Raptors Cage

Post-Free Agency Power Rankings

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Welcome to the first rendition of our Raptors Cage weekly power rankings! This will be released every Friday from now through the NBA playoffs in June. These have changed a lot in the past few days, with players changing teams in a very eventful free agency and trading period. For now we assume players like Anthony Davis will resign with their current teams if they’re yet to sign a new deal. The final measure of which team gets a higher ranking than another is if they played a seven game series, who we believe would win right now. Let’s get into where our Raptors stand among the other teams in the league.

30. New York Knicks

Do the Knicks do anything well? RJ Barrett was just okay in his first season, and his growth could maybe help them move up a few spots. Mitchell Robinson has also flashed some potential but there’s nothing about the Knicks that makes me believe they could win a series against anybody else in the league. They also struck out on all the top free agents (sound familiar?). There has been rumours of trade interest in Russell Westbrook though, so there could be hope yet for the Knicks to be mediocre instead of terrible.

29. Detroit Pistons

The Pistons have a few good players, but just can’t seem to figure it out. Blake Griffin is constantly injured, Derrick Rose is one of the league’s best comeback stories but isn’t a game-changer, and their biggest bright spot of the season – the emergence of Christian Wood – disappeared quickly as he left as an unrestricted free agent. All in all, the Pistons are a better team than the Knicks, but that’s pretty much it.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder may well be the worst team in the Western Conference this year, but general manager Sam Presti should still be in the mix for executive of the year. After trading Russell Westbrook and Paul George for packages including Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, Chris Paul, and a combined seven first round picks, Presti wasn’t done. Flipping Chris Paul for Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre, and a first round pick (and more), Presti then traded both Rubio and Oubre for first round picks from the Timberwolves and Thunder. All said and done, the Thunder now have 17 first round picks through 2026. The Thunder may not be good now but Sam Presti has ensured they’ll be an absolute powerhouse in the near future.

27. Cleveland Cavaliers

In a conference with no shortage of bad teams, the Cavaliers still found a way to finish in dead last in the East last year. Their frontcourt is proven, with Kevin Love alongside Andre Drummond, and their backcourt has potential, with two very young players in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. If Kevin Porter Jr. continues his growth, look for the Cavaliers to be in the mix for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, but it’s more likely you’ll find them in the lottery.

26. San Antonio Spurs

After a record-tying streak of 22 consecutive playoff appearances ended last year, the Spurs seem to be continuing their downward trend. LaMarcus Aldridge is 35, and too slow for the modern NBA, and DeMar DeRozan can’t shoot threes. The Spurs style of basketball is outdated, and unless Lonnie Walker makes an unprecedented jump in production, expect the Spurs to be near the top of the lottery this year.

25. Chicago Bulls

The Bulls are a young team with good potential. Zach Lavine is an all-star caliber player who can score at will, Coby White had a breakout season last year, the frontcourt is solid with Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter, and Patrick Williams should slot in nicely at small forward. Williams was a great college defender, and if new head coach Billy Donovan can get the Bulls playing good team defense – an area in which they improved last year – the upstart Bulls will be a tough out for any team.

24. Charlotte Hornets

What are the Hornets doing? After fighting injuries the last three years and being the fourth option on the Celtics when healthy, the Hornets gave Gordon Hayward a 4 year contract worth $128 million. Sure it makes the Hornets better, but not nearly good enough to compete for a playoff spot. The combination of Hayward and first overall pick LaMelo Ball should be just enough to prevent the Hornets from getting another top pick in next year’s draft. The biggest positive we could possibly see from the Hornets this year (aside from a great first season from LaMelo) is if we finally get to see Lavar Ball play Micheal Jordan 1 on 1.

23. Minnesota Timberwolves

If the Timberwolves played any semblance of defense, they could be in the mix for the playoffs, but they don’t seem to have an interest in that. Minnesota finished 28th in the league last year in points allowed per game, while finishing 11th in points scored per game. They have a talented young duo in big-man Karl-Anthony Towns and guard D’Angelo Russell, and they’ve added veteran point guard Ricky Rubio and slashing rookie Anthony Edwards to their lineup. Rubio could be a good influence on the young stars, just as he was with Devin Booker in Phoenix, and if he can convince them that playing defense is worthwhile, the Timberwolves could outplay this ranking.

