The NBA offseason isn’t over yet, but most of the biggest moves have been made already.
Teams like the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics have knocked the summer out of the park, while squads such as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat probably wish they could’ve just kept their rosters from last season.
Let’s rank all 30 teams in the league with the bulk of free agency behind us, taking into account player turnover, coaching turnover, natural progression and regression of players and team chemistry. All 30 squads will also have a record prediction for 2016-17.
1. Golden State Warriors (2015-16 standing: 73-9, Lost in NBA Finals)
The Warriors broke an NBA record once thought unbreakable last season. The team also replaced its worst starter with Kevin Durant, a former MVP who’s one of the three best players in the league and can operate with or without the ball.
So who’s to say they can’t top themselves in 2016-17?
Sure, the frontcourt depth could take a step back without Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli and Marreese Speights present to soak up minutes, but the Dubs will dominate teams so thoroughly with their Curry-Klay-Iggy-KD-Draymond lineup that it shouldn’t matter that much.
The Dubs blew it in last month’s Finals. It seems extremely unlikely that the same outcome happens again next summer.
Record prediction: 74-8
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (2015-16 standing: 57-25, Won NBA Finals)
Most reigning champions would get the No. 1 treatment in power rankings just a month after winning the title.
Not the Cavs. But it’s not like they did anything wrong.
Cleveland’s offseason has been understated, but the team has managed to keep its core together from its title run. Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov are the biggest losses, but both were out of the rotation by the Finals. The main task remaining is to re-sign J.R. Smith, whose spot-up shooting ability sparked the squad throughout the postseason.
The Cavs’ projected record would be slightly higher, but they’ll probably spend the last few weeks of the regular season coasting in preparation for another deep playoff run.
Record prediction: 60-22
3. San Antonio Spurs (2015-16 standing: 67-15, Lost in Western Conference Semifinals)
Lose a future Hall of Fame big man to retirement, then gain another via free agency. That’s the story of the Spurs’ offseason thus far.
Pau Gasol will attempt to fill Tim Duncan’s enormous shoes in the starting lineup, which he should easily do…on the offensive end of the floor. San Antonio will find it difficult to maintain its No. 1 defensive ranking from last season without Duncan, an aging Tony Parker at point guard and minus some frontcourt depth.
However, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Gasol is a strong trio to build on, and Gregg Popovich is still coaching. San Antonio will be good enough to make the Western Conference Finals this year.
Record prediction: 56-26
4. Los Angeles Clippers (2015-16 standing: 53-29, Lost in Western Conference First Round)
Barring a Blake Griffin trade before the season, Los Angeles enters its third straight season with a rock-solid core four of Chris Paul, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick playing in front of a paper-thin bench.
The Clippers are still obviously a very good team, but the lack of wing and frontcourt depth will likely doom them when facing the Durants, Leonards, Thompsons, Iguodalas, Greens, Aldridges and Gasols of the West. Props for the nice Brandon Bass move, though.
Record prediction: 53-29
5. Boston Celtics (2015-16 standing: 48-34, Lost in Eastern Conference First Round)
The best word to describe the Celtics right now is “options.” They have a glut of valuable young players, some juicy future draft picks and a great up-and-coming young coach in Brad Stevens.
Boston has appeared in numerous trade rumors for star players, and for good reason. It can offer enticing packages without significantly compromising its depth, which is rare. We shouldn’t be surprised at all if the Celts pull off a blockbuster deal before next February’s trade deadline.
Even if the team just rolls with its formidable current core (Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko) for the 2016-17 season, it should be one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams and a tough out for any playoff opponent.
Record prediction: 53-29
6. Toronto Raptors (2015-16 standing: 56-26, Lost in Eastern Conference Finals)
The Raptors surprised us all by rebounding from a disappointing first-round sweep at the hands of the Washington Wizards in the spring of 2015 by becoming a strong two-way squad in 2016.
Despite the significant loss of Bismack Biyombo off the bench, I don’t see that changing.
