The NBA season tipped-off yesterday, so with that, we are unveiling our first official NBA power rankings – October 2018. And trust us when we say, this is as official as any Power Rankings will get. So without further ado, here’s our 2018-2019 NBA Power Rankings…..
1. Golden State Warriors
As many others have said, the toughest opponent Golden State will face is boredom Will Demarcus Cousins be enough incentive? Does this become a Kevin Durant swansong? Can this team coast through the regular season (again) only to turn it on in the playoffs (again)? This is a fascinating team because there’s a real crossroads element to the greatest dynasty of the past decade-plus.
2. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics enter the 2018-2019 season facing only one major problem, which 28 other NBA General Managers would love to have (depending on how Bob Meyers in Golden State feels about his own roster): they almost have too many good players. And that’s what makes Boston so dangerous this season: they have the depth to play any style of basketball that matches up against their opponents, at a very high level.
3. Houston Rockets
The consensus among the NBA world is that the Houston Rockets took a step backwards this offseason, especially after losing two of their top defensive players in free agency. The question is whether it’s a step backwards to take two steps forward. Carmelo Anthony was Houston’s biggest offseason acquisition, but nobody is going to mistake him for a good defender. So, with this roster constructed as is, is it enough to dethrone the Warriors?
4. Toronto Raptors
It was an eventful offseason for the Toronto Raptors. First, they fired the reigning NBA Coach of the Year award-winner. Then, they shocked the rest of the NBA world by swooping in and acquiring forward Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs. The big question becomes: what version of Leonard are they getting? If they’re getting even 90% of the guy who was a potential MVP candidate just two seasons ago, because of the depth that Toronto already has at wing, this could be one of the most interesting teams in the Eastern Conference.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers announced to the world that the rebuild is over, after finishing the season with a 27-6 record heading into the playoffs. Obviously, that torrid pace is not sustainable or reasonable heading into this season, especially because at some level, the 76ers are still figuring out who they are: an offensive or defense team, an uptempo and fast break team or a slow-down and grind it out team, or a team featuring Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid.
6. Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz could be one of the most interesting teams in the NBA this season. They have virtually all the pieces that you could want: a (potential) superstar in Donovan Mitchell, a borderline-elite 2nd banana in Rudy Gobert, and capable guys who can potentially fill in as the third option, including guys like Joe Ingles and Derrick Favors. Under head coach Quinn Snyder, their defense is suffocating.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder
General Manager Sam Presti had another offseason where he pulled off a free agency coup, this time by convincing free agent forward Paul George to remain in Oklahoma City. With George pairing up with Russell Westbrook, the question is how far this team can go. The supporting cast of Steven Adams and the rest of the gang doesn’t really inspire a lot of confidence, especially with valuable pieces like Andre Roberson being out due to injury for a while.
8. Los Angeles Lakers
So you might’ve heard this offseason that a guy by the name of LeBron James headed out west, signing with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent, and starting the next chapter of his career. Of course, all the moves made by the Lakers after that were far more perplexing, when they added a whos who of castoffs and seemingly bloated a roster filled with young talent. So the question becomes: are the Lakers trying to build for the future, or compete today?
9. Milwaukee Bucks
Considering the Milwaukee Bucks won 44 games last year under the stewarding of Jason Kidd, followed by Jay Prunty (the latter of whom might’ve been the most forgettable head coach in recent NBA memory), it’s hard to fathom that the upgrade to Mike Budenholzer isn’t worth another five wins at minimum. That, and the fact that all signs are pointing to Giannis Antetokounmpo taking another step forward this year, and being one of the favorites for the MVP award.
10. Indiana Pacers
The big question for the Indiana Pacers will be whether they hit their ceiling last year, or whether there’s still room for development. Obviously, Victor Oladipo is coming off a career year; can he be even better this year? Irrespective of Oladipo, keep an eye on two of the other young guys in Indiana in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, as they’ve both come into training camp in tremendous shape.
11. New Orleans Pelicans
Forward Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans is one of the prohibitive favorites to win the NBA’s MVP award this year and with good reason. Because he lacks any blue-chip talent around him, the Pelicans will give him every chance to accumulate gaudy stat lines every night. Davis is talented enough to where the could drag this team to 45+ wins, but they’re going to miss the leadership that Rajon Rondo brought last year as the season progresses.
12. San Antonio Spurs
Even after trading away a top-seven player in the NBA this offseason, losing one of their most promising young prospects to a season-ending knee injury, and seeing both the latter’s replacement as well as their top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft also go down with injuries that’ll sideline them for the early part of the season, it’s been a trendy thing to say that the San Antonio Spurs will miss the playoffs this season. But bet against Gregg Popovich at your own risk.
13. Denver Nuggets
With a starting lineup featuring Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray flanked by Paul Millsap, Will Barton, and Gary Harris, the Denver Nuggets might have one of the most interesting starting units in the Western Conference. It’s Denver’s bench that might be more of an issue unless they’re able to get quality scoring from former All-Star Isaiah Thomas. Also, if the Nuggets can get anything from Michael Porter Jr, their top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, that would be gravy.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or you just don’t pay attention to sports, there’s no way you’ve avoided the current drama in Minnesota, involving disgruntled All-Star Jimmy Butler. This could very well be one of the most fascinating subplots of the 2018-2019 season because things can get ugly in a hurry if Minnesota suffers through any slump or streak of inconsistent play.
15. Washington Wizards
There’s a reason why General Manager Ernie Grunfeld might be the most reviled man in Washington, this side of anyone in politics and/or the guy who owns the local professional football team. Having failed to make any meaningful additions around the core of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr., Grunfeld inexplicably decided to sign center Dwight Howard to a two-year deal. And, true to form, Howard entered this year’s training camp with a lingering injury.
16. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are not content with the roster they have at the moment, given that they were seemingly hours away from acquiring Jimmy Butler. But with that deal having fallen apart, Miami will figure out just how far they can advance in the East with a foundation built upon Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters. The biggest thing the Heat have going for them is head coach Erik Spoelstra, who remains one of the very best in the game today.
17. Portland TrailBlazers
Ironically, the Portland Trailblazers return virtually the same team that finished with 49 wins and the third seed in the Western Conference last year. But getting swept by the New Orleans Pelicans left such a bad taste in the mouths of everyone around the league that most sports books have their projected win total being just over 41 games. If Portland underperforms this year, expect the buzz around potentially trading superstar Damian Lillard to get louder and louder.
18. Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers have a lineup with which it would be a reasonable request to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference today. But after taking two picks early on in the 2018 NBA Draft, they also find themselves in a position where they need to develop their assets. Will head coach Doc Rivers, who might be on the hot seat with the organization revamping the front office last year, actually play the young guys? Or will the Clippers use them as trade bait to make a move for Jimmy Butler?
19. Detroit Pistons
Mercifully, the Stan Van Gundy era is over in Detroit. Instead, the recently deposed coach of the year in Dwayne Casey comes to Motown, to hopefully revitalize a Detroit Pistons team that seems like a collection of misfits. With all the guards on this roster (alongside the “big name bigs” in Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond), Casey looks like he’ll favor a small-ball lineup. That would make sense, considering there was a lot of this at his last stop in Toronto.
20. Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets hired former San Antonio Spurs’ assistant coach James Borrego to be their head man, and bring the Spurs’ system out east. But does he have the pieces in place to make that happen? Charlotte seems right in between that “good enough to compete now” and “focusing on developing the young pieces” area, which is arguably the worst place to be for any team. This team needs Malik Monk to emerge after a bad rookie season, and getting immediate contributions from Miles Bridges would be a huge help as well.
