Pre-season NBA Power Rankings

Ryan Witt, Sports Editor

The NBA season is right around the corner and regular season basketball kicks off on October 19th. With that being said, who is the best in the league? Who is going to make the playoffs? The play-in? Who should tank for Victor Wembanyama? Well, let’s look at the power rankings before the season kicks off. 

30. Houston Rockets 

The Rockets didn’t make too many off-season moves, other than making the team younger by trading veteran Christian Wood and bringing in several rookies, including many scouts’ number one prospect in the draft, Jabari Smith Jr. They also brought in Tari Eason at pick 17. The Rockets’ 2nd pick last year, Jalen Green, finished last year on a high note, averaging 21 points per game shooting 40% from distance in the last 27 games of the year. Rockets fans may not have much to look forward to this year, but they do have a young, interesting roster to follow.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder 

The Thunder find themselves in a tough spot, as they lost the number two pick, Chet Holmgren, to a foot injury for the whole year. Now, they look to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey to lead the team this year. The Thunder are looking forward to another possibly disappointing season, especially with Shai’s knee problems. The best the Thunder can hope for is good development from their young talents like Giddey, Jalen Williams, and Ousmane Dieng.

  1. San Antonio Spurs 

The Spurs missed the playoffs for the second straight season last year, which is the first time that has ever happened in franchise history. This led to the Spurs committing to a total rebuild, trading first-time all-star Dejounte Murray. They also let Lonnie Walker IV walk and waived Danilo Gallinari. In the draft, the Spurs added rookies Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham, and Blake Wesley. The Spurs may miss the playoffs again this year but look to some of their other young talents like Joshua Primo and Devin Vassell.

  1. Indiana Pacers 

The Pacers started their rebuild last year and completely collapsed into a full rebuild this off-season. They sent Malcolm Brogdon to the Celtics in order to build assets. They also drafted Bennedict Mathurin in this year’s draft. The Pacers have a solid backcourt with Tyrese Haliburton and Chris Duarte, including Myles Turner on the block. This team will still have quite a way to go before they become a possible playoff threat, but have a decent outlook for the future.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers 

The Trail Blazers are coming off a rough year, as they lost their superstar, Damian Lillard, for almost the entire season due to abdominal surgery. Nonetheless, Lillard was extended on a record-breaking, two-year, $122 million dollar extension with a player option at the end of the deal. They added Jerami Grant for cheap and re-signed both Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons this offseason. It is tough to tell how the Trail Blazers will perform this season, especially with the very real possibility of Lillard being shipped off sometime during the year.

  1. Utah Jazz 

The Utah Jazz finally hit the long-awaited reset button, dealing both Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell this offseason. The Jazz brought in picks and expiring contracts for Gobert. They also secured five more picks, Collin Sexton, and Lauri Marrkanen for Mitchell. Now, the Jazz look forward to a season where tanking for a top pick appears to be the only viable option, which may be a little more difficult with capable veterans Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson on the team.

  1. Sacramento Kings 

The Kings traded Tyrese Haliburton, the young, rising star for Domantas Sabonis in February, but it still ended with the Kings missing the playoffs for the 16th straight season. The Kings keep adding talent that will hopefully guarantee a play-in spot at the minimum. They drafted Keegan Murray at pick four, and he went on to win Summer League MVP. They also added Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk this offseason, as the Kings look to break one of the worst playoff droughts in any major sports league.

  1. Detroit Pistons 

The Detroit Pistons have one of the brightest futures in the NBA, but still aren’t looking at a great season coming up. The team is led by loads of young talent like Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, and Isaiah Stewart. The Pistons also brought in rookies Jaden Ivey, the 5th pick, and Jalen Duren, the 13th pick. After finally moving on from Jerami Grant, the young talent on this Pistons team will have a chance to grow, get more minutes, and get reps on the court. They may not have an amazing season this year, but definitely have a lot to look forward to

  1. Orlando Magic 

The Magic have had a solid young core for a couple of years, but have still found little success, finishing last season with 60 losses. However, the Magic are looking forward to the development of this year’s number-one pick, Paolo Banchero. The Magic have surrounded Paolo with lots of young talent like Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, Franz Wagner, and Wendell Carter Jr. The Magic also re-signed Gary Harris and Mo Bamba this off-season, and look happily upon the return of Jonathan Isaac, who has missed the last two years due to a knee injury. The Magic still have work to go developing their young core before having a breakout season, though.

  1. Washington Wizards 

The Wizards are another team near the bottom of the power rankings that isn’t headed in a good direction. The Wizards have a good, not great roster that is too good to tank, but probably not good enough to make the playoffs. Bradley Beal was re-signed and will remain the focal point of everything the Wizards attempt to accomplish this season. However, the Wizards haven’t surrounded Beal with much talent, as the Wizards hope that Rui Hachimura, Kyle Kuzma, and rookie Johnny Davis can help lead them to a playoff spot.

  1. Charlotte Hornets 

The Hornets had a solid season last year, but their progression as a team has been stunted following the arrest of Miles Bridges this offseason. The Hornets are led by the young star Lamelo Ball, who is surrounded by the newly resigned Cody Martin and rookie Mark Williams. They have plenty of solid guys like Kelly Oubre and Terry Rozier and have a chance to make a push at a play-in spot this year, but likely not much else more than that.

