NBA Power Rankings: Which team is on top heading into the season?

With the NBA season right around the corner, it’s time to figure out which team is at the top and which team is at the bottom. With the first edition of our weekly power rankings, lets take a look at what each team did over the offseason, and how they may fare during the upcoming season.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

Last Season Result: Won NBA championship 

Coming off of a championship run, the Lakers found a way to significantly improve their roster in the offseason. They were able to replace Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard with Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell. These were two sixth man of the year candidates who will help address their bench depth, which was arguably the Lakers biggest weakness last season. They were also able to sign both of their star players, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, to contract extensions to keep them secured in L.A. for the foreseeable future. With all this being said, the Lakers should be the consensus favorite to repeat this season.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks

Last Season Result: Lost Eastern Conference Semifinals

With another earlier than expected playoff exit this past season, the Bucks front office knew they needed to make big moves to not only improve the roster, but to convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to remain in Milwaukee. The front office did just that, and made a big move to flip Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, and several picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for two-way guard Jrue Holiday. This move helped convince Giannis to sign the supermax and stay in Milwaukee, as he signed a 5 year deal with the Bucks earlier this week. Hopefully this is enough for Giannis and Co. to finally make it out of the East this season.

  1. Los Angeles Clippers

Last Season Result: Lost Western Conference Semifinals

After a disappointing playoff exit where the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets, the front office decided a coaching change was necessary. They fired Doc Rivers shortly after the loss and replaced him with Tyrone Lue, who coached the Cleveland Cavaliers during their championship run in 2016. In free agency they would end up losing the sixth man of the year winner Montrezl Harrell to the rival Lakers, but would replace him with Serge Ibaka, who is a better fit for the team. Coupled with resigning Paul George to a max extension, and a trade for shooter Luke Kennard, the Clippers look to build off of last season. 

  1. Brooklyn Nets

Last Season Result: Lost First Round 

Brooklyn looks primed to be a powerhouse next season after getting their two superstars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, back from injuries. Coming into the offseason with very few needs, the Nets did find ways to subtly improve their roster. They were able to flip their first and second round pick this year in a three team trade to land Landry Shamet, who is a good shooter and a solid role player. In free agency they were also able to retain Joe Harris, who will be a key role player for them in the upcoming season. With Durant and Kyrie coming back, it should be a fun year for the Nets under first year coach Steve Nash.

  1. Miami Heat

Last Season Result: Lost NBA Finals

After a surprisingly deep playoff run last season, the Heat made sure to secure their young star center Bam Adebayo long term. They also brought back former All Star guard Goran Dragic, who was an instrumental piece in the playoff run. They did however lose some key rotational pieces with Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr. leaving in free agency, but they were quickly replaced by Avery Bradley and draft pick Precious Achiuwa. These additions should help Jimmy Butler and the Heat remain a top tier team in the East.

  1. Denver Nuggets

Last Season Result: Lost Western Conference Finals

The biggest surprise of the bubble outside of the Heat was the Denver Nuggets, a team that looks to be trending upward. With the emergence of Jamal Murray as an All Star caliber point guard, he helps create a scary duo with Nikola Jokic. They were able to re-sign Paul Millsap this offseason to a much more team friendly deal, but lost both Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee to the Detroit Pistons. Jerami Grant is a significant loss as he was the team’s best defender of elite wings like Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James. They will look now to Michael Porter Jr. to fill in the small forward position, and how well he fills it will determine how dangerous the Nuggets are in the West.

  1. Boston Celtics

Last Season Result: Lost Eastern Conference Finals

The Celtics had a disappointing end to an otherwise promising season. After losing in the Conference Finals to the Heat, it seemed obvious that heading into free agency that Gordon Hayward would not be returning. The Celtics ultimately completed a sign and trade with the Charlotte Hornets for Hayward and were able to receive a trade exception in return. The loss of Hayward will hurt the Celtics, but not as much as it may seem, as they made the majority of their playoff run without him. They will be relying on young players like Grant Williams, Romeo Langford, and Aaron Nesmith to fill in Hayward’s shoes. They also signed veteran players in Jeff Teague and Tristan Thompson to help strengthen the guard and center rotations in an effort to produce another deep playoff run.

