Cure the basketball blues

Ranking all 30 NBA teams before season resumes

Giannis+Antetokounmpo+has+turned+into+the+best+basketball+player+in+the+world.+He+leads+the+Bucks+to+the+top+spot+in+my+NBA+Power+Rankings.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons (Keith Allison) under Creative Commons license

Giannis Antetokounmpo has turned into the best basketball player in the world. He leads the Bucks to the top spot in my NBA Power Rankings.

With COVID-19 ravaging through the country, the NBA season has been put on hold. The NBA has said that the season could restart again in mid to late June. Being the big NBA fan that I am, this is too much time to be waiting. To pass the time, here is my list of all 30 teams from worst to best.

30: Cleveland Cavaliers

Current record: 19-46

Last in the East

At least they enjoyed winning the title while LeBron was still there. The fact of the matter is this — Cleveland has many young talented players and are well set for the future.

Collin Sexton is averaging 20.8 points a game, and is looking like the future of the organization. Acquiring Andre Drummond from Detroit was a little weird, but it may benefit in the long run.

The next step is trading Kevin Love, which they have been looking to do for months. A trade to Boston or Portland in the offseason would be great for Love to be on a contender in the final years of his career.

Grade: F

Young improved by leaps and bounds this year, averaging nearly 30 points a game, and becoming the best shooter in the NBA that isn’t named Steph Curry.”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

29: Atlanta Hawks

Current record: 20-47

14th in the East

Trae Young. I could end the discussion right now. Young improved by leaps and bounds this year, averaging nearly 30 points a game, and becoming the best shooter in the NBA that isn’t named Steph Curry.

Besides him, there’s………. um………. John Collins? Yes, they traded for Clint Capela, but from the looks of it, it looks like he won’t play until next season due to an injury.

Grade: D+

28: Golden State Warriors

Current record: 15-50

Last in the West

If Steph Curry and Klay Thompson weren’t injured, Golden State would probably be much higher on this list. However, due to these injuries, it’s been a long year for the Warriors.

This team is completely different from the years of championships that they were used to. Instead of names like Curry and Thompson, they’ve been stuck with players like Ky Bowman, Jordan Poole, and Damion Lee.

However, trading for Andrew Wiggins might actually be a blessing in disguise, and with a lottery pick in the 2020 Draft, don’t be surprised to see Golden State back on top next season

Grade: D-

27: Minnesota Timberwolves

Current record: 19-45

14th in the West

Zach Lavine. Lauri Markkanen. Kris Dunn. These are the players that Minnesota could have had if they didn’t trade for Jimmy Butler. Since then, the Timberwolves have struggled mightily and have found themselves back in the lottery.

There have been steps made to improve. D’angelo Russell was brought in to team up with star big man and best friend Karl Anthony Towns, and Malik Beasley turned into a bright young star. Who knows, with time, the Timberwolves could become contenders in the near future.

[R]emember when everybody said that Phoenix was actually a contender after a strong start to the season? So much for that.”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

Grade: D-

 

26: Phoenix Suns

Current record: 26-39

13th in the West

Man, remember when everybody said that Phoenix was actually a contender after a strong start to the season? So much for that.

Despite going 6-4 through the first 10 games, their growing pains were evident by December, and they still have a lot to learn in order to ascend in the tough Western Conference. Having Devin Booker helps tremendously, but everyone should know that you can’t win in the NBA with only one star player.

Grade: D

25: Detroit Pistons

Current record: 20-46

13th in the East

The Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond experiment is over. Having traded Drummond to Cleveland, Detroit has made the first steps to start anew.

At least they’ve found a hidden gem. With Griffin injured for the season, Christian Wood came out of nowhere and took over for the remainder of the season. Regardless of this, it’s gonna be a long couple of seasons for the Pistons.

Grade: D+

24: New York Knicks

Current record: 21-45

12th in the West

It’s been at least four years of experimentation for the Knicks. From players to head coaches, nothing seems to be working for them.

