Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column – Power Rankings Edition

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It’s October, folks. Halloween is great and everything, but October means the NBA is back in season.

To briefly recap last season, the Milwaukee Bucks took down the Phoenix Suns in the Finals 4-2 to give them their first championship since 1971. With that in the rearview mirror, we start a new chapter in basketball history.

This year is special because it’s the league’s 75th anniversary (the Philadelphia Warriors, now the Golden State Warriors, were the first champions in the 1947 Finals).

The new campaign began on Tuesday, with the Bucks beating the Brooklyn Nets and the Warriors defeating the L.A. Lakers. During the offseason, some teams got better, while others got worse.

The usual “Highlight, Lowlight, and Random Stat” found here at Diehlman at Halftime will resume next week.

But first, I have listed my power rankings predictions, in order from 1-30, for the season. Who will be toward the top, and who will be a bottom feeder?

Note: Predictions were made before Tuesday’s games.

The Elite Teams (1-10)

Nets, Lakers, Bucks, Suns, Golden State Warriors, L.A. Clippers, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, and Chicago Bulls.

Reasoning

The teams at the beginning of the list are pretty self-explanatory.

The Lakers went from a first-round exit to a retirement community. But, having LeBron James on your team usually means a Finals appearance at minimum.

The Chicago Bulls went into blitzkrieg mode to acquire names like Alex Caruso, Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan.

The Philadelphia 76ers also should have no problems being a contender. That is, even with Ben Simmons’ recent disappearing act and with his jump shot still being as real as Bishop Sycamore High School football: a scam.

My one question here regards the Brooklyn Nets. Look, they’re heavy favorites to win the title. However, Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status is something to keep an eye on.

The team’s front office decided he won’t play or practice until he complies with the NBA’s vaccine policy (New York requires vaccinations for indoor entertainment). If Irving plays, they’re the favorites. If not, which is looking more likely, we’ll see.

The “You’re Getting There, But Not Quite” Teams (11-20)

Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets, Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trailblazers.

Reasoning

Ah, yes. Middle child syndrome. You’re not elite, but you’re not falling off a cliff.

Some of these teams, like Atlanta and New York, are in this section because it was really hard to place them over some of the elite teams. Hopefully, they will prove me wrong.

As for the rest of these teams, work needs to be done first.

The Mavericks are basically the one-man Luka Dončić band. The same can be said about Damian Lillard for Portland.

Then, there’s the Indiana Pacers. To put it nicely, teams like the Pacers are stepping stones for the elite teams. They’re just — there. They look good in the regular season before collapsing in the postseason.

Although the middle-of-the-road teams will have a chance to prove themselves, it’ll take some strong efforts.

Code Red. This is Not a Drill. (21-30)

New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards, Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.

Reasoning:

These teams have absolutely no desire to contend right now. From bad rosters to bad front offices, these ten groups are nowhere near where they need to be.

For example, the Washington Wizards traded Russell Westbrook to the Lakers for a case of Red Bull. The Wizards were the eighth seed with Westbrook; it’ll be different without him.

Meanwhile, no matter how many number-one overall picks Minnesota gets, they still find a way to embarrass themselves every year. Maybe the trio of Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns will work in time, but not currently.

Also, Oklahoma City still has at least 15 first-round picks and 15 second-round picks in the near future. No, that isn’t a typo. Will one, or a few, of these teams make a surprise run for a spot in the play-in tournament?

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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