Good Morning. First things first, I would like to formally introduce myself to all of my readers. My name is Alex Golden. I coach basketball at a private school in Indianapolis, Indiana. I have been a fan of the NBA for as long as I can remember. I try to give my opinions without any bias, but sometimes I do show some favoritism to my Indiana Pacers. With that being said, I look forward to sharing my opinions and hot takes with you going forward.
So with all that being said, thank you for stopping by today to read my weekly article, where I will be discussing all things NBA. We are just one week out from the NBA Season opener, and I wanted to share with you my Preseason Power Rankings. The anxiety from many NBA fans is high as we enter what could be one of the most exciting NBA seasons of all time. Let’s take a look at some of the big moves teams made this off-season.
The off-season didn’t really begin until the Golden State Warriors made things almost impossible for the rest of the NBA by acquiring Free Agent, Kevin Durant. You add a top 5 player in the league to a team that won 73 games last year and you find yourself dumbfounded on anyone can beat this team. The Boston Celtics also made a splashy signing in Al Horford. The Celtics didn’t lose any of their core pieces, and added a starting center to the mix. In the absence of Horford, the Hawks turned their attention to Dwight Howard. They inked Howard to four year deal, and traded away starting point guard Jeff Teague to the Pacers in a three team deal that sent George Hill from Indiana to Utah, and it gave the Hawks the 12th overall draft pick, Taureen Prince.
The Spurs added Pau Gasol after Tim Duncan retired. Chicago added Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, hoping their veteran presence will carry this team further than many writers expect. Phil Jackson threw a lot of money at two injury prone players in Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose. Houston changed things up by signing Ryan Anderson, Nene and Eric Gordon. The Magic acquired Serge Ibaka in a draft day trade for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Illyasova and Domantas Sabonis.
The Pacers acquired Thaddeus Young for their 20th overall pick. Evan Turner signed with the Portland Trailblazers. The Mavericks acquired Andrew Bogut from Golden State, along with signing Harrison Barnes. Memphis gave a MAX deal to Chandler Parsons and Mike Conley. The Cavaliers FINALLY signed J.R. Smith. Marreese Speights signed a deal with the Clippers to bolster their bench and lastly, the Utah Jazz acquired Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw.
Obviously there were a lot more transactions then listed above, but those were the headliners. The NBA always has a lot of movement and it’s the most exciting time of the season for NBA fans. With a fresh start for everyone this season, each team looks to make this year, one to remember. Let’s dive into the Preseason Power Rankings to see where each team stacks up against the rest.
- Golden State Warriors – There is no doubt in my mind that the Warriors are the best team in the NBA. In fact, this might be the best team to ever step foot on an NBA floor. That’s saying a lot because the NBA has seen a lot of great teams. It will take everything from the Warriors opponent to defeat them so I fully expect the Warriors to have the best record in the NBA. Sometimes these super teams hit a rough spot, but the Warriors were just in this position last season. They won 73 games. If the Warriors of 2016-2017 break that record I won’t be surprised.
- Cleveland Cavaliers – You don’t usually start the NBA Preseason Power Rankings putting the defending champions anywhere but the number one spot, but Golden State is just too good. However, the Cavs have a monster team that kept their core together. After giving Clevland their first NBA Championship, LeBron James looks to lead the Cavs back to the NBA Finals for his 8th STRAIGHT APPEARANCE. When will someone dethrone LeBron and his Cavaliers? It doesn’t seem like it will happen this season.
- Los Angeles Clippers – At full strength, the Clippers have a solid starting 5 that is still in its prime. Looking to finally stay healthy and prove to everyone that they’re more than pretenders, the Clippers have to pour everything they have left into this season. Blake Griffin is back healthy and hoping to use last season as a learning experience.
- San Antonio Spurs – The Spurs will be at the top of the NBA conversation once again. With a coach like a Pop and system that puts players in the right place at the right time no matter the opponent, the Spurs will continue to be a force. Yes they lost Tim Duncan who you can’t replace, but they have a good enough core to challenge the top of the West. If there is anyone who can work their magic on the Warriors, it’s the mastermind that is Gregg Poppovich.
- Boston Celtics – Keeping their main core together and adding an All-Star to the team can only mean success for the Celtics right? Brad Stevens is hands down one of the best coaches in the NBA. He is the Poppovich of the East. He will make the Celtics a threat in the East. With their ability to defend, Boston gets the edge over a few other teams in the East.
- Indiana Pacers – With a brand new coach, 3 new starters and a lot of hope in a sophomore center, the Pacers have to gel fast. The excitement in Indiana for this team is real. Indiana has the talent to do something special in the East. A lot of analyst like the Pacers, but don’t love them. They’re still a piece or two away from taking down Cleveland, but Paul George is arguably the 2nd best player in the East. PG13 could get Indy back in the Eastern Conference Finals.
