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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Celtics take step back heading into the preseason

NBA power rankings: Now that the 2022-23 season is roughly a month from starting, teams are pretty much set with their rosters.

The Golden State Warriors are coming off their fourth championship in eight years. Back east, the Boston Celtics look like legit contenders moving forward after falling to Golden State. However, there’s now major drama surrounding the organization. There’s also a ton of other intriguing teams in each conference.

Without further ado, here are our updated NBA power rankings with preseason getting going here soon.

30. Utah Jazz (LW: 30)

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Utah Jazz
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The Jazz just went out there and absolutely blew it up, trading All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell in separate blockbusters months apart. It’s clear that this team is now in full-scale rebuild mode under first-year head coach Will Hardy. As such, Utah brings up the rear in our most-recent NBA power rankings as the least-talented team in the Association.

29. Orlando Magic (LW: 29)

nba power rankings: orlando magic
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Despite finishing with 60 losses, the Magic have some hope moving forward. That comes in the form of youngsters Cole Anthony, Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs. With No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero in the mix, things could be looking up in Orlando. He looked tremendous in limited Summer League action.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder (LW: 26)

nba power rankings: oklahoma city thunder
BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and stud 2021 lottery pick Josh Giddey look like a potentially awesome tandem moving forward. Unfortunately, it did not lead to team-wide success to close up the 2021-22 season with both SGA and Giddey sidelined. OKC did make sure to add a ton of talent in the draft, starting with No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren. SGA, Giddey and Holmgren seem to be a nice trio moving forward. Unfortunately, the season-ending injury Holmgren suffered in an exhibition couped with SGA’s current knee issues leads to even more questions heading into the 2022-23 season.

27. San Antonio Spurs (LW: 28)

nba power rankings; san antonio spurs
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

After missing out on the postseason the previous two seasons (a first in franchise history), San Antonio fell to New Orleans in the play-in tournament. That was enough for the Spurs. They are now headed to a full-scale rebuild following the trade of All-Star guard Dejounte Murray. The question is now whether Keldon Johnson and others will be moved.

26. Houston Rockets (LW: 27)

nba power rankings: houston rockets
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Another lost season in Houston just came to an end. However, there’s some positivity for this organization moving forward. The No. 2 pick last summer, Jalen Green is coming off a 27-game span to end the season that saw him average north of 21 points on 40% shooting from distance.

General manager Rafael Stone then aced the draft by adding our No. 1 prospect Jabari Smith at three as well as two other solid first-round picks in Tari Eason and TyTy Washington. Despite having traded Christian Wood earlier in the young offseason, Houston’s future looks bright.

25. Indiana Pacers (LW: 25)

nba power rankings: indiana pacers
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Reason for optimism in Indiana with Tyrese Haliburton now part of a backcourt that includes stud youngster Chris Duarte. Nothing really happened in regards to seeing what these two can offer together with Duarte finding himself injury plagued through the final first half of his rookie season. These are the two cornerstones following the Malcolm Brogdon trade and with Myles Turner on the block.

24. Sacramento Kings (LW: 24)

nba power rankings: sacramento kings
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was foolish. Sacramento’s decision to trade stud young point guard Tyrese Haliburton as a way to compete for a play-in spot did not end too swimmingly with the team posting an 9-17 record. The end result? Sacramento missed out on the postseason for the 16th consecutive season.

The Kings then overthought it and selected Keegan Murray with the fourth pick, creating a questionable roster dynamic for first-year head coach Mike Brown. Ouch! The good news? Sacto added the likes of Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk to its backcourt. Those were two solid moves.

23. Portland Trail Blazers (LW: 23)

NBA power rankings: Portland Trail blazers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

For Portland, the 2021-22 season was defined by Damian Lillard’s injury issues and general manager Joe Cronin righting the wrongs of the previous brass. It concluded with Portland losing 11 consecutive games by a total of 245 points. Cronin did begin the offseason by adding stud forward Jerami Grant in a trade on the cheap. Is this enough to satisfy Dame? Well, his recent record-breaking extension seems to suggest so.

22. Charlotte Hornets (LW: 21)

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Milwaukee Bucks
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The inconsistent Hornets have moves to make this offseason if they want to be seen as legit conference title contenders moving forward. Losing in the play-in tournament adds another layer to this. A team that’s going to build around LaMelo Ball moving forward needs to find the right pieces behind him this summer. Thus far, things have been quiet on this front outside of Miles Bridges’ arrest. That could obviously have an on-court impact for Charlotte.

