also have an unproven coach and general manager. Good luck with that.
The rest of the teams are too hard to call because they either have significant injuries (Lakers), have purposely destroyed their roster (76ers, Lakers, Jazz, Celtics), or have just made bad decisions (Detroit, Charlotte, Lakers). But here are the bottom 10.
21. Washington Wizards
22. Detroit Pistons
23. Boston Celtics
24. Toronto Raptors
25. Milwaukee Bucks
26. Los Angeles Lakers
27. Orlando Magic
28. Charlotte Bobcats
29. Utah Jazz
30. Philadelphia 76ers
The next installment of the Power Rankings will be after pre-season when teams have absolutely finalized their rosters, pre-season injuries have occurred, and initial establishment of roster rotations. Can the season just start already!?
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