NBA Power Rankings: Week 1

Stephen Curry led the Warriors to another easy win over the Spurs and propelled his team into the Finals, unbeaten at 12-0 in these playoffs

When you realize that every other player on your fantasy football team is injured, then you know the NBA is about to begin. A ton of fantasy drafts will take place on Monday with the season tipping off the following day, but if you bought the draft guide and have been keeping up with Rotoworld’s player news feed, then you have nothing to worry about because you’re going to have a huge advantage over your competition. By this point you already know what sleepers and value picks to target and I can only tell you to draft D’Angelo Russell, Jusuf Nurkic and Terrence Jones so many times, so let’s take a break from all that…

We don’t normally have power rankings for the NBA on Rotoworld, but I wanted to mix it up because it’s fun to see how much these rankings will fluctuate throughout the season. I will be updating the rankings every week and I’ll do my best to not be too biased, but if/when you see something you disagree with, feel free to let me hear about it on Twitter. You can give me a follow by clicking here, and I’ll do my best to answer any of your questions regarding fantasy basketball or the NBA in general.

Usually the defending champs will hold down the No. 1 spot in Week 1, but this wasn’t your average offseason. After blowing a 3-1 lead to the Cavs in the Finals, the Warriors blew up the entire landscape of the NBA by bringing in Zaza Pachulia. Jokes aside, adding Kevin Durant to the Warriors is borderline unfair and they will open the season as the overwhelming favorites to take back the NBA title.

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No. 1) Warriors

Can we take a second to appreciate how lethal Golden State’s “Death” lineup will be this season? Durant is essentially replacing Harrison Barnes, joining Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green in one of the scariest five-man units in recent memory. Zaza Pachulia was brought in to replace Andrew Bogut, and while that’s not an upgrade by any stretch of the imagination, their bench has significantly improved with David West, impressive rookie Patrick McCaw and a healthy Kevon Looney. No disrespect to Cleveland, but this team looks unreal on paper.

No. 2) Cavaliers

LeBron James had one of the most dominant performance in NBA Finals history on his way to the title, averaging 36.3 points, 11.6 rebounds and 9.7 assists in the last three games with his team facing elimination. He’s still the best player in the league, but the Cavs will need even more from him if they want to keep the title in Cleveland. Their starting lineup remains intact, but they will be hoping that Kay Felder, Mike Dunleavy and Chris Andersen will be able to fill the voids left by Mo Williams, Matthew Dellavedova and the world’s richest man, Timofey Mozgov.

No. 3) Spurs

Tim Duncan is gone, but the Spurs are in good hands with the ageless Pau Gasol taking over at center. Kawhi Leonard will continue his meteoric rise amongst the league’s best, but the key for the Spurs is to make sure they keep LaMarcus Aldridge happy — recent reports have indicated that the Spurs will trade him for the right price because he wants to be “the guy” on his team. Tony Parker has lost one, maybe 10 steps, but Gregg Popovich will squeeze every ounce of talent out of his guys and they still have the look of a top-3 team.

No. 4) Clippers

Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook get all the love, but Chris Paul is still the best pure playmaker in the league. CP3 gets a healthy Blake Griffin back in the lineup and DeAndre Jordan took a huge step forward last season, but the only thing holding the Clippers back is one of the worst group of small forwards in the NBA — they will start Luc Mbah a Moute at the three with Wes Johnson and Alan Anderson backing him up. That’s not ideal.

No. 5) Celtics

The Celtics were dismantled by the Hawks in the playoffs last season, but they got the last laugh by stealing Al Horford in free agency. They are hoping that preseason star Terry Rozier and promising rookie Jaylen Brown will fill the void left by last year’s sixth man, Evan Turner. They are one piece away from becoming legitimate contenders, and they still have the picks/assets to make a splash.

No. 6) Raptors

No. 6 might seem low for a team coming off a 56-win season, and even though they were able to re-sign DeMar DeRozan, they moved on from Bismack Biyombo over the summer and their new starting PF Jared Sullinger is out indefinitely with a foot issue. If Jonas Valanciunas looks as good as he did in the playoffs last season and DeMarre Carroll finds his form, they could very easily leapfrog Boston in the rankings.

No. 7) Blazers

They are one of the deepest teams in the West and were able to keep their core intact by extending C.J. McCollum and re-signing Allen Crabbe, Moe Harkless and Meyers Leonard. New acquisition Evan Turner will run the offense for the second unit, while Festus Ezeli will add some size to a center rotation that already includes Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis. They will go as far as Damian Lillard can take them.

