NBA Power Rankings: Can anyone stop the Warriors?
NBA Power Rankings
CSN's Mark Strotman unveils his NBA Power Rankings entering the 2016-17 season, leading off with Kevin Durant and the Warriors.
30. Brooklyn Nets
The Jeremy Lin signing was one of the most underrated deals this offseason (three years, $25 million). That's about where the good news stops in Brooklyn. And as you'll hear plenty this year, the Nets owe the Celtics their first-round pick in 2017.
29. Philadelphia 76ers
Though Ben Simmons' rookie year is in doubt, the Sixers will finally get to unveil their 2014 draft class. And in the preseason Joel Embiid (11.4 points, 6.0 rebounds) and Dario Saric (10.2 points, 4.5 rebounds) have been impressive.
28. Los Angeles Lakers
Remember when D'Angelo Russell was labeled a bust a month into his NBA career? The sophomore has been nothing short of remarkable this preseason, averaging 17.8 points, 5.4 assists and 1.6 steals in 29.6 minutes. He could have a breakout campaign under new head coach Luke Walton.
27. Phoenix Suns
The Suns' win totals have gone from 48 to 39 to 23 the last three years. But if Earl Watson's Kentucky backcourt (Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Brandon Knight) can stay healthy and Booker continues to improve in Year 2 that win total should increase.
26. New Orleans Pelicans
Anything that could have gone wrong did go wrong for the Pellies last season. Jrue Holiday's absence from the team while he cares for his wife will hurt, but as long as Anthony Davis is standing upright they've got a chance - Davis hasn't played more than 68 games in any of his first four seasons.
25. Sacramento Kings
The Kings were wise to stand pat on a DeMarcus Cousins trade this offseason. While it'd be enticing to see the kind of return they could get, it's simply not sensible to trade a 25-year-old coming off a year in which he averaged 26.9 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists. The last six players to reach 26/11/3 at 25 or younger? Kevin Love, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, Bob McAdoo and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Roberston. Yeah.
24. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks could, and likely will, finish the year higher than No. 24, and if Giannis Antetokounmpo takes an expected step forward they could even sneak into the playoffs. But Khris Middleton’s absence is going to loom large, and it’s going to be difficult for a team already sub-par offensively to make up the 18.2 points and 277 3-pointers Middleton had last season. You can’t win if you can’t score in today’s NBA.
23. Denver Nuggets
There’s an argument to be made for the Nuggets having the best young crop of talent outside of the Timberwolves. Seven players who figure to play key roles are 26 years or younger: Kenneth Faried (26), Will Barton (25), Jusuf Nurkic (22), Gary Harris (22), Nikola Jokic (21), Emmanuel Mudiay (20) and Jamal Murray (19). This team is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
22. Washington Wizards
It’s tough to figure out exactly where the Wizards are headed. They’ve got their backcourt set in John Wall and the $128 million man in Bradley Beal. There’s just not a whole lot else to love about the roster. Kelly Oubre is a name to watch after a strong preseason, and Otto Porter taking another step forward in his fourth season would go a long way toward helping their playoff chances.
21. Minnesota Timberwolves
It’s Karl-Anthony Towns’ world and we’re all just living in it. The reigning Rookie of the Year is going to be an absolute terror this year and he’s going to push Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins as the league’s best big man. He averaged 17.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in 23.9 minutes per game this preseason. Absurd.
20. Chicago Bulls
There’s certainly intrigue in the Windy City after Gar/Pax went aggressive in free agency, signing Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. How those two fit in with Jimmy Butler will be another story. In reality the biggest factor may wind up being the contributions Fred Hoiberg receives from the power forward position, specifically Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis (the Bulls know what they’ll get in Taj Gibson). If either of those two break out, the Bulls should be back in the postseason.
19. Dallas Mavericks
Though it will certainly be criticized on his off-nights, the Mavericks took a solid risk in signing Harrison Barnes to a max deal this offseason. He’s still just 24 years old and should thrive under Rick Carlisle’s guidance. They also snagged Andrew Bogut to shore up the center position after the Warriors needed to dump salary to make room for Kevin Durant.
18. Orlando Magic
The Magic were busy this offseason, resigning underrated wing Evan Fournier, signing free agent Bismack Biyombo and trading for Serge Ibaka. But their most important move of the summer came when they fired Scott Skiles and replaced him with Frank Vogel. They’ve got an exciting young core, and if Aaron Gordon successfully transitions to small forward they’ll fight for one of the last two playoff spots in April.
17. New York Knicks
It wouldn’t be a shock to see the Knicks finish the year as high as No. 7 or as low as No. 27 on this list. For now they’ll stick in the middle as we wait to see how Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah acclimate to the steps forward Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis made last year. Health will be as important to the Knicks as any team in the league.
16. Miami Heat
Good luck getting used to watching a Miami Heat team without Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. There’s a new era in South Beach, and it starts with Hassan Whiteside. Miami salvaged its offseason by resigning him to a max deal, and combined with Justise Winslow and Goran Dragic should keep the Heat in the playoff hunt.
