NBA Power Rankings

Where Warriors, Kings stand in NBA post-free agency power rankings

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If you enjoyed the firefight that was the NBA’s Western Conference last season, with three different teams holding the No. 1 seed over the final 11 days, you’ll be pleased to realize it might be equally intense next season, particularly among the second-tier teams.

And, as bonus, the Eastern Conference, which last season consisted of the Boston Celtics and 14 underlings, looks to be just as dangerous.

Twelve days after the 2024 NBA Draft and eight days beyond the official opening of the free-agent market, there are winners and losers and, as always, a few franchises willing to handcuff themselves to a treadmill.

The Celtics remain imposing, but much of the rest of the NBA is fearless and eager for battle. We’ll examine the changes and their significance in the NBA Power Rankings as they sit with free agency mostly behind us:

30. Washington Wizards

Their big move was, um, Jonas Valanciunas, big man who can score but can’t defend anyone with decent wheels. If Jordan Poole recaptures the vibe that made him wealthy, they might be fun to watch.

29. Detroit Pistons

J.B. Bickerstaff, dismissed by the Cavaliers, parachutes into Detroit to pursue respectability. Cade Cunningham, max extension and all, will have a hard time pushing this roster beyond 30 wins.

28. Brooklyn Nets

The trading of Mikal Bridges was the solid definition of a franchise turning toward the future. We like Nic Claxton, but their rebuilt draft capital is far more impressive than the roster.

27. Chicago Bulls

You’ve seen the John Travolta GIF, where he wanders into an empty room looking dumbfounded? I’d guess Zach LaVine has seen it. After losing DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso, he can identify with it.

26. Portland Trail Blazers

Donovan Clingan and Deandre Ayton are an interesting pair, but this is not an interesting team. And adding Deni Avdija won’t change that. This team is bound for the lottery, with or without Anfernee Simons.

25. Charlotte Hornets

They’re mediocre when healthy and dreadful when wounded. First-year coach Charles Lee will be greeted by a roster with LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges, Brandon Miller and four deli sandwiches.

24. Atlanta Hawks

The ownership family, if reports are accurate, decided to keep Trae Young and trade Dejounte Murray. The return was reasonable, emphasizing two future first-round picks. The shuffling never ends in ATL.

23. Toronto Raptors

They’re not even trying to fool anyone. A page was turned at midseason when OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam were traded. The future shall be built around Scottie Barnes. He’d better be very patient.

22. Utah Jazz

Utah basketball boss Danny Ainge is holding two things, one being a cargo ship full of future draft picks and other being Lauri Markkanen for hostage, partly because he can and partly because Lauri doesn’t mind. For now.

21. San Antonio Spurs

The additions of Chris Paul and Harrison Barnes will bring an increased level of professionalism that should be visible on the court. The game, and life, will come easier for Victor Wembanyama.

20. Los Angeles Clippers

The heralded duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard failed, so here comes Derrick Jones Jr., a pauper’s PG. Russell Westbrook might go, but James Harden will stay. Coach Tyronn Lue gets a new arena. He needs miracles.

19. Houston Rockets

Digesting coach Ime Udoka’s demands, they generated considerable momentum last spring, some of which should carry over. It doesn’t hurt that they’re adding Reed Sheppard, the best shooter in the draft.

18. Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James and Anthony Davis remain very much elite. But this has all the makings of one rich with drama and the spotlit sideshow that is Bronny James. I hope the youngster can handle it.

17. Miami Heat

Where’s Jimmy Butler? That’s the question rolling about the brain of chief honcho Pat Riley – and it’s why no contract extension was negotiated. Erik Spoelstra will, again, be asked to make pie with four-day old apples.

16. Sacramento Kings

A backcourt featuring De’Aaron Fox and DeMar DeRozan means buckets. The return of Malik Monk means more buckets. Domantas Sabonis will have some 15-assist games, but coach Mike Brown will continue to seek defense.

15. Golden State Warriors

Losing Klay Thompson hurts, but the front office did a fine job restocking the roster. They’ll need Stephen Curry and Draymond Green to be available and cooking to make the playoffs, and another star to make a run.

14. Memphis Grizzlies

After a season ransacked by health and suspension, they’ll be back in the hunt – assuming Ja Morant makes a strong return and Marcus Smart is a two-way pest. Jaren Jackson Jr. at center seems the way to go.

13. Cleveland Cavaliers

Donovan Mitchell has been secured. Jarrett Allen is still on the roster. So, for now, is Darius Garland. The task ahead for new coach Kenny Atkinson is to bring some complexity to the offense.

12. Phoenix Suns

Big boss Mat Ishbia hired new coach Mike Budenholzer to maximize the abilities of his three stars, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. No team has ever such an urgent need for point guard Monte Morris. 

11. New Orleans Pelicans

Trading for Murray made sense, and it’ll make more sense if the Pels can find a new home for Brandon Ingram, particularly if that deal fills the void they have at center. Yet nothing matters more than Zion Williamson’s availability.

10. Indiana Pacers

One of the most watchable teams in the league, largely because of Tyrese Haliburton, they make no splashy moves but should benefit from having Siakam on the roster from the start of training camp.

9. Orlando Magic

Adding free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was a very wise move, as he ranks among the league’s top-five two-way guards. His experience theoretically boosts the youngsters, particularly Paulo Banchero and Franz Wagner.

8. Milwaukee Bucks

What’s up, Doc? Injuries and aches sent them from the playoffs early. They’ll will run it back and hope for health. Giannis Antetokounmpo makes them matter, but there will be no deep playoff run without improved defense.

7. Denver Nuggets

Won it all in ’23 and lose two key reserves. Ousted from WC semifinals in ’24, lose KCP to Orlando and key reserve, Reggie Jackson, to Charlotte. Life gets harder reigning MVP Nikola Jokić and newly enriched Jamal Murray.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves

The starter remains, and only Kyle Anderson departs from the rotation. Cagey veteran Mike Conley has an heir apparent in Rob Dillingham, who will get minutes. Anthony Edwards’ playoff experience will serve him well.

5. Dallas Mavericks

Their top target was Klay Thompson, and they got him. His off-ball action and shooting should be an easy blend with ballhandlers Luka Donćić and Kyrie Irving. Don’t sleep on Quentin Grimes. We see a deep run in their future.

4. Philadelphia 76ers

They won the Paul George sweepstakes and let Tobias Harris, Buddy Hield, De’Anthony Melton and Nic Batum walk. They add rugged wing Caleb Martin and floor spacer Eric Gordon. Tyrese Maxey got paid. They’re a legit threat – if Joel Embiid stays intact.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

They added needed defense by swiping Alex Caruso from the Bulls, added inside muscle with Isaiah Hartenstein and signed shooters Isaiah Joe and Aaron Wiggins. Losing Josh Giddey won’t sting. OKC architect Sam Presti continues to cook.

2. New York Knicks

Acquiring Mikal Bridges was costly, but he’s a solid win-now addition. OG Anunoby was costly, too, but there’s no better wing defender. If both stay healthy and Julius Randle locks in, they can blow hot breath on Boston.

1. Boston Celtics

Champs locked up Jayson Tatum and Derrick White with contract extensions and even re-signed third-string big man Xavier Tillman. All the recognizable figures from big parade are lining up to make another run.

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