21. Detroit Pistons (LW: 22)

nba power rankings: detroit pistons
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Pistons remained a bottom-four team in our NBA power rankings throughout the 2021-22 season. That’s no longer the case due to the struggles of teams behind it to close up the regular season. Still having lost 59 games, the Pistons are not near contention. The good news? Cade Cunningham looks like a franchise cornerstone.

General manager Troy Weaver also did a good job in trading Jerami Grant while adding potential studs in that of first-round picks Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren. The Pistons are building for now and the future. Their roster dynamic is really nice.

NBA power rankings: The playoff contenders

20. Washington Wizards (LW: 19)

NBA: Washington Wizards at Brooklyn Nets
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

With Bradley Beal lost for the season, things did not go swimmingly down the stretch. Washington opened up with a 13-7 mark, only to finish 12 games under .500. Now that Beal has re-signed and the Wizards added a starter-caliber point guard to team up with him, they’re ascending our NBA power rankings in this most-recent iteration.

19. New York Knicks (LW: 20)

nba power rankings: new york knicks
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

One season after earning a surprise playoff appearance, the Knicks are coming off a brutal performance. Could that change in 2022-23 after they picked up star guard Jalen Brunson to team up with R.J. Barrett and Julius Randle? We’re not so sure. What we do know is that New York needs to play its youngsters after failing to pull off a deal for Donovan Mitchell.

18. Los Angeles Lakers (LW: 18)

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Memphis Grizzlies
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Just pathetic. Absolutely brutal. A clown show. However way we want to explain this past season’s iteration of the Lakers, it’s just not working. The Lakers lost 30 of their final 42 after starting the season 21-19. After being linked to Kyrie Irving earlier in the summer, Los Angeles made some under-the-radar moves, including bringing in guard Patrick Beverley. Whether this is enough for LeBron James and Co. to return to the playoffs remains to be seen.

17. New Orleans Pelicans (LW: 17)

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at San Antonio Spurs
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans was over .500 after posting a 1-12 record to open the season. All of this came with C.J. McCollum having played well after his trade from Portland. After earning a spot in the play-in tournament, New Orleans shockingly took the Phoenix Suns to six games in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Brandon Ingram’s star grew big time. If Zion Williamson is able to stay 100% healthy, this team could be a force in 2022-23.

16. Chicago Bulls (LW: 15)

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The injury to Lonzo Ball impacted Chicago this past season. It posted a 23-12 record with him in action, only to 23-24 once he went down with a knee injury. All of this culminated in a first-round playoff series loss to the Milwaukee Bucks that wasn’t all-too competitive. The core group is in place for this team to succeed, but Ball’s injury setback could have more ramifications.

15. Toronto Raptors (LW: 16)

nba power rankings: toronto raptors
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Is there any question Nick Nurse is one of the best coaches in the NBA? Toronto opened the season with a pedestrian 23-23 record, only to find itself boasting an 25-11 record in its final 36 regular season games. After falling down 3-0 to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, Toronto made that a series by winning two consecutive before falling in Game 6. The trio of Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes is legit.

14. Dallas Mavericks (LW: 14)

nba power rankings: dallas mavericks
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The loss of Jalen Brunson to the New York Knicks in free agency hurts the defending Western Conference runner-ups. Sure Dallas added Christian Wood and JaVale McGee to the mix. But short of general manager Nico Harrrison picking up another star, this team will take a step back in 2022-23.

13. Atlanta Hawks (LW: 13)

nba power rankings: atlanta hawks
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

A surprise trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020-21 gave in to reality for the inconsistent Hawks this past season. That included an ugly five-game series loss to the Miami Heat in the first round in which Trae Young was bottled up to the tune of 15.4 points per game on 32% shooting. General manager Travis Schlenk used that as a precursor to add All-Star guard Dejounte Murray to the mix to team up with Young. This duo will have Atlanta as a force in 2022-23.

12. Memphis Grizzlies (LW: 12)

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The injury to Ja Morant impacted these Grizzlies in their playoff loss to the Warriors. In no way should that be seen as a bad thing. Memphis won the second-most regular-season games. Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. represent a tremendous yung duo. Unfortunately, Jackson Jr. could be out up to six months due to injury. That impacts Memphis in our most-recent NBA power rankings.

11. Cleveland Cavaliers (LW: 11)

nba power rankings: cleveland cavaliers
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Forget about the LeBron James era, Cleveland has built itsel one of the most-talented young teams in the Association. Already boasting two young All-Stars in that of Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen as well as stud big man Evan Mobley, the Cavaliers pulled off a blockbuster trade for Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell. This foursome could very well be enough to compete with the top dogs back east. Boy, front office head Koby Altman has turned this around in a big way.