- Toronto Raptors – The Raptors were the 2nd best team in the East last season, but didn’t add anyone to their roster that will take them over the hump. This team will still be a good regular season team and could possibly make it deep again in the Eastern Conference, but I have my concerns. Raptors fans are some of the best in the league, and if there is anything that can motivate these Raptors players to produce another successful season in Toronto, it’s these fans.
- Oklahoma City Thunder – This might come as a surprise to many NBA fans, but Russell Westbrook is out to prove to the world that he doesn’t need Kevin Durant. That right there could be the very reason that some would have the Thunder lower than I do. However, I am a firm believer in Billy Donovan as an NBA coach. With Victor Oladipo, Andre Roberson, Steven Adams and Enes Kanter joining forces with Russ, the Thunder could overachieve this season.
- Portland Trailblazers – The front office in Portland has impressed me beyond belief. They continue to retool their team without tanking. After losing Aldridge to the Spurs in free agency, many thought they would be out of the Playoffs. But they made it to the second round and really made the Warriors sweat for a 2nd round matchup. With another year of the same core and the addition of Evan Turner, the Blazers look to be a top 5 team in the West.
- Utah Jazz – I think Utah has a little bit of everything but they lack a true star. I can see them finishing higher than 5 in the West, but I could also see them missing the playoffs. This team is one I am in wait and see mode with. They can do a lot of things defensively but who is making that game winning shot when they need one? Hopefully a team effort can get them further than a first round exit.
- Detroit Pistons – Although I have them at 6th in my East Standings Predictions, I think Detroit is the 5th best team in the East. SVG is one of the best coaches in the NBA. If it wasn’t for the injury to Reggie Jackson, I would have this team higher in the East. Overall though they have players who can do it all. Don’t be surprised if the Pistons win a first round playoff matchup against one of the top four teams.
- Chicago Bulls – I know they lack three point shooting, but they have the defensive ability to muck it up with anyone in the league. Defense clearly wins championships but you do need scoring. While the Bulls could easily be on the outside looking in, I think they have enough talent to make the playoffs.
- Minnesota Timberwolves – The Wolves are a very young team. This year will be a great building year for them under new head coach, Tom Thibodeau. Coach Thibs has the ability to maximize the talent of their young core, and push for a playoff spot. I am bullish on the Wolves being better than a young team that will miss the playoffs again and have them pushing their way into the post season.
- Memphis Grizzlies – Memphis an odd group this season. Like the Bulls, I think they have too much talent to miss the playoffs, but it wouldn’t shock me if they did. I like their ability to defend, but I don’t like their ability to stay healthy for 82 games. Conley, Gasol and Randolph might have one more competitive year left in them, but I don’t see it continuing after this year.
- Dallas Mavericks – if this Mavs team can stay healthy they’ll make the Playoffs. If they don’t, they’ll be on the outside looking in. I like the starting 5 for the Mavericks but I can’t say I am sold on their bench. Coach Rick Carlisle knows how to maximize his players’ talents, and he could help get this team back in the playoffs again. If there is one thing the Mavericks fans can appreciate, it’s Mark Cubans willingness to never tank and find players via trade or signing to make them competitive every year.
- Houston Rockets – Houston we have a problem. The Rockets are going to be a fun team to watch but where is the defense coming from? I know D’Antoni teams run the floor and don’t focus on defense but it is a valuable part to the game. The bad thing is, if Houston were in the East, they would definitely be a playoff team. You have to wonder if Nene, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon can stay healthy for a full season to maximize the talent of the Rockets. I can’t faithfully say Eric Gordon will stay healthy long enough to give Houston a real run at the West Playoffs.
- New York Knicks – You look at the Knicks roster and they have about 6 good players and that’s really it. Banking all of your trust in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah’s health isn’t the smartest thing to do, but it is all the Knicks could do. They’re going to be good enough to compete for a spot in the East Playoffs, but there are a lot of mediocre teams in the East that could push the Knicks out of the playoff picture. Again, like Memphis and Chicago, I see too much talent in the starting lineup to put them any lower in the rankings.
- Charlotte Hornets – MKG is back for the Hornets and Steve Clifford has got to be ecstatic. There are some defensive juggernauts on the Hornets roster, and a handful of shooters. The position I worry about the most is the center position. Cody Zeller isn’t a bad basketball player but is he a starting center in the NBA? It’s questionable. With all that being said, I want to see Kemba Walker back in the playoffs because when the spotlight is on, Walker shines.
- Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks have a new look them this season, and a lot of changes have been made since they were the #1 seed in the East two years ago. It seems like this is some sort of low blow to have Atlanta down so low, but I haven’t seen enough consistency from their young core to trust them to be better than a middle of the pack playoff contender in the East. I feel like coach Bud could take them to the playoffs, but it will be a lot of work.
- Denver Nuggets – the problem with the Nuggets is that they have so many really good role players and no stars. Hopeful to have stars in Mudiay and Murray, the Nuggets seem to be in a rut with their other key contributors. This is the season I believe the Nuggets finally deal Faried, Chandler or Gallinari. Regardless, they will win some games but they’re no threat in the West.
- Washington Wizards – John Wall has got to be frustrated with the makeup of this team. Beal can’t stay healthy and besides the Morris trade, the Wizards really haven’t done much to improve the team as a whole. Otto Porter was not what the player they hoped for when they drafted him, and Oubre might be taking over his starting spot. Regardless, this year is going to be a tough one for Wizards fans. Unless new coach Scott Brooks can do something special, the Wizards will once again miss the playoffs.
- Milwaukee Bucks – What a unique roster the Bucks have here. It appears the Bucks are obsessed with long, lanky wings who can play multiple positions. They are going to miss the shooting of Khris Middleton for half the season. Putting the Greek Freak at the point will definitely cause havoc for opposing teams point guards, but there just isn’t enough depth on this roster to take Milwaukee to the playoffs.
- Sacramento Kings – the Kings have solid players on this roster but no point guard. Rudy Gay has already made it known he isn’t resigning with the Kings either. Cousins has got to be annoyed with the Kings front office, but Boogie isn’t the easiest player to coach either. If Sacramento were smart, they would package whatever they need to, to acquire a point guard to go with Cousins. Maybe Goran Dragic?
- Orlando Magic – Frank Vogel is the new man in charge and he will have his hands full this season. With 8 power forwards/centers on this roster, the Orlando Magic look to rewrite the current trend of small ball in the NBA. With the hopes of bringing Ibaka back to Orlando, the Magic traded for him during the NBA Draft. It will definitely be a rebuilding year for Orlando, but they still have enough talent to win some games that on paper, they shouldn’t.
- Miami Heat – When Dwyane Wade decided to leave the Heat, Pat Riley smiled and said go get your money. In return, the great Riley added players like Luke Babbit, Dion Waiters and Derrick Williams. There is no doubt that he wants to rebuild through the draft and give players like Winslow, Richardson and Johnson time to grow. With Dragic and Whiteside still on the roster, they won’t be the worst in the East. If Riley wants to completely shake it up he could deal one of those two players. It also will be the last season Chris Bosh is a member of the Heat.
- Phoenix Suns – Drafting two power forwards in the 2016 Draft was smart. Bender has a lot of talent but he doesn’t look ready for the NBA game just yet. On the other hand, Marquis Chriss has the ability to do it all. Inserting a player like Chriss into the starting lineup will be a positive for the Suns. Along with Chriss, you get a healthy Bledsoe back and a young Booker at shooting guard to build a new core. Youth is the only thing holding the Suns back right now. So be patient Suns fans, your team will be competing with the best of the best in no time.
- New Orleans Pelicans – Anthony Davis has to stay healthy for all 82 games. Losing Anderson and Gordon will hurt New Orleans. Along with Holiday being out indefinitely for personal reasons, the Pelicans have to bank on Buddy Hield, Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill, Etwaun Moore and Tyreke Evans. It’s a unique roster that doesn’t have enough outside of Davis. I don’t like to be the barrier of bad news, but Alvin Gentry is going to have another long season in New Orleans.
- Los Angeles Lakers – When you take away Byron Scott and Kobe Bryant and add Brandon Ingram and Luke Walton, you finally have the rebuild in Los Angeles you’ve been wanting for the last two seasons. The Lakers have a handful of talent on their team but it’s not going to be good enough this year. If you are a Lakers fan though you have a lot to be excited about. You could possibly see D’Angelo Russell as the Most Improved player too. Walton is going to get the Lakers back to relativity in the West.
- Philadelphia 76ers – This is the season the 76ers don’t finish last in the East, or the NBA. They have enough talent to finish just above that. With a healthy Embiid they hope to improve on last year’s record. Unfortunately they lost number one overall pick Ben Simmons to a foot injury and it could keep him out all season. I think 76ers fans have more to be excited about then they have in many years.
- Brooklyn Nets – the Nets won’t be making headlines for the right reasons very often this season. They do have some really cool new jerseys, but other than that not a whole lot to talk about. Brooke Lopez and Jeremy Lin are the best players on this team, and as good as players as they are, they’re not good enough to overcome the rest of this depleted roster.