Jared Sullinger was a low-risk, bargain signing (one year for $6 million) that should fill some of Biyombo’s rebounding void. While the team may suffer slightly from “we’re not underdogs anymore” syndrome, it should be more battle-tested by the time next spring rolls around and ready for a fight against anyone.
Record prediction: 52-30
7. Utah Jazz (2015-16 standing: 40-42, Did not qualify for playoffs)
Remember when the Jazz were the darlings of the league a year ago? They had (by far) the best defense in the league after the All-Star break and finished the year 19-10 behind their cohesive young core. Many predicted a big leap in the standings for the 2015-16 season.
Thanks to injuries, that leap didn’t happen. But it should in 2016-17 with better health and with the help of some proven reinforcements.
Dante Exum will be back to continue his growth into a defensive stopper at either backcourt position after missing all of the 2015-16 campaign with a torn ACL. He’ll get some veteran leadership from George Hill, who’ll immediately be a massive upgrade over Raul Neto and Shelvin Mack at the starting point-guard slot.
Veterans Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw also add to an intriguing mix of strong young players, all of whom should only get better as they gain experience.
Record prediction: 49-33
8. Indiana Pacers (2015-16 standing: 45-37, Lost in Eastern Conference First Round)
The Pacers’ offseason moves skewed heavily toward the offensive end of the floor. But can you blame them? Indy badly needed some offensive creators to ease Paul George’s burden, and it showed itself in the team’s first-round loss that occurred in spite of PG-13’s great series and a complete no-show by the Raptors’ two best players.
I’m pretty sure the Pacers did get better, though. Jeff Teague will create some open looks for George, Thaddeus Young will do a little bit of everything at power forward and Al Jefferson will dominate backup big men with his low-post offensive game.
Record prediction: 49-33
9. Oklahoma City Thunder (2015-16 standing: 55-27, Lost in Western Conference Finals)
The losses of Durant and Serge Ibaka is what everybody looks at first. But the Thunder still have a top five player in the league (Russell Westbrook), a prototypical modern center (Steven Adams) and some other intriguing under-25 pieces (Victor Oladipo, Enes Kanter, Andre Roberson, Cameron Payne and Domantas Sabonis). Furthermore, Dion Waiters could be back as well and Euro stash Alex Abrines looks to be coming over.
So Westbrook, if he doesn’t get traded, is definitely going to go bananas in 2016-17 statistically, but it’s not like he won’t have any help.
Remember, Oklahoma City was oh-so-close to upsetting the Warriors AFTER taking down the Spurs despite Durant being third (!) on the team in playoff win shares (2.0). That number was behind Westbrook (2.9) and Adams (2.1), by the way.
Record prediction: 48-34
10. Atlanta Hawks (2015-16 standing: 48-34, Lost in Eastern Conference Semifinals)
The Hawks’ 2016-17 season will go as Dwight Howard and Dennis Schroder go, so I’m basically saying I have no idea what will happen.
What I do know is that Mike Budenholzer is a very good coach, Paul Millsap remains underrated by most fans and the team has solid depth. There’s a solid base with which to work in the ATL, but any playoff run that lasts more than two rounds will mean that Howard and Schroder played up to their enormous potential.
Record prediction: 47-35
11. Memphis Grizzlies (2015-16 standing: 42-40, Lost in Western Conference First Round)
I’ve been sour on the Grizzlies for a while, but this offseason was mostly a good one for them. I didn’t get the firing of Dave Joerger at first, but it became more defensible once additional details were released.
The signing of Chandler Parsons was nice, if he stays healthy. He’s the floor-spacing starting wing that Memphis has been needing for a while. I also liked the low-risk acquisition of Troy Daniels, who continues to fill the shooting need.
Memphis should be much better than last year, even if a four-win increase doesn’t seem like much. Keep in mind, their point differential and schedule last season predicted them as a 35-47 squad.
Record prediction: 46-36
12. Detroit Pistons (2015-16 standing: 44-38, Lost in Eastern Conference First Round)
The Pistons are a young team with a bright future ahead of them, especially in the very capable hands of Stan Van Gundy as head coach and president of basketball operations.
