NBA POWER RANKINGS
1. L.A. Clippers
With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joining Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley, the Clippers have the deepest team in the league and possession the ability to lock down any team’s top three scorers. If they’re healthy, they could be great.
The addition of Mike Conley seems like a perfect fit in Utah, someone who can attract attention away from Donovan Mitchell while the Jazz can still play solid defense with Rudy Gobert as its anchor.
The top seed in the West a year ago hasn’t changed much. Jamal Murray is locked in long term while Nikola Jokic remains one of the best big men in the game. Jerami Grant could be a sly addition.
4. L.A. Lakers
Anthony Davis and LeBron James will bring wins, but do the Lakers have enough around them to challenge the likes of the Clippers? Will James stay healthy enough and be playing at a high level in the playoffs?
5. Golden State
With Kevin Durant gone and Klay Thompson on the mend from a torn ACL, Stephen Curry could put up MVP-like numbers alongside D’Angelo Russell. But will he be a good fit with Curry?
How will James Harden and Russell Westbrook coexist? They worked together before in Oklahoma City, but Harden is no-longer the sixth man. Chris Paul got tired of playing with Harden. Will Westbrook?
Had some turnover in their rotation, but still have the solid foundation of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum that is locked up for a long time to come. Their success hinges on players such as Hassan Whiteside and Zach Collins.
8. San Antonio
The Spurs will be solid because, well, they’re the Spurs and Gregg Popovich inevitably will win enough games to get them in the playoffs. But can someone outside of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge step up?
The Mavericks could be an emerging giant with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, but their time may not be now with Porzingis coming back from an ACL tear and Doncic in only year two.
The Kings defied expectations last year by being not horrible, and with De’Aaron Fox running the show, they seem primed to get better. Marvin Bagley’s development will be key.
It’s a new dawn for the Wolves, but how will the team’s transition under Gersson Rosas and Ryan Saunders play out? There will be some bumps in the road, but Karl-Anthony Towns is primed for a big year.
12. New Orleans
Zion Williamson already has to have knee surgery, putting a damper on this season after Davis’ unceremonious exit a season ago. The discarded Lakers (Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball) could thrive under less pressure.
13. Oklahoma City
Paul is now with the Thunder, but for how long? That might determine how many games the Thunder win. OKC was able to stockpile draft picks this summer with an eye on the future, and it might get more.
The Suns had an interesting summer, adding former Wolves Ricky Rubio and Dario Saric to a young corps that includes Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. For their future, Booker and Ayton have to develop into superstars.
Rookie Ja Morant should make for some fun highlights, but the situation in Memphis isn’t set up for winning now after they dealt Marc Gasol during last season and Conley this offseason.
Jimmy Butler is gone, but that doesn’t mean Philadelphia got worse. The 76ers added a versatile young forward in Josh Richardson plus veteran Al Horford and have the ingredients to be the best defensive team in the league.
Giannis Antetokounmpo projects to only get better even after winning MVP a season ago. The Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers in free agency but brought in Robin Lopez to play with brother Brook, giving the Bucks a lot of height to combat the 76ers.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant came to a team that was already on the rise. Durant is expected to miss the year because of an injured Achilles, but in a shallow East, the Nets should still be one of the best teams.
The Celtics replaced Irving, who didn’t mesh well with Boston’s younger players, with Kemba Walker. Will he click any better? Losing Horford will hurt on the defensive end.
The Raptors are not title contenders anymore, but there are still quality players on the team, such as Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol. They’ll be back in the playoffs, even if they won’t make as much noise.
The Pacers’ season hinges on the health of Victor Oladipo, who suffered a season-ending quad injury and doesn’t have a timetable for return. Until then, Pacers will need Brogdon to step up.
Butler will be good enough to help lead the Heat to the playoffs, especially with Erik Spoelstra as coach, but beyond that Miami’s shot of contending with the big boys of the East is slim.
The Pistons have a veteran-laden team with Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin and now former Wolves guard Derrick Rose. But all that won’t add up to more than a lower-tier playoff seed.
The Magic dealt for the much discussed former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz, who had a difficult preseason. Orlando still has some talented pieces in the frontcourt such as Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic.
The Hawks have the potential to take a leap given their young talent in Trae Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter, but they are likely still a few years away given they also drafted DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish.
The Bulls drafted Coby White, who was in the mix to go to the Wolves once they traded up to No. 6. Watching White’s progress alongside Zach LaVine could be interesting for Wolves fans.
The best of a group of really bad teams rounding out the East. Their biggest question will be whether Bradley Beal wants to stick it out for a rebuild or if he looks for greener pastures. The Wolves could be in play if he wants out.
13. New York
The biggest losers in last season’s free agency bonanza now have to figure out where they go from here, with RJ Barrett as the focal point of the franchise. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess who will be around for the long term.
Similar to Washington, they have a star in Kevin Love who is the subject of trade talk. The Cavaliers ended up with another Wolves target in the draft, Darius Garland, who joins Collin Sexton in the backcourt.
Lost its only franchise player in Walker and is looking at years of rebuilding as a result. They also gave one of the more questionable deals of the offseason to Terry Rozier (three years, $58 million).