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NBA Power Rankings: Preseason

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With the preseason nearing it’s end, we unveil our first NBA Power Rankings
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Following a legendary NBA Finals, unpredictable off-season, and never-before-seen levels of excitement heading into the new year, we are poised for one memorable 2016-17 NBA season. Will Kevin Durant turn the Golden State Warriors into a team that only Bugs Bunny’s Tune Squad can defeat? Can we see Russell Westbrook average a triple-double for the season without cracking a smile? Is it finally time to see the Philadelphia 76ers start turning it around behind Joel “The Process” Embiid and Nerlens “Please Trade Me Already” Noel? These are the important questions that NBA fans cannot wait to get answered. So, without further ado, here is our first installment of NBA Power Rankings for the 2016-17 season.

 

1. Golden State Warriors

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

The Golden State Warriors, obviously, just can’t catch a break (only 73-9!?). They became the first team in history to squander a 3-1 lead in the NBA finals and to a team from Cleveland, mind you. Their three stars combined to average a dismal 16.1 PPG on 34.8% shooting throughout the United States’ march to gold in Rio. Six, read that again, six players from their record-setting 73-win team are no longer with the club. Not all is bad, though, as one newcomer seems to stick out. His name is Kevin Durant. And he’ll see you in June.2)

 

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

The Cleveland Cavaliers are your reigning NBA champions. Did that feel as weird for you to read as it did for me to write? Anyway, it was a well-deserved title and LeBron James finally made good on his goal to win one for The Land. The Cavs stayed pretty quiet this off-season besides re-signing J.R. Smith to a 4-year, $57 million contract. Status quo here as LeBron has a good chance to reach his seventh straight NBA finals, a feat reached only by the Celtics dynasty of the 1960s.

 

3. San Antonio Spurs

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

Do people really think the Spurs will fail to crack 50 wins for the first time in 18 seasons? I’m not buying It – not with Pop at the helm and MVP-candidate Kawhi Leonard terrorizing opposing teams at both ends of the floor. Tim Duncan will be sorely missed, that is for certain. But, this team has enough pieces to give the Warriors a run for their money.

 

4. Los Angeles Clippers

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

There are those teams that always find themselves in NBA purgatory. Too good for the lottery but not good enough for a playoff run. Then, you have the chaotic beauty that is the Los Angeles Clippers. Not good enough to be a championship contender but too good to break up the core. What a dilemma. They have the talent to make something magical happen, but what makes this season different from the past five

 

5. Toronto Raptors

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

The Raps will look to build upon the momentum that found them in 2015-16. Eclipsing 56 wins might be a little too much to ask for, but another trip to the Eastern Conference finals certainly is not. Inking DeMar DeRozan for $139 million seems a little foolish, but this team is in win-now mode and could not afford to lose their star. Wings Norman Powell and Terrence Ross need to take the next step if the Raptors want to fend off team #6 in our rankings…

 

6. Boston Celtics

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

Boston finally got the “star” they’ve been wanting in Al Horford. This team is your classic March Madness Cinderella: they have no superstars, they hustle hard, play defense, and love to make things interesting. Danny Ainge has done a remarkable job putting the pieces back together after Paul Pierce and the boys got traded to Brooklyn (Billy King, really? Yes, still). The Celtics have a plethora of young assets so look for them to be active during the trade deadline. Jimmy Butler, anyone?

 

7. Memphis Grizzlies

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

The Grizzlies can make some noise in the west assuming health is on their side. And that is a big assumption. No starter from last year played in more than 68 games, including Marc Gasol who missed the team’s final 34 games. With Gasol in the lineup, the Grizz won 58% of their games for a 48-win pace. Chandler Parsons is a good addition and the team will happily welcome back Mike Conley with open arms. One interesting thing to note: new coach David Fizdale has decided to move Z-Bo to the second unit in favor of the more athletic JaMychal Green.

 

8. Utah Jazz

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

Is it possible to be so underrated that you then become overrated? On one hand, Utah has one of the best defenses in the league. On the other hand, they are still a collection of inexperienced youth and might find it difficult to put points on the board at times. The Jazz were 28th in offense last season, but do have some reason for optimism. They’ve added George Hill and get back Dante Exum and Alec Burks from injury. Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw come on board as the aging veterans. Couple that with development from Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward and you have a team that will shock a lot of people.

