Saturday , Sep , 20 , 2003 C.Y. Ellis

Off-Season Rankings

A look at how all 29 NBA teams stack up going into the new season. Included in each teams diagnosis is their 2002-03 win-loss record as well as their key player additions and losses and how those players were acquired and where they went off too.

1– San Antonio Spurs (60-22) The reigning NBA champs did not make as many moves as it’s competitors, but they did enough to stay ahead of the field, and until someone else wins the Spurs are still the champions.

Key Addition- Hedo Turkoglu (trade) Loss- David Robinson (retired)

Off-Season Rankings
2– Sacramento Kings (59-23) The Kings have long been labeled as soft, though that may not affect their play on the court until this team can get past all their injuries, and the Lakers, their talent will only carry them so far.


Key Addition- Brad Miller (trade)
        Loss- Hedo Turkoglu (Spurs)


3– Dallas Mavericks (60-22) Dallas blew a golden opportunity last year to reach the Finals by getting dominated by Tim Duncan and scorched by the Spurs 3-point shooters. The problem for the Mavs has and will continue to be their lack of aggressive defensive pressure.


Key Addition- Antwan Jamison (trade)
        Loss- Nick Van Exel (Warriors)


4– Los Angeles Lakers (50-32) Busy off-season both roster wise and news wise. Kobe’s impending legal struggle, has over shadowed two of the biggest free-agent acquisitions in Gary Payton, and Karl Malone. Payton is a big up-grade over Derek Fisher, as well Malone over Samaki Walker, but as always a key will be to see how these four very strong and unique personalities can mesh together (look at Portland).


Key Addition- Gary Payton  (free agent)
        Loss- Robert Horry  (Spurs)


5– Minnesota Timberwolves (51-31) Possibly the busiest team this off-season the T’Wolves added three new starters in Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassell, and Michael Olowokandi. The biggest factor will be Sprewell to see if he can not only be a veteran leader but also help take the pressure off of Kevin Garnett.


Key Addition- Latrell Sprewell (trade)
        Loss- Rasho Nesterovic (Spurs)


6– Indiana Pacers (48-34) Right here is the only team in the East that can hang with the Western big boys. Indiana has it all, inside game (O’Neal), defense (Artest), shooters (Miller), and one of the deepest benches in the game (A.Johnson, Bender, Harrington). The key for them is if/when Rick Carlisle is hired he can get the Pacers to come together as a team and play better defense, and get Ron Artest and Jermaine O’Neal to buy into his game plan.


Key Addition- Scot Pollard (trade)
        Loss- Brad Miller (kings)


7– Philadelphia 76ers (48-34) With Glenn Robinson now aboard to help out Allen Iverson, Philly biggest concern will be how new coach Randy Ayers handles the NBA spotlight. A former head coach at Ohio State, Ayers will soon find out that Columbus is  a long way from the NBA. Without a serious low-post scorer the 76ers will be very dependant upon the outside exploits of Iverson, Robinson, Aaron Mckie, and Eric Snow.


Key Addition- Glenn Robinson
        Loss- None


8– Phoenix Suns (44-38) With the continued emergence of Amare Stoudamire and the firepower in the two superstars, Marbury and Marion, Phoenix is set to be one of the real rising teams out West. Penny Hardaway and the two Jakes’ (Tsakalidis,Voskuhl) down low will have to contribute more to turn Phoenix into a title contender.


Key Addition- Zarko Cabarkapa (draft)
        Loss- None


9– Houston Rockets (43-39) With Ming and Francis getting another year to play together this team is not only going to be fun to watch but will be right there in the playoff hunt. Though not ready to contend quite yet, the Rockets do have a very good team but a lack of depth and size may hurt them in the end.


Key Addition- Jeff Van Gundy (coach)
        Loss- None


10– New Jersey Nets (49-33) The defending Eastern champs just aren’t that impressive. The West certainty has not been impressed in beating them both times the last two seasons. The problem remains the same for the Nets, if their not getting turnovers and out on a fast break this team just cannot shoot the ball well enough in a half court set to beat many teams. Nets fans are hoping Alonzo Mourning can help them out there but this is not the Zo of old due to age and a unfortunate illness.


Key Addition- Alonzo Mourning (free agent)
        Loss- Anthony Johnson (Pacers)


11– Detroit Pistons (50-32) You replace your coach who had won 50 games in back-to-back seasons then you draft a rookie 18-year old from Europe and put the hope of your offensive game on his shoulders?? Not exactly the key to remaining the champs of the Central division. Joe Dumars has made some great moves as Piston’s head of operations, but firing Carlisle for Larry Brown who’s never been able to win it all, just doesn’t make much sense to me.


