Ok, let’s start with the obvious: Golden State is Tier 1. But writing an article about the Dubs’ Double Dominance (and darn good alliteration) has been done plenty of times before, at least the first part. So we at Fadeaway World have decided to spread out the tiers a bit more, to three: Tier 1 is the top ten, the ten who will make the playoffs 95 out of 100 times; Tier 2 is 11-20, the teams who are fringe playoff/end of the lottery; Tier 3 is the rest, the Tier of Terrible Triple-Tandems of Tanking Teams.
I apologize in advance to their fans, and in a post to All the A-Literal Alliteration - ok, I’ll stop now.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves
Last year, Minnesota was a team in the mid-twenties in defense. Yes, they got better on that front, but expecting a team that just acquired their best player (Yes, Butler is still better than Towns) and is still built around a lot of young guys.
Additionally, they have very little shooting, and- oh yeah, their best bench players are Gorgui Dieng and Jamal Crawford. If they can’t re-sign Muhammad then they have absolutely no wings off the bench. That’s not a formula for short-term or sustained success.
9. Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis is a 22-year-old top-ten player who can defend anyone, anywhere. He once picked up his dribble at halfcourt and dunked without traveling. He is a 6’11 point guard.
Oh, there are more players on the team, you say?
Well, Jabari had limitless potential, but he also has had two major knee injuries. Thon isn’t great yet, probably isn’t even good yet. Delly is eh. Snell is a decent role player. Brogdon is fine. Middleton is really good, but he isn’t a world-beater in any regard. So despite Giannis’ obvious insanity, this team isn’t quite ready to compete just yet.
8. Denver Nuggets
Has Jokic gone from extremely underrated to extremely overrated? I mean, there are a lot of people on NBA Twitter who are essentially Jokic Stans who say that he’s a top-ten player- better than Boogie, better than LeBron, better than LaVar, better than Scalabrine… you get the idea. But though he isn’t at this level (yet), he can still ball out and lead a top-5 offense. And he isn’t the only one - Harris is a high-level 3-and-D player, Murray has leaps and bounds of offensive potential, and Millsap is a star. That doesn’t even mention guys like Chandler, Nelson, Barton, any of their five (!) power forwards, or their mascot!
And no, Mudiay is not going to contribute. Maybe in the future, but not this year. And yet despite that, Jokic is going to behind-the-head pass them to a top-3 offense and a playoff spot in the Bestern Conference.
7. Washington Wizards
A good team last year, plus health, continuity, Jodie Meeks, and Tim Frazier. Wall and Beal are All-Stars, and who knows, with this Leastern conference, maybe Jason Smith will be too.
6. Boston Celtics
LOTS OF TURNOVERS! They have four players from last year. Two (Horford and Brown) are only in their second year with the team. Smart and Rozier (and Brown) weren’t even starters last year. Marcus Smart is the team’s longest-tenured player, as a player on his rookie contract. There are a lot of rookies and few vets. There isn’t much defense anymore. But before I un-convince myself of this spot, let’s see the positives. Kyrie is amazing and should flourish under Stevens’ tutelage. Tatum is a really good prospect, even though I hated on him at draft time - Jacksons have to stick up for each other.
And yeah, the one part of this amazing offseason that everyone forgot: Gordon Hayward. He is a bona fide All-Star in the West, and in an Eastern conference with very few human beings who know how to play basketball, he is almost definitely destined to start.
5. San Antonio Spurs
Pop is a wizard. He could win 40 games with the 2011 Bobcats, and in this world he has Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and a lot of high-end role players. Also, their team is typically boring. This helps them but hurts me. Because I can’t think of what else to write here. Umm…
Have you ever thought about what sheep count when they go to sleep? Other sheep? Because that would be like laying in your bed with the lights out and counting people, which is really weird, so…
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Sam Presti was one of the many beneficiaries of this stock market-esque offseason. Just in the past few months, he’s traded Enes Kanter, Domantas Sabonis, Doug McDermott, Victor Oladipo, and a 2018 2nd-rounder for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Win? 100%. Great fit? Ehh, I'm not so sure about that one. George is far superior than all four outgoing players combined at defense, and Kanter-McBuckets for Melo is essentially just dumping a bad defender, but it will hurt them on the boards. Kanter was a really good offensive player, but he was a GREAT rebounder, and McDermott was, at the very least, a really good spot-up option. Now? Your starting lineup will consist (likely) of:
PG - (34 FGA per 100)
SG - Tony Allen Jr (Non-scorer)
SF - (25 FGA per 100)
PF - (27 FGA per 100)
C - Defensive-minded Nerlens Noel (Non-scorer)
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron. James. The King.
(Oh yeah, and Isaiah, Jae, Kevin, and Tristan. But mainly The King.)
So… three iso scorers and two guys who’s biggest offensive impact is rebounding. Interesting. This could be fire or flaming garbage. The talent and defense alone should propel them to home-court in the brutal west, but their chemistry and selflessness will determine their success after that.
2. Houston Rockets
Well, Morey did pretty well buying into the Stacked Market this offseason. He got Paul and didn’t even have to pay him long-term. Harden was my MVP choice last year, Paul is still one of the best point men in the league, D’Antoni is a great coach especially for this specific team, and there is a really good supporting cast around those guys.
They have more high-end talent than San Antonio and better depth than SA and Cleveland. Seems pretty fair to put them up here.
1. Golden State Warriors
Oh, you’re a Warriors fan? What does Run TMC mean? I’ll wait.
[Two Minutes Later]
“Run TMC was the high-scoring trio of basketball teammates consisting of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin. Starting in 1989, they played together for two seasons with the Golden State Warriors in the National Basketball Association.”
Nice job, Mr. Google.
This was an example of realistic fiction, something that could happen, but hasn’t necessarily happened yet. I don’t live anywhere near the Bay Area, and yet my local Warriors fan- we’ll call him J-Drizzy- doesn’t even know that Monta Ellis ever played for “his favorite team”. Side note, he’s bragged about being a fan of them “since 2015”. Haha.
As that way-too-drawn-out skit (even though it was written) demonstrated, Golden State has an incredible amount of bandwagon fans. Why? Because they are the greatest team of all time and nobody is even close to passing them. Four All-Stars, including an MVP, a UNANIMOUS MVP, and a DPOY. Oh yeah, and they have a perennial SMOTY candidate, as well as a guy that Jay King named a dance move after. They are the reigning champs, with no indication that they won’t repeat. And it isn’t like they have a depth issue, with Livingston/McCaw/Casspi/Young/Iguodala/West anchoring one of the deeper teams in the league. Couple that with the fact that none of their stars are in their thirties, and all are under long-term contracts, and this is an easy team to peg as a perennial #1 in the Tier 1 rankings.
So, what have we learned here? Well, the West is good, the East is bad, and I’m probably underrating Toronto. Do you disagree with any of this? Tweet me @AceHoops, I’ll respond. Unless you argue Ntilikina is a significantly better defender than Josh Jackson, something that someone actually told me one time. Then I’ll probably laugh at you.