When I wrote My If-The-Playoffs-Were-Now Rankings I realized I also talked a lot about where I thought teams would end up, so I figured maybe I should make that list. It’s fun to debate how hard teams will come out of the gate, but isn’t it more important to think about how they will fare by the end of the season?
First off, lemme clarify that these end of the season rankings are called power rankings because it’s not what teams’ end-of-the-season records will be but rather how strong they will be going into the playoffs. Meaning like last year both San Antonio and Portland had better records than Dallas and Houston, yet were beaten by those teams respectively, so clearly the teams with the worse records were more powerful at that point.
Second, the underlying and highly unlikely assumption at work here is that there will be no big trades, no big injuries, and that everyone who says they’re now healthy actually are healthy (ie. KG, Baron Davis, Gilbert Arenas, etc.). That’s not to say that say I’m assuming Elton Brand will turn into the stud he was with the Clippers, but I am assuming he can play all season and will consistently be say 70% of the player he once was…
Third, in this ranking I split the teams into conferences ‘cuz without the teams playing against each other it’s hard to truly compare them. If you asked a 100 people to rank how strong last year’s eight Eastern teams were in the playoffs, you’d likely get very similar answers, if not pretty much exactly the same (maybe 1.Magic, 2.Cavs, 3.Celts, 4.Hawks, 5.Bulls, 6.Heat, 7.Sixers, 8.Pistons). And probably the same’d be true if asked about the West (1.Lakers, 2.Nuggets, 3.Houston, 4.Mavs, 5.Trailblazers, 6.Spurs, 7.Hornets, 8.Jazz). Actually, the only spot that seems debatable in both rankings is maybe the Spurs & Hornets in the West. However, if you asked people to rank all 16 teams, it’d be all over the place. Like even in hindsight do we know say whether an Eastern team that made it to the second round, like the Hawks, would’ve even beaten a first round West loser like the Hornets? Or how would the Mavs have done against the Celts? I got no clue.
Fourth, that being said, I also think it’s hard to even compare teams in the same conference that didn’t make it to the playoffs. At the end of last year, how would you rank the Bobcats, Pacers, Raptors, Knicks & Bucks? Without seeing them play a 4-7 game series where each game matters, it’s hard to measure. As a result I feel much more confidence in my top 8 picks for next year than I do the ones below. Particularly in the east where I think #8-13 could all be easily rearranged. I think the difference between the best and worst team in that grouping will literally only be separated by maybe three or four games (kinda like they were last year).
Fifth, there are no comments alongside the teams in this ranking ‘cuz basically in the other ranking I explained why I thought certain teams would improve or downhill as the season went on.
Sixth… Okay, okay, without any more ado, here we go: