December NBA Power Rankings: Every Team’s Best Offseason Move

December NBA Power Rankings: Every Team’s Best Offseason Move

by December 21, 2020 4 comments

The 2019-20 NBA season was one for the history books. After being postponed due to COVID-19, the players returned to the bubble in Orlando, Fla., to finish the season. When all was said and done, the Los Angeles Lakers walked away with their 17th championship.

Now, each team will begin preparing for the 2020-21 season in the midst of the shortest offseason in league history. Opening night will take place on Dec. 22. With the draft completed, free agency opened, and preseason underway, we are able to get a sense of which teams will have the best chance at winning the NBA Finals. 

Here are my power rankings for the month of December, including each team’s best move this offseason. Will the Lakers repeat or will a new champion be crowned?

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

Coming off a championship victory just two months ago, the Lakers added several weapons to complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis. With Rajon Rondo leaving town, Dennis Schroder should have the biggest impact out of the new acquisitions. Last season, Schroder averaged 18.9 points per game as a member of the Thunder. 

Best Move: Trading for Dennis Schroder

  1. Milwaukee Bucks

After an early playoff exit last season, Milwaukee’s main priority this offseason was to retain Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP. The Bucks also traded for star point guard Jrue Holiday, a lockdown defender and excellent playmaker. Holiday averaged 19.1 points and 6.7 assists per game last season. 

Best Move: Trading for Jrue Holiday

  1. Miami Heat

The Heat shocked the NBA last season by making the NBA Finals as the fifth seed. Despite losing to the Lakers, their abundance of young, developing players puts Miami in a great position to repeat as Eastern Conference champions. All-Star forward Bam Adebayo agreed to a five-year, $195 million max extension to stay in South Beach. He averaged 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game last season.

Best Move: Re-signing Bam Adebayo

  1. Dallas Mavericks

The emergence of Luka Doncic last year has propelled Dallas into the NBA Finals discussion. In only his second year, Doncic put up MVP numbers. He scored 28.8 points, grabbed 9.4 rebounds, and dished out 8.8 assists per game. Trading for Josh Richardson, a scrappy perimeter defender, may help this Mavericks team to take the next step.

Best Move: Trading for Josh Richardson

  1. Los Angeles Clippers

Despite an early exit in the playoffs last season, the Clippers are contenders once again after a successful offseason. Resigning Paul George to a four-year, $190 million extension was obviously a great move, but the addition of Serge Ibaka will allow the Clippers to spread the floor and get better shots. Ibaka averaged 15.4 points per game and shot 39 percent from three with the Raptors last season.

Best Move: Signing Serge Ibaka

  1. Boston Celtics

Boston reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four years last season, only to lose to the Heat. After losing Gordon Hayward and failing to bring in another star, the Celtics were branded with having a bad offseason. While this may be true, they signed two veterans in Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague while also receiving a $28.5 million trade exception. Still, re-signing Jayson Tatum to a five-year, $195 million max extension was their best move this offseason. 

Best Move: Re-signing Jayson Tatum

  1. Brooklyn Nets

What makes Brooklyn scary is how much depth they have. Good players like Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and Taurean Prince are all likely to come off the bench for the Nets this season. With the addition of Landry Shamet, a three-point specialist, and the return of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn could make a huge splash in the Eastern Conference this year.

Best Move: Trading for Landry Shamet

  1. Toronto Raptors

When Kawhi Leonard left for the Clippers, Fred VanVleet was trusted as a go-to scorer. He averaged 17.6 points, 6.6 assists, and led all shooting guards with 1.9 steals per game. As a result, the Raptors made no hesitation to re-sign VanVleet to a four-year, $85 million contract. They might not have the best roster, but between coaching and quick player development, Toronto will be a contender this season.

Best Move: Re-signing Fred VanVleet

  1. Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia had one of the best offseasons in the league. They dumped Al Horford’s huge contract, traded for two shooters in Danny Green and Seth Curry, and drafted promising rookie Tyrese Maxey. Based on the 76ers’ success in prior seasons with J.J. Redick, the addition of Curry will help them the most this season. He scored 12.4 points and shot 45.2 percent from three.

