30 Cleveland Cavaliers
1 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 30
Andre Drummond should stuff the stat sheet with Tristan Thompson off to Boston, and the young backcourt trio of Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro should make a few highlight reels. But the Cavs still have the inside track on the top lottery pick for 2021.
29 Oklahoma City Thunder
2 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 23
Shai-Gilgeous Alexander is now the best player on a Thunder team that traded Chris Paul and Steven Adams and let Danilo Gallinari walk. OKC should be in line for a high draft pick in 2021 — as if Sam Presti needs more of those.
28 New York Knicks
3 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 27
This may shock you, but the Knicks failed to acquire a marquee free agent this offseason. (No, Austin Rivers is not a marquee free agent.) That means another season of tanking and incessant chatter about the free agent superstar they’ll totally land next summer.ADVERTISEMENT
27 Detroit Pistons
4 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 29
Is the goal of every Pistons team to be the No. 8 seed in the East?
New GM Troy Weaver nabbed a quality draft pick in French guard Killian Hayes, then perplexingly shelled out a combined $89 million for Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor. That’s not the blueprint for a rebuild — and this team isn’t good enough to make the playoffs, either.
26 Minnesota Timberwolves
5 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 25
Ricky Rubio running point for D’Angelo Russell, Karl Anthony-Towns and No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards should make for some entertaining basketball. If you’re going to lose a bunch of games, might as well have fun doing it, right?
25 Chicago Bulls
6 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 26
Patrick Williams to Chicago at No. 4 was the first surprise of the NBA Draft. The Bulls aren’t short on young talent with Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. on the roster, and perhaps Billy Donovan can push them past the 22-win mark they’ve hit in back-to-back seasons.ADVERTISEMENT
24 Washington Wizards
7 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 24
GM Tommy Sheppard insisted John Wall is staying put and handed out $80 million over five years to Davis Bertans, aka the “Latvian Laser.”
Trading either player last season could have helped facilitate a rebuild, but the Wizards apparently are comfortable in NBA purgatory.
23 Sacramento Kings
USA Today8 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 22
Losing Bogdan Bodganovic in free agency hurts, but new GM Monte McNair still has a quality young core of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley.
Rookie Tyrese Halliburton was a nice addition to a group that might be in a lot of close games this season.
22 Charlotte Hornets
9 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 28
The Hornets just guaranteed $120 million to a player who missed 111 regular-season games during his three seasons in Boston.
Gordon Hayward and No. 3 overall pick LaMelo Ball will give Charlotte a decent starting five, but this team still isn’t sniffing the playoffs.
21 Orlando Magic
10 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 20
We suppose the Magic still could trade Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier or Nikola Vucevic to acquire assets for a rebuild. But that would make too much sense. This team is bound to battle for the No. 8 seed in the East unless Markelle Fultz magically transforms into an All-Star.
20 San Antonio Spurs
11 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 21
Devin Vassell and Tre Jones were solid draft picks for the Spurs, but this team still isn’t going anywhere with DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge as its two best players. Will another shoe drop in San Antonio?
19 New Orleans Pelicans
12 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 17
How’s this for a wild-card starting five: Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe, Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Steven Adams.
The Pelicans will be must-see TV if Williamson stays healthy, but Jrue Holiday’s departure limits their ceiling to a fringe playoff contender.ADVERTISEMENT
18 Memphis Grizzlies
13 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 18
The young duo of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. could benefit from a veteran presence, but this green roster nearly clawed its way into the playoffs last season and should only get better. Desmond Bane was a nice get with Boston’s No. 30 pick, too.
17 Atlanta Hawks
14 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 19
The Hawks just went on a free-agent spending spree, signing Rajon Rondo, Danilo Gallinari and Kris Dunn then ponying up $72 million to land Bogdanovic.
They’re a prime candidate for the NBA’s most improved team in 2020-21 and may have a real shot at making the playoffs for the first time in four years.
16 Houston Rockets
15 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 15
The Rockets face two paths, and both don’t bode well for this season: Either they trade away James Harden and Russell Westbrook and start a full-scale rebuild, or the two disgruntled stars return to a team they both don’t want to play for. We don’t envy Stephen Silas.ADVERTISEMENT
15 Indiana Pacers
16 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 16
What’s the Pacers’ Plan B after missing out on native son Gordon Hayward? A trade of Myles Turner or Victor Oladipo would make sense, but GM Kevin Pritchard is running out of time to shake up a squad that’s suffered five consecutive first-round playoff exits.