 

9. Atlanta Hawks

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

The enigma that is Dwight Howard is finally coming home to Atlanta. Is this the right place, the right fit, the right team to rejuvenate his career? From listening to his interview with TNT’s Inside The NBA, we think he has matured and ready to win ballgames. Superman numbers might be a stretch, but a stat-line of 17-13-2 BPG is a good goal for the big man. Oh, by the way, don’t sleep on the best power forward in the east, Paul Millsap, either.

 

10. Portland Trailblazers

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

The Trailblazers are a good basketball team. Don’t ask how just accept it. After losing four of their five starters last offseason, including LaMarcus Aldridge, they somehow managed to scrape together 44 wins and a second-round playoff appearance. Overpriced addition Evan Turner, as well as Warriors-legend Festus Ezel,i add to the young core. This team will only go as far as their backcourt takes them and we’d be hard pressed to find many duos better than this pair.

 

11. Oklahoma City Thunder

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

Over the past 8 seasons, Russell Westbrook has put up a 28.0/7.1/8.4 stat-line without his good friend Kevin Durant on the floor. However, defenses can now isolate Russ and swarm him with double-teams and hard fouls for 82 straight games. This fact will have no choice but to take a toll on his body. If Westbrook can rely on his teammates with some consistency, a playoff berth should be in order. But don’t expect him to average a triple-double this season.

 

12. Indiana Pacers

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

Larry Bird has been a busy man this off-season making some good moves and some questionable ones. We are unsure why Frank Vogel was let go in favor of Nate McMillan. Take newly acquired Jeff Teague, Thad Young, and Al Jefferson, sprinkle in some Paul George and watch them go to work. Or not.

 

13. Charlotte Hornets

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

If the Bobcats Hornets want to prove they are legit, the team must make the playoffs again, they can’t afford to regress. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is back from missing 75 games last season and should provide stellar defense and much-needed athleticism to this squad. This is Kemba’s team, though, and he’ll get the blame (right or wrong) if this team underperforms.

 

14. Houston Rockets

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

Wow, can this team put the ball in the basket.  Circle this date on your calendar, folks: Friday, January 20th. That’s the date the Warriors fly to Houston in what might be the first game in NBA history a team breaks 200 points. All kidding aside, offense is not the problem here as we’ve seen with other Mike D‘Antoni-led teams. This team will most certainly have trouble guarding the opposition. As we all know, offense brings you Adidas endorsements but defense brings you championships.

 

15. Chicago Bulls

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

To the average fan, this team looks like a title contender. A trio of Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, and Jimmy Butler should be as good as any in the NBA, right? Right?! Well, the answer is it should be, but it is not. The trio shoots a collective 30% from deep for their careers, and if you throw in newcomer Michael Carter-Williams, the figure drops to 28.9%. Spacing is going to be a huge question mark for Chicago and that is assuming they stay healthy.

 

16. Detroit Pistons

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

Before Reggie Jackson’s knee injury, Detroit seemed poised to take another step forward in the Eastern Conference. That might be a tough task now, as 19 PPG is hard to replace. Andre Drummond will try to pick up the slack and he is the real deal. His 16.8 offensive rebounding percentage is second all-time, trailing only Dennis Rodman.

 

17. New York Knicks

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

There are two very distinct outcomes for this Knicks team. One has Derrick Rose looking explosive and playing at an All-Star level, Carmelo becoming a team leader, KP taking yet another step that we didn’t think was possible, and the team somehow finding itself in the Eastern Conference finals. The other outcome sees Rose tear his ACL in warm-ups before the opener, Porzingis doesn’t stop growing and becomes too tall to sit on the team bus, and the Knicks win 35 games and find themselves in that NBA purgatory we mentioned earlier. No in-between.

 

18. Minnesota Timberwolves

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

If you aren’t on the bandwagon, it isn’t too late, hop on. What’s not to like here? Tom Thibodeau is the perfect coach for this team. KAT looks like a generational talent, while Andrew Wiggins is starting to come into his own as a two-way All-Star. Look out for rookie point guard Kris Dunn to take over for incumbent Ricky Rubio. Bottom line is this team is young, fast, and ready to surprise a lot of people.

