#NBARank by ESPN is now complete. I decided to look at how all 30 NBA teams break down by star power, core team, and depth, see how the rankings pan out, as well as put in my own predictions for their record. For star power, I averaged their top 3 players. For core team, I averaged their 2nd through 6th best players. For depth, I averaged their 4th through 11th best players.
DALLAS MAVERICKS (38-44)
11th in Star Power, 12th in Core Team, 14th in Depth
I have them finishing 9th in the West, and that may be too high. I believe in coach Rick Carlisle, but Dirk’s on his way down, D-Will’s been down for a long time, and one more injury will make them plummet to the bottom. So yeah, I must have a lot of faith in Carlisle, and I could also see Mark Cuban doing a midseason move to try to get them back in the playoffs. Whatever it may be, I doubt it’ll be enough.
DENVER NUGGETS (31-51)
13th in Star Power, 15th in Core Team, 13th in Depth
Mike Malone’s a good coach, but I can’t see him doing any better than 12th with this group. And that’s really a testament to him. It’s okay. They can give Emmanuel Mudiay a long leash, develop their talent, let JJ Hickson’s contract expire, see what offers they get for Kenneth Faried, get a good draft pick, and then try next year. And Joffrey Lavergne, who didn’t make the top 400, looks like he might be able to contribute this season.
GOLDEN STATE (62-20)
2nd in Star Power, 1st in Core Team, 2nd in Depth
So yeah, I have them as the best team in the West again, and I’m predicting they go to the NBA Finals again. They’ve kept all of their players, plus their top four players (Curry, Thompson, Green, Iguodala, Bogut) are locked in through 2017. They just have to hope nothing happens to Steph Curry.
HOUSTON ROCKETS (56-26)
6th in Star Power, 4th in Core Team, 3rd in Depth
They made the WCF last year, but it’s not going to be easy for them this year. Yes, Ty Lawson’s an upgrade over Beverley, if he can keep his personal life in check. And how are Lawson and Harden going to co-exist with one ball? Pre-season, it’s seemed like Beverley is getting more minutes than Lawson. But hey, Harden’s going to be an MVP contender again.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (54-28)
3rd in Star Power, 3rd in Core Team, 4th in Depth
Logically, I should have them above Houston, but someone had to slip a game or two due to the healthy Thunder, and I picked the Clippers. They’ve improved their depth, but with the volatile Lance Stephenson. Griffin and Jordan are still young studs, but I think this year, we’ll see CP3’s numbers slip. Just a little, but his defensive rating will drop a notch or two, his eFG% will be a couple points worse. Just small things.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS (26-56)
15th in Star Power, 10th in Core Team, 12th in Depth
I think the emergence of their rookies will win them some games in the second half of the season when some teams might be resting guys or be banged up. I think Kobe Bryant will hurt his team more often than not when he’s on the floor, but if he does this “mentor” thing right, maybe… Ah, who are we kidding? He’s still going to jack up long 2’s with three defenders on him while Randle or Hibbert is open down low. I have no faith in Byron Scott or Jim Buss, and I’d expect both to be unemployed come April. Well, maybe if Jim begs his sister, he can stay another year, but he’s on thin ice.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (50-32)
5th in Star Power, 5th in Core Team, 5th in Depth
And yet, I have them finishing sixth in the West. I’m not sure they stay healthy, and I’m not sure Jeff Green actually helps them win games. They’ll once again be a gritty, grind-it-out team that no one wants to face.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (28-54)
9th in Star Power, 8th in Core Team, 6th in Depth
I’m not sure how this team will be without the guidance of Flip Saunders. Sam Mitchell is an okay coach, but I’m not sure he’s the right one for this group. Their talent is there; it just needs to mature. It wouldn’t shock me if they went on a weird tear and won 35 games this year, but I’m guessing they stay near the bottom while injuries plague them, old guys get older, and young guys figure stuff out through trial and error.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (47-35)
8th in Star Power, 7th in Core Team, 10th in Depth
Anthony Davis will cover a lot of sins, and Alvin Gentry is an upgrade at coach, but will they be astronomically better than last year? No. I think they’re “might win a playoff game” better. They need a lot of their guys to prove they can stay healthy, but they also have a lot of attractive trade pieces should they want to get AD a better co-star in the backcourt.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (58-24)
1st in Star Power, 6th in Core Team, 7th in Depth
If Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook stay healthy, that’s all that matters. Billy Donovan has been given a gift of a roster, but the pressure’s on immediately to win this season. Are they really going to keep Dion Waiters? Will Enes Kanter try to play even a little bit of defense? I’m assuming KD and Russ stay healthy for the most part, and the Thunder shoot up to 2nd in the West.