In their current state, though, the mix of players is still just good, not great. Andre Drummond NEEDS to crack the 40 percent free throw shooting barrier before we consider him a full-fledged star, Reggie Jackson faded some after the All-Star break and the rest of the roster isn’t quite developed enough to make the squad a legitimate contender yet.
Detroit’s depth did considerably better (Boban Marjanovic, Henry Ellenson, Jon Leuer, Ish Smith and Michael Gbinije), so keep an eye out for a much more balanced squad minutes-wise in 2016-17.
Record prediction: 45-37
13. Portland Trail Blazers (2015-16 standing: 44-38, Lost in Western Conference Semifinals)
The Trail Blazers are definitely a team on the upswing. But, like so many young teams (including the Pistons directly above them), dues need to be paid before leapfrogging several teams in the NBA hierarchy.
I didn’t get the Evan Turner signing for the money he got (four years and $70 million), but he does provide some helpful depth and versatility. The quality of big men is still questionable, with Festus Ezeli maybe helping but not enough to salvage a weak frontcourt rotation.
Also, the Blazers’ top five minutes-per-game getters from last season missed seven, two, zero, one and zero games, respectively. Can they benefit from amazing health luck again?
Record prediction: 45-37
14. Houston Rockets (2015-16 standing: 41-41, Lost in Western Conference First Round)
Everybody’s said it already, but the Rockets are going to have a lot of games go into the 120s and 130s next season. They could be the second-best offensive team in the league next year (after you-know-who), but they might also be the worst defensive squad.
I’m super intrigued by what Mike D’Antoni can do with Houston’s talent, and I’m also curious how he’ll be able to bring together a locker room that fell apart last season. Maybe Dwight Howard was the source of all the problems and everything will go away, or maybe James Harden’s ball dominance will continue to wear on teammates and hurt the chemistry.
Record prediction: 44-38
15. Charlotte Hornets (2015-16 standing: 48-34, Lost in Eastern Conference First Round)
This is one team that I fear could regress a bit next season, despite returning most of its main contributors (save Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee and Al Jefferson) and getting defensive stalwart Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back from his shoulder injury.
While Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams are all very good players, I worry about the sustainability of their success. Charlotte’s top three minute-getters had career years (or close to it) in 2015-16, with Walker turning into a totally different point guard after several years of inefficiency. Is that sustainable moving forward?
Record prediction: 42-40
16. Milwaukee Bucks (2015-16 standing: 33-49, Did not qualify for playoffs)
Team Futuristic still isn’t quite ready for contention in 2016-17, but they’re getting closer. Last year was supposed to be their big breakthrough, but a huge defensive regression (I’m not pointing fingers, but yes I am…Greg Monroe) prevented that from happening.
Giannis Antetokounmpo should continue to be the point guard, but the lineup around him just needs shooting. Would they consider moving Greg Monroe for some smaller pieces plus draft pick (s) and rolling with a starting lineup of Greek Freak-Matthew Dellavedova-Khris Middleton-Jabari Parker-John Henson and dead-eye shooter Mirza Teletovic as sixth man? That could be a surprisingly lethal group.
Record prediction: 42-40
17. New Orleans Pelicans (2015-16 standing: 30-52, Did not qualify for playoffs)
I was a huge fan of the Pelicans’ offseason. They needed to improve their defense to combat last season’s No. 28 ranking in defensive efficiency, and they did. Solomon Hill, Terrence Jones, E’Twaun Moore and Langston Galloway are all players who will guard their position well while not being liabilities on the other end (assuming New Orleans gets 2014-15 Jones).
Drafting Buddy Hield was another slam-dunk move that will open up the floor for a bounce-back year for Anthony. Now, if Anthony Davis can only stay healthy…
Record prediction: 40-42
18. New York Knicks (2015-16 standing: 32-50, Did not qualify for playoffs)
Derrick Rose is not a good starting point guard anymore. I repeat, Derrick Rose is not a good starting point guard anymore. Anyone high on the Knicks because they think D-Rose will help them take them to the next level will be sorely mistaken.