15. Charlotte Hornets
Fun fact from a year ago: Five teams ranked in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They were Golden State, Cleveland, San Antonio, the LA Clippers – arguably the league’s four best teams – and the Hornets. And now they get Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back after he missed all of last year with a shoulder injury.
14. Houston Rockets
The Dwight Howard era in Houston is over, and the hope is it frees up the Rockets offense a little bit. James Harden will make a serious run at MVP, and his ability to remain efficient at the point will go a long way toward maximizing the team’s efficiency as a whole. As Harden goes, the Rockets will go. Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon were great offseason additions.
13. Detroit Pistons
So long as they can weather the storm while Reggie Jackson is out, the Pistons should remain in the playoff hunt for a second consecutive year. They’ve got plenty of fun depth on the wing in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tobias Harris and Stanley Johnson, and Andre Drummond should put up career numbers for a fifth straight season.
12. Atlanta Hawks
It was a busy offseason for Mike Budenholzer, who dealt Jeff Teague to open the door for Dennis Schroder, then replaced Al Horford (Boston) with Dwight Howard. Those moves give Paul Millsap the reins of the offense, and the Hawks put together a solid draft by selecting DeAndre Bembry and Taurean Prince as eventual successors to Kyle Korver. The Hawks will be in the thick of things come May.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder
The stage is yours, Mr. Westbrook. The OKC franchise underwent an overhaul, trading Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo and watching Kevin Durant join the enemy in San Francisco. There’s still plenty to like about the Thunder, and it goes deeper than Westbrook. Steven Adams and Enes Kanter form a solid interior, and Oladipo should do well in an expanded role alongside Westbrook. At the end of the day it’ll be the Westbrook Show for 82 games, and we’re spoiled as fans to get to watch it.
10. Memphis Grizzlies
They don’t have as high a ceiling as the top teams in the West, but re-signing Mike Conley and nabbing Chandler Parsons in free agency made for a successful offseason. Marc Gasol’s health will loom large as it does every year, and Zach Randolph transitioning to a sixth-man role should help a painfully weak second unit.
9. Utah Jazz
There are positive signs everywhere for the Jazz making a leap to the upper class of the West. Gordon Hayward is out and Derrick Favors is dealing with an injury of his own, but there’s enough depth at every position to keep them afloat while they wait for their studs to get healthy. Adding George Hill gives them a plus point guard option for the first time in a while.
8. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers starting lineup will look different this season after they added Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young via trades. Myles Turner looks to be the future in the middle, and Monta Ellis is as reliable as they come (he’s missed three games the last four years). The one constant? Paul George, who could make a serious run at First Team All-NBA honors.
7. Portland Trail Blazers
With one of the most balanced rosters in the NBA, the Blazers will be in the hunt for a Western Conference Finals berth this year. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum form the league’s second best backcourt, and adding Evan Turner in the offseason will provide stability at the point on the second unit. If one of Moe Harkless or Allen Crabbe can make a jump forward, the Blazers will be dangerous this summer.
6. Toronto Raptors
They really struggled for a team that took the Cavaliers to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Postseason struggles aside, they’ve got the look (and the roster) of a team ready to compete in the East again this year. A healthy DeMarre Carroll will go a long way toward helping a defense that finished 11th in defensive efficiency, which was just seventh among East teams.
5. Boston Celtics
The addition of Al Horford – after losing the Kevin Durant sweepstakes – vaulted the Celtics up as the Cavaliers’ biggest threat in the East. There’s a case to be made that Horford is the league’s most underrated star. He topped 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a block per game last year. The only other players to do that? Kevin Durant and Paul Millsap. Combine him with Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and an embarrassment of depth and you’re looking at the No. 2 seed in the East, if not No. 1.
4. LA Clippers
One of these years Chris Paul and the Clips will get over the hump. Will it be in 2017? They bring back essentially the same team that won 56 games but also failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs. Chris Paul’s injury didn’t help matters, but the point remains they’ll need to figure out how to best utilize Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in a playoff series, as well as get some sort of contributions from their annual Achilles heel that is small forward.
3. San Antonio Spurs
The end of the Tim Duncan era in San Antonio also marked the beginning of the Kawhi Leonard era. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year becomes the face of one of professional sports' best franchises. And if the rumblings are true, that Leonard has improved his passing in advance of this season, he'll be making a strong case for All-NBA First Team honors.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
Two words: LeBron James. As long as the world's greatest player is standing the defending-champion Cavaliers will have a shot. They'll likely coast through the regular season, give critics some ammunition when they lose three straight in December, and then get on a roll as the playoffs near. It'd be a shock if James and the Cavs don't make it to the Finals for the third straight season.
1. Golden State Warriors
No, the Warriors aren’t the defending champs. Yes, they claim the top spot on this year’s power rankings after signing a future Hall of Famer and the greatest scorer of his generation. There isn’t much to analyze or dissect: Kevin Durant joining an all-time great offense makes the Warriors the league’s best.