15. Atlanta Hawks
14. Miami Heat
13. Charlotte Hornets
12. Memphis Grizzles
11. Toronto Raptors
10. Dallas Mavericks
9. Washington Wizards
8. Houston Rockets
7. Golden State Warriors
6. Portland Trailblazers
5. Los Angles Clippers
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Chicago Bulls
1. San Antonio Spurs
Now it’s time for the top fifteen teams in the NBA to be revealed. These to me are the cream of the crop the best half of teams the NBA has to offer. Now granted these are all subject to opinion and may change due to injury and poor play but right now as it stands this is how I have the teams so without further ado your top fifteen NBA Teams:
15. Atlanta Hawks: I don’t want to talk about their owners I want to talk about basketball and how I think their team as whole should do, so there are my thoughts on that. The Hawks didn’t do a whole lot with their offseason. The addition of Thabo Sefolosha will certainly help their defense but won’t necessarily help their scoring. Still though Atlanta will certainly be as good as they were last year, if not better. Jeff Teague has proven himself as a premier point guard averaging 16.5 points and 6.7 assists per game. He especially proved it during the playoffs against Indiana carrying the Hawks in that seven game series. A healthy Al Horford will defiantly make a difference for this team. He’s their star although Jeff Teague certainly is giving him a run for his money. When he was healthy he averaged 18.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, his trick will just be staying healthy. The Hawks this year will have a lot of completion in a revamped Eastern Conference but I still see them coming in at the seventh or eighth seed and maybe even making some noise in the playoffs.
14. Miami Heat: Yes I do think they will drop this far. You just lost the best player in the game and Dwayne Wade is not even close to what he used to be, he only played in like half the games last year. That being said Miami does have some bright spots. Loul Deng was a nice addition and he brings in a lot on offense with an average of 16 points per game. He’ll need to step it up a notch this year and probably go for at least 20 a night if Miami wants to go anywhere. I also feel bad for him because I feel like he’ll be seen as the replacement for LeBron and no one wants that job. Chris Bosh will also need to step up his game. He has potential because he can play both outside and inside when he wants to. He just has to not be afraid to go in there. He’s going to have to be the main scorer and get close to 23 points a night, which I think he can do and now he needs to do. The Heat In the end will still win games but there will be no more twenty-seven game win streaks. A championship to me is a long shot for this team as they now have a lot of teams to battle through in the Eastern Conference, however I still see them as playoff bound but they’ve gone from great to just an average team.
13. Charlotte Hornets: Buzz city. I have a love hate relationship with this name. I hate it because it just seems like one of those silly PR names, but I love it because it describes the situation in Charlotte exactly. It’s great that as this team is turning around their future they’re also re-naming their franchise; it’s the cleaning of the slate. They are no longer the laughable Charlotte Bobcats, but now the very intimidating and very legitimate Hornets. Al Jefferson is the man. He is a force in the paint and I love his back down, turn around to the rim type game. He was good for 21 and 10 all season and he really carried that team into the playoffs. I hope his injury doesn’t become a lasting thing though because that would severally hurt this team, but for right now as long as he is in the paint Charlotte is no longer the laughing stock of the NBA. I really like Charlotte’s pick up of Lance Stephenson yes he has his antics, but when it comes down to it this kid can ball. On the plus side he is still 24 years old which means he’s in the prime of his career. He can do everything score, rebound, pass, everything and is a good pick up for a young team. He just needs to take his antics down a notch and he’ll very easily be one of the top guards in the league. Buzz City is the perfect moniker for this team. They’re going to be something special in a couple of years they’re just still a very young team, but they have a lot of talent and I can’t wait to see where they go.
12. Memphis Grizzles: The Grizzles didn’t do anything flashy in the offseason. I like the pick up of Vince Carter he’ll be that veteran scorer you’ll need off the bench. I just love this way the Grizzles team plays their game. They’re just a very grind it out, punch you in the mouth type team. They excel in the half court offense because that’s when their bigs can go to work and put a pounding on their opponents in the paint. Marc Gasol is fresh off a world cup defeat and I’m sure that has him pretty upset so he’s probably going to look to do big things this year. Tony Allen also really stepped it up last year. He didn’t light up the scoreboard but hounded Kevin Durant making his life horrible. I see Memphis coming in strong at either the 8th or maybe even 7th seed in the West with the potential as always to upset one of the higher seeds.
