The NBA season approaching quickly! We finally get to watch the sport that we all love so much. In the past offseason, teams have improved and teams have fallen. With that being said, let’s get into my first power rankings of the season.
30. Sacramento Kings
My money is on the Sacramento Kings as the worst team in the NBA. The Kings are a team with no identity, no confidence, and no direction. They do have quite a bit of young talent on the roster, though. De’Aaron Fox is looking to step forward in his second season. Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic are looking to take a step forward as scoring.
The Kings drafted talented big man Marvin Bagley III second overall, which was a bad pick for multiple reasons. They have a ridiculous logjam down low, including Bagley, Harry Giles, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Skal Labissiere. This team doesn’t have a number one scoring option and won’t be good on defense. But hey, Zion Williamson won’t be too bad of a consolation prize.
29. New York Knicks
For a team that comes in second to last in the power rankings, the Knicks aren’t in too bad of a position. Their burgeoning superstar, Kristaps Porzingis, is out indefinitely and may not even step on the court during this season. Without him, this team will be the worst in the East. Still, the Knicks have a bright future. First-round pick Kevin Knox is a solid scorer with defensive upside and Frank Ntilikina is a defensively minded, versatile combo guard. Add in sleeper prospects like Allonzo Trier and Mitchell Robinson and you have the makings of a strong young core. Knicks fans, the future is bright. Let that help you get through the darkness of this season.
28. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are another team who project to have a poor 2018-19 season but have a solid looking future. New head coach Lloyd Pierce was a part of the Warriors’ organization. His three first-round picks: the playmaking Trae Young, the Sharpshooting Kevin Huerter, and the versatile Omari Spellman sound like a familiar trio. right? They’re obviously nowhere near the Warriors’ trio but the mold is clear. Combine this with up and coming scorer and defender Taurean Prince and the Hawks should be an exciting team to watch this season.
27. Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic should actually be a very good defensive team in this season. Jonathan Isaac, rookie Mohamed Bamba, and Aaron Gordon should be a solid trio this year. This team is still very raw and talent deficient but this team should be a tough team to score on this season. They don’t have any guards and don’t really have a dynamic scorer, which will hold Orlando back.
26. Phoenix Suns
The Suns have the largest amount young talent of any team in the NBA. Devin Booker is locked up and is a prolific scorer. Can he take the next step in his development as a playmaker and defender? Josh Jackson is a great defender and has flashed playmaking potential. They boast three exciting rookies. In DeAndre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Elie Okobo. Ayton has been fantastic in the preseason and has looked worthy of the number one overall pick. The Suns don’t have a competent starting point guard on the roster but I am a believer in Okobo. The Suns have a very bright future and may even be able to win more games than many expect in 2019.
25. Brooklyn Nets
Sean Marks has done as good of a job as he possibly had done following the Billy King disaster. Five years later, the Nets have a slew of young talent, a great coach, and cap space. Rondae Hollis Jefferson is a versatile defender and underrated playmaker and second-year center Jarrett Allen is a great receiver and defender. D’Angelo Russell has been a solid scorer throughout his career but can he make the jump to All-Star status? The Nets won’t be good in 2019 but this could be the last year for the Nets at the bottom of the East.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers
When you lose the best player in the world, the expectations for the following season will be lowered. This Cavaliers team will be reeling from the loss of LeBron James and won’t make their fifth straight finals appearance. Still, Kevin Love is a great player who will hope to return to his Minnesota form. Rookie guard Collin Sexton will have his chance to be a leader for this team and put his name in the rookie of the year race. Cleveland has some talent but not enough to make it out of the gutter of the East
23. Chicago Bulls
I’m calling this team “Nuggets East.” The Bulls are going to be an excellent offensive unit this year, boasting the likes of Lauri Markkanen, Jabari Parker, and Zach LaVine. On the flip side, this team is going to struggle on the defensive end. The slow-footed Parker playing the three will only exacerbate this issue, making Chicago exploitable on any given night. They are a young, fun team who are a year or two away from anything serious.
22. Charlotte Hornets
New head coach James Borrego hopes to help his Charlotte Hornets break out of mediocrity. They feature an All-Star guard in Kemba Walker along with a few very solid role players in Cody Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum. If their young talent, namely Malik Monk and Miles Bridges, can step up, this Hornets team could exceed expectations and push for the eighth seed. Still, this is a unit that isn’t built for playoff basketball.
21. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons will look to break out of mediocrity under the leadership of new head coach Dwayne Casey. Rebounding machine Andre Drummond and former superstar Blake Griffin form a very solid “twin towers” duo and are the backbone of this roster. Look for Luke Kennard to break out this season as a solid creator for Detroit. This team is nothing more than mediocre, a seventh seed at best.
20. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks feature one of the most intriguing teams in the NBA heading into the year. Their biggest storyline is the addition of European sensation Luka Doncic in the draft, who hopes to provide an immediate spark to the Dallas offense. They added big man DeAndre Jordan in the offseason who will boost their rebounding and defense. Combine them with young, talented guard Dennis Smith Jr. and scorer Harrison Barnes and you have a team that would be a playoff team in the East. Unfortunately, they play in the stacked West, which will likely keep them out of the postseason for now.
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19. Miami Heat
It seems like the Heat aren’t going to Jimmy Butler, who would have shot them up this power rankings. Miami is in an awkward situation. They have a few solid veterans in Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, and Dwayne Wade, all on the older side and none anything spectacular. On the other hand, they have a few very solid young pieces in Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, and Josh Richardson. The best move here seems to trade away veterans and embrace the tank, as much as it will pain Pat Riley.
18. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers enter the season with another interesting roster. They have a funny mix of veterans in Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Lou Williams, and Patrick Beverley, and young talent in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson. How the Clippers divvy up their minutes will be something I will be watching closely this season. Look for the Clippers to push for a playoff spot this season but fall short due to a lack of star power.
17. Washington Wizards
Stock on the Washington Wizards seems to be as low as it ever has. People are low on John Wall after his disappointing season and the addition of Dwight Howard brings up obvious chemistry problems. Despite his inconsistent defense and jump shot, Wall is still a prolific scorer and Bradley Beal combines to form a tough backcourt to defend. This team is as deep as it has been in some time, featuring plenty of wing depth in Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jeff Green, and Troy Brown. The Wizards will be in the thick of the playoff hunt in the East this year.
16. San Antonio Spurs
A pair of key injuries have already plagued the Spurs and have dropped them a few spots down this list. Losing All-Defensive point guard Dejounte Murray is a huge loss and losing rookie Lonnie Walker IV will hurt as well. This Spurs team will lean on LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan to take them back to the playoffs. Right now, I don’t have this Spurs team as a playoff team but we all know how foolish it is to doubt Greg Popovich.
15. Memphis Grizzlies
People will brush this Memphis team under the rug because of their dismal 2017-18 campaign. This team is much improved in 2018, mainly because of Mike Conley’s return from injury.Hem and Marc Gasol form an excellent duo and give you a chance on any night. The addition of Kyle Anderson in free agency and Jaren Jackson Jr. in the draft give this Grizzlies roster even more versatility. I could see this team sneaking into the playoffs in the West if they play their cards right.
14. Portland Trail Blazers
NBA fans have been overwhelmingly out on this Portland team throughout the offseason following their sweep at the hands of the Pelicans in the playoffs. This team clearly has its flaws in depth and scoring consistency but they still are a very good team. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can be an unstoppable scoring tandem at times and they have some solid wings in Mo Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu. Playoffs are far from a guarantee for Portland but they will be in the middle of the hunt this year.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
I’ve been holding off on these power rankings until the Wolves finally traded Jimmy Butler. But with his contentious practices, it seems like Butler is sticking around for the moment. I could write three novels on this situation but I’ll keep it short. This is a playoff team with Butler, a top 10 player in the NBA. Karl-Anthony Towns is very talented and so is Andrew Wiggins despite his many flaws. If they can just not kill each other, Minnesota should be able to make the playoffs this year.
12. Denver Nuggets
The darling of NBA Twitter, Denver has seen their stock skyrocket amongst NBA fans and for good reason. They are arguably the best offensive team in the NBA, led by Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris. They get Paul Millsap fully healthy, who will be a defensive boon, and Michael Porter Jr. is intriguing as prospects get. Yet, I would advise Nuggets-stans to pump the brakes on the Nuggets. This team still isn’t going to play a lick of defense and struggles on the road. Because of their lack of defensive ability, I don’t think this team can crack the top 10 for me like it has for many others.
