Carolina #KnicksTape NBA Preseason Power Rankings 2016–17
By: Aaron J. Pellot
1- Golden State Warriors
“If you shoot at the king, you best not miss”. The Warriors are going to give it their best shot this year, as the addition of Kevin Durant was/is an obvious game-changer. This team has the ability to change how basketball is played, and will be a fun watch offensively. Defensively they lost size, replacing key players with David West and Zaza Pachulia. Back to back MVPs team up, in a starting five that looks like the Western Conference Monstars, as the Warriors easily look like the best team in basketball before the season starts.
2- Cleveland Cavaliers
Normally the defending champs are always number 1, but this year is slightly different. LeBron going into god-like mode won Cleveland a championship (Warriors blew a 3–1 lead…I know, I know), but the roster took its hits. Losing Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Delladova hurts, and they have yet to sign J.R. Smith, but the big three is still intact. The Eastern conference is kind to the Cavaliers, this year looks to be no different.
3- San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio won free agency last year, landing LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge went from being the man in Portland, to learning the system is what’s most important in San Antonio. Year two in San Antonio is surely going to help, and although they lost Tum Duncan and David West, the addition of Pau Gasol is going to help the best coach in the league keep this team elite.
4- Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have talent, a lot of it. If you look at last year’s rankings, I sure did think it was enough to take them deep into the playoffs. I still like the clippers, even though their roster is will without a true wing threat. Everyone is back and healthy, as the Clippers may be in the final year of their talent window.
5- Boston Celtics
Talent, and coaching get you far on this list….remember? Not only do the Celtics have talent, they are coached exceptionally well. The replacement of Jared Sullinger with Al Horford is a notable upgrade. Bench depth grew with Gerald Green and Jaylen Brown, and I think this year the Celtics will be in the Eastern Conference Finals. They also have a top-5 draft pick to look forward to, as the Nets are awful all year.
6- Toronto Raptors
The Raptors made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, on the backs of Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan. Derozan decides to sign long-term, and the Raptors added Jared Sullinger to a team that was took most advantage of being in the Eastern Conference.
7- Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis limped to the finish line last year, after they lost just about everyone on their roster last year to various injuries. This year everyone is back and healthy, Conley is the 150+ million dollar man, and they finally have a legitimate wing threat in Chandler Parsons. Zach Randolph is said to be taking a sixth man role, but this year will show if the Grizzlies are good without the coaching of Dave Joerger.
8- Portland Trailblazers
Portland has a backcourt that averages 45.9 points per game. Easily the second best back court in the league, Damian and CJ showed last year they aren’t afraid to go head-to-head with anyone. The biggest additions this offseason were Festus Ezeli and Evan Turner, adding to a team already on the rise.
9- Indiana Pacers
The Pacers quietly had a really successful offseason, adding Al Jefferson and Jeff Teague being the biggest acquisitions. Myles Turner’s emergence is and underrated appeal, and adding Thaddeus Young to a pick-and-roll offense with Monta Ellis will be something to watch for. PG-13 will finish top 5 in MVP votes this season as well.
10- Oklahoma City Thunder
Durant may have left, but the Thunder are still a very formidable team. Russell will take his shot at MVP this season, Victor Oladipo is going to continue to thrive, and Steven Adams will have a chance to shine. Westbrook’s numbers are sure to be insane this season, but a retooled offense is the point of interest in Oklahoma City.
11- Atlanta Hawks
Al Horford is gone, and Dwight Howard is in. Some may think that is a downgrade, but Dwight will get to play a full year, healthy, will little expectations. Those variables may be perfect for Dwight to thrive in once again. Look for Dwight to have a “comeback style” year in Atlanta.
12- Detroit Pistons
The Notorious SVG. Stan Van Gundy showed last year, with talent (whom which he chooses) he can make some noise in the East. Andre Drummond’s potential continues to rise, with the talent around him, and so do the expectations for the Pistons.
13- Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz were quietly about to make the playoffs last year, but the West can be brutal. The veteran additions of Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson look to be useful down the stretch in the latter part of the season this time around. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert in the front court is where this team will make their name, all while quietly bringing Dante Exum back into the mix.
14- Dallas Mavericks
Another team who may not have all the elite talent to be a contender, but is exceptionally coached. The Mavericks quietly won some additions after the “Kevin Durant contest”, adding Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes. Deron Williams has found comfort in Dallas, but the real measurement of success will be on the health of Wesley Matthews.
15- Houston Rockets
Dwight Howard leaving the Houston Rockets, might be the best thing to happen for Houston. That’s not necessarily Howard’s fault, but the relationship between he and Harden just didn’t work. Now, the Rockets are allowing Harden to run their offense from point. To help Mike Dantoni’s “Run and Gun” offense, the Rockets signed Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon to help Harden land more threes.
16- Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets are a mystery. They don’t have an elite point guard, and don’t have an elite wing player. They lost Al Jefferson and Courtney Lee over the offseason, and traded away their draft pick for Marco Bellinelli (???), but they still play exceptional defense. Nicolas Batum has been the focal point of running the offense at times, which will be interesting to see how Clifford continues to use him with Michael Kidd-Gilchrest coming back from injury.