14 Phoenix Suns
17 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 14
Jae Crowder brings some toughness to Phoenix and should slot into a formidable starting five featuring Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges and DeAndre Ayton.
Depth could be the Suns’ downfall, but if they stay relatively healthy, their decade-long playoff drought should come to an end.
13 Portland Trail Blazers
18 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 13
Enes Kanter is reuniting with Jusuf Nurkic in the frontcourt. Rodney Hood is bringing some shooting off the bench. Carmelo Anthony is back for another year.
They’re not blockbuster moves, but the Blazers’ offseason maneuverings should have them in the playoff conversation next spring.ADVERTISEMENT
12 Dallas Mavericks
19 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 10
The Mavs appeared to miss out on a few big names in free agency, which means a lot is riding on Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis staying healthy this year. If that’s the case, they’re a real playoff threat. If not, things could go south in a hurry.
11 Utah Jazz
20 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 12
$52 million for Jordan Clarkson seems like a bit much, but he and Derrick Favors should improve Utah’s depth behind Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Expect the Jazz to be right back in the middle (literally) of the West playoff race.
10 Philadelphia 76ers
21 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 11
The Sixers drafted a strong defender in Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey and picked up two excellent shooters in Danny Green and Seth Curry.
But their success or failure comes down to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid staying healthy — and Tobias Harris playing somewhere close to his max-contract status. (Don’t hold your breath.)ADVERTISEMENT
09 Golden State Warriors
22 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 8
Klay Thompson’s injury shouldn’t completely derail a squad that picked up Kelly Oubre Jr. and No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman.
But Stephen Curry and Draymond Green will have to channel their 2015-16 selves if the Warriors want to make any real playoff noise.
08 Toronto Raptors
23 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 9
Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol are off to greener pastures, but Fred VanVleet and Chris Boucher are back with Aron Baynes providing some extra frontcourt muscle.
While Nick Nurse will have to earn his salary this season, our money is on Toronto being a top-five team in the East.
07 Denver Nuggets
24 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 7
The Nuggets will need Michael Porter Jr. to take a leap to offset the loss of Jerami Grant, but Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic should keep Denver in the hunt for a top-4 seed in the West. R.J. Hampton could be a potential draft steal in a few years.ADVERTISEMENT
06 Brooklyn Nets
25 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 4
The Nets reportedly are out on Harden, which probably is for the best.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sharing a court together will require adjustments for a young Nets roster that overachieved without them last season. Steve Nash has his work cut out for him.
05 Miami Heat
26 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 5
Avery Bradley will take the former Celtic mantle from Jae Crowder and join Moe Harkless on a Heat squad that won’t be fun to play against this season.
Miami also did well to re-sign Goran Dragic and draft super-athlete Precious Achiuwa. This could be a top-3 team in the East.
04 Boston Celtics
27 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 6
Tristan Thompson gives the Celtics a frontcourt presence they haven’t had in quite some time and softens the blow of Hayward’s free-agent exit (although there may be more to come on that front).
Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker should have Boston back in title contention, but it could really use a sharpshooter and more bench scoring to get over the East finals hump.ADVERTISEMENT
03 Los Angeles Clippers
28 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 3
Adding Serge Ibaka won’t offset the free-agent losses of Montrezl Harrell, JaMychal Green and Landry Shamet.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George still have enough talent around them to be a top-3 team in the West, but the Clippers are the No. 2 team in town at the moment.
02 Milwaukee Bucks
29 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 2
Losing out on Bogdan Bogdanovic and trading Eric Bledsoe means the Bucks are placing a lot of faith in Jrue Holiday to be a legitimate third star behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
The Bucks could win 70 games this season, and we still wouldn’t feel confident about them reaching the NBA Finals.
01 Los Angeles Lakers
30 / 30
Last week’s ranking: 1
The Lakers won an NBA title with Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee, then replaced those aging vets with Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell.
It’s hard to see any team beating L.A. this season if LeBron James and Anthony Davis stay relatively healthy.