 

19. Dallas Mavericks

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

Hey, Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki is 38 years old and he’s still the best player on your team. With a PER of 19.0, he was no slouch, but it simply won’t cut it in the Western Conference. The Mavericks made some quality moves this off-season which should keep them afloat, but unless Seth drinks some of Steph’s “secret stuff,” this team will be going fishing in April.

 

20. Washington Wizards

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

Boy, does Scott Brooks wish he had Kevin Durant on board this season. The Wiz are still left with John Wall and Bradley Beal– might this be the last chance for them to make something happen in The Capital? We think that it’s entirely possible if Beal can stay on the floor. He has missed a quarter of all possible games throughout his career. John Wall is severely underrated and that’s tough to say for a 3-time All-Star.

 

21. Miami Heat

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

What a vast difference three seasons can make in South Beach. One second LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are leading the Heat to a potential three-peat. The next second LeBron and D-Wade went back home and Bosh may never play again, certainly not in Miami. This team does have some nice pieces but might be a year or two away from making any real noise.

 

22. Orlando Magic

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

Orlando is loaded with bigs and new coach Frank Vogel has his work cut out for him in trying to figure it all out. Vogel also stated that he’d like to try out Aaron Gordon at SF. In our eyes, he’s a natural PF but it’ll be interesting to keep track of this one. This team could be one major piece away from climbing the ranks in the wide-open Eastern Conference.

 

23. Milwaukee Bucks

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

My heart goes out to you, Milwaukee. Khris Middleton’s injury was a devastating blow to a team full of promise and ready to take the next step. Sadly, a backcourt featuring Matthew Dellavedova and Rashad Vaughn isn’t an ideal pairing to go to battle with. At least it will be exciting to watch the further maturation of the Greek Freak.

 

24. Denver Nuggets

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

Denver is the poor man’s Celtics. They play hard, have a bunch of young assets, and will likely be active during the trade deadline. What the Nuggets are lacking, however, is a direction. They’ve drafted a point guard in the top 10 the past two drafts. They have an excess of wing talent that can’t seem to stay on the floor. They also seem to be holding Kenneth Faried back and if anyone knows why, please let us know.

 

25. Sacramento Kings

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

It’s funny, this team has some pieces to reach the 8th seed out west. But, we all know that’s not going to happen, it’s the Kings! Boogie Cousins is a stud, but your guess is as good as ours on how he’ll mesh with new coach Dave Joerger. Until this organization changes their culture and values, an 11th consecutive draft lottery appearance is in the cards.

 

26. New Orleans Pelicans

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

Where, oh where have we seen this before. A team takes a unique talent at #1 overall. After two great individual seasons, but poor team efforts, a playoff berth still wasn’t in the cards. In year 3, the unique talent almost single-handedly leads his squad to the playoffs. We all remember how this one ended in Cleveland. Dell Demps, please, learn from Danny Ferry’s mistakes and surround AD with some talent.

 

27. Phoenix Suns

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

You never know with this team. If everything seems to click, they could easily over-perform this season. Devin Booker is the real deal as he averaged 19.2 PPG and 4.1 APG after the All-Star break. The arrow is pointing up for this young Suns squad.

 

28. Los Angeles Lakers

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

The Lakers’ leading scorer the last time Kobe Bryant wasn’t on the roster was Cedric Ceballos back in 1995-96. Change is a hard thing for any team to go through and it is coming in heavy doses in sunny LA. With a core of D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, and Julius Randle, the future seems to be bright. But this season, their sights should be set on finishing in the bottom three to ensure they keep their own pick (or else it goes to…wait for it…Philadelphia).

 

NBA Power Rankings
For the 76ers, not finishing 30th is a step in the right direction.

29. Philadelphia 76ers

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

There is actually a lot to be excited for this season in Philly. Joel Embiid is already PROCESSING on defenders this preseason and all the new pieces seem to be serviceable. Ben Simmons’s injury was a big blow for the team, but they weren’t going to compete anyway this season. Look for them to have their sights set on one of the top point guards in the upcoming draft with a potential two top-10 picks.

30. Brooklyn Nets

2016-17 record: 0-0

Previous rank: N/A

Where do we begin? The Nets have one starting caliber player on their roster, no draft picks for the foreseeable future, and overpaid for Jeremy Lin with the hope that Linsanity comes back to New York. This team will be lucky to crack the 20-win plateau and has nothing to look forward to this off-season. Talk about depressing.

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