17- New York Knicks
If this was 2010, the Knicks would be ranked number one. It’s 2016, and the sad reality is, while this team looks good on paper, it’s still extremely flawed. The Knicks are completely all in on their mission of building around a 32 year old Small Forward, who doesn’t play great defense. In doing so, they bring in an injury prone center, and his former teammate, an injury prone point guard, who can’t shoot threes, who may be in and out of court for possibly (and legitimately) raping a woman. The Knicks will be entertaining, but good? I’m not buying their stock, even though I love the young 6 god…Kristaps “Ya don’t stop” Porzingis.
18- Washington Wizards
The Wiz Kids! In the offseason, they lose Nene, and manage to pay Bradley Beal the max contract he always wanted. The problem with the latter, is Bradley Beal never seems to get through the season fully healthy. Still benefitting from being in the East, the Wizards should be able to find some success if Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter play well at the 3-spot.
19- Miami Heat
I like some of the key parts of Miami’s roster, including Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, and also Justise Winslow. Even with the talent that stands out, the loss of Wade and Chris Bosh are major steps back for the team. Miami will still be decent, but as we saw at the end of the 2014–15 regular season, the team is far different without Bosh, much less Wade.
20- Minnesota Timberwolves
Exceptional youth, with an exceptional Head Coach, will get you far on this list. Minnesota continues to draft well (this year drafting Kris Dunn), and this year added Coach Tom Thibodeau to lead the way. Andrew Wiggins continues to make strides, Karl Anthony-Towns had a breakout rookie season adding to the story line of the Timberwolves are defensive and athletic. If Minnesota can collectively (and successfully) start to take threes, they could be even better than expected.
21- Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are long, the Bucks play defense, and the Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freek is apparently going play a significant time at point this year, as last year he showed he can do almost anything. Khris Middleton is injured to start the season, but look for the Bucks to get back on track this season.
22- Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic may have traded away their best prospect for an “aging power forward” (who is only 27), but their gained something even better in the offseason. The addition of Frank Vogel to mold this young talent is the best thing that could have happened to Orlando. Aaron Gordon continues to make strides, and I’m a big fan of Nikola Vucevic, but the most exciting part is the coaching this team will have.
23- Chicago Bulls
I’ve seen other power rankings with the Bulls higher than this position, and I’m curious as to why that is happening. In year one with Fred Hoiberg, the Bulls gave the coach a team of a budding star, and two old stars with egos. In year two, they have replaced the two old stars with egos…..with two older stars….who also have egos. The most curious part of Chicago’s big three (or three alphas), is that in a league that right now all about ball movement and shooting threes, none of their alphas can shoot threes. I’m not sold on the Bulls, in the new era of NBA.
24- Sacramento Kings
Sacramento has useful talent, but a mess of a front office. Switching coaches every two years doesn’t help DeMarcus Cousins, but Dave Joerger might be the solution. Even though Rondo is gone, and Rudy Gay seemingly wanting out, Sacramento was able to bring in talent such as Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo this off season.
25- Denver Nuggets
Denver surprisingly showed last year, they have talent for the future. Emmanuel Mudiay, Will Barton, Jusef Nurkic, all real talent to build on. Gary Harris is going to start the year injured, but the addition of Jamal Murray, through this year’s draft, should help. Mike Malone is in year two with Denver, and if health doesn’t continue to bite them, Denver might even be better than I expect.
26- New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are wasting the some of the best years of Anthony Davis right before our eyes. The past three years, poor teams have been assembled around him, and this year is no different. In the offseason, the Pelicans lose Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, replacing them with Lance Stephenson and Buddy Hield. Seemingly in the same situation as last year, the Pelicans are going to need Anthony to be great to find progress in the West.
27- Phoenix Suns
Guardians of the Galaxy year 3, with a new cast each respective year. This year the Suns are moving Brandon Knight to the sixth man role, all because the emergence of Devin Booker. Even after a breakout rookie year, it’s hard to imagine Booker leading this team to greatness, anytime soon.
28- Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe is gone, and the youth renovation is in effect in Los Angeles. I like the Lakers young core. This year, we get to see true growth of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle, alongside the number two draft pick Brandon Ingram. The hire of Luke Walton will bring an up-tempo style of basketball to Staples Center, which will be fun to watch, but the real thing to watch is how Coach Walton will groom the future of L.A.
29 Philadelphia 76ers
The Process that Sam Hinkie was sacrificed for, finally looked like it was going to take off this year. Jahllil Okafor is still recovering from knee surgery, Nerlens Noel seemingly wants out, and Ben Simmons now looks to be out 3–4 months. The youthful talent is all in one place this year with Dario Saric finally arriving, and Joel Embiid finally on the floor, but until everyone is healthy, it’ll be hard to judge how far along in “the Process” Philadelphia is moving.
30- Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets are bad…..Top-5 lottery pick bad. It’s a shame they don’t even own their pick (it’s owed to Boston), because this team could wind up with the number one pick. Between Jeremy Lin, Greivis Vasquez, and former first overall pick Anthony Bennett, the only bright spot on this team is only constant, Brook Lopez. A new era is in Brooklyn, but it’s not the fun type, it’s the start of a long journey.