No. 8) Grizzlies

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph aren’t getting any younger, but the Grizzlies had themselves quite a summer by re-signing Mike Conley and convincing Chandler Parsons to end his bromance with Mark Cuban in Dallas. Gasol is coming off a serious foot injury and Parsons will be limited by his knee for the second straight season, but if they can stay healthy, new coach David Fizdale could turn this team into a force by showing them what a 3-point shot is and by pushing the pace.

No. 9) Pacers

Myles Turner looks like the real deal and Paul George reestablished himself as one of the best two-way players in the league last season. They have some new reinforcements in Thaddeus Young, Jeff Teague and Al Jefferson, and new head coach Nate McMillan wants them to get out and run.

No. 10) Thunder

You have to give them some credit. The Thunder were devastated by the departure of Kevin Durant, but they rebounded nicely by adding Victor Oladipo to form one of the most dynamic backcourt combinations in the league. Serge Ibaka was on the decline anyways, while Steven Adams is ready to take on a larger role after his coming out party in the playoffs. All of that doesn’t matter, though, as an angry Russell Westbrook is all the Thunder need to reach the postseason. Expect him to post video game numbers this season.

No. 11) Jazz

They deserve to be higher than this after a very impressive offseason, but injuries have slowed them down once again. Gordon Hayward (finger) and Alec Burks (knee) will start the season on the shelf, while Derrick Favors can’t seem to shake a knee issue. Joe Johnson and Trey Lyles are more than capable of holding down the fort and a healthy Dante Exum will bring some defense and energy behind starting PG George Hill, so this Jazz team should have no trouble ending their playoff drought.

No. 12) Hawks

Dwight Howard is a downgrade to Al Horford and you could say the same thing about Dennis Schroder replacing Jeff Teague. They look like they took two steps back this summer, and the only thing keeping thing among the top teams in the East is All-Star PF Paul Millsap. The only problem for the Hawks is that Millsap could hit free agency as soon as the summer of 2017.

No. 13) Pistons

Reggie Jackson (knee) is sidelined for at least the first four weeks of the season, but the team is in good hands with Ish Smith taking over the point. They are solid at every position on the floor and the only thing holding Andre Drummond back from becoming the most dominant center in the East is his woeful free throw shooting. If second-year forward Stanley Johnson can make the leap this season, look out.

No. 14) Bulls

A rebuild is going to happen in Chicago sooner or later, and while new additions Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo are a puzzling fit next to Jimmy Butler, the Bulls simply improved by moving on from Derrick Rose. Robin Lopez is so underrated and Taj Gibson is as steady as they come, but this team will only make the playoffs if they can find a way to get Nikola Mirotic going.

No. 15) Wolves

Like the Blazers last season, I have a feeling that the Wolves will be the biggest surprise in the West. If I was given the choice to start an NBA franchise with any player in the league, I’d take Karl-Anthony Towns in a heartbeat. Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins are only going to keep improving under Tom Thibodeau and rookie Kris Dunn should be their long-term answer at point guard. Now the Wolves just need to decide how long they want to hold onto current starting PG Ricky Rubio.

No. 16) Rockets

The biggest problem with the Rockets last season was their chemistry, but they have several fresh faces in Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson and coach Mike D’Antoni will reinvigorate the offense. James Harden will move to point guard this season, while Clint Capela and Nene will split minutes at center with Dwight Howard no longer around. Their defense will be laughable and it doesn’t help that Patrick Beverley (knee) is out for several weeks, but they could be the highest-scoring team in the league.

No. 17) Mavericks

They struck out in free agency once again and losing Chandler Parsons is really going to hurt. Dirk Nowitzki is finally slowing down and has two years left at best, and their new “max” player in Harrison Barnes has looked shocking in the preseason. They do have some very solid young talent in Justin Anderson, Dwight Powell and Seth Curry, so they could get a lot of run down the stretch if the Mavs stumble out of the gate.

No. 18) Wizards

Randy Wittman was clueless last season, so the arrival of coach Scott Brooks can only help. John Wall is coming off surgeries to both knees, but he did look healthy during the preseason. Bradley Beal just needs to prove that he can stay healthy and Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre both look like they are ready to take another step forward. The East is much deeper this season, so getting back to the playoffs will not be easy.

No. 19) Knicks

This might be low for a “Super Team,” but I wouldn’t bet on the Knicks making the playoffs with Derrick Rose running the point. The good news is that Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Courtney Lee will thrive under coach Jeff Hornacek if Phil Jackson minds his own business, but the key to the Knicks’ season is whether or not starting center Joakim Noah can stay healthy and find the form that he had in Chicago just a couple seasons ago.

