NBA Power Rankings: Post-free agency and trade season edition

Chicago Bulls, NBA Power Rankings (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Chicago Bulls, NBA Power Rankings (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Donovan Mitchell, R.J. Barrett, NBA Power Rankings
Donovan Mitchell, R.J. Barrett, NBA Power Rankings (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

NBA Power Rankings: 5 teams on the outside looking in

25. Detroit Pistons

With Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Saddiq Bey, and Jalen Duren filling out almost the entire starting lineup of the future, the Detroit Pistons no longer need to tank. They’ll instead turn their focus to gelling as a unit by competing and trying to win games. They still need time to develop to actually become a playoff-caliber squad, but there’s a lot to be excited about here in Detroit moving forward.

24. Utah Jazz

This marks the end of the teams I expect to be truly terrible next season, as at least every team after this appears to want to win games. As long as Donovan Mitchell is on this Utah Jazz roster, they’re too good to truly bottom out. But if they do in fact deal the star guard away, this Jazz team will plummet down the standings in hopes of winning big in the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery sweepstakes.

23. Washington Wizards

By inking Bradley Beal to a gargantuan 5-year, $251 million contract extension, the Washington Wizards have officially committed to mediocrity. Beal and Kristaps Porzingis make this team far too good to tank, but not good enough to be a playoff lock. Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija have not looked the part of franchise saviors, and Johnny Davis is going to need time to adjust to a new role at the NBA level. The Wizards won’t be an automatic win on the schedule next season, but nobody’s going to take them seriously as a threat either.

22. Charlotte Hornets

Although we’re far from any legal conclusion to the Miles Bridges saga, there’s no coming back from this for the Charlotte Hornets. An exciting up-and-coming team just a year ago, the Hornets have since decided to re-hire the unsuccessful head coach they fired in 2018, flopped in the draft by trading away the 13th pick (used to select Duren) for an even worse future first-round pick, and now have their second-best player tangled up in domestic violence charges. We have just witnessed Charlotte undo several years of progress in one single summer.

21. New York Knicks

I know Knicks fans are likely still riding high on their big free agent signing, but I have to say it: I don’t think upgrading from Alec Burks to Jalen Brunson immediately makes this team a playoff lock. Especially when you’re paying Brunson in excess of $100 million after just demonstrating that he can’t be a dependable second-option for a playoff team, even next to a superstar like Luka Doncic. New York also improved at the margins by signing Isaiah Hartenstein, but I don’t see that being enough of a difference-maker to elevate them into the next tier of teams.