Post-NBA Draft Power Rankings: Timberwolves Rising, Bulls Falling

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The 2017 NBA draft is in the books, and it featured plenty of surprises, starting with the Chicago Bulls opting to trade All-Star Jimmy Butler for a package that certainly wasn’t worth it. While it’s unlikely that many players in the draft are going to immediately skyrocket any team’s stock, there are definitely arguments to be made that plenty of improvements were made.

Let’s take a look at the updated power rankings after the NBA draft, and there were plenty of moves that made teams both rise and fall.

30. Brooklyn Nets

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D’Angelo Russell is leaving Los Angeles for Brooklyn after being traded. (Getty)

While the Nets did add D’Angelo Russell through a trade that sent Brook Lopez packing, that’s certainly not enough to warrant them jumping out of the cellar of the NBA. Very few want to admit this, but losing Lopez could wind up really hurting the Nets on the offensive end, while the addition of his talents to the Lakers will actually be pretty nice. The Nets have potential on their roster, but it’s not there yet.

29. Chicago Bulls

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The Bulls decision to move Butler out of town completely derailed any playoff chances they had next season. While Dwyane Wade will return to town, he’s not at the level where he can dominate games in the way that the Bulls will need anymore. Chicago did get a few young pieces in Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, but that’s the only thing keeping them from being in the last spot on these power rankings.

28. Orlando Magic

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While Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton may be poised to take the next step forward in their careers, and the addition of Jonathan Isaac will benefit down the road, 2017-18 doesn’t look extremely promising. Isaac has major upside, but the Magic still lack an offensive punch and they’ll be hard-pressed to improve on their 29-53 record from last season. Expect them to actually take a step back thanks to a few of the teams below them from last year improving this offseason, even with the strong expected production from Nikola Vucevic.

27. New York Knicks

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The Knicks are in complete and total disarray and it doesn’t seem that things are going to change anytime soon. Phil Jackson seems poised to push Carmelo Anthony out of town sooner than later, but Kristaps Porzingis is unlikely to get traded. As the New York Daily News reports, the Knicks are asking too much for Porzingis currently, so hopefully the team can hold onto him long enough for Jackson to figure out what his plan is. To go along with all that, the Knicks drafted a bit of a project player in French point guard Frank Ntilikina.

26. Sacramento Kings

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Out of any team on this list, the Kings may be poised to prove me wrong. After landing De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Frank Mason III, they were major winners in this draft. Their power ranking for the 2018-19 season could see them a massive amount higher than this. The future seems somewhat bright for the Kings, even after trading away one of the best big men in the NBA in DeMarcus Cousins last season.

25. Phoenix Suns

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The Suns are already an exceptionally loaded young team, but it’s just a matter of those players taking the right steps forward. Add first-round pick Josh Jackson and this team looks like another one who’s on the rise. A healthy Eric Bledsoe will help them out next season also, but they still have to figure out how their front court is going to look. Marquese Chriss showed flashes last season, but can he break out in 2017-18?

24. Dallas Mavericks

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NC State’s Dennis Smith Jr. (Getty)

The Mavericks are coming. It might not happen in 2017-18, but it’ll happen soon because this team has some upside. The addition of Dennis Smith Jr. was a great one and one that’s probably getting overlooked somewhat. Harrison Barnes, Nerlens Noel, Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews and Smith Jr. should make for a solid group and one that the team can build on, assuming Noel does re-sign.

23. Los Angeles Clippers

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The news that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have both opted out of their contracts is what drops the Clippers so far here, obviously. DeAndre Jordan is a great player, but he’s going to take a bit of a hit to his numbers without Paul getting him the ball. Overall, it’s hard to make any type of argument that the Clippers will be anything better than mediocre unless Griffin and/or Paul opt to return to the Clippers this offseason.

22. Los Angeles Lakers

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Yes, the Lakers are ahead of the Clippers based on the information that’s in front of us currently. The Lakers boast a starting lineup that features Lonzo Ball, Brook Lopez, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram and Jordan Clarkson more than likely. There also seems to be a very real chance that they could land Paul George in a trade before the season, and if that winds up being the case then they’ll jump up even higher in these rankings and could wind up legitimately pushing for a playoff spot.