PHOENIX SUNS (37-45)
10th in Star Power, 9th in Core Team, 11th in Depth
I do not have much faith in their owners and front office. I think Hornacek’s proven to be a good coach, but players can’t wait to get out of there. I’m guessing Markieff Morris is a midseason trade, and they have to hope he doesn’t sabotage his trade value like Goran Dragic did last year. It doesn’t make sense to bring in Tyson Chandler, who will help them win some games, when your #4 pick Alex Len is right there, right at the age when lottery picks start to blossom.
PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (25-57)
14th in Star Power, 14th in Core Team, 8th in Depth
You can’t lose four starters, replace each of them with a player a little bit worse, and expect to make the playoffs. Hopefully Damian Lillard can find joy in having great numbers on a losing team.
SACRAMENTO KINGS (33-49)
12th in Star Power, 13th in Core Team, 9th in Depth
DeMarcus Cousins is a great player, but he has yet to show he has that winning mentality. Funny thing is, if their front office wasn’t so bad and had shown more patience with Mike Malone, the Kings would’ve won more than 30 games for the first time in seven years. As is, I think this is their year to win more than 30. but not much more. This is such a weird collection of talent, and the Kings’ drafting abilities (Thomas Robinsons, Jimmer Fredette, Nik Staukas) have been weak. So who knows how good Willie Cauley-Stein really is. Maybe eventually he’ll be the next Andre Drummond, but it’ll take a while.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS (57-25)
4th in Star Power, 2nd in Core Team, 1st in Depth
Father time’s going to catch Duncan and Parker eventually, but hey, they’ve got Leonard, Aldridge, Green, and West right there. I imagine they’ll approach this season same as last season, except they’ll take April a little more seriously.
UTAH JAZZ (42-40)
7th in Star Power, 11th in Core Team, 15th in Depth
That’s right, folks! NBARank gives the Jazz the worst bench in the Western Conference. Jeff Withey and Elijah Millsap didn’t make the top 400, and I think Raul Neto will surprise some people that helped him finish clear down at #380. The Big 3, team chemistry, and coach Quin Snyder are going to be what get the Jazz back into the playoffs for the first time since the Big Al days.
ATLANTA HAWKS (53-29)
3rd in Star Power, 3rd in Core Team, 6th in Depth
I think some teams will be ready for Atlanta, and while it hurts them to no longer have glue-guy DeMarre Carroll, Tiago Splitter will mean that Horford will actually get to play some 4 this year. I have them finishing 2nd in the East, a Conference with three good teams, and then there’s everybody else.
BOSTON CELTICS (41-41)
14th in Star Power, 10th in Core Team, 1st in Depth
Here’s why I say the Celtics will return to the playoffs. Danny Ainge is going to make a midseason trade. They have too many useful assets. Even if they stayed pat, they’d probably get the 8th seed. I have them going 7th because I believe in that trade, and the East is still the East.
BROOKLYN NETS (27-55)
13th in Star Power, 14th in Core Team, 15th in Depth
Losing does them no good, as they don’t have their own first-round pick for the next three years. This has been one of the worst-managed teams in NBA history, with their “win now” mentality blowing up in their face. They need to hope Joe Johnson stays healthy and see if they can get a trade for him.
