NBA Power Rankings Post-Free Agency

  1. Golden State Warriors

Is this even a question? Arguably the best team of all time that finished with a 15-1 record in the 2017 playoffs is coming back better and more deep than imaginable. The Warriors have put themselves on another echelon compared to the rest. The additions of Omri Casspi and Nick Young, two snipers who will undoubtedly thrive in Steve Kerr’s system, continued development of sophomore Patrick McCaw who averaged over 20 PPG in the Summer League, and bringing back their top seven rotation from last year are all the makings of a repeat champion. The rich get richer.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Let’s just get this out of the way. Yes, Kyrie Irving did request a trade that made the Cavs already terrible offseason even worse, but whether they decide to trade him or not, it still won’t stop the Cavs from getting to the finals because of one LeBron James. However, the firing of GM David Griffin, lowballing Chauncey Billups, and not pulling the trigger on acquiring Paul George or Jimmy Butler were all huge mistakes that LeBron will consider when thinking about his impending 2018 Free Agency decision. Regardless, as long as LeBron is still with the Cavs, they are the second-best team in the NBA.

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  1. Houston Rockets

Daryl Morey really hates waiting. Before Chris Paul could even enter free agency, Morey pounced on acquiring him by shipping out Patrick Beverly, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and multiple draft picks. Yes, all of those pieces made up important components of a sizzling offense in Mike D’Antoni’s three and layup system, but when you have a chance at a top ten player, you always pull the trigger. Adding P.J. Tucker for 4 years, $32 million and Luc Mbah a Moute on a minimum are great value deals that will prepare them for the upcoming playoff battle with Golden State. Houston is rising.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder

This past year has been insane for the Thunder. Losing Kevin Durant to the Warriors after crumbling a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals, having Russell Westbrook average a triple-double and carry the team to the playoffs, and somehow ripping off the Indiana Pacers into getting Paul George, a superstar in his prime. Woah. With George and the addition of Patrick Patterson on a three year, $14.2 million deal, their starting line-up is fearsome with added spacing and defensive prowess. PG13 is also going to be the perfect sidekick to Westbrook; someone who can carry the offense when Westbrook is on the bench, but can still catch and shoot when needed. Overall, as a team with arguably two top ten players in their prime, both in their contract years, the Thunder are going to be a force to be reckoned with.

  1. San Antonio Spurs

Yes, their biggest acquisition this summer was Rudy Gay post-Achilles tear, but this is the Spurs we are talking about; should we really expect a non-55-win season from Coach Popovich? All of the key contributors are back, (especially with Manu and Tony staying for another year), Kawhi should grow again with another year, and the Spurs are a dark-horse candidate to obtain Kyrie Irving in a possible three-way trade. Obviously, losing Jonathon Simmons and Dwayne Dedmon hurts their depth, but continued development from Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes will offset those losses. And maybe if LaMarcus Aldridge plays like himself, the Spurs will, unsurprisingly, reach the WCF again!

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  1. Boston Celtics

They got Gordon Hayward, so at least Danny Ainge will not get crucified…yet. Boston continued to stockpile assets by trading the number one pick for Jayson Tatum and another lottery pick in the future, while keeping next year’s Brooklyn picks. The Celtics could either decide to win now or win in the future, but having already given out two max contracts to Hayward and Al Horford, (and possibly to “Brinks Truck” Isiah Thomas) next year, the Celtics need to make a decision or risk never getting out of the East.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota had arguably the best offseason out of any team in the NBA. Trading away injury prone Zach LaVine, unplayable Kris Dunn and the eighth pick in the draft for Jimmy Butler and a solid defensive big in Justin Patton is a win in every sense of the word. By getting rid of Ricky Rubio and his inability to shoot while adding Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson, players who can space the floor, the Wolves are solving all of their problems from last year. If Andrew Wiggins makes his eventual jump to superstardom like Karl Anthony-Towns did last year, the Wolves are going to be unstoppable.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks

Remember the way we used talk about OKC years ago; how they were going to be primed for stardom and success with young rising talent? Well, the Bucks may not be as star-studded, but their young talent is arguably the best in the NBA, including the best young player in the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo.  With the returning rookie of the year in Malcolm Brogdon and an injury-free Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker, the Bucks are going to have a dynamic young core that will play excellent defense and grind out points against opponents. If Giannis makes the jump this year to full out superstar, we are going to see a top three seed in the East out of the Bucks.

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  1. Washington Wizards

John Wall signing that huge extension will give Wizards fans comfort that they will be competitive for the next six years, even though they massively overpaid to keep Otto Porter Jr. Yet, they needed him to keep a reliable and productive starting five that ranks among the top in the NBA. Signing Jodie Meeks will help, which adds a reliable three-point shooter, but that does nothing impactful to improve an already horrible bench. Ultimately, the growth of Bradley Beal and Wall as a duo is what will carry this team throughout the playoffs. If they ball like they did at the end of last year, they could give the East a run for their money.

