Three days of the power rankings done, three to go as we make the turn and start counting down the top half of the NBA.
In Part 1 we talked about the teams that will be competing in "tankapalooza" for Andrew Wiggins, in Part 2 we took a look at where the Celtics fit in amongst the Eastern Conference's weakened lower half, and yesterday in Part 3 we discussed how the Wizards, Cavs and Timberwolves may find themselves back in the playoff picture after extended absences.
Today we continue the countdown with teams #11-15, but before we do that, here's a refresher on the teams already listed.
#30. Utah Jazz
#29. Philadelphia 76ers
#28. Orlando Magic
#27. Phoenix Suns
#26. Milwaukee Bucks
#25. Charlotte Bobcats
#24. Atlanta Hawks
#23. Toronto Raptors
#22. Boston Celtics
#21. Sacramento Kings
#20. Washington Wizards
#19. Los Angeles Lakers
#18. Dallas Mavericks
#17. Cleveland Cavaliers
#16. Minnesota Timberwolves
#15. New Orleans Pelicans (#9 in the West)
2012-13 Record: 27-55
Major additions: Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Greg Stiemsma, Anthony Morrow, Jeff Withey
Major subtractions: Greivis Vasquez, Robin Lopez, Roger Mason Jr.
I'll be honest, I have no idea how the Pelicans plan of playing three score-first combo guards at the same time is going to work out. But I'm intrigued. New Orleans made draft night waves by shipping Nerlens Noel and their 2014 pick to Philadelphia for Jrue Holiday. Holiday broke out in 2012-13, putting up 17.7 points and 8 assists per game at the age of 22. Just a few weeks later the Pelicans again made news by shipping point guard Greivis Vasquez and center Robin Lopez off in a three-way deal that netted them Tyreke Evans.
With both Evans and Holiday in the fold, New Orleans currently has a three guard line-up of those two and Eric Gordon, with Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis rounding out the starting five. All five of their starters are 25 years old or younger and bring something dynamic to the table — the only question is, how will they fit together?
Gordon has had usage rates of 29.4% in each of his two seasons in New Orleans, meaning 29.4% of the offense runs through him when he's on the floor. Compare that with Holiday, who saw a career high 26.6% usage last season, and Evans, who's career rate is 24.5%..and we've got ourselves a problem. All three of these players need the ball in their hands, not to mention the sweet shooting Anderson, who scored 16.2 PPG last year while having a usage rate of 24%. And we haven't even gotten to the #1 pick from 2012 in Davis.
They say there's no such thing as too much talent, but New Orleans is going to have to do quite a bit of mixing and matching to figure out how to get all of their talented guys enough touches. It may turn out that either Gordon or Evans is better off coming off the bench, captaining the 2nd unit while a guy like Al-Farouq Aminu starts. One thing is for sure though — the Pelicans have plenty of talent to make a run at a playoff spot. Now the pressure is on them to make the pieces fit.
#14. Detroit Pistons (#6 in the East)
2012-13 record: 29-53
Major additions: Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Major subtractions: Brandon Knight, Jose Calderon, Jason Maxiell
Speaking of teams with really intriguing roster..the Detroit Pistons are checking in at #14 with one of the weirdest rosters in the league.
On the one hand — holy athleticism. Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the guard spots, Josh Smith at the wing and Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond down low. Besides Jennings all of these guys are massive for their position and each of them are gazelles that thrive being on the open floor. This team is also seemingly a lock to lead the league in blocks as Drummond (1.6 BPG in just 21 MPG last season) and Smith (2.1 BPG for his career) team up. This team will be able to run, and both stopping them and scoring on them in transition will be a chore.
On the other hand — what the hell do they run in the half-cout? Do you let Jennings, the career 39.4% shooter take control? Who spreads the floor and prevents teams from crowding the paint as Monroe, Drummond and Smith try and work for space? As a unit, Detroit's projected starters have shot 2,490 career threes, and hit just 813, a dreadful 32.7% success rate from deep. Chauncey Billups is returning to Detroit and may be able to help the shooting improve, but he'll be 37 on opening night and has played a total of 42 games the past two seasons.
You have to figure the Pistons have enough talent to make the post-season in a weakened Eastern Conference, but this team is going to need to figure out who is going to score for them in crunch time. Because no one on their roster has had any NBA success doing that besides Billups, and his days as 'Mr. Big Shot' are through.
#13. New York Knicks (#5 in the East)
2012-13 record: 54-28
Major additions: Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Tim Hardaway Jr.
Major subtractions: Chris Copeland, Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd
The Knicks had their best season in over a decade last year, compiling 54 regular season wins and knocking off the Celtics in the playoffs before falling to the Pacers. However, the team was exposed by Indiana in their second round loss, unable to crack the Pacers defense and repeatedly settling for isolation plays run for either Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith.