  1. New York Knicks 

The Knicks are in an interesting spot, especially after bringing in a ball-dominant guard in Jalen Brunson via free agency. Undeniably, the Knicks have a very solid starting core with Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson. The real question for the Knicks is how well their bench will perform? They have young talent like Obi Toppin, but the majority of the bench is slightly weak. They have a shot at the play-in for sure, but that might be about it.

  1. Toronto Raptors 

The Raptors haven’t been the same team since they won the 2019 NBA Finals, as they basically traded the house. However, the Raptors have kept some of their stars like Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam. They also have the reigning Rookie of the Year Award winner, Scottie Barnes. They retained big man Chris Boucher, and are essentially coming into this year with the same team. After coming off a disappointing 4-2 first round exit to the 76ers, the Raptors appear to want to run it back again.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers 

The Lakers had an incredibly disappointing season last year, as they lost 30 of their last 42 games of the season. They made several roster changes this offseason, prioritizing youth on the bench with guys like Lonnie Walker IV, Thomas Bryant, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Troy Brown Jr. They also boosted their backcourt with guards Patrick Beverley and Dennis Schroder. The Lakers are left to find where Russell Westbrook fits on the roster, hope Anthony Davis can remain healthy, and pray that Father Time doesn’t catch up to the King, Lebron James.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans 

The Pelicans weren’t too bad last year. Furthermore, Zion Williamson is finally healthier, skinnier, and resigned for five years on a rookie max extension. They also added a solid rookie in Dyson Daniels at number eight overall. After trading for C.J. McCollum at the end of the last year, they made a great push into the play-in, won it, and made the playoffs. Surprisingly to everyone, they pushed the number one seed, the Phoenix Suns, to six games. With a healthy roster and Brandon Ingram getting better every year, the Pelicans can definitely have a good year.

  1. Dallas Mavericks 

The Mavericks have one of, if not the brightest young star in the league, Luka Doncic. Luka is good enough to make any team in the league good. However, his supporting cast is headlined by guys like Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr. Luka is great, but the team isn’t as good as him. That being said, they still made the Western Conference Finals last year. The odds of them pulling that off again is slim, as they have the same team other than recently acquired Christian Wood. The Mavericks could have a good season, but the roster is mediocre. The Mavericks season is fully on the shoulders of how good Luka Doncic plays.

  1. Atlanta Hawks 

Atlanta finished last year on a disappointing note, only securing the eighth seed in the playoffs and losing in five games to the Heat. The Hawks have become more and more promising every year, as their pick-and-roll threat duo of Trae Young and John Collins is young and has only gotten better every year. This offseason, the Hawks made a splash, trading for first-time all-star Dejounte Murray. The addition of Murray alongside Trae Young makes for a deadly backcourt, and the Hawks can definitely look at making the second round of the playoffs this year.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves 

The Timberwolves have a young roster and two superstars, Anthony Edwards and Karl Anthony Towns. They also added Kyle Anderson, Bryn Forbes, CJ Elleby, Luka Garza, Eric Paschall, and Austin Rivers. They also made a huge trade for Rudy Gobert. With all these additions to an already solid roster, the Timberwolves clearly have the potential to be a playoff threat this season, even if they missed the playoffs last year. There is plenty of room for improvement for this Timberwolves team.

  1. Chicago Bulls 

The Bulls had a very inconsistent season last year, getting as high as the one seed and down to the eighth seed at times in the regular season standings. The Bulls finished the year as the sixth seed, proceeding to lose in the first round in five games. Demar Derozan had an electric, breakout season. Zach Lavine struggled as the number two option. Nikola Vucevic had shooting troubles and Lonzo Ball went down with an injury that the Bulls never recovered from, going 23-24 after Ball was injured. With the additions of Andre Drummond, Goran Dragic, new rookie Dalen Terry, and hopefully, at some point, healthy Lonzo Ball, the Bulls hope to have an even better season.

  1. Phoenix Suns 

The Suns took a tough loss in the second round to the Dallas Mavericks in game seven. The Suns struggled a lot in the playoffs, especially the veteran leader of the Suns, Chris Paul. After rumors surfaced that Deandre Ayton was leaving the Suns, the Pacers offered Ayton a huge contract. The drama was quickly put out, though, after the Suns matched his contract and brought him back. However, the Suns still face several negative storylines heading into this season. Their owner is suspended and wants to sell the team, Jae Crowder wants to be traded, and Chris Paul may have finally been bested by Father Time last season. Nonetheless, the Suns are still a talented team who notched a league-best 64 wins last season.

  1. Los Angeles Clippers 

The Clippers will definitely be a good team, but how good? The two-headed monster of Paul George and the returning Kawhi Leonard will be lethal. However, the rest of the team is mediocre. They added veteran John Wall, who was sidelined all of last year. They also have some younger talent in sharpshooter Luke Kennard, Terrance Mann, and rookie Moussa Diabate. They missed the playoffs last year, but the return of Kawhi should be enough to get the Clippers a playoff spot.