  1. Dallas Mavericks

Last Season Finish: Lost First Round

With the emergence of Luka Doncic as an MVP candidate, the Mavs have instantly made themselves contenders. That didn’t stop them from making moves however, as they decided to trade guard Seth Curry to the 76ers for Josh Richardson in a win-win deal. Richardson brings some needed defense to the Mavs, while also being able to hit the three ball at a good clip. Their first round draft pick Jalen Green will most likely help fill out the forward rotation this season as well. However the success of this team really depends on Kristaps Porzingis’ health. This team is a playoff lock just based off of what Luka can do with this roster, but if Porzingis is healthy, they could be a scary team out of the West.

  1. Golden State Warriors

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs

With Steph Curry returning this season the team should be able to get back on track and make the playoffs again. However Curry won’t be reunited with his fellow splash bro Klay Thompson, who tore his achilles and will miss the entire upcoming season. The Warriors entered the draft with the second overall pick and were able to grab center James Wiseman, who fills an immediate need for the team right away. They weren’t done making moves however, and decided to trade for Kelly Oubre Jr. to help fill in some of the minutes that were made available due to Thompson’s injury. These moves should help Curry and the Warriors return to the playoffs and be a threat in the West. 

  1. Portland Trail Blazers

Last Season Result: Lost First Round

Coming off a miraculous bubble run, the Blazers look to enter the new season with that  momentum. By far the biggest move they made in the offseason was trading for Robert Covington. He will come in and instantly help them guard elite wings like LeBron and Paul George, which they were unable to do in the playoffs last year. He will also help them offensively as he is a knockdown three point shooter. The Blazers also signed Derrick Jones Jr., who is a versatile wing who can give them solid rotational minutes. These moves give Damian Lillard probably the best roster he has played with and could help them get over the hump.

  1. Phoenix Suns

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs

The Suns had arguably the best offseason of any team this year. They made a huge move and traded for star point guard Chris Paul from the Oklahoma City Thunder to pair him in the backcourt with Devin Booker. Although they had to give up Kelly Oubre Jr., they have finally been able to shore up the point guard position, which is something they have been trying to do ever since Booker has been on the team. This move immediately makes the Suns a playoff team, as we saw last season just how much Chris Paul can elevate and lead a team. That paired with the development of former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton, along with other young players such as Mikal Bridges, could make the Suns a sleeper team this season.

  1. Houston Rockets

Last Season Result: Lost Western Conference Semifinals

After the failed small ball experiment, the Rockets looked like they might blow it up and start a rebuild. Instead they decided to retool the roster, flipping Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a future first rounder, with Wall potentially being a better fit next to James Harden. Speaking of Harden, despite all the trade rumors, it seems that he will be staying in Houston for now. The Rockets also traded 3-and-D wing Robert Covington to the Blazers for future picks, which will be a big hit for the upcoming season. Meanwhile in free agency, the Rockets grabbed two solid bigs in Christian Wood and Demarcus Cousins. There are a lot of question marks on this Houston team, but if their offseason moves pan out, they could be a top 3 seed out West.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers

Last Season Result: Lost First Round

With another disappointing playoff run, the Sixers had some serious questions to answer this offseason. First off, they fired their coach Brett Brown, who proved countless times that he was clearly not the man for the job, and replaced him with Doc Rivers. The biggest move they made was getting rid of Al Horford and his massive contract. They managed to flip him and a couple picks for two serviceable wings in Danny Green and Terrence Ferguson, while freeing up a lot of money. Another major move they made was trading Josh Richardson for Seth Curry. What Curry lacks defensively, he makes up for in shooting, and he will fit alongside Ben Simmons perfectly. Along with getting Simmons back healthy, the Sixers should be a much improved team from last year.

  1. Toronto Raptors

Last Season Result: Lost Eastern Conference Semifinals

With an aging core and several players hitting the free agency market, it seemed like Toronto was bound to regress coming into this season. Although they were able to re-sign star guard Fred Vanvleet to a 4 year $85 million dollar deal, they lost both Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, which will severely weaken their big man rotation. They did do some damage control, by signing center Aron Baynes, who will be a solid big for Toronto. The success of this team depends really on player development of young players like Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. If these players are unable to make big jumps, don’t expect the Raptors to be competing for a championship this season.

