2017–18 NBA Power Rankings 1.0
Yes it’s early, but there’s never a time that’s too early to start making Power Rankings. This will be the only one until the preseason, and many more editions will come the season goes on.
This offseason has been both active and hectic, with many teams making huge changes to their rosters in a desperate attempt to dethrone the three-time defending conference champs on both sides, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.
#1: Golden State Warriors
This one doesn’t need any explanation. The defending champions brought back all major pieces thanks to Kevin Durant taking a massive pay-cut, drafted Jordan Bell, and added Omri Casspi and Nick Young. The Warriors will remain on top for quite a while, this season and beyond.
#2: Houston Rockets
The Rockets pulled off the blockbuster acquisition of the summer when they traded for Chris Paul to pair with James Harden in the backcourt. While some are concerned that they won’t be able to coexist because they both are ball-dominant, there really is no reason to be worried. Both are more than capable of playing off-ball, and Mike D’Antoni will stagger their minutes properly. If the rumors are true, they’ll likely soon acquire Carmelo Anthony as well, who will only help them in their pursuit of the top spot.
#3: Boston Celtics
The Celtics came away with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season, then replaced Avery Bradley with Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris and drafted a pro-ready wing in Jayson Tatum. They also let Jonas Jerebko walk and brought in Aron Baynes for his much-needed rebounding. They have a better roster than anyone in the East, even if that doesn’t necessarily mean they will reach the NBA Finals.
#4: San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs eclipsed 60 wins last season on the back of Kawhi Leonard, and are bringing back every major piece while also adding Rudy Gay to the mix. On paper they never seem like a top-tier team, but they always perform like one.
#5: Cleveland Cavaliers
Last year’s runner-up Cavaliers team had many holes, and they haven’t filled any of them. They failed to acquire Paul George, and haven’t brought in any useful players this entire summer. They let their well-respected GM, David Griffin, go, and look like they very well could lose LeBron next summer. However, they still have LeBron James right now, and that alone makes them a contender.
#6: Washington Wizards
The Wizards are in a tough spot, as they’re capped out without any room for improvement, and while their current roster is very talented, they have no feasible path to a championship. However, they’re roster is VERY talented, specifically at the top. John Wall and Bradley Beal make for an elite backcourt, and Otto porter is coming off a breakout year in which he proved he can be a viable third option. They unfortunately don’t have much else, but their top-heavy roster is enough to make them a top team in the Eastern Conference.
#7: Toronto Raptors
GM Masai Ujiri brought back the band, which wasn’t necessarily the smartest thing to do, but it is a pretty good band. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are two of the best at their respective positions, bringing in CJ Miles will be a huge plus, and Toronto will do what they always do- lose to LeBron in the playoffs.
#8: Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets might have improved more than any other team, and they did it with just one signing- Paul Millsap could not fit any better with their roster. He and Nikola Jokic will make for an absolutely devastating partnership, inside and out. Their tremendous passing on top of their shooting abilities will be impossible to guard. Millsap will have a huge impact on the Nuggets’ defense. Watch out for the Denver Nuggets as the surprise team of 2017–18.
#9: Milwaukee Bucks
After bringing back the same team as last year, the Bucks are primed to improve just because of the amount of youth on the roster. Specifically, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Be ready, because the Greek Freak is about to take over the league- and win the MVP.
#10: Minnesota Timberwolves
If this were just based on name value, the Wolves would be near the top. But unfortunately, the names need to fit. And Minnesota’s don’t. They’ll be a good team because of the sheer talent on their roster, but they will have troublesome woes when it comes to shooting from beyond the arc, and they won’t be as good of a defensive team as they’re expected to be.
#11: Oklahoma City Thunder
GM Sam Presti has had a fantastic summer, first robbing the Pacers of Paul George (even if it turns out to be a rental), and then getting Patrick Patterson for fantastic value. They have some unfairly high expectations that they won’t meet, but they will still be a very much improved squad.
#12: Utah Jazz
Naturally, the Jazz will take a step back with the loss of Gordon Hayward. But, it’s nearly impossible to not be a good team if you have Rudy Gobert, the best Center in the entire NBA, manning the middle. His historically great defense and top-tier rebounding, along with the many young role players they have surrounding him, will still be a good team.
#13: Miami Heat
The Heat had a pretty rough offseason, signing both James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk to big contracts that they didn’t deserve. They also re-signed Dion Waiters for a fair value, and will be returning the rest of a team that won 30 of its last 41 games, good for a 60 win pace. They surely didn’t make smart investments this summer, but they absolutely are still a good team.
#14: New Orleans Pelicans
The Pels’ duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins didn’t work out in the brief time they played together last season, but with a full offseason to develop a new system and gameplay, New Orleans should be back in the playoffs next year due to the unmatched big-man duo of Boogie and The Brow.
#15: Los Angeles Clippers
This may sound weird, but the Clippers should be unbelievably grateful for what Chris Paul did this summer. Not for leaving- but for allowing them to make a trade with the Rockets so that LA would receive compensation for CP3 in the form of Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell. The Clippers will sport a new-look roster aside from the bigs, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The acquisitions of the three former-Rockets as well as Danilo Gallinari don’t quite make up for the loss of a player like Paul, but they certainly help lessen the blow.