11. Milwaukee Bucks
Adding Mike Budenholzer could possibly open up a new dimension of modern, motion offense for the Bucks. Because of this, some are all the way on the hype train for this Milwaukee team. I’m not all the way there yet but this team could blow all of our expectations out of the water. Giannis is going to Giannis and Khris Middleton is a fringe All-Star. Adding spacing in the frontcourt in Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova will be a key. If the Bucks manage to leapfrog some of the teams in front of them, nobody would be surprised.
10. Utah Jazz
The Jazz have become the other darling of NBA Twitter following their magical run last season. Donovan Mitchell broke out last season as a legitimate scorer and Rudy Gobert is a defensive anchor. Ricky Rubio and Joe Ingles are both excellent complimentary playmakers. The Jazz will be excellent defensively but I wonder how far their core can take them without another star. I expect a bit of regression here but still, Utah will be a tough team this year.
9. Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James by himself elevates any team’s status to near the top of the league. We saw what he did with that Cleveland team last season. James has quite a bit of young talent around him. Brandon Ingram could be on the cusp of stardom and Lonzo Ball’s upside is immense. Still, the lack of a second star limits the potential of this Los Angeles team and, in the gauntlet that is the West, I don’t see this team making it over the hump.
8. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are in a bit of weird spot. This team is shallow on the wing and doesn’t provide much spacing but has an interesting group that could take them far if everything clicks. It all starts with Anthony Davis, a clear top five player in the NBA. He is dominant on both ends and is a game changer. Jrue Holiday is another elite defensive guard and a capable scorer. This team has gone away from the perimeter-oriented status quo, adding two talented bigs in Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic. This unorthodox strategy, if executed well, should make New Orleans a feared roster this year.
7. Indiana Pacers
Last season, the Pacers exceeded all expectations. A team that most expected to pick at the top of the draft almost won 50 games and took LeBron James to seven games. This Indiana team runs through Victor Oladipo, who has emerged as a bona fide stud on both ends of the floor. We are all still waiting for Myles Turner to break out; if he can, Indiana will be even more deadly than it is. Indiana boasts a deep bench and enough effective role players to make a deep playoff run in the Eastern Conference.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder
Sometimes, subtraction does more for a team than addition. This is the case with the Thunder. In losing Carmelo Anthony, Oklahoma City’s defense will drastically improve. A five-man unit of Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George, Jerami Grant, and Steven Adams will be a top defensive unit in the NBA. The Thunder have quietly acquired sufficient depth in Dennis Schroder, Nerlens Noel, Patrick Patterson, Alex Abrines, and Hamidou Diallo. Led by Westbrook and George, the Thunder are an upper tier team in the West.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
The Process was finally realized last season with the 76ers making the playoffs and winning a series. Led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers are an incredibly difficult team to stop. J.J. Redick, Dario Saric, and Robert Covington provide valuable spacing, playmaking, and defense around Simmons and Covington. Markelle Fultz is a wild card; if he can realize his potential, Philly would be even scarier. Spacing and health will be keys for Philly to maximize if they want to make a run at the finals this season.
4. Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard is a massive question mark for the Raptors this season. When healthy, he is a top five player in the NBA. If not, Toronto will falter. Kyle Lowry is an excellent all-around player and one of the more underrated guards in the NBA. Lowry and Leonard lead a deep Toronto team, with Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby, and Fred VanVleet leading the supporting cast. Toronto will be looking to make the finals this season and they will go as far as Kawhi Leonard can take them.
3. Houston Rockets
Coming off of a historic offensive season, the Rockets look to replicate their success this year. Their core is still intact and I expect James Harden and Chris Paul to once again have huge seasons. I don’t subscribe to the notion that just because Houston lost two key wings, their defense will implode. The philosophy is still there and P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela, and Chris Paul are all elite on defense. Houston is a juggernaut and is one of only a few teams who can go blow for blow with the Warriors.
2. Boston Celtics
Of any team that could compete with the Warriors, Boston has the best chance. Outside of the Warriors, they have the most complete roster, top to bottom. Boston has stars in Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and Gordon Hayward and young studs in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Role players Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart, and Aron Baynes form the deepest bench in the NBA.
1. Golden State Warriors
Do I really have to write anything here? There isn’t anything I can say that hasn’t been said. The Warriors are the best team of all time. Five top 20 players is a recipe for an inconquerable dynasty. Barring significant injuries, Golden State will three-peat at the end of this season.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.