11. Toronto Raptors: Toronto did a nice job this offseason of keeping a very solid roster together. Kyle Lowery has shown that he can be at least one of the top seven point guards in this league with 17.9 points per game and 7.4 assists per game. Toronto was smart to re-sign him to a four-year deal, as they’ll have him while he’s in the prime of his career and he’ll lead that team for many years to come. The other key player for The Raptors will be DeMar DeRozan. Not only is he a ferocious dunker, but a lethal scorer averaging 22.7 points per game. My only thing with him is that I’d love for him to bring his 3-point percentage up from 30.5 percent. Doing that would make him a lethal scoring option from anywhere, which would really help this Toronto team. He’s the lead offensive threat for that team and him and Lowery will very easily lead them back into the playoffs. It’s a good thing they’re sided with Drake cause they started from the bottom and now they’re here.
10. Dallas Mavericks: The Mavericks are slowly building their way back up, however I hope they can do it before Dirk Nowitzki retires. Nowitzki is the man of that team, he is the franchise and so that’s why I’m really happy to see them bring him back. He’s still a very productive player in the league averaging 21.7 points per game last season. Expect him to maintain that same level of excellence through out this season and be the star player of that team. Monta Ellis quietly had a pretty solid year last season. He averaged about 19 points per game and about 5 assists. His efficiency from the top of the 3-point line could definitely improve but overall he was making much better and smart shot selections. During the summer the Mavericks added Chandler Parsons, which to me is a good pick up for that team. He’ll be able to space the floor well and take a large bulk of the scoring load off of Nowitzki’s shoulders. Expect to see him improve on the 16.6 points per game he averaged last season. Unlike back in Houston he’s the second go to guy now so I expect to see him step up. The Mavericks will probably be in the 8th to 7th seed range fighting it out with the Grizzles but I also feel like considering they were the only team last year to almost upset the Spurs they have a chance to make a deep playoff push.
9. Washington Wizards: Looking at the Wizards roster you can’t help put notice this team is pretty well put together. They have a solid player at every position on the floor. Washington played well into the playoff last year and is no longer a joke. John Wall at point guard has helped to lead this change. He averaged 19.3 points per game last year and had 8.8 assists. Those are the types of number you want to see out of your point guard and that’s why he’s the marquee player. He’ll help lead them deep into the playoffs this year. The other name worth mentioning is Bradley Beal. Although he’ll be out for the first six weeks of the season expect him to come back and contribute in a big way. He was a great shooter last year and knocked down so many clutch shots. His points could go up a little and it’d be nice to see him score closer to 18 or 19 points a game but over all I think him and Wall do a nice job of sharing the scoring load. I like both of their biggest offseason moves with the re-signing of Gortat and the addition of Paul Pierce. Gortat played very well during the playoffs and rebounded very well for the Wizards. Pierce will bring a good veteran presence to this team as well scoring. This starting five is fairly intimidating and will be a lot for any of the East teams to handle. I expect these guys to finish probably at the three seed and to have a deep playoff run. The loss of Ariza all though a little upsetting won’t cripple them, especially with the addition of Pierce but I don’t think they’re quite at the level yet to compete with the East’s other two powers.
8. Houston Rockets: The Rockets are an enigma they’re a team that looks pretty good on paper but something always seems to happen and it causes them to underachieve. The success of this team is solely based on James Harden’s play. He has promised to improve his defense, which I hope he does because his team really needs that. He already has it covered at one end averaging 25.4 points per game, but you need to dominate both ends of the floor to win games and Howard although a good defender is not what he once was so you can’t rely on him to always have your back. And speaking of Dwight Howard he had a pretty solid year last season averaging 18.3 points per game and 12.2 rebounds per game. That’s the type of production you want out of your center and I expect Dwight to keep it up in this upcoming season. I like the offseason addition of Trevor Ariza he averaged 14.4 points with the Wizards last year and was shooting about 40% from 3-point range. He also adds defense to a team that really needs it and will be able to guard players out on the wing. This team has the offense that is necessary to win. I think they’re bench is lacking a little but their starting five has a pretty potent offense. To me the key for this team is defense if they can be more consistent on the defensive end then they’ll definitely be worthy of championship consideration.
7. Golden State Warriors: The Best backcourt in the league. I’m sorry John Wall and Dion Waiters but they really are; no one is better. The Splash Brothers carry this team everywhere and are lights out from three. Stephen Curry is a superstar point guard averaging 24 points and 8.5 assists per game which are astounding numbers plus throw in the 42.2% he was shooting from three. Klay Thompson is also quietly making a name for himself in the league with both his actions on the offensive end (18.4 points a game, 41.3% from three) and on the defensive end, Golden State was wise not to trade him away. Another player of note on this team is Andre Iguodala however is not necessarily for good things. Iguodala averaged 9.3 points per game last season and in order for this team to do well there needs to be more production out of him. I understand he’s been in the league for eleven years but he should still be getting 12-15 points a night at the very least. However he does help this team with his defense, so there is that and he does have an upside. Golden State will be a playoff team this year but the big thing for them is having their bigs healthy. It seems like every time they get somewhere they lose one of or both of their starting big men. If they’re both healthy though come playoff time and can dominate a little in the paint then this team has a chance to make some noise.
