It is currently early August, and I would like to remind you all that the Cleveland Cavaliers are still the NBA World Champions. Teams are gearing up to try and take the throne, but no one is going to be able to take a crack at the champs until at least October. That being said, this offseason has shifted the dynamic of the Eastern Conference, meaning it’s only fitting to judge and rank. We’ve not seen any of these teams play yet, making this the way too early edition of these power rankings, but we can still extrapolate where the teams on paper. It just makes it that much easier yet harder to worry about that stuff now, so here we go.
15: The Brooklyn Nets
All’s not lost for Brooklyn, but at least now, they don’t look so great. Jeremy Lin was a pretty solid backup point guard for Charlotte, and could possibly be a starter, but as of now isn’t great. Hollis-Jefferson’s stats make him look like a mini-Rajon Rondo, as he comes close to the 5-5-5 club. Hollis-Jefferson looks as one of the few bright spots in the roster as a young player, and his two backups, Joe Harris and Caris LeVert also both have potential to grow, Brooklyn is hoping that one of them may turn into a bonafide starter by the end of the year. The only other ray of hope for this roster is Brook Lopez, for whom I almost feel bad for having to suffer through this rebuild that will never end. That being said, there’s a chance Lopez could be dealt by the end of the year.
Brooklyn did take a couple of chances with their roster. Anthony Bennett, Sean Kilpatrick and Trevor Booker, hoping that one of them may finally pan out. Is it likely that Boston gets another top four pick this year? Yes. But could maybe that crazy combination could just work out to finding a few serviceable parts to start a rebuild around? Possibly, but probably not.
14: The Philadelphia 76ers
Congratulations, Philly! You aren’t last finally! You’re still a not-top-five pick as your ceiling, which has broke through last year’s 10-win roof. Rumors that the Sixers are trying to unload either Noel or Okafor; though if they can’t get value out of those players they may just settle with five bigs. Will Simmons fit into the NBA seamlessly his first year? No, but did the Sixer finally find a piece that will eventually bring them back into competition, almost undoubtedly. Now all Philly needs to do is find members to fill out their backcourt (Shumpert? We’ll give you him for Noel).
13: The Milwaukee Bucks
I just don’t know that much about the Bucks rebuild plans, and I’m not sure if anyone really does. A year ago they were looking fantastic. One of the top rated defenses in the league, the return of Jabari Parker and then finally trading for seemingly rising superstar in Greg Monroe, and then the collapsed. Last year was a massive step back for the team.
In response head coach Jason Kidd decided to run point forward Giannis Antetokounmpo as a true point guard for the team despite his 6’8 size. This experiment was somewhat successful, increasing the team’s wins and Giannis’ stats rose, but it didn’t seem like enough changed. Over the offseason The Bucks signed backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova hoping they could possibly groom him into a starter (or at least a 3 and D wing off the bench), and reached really hard for Thon Maker with the 10th overall pick. Both moves seem to have made sense, attempting to find a replacement for Monroe in the long term, and adding a solid 3 and D wing, though there just seems to be a lack of focus when it comes to Milwaukee’s plans. They extended their GM’s contract despite having a clear successor and, besides the aging Dwyane Wade, didn’t even attempt to enter any of the major Free Agent sweepstakes this offseason. They aren’t bad, but really I’m not totally sure if these Bucks are going to get any better this season.
12: The Miami Heat
Well, if there wasn’t for a team in the Western Conference that lost its franchise star for literally nothing, Miami would have been the biggest loser of the 2016 NBA Offseason. Sure, did Miami have to at one point move on from D-Wade as he was already thirty four and reaching the point where he may start losing a step. But to have your franchise star just leave instead of finishing out his career at his drafted home, that is a huge loss to moral.
To make matters worse, their replacement at the position is uncertain with Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson, though keeping Johnson forced the Heat to sign a massive overpay with poison pill provisions making the contract virtually unmovable. The Heat are in tailspin, but they have a few redeeming factors that might just keep them afloat. Goran Dragic is still on this roster, and he was a fringe all-star when playing as the first option on the Suns. Hassan Whiteside stayed with the Heat, though if without a veteran presence he may spiral out of control again. Second year small forward, Justice Winslow, could be a star in his own right with the right tuning. This roster looks thrown together, not bad but like Milwaukee seemingly has no plan for the future beyond Winslow. Bosh’s return will help determine how effective this roster will be this season, but even then Miami could be destined for a high draft pick if they can’t figure out how to work with this roster.
11: The Orlando Magic
On paper this roster looks good. Until you start looking a little bit closer, and start asking to get off Mr. Magic’s wild ride. There are just too many questions.
Why did the Magic trade one of their top prospects and a first round draft pick for an aging Serge Ibaka? Why do they think that Jeff Green is going to add to their already poor three-point shooting? Was one good playoff series really good enough to offer Biyombo a near max contract?
Are the Magic contending or rebuilding?
I’m not sure even the Magic know that, and if it weren’t for the fact that some young players (Mainly just Evan Fournier) could potentially mesh well with these underperforming vets they would be far lower on this list. Dropping further down the list would be a fair thing to bet on for these Magic this season, or maybe it isn’t, who knows.
Rankings 10-6 on the next page!
10: The Washington Wizards
Oh poor John Wall. Heir to Chris Paul’s legacy as the modern true point guard, Wall simply has no one around him. Beal was extended to a max deal, which would look amazing if Beal could stay on the floor for more than half a season. They dropped Nene and replaced him with Ian Mahinmi, which is great for the second unit. As of right now, Marcin Gortat is still just a poor man’s Steven Adams. They did get the biggest steal of free agency by trading an eighth grader (a 2021 second round pick) for Trey Burke, giving them a true viable backup point guard. Washington’s second unit is looking pretty solid, though Kelly Oubre is still looking overrated, and individually the skill level of the starters looks’, average. Washington could sneak into the playoffs under new head coach Scott Brooks, but as of now Washington looks like they will continue to exist in non-rebuilding, non-contending mode.
9: The Charlotte Hornets
Before this offseason, staying pat looked like Charlotte’s best option. Resigning Nick Batum was key, and all else could go to the wayside. The bench might leave but they could always rebuild that with cheap free agent parts. Guess what didn’t work. Losing Marvin Williams to the New York Knicks wasn’t the end of the world as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was looking to return healthy this season, but not signing a replacement for depth is a dangerous move in and of its own. Letting Lin walk in isolation looks solid, but replacing him with Ramon Sessions is a clear downgrade. Replacing “Big” Al Jefferson with a failing Roy Hibbert means your bench lacks even more to be desired. Charlotte kept their surprisingly solid first unit in tact with little effort, however as destroying their second unit that did a large amount of Charlotte’s damage last year causes them to drop in these rankings to start the season. They made grand strides this past postseason, but as it stands now in the East, a playoff absence seems more likely.
8: The Atlanta Hawks
The Eastern Conference playoff teams can really be grouped into four groups based on their talent level and ability to compete. Atlanta falls into group number one; “chickens with their heads cut off.” Atlanta after losing Al Horford looked as if they were more lost than OKC after KD chose Golden State. To compensate they signed big man and former defensive player of the year, Dwight Howard. Will this help stabilize their front court? Maybe. Does it remove all sentiment of three point shooting from this line-ups’ bigs? Absolutely.
Pairing Paul Milsap and Dwight Howard might clog the paint, but neither of them provide an offensive game outside of the shaded area. Trading Teague does give Schroder an opportunity to shine as a star, but only if he can handle full starter minutes. Milsap, Korver, Howard and Schroder can prove enough spark to likely make the playoffs, but Atlanta looks even more destined for a first round exit than they were last year.
