With the NBA season starting earlier than it normally does this season, that means that the basketball is right around the corner and should be back very very soon. There were some big moves this off season that made some teams climb up the power rankings so to say. This off season was one of the most busiest off-seasons in recent memory, and fans can not complain about any of it. Now there were some moves that happened and you sat there and said to yourself now why would they do that?
We have seen the beginning of some new contenders, and the beginning of other playoffs teams going into full rebuilding mode. So many surprises happened this off season that makes myself as a basketball fan excited for the NBA to start up. In today's game you see more and more star players team up to try and win a NBA Title, but with the power house of Golden State looking to make one big push before it is time for some big choices what team has the most realistic chance at dethroning the champions.
There are so many different scenarios that can happen, and with the way the NBA schedule is made this season we can actually see some of these powerhouse teams face off in the regular season. Limiting back to back games is huge for the NBA and for its fans, and it will provide some seriously good matchups to watch in 2017-18. With that being said here are the early season power rankings for the 2017-18 season.
30 Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks lost a lot this offseason, and did not really gain much in return. With the loss of Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. (via free agency), to go along with trading Dwight Howard to Charlotte, Atlanta's starpower has been gutted. With the Hawks' key additions this off season being rookie John Collins, Dwayne Dedmon, and Marco Belinelli doesn't look like next season will be a good one in Atlanta. The Hawks look to go in a rebuild mode and they have some good young talent, but they will struggle in 2017-18.
Looking forward to their starting lineup of Schroder, Belinelli, Bazemore, Ilysova, and Dedmon is not a bad starting five, but it is not a good one. Look for the Hawks to struggle, due to not having a face of the franchise anymore.
29 Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls had an unhappy superstar in Jimmy Butler looking for the franchise to either change in a good way, or to trade him away. The Bulls went with the trading away aspect as they traded Jimmy Butler and the 16th overall selection who was Justin Patton to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the seventh overall selection who was Lauri Markkanen. Then with the addition of a buy out of Dwyane Wade to go along with the fact that Nikola Mirotic has still not been signed yet doesn't help out the fans of Chicago.
With a starting lineup looking like Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Quincy Pondexter, Lauri Markkanen, and Robin Lopez is not a good starting lineup. Look for the Bulls to struggle and to bounce back and use their first round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft to find a new face of the franchise.
28 Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers have done a whole rebuilding process in just one season, and lost their face of the franchise in Paul George all in that process. Indiana is only bringing back two players from their starting lineup in Thaddeus Young, and Myles Turner. They lost three of their starters in Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, and Paul George.
The Pacers look very young, and it could be a while until they are relevant again. Their projected starting lineup is Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, and Myles Turner. That is not a bad starting lineup, and you would think in the Eastern Conference that they could potentially make the playoffs, but at the end of the day they do not have that "face of the franchise" that can help lead them to the promise land just yet.
27 Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets are slowly becoming better and better and can easily become a playoff team in the next couple seasons. The Brook Lopez Era is over and done with and they got some good young talent this summer. Acquiring D'Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll help turn the Nets in the right direction. Adding talent in the draft is something that Brooklyn has not done in the past couple of seasons and they definitely did that this off season with the draft selection of Jarrett Allen.
The projected starting lineup is Jeremy Lin, D'Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Timofey Mozgov. Also their bench looks very improved as they have added some solid young talent that can help them in the regular season. Brooklyn will be better than what everybody thinks they will be, but they will struggle at times like they always do.
26 New York Knicks
The New York Knicks franchise has seen some changes this off season, but none that will boost their chances of making the post season this year. The additions of Tim Hardaway Jr, Ramon Sessions, Michael Beasley, and the rookie Frank Ntilikana are the key additions that they made. The Knicks need someone to take over a game for them, and with Carmelo now gone, the Knicks don't seem to have any hope for the year.
The Knicks' projected starting lineup is Ramon Sessions, Tim Hardaway Jr., Michael Beasley, Kristaps Porzingis, and Willy Hernangomez. They are a young team and need some veteran presence in order to become a better team. Look for the Knicks to compete, but not enough to be considered a playoff team in the Eastern Conference next season.