Julius Randle didn’t work out, and they traded Marcus Morris, they’re only solid player, to the Clippers. At least they’ve already surpassed their win total from last season, but that’s about the only good that has happened this season for New York. 

Grade: D

23: San Antonio Spurs

Current record: 27-36

12th in the West

San Antonio just needs to blow it up.”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

San Antonio just needs to blow it up. It’s obvious they won’t make the postseason and that’s okay to admit. The talent is there, and it’s time to focus on the young guys and let the veterans walk.

Veterans like Demar Derozan and LaMarcus Aldridge would benefit if they left the Spurs and went to a contender. This season has already been different, as they will probably not make the postseason for the first time in 22 years.

Grade: C-

22: Chicago Bulls

Current record: 22-43

11th in the East

At the beginning of the season, everyone saw Chicago as a dark horse playoff candidate. People are now starting to rethink that statement. 

There were reasons for saying that the Bulls were finally out of their slump. Zach Lavine has superstar power, but rumors are circulating that he wants out. Just like the Spurs, this is a team that needs to blow everything up and start anew.

Grade: C-

21: Sacramento Kings

Current record: 28-36

Tied for 10th in the West

Sacramento hasn’t seen its glory days since the early 2000s, but the team is heading in the right direction. De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield each have the talent to form one of the best backcourt duos in the West.

Where they need to improve is down low. Marvin Bagley Jr was hurt for the majority of the season, and Richaun Holmes and Harry Giles have a long way to go to be considered elite big men.

Grade: C+

20: Charlotte Hornets

Current record: 23-42

10th in the East

Charlotte is a perfect example of how to rebuild the right way. They are still a long way from being a top team, but with time, Buzz City will become a force to be reckoned with.

Devonte Graham turned from benchwarmer to one of the best shooters in the NBA. Miles Bridges has built on a solid rookie season, and PJ Washington turned into a surprise as a rookie. Look out for the Hornets in the coming seasons.

[T]his team has gaping holes and plays more like Gandalf the Grey than Merlin.”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

Grade: C+

19: Washington Wizards

Current record: 24-40

9th in the East

The Wizards are a weird team. They look terrible on paper, yet they were only five games back from the eight seed. However, this team has gaping holes and plays more like Gandalf the Grey than Merlin.

Despite being in the middle of the league in offensive efficiency, the Wizards are second to last in defensive efficiency, making defense a top priority for improvement.

Bradley Beal is the one good thing they’ve got going for them. He’s one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, and he may be on the way out. Rui Hachimura had a promising rookie season, and Davis Bertans turned into one of the better shooters in the NBA.

Grade: C

[I]t’s time to give Aaron Gordon the boot if he doesn’t improve.”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

18: Orlando Magic

Current record: 30-35

8th in the East

They were on their way to being swept by the Bucks and everyone knows it. Despite this, Orlando has seen more success than they were used to having in the last two seasons. 

However, it’s time to give Aaron Gordon the boot if he doesn’t improve. It seems as though he’s always one step away from a breakout season, and he’s been given too many chances. His scoring average dipped to 14.4 points a game, down from 16 last season, and nearly 18 in 2018.

Nikola Vucevic is one of the most underrated big men in the league and he fits in well with the system. Markelle Fultz has also seen steady improvement, which is a good sign for the future.

Grade: B-

17: Portland TrailBlazers

Current record: 29-37

9th in the West

The stars of last year’s postseason, Portland has taken a dramatic regression to get outside the playoff race. Strange for a team who seemed to get better in the offseason.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum make up one of the league’s best backcourt duos. Being without Jusuf Nurkic hurt the team dramatically, but having Hassan Whiteside helped fill the void. 

Grade: C+

NBA
With the NBA season on hiatus for the time being, many fans are wondering who the best team is. These power rankings from my perspective hope to solve this mystery.

16: Memphis Grizzlies

Current record: 32-33

8th in the West

One of the youngest teams in the league turned into one of the best and most fun teams to watch. It all starts with Ja Morant. Morant has turned himself into a threat for years to come, leading all rookies in scoring and assists a game.

