The NBA is back! Which means we’re allowed to judge basketball players on whether we think they’re good or not.
As we sit on our couches and allow ourselves to get distracted, we will hopefully find a way to come together.
Sports have a funny way of bringing people together. We’ll argue and debate about things that are all opinion based and basically don’t mean anything.
And honestly, that’s the best part. So let’s start judging.
With 22 teams making the bubble, we know they can’t all be winners. In fact, if this was the “regular” regular season, we would have probably written off half of these teams anyway.
So let’s rank them!
22. Washington Wizards
There is no Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans, and of course John Wall. Why is this team here?
No disrespect Ish Smith and Thomas Bryant, but I’ll just say Good Luck. Hope you guys have fun!
21. Phoenix Suns
They’re 6 games back with only 8 games to play. They need 4 teams ahead of them to end up with a worse winning percentage than them. And they’d have to to be within 4 games of the 8 seed. And then they’d have to beat that 8 seed twice to get into the playoffs just to play the Lakers.
But at least there’s a chance...
20. Brooklyn Nets
This team could’ve had a chance to get to the Finals had they been healthy. Fully healthy. We all knew that next season was going to be their real chance.
But they still have Caris LeVert who now has some dope braids, and they signed the timeless Jamal Crawford. So at least we’ll have something to watch.
19. San Antonio Spurs
LaMarcus Aldridge is not in the bubble because of the shoulder surgery he went through recently. So it’ll be on the rest of the young roster to step up in his place.
It’ll definitely be interesting to see how much guys like Dejounte Murray, Drew Eubanks, Bryn Forbes, Jakob Poetl, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker IV have worked on their game. This will be a good chance for them to get ready for next season.
18. Sacramento Kings
They are healthy. They have youth. They are ready. However, they still have Luke Walton.
I have no doubt that the trio of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Bogdan Bogdanovic will be ready to prove their worth. They have some talent sprinkled throughout the roster that could make them the surprise team to make a run at the play-in tournament.
As long as they can stay healthy and don’t leave the bubble *cough Richaun Holmes cough* they should be fun to watch.
17. Orlando Magic
Watching their highlights from the season, they actually had a very productive year. This team is now going to be in the playoffs for the second year in a row, which is no small feat for a very young team in a small market.
But now they have the chance to play at home, sorta. The development of Markelle Fultz has been very up and down, but the highs have been incredible. It’ll be interesting to see if the absence of fans helps him with his nervousness.
They’ll be in the playoffs barring some miracle with the Wizards or Nets.
16. Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant is the rookie of the year, let’s end that discussion right now. He has brought life back to the franchise and has given them a chance to make the playoffs in his first season.
They we’re hoping to have Justice Winslow help out their young core, but an injury in bubble practice will prevent that from happening. This team has a bright future, but I could easily see a couple scenarios where they drop out of that 8 seed and lose it in a play-in tournament.
15. Utah Jazz
This one may come as a surprise as we have them ranked lower than two teams who are currently not in the playoff standings. However, there are way too many outlying factors that have made us lose complete faith in this team for this season.
The relationship between Rudy Gobert and his teammates may forever be tarnished for selfishness when making fun of a virus that ultimately caused the season to be suspended. It would have happened either way, but it was the way he acted that caused distain in the locker room.
But more importantly, they lost Bojan Bogdanovic for the season due to his wrist surgery. If you look at every big shot they needed this season, he was the one hitting them. He was the second leading scorer on the team with 45% shooting from the field and 41% from three. They’re not replacing that.
14. New Orleans Pelicans
JJ Redick has never missed the playoffs in his 13 year career, and that is in serious jeopardy this year. But their depth of young talent, mixed with their veterans in JJ, Jrue Holiday and Derrick Favors gives them a chance to make a run at the play-in tournament.
Brandon Ingram showed the basketball world multiple times this season that he could be very close to a major breakthrough. He made his first All-Star appearance has given him the confidence he needs to become a legitimate superstar.
Oh yeah, and they have Zion Williamson. So that’ll be fun I guess.
13. Portland Trail Blazers
No team has benefited more from the lay-off than them. They are currently in the 9 seed and are within range to play in the play-in tournament. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not betting against Damian Lillard in a 2-game series against a team like the Memphis Grizzlies.
They now have a mostly healthy squad, outside of Rodney Hood. Carmelo Anthony changed his diet and looks in great shape. Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic are both back from injuries and seem to be fully healthy.
The return of those guys, mixed with the fact that they just made the Western Conference Finals last year makes it hard to get against them. I believe we will be seeing this team in the 8 seed when the playoffs come.
12. Indiana Pacers
They made a lot of great moves in the offseason that have shown that Nate McMillan’s system works. TJ McConnell, TJ Warren, Jeremy Lamb, and Malcolm Brogdon have come in and made a huge impact. Especially in the absence of Victor Oladipo.
Damontas Sabonis made his first All-Star appearance, and has been the steady force they’ve needed to keep themselves in the mix among the top teams in the East.
With or without Oladipo, it seems like this team is still just one move away from taking that leap into the elite teams. But they’re definitely close.
11. Dallas Mavericks
They have produced one of the most efficient offenses the game has ever seen. Scoring 116 points per game is good enough for third in the league.
Thanks to the versatility of Luka Dončić, and the shooting ability of Kristaps Porzingis, opposing teams have had a hard time defending them. They are third in the league in turnovers per game and fourth in rebounds per game.