6. Portland Trailblazers: The rather surprise playoff team of last year, has quietly been building itself into a good team out in the Northwest. Let’s start with a man who’s been there a while, Lamarcus Aldridge. Aldridge had about 23 points and 11 rebounds per game, which are some very good numbers. You could watch him last year, especially in the playoffs, as he would abuse other bigs in the paint that would try and defend him. He’s fairly quietly been doing his own thing up in the Northwest put he’s been doing it well and consistently. Thankfully though there’s been an addition of youth that made this team better particular one youth, Damian Lillard. Lillard averaged 20.7 points per game and he has definitely arrived in this league. I’d like to see him bring his assists up this year but overall he’s what’s going to drive this team to win. Nicolas Batum was another player that helped this team win so much last year. He averaged 13 point and 7.5 rebounds per game last year and if he can keep that going into this season it’ll really help balance this team out. To me the weakest point of this team is at center. Robin Lopez isn’t bad but he’s not great either, if they could get a better center in the middle then this team would be championship caliber. They suffered last year because they didn’t have the playoff experiences that the other teams had, but another year older another year wiser and so I expect this team to have matured and learned from their playoff experience last year and make a deep run of it this year.
5. Los Angles Clippers: The Clippers will be a team to certainly fear in the west. They have a new owner and no more drama in their inner workings. They have the best point guard in the league in Chris Paul who averaged 19 and 10, 19 and 10! Those are 2K numbers. He’s easily one of the top five players in the league and is definitely the leader on this team. But sneaking up on him in the top five is mister Blake Griffin. Griffin has now become an offensive threat and he’s worked hard to do it. He doesn’t just dunk anymore he can shoot jumpers and rumor has it maybe even three’s. My guess for him is he’ll average somewhere around 25 points and 10 rebounds per game and he’ll dominate and be one of the best power forwards in the league. The other guy is DeAndre Jordan. Let’s start with the bad he needs more than just dunks. He needs to be able to shoot the ball and have better post moves. He’s an athletic big so I can see him being able to develop post moves down the road. He definitely needs to improve on his scoring average of 10 points per game he needs to boost that up to at least 15. However as I said before he is an athletic big which is good because he can get up and down the floor. And he is also a pretty solid defender blocking an average of 2.5 shots per game last year. The biggest problem I see with the Clippers is their bench or lack thereof. There is no real depth especially at guard, which is a problem for them because their starting guards have a history of not being able to stay healthy. The pick up of Spencer Hawes was a good one and that’ll help the team, but overall this team needs to pick up some players and trade for some people if they want to win a championship.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder: They suffered a blow before the season even started. Kevin Durant is going to be out for the first six weeks of the season with a fractured foot. However I still have them this high because I believe Westbrook can lead this time in Durant’s absence and then when Durant comes back they can start making their way back up to the tippy top. But back to Westbrook; overall his stats aren’t bad 21 points and 6 assists per game, which is what you look for in your point guard. However he needs to stop playing hero ball. His shot selection is pretty poor 43.7% from the floor and 31% overall are not the greatest numbers to have however I feel like these numbers can increase with better shot selection and just playing smarter rather than getting wrapped up in the emotions of the game. Now on to the reigning MVP Kevin Durant, it’s awful that he’ll be out of the league for six weeks but when he comes back teams better watch out. Last Year Durant averaged 32 points per game and carried the Thunder to countless victories. I wouldn’t be surprised if he came back and picked up right where he left off. The other part of the Thunder’s Big Three is Serge Ibaka. He’s gone from just a shot blocker to an actually threat on offense scoring about 15 points a game. With Durant out he’ll need to step up his offensive game and go for probably closer to 18 points per game and it’d be great if he could keep that going when Durant gets back. The Thunder did a nice job this offseason of bringing in some wing scorers who can shoot the three. However their bench is still not that strong and that’s what really held them back last year, but as long as Durant’s at the helm they’re likely to make it into the Eastern conference finals.