Eastern Conference Rankings
15) Brooklyn Nets
What? Philly is better than Brooklyn? I don't see why not, let's have a look at their depth charts:
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This isn't even worth an analysis. To make matters worse, the Celtics have the option to switch draft picks with the Nets, thanks to the blockbuster KG and Paul Pierce trade.
This means that Brooklyn is inadvertently tanking for literally no reason. At least they have Jeremy Lin to sell tickets for a season.
14) Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons is going to be good. His distributing skills are already at an NBA level, and I don't think his poor shooting is as big of a deal as everyone is making it out to be.
Simmons knows his limits and has smart shot selection; he's not Josh Smith on the Hawks. He's also 20 years old and can probably improve. Kawhi Leonard went from averaging 20% from three his freshman year of college, to 43% last season.
Still, all the distributing in the world means nothing if there's no talent surrounding it. Expect another lottery bound season, fighting for the number 1 draft pick.
Unproven teams with upside
13) Orlando Magic
The Magic traded Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka. I guess they don't want Aaron Gordon to take that next step. Also, Ibaka’s contract expires after this season, so why they would make that trade if Ibaka could walk.
On paper, Ibaka and Vucevic are a great backcourt. Ibaka can help hide Vucevic’s subpar defense, while still benefitting from Vucevic’s supreme post play.
12) Miami Heat
Disregard if Bosh plays this season*
The only way the Heat have a shot at smelling the playoffs is if Dragic goes bananas like he did on the 2014 Suns. Coach Eric Spoelstra needs to give Dragic free reign to run around and eurostep all over the court.
Spoelstra’s past teams have played with a much slower tempo, but a lot of that is credited to Dwyane Wade. This is a completely different team, and they need to run as much as possible if they want a shot at the playoffs.
11) Chicago Bulls
The Bulls traded Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, two injury prone players past their prime, in order to sign players who cater more to coach Fred Hoiberg's modernized offense.
I lied. They actually got players that cater even less to Hoiberg's offense.
Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo were two signings that would not have made sense five years ago, let alone now.
- They should be one of the better defensive teams in the league, as long as Rondo doesn't pout and Wade decides that he's not 2016 Kobe Bryant.
- They have Jimmy Butler
- How is this team going to make sense when Rondo and Wade need the ball at all times, and neither of them can shoot past 15 feet?
- More Rondo and Wade running the show = less Jimmy Butler.
- Even if my prediction is wrong, the Bulls are certainly not winning the championship with this squad, and this squad is certainly not the future, so why bother?
History shows that Wade will sit out half the season in order to hold off nagging injuries. Issue is, this team will be competing for an 8 seed, meaning you can't be the Spurs and coast the regular season. (And still win 67 games)
10) Milwaukee Bucks
After adding Greg Monroe, the Bucks were supposed to be a huge threat in the east. They made the playoffs the season before the addition of Monroe due to their crazy up tempo athletic style of play, and from the coaching genius of Jason Kidd.
Monroe doesn't fit their style at all; he's a below average defender and an empty stat stuffer on offense. He also slows down their fast tempo, which gave them an edge when they were a playoff team.
The Bucks are young and have tons of bright spots, including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. However, their lack of identity may haunt them this season.
Look for Antetokounmpo to have a breakout fantasy season. He's been flirting with point guard duties and has the potential to be a triple double machine. The 21 year old Greek Freak averaged 19 points 9 rebounds and 7 assists after the allstar break.
Young Teams who have not improved this offseason
9) Washington Wizards
The Wizards took a major step back last season, and a lot of that can be credited to injuries to Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat. John Wall had his best season last year, averaging 20 points and 10 assists, but it just was not enough.
Washington acquired Trey Burke and Ian Manhimi, plus Markieff Morris will have a fresh start after being traded at the deadline. There's a lot of question marks regarding whether the pieces fit, and the overall health of the team.
8) Charlotte Hornets
This team surprised everyone last year with a record of 48-34. Coach Steve Clifford took a complete 180 in their gameplan, going from a Memphis style grind and grit, posting and toasting offense, to a pick and roll with 4 men on the perimeter offense, giving Kemba Walker room to operate.
The loss of Al Jefferson fits the Hornets’ new run and gun offense, but that doesn't mean they improved, plus the teams below improved tremendously. They did get Roy Hibbert, so there's that.
Questionable teams with huge upside
7) New York Knicks
Kristaps Porzingis is above the legal drinking age for a full season. That should be enough reason for improvement.
The Knicks starting lineup is balanced and even makes sense from a chemistry standpoint. You can read more about that here. Still, they are a team with virtually no depth, and they were a team that went 0-10 last season when Carmelo Anthony was not playing.
Obviously this team is very different. If Melo is out they might go 1-9 now (Just kidding, I think). Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah and Brandon Jennings are all wearing Orange and Blue for the first time.
If healthy, the Knickerbockers should be higher on this list and a scary team to face in the playoffs.
6) Detroit Pistons
Detroit’s core is incredibly young, and their best player, Andre Drummond, is only 23 years old.
Tobias Harris was a huge trade for the Pistons. Look for him to have a break out season, due to the fact that he's the third option on a playoff team. He is a poor mans Carmelo Anthony, but he should make a giant leap this year after going through training camp with Stan Van Gundy.
It's doubtful that Reggie Jackson will ever be a first tier point guard, but athletically he can keep up with the best of them. He's definitely a top point guard in the east.
5) Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta has proven over the past two years that they win a lot of games through a Spurs-like offense that stems from every player touching the ball, and through deep rotations.
Maybe I'm insane, but why can't Dwight Howard thrive under coach Bud? If Dwight Howard can play more like DeAndre Jordan and less like Zach Randolph, then they might even move up on this list.
Less insane statement: Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap will be the number one front court defense in the NBA. Hate on Dwight all you want, he's still a top defender in this league, and he was third in the league in rebounds per game last season.
Everyone give Dwight a break. You try playing with James Harden for 3 years and see how you like not touching the basketball ever. I'm buying as much Dwight Howard stock as I can, because it will never be this low again.
Top teams that don't have Lebron
4) Indiana Pacers
The Pacers received a huge makeover this offseason, acquiring Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson. Expect their first unit to space the floor and play at a crazy high tempo. For the second unit, expect a slower pace, allowing Al Jefferson to go to work against poor backup centers.
Although the chemistry is unproven, their ceiling is incredibly high due to the versatility of their roster.
3) Toronto Raptors
After getting swept in the first round in 2015, Toronto proved that they are a team who could make noise in the playoffs. However, they advanced each round in the ugliest way possible. In the playoffs, Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan averaged less than 40% from the field.
Toronto’s only consistent player in the postseason was Bismack Biyombo and he signed with Orlando over the summer. Still, with a top three backcourt, a solid bench, a great post scorer in Jonas Valenjunas and a healthy DeMarre Carroll, the Raptors are still a top team in the east.
2) Boston Celtics
I know Al Horford doesn't seem like a game changing player. You could argue he's not even a top 25 player in the league. Although that might be true, he still fills the giant weakness that Boston was missing, a consistent low post threat. What makes him more valuable than say Greg Monroe, is that Horford does everything well.
In addition to Horford, Boston has some of the best perimeter defense in the league, and a coach who gets the most out of his players. The fact that they were the 5 seed when their best player started the season as a sixth man shows that their depth is insane.
The Celtics have tons of draft picks and every player on their team is expendable, meaning they can make a big time trade at any point in the season.
1) Cleveland Cavaliers
The defending champs have not really done anything this offseason, but they have Lebron James. Success in the playoffs stems on the health of Kyrie Irving, but at the same time nothing matters because they have Lebron James.