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Ranking The NBA Teams By Tiers: Golden State Warriors Are The Best, Lakers Are The Biggest Disappointment

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Ranking The NBA Teams By Tiers: Golden State Warriors Are The Best, Lakers Are The Biggest Disappointment

After the recent debacle displayed by the Brooklyn Nets at home against the Golden State Warriors, head coach Steve Nash said that his team was not in the same class as the Warriors and other championship contenders. Given that the team has MVP candidate Kevin Durant, three-time scoring leader James Harden, and a slew of other nameworthy veterans, many believe the Nets are a favorite on paper.

Instead, the Nets are contending for a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. With Kyrie Irving out due to his personal choice over the vaccine, the Nets are missing his presence. The Warriors look like their former dynasty and this is without Klay Thompson stepping foot on the court. Once he returns, how much better will the Warriors be?

The Warriors are the title favorites, but who is going to give them a run for their money. Other teams are hoping the season would just end, so they can participate in the NBA Draft. Let’s take a look at the layout of the land and separate these teams by tiers.

The Best Team Right Now

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors are on another level right now. Steph Curry is chasing down his third scoring title of his career, which includes his second straight if he completes it. Curry is easily the frontrunner for the MVP right now. No lead is safe when playing the Warriors, but the Warriors aren’t giving up too many leads these days.

The team owns the best overall offense in the league as they lead all teams in points per game. What is equally interesting is that the Warriors are ranked third in points allowed. When you are scoring points and holding teams to fewer points, that’s the basic definition of winning basketball games.

It is going to be very interesting to see how Klay Thompson fits into this makeshift. Draymond Green looks like a vintage version of himself on offense and defense. Andrew Wiggins looks like a true former No. 1 overall pick. Jordan Poole is a lite version of Thompson, while the bench is playing like the dynasty years. Most importantly, Curry is playing like an MVP. There is a perfect mix of team basketball and it feels like the dynasty is back to make a run to the NBA Finals.

Championship Contenders

Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat, Utah Jazz, Milwaukee Bucks

While the Warriors are the favorites to win the title right now, it takes two to tango in the NBA Finals. In the Western Conference, the Suns have not backed down from their finish last year. The Suns were given an asterisk by many that their run to the NBA Finals was luck because the team didn’t have to play against the likes of Anthony Davis, Jamal Murray, or Kawhi Leonard. With that said, the Suns have the second-best record in the West, while Chris Paul is leading the league in assists.

The Suns were expected to compete, as well as the Jazz. Utah was the No. 1 seed last year and was able to keep their core together. Donovan Mitchell is leading an offense that ranks in the top five in scoring, while Rudy Gobert is leading the league in rebounds for a team that has the fourth-best opponent points allowed. The pickup of Hassan Whiteside has proved to be golden while supporting players Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, and Joe Ingles are having similar seasons to last year.

In the Eastern Conference, you would expect to see the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets at the top. The two played in the playoffs in what felt like the Conference Finals last year. However, the loss of Kyrie Irving appears to be stinging the Nets overall, but Kevin Durant is playing like an MVP candidate. Once James Harden starts turning things around, the Nets will be a hard team to beat, especially if Irving does come back this year.

As for the Bucks, the team has battled injuries and has not played with 100% of their team healthy. Once Khris Middleton is back full-time, the Bucks are too good on paper to not be considered, especially with Giannis having an MVP-like year as we speak.

The two other teams that are in the tier are the Heat and Bulls. The Heat was expected to be a top team in the East with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo back. The hype surrounded the team with the addition of Kyle Lowry, but he is playing like a backup guard at best. The real transition to the team’s greatness has been Tyler Herro, who looks like a superstar.

As for the Bulls, executives are eating crow after calling the DeMar DeRozan signing a tragedy. DeRozan is playing like an All-NBA First Team selection and fringe MVP candidate. If the team can find a way to get Nikola Vucevic involved and shoot better, the Bulls could make the Conference Finals for the first time since the Derrick Rose years.

Playoff Teams

Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers

The Washington Wizards have controlled the No. 1 seed in the East, but it feels like that reign is going to end anytime. For starters, the Bucks have been hurt, the Nets are without Irving, and the 76ers are finding their way without Ben Simmons. The rise of Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell in Washington is a great story, but is anyone taking the Wizards' hot start as championship contenders? They will need to do more as the season progresses.

The Clippers are playing well despite not having Kawhi Leonard. The same goes for the 76ers without Simmons. The problem is they are not playing great and that is because both are without All-Star talent. The team needs both to be considered a title contender and that future looks pretty murky these days.

The Nuggets remain just a playoff team until Jamal Murray comes back. The Nuggets are not good enough to make the NBA Finals with Nikola Jokic alone. There is just too much start power in the league. The same goes for Luka Doncic in Dallas. Kristaps Porzingis has to play like the player they believe he can be. Both are flirting with the four through six seeds in the standings.