NBA power rankings: The top 10

10. Brooklyn Nets (LW: 10)

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Things can change in a heartbeat. It was back in June that two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant requested a trade from the Nets. He was seemingly about to join Kyrie Irving in departing Brooklyn. That’s no longer the case with KD having committed to the Nets and Irving looking like he’s set to return. If healthy, a core three of Durant, Irving and Ben Simmons could contend for a title. It could also turn into a complete dumpster fire. There’s not going to be any in-between.

9. Philadelphia 76ers (LW: 9)

Feb 27, 2022; New York, New York, USA;  Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) and center Joel Embiid (21) check back into the game in the second quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

These 76ers looked like world beaters in the first three games of the Raptors series, only to lose two consecutive before a blowout Game 6 win. They then fell to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals. It’s now led to speculation that front office head Daryl Morey will look to pull off a blockbuster trade to find another star with Joel Embiid and James Harden. That seems to be unlikely with the 2022-23 season quickly approaching. Either way, adding P.J. Tucker to the mix was big time.

8. Denver Nuggets (LW: 8)

nba power rankngs: denver nuggets
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

It’s actually pretty insane what Nikola Jokic did to propel Denver without both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. in the mix. He played at an absolutely elite clip en route to leading Denver to 48 regular-season wins. Even after losing to the Golden State Warriors in the first round, these Nuggets are set up to succeed moving forward as long as Murray and Porter Jr. return healthy. We also like what Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can bring to the table as a three-and-D wing.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves (LW: 7)

nba power rankings: minnesota timberwolves
Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota gave the Memphis Grizzlies a mighty scare in the first round. That included holding a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 6. With new front office head Tim Connelly in the mix, Minnsota then overpaid for star center Rudy Gobert. Despite said overpay, a core four of Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell has Minnesota looking like a legit NBA title contender.

6. Los Angeles Clippers (LW: 6)

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers’ season came to a conclusion in the play-in tournament with a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Said game was defined by Paul George being out to COVID-19. This was the culmination of a season that saw Kawhi Leonard sit out due to a torn ACL and included George himself missing substantial time to injury. At 100%, the Clippers are title contenders. The addition of multi-time All-Star John Wall lends more credence to this belief.

NBA power rankings: The elite five

5. Miami Heat (LW: 5)

nba power rankings: miami heat
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

When fully healthy and clicking on all cylinders, these Heat will continue to be legit conference title contenders. Jimmy Butler remains one of the best all-around players in the game. Miami simply needs to find more help behind Butler after its loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Will Pat Riley and Co. provide that during the summer with the team being linked to Donovan Mitchell? We’re just not seeing it with a lack of assets in South Beach.

4. Phoenix Suns (LW: 4)

nba power rankings; phoenix suns
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix was actually put to the brink by New Orleans in the first round. No one had that series going six games. It was a precursor to this team struggling in its conference semifinals loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Despite winning the most games in the regular season, there’s certainly some questions here. Primarily, one has to wonder if Chris Paul is about to take another step back after struggles in the playoffs last season.

3. Boston Celtics (LW: 2)

nba power rankings: boston celtics
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Defense. Defense. More defense. Since an ugly 19-21 start to the season, Boston won 35 of 41. First-year head coach Ime Udoka then led the Celtics through a tough Eastern Conference before falling to the Warriors in the NBA Finals. Despite struggles in said series, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown proved they can be top players on a contending team. Two wins from the title last season, Boston found a way to add Malcolm Brogdon to the mix this summer. Though, there’s now new questions about the direction of the Celtics with news that head coach Ime Udoka will be suspended the entire 2022-23 season. This impacts Boston in our most-recent NBA power rankings.

2. Milwaukee Bucks (LW: 3)

nba power rankings: giannis antetokounmpo
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Despite some inconsistencies this past season, Milwaukee finished up the regular year with 51 wins and as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. It then dominated the Chicago Bulls in Round 1 before falling to the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals. Giannis Antetokounmpo just couldn’t do it all with fellow All-Star Khris Middleton sidelined to injury. Regardless, a healthy iteration of these Bucks is among the best teams in the NBA. Picking up Joe Ingles while retaining Bobby Portis adds another layer to this belief.

1. Golden State Warriors (LW: 1)

nba power rankings: golden state warriors
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Four NBA championships in eight years. Stephen Curry playing elite basketball at the age of 34. A great mix of proven championship players and youngsters. There’s a reason why the Warriors are defending champs. While losing Gary Payton and Otto Porter in free agency hurts, the addition of Donte DiVincenzo was big. Golden State is also expecting to see second-year jumps from Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody while former No. 2 pick James Wiseman returns from injury.



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