Key Addition- Darko Milicic (draft)
        Loss- Rick Carlisle (coach)


12– Seattle Supersonics (40-42) Here’s a team one good center away from being one of the best teams in the NBA. With Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, and up-and-coming Euro talent Vlad Radmanovic the Sonics have one of the better young core of players. Unfortunately Calvin Booth, Jerome James, and Vitaly Potapenko are not exactly gonna carry your interior game. Sonics also two of the more interesting players in the draft in former college standouts Luke Ridnour (Oregon), and Nick Collison (Kansas).


Key Addition- Luke Ridnour (draft)
        Loss- None


13– Boston Celtics (44-38) Celtic pride rest squarely on the shoulders of superstars Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker. But without a point guard, or low-post scorer the Celtics have not been able to regain their former glory. With Vin Bakers’ personal problems, and the barrage of three-pointers going up Boston has nobody to take any pressure off the shooters to get better looks.


Key Addition- Jumaine Jones (trade)
        Loss- None


14– Orlando Magic (42-40) One man does not a team make. For all the talent and scoring of Tracy McGrady, the Magic have yet too find the perfect player or depth to help out T-Mac. Drew Gooden might grow into that role as he showed much promise coming over from Memphis, and new draftee Reece Gaines should get a long look at the point guard spot.


Key Addition- Juwan Howard (free agent)
        Loss- Darrell Armstrong (Hornets)


15– Portland Trailblazers (50-32) Gotta give this team allot of credit for showing so much heart in tying up that playoff series against Dallas. As though the Trailblazers seem to always they do they came up just short. This team has so many distractions that have nothing to do with basketball I’m surprised they always get into the playoffs. But this year with Stoudamire having huge legal trouble and Sabonis retired again, the Blazers will really need to lean on Mo Cheeks, one of the better coaches, to get them though this season.


Key Addition- none
        Loss- Scottie Pippen (Bulls)


16– New Orleans Hornets (47-35) In the weak East the Hornets are almost guaranteed a playoff spot, but beyond that don’t count on it. After everybody watch Baron Davis bury T-Mac and the Magic two seasons ago, Davis missed almost all this past season with injuries. Other then Jamal Mashburn’s big numbers this team has trouble putting the ball in the hoop. The one thing they do have in their favor is a deep bench and some size up front. Also hiring Tim Floyd to be their coach is absolutely ludicrous.


Key Addition- Darrel Armstrong (free agent)
        Loss- none


17– Washington Wizards (37-45) Gilbert Arenas already has them in the playoffs, I can buy that. If Jerry Stackhouse brings his game every night and the big guys (Haywood, White, Laettner, and Brown) do enough to help and don’t blow to many  games. With MJ gone the attendance may drop but the younger guys may also feel less pressure to be perfect all the time allowing them to mature as normal. Also dumping Doug Collins was a good decision.


Key Addition- Gilbert Arenas (free agent)
        Loss- Michael Jordan (retired…for now…again)


18– Milwaukee Bucks (42-40) George Karl is out Terry Porter is in. Either way the talent level on this team has defiantly dropped off. Tim Thomas is really the only offensive player still standing, as Ray Allen was dropped last year, and now Payton and Cassell are both gone this off-season. Desmond Mason, Michael Redd, and rookie TJ Ford will have to help Thomas turn the Bucks into a up-tempo fast pace team looking to use their athleticism rather then size or spot-up shooting.


Key Addition- TJ Ford (draft)
        Loss- Gary Payton (Lakers)

19– Golden State Warriors (38-44) The record may be below .500 but for Golden State that was a really good year, which tells you something about where this franchise has been. The emergence of Arenas, and Troy Murphy really helped this team out, but the Warriors have had a very bad off-season. First they trade their best player (Jamison) to Dallas, for Nick Van Exel even though they just signed a point guard (Speedy Claxton) to replace the departed Arenas. Now talk is that they wanna turn and trade Van Exel to the Knicks, is some sort of swap involving Charlie Ward, I don’t know about you but I’m scratching my head over these moves.


Key Addition- Speedy Claxton (free agent)
        Loss- Gilbert Arenas (Wizards)


20– New York Knicks (37-45) No team has more riding on a injured player returning to form then the Knicks with Antonio McDyess. McDyess is a big time forward and would be a rare commodity in the guard driven East. But will his injuries and the time it took to come back only time will tell if McDyess is able to come back full strength or whether the Knicks have another Marcus Camby. Allan Houston will be more comfortable by himself in the 2-guard spot with Sprewell gone, and Keith Van Horn will miss the days of only being booed in the arena, in New York they’ll boo ya in the media, at home, in the streets, everywhere.


Key Addition- Keith Van Horn (trade)
        Loss- Latrell Sprewell (trade)


21– Toronto Raptors (24-58) The Raptors a couple seasons removed from their playoff run, have allot of questions to be answered, the top one being can Vince Carter stay healthy for a whole year? The draft produced Chris Boch who seems like a good fit in Toronto, a big guy who can score down low but also can step outside and knock down some shots. The other key is Antonio Davis and his return from injuries, if the Raptors can get and stay healthy, find a consistent offence then they can easily find themselves in the playoffs again. Hiring Kevin O’ Neal to be their coach may have been a mistake, wait and see.