Besides Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. improved on a solid rookie season, Dillon Brooks put himself into the Most Improved Player conversation, and Brandon Clarke came out of nowhere to be one of the best rookies in the class.

Grade: B

15: New Orleans Pelicans

Current record: 28-36

Tied for 10th in the West

And here everyone thought Ja Morant had an easy path to Rookie of the Year. Zion Williamson made his debut in January and completely went off, proving that he will be one of the best NBA players of the next generation.

As for the team, they were making a solid playoff push before the season was halted. Jrue Holiday has been a great veteran presence for the rather young team. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram benefited greatly from the change of scenery after being traded from the Lakers. 

Grade: B-

14: Brooklyn Nets

Current record: 30-34

7th in the East

Even knowing they’d be without Kevin Durant for the entire season, it’s been a disappointing season in Brooklyn. This team was overhyped and it showed throughout the season.

Kyrie Irving can’t be a superstar on his own.”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

If anything was learned from the Nets’ season, let it be this — Kyrie Irving can’t be a superstar on his own. He will always be the Robin to a Batman. He still has an attitude problem: routinely calling out players and possibly being the reason that the team fired head coach Kenny Atkinson. It was evident in Boston, and now it’s even more evident in Brooklyn.

Besides, Spencer Dinwiddie may be a better direction to take along with Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen to make a nice young core to build around.

Grade: B-

13: Philadelphia 76ers

Current record: 39-26

6th in the East

The process has hit a speedbump. It’s been disappointing to say the least for Philly as everyone thought they’d be well at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Rumors have circulated that the team may trade Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons. Whether that happens or not, Philly needs to find a solution to their problems and fast, because the talent is there.

Names like Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson can easily lead the team into the future, but it may be time to get rid of Al Horford.

Grade: B-

12: Dallas Mavericks

Current record: 40-27

7th in the West

At one point Dallas was third in the West, proving that they can hang with the best of them in the West. 

It all starts with Luka Doncic, who turned into an MVP candidate with his strong play, and Kristaps Porzingis, who returned after a year-long absence due to a torn ACL. They have the tools necessary to become one of the best duos in the NBA.

Grade: B

11: Houston Rockets

Current record: 40-24

Tied for 5th in the West

They could’ve been a little better. Pairing Russell Westbrook with James Harden has been 50-50 so far, some bickering and some success. They hope to change that to all success soon.

Snagging Robert Covington from the Timberwolves helped them improve on the defensive end, but the Rockets need one more piece to be a true contender.

Grade: B

Oklahoma City improved when they traded Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul.”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

10: Oklahoma City Thunder

Current record: 40-24

Tied for 5th in the West

Most people thought the Thunder would go full out rebuild mode. In fact, it’s been the exact opposite. Oklahoma City improved when they traded Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul.

At first, it was thought that Paul would sit out until he got traded. However, he turned into a great mentor for the youngsters, and was playing the best he’s played in a while.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander upped his level of play to put himself in the Most Improved Player conversation, and Danilo Gallinari also turned into a great veteran presence.

Grade: B

9: Indiana Pacers

Current record: 39-26

5th in the East

Even without Victor Oladipo for the majority of the season, the Pacers were still one of the best teams in the East. Getting Oladipo healthy will make Indiana even better.

Brogdon showed his worth as a starting caliber player, averaging career highs in points and assists a game, that will make Milwaukee regret letting him walk.”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

Their success started with the frontcourt duo of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Eventually, they may have to choose between the two but both have shown amazing progress in their careers.

Malcom Brogdon came in and immediately broke out. Stuck in a supporting role in Milwaukee, Brogdon showed his worth as a starting caliber player, averaging career highs in points and assists a game, that will make Milwaukee regret letting him walk.

Grade: B+

8: Utah Jazz

Current record: 41-23

4th in the West

Salt Lake City has itself a basketball team. The Jazz have always had a strong regular season, but have been ousted by the Rockets the last two seasons. If they met again, the Jazz may actually best Houston this year.