CHARLOTTE HORNETS (32-50)
8th in Star Power, 9th in Core Team, 10th in Depth
Lance Stephenson single-handedly destroyed this team, but they also have some tough roster decisions ahead of them. How did Frank Kaminsky, Cody Zeller, Spencer Hawes, and Tyler Hansbrough all wind up on the same team? What are they going to do without MKG? Are they going to keep the Kemba Walker experiment going or try to upgrade their point guard?
CHICAGO BULLS (50-32)
2nd in Star Power, 1st in Core Team, 2nd in Depth
Why do I have such a stud team only winning 50 games? For one, we have no idea how durable Derrick Rose will be this year, or how effective. We also don’t know if Fred Hoiberg will be a good coach. Besides, their Star Power would be 7th in the West.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (57-25)
1st in Star Power, 2nd in Core Team, 3rd in Depth
They may not be 100% healthy, but as long as LeBron James is, everything’s good. They’re a little deeper now. They have Mosgov for the full season, and vets like Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson know their roles and can still perform them.
11th in Star Power, 11th in Core Team, 11th in Depth
What coincidence. I have them going 11th in the East. And Stanley Johnson’s rookie campaign should be fun to follow.
INDIANA PACERS (35-47)
10th in Star Power, 12th in Core Team, 12th in Depth
Here’s the thing with the Pacers. They need Paul George if they even want to be this good. Frank Vogel’s a good coach, but barring a midseason trade they should spend the back-half of the season developing Myles Turner and making a run at next year’s free agents.
MIAMI HEAT (47-35)
4th in Star Power, 5th in Core Team, 5th in Depth
The Heat have been a model franchise when it comes to losing your best player. See what the Cavs were like after LeBron left, compared to how the Heat. Sure they have Wade and Bosh, but Bosh could have bailed too. They traded for Goran Dragic, they resurrected a phoenix named Hassan Whiteside, they had Justise Winslow fall to them in the draft, and they still have shoulda-been-Coach-of-the-Year-in-2013 Erik Spoelstra.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS (39-43)
6th in Star Power, 4th in Core Team, 4th in Depth
This is the team where I think overall NBARank overvalued their talent. They had Greg Monroe and Jabari Parker sandwich Derrick Favors, but it seems like Favors should have the edge over Monroe and at least 20 players between him and Parker. Michael Carter-Williams is still a worse shooter than Trey Burke, and unlike Burke, hasn’t shown in preseason that he’s any better. The Bucks were a worse team when they traded for MCW, and I see that team being more of a reality this full season.
NEW YORK KNICKS (25-57)
12th in Star Power, 13th in Core Team, 13th in Depth
Phil Jackson should learn the lesson of Denver. Teams are better off when they trade away Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks have some promising pieces (Porzingis, Grant), but since they don’t have their first-round pick next year, if they start 5-15, they should really consider all options. I would think teams like the Rockets, Celtics, Bulls and Lakers would love to trade for him.
ORLANDO MAGIC (36-46)
9th in Star Power, 8th in Core Team, 8th in Depth
I’m telling you, take the over with Orlando. New coach Scott Skiles is terrific and coming in and turning around young teams. They might not have enough shooters to make the playoffs this year, but they’ll be right there next year.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (19-63)
15th in Star Power, 15th in Core Team, 15th in Depth
Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor are adrift in the sea of Philly mediocrity while Embiid keeps cashing checks for his part-time boot-wearing. They should really make a trade this year so Dario Saric will have motivation to play in the US next year.
TORONTO RAPTORS (48-34)
7th in Star Power, 7th in Core Team, 7th in Depth
Hm, maybe I have them too high. Ah well. They finally got the perimeter defender they’ve always wanted in DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Lowry looked great in preseason, Cory Joseph was a sneaky-good under-the-radar signing. Things are looking up for them.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS (44-38)
5th in Star Power, 6th in Core Team, 9th in Depth
They need Otto Porter to take that next step now that Paul Pierce is gone. I have a hard time giving them more wins while Randy Wittman is still their coach. Their Big 3 came out virtually tied with the Jazz’s Big 3.