Defensive Ranking Predictions for the 2018 NBA Season, Part 1: Good Teams
Similar to my previous articles on offensive ranking predictions, in this piece I will be, futilely, attempting to predict how each team’s defense will fare this upcoming season. In a long, grueling season filled with injuries and surprises, it’s an exercise doomed from the beginning, but let’s have some fun, eh?
1. Golden State Warriors
2. Utah Jazz
3. San Antonio Spurs
I contemplated pegging the Spurs for the number one spot in these rankings, mirroring their finish from last season. However, the following considerations swung my decision: (A) the Spurs frontline of Alridge and Gasol is another year older, while the Warriors and Jazz feature rosters almost top-to-bottom of players in their primes or pre-primes; (B) Kawhi’s quad injury is lingering, and no one knows if it’s just vintage Spursian unnecessary rest or something more serious; (C) the Spurs will be giving heavy wing minutes to Rudy Gay, Kyle Anderson, and Bryn Forbes, none of which is great defensively, not to mention Manu, who’s savvy but old as hell.
Never doubt Pop, and Kawhi is always a defensive maven, when healthy. However, the offensive load he’s now shouldering does sap some of his energy on the defensive end.
4. Toronto Raptors
This was the fourth-best defense post-All Star Break last season, and with much the same roster, there’s little reason to doubt they’ll bring the clamps once again. The losses of P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson certainly sting, but they’ll be competing in the post-apocalyptic ruins that are the Eastern Conference, so yeah.
O.G. Anunoby comes in as one of the most highly-touted rookie defenders in some time.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
This was the league’s tenth-best defense last year, and with the addition of Paul George and Patrick Patterson, an underrated defender, the Thunder figure to improve upon that. One could also conjecture that Russ, with a reduced offensive load, will bring more focused defensive effort instead of his typical undisciplined hyperactivity, but who knows.
Melo ain’t stopping anyone these days, and the bench sans Patterson is a mix of oldies and/or sieves such as Ray Felton, Alex Abrines, Kyle Singler, and Nick Collison. But lineups such as Westbrook-Roberson-George-Patterson-Adams project to be among the stingiest in the league and will get plenty of run.