21. Dallas Mavericks
While the 2018-2019 season was supposed to be a farewell swan song for the greatest player in franchise history in Dirk Nowitzki, it feels like it’s going to be a season-long welcoming party for Luka Dončić instead. The highly-touted rookie is already drawing rave reviews in the preseason, and his ability to play the point guard position will only make all the other players in the Mavericks’ lineup that much better. Dallas is very much a dark horse team to make a run at that last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
22. Brooklyn Nets
It won’t get a marketable name like “The Process,” but Brooklyn Nets General Manager Sean Marks is approaching the rebuild of the Brooklyn Nets with patience and pragmatism. Though the team is optimistic with some of the guys they have, including D’Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, Ronade Hollis-Jefferson, and Caris LeVert, the truth is that Brooklyn is positioning themselves to make a big run in free agency next summer.
23. Cleveland Cavaliers
So begins life after LeBron James — again — for the Cleveland Cavaliers. While the team managed to secure back-to-back #1 picks in the NBA Draft the first time James left town, it feels like the Cavaliers have aspirations of remaining a playoff contender, thanks to the veteran cast that’s still in place. It’ll be interesting to see what this team looks like after it hands over the reigns to Kevin Love, who spent most of his time in Cleveland as a “third banana.”
24. New York Knicks
Even though new head coach David Fizdale, or loyal supporters of this forever-sad franchise, may not want to hear it, the 2018-2019 season is really more of a “bridge year” for the New York Knicks, as they try and build on their young core in place while franchise cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis recovers from his knee injury. The future is bright, however, as the Knicks have finally managed to clean up their salary cap situation and give themselves flexibility to potentially add a star after this season.
25. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls looked like they could potentially have a somewhat interesting starting lineup, with the new additions of Jabari Parker (via free agency) and Wendell Carter Jr. (via the NBA Draft) joining Kris Dunn, the newly re-signed Zach LaVine, and promising second-year forward Lauri Markkanen. However, Markannen will be out for most of the remainder of 2018 with an elbow injury, which puts a dent in the enthusiasm for Bulls fans entering this season. That is, of course, until they see this team’s potentially terrible defense.
26. Phoenix Suns
Even with all the draft picks they’ve made near the top of the last several NBA Drafts, the Phoenix Suns have all the length and athleticism you could ask for, but none of that wrapped up in a point guard. That’s reportedly a big reason why notoriously fickle owner Robert Sarver decided to fire General Manager Ryan McDonough only days before the start of the season. For a team that’s finally looking to put a foundation to build upon in place, that’s not a good way to start things off.
27. Sacramento Kings
For the umpteenth year in a row, the Sacramento Kings are in the midst of rebuilding their franchise into a perennial contender; although, at this point, they’d take just one year of a being a contender. Sacramento thought highly enough of former Duke University forward Marvin Bagley III to select him over Luka Doncic in the 2018 NBA Draft, but the real intrigue might be around the development of center Harry Giles, who’s dripping with potential if he can just stay healthy.
28. Memphis Grizzlies
While Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol remain two of the better players at their respective positions, the truth is that both players are entering the twilight of their careers, and it would behoove Memphis to try and move them in exchange for whatever assets could be used for their imminent rebuild. The latter would be focused, in large part, around Jaren Jackson Jr, the team’s top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
29. Orlando Magic
Individually, the Orlando Magic have an interesting collection of young talent, with guys like Jonathan Simmons and Mohamed Bamba joining forward Aaron Gordon, the latter of whom became one of the newest recipients of a max contract this offseason. Now, can these individual pieces play together? That remains to be seen. New head coach Steve Clifford is a defensive-oriented guy, and with all the length in the front court of this team, their defense will probably be a lot better than their offense.
30. Atlanta Hawks
New General Manager Travis Schlenk believes he’s found the next Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the 2018 NBA Draft, after selecting former University of Oklahoma star Trae Young and sweet-shooting guard Kevin Huerter from the University of Maryland. Comparing the latter two to the former two is lofty, to say the least, and this entire season will be about proving whether Schlenk’s vision is accurate.