LeBron is a Laker, Kawhi is a Raptor, Melo is a Rocket, DeRozan is a Spur, and Boogie is a traitor. Those are just a few of the big names that have found new homes this off-season. The massive amount of great players changing teams has shaken up the NBA totem pole enough that it is well worth talking about.

Are the Raptors now for real? Are the Lakers actually contenders?

Check out the updated rankings below and see where your team currently stands.

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. Houston Rockets
  4. Los Angeles Lakers
  5. Toronto Raptors
  6. Philadelphia 76ers
  7. Oklahoma City Thunder
  8. Utah Jazz
  9. Minnesota Timberwolves
  10. Denver Nuggets
  11. San Antonio Spurs
  12. Portland Trail Blazers
  13. Indiana Pacers
  14. New Orleans Pelicans
  15. Milwaukee Bucks
  16. Washington Wizards
  17. Los Angeles Clippers
  18. Miami Heat
  19. Memphis Grizzlies
  20. Dallas Mavericks
  21. Cleveland Cavaliers
  22. Detroit Pistons
  23. Chicago Bulls
  24. Charlotte Hornets
  25. New York Knicks
  26. Phoenix Suns
  27. Sacramento Kings
  28. Atlanta Hawks
  29. Brooklyn Nets
  30. Orlando Magic

There is obviously no need to explain why the Warriors take the top spot. The Celtics nearly made the finals last season without their two All-Stars, so that shouldn’t require too much explanation either. If you are a betting person, I’d put your money on Boston making it to the finals out of the East next season.

The Rockets are locked in at number 3 due to their success last season. If it wasn’t for CP3’s injury, along with one of the biggest chokes in playoff history, Houston would probably be NBA Finals champs right now. They did have some key departures this off-season with Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. They brought in a solid defender in James Ennis and some instant offense with Melo though to replace them.

I have the Lakers ranked above the Sixers and Raptors for a couple of reasons. First, the Lakers obviously have LeBron James. Secondly, I do not think that the Raptors could beat the Lakers in a seven game series. The Raptors have never come close to taking LeBron down in a playoff series. Therefore, I give the Lakers the nudge. Yes, I know they have Kawhi now, but LeBron is still better than him. And if anyone were to try to make the argument that Kyle Lowry or Serge Ibaka could help carry them to victory, they must not have watched any playoff basketball in the last five years.

I have the Sixers behind the Lakers because they didn’t really get any better. They lost a lot of shooting when Belinelli and Ilyasova left in free agency. They did manage to bring in Wilson Chandler via trade, but I don’t think that necessarily makes them any better. Until Ben Simmons is knocking down jumpers with ease, I can’t put the 76ers ahead of LeBron’s Lakers.

The Thunder, Jazz, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Spurs, Trail Blazers, and Pelicans will all be clumped together in the 4-10 range in the West next season (much like last season). Most of these teams should be slightly better than they were last season but not by much. The last five spots in the West will be a wide open race that any of these teams could win, though none of them should be considered serious contenders.

The top three teams in each conference are the only real contenders going into next season. Teams like OKC and the Bucks will be fun to watch but won’t pose any real threat to teams like the Warriors and Celtics. The NBA playing field has evened out slightly after tanking reached an all-time high last season. However, there is still a long way to go, and the Warriors addition of Boogie definitely did not help.

The Pacers, Bucks, Wizards, and Heat are all stuck in the “we can make the playoffs, but that’s about it” boat. They will all likely be competitive, post records slightly above .500, and be anywhere from the 4-8 seed in the East. I just don’t see any of those teams making substantial improvements to their records from last season. That is mostly due to the fact that none of these teams acquired any big time players. The Pacers improved the most by adding Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans, but that isn’t saying much.

Teams ranked in the 17-25 range are all really in an awful spot. Each franchise probably has hope that they can make the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed, but in all reality their mediocre rosters have little to no chance. Most of these teams should be tanking this next season, though few will be.

It appears as if the race to tank for the first pick will be between the Magic, Nets, Hawks, Kings, and Suns next season. I currently have the Magic as front-runners mostly because DJ Augustin is projected to be their starting point guard. There will be less teams than last year that are miserable to watch, but not by much. At least 1/3-1/2 of the league won’t be intentionally losing next season.

Published by Jackson Stoever

Recent Oklahoma State graduate who is a die-hard Suns fan.

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