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Internet blow up in 3…2…1. Okay look let me explain my thinking here before everyone loses their minds. LeBron James is LeBron James he is a two-time champion and has made the playoffs countless times. But who else on that team has made the playoffs, without LeBron James on their team? The only name I see is Shawn Marion. Now this team has talent lots of it, but to me it lacks experience I think you need that one playoff loss in order to get a drive, a fire underneath you to compete and dominate everyone. I also feel like there will be chemistry issues. Now I know LeBron already dealt with chemistry issues in Miami, so he might be more likely to be able to handle it with this team. However, I feel like a team with two stars and one super star is going to have issues and has to work things out. I mean we’ve already seen in past seasons that Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving had a tough time getting along now there’s even more mouths to feed. Also both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have a history with injuries and missing time because of them. Okay, now that I’ve defended my decision on to the players. LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of this generation he can do anything on offense and can guard you on defense. He averaged 27 points and 6 assists and 6 rebounds. He came back home with a purpose and a drive and is going to lead this team to greatness. Kyrie Irving is a premier point guard in this league. His handles are stupid good and he is fresh of an MVP summer with the World Cup. Averaging 20 and 6 last season was not bad although I’d like to maybe even see 8 assists now that he has more options to pass too. His defense could use some work but he’s starting to mature and become a real player. Then there’s the long awaited arrival of Kevin Love. Love last year for the Timberwolves averaged 26 points and 12 rebounds. I don’t think he’ll get as many points this season, but he’ll certainly have as many rebounds. He’s one of, if not the best power forward in the game right now and can score from anywhere. Cleveland has all the pieces but the question is can they fit it all together and to me I think it’ll be just like solving a puzzle. It’ll take some time to figure out how all the pieces fit and where they go. Their bench is solid but on the elderly side, which didn’t work out so well last year in Miami however, this team will definitely be in the Eastern Conference Finals with my next team.
2. Chicago Bulls: SPOLIER ALERT this entire pick and more importantly Bulls season rests solely in Derrick Rose’s hands. If he can stay healthy and return to at least close to his MVP caliber type play then this is the best team in the East. The Bulls are a defense first team, which will be key in stopping a high-powered offense like The Cavs. They’ve shown that they will play hard and fight it out with any team. They seem more pass first orientated and want to make the smartest and best shot, much like a certain championship team did last year. They also now have scoring threats beyond Derrick Rose, which will help to ease the burden on him. The Bulls are coming together and so long as everyone stays healthy this is the team to beat. Derrick Rose is rusty, you can see that when you watch him play. But I think once he shakes off the rust he can be a guy who can get you 25 and 8 on a nightly basis. Joakim Noah proved that he was a player last year averaging 12.6 points and 11.3 rebounds per game and he also received the defensive player of the year trophy. He plays with a lot of heart and fire and that can carry you a long way. I would like to see his offense go up a little to maybe 15 points a night. Then they’re bringing over Nikola Mirotic who over in Spain averaged about 12 points last year, but shot about 54% on twos and 46% on three so he should be a nice option when the lanes aren’t open enough for Rose to drive to the basket. This is a defense first team that now has way more offensive weapons then they did last year, and that’s really what they were missing in the playoffs last year. This year though they’ll be a deadly team on both ends and that to me is what makes them the second best team on this list.
1. San Antonio Spurs: I am tired of sleeping on the Spurs I’ve done it for too long. Tim Ducan is one of the greatest players of all time and Popovich is the best coach in the league. They literally lost no one, no one on that team so they are coming back to this season with the exact same roster. I mean already that team has more chemistry than any of the other teams on this list. And yes they are an older team but Pop already showed last year that he knew how to control player’s minutes and get them the best amount of rest possible. Kawhi Leonard is the reigning finals MVP and is starting to make a name for himself in the league. With the older talents most likely resting more this year he’ll really have to step up. Last year he averaged 12.6 points and 6 rebounds. I’d like to see his scoring come up and be within the 18-20 point range, which I think it will, but for a team like the Spurs that’s not really the goal, the goal is to play as a team. He is also a very good defender and can pester teams on both ends of the court. The other key player is Tony Parker, last year averaging 16.7 points and 5.7 assists per game which were pretty solid numbers. He’s the motor that makes that team run and I’m sure he’ll play with the same level of quiet consistency he always does. And speaking of quiet consistency how about Tim Duncan, the Big Fundamental, the owner of 5 championship rings tying him with Kobe Bryant for most rings among active players. He went for 15 points and 9 rebounds last season and I’d expect about the same out of him this year. The Spurs are not about flash or headlines. They pass around to find the best shot and don’t have a “me first” mentality. To me nothing about this team has changed at all that’s why they’ll end up winning the title again this year.
Welp that’ll wrap it up for me with my pre-season NBA preview hopefully I’ll check back in around the mid-season mark and see how each team is doing. Here’s hoping I’m right on everything so I don’t look foolish. Good luck to all the team’s this year and let’s get ready for tip-off in eleven days.
Stats courtesy of:
LARRY W. SMITH