25 Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns really had a quiet off season as they really did not lose anybody, but they did not gain anybody either. Phoenix had the fourth overall selection in this year's NBA Draft and selected Josh Jackson who in my mind could be very good in the NBA next season. The one thing that has not gone Phoneix's way in the past is that they can't stay healthy for a full season. With guys like Brandon Knight, and Eric Bledsoe always getting hurt it is tough to see how good this team actually is.
Phoenix's projected starting lineup looks like Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss, and Tyson Chandler. Now, Josh Jackson could be the starter sooner rather than later as I think Warren would be a good sixth man for the Suns. Look for Phoenix if healthy to start making noise in the Western Conference, but I do not see them being a playoff contender just yet.
24 Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings have a good young core, and decided to add some veterans this off season to help shape up their future. Sacramento signed George Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter this offseason, while drafting De'Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, and Frank Mason to go along with the fold as well.
The projected starting lineup for Sacramento is George Hill, Buddy Hield, Justin Jackson, Skal Labissierre, and Willie Cauley-Stein. That is a good young lineup, and in a couple of seasons that could be a contender type lineup, but at this very moment it is an ok lineup. Now this season is to shape up the rookies, and the young talent in order to be able to make a big playoff push in the next few seasons. Sacramento looks to be on the rise, and should be watched for the next couple seasons.
23 Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz are another team that lost the "face of the franchise" in Gordon Hayward via free agency as he signed with the Boston Celtics. Now the Jazz are going to take a big step back, because they don't have their go-to scorer anymore. Plus there is no way that Rudy Gobert will become their go-to scorer in only one season. Utah still has a good core to their team, but I do see them struggling in the stacked Western Conference.
Utah's projected starting lineup looks like Ricky Rubio, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert. With Gobert slowly becoming the new face of the franchise, the Jazz went out and had themselves an alright offseason after losing Hayward. They acquired Ricky Rubio who is a floor general, Thabo Sefolosha who is a great defender, then added rookies Donovan Mitchell who is going to be a solid player, and Tony Bradley who is going to be backing up Gobert. Utah looks set for the future, but right now it does not look like we will see them play after April.
22 Orlando Magic
I still do not know what to make of the Orlando Magic. They make moves year in and year out, but I never know what direction they are going in. The Magic drafted Jonathan Isaac with the fifth overall selection, and added veterans like Aaron Afflalo, Marreese Speights, and Jonathon Simmons to their fold. Their core confuses me because I have no idea who they are trying to build around.
Orlando's projected starting lineup looks like Elfrid Payton, Terrence Ross, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, and Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic is a double-double monster that nobody talks about, and they have a solid perimeter scorer in Evan Fournier. Their bench looks like it could have potential, but then they play together in the season and it does not look good. Orlando will have another confusing Orlando year and make no progress in which direction to go in and who to build around.
21 Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks believe that they found their new face of the franchise in rookie ninth overall selection Dennis Smith Jr. He showed flashes of greatness in the summer league, and I think that he will be the starting point guard on opening night for Dallas. Even with young star Yogi Ferrell coming back on a good contract, I still think that Smith Jr. will be the guy running the point.
Dallas's projected starting lineup looks like Dennis Smith Jr., Seth Curry, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, and Dirk Nowitzki. This looks like it will be Dirk's final season and the Mavericks will look to help him go out on top, but they don't have as a good as a roster as they would like to have. Look for a lot of positives, and for the future to be bright in Dallas.
20 Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers look very promising, and look a lot better than they did in 2016-2017. With the second overall selection Lonzo Ball looking like he will have the key to the kingdom in a sense, shows that the Lakers are going all in on him. With head coach Luke Walton who I think can be one of the best coaches in the NBA at the moment, the Lakers have a bright future, and could very well make some noise in 2017-2018.