21. Detroit Pistons

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Luke Kennard was a nice addition, as he’ll add outside shooting to the team along with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, assuming he returns to Detroit. This is still a tough team to figure and one that could wind up pushing their way into the playoffs and being a major surprise, or could even wind up being lower than this No. 21 spot. The Pistons are a real wild card here, but Andre Drummond’s season could make a big difference at the end of the day.

20. Atlanta Hawks

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After opting to trade Dwight Howard for pieces in Miles Plumlee and Marco Belinelli, the Hawks certainly took a step back, but was it a step this far back? That depends. ESPN reports that Paul Millsap may also be on his way out, and he’s been part of trade talks in each of the past two seasons. Regardless, the Hawks seem to be pointed toward a rebuild and there’s not much that can change that currently. The Hawks fans are going to hate it, but the upside for their team in 2017-18 doesn’t look promising.

19. Philadelphia 76ers

It’s hard not to be excited about this 76ers roster heading into the 2017-18 season. Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Robert Covington is their expected lineup. If the whole “Trust the Process” mantra finally works out, then this group could wind up being much better than the No. 19 team in the league. Obviously, it’s hard to be too sold on them after previous years, but the potential is certainly there.

18. Indiana Pacers

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If the drama surrounding the Pacers and Paul George hadn’t hit this offseason, then they’d likely be higher on this list. Unfortunately, it seems like a foregone conclusion that George will be traded, and if he’s not then the locker room could wind up being a bit rough this year. After George, Myles Turner looks like a nice piece of the future, and Jeff Teague has upside, but aside from those two, this team looks to be trending in the wrong direction.

17. Miami Heat

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The Heat were a force in the second half of the 2016-17 NBA season but still missed the playoffs. Justise Winslow will be back in the mix, which should very likely help get this team over the hump and into the postseason. Hassan Whiteside is proving to be one of the most dominant big men in the league, and Goran Dragic knows exactly how to play with him and within Erik Spoelstra’s offense. After losing the “Big Three,” it was unknown how long it would take the Heat to rebuild, but they’ve done an excellent job.

16. Denver Nuggets

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Tons of young pieces including Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Emmanuel Mudiay. The pieces are there for the Nuggets to push their way into the postseason and on paper, this looks like what one of the most intriguing teams in the league. Last season was a bit of a letdown as they finished 40-42, but this is a team that should top the .500 mark and possibly push toward 45-50 wins.

15. New Orleans Pelicans

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Is it time to get on board with the DeMarcus Cousins/Anthony Davis pairing? Another big question is what happens with Jrue Holiday, but if he doesn’t opt to return, this could be an appealing free agent destination for may point guards. The Pelicans’ arrow is point upward, especially after going 10-6 in March, the final full month of action last season. The Pelicans should be playoff-bound next season barring their dynamic duo not working out as planned.

14. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks were a surprise playoff team last season and made their push without rising star Jabari Parker. Getting Parker back in the mix with All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Greg Monroe and second-year surprise Malcolm Brogdon, makes this a dangerous group. The Bucks could wind up being a team who not only makes the playoffs but winds up winning a series as well.

13. Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets have nailed the early parts of the 2017 offseason. Trading for Dwight Howard (and what they gave up) was an excellent move. They now pair Howard with All-Star point guard Kemba Walker and a group that is one year removed from the playoffs. The Hornets not only will return to the playoffs, but they could do damage as well. The fact that Kentucky’s Malik Monk fell to them in the draft was nothing short of a gift, as he should instantly step in and give them the sharpshooting and playmaking that they’ve been missing.

12. Portland Trail Blazers

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The Trail Blazers are doing the right things to build a contender. Their pairing of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum makes one of the most dynamic and electrifying backcourts in the NBA. Also, the decision to trade for Jusuf Nurkic was a great move and seeing him get injured before the playoffs was a shame. I’m also a fan of the addition of Caleb Swanigan in the draft, as he’s an underrated scorer and excellent rebounder who could contribute earlier than many think.