Kristaps Porzingis’ continued rise to stardom, Carmelo Anthony’s scoring binges and the steady play of role players like Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah (hopefully, if he’s somewhat healthy), Lance Thomas and Kyle O’Quinn should keep New York respectable, though.
Record prediction: 38-44
19. Chicago Bulls (2015-16 standing: 42-40, Did not qualify for playoffs)
Do the Bulls have any idea what they’re doing? The Rajon Rondo signing was a curious one considering the “younger and more athletic” drum the front office was beating heading into the offseason, but the Dwyane Wade acquisition? Chicago seems to have no plan for its roster.
The combination of talent on the Bulls’ starting perimeter with Rondo, Wade and Jimmy Butler is undoubtedly one of the best in the league. But none of them are particularly dangerous outside shooters, and there’s only one ball to share between three guys who like to handle the ball frequently. That combination looks like a classic case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts.
Robin Lopez could end up being the Bulls’ second-most valuable two-way player next season, which isn’t a great sign.
Record prediction: 38-44
20. Miami Heat (2015-16 standing: 48-34, Lost in Eastern Conference Semifinals)
You can tell by this ranking that I’m pretty concerned about Chris Bosh’s health. The team has been pretty ambiguous about the star forward’s serious blood-clotting issues, and that’s probably not a good sign.
Miami is losing a pretty big chunk of last year’s core (Dwyane Wade, possibly Bosh, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson) while replacing them with guys (Wayne Ellington, James Johnson and Derrick Williams) who aren’t starting-level players.
Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow should be good, but are they good enough to be the best three players on a playoff team? The jury’s still out on that.
Record prediction: 36-46
21. Minnesota Timberwolves (2015-16 standing: 29-53, Did not qualify for playoffs)
Building chemistry and gaining experience isn’t a quick process, which is why the young Timberwolves will have to wait another year before making the postseason.
And while I think Andrew Wiggins’ potential is awesome, he still has a long way to go to be a star player in the NBA. He’s not an efficient offensive player (54.3 true shooting percentage, 0.9 assists per turnover), and he still makes a ton of mistakes on defense.
Karl-Anthony Towns is an absolute stud at just 20 years old, but give his potential-filled teammates some time to hone their skills before penciling them in for a playoff spot.
Record prediction: 34-48
22. Denver Nuggets (2015-16 standing: 33-49, Did not qualify for playoffs)
The Nuggets were considerably better than I expected last season, even though rookie Emmanuel Mudiay may have been the worst starting point guard in the league statistically.
Similar to the Wolves (but without a true star like Towns), though, the Nuggets will find moving up in the West difficult while relying on a lot of young players for big contributions.
Moving forward, though, there’s plenty to get excited about in the Mile High City. Mudiay, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic could be All-Stars someday, and Gary Harris, Will Barton, Jusuf Nurkic, Juan Hernangomez and Malik Beasley all look like very good young role players who can support their more skilled teammates well.
Record prediction: 34-48
23. Dallas Mavericks (2015-16 standing: 42-40, Lost in Western Conference First Round)
Two seasons in a row of just missing out on a top available center has me feeling sorry for the Mavericks. DeAndre Jordan and Hassan Whiteside were both nearly headed to Dallas before late changes of heart.
The Mavs also missed out on Mike Conley and bringing Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia back, instead bringing in two former Warriors, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. Bogut should handle Pachulia’s role pretty well, but the team may be a bit optimistic if it thinks Barnes can produce as much as Parsons did.
The burden may once again fall on the shoulders of 38-year-old Dirk Nowitzki. Can he be the best player on a postseason squad in Year 19?
Record prediction: 31-51
24. Orlando Magic (2015-16 standing: 35-47, Did not qualify for playoffs)
The Magic’s offseason started out well when Frank Vogel was hired on as head coach. Then it went all downhill from there.