  1. Brooklyn Nets 

Any team with Kevin Durant is destined to be successful, that is for sure. After some off-season drama, Kevin Durant decided to run it back with the Brooklyn Nets. Surrounded by guys like Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, T.J. Warren, Nic Claxton, and Seth Curry, the Nets hope they can push their playoff hopes forward, especially after an upsetting sweep they experienced against the Celtics in the first round last year. The future of the Nets is a mystery, but what is certain is the talent on this roster. Whether it pans out or not is the story this season will tell.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers 

The Cavs did miss the playoffs last year, but their roster has been upgraded. After winning the Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes, the Cavs now have one of the more lethal offensive backcourts in the league with Mitchell and Darius Garland. Their backcourt is lacking defensively, but with Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen down low, their paint defense makes up for it. With Garland resigned and one of the better starting lineups in the East, and very solid bench depth, this Cavs team could have a great season.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers 

The Sixers made the second round last year and lost in six games to the one-seeded Miami Heat. A lot of that second-round appearance is thanks to the addition of James Harden late into last season. Many of the weaknesses the Sixers had in the playoffs last season were fixed. Problems with athleticism, rebounding, and toughness were patched with signings like De’Anthony Melton, P.J. Tucker, and Danuel House Jr. This was mainly made possible by the pay cut Harden took. The Sixers also acquired rookies Julian Champagnie and Michael Foster Jr. This improved roster gives the 76ers a real chance to compete in the east this season.

  1. Miami Heat 

The Miami Heat are coming off an excellent season, finishing as the top seed in the east, and making an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost in a heartbreaking game seven. Jimmy Butler has been one of the best all-around threats in the league, excelling both on offense and defense. Bam Adebayo has been dominant. Recently re-signed Tyler Herro is coming off a Sixth Man of the Year Award winning season where he averaged 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists a game off the bench. The Heat also re-signed Victor Oladipo and Dewayne Dedmond this offseason too. The main issue is the fact that the Heat are the same as they were last year. They didn’t make any big splashes and they lost P.J. Tucker, an important piece to their team in the locker room and on the court. The only notable new addition is draft-and-stash Nikola Jovic, who may be a really solid player in a few years. The Heat will remain contenders, but don’t really have that push over the edge to greatness quite yet.

  1. Denver Nuggets 

The Nuggets have arguably one of the most talented big men the league has ever seen on their team. Coming off his MVP campaign, Nikola Jokic averaged 27 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 assists a game. The Nuggets did take a tough first-round loss to the Warriors last season, but the Warriors were the eventual NBA champions. Plus, the Nuggets were without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr, who are both returning to the Nuggets this season. The Nuggets lost Monte Morris this offseason and replaced him with Ish Smith. They also added Kentavious Caldwell-Pope this offseason too. Emerging talents like Bones Hyland and Zeke Nnaji are promising pieces to the Nuggets that give them hope to be great this season.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies 

The Grizzlies made the second round last season, losing in six games to the Golden State Warriors. The Grizzlies added four rookies to their roster, including the promising Kenny Lofton Jr. Ja Morant had a ridiculous last season, winning the Most Improved Player Award with averages of 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists a game. The roster looks amazing with players like Steven Adams, Desmond Bane, Zaire Williams, and Jaren Jackson Jr. surrounding Morant. The Grizzlies have a very well-rounded bench, especially with the addition of Danny Green. The team has a promising season ahead.

  1. Boston Celtics 

The Celtics suffered a tough championship loss to the Warriors in six games. The Celtics were outclassed from game one and didn’t have the playoff experience to best Stephen Curry. Boston kept their core, an eight-man rotation that led them to the championship. This offseason they added Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari to their rotation, giving them a much-needed boost to their bench. These additions have given the Celtics one of the better benches in the league, based on pure depth. Following the suspension of Ime Udoka, the future of the Celtics becomes slightly foggier. Nonetheless, the Celtics still have a ton of talent.

  1. Golden State Warriors 

The dominant trio of Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Stephen Curry proved that they were going nowhere last year. After a few up-and-down seasons, and injury problems with both Curry and Klay, the Warriors burst right back onto the scene and secured another championship. While they did lose Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II, the Warriors added Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green as replacements. The Warriors also have developing young stars in Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, who have the chance to really step onto the scene this year. The number two pick from 2020 is finally returning from injury this year, while Jordan Poole is also becoming a star. All of this together shows that the Warriors should pick up right where they left off last season.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks 

The Bucks have dominated the regular season for over three years in a row, with one of those seasons ending in a championship. The Bucks won 51 games last year, and as the two seed, Giannis Antetokounmpo alone dominated the Bulls in the first round. But, with Khris Middleton out with injury, the Bucks fell to the Celtics in seven games in the second round last year. As Giannis enters his age 28 season, he prepares to fully enter his prime, and possibly win yet another MVP. With Bobby Portis Jr, Pat Connaughton, Wesley Matthews, and Jevon Carter all resigned, Middleton healthy, and Joe Ingles added in free agency, the Bucks seem ready to make another title push this season. The Bucks will continue to be great for years to come.