Donovan Mitchell is one of the best young players in the league right now, Rudy Gobert is easily the best defensive player in the game right now, and Mike Conley was a great acquisition for the team.

Jordan Clarkson, who was acquired from Cleveland early in the season, proved himself as a microwave off the bench. Look out for this Jazz team, because they are here to stay.

Grade: A-

7: Denver Nuggets

Current record: 43-22

3rd in the West

Denver has exited from the basement to position themselves at the top of the mountain in the West. This is due to perennial big man Nikola Jokic, probably the best big man in basketball right now. 

Besides Jokic, Jamal Murray is a fun, exciting player to watch, and Gary Harris and Will Barton each bring intensity on the defensive end. Add in the veteran presence of Paul Millsap and you’ve got the recipe for one exciting team.

Grade: A-

6: Boston Celtics

Current record: 43-21

3rd in the East

[Walker’s] a better ball handler, better shooter, and has no attitude problem.”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

Kemba Walker was such an upgrade from Kyrie Irving. He’s a better ball handler, better shooter, and has no attitude problem. Boston appreciates his talents, along with the entire play of Boston as of late.

Jayson Tatum upgraded his play from supporting actor to superstar at lightning speed, and Jaylen Brown improved from a slow year last season. Marcus Smart is one of the best defensive guards in the league, and Gordon Hayward is extremely consistent.

Grade: A-

5: Miami Heat

Current record: 41-24

4th in the East

Just like the Thunder, Miami was expected to regress. The exact opposite happened. Jimmy Butler turned into just the player and leader Miami needed. 

It’s not just Butler. Bam Adebayo turned into one of the best passing centers in the league, Kendrick Nunn turned from undrafted player to reliable scorer, Duncan Robinson turned into one of the best shooters in the league, and Goran Dragic embraced his new sixth man role. 

Grade: A

Having Kawhi Leonard and Paul George has turned the Clippers into a must-see team.”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

4: LA Clippers

Current record: 44-20

2nd in the West

Having Kawhi Leonard and Paul George has turned the Clippers into a must-see team. After being a surprise playoff team that challenged the Warriors through six hard games, LA is now one of the teams to beat in the West.

Acquiring Marcus Morris from the Knicks was a major upgrade as he brings his talents as a stretch four. There are still familiar faces, as Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are still the two best bench players in the league.

[M]ost teams in the league have improved dramatically, while Toronto has stayed put.”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

Grade: A

3: Toronto Raptors

Current record: 46-18

2nd in the East

The defending NBA champions won’t win the title this season, and not for a little while after that. While still a dominating force, most teams in the league have improved dramatically, while Toronto has stayed put.

Granted, Kyle Lowry is still a talented point guard and Pascal Siakam will be one of the best for years to come. However, a big move will be needed if the Raptors want to stay in the championship picture.

Grade: A

2: Los Angeles Lakers

Current record: 49-14

1st in the West

The King has still got it. LeBron James has put up an MVP-worthy season, and has brought the city of angels back to relevance in the basketball world. 

Paired up with Anthony Davis this season, the Lakers dynamic duo has turned heads all over the world. Kyle Kuzma improved his game, and Dwight Howard showed hints of the Dwight Howard of old. One thing’s for certain: the Lakers are still able to hold the fort with the King in tow. 

Grade: A+

1: Milwaukee Bucks

Current record: 53-12

Giannis Antetokounmpo has turned into the best basketball player in the world. And his supporting cast is one of the best in the NBA.”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

1st in the East

In 2014, the Bucks lost 65 games. Now they’re on pace to win that many this season. Of course, it helps to have a Greek Freak.

Over the last three years, Giannis Antetokounmpo has turned into the best basketball player in the world. And his supporting cast is one of the best in the NBA.

Names like Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton, George Hill, Eric Bledsoe, and Wesley Matthews make the Bucks the best team in the league by far.

Grade: A+

As of right now, the NBA is expected to resume its season sometime in June. Although fans won’t be able to attend the Draft on June 25, they will be watching to see what moves teams make in order to improve their chances for next season.