New York has had a terrible off-season, trading for Andrea Bargnani, who has missed 82 games over the past two seasons while shooting 41% from the field and 30% from three when he has been able to suit up. Did I mention the fact that he is a seven footer who had a 7.6% rebound rate (league leader was Reggie Evans at 26.7%) and that over the past three seasons he has allowed 0.85 points-per-possession on defense (121st in the NBA)? He is only 28, and at one point was a good offensive player (the defense and rebounding has always been bad), so there is a shot he bounces back, but as of now he is a soft big man who's offensive skills have declined and who's defense/rebounding as always been putrid. The Knicks also signed Metta World Peace, who at age 33 has been steadily declining since he signed with the Lakers four years ago.
As of now New York figures to go with a line-up of Raymond Felton - Iman Shumpert - Anthony - Bargnani - Tyson Chandler with Smith (once he recovers from serious knee surgery), Amar'e Stoudemire, MWP, Pablo Prigioni and Kenyon Martin coming off the bench. It's a team full of guys who are either past their prime or coming off of seasons they will be hard pressed to duplicate. Shumpert is probably the only player who is young enough to really improve off of his 2012-13 campaign, while many guys (Smith, K-Mart, Chandler) are likely to decline because of age or injury.
The Knicks are going to be in the playoffs for sure, but they already seem like a team on their way down. Now the bigger question becomes: does Carmelo stick around next summer to play with Smith, Chandler and Bargnani when the Lakers will have the money to sign both him and another max player? Going to be a tough choice, mostly because of the Knicks inability to surround him with top talent.
#12. Portland Trailblazers (#8 in the West)
2012-13 record: 33-49
Major additions: Robin Lopez, Mo Williams, Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright, C.J. McCollum
Major subtractions: J.J. Hickson, Eric Maynor
Little known fact about the Blazers last year? They were actually a quality team whose hopes were absolutely murdered by an historically bad bench. Their starting line-up of Damian Lillard - Wesley Matthews - Nicolas Batum - J.J. Hickson - LaMarcus Aldridge was plenty good enough to make a playoff push, but the worst bench in the league did them in.
Some numbers to prove that point: Portland's bench was 30th in minutes, 30th in points, 29th in FG %, 30th in 3 PT %, 30th in rebounding, 29th in assists, 30th in point differential. Portland's bench was outscored by 17.7 points per 100 possessions in 2012-13, almost double the 2nd worst team (Indiana, 9.4). In fact, HoopStats.com goes back to the 1997-98 season and no bench in the past 16 seasons has faired worse than Portland's.
This off-season the Blazers addressed this, bringing in former #4 overall pick Thomas Robinson, and drafting C.J. McCollum, both of whom figure to come off the bench. Portland also signed Dorell Wright (12.2 PPG over the past three seasons) and swapped Hickson out for Robin Lopez, which should improve them on the defensive end.
Throw in what could be a breakout performance from Lillard (if it's possible to breakout after winning rookie of the year), and another all-star campaign from Aldridge, and Portland should see a huge bump in their win total from last year.
#11. Denver Nuggets (#7 in the West)
2012-13 record: 57-25
Major additions: J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye, Darrell Arthur, Nate Robinson
Major subtractions: Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer, Kosta Koufos
The Nuggets should be higher. But when you let the executive of the year leave (Masai Ujiri went to Toronto), and fire the coach of the year (George Karl), you risk losing a lot of the momentum you had built up during the 2012-13 season.
Many point to Denver as a failure for losing to Golden State in the playoffs, but the Nuggets had lost their 2nd leading scorer in Danilo Gallinari late in the regular season, and happened to run into the buzzsaw that was Steph Curry at the wrong time. The Nuggets would have been much better off bringing back Karl and Andre Iguodala (or at least Corey Brewer) instead of letting both go and bringing in a slew of new guys.
The Nuggets are still deep and explosive on offense, but they lost one of their few impact defensive guys in Iguodala and now must hope that Wilson Chandler can fill the void. Denver enters camp with a probable starting line-up of Ty Lawson - Randy Foye - Chandler - Kenneth Faried - JaVale McGee until Galinari can return. They also have plenty of fire power coming off the bench in J.J. Hickson, Nate Robinson, Darrell Arthur and Andre Miller.
The question still remains, can the Nuggets get over the hump in the playoffs? They have been to the post-season 10 straight years, but nine times have been knocked out in round 1. I'd like their chances a lot better had they retained Karl and Iguodala, but Denver is still a tough match-up simply because of their up-and-down style of play and ability to run 10 players deep.
Tomorrow we start cranking it up as we enter the top 10, where a whole bunch of former Celtics are hanging out.
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Part 1 of the NBA summer power rankings
Part 2 of the NBA summer power rankings
Part 3 of the NBA summer power rankings Michael Dyer 8/07/2013 04:36:00 PM Tweet