22. Washington Wizards

The Wizards are something of a wild card this year. With the return of John Wall after missing all of last year and more than half of the year before, a lot is going to depend on how well he can play. At only 30 years old, if Wall can return to his all-star caliber level of play and consistently drop 20 points and 10 assists, him and Bradley Beal will form one of the best guard pairs in the NBA. If not, expect Beal to put up a similar effort to last season, when he averaged 30.5 points to go with 6.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds (and somehow wasn’t an all star), and again carry his team to being below average instead of downright terrible.

21. Orlando Magic

The Magic have snagged a bottom seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs in consecutive years, but don’t have the talent to go further than the first round. With a solid frontcourt rotation anchored by Nikola Vucevic, and young forward Jonathan Isaac (who sat out last year’s playoffs with an injury), we can expect to see the Magic in a battle for one of the final playoff spots again this year.

20. Sacramento Kings

The Kings are in NBA purgatory, not good enough to be a playoff team, but too good to have a high pick in the draft. At some point they’ll need to realize that their young core just isn’t enough, and either trade some assets to try and make a playoff push, or hit the reset button and start stockpiling future picks.

19. Memphis Grizzlies

Ja Morant could be special, and the Grizzlies are going to need him to be. After an impressive Rookie of the Year campaign this past season, averaging 17.8 points and 7.3 assists, Morant’s Grizzlies came up just short of a playoff spot while greatly exceeding expectations. The main concern we have for the Grizzlies is that finishing ninth in the Western Conference may be their maximum potential with this current team. The combination of Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Jonas Valanciunas will win them some games, but they need to make some moves if they’re serious about winning.

18. New Orleans Pelicans

A young team with incredible potential, the Pelicans could make a huge jump in these rankings when the season eventually starts up. Zion Williamson looked like a star in the games he played, and Brandon Ingram made his first all-star appearance. The Pelicans had no issues scoring in the bubble when Zion returned, but had serious defensive issues. If players like Zion, Lonzo Ball, and Ingram play to their potential defensively with their superb length and athleticism, this Pelicans team is poised to make a playoff run, and they’ll be around for years to come.

17. Indiana Pacers

Currently we expect the Panthers to hang around the eight-seed in the Eastern Conference, but that could change if they trade (reportedly) disgruntled borderline star Victor Oladipo. Oladipo allegedly asked players from other teams “Can I come play with y’all?” in front of his Pacer teammates last season. If the Pacers trade Oladipo, it’ll be interesting to see if they try and compete, or decide to reset and maybe head towards the lottery.

16. Utah Jazz

After a crushing loss being upset by the Nuggets after leading 3-1 in their series this year, the Jazz were left to do some soul-searching. Their solution? Bring back essentially the exact same team. Donovan Mitchell will continue to be a star, with Gobert grabbing boards and being a defensive stud, but other teams made significant improvements while the Jazz stayed stagnant, and as a result they drop in the rankings.

15. Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard is a superstar in this league, but he doesn’t have the pieces around him to form the Blazers into true contenders. The pairing of Lillard and CJ McCollum makes for one of the most proficient scoring backcourts in the league, but also one of the worst defensively. The Trail Blazers have the potential to be a top 10 team, but it will all depend on their defense. They did move to address this issue, trading for Robert Covington from the Rockets, who proved himself to be a talented and versatile defender in his time there. The Trail Blazers sit in the middle of the league for now, but look for them to move up in these rankings.

14. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks got a lot better this past week. They may have overspent on Bogdan Bogdanovic, but it’s showing that the Hawks are ready to be a playoff team again. Adding Rajon Rondo to the team as a potential mentor to young star Trae Young could prove as important an addition as any they made this offseason, with Trae blossoming into one of the best point guards in the league. With him at the helm, along with Bogdanovic, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, Clint Capela, and Danilo Gallinari, these aren’t the same Hawks as the past few years. This team is ready to show what it can do, and they could surprise some people.

13. Phoenix Suns

The Suns are making moves to be a serious playoff contender. Trading for veteran star point guard Chris Paul to play alongside Devin Booker and a young Deandre Ayton, the Suns team that went 8-0 in the bubble just got a lot better. Adding veteran Jae Crowder to the forward rotation, along with the development of young wings Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, the Suns are close to a lock for this years playoffs. And once you get there, anything can happen (especially when you have Devin Booker).

12. Toronto Raptors

The Raptors didn’t get worse this offseason, but they didn’t get better either. Re-signing Fred VanVleet, and bringing in Aron Baynes and Alex Len to replace Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka leaves the Raptors in much the same spot as last year. Possibly gearing up for a 2021 free agency run at Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Raptors seem to have contented themselves with a good but not great team, and likely another second round playoff exit. The Raptors have two all-stars in Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry, and solid role players surrounding them, but they don’t have a superstar. This could change if Pascal Siakam takes the next step in his development. The Raptors will also need role players like OG Anunoby and Norman Powell step up. If Siakam takes another jump, the Raptors could show themselves as a dark horse contender.