  1. Denver Nuggets

Adding a full-fledged all around star in Paul Millsap to an already fun team brimming with potential is an amazing get, especially at only a three-year contract. With a young starting backcourt in Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, and an offensive juggernaut in Nikola Jokic, this team is going to be fun to watch in a loaded Western Conference. After missing out on the playoffs last year, the Nuggets look primed to grab a spot and give a scare to any top-tier Western Conference team once the playoffs come around.

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  1. Portland Trail Blazers

Yes, I know the sample size with Jusuf Nurkic is small, but the Blazers having a winning percentage of ten games over .500 after the All-Star break was not a fluke. The dynamic backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will only improve this year, and even though Zach Collins was a dud in the Summer League, Caleb Swanigan was a beast and averaged a double-double. If Nurkic continues to play at the high clip he showed at the end of last year, and the Blazers make a move of possibly trading for a formidable wing, the Blazers will be a dark horse for the playoffs. Credit goes to them for offloading that horrible Allen Crabbe contract.

  1. Toronto Raptors

Oh, how the great have fallen? From taking the Cavs to six games in the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals to getting swept like a JV team in this year’s semi-finals, the Raptors have fell into that pool of mediocrity where they just cannot beat LeBron. Bringing back Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka on nice three-year contracts will still make them competitive, but losing DeMarre Carroll and Patrick Patterson will deal a blow to an already unstable team. Unless Jonas Valanciunas starts playing to his potential this year, or DeMar DeRozan and Lowry play like stars in the playoffs, the Raptors are stuck in that good-but-not-great category this season.

  1. Utah Jazz

Losing Gordon Hayward and George Hill is going to hurt the team offensively, but adding Ricky Rubio, a top-five point guard defensively, as well as giving another year of growth to a young playoff team is not a bad consolation prize. Jonas Jerebko and Thabo Sefolosha are signings that will make this team deeper, and if Rudy Gobert emerges as an offensive superstar, the Jazz will have an interesting team. Also, Donovan Mitchell’s promising Summer League performance gives Jazz fans hope that losing Hayward is not the end of the world. Look for this team to dominate defensively.

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  1. Los Angeles Clippers

This ranking may seem low, but I just do not have enough faith in Danilo Gallinari, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan leading this team to the playoffs without CP3. Losing J.J. Reddick will be a blow as well, along with keeping (an overrated) Doc Rivers as head coach. On the upside, obtaining all of Houston’s role players will improve the Clippers’ usually weak bench and acquiring Serbian guard Milos Teodosic will help with the ball movement. Unless the Clippers show that Paul was not the engine to their success, I do not see them being competitive this upcoming year.

  1. Miami Heat

The Heat are always going to be competitive with Pat Riley at the helm and Erik Spoelstra on the bench. However, after missing the playoffs last year and going into the season without a certifiable star player, I do not see them as anything more than a super-streaky team. They were one of the best teams after all the All-Star break, but they still need more than just a core of Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside to make a run at the playoffs. Tyler and James Johnson will provide balance, but still not enough firepower to take out Boston or Cleveland.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans

The big three of Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday is not even really a big three; more like a big 2 ¼ in a loaded Western Conference. Last year, the Pelicans managed a sub-.500 record after the Boogie trade, which just shows me that the twin towers cannot exactly play together in a dominant fashion, at least not yet. Even with optimistic thinking that the transition will improve this year, the lack of weapons outside of those two is not enough to change the power balance in the West. Signing Rajon Rondo is not as big a move as some would like to predict, given that he has been a chemistry nightmare for the last couple of years, and expecting anything productive out of him would be a mistake.

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  1. Memphis Grizzlies

With their core of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. reaching their 30s, the grinding team that we all love is finally coming to an end. Losing their long-time running mate Zach Randolph is tough, and signing Ben McLemore and expecting something drastically different than his previous production in Sacramento is ill-advised. Unless Chandler Parsons lives up to his outrageous contract and Gasol & Conley play even better than last year, I do not see this team even making the playoffs.

  1. Charlotte Hornets

I could be criminally underrating the Hornets; especially since they are returning Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum, bringing in Dwight Howard who will hopefully rejuvenate his dwindling career and have drafted Malik Monk, an athletic guard who can light it up in bunches. Ultimately, these new pieces with an already above-average starting five should be a promising sign for the Hornets, but it is unlikely that they fall into place. Howard is not the player he once was, and as good as Monk is, he is not going to vault the Hornets past the serious contenders in the East, especially at his stature.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers

Please, please stop crowning the 76ers prematurely as a super-team, or even a playoff team. They are not. Joel Embiid has yet to play 50 games in a season, number one overall pick Markelle Fultz is already injured, and Ben Simmons has yet to play a game. Come on now. The future does look bright though, with veterans Reddick and Amir Johnson on one year contracts that will provide solid leadership to a young team. If the Sixers all stay healthy and develop at a pace that keeps up with the hype, do not be surprised if they make the playoffs.