They gave up an up-and-coming two-way guard (Victor Oladipo) and precious floor-spacing (Ersan Ilyasova) for a one-year rental of Serge Ibaka. Ibaka’s defensive and shooting abilities make him an adaptable big man, but he’s not worth what Orlando gave up for him, especially since Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic already seemed penciled in as the frontcourt starters.
Then there was the Bismack Biyombo and Jeff Green signings, which make little sense concerning the aforementioned logjams. Maybe some trades are coming?
If not, expect a lot of rotation uncertainty for the Magic this season as they figure out a talented, but awkward, combination of players.
Record prediction: 31-51
25. Washington Wizards (2015-16 standing: 41-41, Did not qualify for playoffs)
This may seem a bit harsh for the Wizards, who have a top seven point guard in the league in John Wall and upgraded their head coaching position from Randy Wittman to Scott Brooks. Bradley Beal should take another step, IF he can stay healthy.
The rest of the roster, though, is really uninspiring. Ian Mahinmi was the biggest acquisition, but he may not even start. Washington has enough talent to spend much of the season on the fringes of the playoff conversation, but ultimately it may pull off a stealth tank job (trying new rotations and giving younger players extra burn) to raise its 2017 draft position a few spots.
Record prediction: 30-52
26. Sacramento Kings (2015-16 standing: 33-49, Did not qualify for playoffs)
Dave Joerger was a smart hiring for the Kings. Similar to the Magic, though, the player portion of their offseason was not good.
Sacramento added some veteran presences (Matt Barnes, Garrett Temple, Arron Afflalo and Anthony Tolliver) that seemed like a crop of players a contender would get for some depth. However, the Kings aren’t ready to win now, and based on their front office’s miserable decision-making skills, they might not be ready to win for a while.
Record prediction: 29-53
27. Phoenix Suns (2015-16 standing: 23-59, Did not qualify for playoffs)
The Suns will be fun, I’ll give them that. Landing Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss on draft night tells us that the team wants to build a run-and-gun juggernaut and develop it into a contender in a few years.
Giving lots of minutes to raw talents like that doesn’t translate into a lot of wins, though. The backcourt is set with Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Devin Booker, but a frontcourt highlighted by two rookies who aren’t NBA-ready, other up-and-coming youngsters and middling vets will keep the team from playoff contention.
Record prediction: 26-56
28. Los Angeles Lakers (2015-16 standing: 17-65, Did not qualify for playoffs)
Luol Deng may end up as the Lakers’ most valuable two-way player in 2016-17, but that’s not the worst thing in the world. Los Angeles is still developing a bunch of young talent that just isn’t ready to compete in the Western Conference.
Defensively, Los Angeles will obviously stay near the bottom of the league, even with Deng. On offense, though, you’ll see a lot of nice development from D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram throughout the season.
Record prediction: 23-59
29. Brooklyn Nets (2015-16 standing: 21-61, Did not qualify for playoffs)
Give the Nets credit for trying to assemble a better team. They put in offer sheets for Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson, two restricted free agent guards who could’ve played huge roles in Brooklyn. Those plans failed, but they’ve still been active, inking Jeremy Lin, Trevor Booker and even former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett to deals.
The Nets have a dreadful roster, definitely the least talented one in the league. Unfortunately, they’re without their first-round draft picks for the next two seasons and the incentive to tank is absent. New head coach Kenny Atkinson will have no choice but to try his absolute best to win games.
Record prediction: 17-65
30. Philadelphia 76ers (2015-16 standing: 10-72, Did not qualify for playoffs)
The 76ers have way too many young big men who need experience and way too few NBA-caliber guards. That’s the bottom line, before you try convincing yourself Philly might be able to sniff the playoffs in Ben Simmons’ rookie year.
Until the Sixers get serious about building a balanced lineup, there are going to be a lot of funky lineups that feature little shooting, little experience and too much size. Ultimately, that means a lot of losses.
Record prediction: 17-65