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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LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, NBA Power Rankings
LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, NBA Power Rankings (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

NBA Power Rankings: 5 borderline playoff teams

20. Sacramento Kings

The jury is still out on whether or not moving on from Haliburton in exchange for Sabonis was the right decision, but you have to commend the Sacramento Kings for at least trying here. By adding the NBA-ready Keegan Murray and quality rotation guards Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter to a lineup that already features De’Aaron Fox, Sabonis, and Harrison Barnes, I believe the Kings have the best chance to snap their playoff drought as they’ve had in a very long time.

19. Portland Trail Blazers

Despite making a postseason appearance in eight consecutive seasons before the disaster that was 2021-22, the Portland Trail Blazers still have a lot to prove. Will Damian Lillard be able to return to his pre-injury form? Can the Blazers stay afloat in the West without CJ and Norm? Do Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little have what it takes to assume a larger role with the team? Until these questions are resolved, the Blazers have the makings of a borderline playoff team. Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see Portland lock down a top-six seed if Lillard recaptures his prior success,

18. Los Angeles Lakers

While most of the blame for the Lakers’ failure has been placed solely on Russell Westbrook, it’s difficult to ignore just how terribly constructed last year’s roster was. By getting much younger and acquiring players who will get out and run in transition such as Lonnie Walker IV, Troy Brown Jr., and Juan Toscano-Anderson, the Lakers will return as a much-improved team. Whether or not they’ll be actual contenders, however, is still reliant on Westbrook’s ability to adapt and accept a new role.

17. Cleveland Cavaliers

In just a few short years, the Cleveland Cavaliers have assembled an impressive young core and become one of the most interesting teams to watch in the NBA. Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Collin Sexton are the driving forces of Cleveland’s youth movement, but most of all I think it’s important that people remember just how dominant the Cavaliers’ defense looked with Jarrett Allen. I believe that a fully healthy Cavs roster can go head-to-head with anyone.

16. Atlanta Hawks

Adding an All-Star caliber player to the 2021 Eastern Conference Finalists is a great recipe for success; I personally love Atlanta’s decision to go out and grab Dejounte Murray. Having a second competent ball handler and scoring threat will alleviate much of the focus that’s put on Trae Young’s shoulders in the playoffs, while also granting Young a quality defender as a partner in the backcourt to compensate for his own defensive liabilities.