The Lakers' projected starting lineup looks like Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Brook Lopez. The Lakers also look to have some promising rookies in Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant as well. Look for the Lakers to make some noise, but only to fall short of a playoff spot.
19 Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies have some talent, but they are confusing to read though. Memphis did not really lose any of their key pieces from a season ago, but I don't know I still feel indifferent about them. The key subtractions for the Grizzlies are Tony Allen, Vince Carter, and Zach Randolph who are seasoned veterans. They will lose that leadership in the locker room, but they still have their franchise player in Mike Conley.
Memphis's projected lineup looks like Mike Conley, Tyreke Evans, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, and Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies did Ben McLemore to add to their bench, but besides him their bench is young guys looking for a spot on a roster. Their bench will be the downfall of this team, and that is why Memphis will not go far in 2017-2018.
18 Detroit Pistons
The Pistons were in need of some help in their backcourt, and did they got some help. Detroit traded away Marcus Morris for Avery Bradley who is one of the best defensive shooting guards in the NBA today. Then Detroit drafted the left handed three point marksman in Luke Kennard. So with those move the Pistons have already upgraded their back court.
Detroit's projected starting lineup looks like Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Jon Leuer, and Andre Drummond. A solid starting five, and it looks like Detroit will be a playoff team in the weak Eastern Conference. Look for the Pistons to be competitive and to look to try and gain some advantages throughout the season. This is a big season for Detroit as they need to figure out what direction they are going in for the forseeable future.
17 Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers had a chance to make some big moves this offseason, but unfortunately for them they weren't able to pull the trigger on any game changers. Portland added Archie Goodwin who is the only player that they got that has any relevant NBA experience, while they also drafted Zach Collins, and Caleb Swanigan. I like both draft selections by the Trailblazers and think that they can make an impact in the NBA.
Portland's projected starting lineup is Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Moe Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Jusuf Nurkic. I think by the end of the season either Collins or Swanigan is in the starting lineup for Portland to help their dyanmic duo in the back court of Lillard and McCollum. Portland will not be that much of a threat in the Western Conference just yet, but pretty soon the Western Conference teams need to be put on notice.
16 Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets are a couple of good moves away from being a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference. This off season was indeed a busy one for them as they Dwight Howard, but they also added some good young talent in the draft. Malik Monk was their first round selection, and with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist not playing up to the level that he was thought to be at could provide more time for the rookie out of the University of Kentucky.
Charlotte's projected starting five is Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, and Cody Zeller. The Hornets have the look of a good young bench, and could be a threat in the Eastern Conference. They still seem to be a couple seasons away before making a big splash on the league, but look for Jordan's team to be on the rise soon enough.
15 Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers are an injury-free season away from being considered threats in not only the Eastern Conference, but the NBA as well. The 76ers have some young talent that people who kill to have. They traded for the first overall selection and took Markelle Fultz the point guard out of the University of Washington. Philadelphia also added some veterans to the fold in Amir Johnson, and J.J. Redick to not only make a difference, but to help out in the locker room.
Philadelphia's projected starting lineup looks like Markelle Fultz, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid. Then off the bench they have Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor, Justin Anderson, T.J. McConnell, and many more good talented players. If Philadelphia can be healthy then they will be a playoff team and can give some teams in the NBA some trouble.
14 Miami Heat
The Miami Heat got a lot better this off season, as they added some talent and depth that can really help them make some noise in the Eastern Conference. The Heat's key additions include Kelly Olynyk who can come off the bench and score, and then their first round selection Bam Adebayo is going to be a beast on the boards for Miami. Miami swung and missed on a couple of marquee free agents this summer, but they still got better.
Miami's projected starting lineup looks like Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, James Johnson, and Hassan Whiteside. With Miami improving their bench, and having a solid scorer like Dion Waiters coming off the bench means a big time improvement for the Heat. Look for Miami to become big time players in the Eastern Conference in 2017-2018 and can contend with the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
13 Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets improved this offseason with a big signing that is very underrated to say the least. The Nuggets signed Paul Millsap this of season, and he is the right fit for this basketball team. Not only will he help the younger guys in the locker room, like Nikola Jokic, and the newly signed Trey Lyles, but he can mentor and build that franchise back up to the playoff contender that they were when Carmelo Anthony was the face of their franchise.
