With the opening of the 2018-19 NBA season just days away, our preseason power rankings show how we see all 30 teams stacking up.
We build our lives with order and structure, and sports fandom is no different. Without clearly defined tiers of performance, how will you know what to tease your brother-in-law and your college roommate about? If you can’t believe you’re better than someone else, what’s the point?
As we kick off our last power rankings of the preseason, only one team will have to wrestle the existential crisis of how to be at the bottom of the barrel.
Without Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks just don’t have much to go on. Until he returns, it’s going to be a lot of Mario Hezonja, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kevin Knox putting up as many shots as they can — fun, but not necessarily effective.
The Atlanta Hawks aren’t trying to be good this season, which will handicap them quite a bit. But if Trae Young starts figuring it out quickly they could move up a few slots.
The Kings have some pieces in place but it’s going to take a lot breaking right — Harry Giles is as good as he looked this summer, Marvin Bagley is worth the No. 2 pick, Bogdan Bogdanovic has another gear, De’Aaron Fox has two more gears — for them to climb out of the league’s basement.
Armpit fart noise.
The Suns seem to be excited about their playoff chances, surrounding their young core with veterans like Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza. Will it work? No, no it won’t.
The Bulls should be much improved on offense, with the additions of Jabari Parker and a full season of healthy Zach LaVine. The defense, probably not so much.
The Brooklyn Nets have some interesting young pieces but are still waiting for a star to arrive, or emerge from their core, and solidify how everything fits around them. Until then, they’re just a mildly competitive squad on the come-up.
There’s a legitimate chance that the Hornets are quite a bit better than this. Kemba is still Kemba and Malik Monk and Miles Bridges had the potential to inject some life into this moribund group. However, there’s also a legitimate chance that they are the same Hornets they were last year, injuries and attrition take a toll and Kemba finishes the season in another uniform.
Laugh all you want, but the Cavaliers have an outside shot at making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. They’ll have nights where they look horrible but they have experience, they have Kevin Love and they have young guys like Cedi Osman and Collin Sexton who are ready to run through walls.
The Clippers have a strange roster with an unbelievable backcourt logjam, one that will cause some hard decisions about whether to chase the playoffs or create opportunities for their rookies. They also went undefeated in the preseason and Tobias Harris has looked like a star, so they may be moving up quickly.
If you squint hard enough, you can kind of see how the Mavericks could coalesce into a playoff team. Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic develop exquisite chemistry. Harrison Barnes thrives with less responsibility. DeAndre Jordan makes everyone’s job easier. Still, Doncic would have to be an All-Star level contributor as a rookie and they’d still need to leapfrog some very good Western Conference teams.
Let’s just say that a LOT is riding on Luke Kennard this season. It feels weird to say but his ability to space the floor could have a lot to do with how well Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin are able to work together.
The middle of the Western Conference is going to be incredibly tight and I’m of the mind that the Grizzlies could be right in the middle of it. Gasol and Conley will drive the bus but new additions like Kyle Anderson and Jaren Jackson Jr. offer just enough new wrinkles to make me think they have some overlooked upside.
The preseason did not go well for the Spurs, with injuries snatching up Lonnie Walker IV, Derrick White and Dejounte Murray, possibly for the season. With many of their young players sidelined, the Spurs could lean more heavily on veteran experience and start strong. If that doesn’t work, it could get ugly in a hurry.
The Heat are solidly a playoff team in the Eastern Conference and while they might not have as much upside as teams like the Wizards or Pacers, they may be less volatile, which could work in their favor.