11. Philadelphia 76ers

This almost seems like too high a spot for the 76ers, since they consistently underperform expectations. All the same, this is the pre-season power ranking, so let’s just look at the team on paper for now, and be prepared to drop them a few slots when the season starts. Chemistry between stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons has never been great (mostly due to a lack of shooting), but the 76ers additions this offseason shows they’re committed to increasing floor spacing to try and make this duo work. Bringing in sharpshooters Seth Curry and Danny Green, while simultaneously getting out from under Al Horford’s bad contract, the 76ers could at least be a serious playoff contender if they finally live up to the hype.

10. Golden State Warriors

We had the Warriors in the top four of our rankings when we started to make decisions just last week, but the loss of Klay Thompson hurts bad. Without Thompson to draw attention away from Steph Curry, expect defenses to zero in on Steph and try and force other players to beat them. An MVP caliber effort from Curry may get the Warriors a top 4 seed in the West, but they won’t last long in the playoffs without their second best player.

9. Houston Rockets

Just good enough to get a middle seed in the West and have an early playoff exit. That’s the story of the Houston Rockets. With Russell Westbrook and James Harden, the Rockets are good but not great. They’d be better off to try and unload one (or both) of their star players to start a rebuild, but for now, they’re gonna be the same old Rockets stuck in the no-man’s-land between good and great.

8. Miami Heat

It seems almost disrespectful to have the reigning Eastern Conference champions this low in the rankings, but while other teams are getting better, the Heat decided to run it back. Resigning high-scoring point guard Goran Dragic, and extending Bam Adebayo, the Heat are a very good team, but we don’t think they should be ranked among the league’s elites.

7. Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic and the Mavericks had the highest offensive efficiency in NBA history last year. And Doncic is just about to start his third year. Coming off a season averaging 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists, Doncic is still getting better. With the addition of Josh Richardson from the 76ers, the young Mavericks are ready for a deep playoff run.

6. Boston Celtics

Jayson Tatum got a max contract for a reason. Tatum played like a superstar in the last half of the season, as the focal point of an elite offensive and defensive team. Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, and Tatum are all elite three-level scorers, and Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis helped the team to a top three defensive rating last year. The addition of Tristan Thompson should help make up for the departure of Hayward, and with their two young stars leading the way, the Celtics keep getting better.

5. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets surprise people last year, coming back from down 3-1 against both the Jazz and the Clippers in the playoffs. Jamal Murray played like an all-star, and paired with possibly the best big-man in the game in Jokic, the Nuggets are a force to be reckoned with. If Michael Porter Jr. continues his quick development, the Nuggets could be a dark horse to upset the LA teams.

4. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets may well be too low in this ranking, but they’re coming off serious injuries to their two stars, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. If Durant can get back to form, he’s a top three player on the planet, and with a solid supporting cast that proved they could play well even without their stars in the bubble, the Nets are going to make a run at the finals this year.

3. Milwaukee Bucks

I was starting to doubt the Bucks after back-to-back disappointing playoff losses, first to the Raptors and then to the Heat. Then they went and traded for Jrue Holiday. All of a sudden the Bucks are back to being scary. With the reigning MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo, they were already elite defensively before trading for one of the best perimeter defenders in the league in Holiday. Holiday is also a significant shooting upgrade over Eric Bledsoe, and starting Holiday, Khris Middleton, and Brook Lopez alongside Giannis should provide great spacing for the MVP to drive the lane and dominate inside. Watch out for the Bucks this year.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers may have under performed in the playoffs last season, but that doesn’t drop them in our pre-season power rankings. With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, along with the addition of Serge Ibaka in place of Montrezl Harrell, we should get the Lakers-Clippers Conference Finals this year that we all wanted last year. The odds of Kawhi getting his third Finals MVP with his third team is currently one of the best bets at JackPot City Online Casinos.

1. Los Angeles Lakers

The top spot was the easiest one to decide on. Lebron, AD, and the Lakers are the defending champions. They showed the ability to play elite defense in the finals, and have two of the top five or six players in the league. Adding two sixth man of the year candidates (including winner Montrezl Harrell) made the reigning champs even better than they were last year. That’s scary.

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