The way-too-early 2016-17 Eastern Conference Power Rankings
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!