So all of those extra possessions are giving them the opportunity to get more buckets than their opponents. This team could really shock someone in the first round.
10. Miami Heat
This team is very dangerous, which is why they’ve cracked our top ten for the bubble. Jimmy Butler has this team playing at a high level every night. They don’t take any nights off.
Bam Adebayo is likely going to win Most Improved Player, as he made his first ever All-Star appearance. The youth of Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro will give them a competitive edge because you would think these guys would be primed to play at a high level after this layoff.
The moves to get Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder we’re pushed as adding experience, but they may have just traded for the names. They could end up anywhere from getting bounced in round one to making it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
9. Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic should be seriously considered for first team All-NBA. No center in the NBA can do what he does with his passing ability. He controls the offense from anywhere on the court.
They had a chance last year to make the Western Conference Finals and just got outplayed in a super competitive 7-game series against the Blazers. They’ll need Jamal Murray to make a leap, and quickly.
They have incredible depth, but that depth is very young. We may still be one year away from their big break.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder
How about that Chris Paul, huh? People really wanted to write him off, but this season has been quite the opposite. Playing with this new group has revitalized him and has had him playing just as great as we’ve ever seen.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander does not play like a 22-year old guard. The kid was the youngest player ever to record a game with 20 points and 20 rebounds.
This group has proven night in and night out that they are one of the best teams in the league. They can play at a high level at both ends of the floor. If we see them play the Clippers or Rockets in the playoffs, be ready for some major revenge games from Chris Paul.
7. Boston Celtics
This team should be higher, but the lingering injury to Kemba Walker should not be taken lightly. It’s one of the major reasons why the Hornets traded him away.
The play from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown has given the Celtics a chance at jumping all the way up to the 2 seed in the East. They both played at an All-Star level, and can give anyone buckets in isolation.
But their lack of size may be their downfall once the game slows down in the playoffs. If they get a rough draw in round one like the Heat or the Sixers, making the Eastern Conference Finals will be a tough task.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
This team had extremely high expectations in the offseason. The dream of them just being bigger than every other team and using that to dominate hadn’t exactly worked out great throughout the regular season. But they were never really fully healthy.
The lay-off has given them the chance to get healthy, and they currently have no injury concerns. They have moved Al Horford to the bench, and have taken some of the pressure off of Ben Simmons to create every play.
If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, this team can make the NBA Finals. But their lack of three-point shooting will continue to be a glaringly obvious flaw.
5. Toronto Raptors
This team overcame every expectation of them. Just about everyone assumed that losing Kawhi Leonard would be a death blow. We thought they’d still make the playoffs, but as a 6 or 7 seed.
Yet here they are, currently in the 2 seed and looking to build off of last seasons championship run. This franchise has found a way to get the best out of their talent for years, and Nick Nurse is in the running for Coach of the Year.
The bubble environment will hurt them in terms of not getting that incredible home court advantage that they would’ve had. It’s vital for them to get that 2 seed so they can create themselves a path to the Eastern Conference Finals once again.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
Fourth?! Are you kidding me?! Listen, everything is up in the air right now. None of this is normal. So in this bubble environment, I have them behind what I see as the top three teams in the league. Which all happen to be Western Conference teams.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be the MVP once again. With Kawhi and Lebron both gone, he may finally lead his team to the Finals. They should be the best team in the East, but they still need to prove it.
We see them as the favorites in the East, but in a 7-game series we still see them losing to these next three teams.
3. Houston Rockets
They didn’t quite have the season they thought they were going to have. But that’s what led them to making a major move and doubling down on their style of play. Play fast and shoot threes.
Playing with James Harden has unlocked a different kind of Russel Westbrook. An efficient Westbrook, something we’ve basically never seen. He has played the de facto “center” for their team, and he has flourished.
James Harden has shown time and again that his offensive game is nearly unstoppable, but the playoffs have not been so kind to him. But to be fair, he went up against a pretty unstoppable team in the Warriors a lot. With them gone, we could see a major run from his team.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
How is Lebron James still playing at an MVP level in his 17th season? He leads the league in assists per game with 10.6. That’s just ridiculous.
His ability to stay healthy this season has given them the 1 seed and cleared a way for them to make a deep playoff run, and maybe even another title for the King.
The addition of Anthony Davis has made them one of the best defensive teams in the league. The late addition of guys like JR Smith and Dion Waiters may give time the stand still shooters they’ve been needing to create more versatility on the offensive end.
And while they are one of the favorites to win the title, we are giving a slight edge to the other LA team.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
I have said since before the season started that it is really hard for me to see a situation where Kawhi Leonard is getting beaten in a 7-game series against anyone. What he did last season was one of the greatest runs we have ever seen in postseason history.
He took everything over. And made it look kinda easy. Including one of the greatest game winners we have ever seen.
This Clippers team has not had much time together, as they have battled minor injuries to just about everyone on the team. But they’ve also all used a lot of “Rest days” in preparation for a deep playoff run. Four months of rest should seemingly be enough to make sure they’ll all good now.
The Warriors once had a “Death Lineup” and the Clippers have the chance to have their own with Kawhi, Paul George, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly, and Montrezl Harrel.
But at the end of the day, this come down to Kawhi and Kawhi alone. If anyone can convince me that there is evidence that shows that this guy can’t get it done in a playoff series, then I’ll listen. But until then, I’ll keep picking him to deliver.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.