7: The Chicago Bulls
I don’t even know what to say man. Chicago I guess won free agency by signing Dwayne Wade to a two year, 52 Million dollar deal. They got a young prospect and center in Jerian Grant and Robin Lopez for an aging Rose (which is a trade they lost). Rajon Rondo plays for his fourth team in three years, and will likely still average a negative +/- despite putting up 10/10/10. Chicago looks lost man, like really really lost. I want to believe in the “Alpha Three” Era, but putting together an estranged star in Rondo, with a budding star in Butler, and an aging one in Wade just doesn’t seem like the key to making Chicago a contender, or building them for a bright future. I rate their offseason “A Less Expensive Brooklyn Trade for KG”/10.
6: The Indiana Pacers
My Boss is high on the Pacers. He thinks that they’re going to be a top three Eastern Conference team. I’m a little more grounded with my expectations. Indiana did improve moving into the third tier of playoff teams, could do something but still not fantastic. Much of their improvements rely on how well Thaddeus Young and Miles Turner improve this season, and new head coach Nate McMillian’s ability to coach this strange roster. Teague and Ellis make a pretty solid combo in the backcourt, but neither of them are all that exciting. Al Jefferson could be hit or miss, but he doesn’t really speed up the offense like Larry Bird said the team wanted last year when they released David West and Roy Hibbert. Indiana is better, and on pace to rebuild, but I wouldn’t get too high on them just yet.
Rankings 5-1 on the next page!
5: The New York Knicks
The 2015 Chicago Bulls sans Jimmy Butler are looking surprisingly good this year. Do they have even the smallest semblance of depth beyond just rolling the dice on some European imports? No absolutely not. Is their roster injury plagued in almost every position? Yep and Yep. If everyone is healthy and things work out, could this be a top three team in the east? Maybe. New York is a wildcard, with a large deal of post-prime stars and young players with lots of potential. Will it work out? Maybe. Will at least two of these guys will the Knicks into the playoffs? I’d bet on it.
4: The Detroit Pistons
Detroit falls into the second tier of playoff teams; Almost There. They have arguably the Third Best Center in the NBA, an abundance of young talent, a great coach, all they need is to finish their long term plan, getting a bit more playoff experience and mature just a bit more. They easily can win a first round series against anyone besides 3-2-1 on this list and should consider their season a success if they make it a series in the second round against any team that isn’t the Cleveland Cavaliers. Detroit is going to keep trending up, and should start being a real threat real soon.
3: The Toronto Raptors
Toronto also didn’t change too much during their offseason, and if it wasn’t for a star changing hands they would once again be holding the number two spot in these rankings. Losing Biyambo was a smart move as he was clearly not worth the money offered to him. Replacing him with Potel in the draft will potentially be a fit by the end of this season, but only time will tell if the rookie will be able to sufficiently emulate the rebounding specialist. Toronto’s biggest success this offseason was resigning DeMar DeRozan. Keeping their backcourt together will continue to make the northern dinosaurs in the race for second among the East.
2: The Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are what the Detroit Pistons hope to accomplish in three years. Horford made his decision to come to Boston, and that exponentially improves the team that didn’t have an effective true center all of last year. If I were to take a guess, Boston is going to be an opponent of Cleveland in the NBA playoffs, likely as our ECF opponent. As of now Boston is still a few steps away from competing with Cleveland, though according to HoopRumors.com, Boston is far from done when it comes to making moves this offseason, and could possibly become a team worthy of matching up against Cleveland in the East.
1: The Cleveland Cavaliers
The Defending Champs aren’t going anywhere. They are tier 1, the champs. Do they still have to resign a few players, sure but the core of this team isn’t going anywhere, and Cleveland should be gearing up for a third dance with Golden State next June. Cleveland has three All Stars in their starting line-up, and despite not holding a true big man that has youth at center, really has no holes in this roster. Those smaller issues such as backup point guard and youth will be addressed either before the preseason or before the trade deadline. Cleveland is going nowhere and is almost unanimously agreed as being a top two team in the league. We hold all they keys here in The Land.