The last team on the list is the surprising Cleveland Cavaliers, where J.B. Bickerstaff is a frontrunner for Coach of the Year. Darius Garland looks like a solid point guard while Evan Mobley is a contender for Rookie of the Year. The Cavs have the second-best defense in the league. This team has last year’s Knicks written all over them.

Play-In Teams

Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers

If the playoffs started today, how disappointed would Los Angeles be? The Lakers made a blockbuster to acquire Russell Westbrook. It took Harrell, Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and their bank account taking on $44 million. Westbrook has not been the answer as the team struggles with hovering over .500. LeBron James has battled injuries, while the entire roster has shown their age. The Lakers would be in the play-in tournament for the second year in a row. Given the window to compete, the Lakers have to start winning now.

The Lakers, like the Trail Blazers, own a top-10 offense in the league, but can’t guard anyone. The Trail Blazers have the 20th best defense in points allowed, while the Lakers are ranked 27th. Damian Lillard is playing some of his worst basketball in his career and you can only wonder if he will be dealt with before the trade deadline. If Portland continues to hover around the play-in tournament, the team’s future aspirations could be lottery time.

The Celtics and Hawks are both playing below their talent on the roster. The Hawks kept most of their core from a team that made the Conference Finals. If the playoffs started now, the Hawks would be outside the playoffs. You have to believe that the team will figure it out eventually because that is what happened last year. As for Boston, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are struggling to lead the team to wins. It even led to Marcus Smart making a public swipe at both at a news conference. Both are considered All-Stars, but if it doesn’t translate to wins, we could hear Brown’s name in trade rumors moving forward.

As for the Hornets, this team has the talent to compete for one of the last spots in the playoff race. Anything past the playoffs is asking for too much given that your main core of LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Kelly Oubre Jr. has not played significant playoff minutes. You could make a case for Gordon Hayward as well, despite that he has played in the playoffs, that he hasn’t played in a long time. Charlotte has the second-best offense in the league, only trailing Golden State, so as long as they keep scoring, we could see Charlotte continue to make steps in the right direction. Now the team needs to start playing defense, as they are ranked the worst overall defense in points allowed.

Play-In Contenders

Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves

For how bad De’Aaron Fox has started the season, the Kings are staying relevant in the playoff picture. TFox is shooting about 23% from three-point range, while his points, shooting percentage, and assists are all significantly down from last year, but the Kings have the third-best offense in the league in points scored. Luckily, a career-year from Harrison Barnes is keeping the team floating around .500. It will be interesting to see if the team decides to keep Barnes and Buddy Hield, a dark horse for Sixth Man of the Year, on the team once February rolls around.

The Raptors started hot, but have come back down to Earth. Pascal Siakam has played only four games this season, but the team was considered a .500 team once they let Kyle Lowry go. Fred VanVleet is off to a hot start, while OG Anunoby is a dark horse candidate for Most Improved Player. With that said, there are just better overall teams in the East.

One of those teams is the Pacers on paper, but they are the 13 seed in the East. The problem with the East and the play-in tournament is that it takes 10 teams. Right now, 13 of the 15 teams are within a game of each other and have at least six wins. With Domantas Sabonis is having an All-Star caliber year, while Myles Turner is having another sensational year blocking shots. However, the team is not winning games at a high rate and will likely pawn off most of their stars such as Turner or Malcolm Brogdon by the deadline.

Both the Spurs and Timberwolves will hover because of the 10-team requirement in each conference, but both are significantly under .500 at the moment with low chances of getting back to relevance. For the Spurs, Dejounte Murray is having a career season, but he can’t be your best player on a competing team. Murray is easily a third-best option on a contending squad. As for the Timberwolves, this could be the year we finally see Karl-Anthony Towns dealt. The combination of Towns, D'Angelo Russell, and Anthony Edwards isn’t working. Towns is having his best season shooting from behind the arc. It’s time to cash in on what value he has.

Lottery Time

Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic

When you lose 13 games in a row, all you have to do is think about how you wished the season ended. That is exactly what anyone in Houston has to be doing. The hype around Jalen Green has fizzled, but you have to have perspective when your 19-year rookie is thrown into the fire. The Rockets own the third-worst offense and third-worst defense in the league. Naturally, that is a recipe for disaster.

The worst offense in the league features Detroit, who are one of three teams in the NBA not averaging at least 100 points. Cade Cunningham is off to a rough start after being drafted No. 1, but again you are going to have growing pains. The same goes for the Magic and Thunder, who are both in that category. The Magic are playing their lottery picks and young players, while the Thunder’s highest-paid player is Derrick Favors if that tells you the direction both franchises are going.

The real surprise on this list are the New Orleans Pelicans. While Zion Williamson’s injury was a huge deal, the Pelicans are not that bad to have started the season 2-14. Brandon Ingram used to be an All-Star. The team made moves for Devonte’ Graham and Jonas Valanciunas in the offseason to be considered supporting players. Williamson has yet to play this year, so we can only judge when he comes back. At this point, it almost makes more sense to tank and hope to make a run for the No. 1 overall pick and draft Chet Holmgren. Then again, that’s probably what the other four teams are thinking too. 


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