Denver's projected starting lineup looks like Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic. Denver also has some good solid young talent coming off the bench in Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Lyles, Will Barton, and many more. Look for the Nuggets to be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13 and can make some noise against the better teams in the Western Conference.
12 Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers did lose Chris Paul this off season, but they at least got a lot back for him. Getting Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker, and Lou Williams all for Chris Paul is a good deal for the Clippers. Not only that, but they signed Danilo Gallinari as well. This off-season for the Clippers has been more so to build around Blake Griffin, and now with Gallinari being added to the fold the Clippers finally have the scoring small forward that they have been looking for over the past four seasons.
The Clippers' projected starting lineup looks like Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers, Danilo Gallinari, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. Now the Clippers' back court is not what it was last season, but they have some talent coming off the bench for them. Add Milos Teodosic, Lou Williams, Sindarius Thornwell, and Jawun Evans to the back court shows that they have some young talent that can help them. If the Clippers want to contend they will have to rely on their front court to carry them.
11 New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans will try their dominant front court duo out in 2017-2018 and will see if it works or not. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins were dominant during their short stint together last season. Now we get to see if they have what it takes to take the Pelicans to the next level or not.
New Orleans' projected starting lineup looks like Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday, Darius Miller, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins. Now the Pelicans' bench looks alright, but with the recent signing of Tony Allen could be a big help to New Orleans. I will not be surprised if Rondo runs the second unit, while Allen starts to guard some of the great shooting guards in the NBA today. Look for the Pelicans to see what they have, because this is a big season for them to figure out what they are going to do moving forward.
10 Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves got a lot better this offseason, and look like a premier playoff contender heading into 2017-2018. Looking ahead the Timberwolves added superstar Jimmy Butler, and star point guard Jeff Teague all in one off season. The Timberwolves also added help to their bench by signing Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford.
Minnesota's projected starting lineup looks like Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, Gorgui Dieng, and Karl-Anthony Towns. Now this starting lineup can be one of the best starting lineups in the league today, but they have to get chemistry together before any of that is possible. Minnesota has a bright future ahead of them and coach Tom Thibodeau will look to push his team in the direction that will help them try to win an NBA Championship sooner rather than later.
9 Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors will look to continue to try and become the Eastern Conference Champions, but they also tend to struggle when it comes down to the postseason. There were some big question marks going into the off season, but Toronto got their key pieces to stay. It is safe to say that this is DeMar DeRozan's team and that Toronto is trying to build a foundation around him.
Toronto's projected starting lineup looks like Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, C.J. Miles, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas. This is a starting five that is ready to again be a top four team in the Eastern Conference, but they are still missing one piece in my opinion before they take that next step. It is interesting to see if they can win with the group that they currently have, but it has not worked before why would it work now.
8 Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks are ready to take the NBA by storm, as they have a good solid young core that can make some noise. Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee will look to not only make the playoffs again in 2017-18, but they will look to get out of the first round and into the conference semifinals at least. With a healthy Jabari Parker this team is tough to beat, and Milwaukee has a good young team that is very good on the defensive side of the ball.
Milwaukee's projected starting lineup looks like Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Thon Maker. Now with a healthy Jabari Parker this already solid team because that much more solid. Parker can change the complexion of the game, and can help create his own shots. Look for the Bucks to be talked about a lot in 2017-2018, and to see their stock rise as high as it has been in a long time.
7 Washington Wizards
Washington did not really make a splash this off season, but they did sign John Wall to an extension so that is a positive. The Wizards are a good team, and they can contend in the NBA. With the Eastern Conference being so weak, Washington can be a threat to make the Eastern Conference Finals.
