Todd Kirkland/Associated Press
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-63)
This isn’t an indictment of Cleveland’s future. The Collin Sexton/Darius Garland fit may be funky at first, but having multiple playmakers should be a plus down the line.
This squad just isn’t ready to win a ton of meaningful games. And there isn’t a single surefire future star on the roster.
A midseason Kevin Love trade would further hurt the Cavaliers’ chances to win games in the short term.
29. New York Knicks (20-62)
New York added a bunch of useful veterans. But the fit is weird for plenty of them, especially the plethora of power forwards they signed: Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis and Marcus Morris.
That log jam, and the fact they all signed tradable deals, suggests the Knicks could easily blow things up and tank for better draft odds at some point this year.
As for the rest of the roster, Mitchell Robinson has tons of potential as a rim-rolling, shot-blocking menace. RJ Barrett evokes images of Harrison Barnes, but his significantly better playmaking numbers in college are encouraging.
The rest of the youngsters feel like question marks.
28. Charlotte Hornets (22-60)
Charlotte had one of the most bizarre offseasons in the league. Losing Kemba Walker for nothing is one thing. Replacing him with Terry Rozier for three years and nearly $60 million is another.
Rozier is now the 45th-highest-paid player in the league. Over the course of his career, he ranks 209th in box plus/minus, 279th in points per game and 442nd in true shooting percentage among 486 players with at least 1,000 minutes.
Now, Rozier is tasked with leading a team Walker couldn’t even get to the playoffs in any of the last three years. The two will face off early in the season.
“After eight seasons and three All-Star games with the Hornets, new Celtics star Kemba Walker will make first return to Charlotte on Nov. 7,” Charania reported.
27. Memphis Grizzlies (28-54)
There’s a very intriguing young core here. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke are loaded with potential. Kyle Anderson and Jonas Valanciunas are young(ish) and perhaps underrated.
And this year’s No. 2 pick could be the one in the group to “kick it up a notch.”
“The first NCAA player since 1995 to average at least 10 assists for a season, Ja Morant figures to top out as one of the league’s premier playmakers,” Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman wrote. “A mix of nifty ball-handling, blow-by speed and elite passing skill points to his assist work quickly translating.”
They may not be ready to contend for a playoff spot this year, but a season or two of, well, seasoning could have them there soon.
26. Phoenix Suns (29-53)
Phoenix underwent a pretty dramatic overhaul. Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric, Aron Baynes and more are in. Dragan Bender, Jamal Crawford, Troy Daniels, Richaun Holmes, Josh Jackson, De’Anthony Melton and TJ Warren are out.
In terms of wins above replacement added, they actually came out ahead, according to FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection system. But this is another team that still feels a few years away unless Devin Booker somehow makes the leap into mega-stardom.
25. Washington Wizards (30-52)
With John Wall hurt and Otto Porter Jr. gone, Bradley Beal could put up some remarkable numbers to start the 2019-20 season. But don’t be surprised to see some minutes in which he looks like he’s taking on the world. His supporting cast does little to inspire right now.
24. Atlanta Hawks (33-49)
Another up-and-comer, the Hawks’ young core of John Collins, Trae Young and Kevin Huerter could lead this team close to a .500 ceiling. Conventional wisdom suggests they still need some time, though.
23. Chicago Bulls (36-46)
A starting group of Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Thaddeus Young (or Wendell Carter Jr.) and Lauri Markkanen is certainly intriguing, but this is another squad that is probably a season or two away.
Seeing a trend with this portion of the rankings?
22. Detroit Pistons (38-44)
Just in time to break that trend, we have Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons, a team that feels like it was treading water this offseason.
That’s fine. Detroit was plus-6.8 points per 100 possessions (88th percentile) when Griffin, Drummond and Reggie Jackson shared the floor, according to Cleaning the Glass. But when other playoff teams got better, treading water is about the same as going backward.
21. New Orleans Pelicans (39-43)
CARMELO projects the players the Pelicans lost, including Anthony Davis, to put up 12.0 wins above replacement this season. The incoming group is forecasted for 13.8.
Losing AD, arguably a top-five player, and still possibly coming out ahead is one heck of a way to tip off a rebuild.
Veterans like Jrue Holiday and Derrick Favors, supplemented by the potential of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and, of course, Zion Williamson, are going to make this team a problem on plenty of schedules.