  1. Utah Jazz

Last Season Result: Lost First Round

After blowing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the postseason, the Jazz had a lot of work to do. They were able to resign some role players like Jordan Clarkson and Derrick Favors to cheap deals that will help the depth of the roster. The big question was if they were going to keep intact their star duo of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. They quickly resigned Mitchell to a 5 year $195 million deal, and despite recent speculation of him leaving, they were able to lock up Gobert to a 5 year $205 million deal this Sunday. With the main core of the roster returning, the Jazz look to make another playoff run.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs

After just barely missing the playoffs last season, the Pelicans decided to trade Jrue Holiday for future picks, Eric Bledsoe, and Steven Adams in a four team trade. This move not only frees up minutes for young guard Lonzo Ball, but gives them assets for a player who didn’t really fit the timeline of this team. They also get a solid big in return who can help elevate this team to the playoffs. The front office decided to then fire head coach Alvin Gentry, and replace him with Stan Van Gundy, who will be a good mentor to the young players. The young team is banking on player development from players like Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball to make a push for the playoffs.

  1. Indiana Pacers

Last Season Result: Lost First Round

Getting All Star Domantas Sabonis back this season will be a huge lift for the team as he wasn’t able to play at all in the playoffs last year. Along with getting Sabonis back, Victor Oladipo will have some more time to get back into basketball shape after his grueling injury from two years ago. The Pacers decided that a coaching change was needed after a first round exit, and fired Nate McMillan and replaced him with Nate Bjorkgren, who was an assistant for the Toronto Raptors. Other than some speculation of trading some players, the Pacers didn’t really do too much to improve this offseason and will be running it back with the same roster in a much more competitive Eastern Conference.

  1. Atlanta Hawks

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs

Another team with a fantastic offseason, the Hawks made themselves serious playoff contenders with several big moves. Starting with the draft, the Hawks selected Onyeka Okongwu, a center who is known for his defense. He will certainly help lock down the paint, and he fits the timeline of players like John Collins and Trae Young.  They were also major players in free agency this year. First they signed veteran guard Rajon Rondo, who has loads of playoff experience. He will help mentor Trae Young and be a huge player if they make the postseason. Next up they signed Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanavić, both players who can score the ball and help fill in the forward rotations. These signings, coupled with player development of the young Hawks core, could help make them a top 8 team in the East.

  1. Washington Wizards

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs

The Wizards were able to get rid of an injured John Wall and his massive contract this offseason, but the only problem is they traded for Russell Westbrook who has just as bad of a contract. Although the Westbrook move makes the Wizards a playoff contender it certainly doesn’t put them into championship contention. Outside of the Westbrook deal, the Wizards continued to make moves to create a roster good enough to make the postseason. They were able to retain key pieces like Davis Bertans, who will help stretch the floor. In the draft they were able to get Deni Avdija, who fell to them and has great potential to be an all around wing. Overall, the Wizards have made themselves playoff contenders, but are clearly not talented enough to make a championship run.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs (Lost in Play-in game)

The Grizzlies surprised everyone last season and made the play-in tournament, only to lose to Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers. Coming into the offseason, the Grizzlies did very little. They did however trade for Mario Hezonja, who should be a nice veteran piece for the team and give them some solid minutes. Although they didn’t sign anyone big, they didn’t lose anyone that notable either. This team will be looking to continue to develop their young players, like Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke, and hopefully make a playoff push this season. They will be without their young forward Jaren Jackson Jr. to start the season however, which will certainly hurt their chances for the playoffs in a competitive West during a shortened season.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs

The Timberwolves were able to pair up Karl-Anthony Towns with his good friend D’Angelo Russel last season near the trade deadline. That move didn’t help them too much in the win column however as they still ended up receiving the first overall pick in this year’s draft. They used this pick on combo guard Anthony Edwards, who is an athletic guard who can do a little bit of everything on the offensive side. Later on in the draft they selected Jaden McDaniels, a lengthy forward who could become a steal of the draft. The glaring issue with this team however is their lack of defense. Both Russell and Towns are not known for their defensive abilities, and one of the biggest concerns with Edwards as a prospect is his weakness defensively. Although this team has a lot of offensive fire power, their holes defensively will most likely prevent them from making the playoffs.

  1. Orlando Magic

Last Season Result: Lost First Round

The Orlando Magic once again managed to squeak by and make the playoffs last year, but they were quickly eliminated by the #1 seed Milwaukee Bucks. In this year’s draft they selected Cole Anthony, a scoring guard, with the 15th overall pick. He should be able to get some minutes with the departure of veteran guard D..J. Augustin. However other than that, they have made no significant roster changes that will help them retain their playoff spot. Without major jumps from guard Markelle Fultz or center Mo Bamba, this team might be out of playoff contention, and could end up looking to flip their star center Nikola Vucevic near the trade deadline.