Key Addition- Chris Boch (draft)
        Loss- Lenny Wilkins (coach)


22– Memphis Grizzlies (28-54) A quick glance at the Grizz roster and you have to ask why are they so bad. Jason Williams, Lorenzen Wright, Pau Gasol,Mike Miller, these are all good players. No superstars among the bunch but easily enough talent that they should be able to come up with more then 28 wins this up-coming season. Coach Brooks had them playing better after he took over but still were a very futile team. The key will be playing time and who gets it, the glaring weakness is at 2-guard where neither Wes Person or Michael Dickerson have shown allot to warrant starting.


Key Addition- None
        Loss- None


23– Miami Heat (25-57) This team has a abundance of quality players that all play the same spot. Caron Butler, rookie Dwayne Wade, Eddie Jones, and new comer Lamar Odom, are all in that small forward/big guard mold. Riley says he’s gonna give Wade time at the point guard which he may have to considering the only other PG on the team is Rafer Alston. With little depth and no size expect Miami to improve from last year but they are still a ways off from playoff contention.


Key Addition- Dwayne Wade (draft)
        Loss- none


24– Chicago Bulls (30-52) The Baby Bulls showed some growth last year being a very good team at home (27-14) but that also means as many young teams do, they stunk on the road (3-38).  Bill Cartwright though has them headed in the right direction, Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler both showed that they can play at the NBA level, have to wait and see if it carries over into this next season. The loss of Jay Williams will hurt, even if Kirk Hinrich and Jamal Crawford are successful, getting Scottie Pippen back was a wise move for leadership and he can handle the ball. The log jam is at small forward, Donyell Marshall, Eddie Robinson, Pippen, and Marcus Fizer all will get time, but Fizer will finally get traded soon, leaving Marshall and Pippen to get most of the run.


Key Addition- Scottie Pippen (free agent)
        Loss- Jay Williams (injury)


25– Denver Nuggets (17-65) Sure they had the worst record last year, but add one of the most exciting players to out of the draft in a long time (Carmelo Anthony), a proven point guard (Andre Miller), and pray for a healthy Marcus Camby and Denver looks like a actual basketball team. Adding Jon Barry was also a nice move giving them a veteran shooter. All this makes the Nuggets better but not playoff ready in the very tough West, but at leas they got some hope in the Rockies.


Key Addition- Carmelo Anthony (draft)
        Loss- Juwan Howard (Magic)


26– Cleveland Cavaliers (17-65) All about Lebron now for the Cavs. They have some talent, in Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Ricky Davis, Darius Miles, but they have no point guard or depth and their future hangs on the shoulders of a high schooler. Their draft pick from last year, Dajuan Wagner, is another shooter who wants the ball, unfortunately for the Cavs theres only one basketball in play at a time. Paul Silas was a good choice to coach this team but picking Jason Kapono, in the 2nd round when Luke Walton was sitting there makes little sense.


Key Addition- Lebron James (draft)
        Loss- none


27– Utah Jazz (47-35) Don’t let that record fool you, this teams been gutted. No more Stockton-to-Malone will drive this team quickly into “rebuilding”. Matt Harpring who thrived in Jerry Sloan’s system is the best guy left, along with Euro star Andrei Kirilenko. The possible signing of Jason Terry have help some but this team still has so many holes I don’t know even if they still had Stockton and Malone it would make a difference.


Key Addition- Keon Clark (trade)
        Loss- John Stockton (retired)


28– Los Angeles Clippers (27-55) Speaking of rebuilding the Clipps have been rebuilding since they became a team. Last year was a disaster so gone are Olowokandi, Miller, and Odom, the only one who got to stick around was Elton Brand. Pit him with Quentin Richardson and that’s two quality guys but after that is a crap shoot among, rookie Chris Kaman, Keyon Dooling, Chris Wilcox, Melvin Ely, and Marko Jaric. If a couple guys step up then the Clippers MAY improve on last year but .500 would be astounding for this team.


Key Addition- Chris Kaman (draft)
        Loss- Andre Miller (Nuggets)


29– Atlanta Hawks (35-47) Hawks guaranteed playoffs last year and then had to fork over cash to their season ticket holders when the fell flat. This year the Hawks are keeping their mouths closed but one glance at their roster and you will see why. Other then Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff there are no players that stand out on this team. Unless they plan on starting Chris Crawford at small forward this team better find some players and fast. Maybe if the Braves and Falcons can continue their success the Hawks can fly under the radar and avoid to much scrutiny, looking at their attendance numbers at least they won’t embarrass themselves in front of too many people.


Key Addition- none
        Loss- Glenn Robinson (trade)