No. 20) Hornets

A lot of people have the Hornets making it back to the playoffs but I just don’t see it. Kemba Walker’s knee is a concern and the Hornets will regret letting Jeremy Lin go. They will try to replace Al Jefferson with Roy Hibbert, while their top two power forwards in Marvin Williams (finger) and Frank Kaminsky (foot) are questionable to start the season. A healthy Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will definitely help, but will he be able to develop a jumper this season?

No. 21) Nuggets

A lot of people are sleeping on the Nuggets and I’m not sure why. While the majority of the league is moving towards smaller lineups, the Nuggets are going their own route and starting Nikola Jokic next to Jusuf Nurkic. They are loaded with depth at every position and have the assets available to trade for a star. If Danilo Gallinari stays healthy and Emmanuel Mudiay continues to improve, this team could be very dangerous in a hurry.

No. 22) Magic

I don’t like the makeup of their roster at all and trading away Victor Oladipo was inexcusable. They are playing Aaron Gordon out of position to accommodate Serge Ibaka, and with Elfrid Payton running the point, their floor spacing could be brutal. They only have two reliable offensive weapons in Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic, but they might limit Vooch’s minutes to give more playing time to Bismack Biyombo. I just don’t see a clear direction by the Magic front office.

No. 23) Bucks

They could’ve been a few spots higher in these rankings, but losing Khris Middleton (hamstring) for 5-6 months is such a buzzkill. They traded away Michael Carter-Williams for practically nothing (sorry Tony Snell) and gave Miles Plumlee a massive extension after he averaged a whopping 5.1 points and 3.8 boards per game last season. Giannis Antetokounmpo will run the offense and Jabari Parker will expand his game out to the 3-point line this season, so at least there’s a couple things to look forward to. Giannis and Parker will eventually be All-Stars, so the future is still bright.

No. 24) Heat

It’s weird seeing the Heat this low on my rankings, but that’s what happens when you lose Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson and Chris Bosh (blood clots) and replace them with Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt and Derrick Williams. Goran Dragic will be trade bait this season, while the development of Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson (knee) and Tyler Johnson will be the team’s top priority. For what it’s worth, Whiteside looked incredible in the preseason.

No. 25) Suns

Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are both healthy, but the Suns made the right decision by keeping Devin Booker with the starting unit at the expense of Knight. This isn’t a playoff team by any means, but Booker is a future All-Star, Marquese Chriss is going to be a stud, and Dragan Bender could develop into a very nice stretch four. Phoenix fans have a lot to look forward to, but they will have to be patient.

No. 26) Pelicans

Other than the 76ers, the Pelicans might be the unluckiest team in the league right now. They can’t seem to stay healthy and it all starts with Anthony Davis. They are missing two starters to open the season in Jrue Holiday (personal) and Tyreke Evans (knee), and they may have the worst center rotation in the league. Terrence Jones looked awesome in the preseason and could be their X factor, but this team could really struggle early on.

No. 27) Lakers

I’m a Lakers fan, but I’m also realistic. I was rattled when I saw the contracts we gave to Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng, but honestly I’m just glad we got rid of our biggest problem, Byron Scott. Since the coaching change, D’Angelo Russell looks like a new player and he’s clearly primed for a breakout season. The Lakers owe a top-3 protected pick to the 76ers this season, so I’m expecting Luke Walton to focus his attention on the younger guys such as Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram and Julius Handle.

No. 28) Kings

They have to start Ty Lawson the first eight games of the season with Darren Collison suspended. What could go wrong? Rudy Gay can’t wait to be traded and DeMarcus Cousins probably can’t be too happy that the Kings are starting Arron Afflalo and Kosta Koufos. Coach Dave Joerger has a short fuse and things could get ugly in a hurry, so it’s just a matter of weeks before the Cousins trade rumors start pouring in once again.

No. 29) Nets

Most of the rankings have the Nets as the worst team in the league, but a couple of injuries in Philly have changed that. Brook Lopez is an All-Star talent and Jeremy Lin, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Bojan Bogdanovic will do just enough to keep them above the 76ers in the East. It’s very close, though.

No. 30) 76ers

Losing Ben Simmons (Jones fracture) for at least a few months is such a letdown and Nerlens Noel (knee surgery) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are expected to miss several weeks, but if there is one positive note about the 76ers’ preseason, it’s that Joel Embiid looks like a legitimate franchise center. With that said, the tank is still on in Philly.