  1. Charlotte Hornets

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs

The Charlotte Hornets had an interesting offseason to say the least. Despite having two starting caliber guards on their team already, they decided to draft another one in Lamelo Ball with the 3rd overall pick. Although Lamelo has superstar potential and was certainly the right pick, there will most likely be a log jam at the guard position this season. In free agency they signed Gordon Hayward to a 4 year $120 million contract, which is an extreme overpay. After they were just able to get free of the terrible contract they gave to Nicolas Batum, they decided to invest $30 million a year into a 30 year old forward who hasn’t been able to stay healthy in recent years. He should, however, produce on a young team this upcoming season and help make them a fun team to watch.

  1. Sacramento Kings

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs

The Kings selected combo guard Tyrese Haliburton in the draft, to pair with De’Aaron Fox for a solid young backcourt. He fits well with the team and should complement Fox, who recently signed an extension to form a nice young duo. They also managed to sign center Hassan Whiteside to a cheap deal, who can be a paint presence on both sides of the ball. Their biggest loss of the offseason however was losing Bogdan Bogdanavić for nothing, when they could have flipped him at the trade deadline last season. Instead he went to the Hawks and left the Kings with a hole to fill. With all that being said, the Kings look to continue to develop their young core and hope to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06.

  1. Chicago Bulls

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs

The Bulls were another team that didn’t do much in the offseason. In the draft they selected forward Patrick Williams with the 4th overall pick, considered by many to be a reach this high. He does offer a decent amount of upside, but this pick could be looked back on poorly if he isn’t able to produce. In free agency they were very quiet, with their only notable move of bringing in Garrett Temple. Temple will provide quality guard minutes after the Bulls let Kris Dunn leave in free agency. The Bulls are mainly looking to continue to develop their young core, but without a major jump from key players like Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. they most likely will be back in the lottery next year.

  1. Detroit Pistons

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs

The rebuild has finally been embraced in Detroit as they have a significantly changed roster from last season. The two biggest moves they made this offseason was drafting Killian Hayes 7th overall and signing Jerami Grant in free agency. Hayes has potential to be an elite scoring guard and will be mentored by Derrick Rose who is eager to help Hayes learn the ropes. Signing forward Jerami Grant this offseason gives them solid wing play. He proved in the bubble that he can do a little bit of everything on the Nuggets playoff run. They did lose Christian Wood in free agency however, which will be a big loss for them as he had his best season last year with the Pistons. Expect the Pistons to be back in the lottery again.

  1. San Antonio Spurs

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs

After missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997, the Spurs made very few moves this offseason. With two aging stars in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, many expected at least one if not both of those players to be flipped by the start of the next season, however both remain on the roster as of now. In the draft they selected Devin Vessel, a 3-and-D wing who should get minutes on this team right away. He should help replace the departures of shooters Bryn Forbes and Marco Bellinelli, and help the Spurs defensively as well. The Spurs most likely will be out of the playoff picture, so hopefully they can get DeRozan and Aldridge on a contending team and embrace a rebuild.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs

The Cavaliers still haven’t recovered from losing LeBron to the Lakers, but they are starting to turn things around. Drafting Isaac Okoro with the 5th overall pick, they hope he can come in and complement their young guard duo of Colin Sexton and Darius Garland. The team is still clearly in rebuild mode and is just looking to continue to develop their young players. You should expect to see the Cavs in the lottery again looking for another high draft pick next year.

  1. New York Knicks

Last Season Result: Missed Playoffs

The Knicks, who have been the laughing stock of the NBA, look to finally turn the rebuild around. After drafting two promising players in Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley, the Knicks might have some buzz around their team. Add in some development of RJ Barrett and the team could have a solid young core for future years. As for next season, the Knicks will most likely be one of the worst teams again, and return to the lottery with a good shot at the number 1 overall pick

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Last Season Result: Lost First Round

After making a surprising run to the playoffs in what seemed to be a rebuilding year, the Thunder have now fully committed to a rebuild. After trading pretty much anyone on the roster not named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder have a slew of draft picks over the next couple of years. The team could use these draft picks to try and draft some stars, or they could package them together to get a big name through a trade. Regardless of what they decide to do the Thunder are already off to a great start for their rebuild from moves made this offseason. For this year though, expect them to have one of the worst records in the NBA.

So those are the rankings. Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments or reach out to us on social media!

22 thoughts on “NBA Power Rankings: Which team is on top heading into the season?

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