11. Toronto Raptors

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Assuming Kyle Lowry doesn’t leave, the Raptors should wind up right around this spot to start the season. Obviously, things could change, but the backcourt pairing of Lowry and DeMar DeRozan is still one of the most dangerous in the league. Regardless, the Raptors probably have seen their ceiling and unless they do make a move, they won’t get much higher than the No. 11 spot on this list.

10. Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook single-handedly makes this team a top-10 group. He carried the Thunder throughout last season and nothing is going to change that next season. Obviously, if the Thunder want to get over the hump and make a playoff run, they’ll need to get a better supporting cast for Westbrook. Enes Kanter, Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo and Andre Roberson aren’t bad, but they aren’t good enough to carry the heavy lifting next to Westbrook.

9. Memphis Grizzlies

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The Grizzlies are just a veteran team who knows how to win games, with a really good, young head coach in David Fizdale. Betting against them is almost always a bad idea, and they have one of the most underrated players in the NBA in Mike Conley. Finally, let’s not forget that Memphis could be getting back a (hopefully) healthy Chandler Parsons to add to the mix. The Grizzlies don’t have the type of roster that’s going to win a championship right now, but they do have a core group that can do playoff damage. They could be somewhat active during free agency.

8. Utah Jazz

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The Jazz will certainly fall if Gordon Hayward leaves town, but this group with Rudy Gobert leading the charge is on the fringe of being great. They play strong defense and Derrick Favors should be healthy next season, which will also help. Their addition of Nigel Williams-Goss in the second round of the draft could prove to be a steal, while Donovan Mitchell could make an early impact also. This all comes down to whether Hayward returns or not, though.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves

If you don’t like what the Timberwolves just pulled off, then you aren’t a fan of seeing elite competition at the top of the NBA. Minnesota pulling off their trade to land Jimmy Butler is going to make the biggest difference for any team this season. A starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng is by far one of the top in the league. If the bench can produce enough to help out that lineup, the Timberwolves could make a deep playoff run.

6. Washington Wizards

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With John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat making a solid starting lineup with superstar upside, the Wizards need to find some additional bench production. It may come during free agency, and if it does they could push higher up on this list. The production just can’t dip too drastically when Wall and Beal come off the court, and if they can find a way to add one more weapon to their roster then they may push the Celtics for the title of the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.

5. Boston Celtics

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Not holding the No. 1 pick and taking Markelle Fultz is a scary move. He has the potential to be a superstar, but I do believe Boston made the right move by taking Jayson Tatum with the No. 3 pick. Tatum is one of only other players in the draft who could push Fultz as the best rookie in the long run of things. He may not step in and completely dominate, but that’s also not what the Celtics need currently. If Boston can get an upgrade in terms of power forward production this season, they might give the Cavaliers a bigger push.

4. Houston Rockets

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The Rockets are probably one piece away from being the team who could knock off the Warriors at the top of the Western Conference. With Blake Griffin opting out of his contract with the Clippers, if the Rockets could move Ryan Anderson’s contract and sign Griffin, they could be by far the most dangerous team out there. Love the Rockets upside and obviously, having James Harden on the roster, Houston should continue to trend upward.

3. San Antonio Spurs

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No reason to start sleeping on the Spurs and Gregg Popovich now. The Spurs finished 61-21 last season and have one of the best two-way players in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard. Most are going to overlook their addition of Derrick White from Colorado in the draft, but San Antonio may have just gotten another late first-round draft pick it seems.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

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No one knows what the future holds for the Cavaliers, as there are rumors that LeBron James could leave town after the 2017-18 season and also that Kyrie Irving may push for a trade. James was not happy after the team parted ways with David Griffin, and made it known on social media. It sounds like trouble could be brewing down the line for the Cavaliers, but at least for the time being, the reigning Eastern Conference champions are still the team to beat in that conference.

1. Golden State Warriors

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Was there any question? Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are all still together and happy. Yes, Durant is planning to opt out of his contract with the Warriors, but as ESPN reported, he’s going to re-sign with the team. There’s no reason why he wouldn’t follow through with that, and the Warriors once again will enter next season as the team to beat. Realistically, the Warriors will probably remain in the top two or three spots in the power rankings throughout all of next season.

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