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  1. Dallas Mavericks

Dennis Smith Jr. is going to be a bad man, but he alone is not going to solve the sinking ship that is the Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki again taking an underpaid contract is great short term, but when your best players are Seth Curry and Harrison Barnes, you really cannot expect much when every playoff team out West has at least two stars. Mark Cuban is right, if they were out East they would not be rebuilding, but unless Adam Silver changes the playoff format, the Mavs are going to be stuck in the lottery as Dirk rides into the sunset.

  1. Detroit Pistons

Oh, the mess that is the Detroit Pistons. Andrew Drummond’s worth has gone down exponentially since his all-star campaign, especially as he misses more free throws and clogs the open lanes. Luke Kennard is a nice pickup to spread the floor, but he is not going to solve the Pistons’ defensive problems. Reggie Jackson is abysmal on defense, and is almost unplayable at this point. Avery Bradley is a great addition, but unless he and Stanley Johnson can drastically change the culture of this team, there is little chance the Pistons will see the playoffs.

NBA: Miami Heat at Detroit Pistons

  1. Sacramento Kings

Surprisingly, the Kings did not mess up this draft. Drafting De’Aaron Fox with the fifth pick them up with their point guard of the future, and drafting Harry Giles Jr. and Justin can end up paying dividends in the future. Signing veterans George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter will change the culture of the Kings and give veteran leadership to a team that has really needed one. Even if Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere fail to meet the hype this year, the Kings do have a bright future.

  1. Chicago Bulls

What are the Bulls even doing? They had arguably the worst draft night in recent history by sending away Jimmy Butler for pennies on the dollar in Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markannen, and basically giving the Warriors another formidable piece in Jordan Bell. Garpax failed the Chicago faithful, again. Still, with Dwyane Wade and LaVine, they do have a semblance of talent, however dim that semblance may be.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

I love Lonzo Ball and I do think he is going to be great, but come on, let’s not pretend like the Lakers are going to make the playoffs or do any damage this year. LaVar cannot make Brandon Ingram an elite wing by speaking it into existence, and even though winning the Summer League showed promise for both Ball and Kyle Kuzma, they are still rookies with clear defensive deficiencies. Unless Julius Randle’s new physique translates into new play and Jordan Clarkson breaks out fully, I don’t see much for the Lakers until 2018 free agency.

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  1. Orlando Magic

What’s going on in Orlando? Are they trying to rebuild, or are they trying to tank? After demolishing the team after Dwight left, the Magic have been a mess, with no serviceable pieces that they could foreseeably build around. Jonathan Isaac is a great pick up with loads of potential, but unless Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, and Aaron Gordon really improve, this team is going to be stuck in the bottom of the lottery again with no solid rebuilding pieces.

  1. Phoenix Suns

I know, I’m going to hear the potential argument about Devin Booker’s 70 points, future power bigs Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, and Josh Jackson turning into an elite wing. That sounds great in theory, but there are loads of problems with this team. Booker can’t guard anyone, Jackson’s shooting in the Summer League was abysmal, and neither Chriss nor Bender’s showings this summer have been uplifting. Moreover, once this team gets rid of Eric Bledsoe, they will be even worse than last year – at least for now.

  1. Indiana Pacers

Kevin Pritchard wanted to hold a grudge against Paul George, and as a result, sent him to a small market team out West in return for nothing. Well, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis aren’t nothing, but one is an overpaid guard who hasn’t lived up to his four year, $84 million contract, and the other is an underperforming rookie. Yes, Myles Turner is an aspiring young talent, but losing George, who made them a playoff team, is enough to put them down in the cellar.

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  1. Atlanta Hawks

Who could have thought that the team with a 61-win season two years ago would tear down all their parts and get rid of the famous starless starting five? Not this writer. By letting Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. sign new contracts, the Hawks have finally left the land of mediocrity and reached their goal, the bottom of the lottery. While Dennis Schroeder is a nice talent, the ability to add future stars while tanking is the real goal for the Hawks, who seem to have finally ended their playoff streak after all these years.

  1. New York Knicks

Ah, the most famous dumpster fire in sports, the beloved Knicks. Well, the Knicks did seem to start this summer kind of intelligently after drafting Frank Ntilikina and firing Phil Jackson, but then the good old Knicks refused to deal Carmelo Anthony for assets and signed Hardaway to a horrible four year, $71 million contract, their true colors showed. Their only talent is Kristaps Porzingis, and that’s not enough. In the next few weeks, expect Melo to be dealt and the Knicks to whiff on Kyrie, further positioning themselves for their future in the lottery.

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  1. Brooklyn Nets

Give the Nets credit for messing with every team out there by giving RFAs huge contracts that teams end up taking on, like the Blazers with Allen Crabbe and Wizards with Otto Porter Jr. Take away half that credit with their decision to take Crabbe’s contract in a desperate attempt to make something of their roster. Trading for D’Angelo Russell was a great move to add some young talent and maybe a future backcourt of Russell and Caris LaVert won’t be too farfetched in the fall. Still, without any picks this year, the Nets are in a horrible position and won’t do anything meaningful until 2018-2019 arrives.

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