#16: Portland Trail Blazers
As the rest of the West improves, the Portland Trail Blazers… do nothing. Seriously. Since the NBA Draft ended, Portland has made ZERO transactions. No trades, no signings, nothing. They gave too many mediocre players huge deals last summer, and are now paying the price.
#17: Philadelphia 76ers
How about this- after five years of being the punching bag of the NBA, the Sixers are ready to make a run at the playoffs, with the last two #1 overall picks making their debuts, a breakout star in Joel Embiid ready to lead the charge, the perfect veteran in JJ Redick, and one of the league’s most underrated players in Robert Covington. The Sixers are ascending the ranks of the East right as everyone else starts to deteriorate, and they’ll keep rising to the top in years to come. Make no mistake about it, the Sixers will be one of the most fun teams in the whole league, but they’ll also be one of the better ones.
#18: Memphis Grizzlies
After losing Tony Allen, Vince Carter and Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies are going to decline. But with a one-two punch like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, don’t be shocked at all if the Grizzlies can stay afloat as a playoff team in the West. Unfortunately, though, the end for this run in Memphis basketball is coming soon.
#19: Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs would be a great sleeper pick to sneak into the postseason if the West weren't so stacked. They have an abundance of young and intriguing talent, and even if they aren’t a playoff team next year, they will definitely be a team to watch on League Pass.
#20: Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets have a bunch of fine pieces, but they aren’t sure how any of them fit together. Their success this season depends on whether or not #11 overall pick Malik Monk can perform well as the secondary scorer and creator to relieve Kemba Walker of some of the playmaking duties. If he can, they’ll likely emerge from the wide-open race for the playoffs in the East and reach the postseason. If not, we may be getting another dissapointment of a season from the team owned by the GOAT.
#21: Detroit Pistons
Shocker: the Pistons are still a mediocre team without any young cornerstones or cap flexibility! The Pistons will forever be in NBA Purgatory, not good enough to be feared by anybody, but too good to get any top picks in the Draft. And they’ll probably be like this as long as Stan Van Gundy is in charge- he knows that his job security depends on the team being just decent.
#22: Phoenix Suns
The Suns will be a fun team to watch next season. Eric Bledsoe has proven to be a very good Point Guard, Devin Booker is obviously ready to get buckets at any time, and Josh Jackson is an absolutely freakish athlete. But what will be most interesting is the play of Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, their two lottery picks in 2016. The Suns have often been rumored to bringing in big-men, but if they both can play well, that trend may come to a close.
#23: Los Angeles Lakers
The one-year signing of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will prove to be huge in terms of helping them win some games. They aren’t anything close to a playoff team, but considering they don’t have their first-round pick this year anyways, they might as well shoot for the stars. The reason KCP will be such a good addition is his defense. Of their projected starters, Julius Randle is the only one who isn’t significantly under-average on the defensive end. Even more importantly, his ability to defend all types of guards will make the workload of Lonzo Ball much easier.
#24: Indiana Pacers
What exactly the Pacers are attempting to do is a bit difficult to figure out. Aside from the abomination that was the Paul George trade, their plan is very unclear. It seemed obvious that they’d be bottoming out and building through the draft, but then they gave two-year deals to Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic. Neither of those players will get them much, and their presence will just stunt the development of young players they hope to mold into future assets like Glenn Robinson III. Considering how many bad teams there will be this year, making those signings could easily cost the Pacers in the form of getting a much worse draft pick.
#25: Sacramento Kings
Make no mistake about it, the Kings made strides this summer. Getting a no-doubt franchise centerpiece like De’Aaron Fox alone makes this offseason better than any they have had in quite a long time. But, this team isn’t ready to win games just yet. George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter may help them compete, but don’t expect the Kings to be rattling off wins at every turn.
#26: New York Knicks
Whether they trade or keep Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks are not going to be good anytime soon. The Knicks might end up wasting the prime of Kristaps Porzingis considering how much of a train-wreck their management continues to be. Or, even worse, they could potentially drive him out of town from their sheer incompetence.
#27: Orlando Magic
The Magic will never not have an abundance of athletic tweeners who are too tall to play Small Forward and not strong enough to play Power Forward. In all seriousness, though, rookie Jonathan Isaac may be similar to some picks they made that didn't work out, but he is going to become a very good pro. Aside from Isaac, they have a pile of average or very slightly above-average players, but every year these players fail to form an average team.
#28: Chicago Bulls
The Bulls started off their rebuild on the wrong foot with the horrendous Jimmy Butler trade, but considering the lowly return that the Pacers got for George, it doesn’t seem as terrible as it did at the time. Regardless, this roster is not built for success anytime soon. Dwyane Wade is way past his prime, and the trio of young players acquired for Butler- Lauri Markkanen, Zach Lavine, and Kris Dunn, are all major works in progress.
#29: Brooklyn Nets
The Nets, previously the laughing stock of the entire NBA, are now in a much more desirable position than a handful of teams. GM Sean Marks has done an excellent job, even if it won’t show in the win column right away. They still will be near the bottom of the standings, but Marks still has them in a fantastic spot compared to where they were when he was hired.
#30: Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks have become the worst team in the NBA- and that isn’t necessarily a problem. Their tanking is long overdue, and with new GM Travis Schlenk in charge, it’s all about building a young core of players who can contend in four or five years down the line.
This list will change drastically once the season begins and we get shockingly good and shockingly bad teams, per the usual. The question is, who will be those teams?