Washington's projected starting lineup is John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat. That is a solid starting lineup, and an alright bench which is the reason why they did not beat Boston in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals. Look to see Washington come back with a vengeance sooner rather than later, and look for them to be a legitimate team that can contend for the chance to play in the NBA Finals.
6 Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder might have found their brand new one/two punch this offseason when they acquired Paul George out of absolutely nowhere, then did it again by acquiring Carmelo Anthony. Now with Westbrook and George on the same team the Thunder can have similar fire power like they did when it was Durant and Westbrook.
Oklahoma City's projected starting lineup looks like Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Steven Adams. That is a good core, but it will be up to Westbrook, George and Melo to try and get the Thunder back to the NBA Finals. Oklahoma City will have to match up with San Antonio, Houston, and Golden State which are the three legitimate teams in the Western Conference, but OKC can be considered legitimate if the George/Westbrook/Melo combination works like the Thunder hopes it does.
5 San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs are the definition of unselfish basketball. The way that this team is so unselfish with the ball, and how it keeps moving is unbelievable. San Antonio definitely had a chance to make some big splashes this off season, but unfortunately the only splash they made was signing Rudy Gay. Gay most likely will be coming off the bench due to the fact that their star player Kawhi Leonard plays the same position.
San Antonio's projected starting lineup is Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Pau Gasol. This starting five is a solid starting five, but they need to stay healthy in order to be successful in the Western Conference. Looking forward to the season the Spurs will be a solid team if they can remain healthy for the whole season.
4 Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets really upgraded this off season by trading for point guard Chris Paul. Now they did indeed give up a lot of their role players to get him, but having Paul and Harden on the same team could be very good. We have to wait and see how it plays out, but all signs point to them being one of the best backcourt duo's in the league today.
Houston's projected lineup looks like Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, and Clint Capela. The Rockets were very competitive with the Spurs last season in the playoffs, and had a realistic chance of beating them, but things did not end up how Houston hoped. The Rockets in 2017-2018 are going to do everything they can not only to win a championship, but to do the best to make sure that Chris Paul will be there after this season.
3 Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers had some turmoil with star Kyrie Irving wanting out of Cleveland, so the Cavaliers called around and took the best deal that they could get for Irving. Now the team that he went to wasn't the ideal spot for Cleveland to send him, but the Cavaliers did get a good package for him in return.
Cleveland's projected starting lineup looks like Isaiah Thomas, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson. Yes, the Cavaliers got Isaiah Thomas as part of the deal for Kyrie Irving. They also got Jae Crowder, Ante Zicic, the 2018 Brooklyn first round pick, and a 2020 second round pick. This new rivalry will be an interesting one with Kyrie now joining the rival Boston Celtics who the Cavaliers beat in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals a season ago.
2 Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics had one of the busiest offseasons in the entire NBA, as they only kept four players from last year's Eastern Conference Finals team. Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier were the only four safe players from this busy off season. As Avery Bradley was traded to Detroit, while Thomas and Crowder were shipped to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving.
Boston's projected starting lineup looks like Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, and Al Horford. Yes the Celtics have a new big three in Irving, Hayward, and Horford, but they also have a young trio that could also help the Celtics take the league by storm. That trio is Marcus Smart, second year small forward Jaylen Brown, and the third overall selection in last year's draft Jayson Tatum. Look for the Celtics to over take the Cavaliers as the best team in the Eastern Conference and see Kyrie with the last laugh.
1 Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors are definitely the odds on favorite to repeat as NBA Champions, especially because they did not lose anybody from their core this off season. The Warriors had some question marks, but they re-signed Durant, Iguodala, Curry, Livingston, while adding shooters like Nick Young and Omri Casspi to the fold as well. Then the Warriors also added what I believe was the steal in the draft in Jordan Bell. Bell is an athletic player that can score, rebound, and block shots and can be the next Draymond Green in my opinion.
With that being said Golden State's projected starting lineup looks like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Zaza Pachulia. Look for Golden State to go after one more championship before having to decide who is staying in Golden State for the future, and who is unforunately going to be on the outside looking in.
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