Best Move: Trading for Seth Curry

  1. Golden State Warriors

We have yet to see the full Warriors roster in two seasons and we’ll have to wait once again. Early in the offseason, Klay Thompson suffered a torn Achilles and is going to miss the entire season. With Steph Curry and Draymond Green back and the additions of Kelly Oubre and rookie James Wiseman, the Warriors should return to the playoff mix in the Western Conference. Oubre, acquired via trade, scored 18.7 points per game last year.

Best Move: Trading for Kelly Oubre

  1. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals last season before losing to the Lakers. With MVP candidate Nikola Jokic and emerging superstar Jamal Murray, the Nuggets have all the pieces they need to make the Finals. Unfortunately, Denver’s best move this offseason was signing veteran big man JaMychal Green.

Best Move: Signing JaMychal Green

  1. Utah Jazz

After scoring 24 points per game and posting multiple 40-point games in the playoffs, Donovan Mitchell proved he is the real deal. He agreed to a five-year, $195 million max extension to say in Utah. Add in the return of Bojan Bogdanovic and re-signing of Jordan Clarkson and the Jazz will be contenders in the NBA for years to come.

Best Move: Re-signing Donovan Mitchell

  1. Phoenix Suns

The Suns made a splash in the league last season after going 8-0 in the Bubble. Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton took huge steps and now the Suns will add veteran point guard Chris Paul into the mix. Despite the Suns trading several first-round picks, Paul should propel this team into the playoffs. As a member of the Thunder, Paul averaged 17.6 points and 6.6 assists per game.

Best Move: Trading for Chris Paul

  1. New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans continues to benefit from the Anthony Davis trade early last season. With the combination of young talent and emerging superstar Brandon Ingram, the Pelicans are primed to make the playoffs this season. Their best move this offseason was trading away Jrue Holiday for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, and two first-round picks. Between Bledsoe and Lonzo Ball, New Orleans should have no problem filling the hole at point guard.

Best Move: Trading Jrue Holiday

  1. Houston Rockets

James Harden and the Rockets’ quest for a championship has been tough to watch. Houston is onto their third star point guard in three seasons after trading Chris Paul two seasons ago and Russell Westbrook this offseason. Now, they’ll try their luck with former Wizards guard John Wall. Regardless of their roster struggles, the Rockets should still make the playoffs this season.

Best Move: Trading Russell Westbrook

  1. Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta had a very productive offseason, bringing in tons of talent to complement star point guard Trae Young. The Hawks signed key role players in Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo, Danilo Gallinari, and Kris Dunn to go along with Onyeka Okungwu, the sixth overall pick in the draft. It will take time for all these new players to mesh, but the Hawks could exceed expectations and make a playoff push this season.

Best Move: Entire Offseason

  1. Memphis Grizzlies

Ja Morant, the 2020 Rookie of the Year, shined in his first season, putting up 17.8 points and 7.3 assists per game. Unfortunately, Memphis made few moves this offseason, thus banking on player development. The fact that re-signing De’Anthony Melton (a 7.6 point per game scorer) was the Grizzlies’ best move is not great. Regardless, they will have enough talent to be a borderline playoff team.

Best Move: Re-signing De’Anthony Melton

  1. Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard has been a one-man show in Portland for quite some time, and after narrowly making the playoffs last season, the Blazers needed to bring in talented role players. That’s exactly what they did. Portland sent two first-round picks for Robert Covington, a stretch forward. He averaged 12.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game with the Rockets last year.

Best Move: Trading for Robert Covington

  1. Sacramento Kings

Sacramento narrowly missed the playoffs last season, partly due to a season-ending injury to former second overall pick Marvin Bagley. However, the Kings were busy this offseason, drafting Tyrese Haliburton (projected to be the steal of the draft) and re-signing star point guard De’Aaron Fox to a five-year, $195 million max extension. In only his third season, Fox averaged 21.1 points and 6.8 assists per game.

Best Move: Re-signing De’Aaron Fox

  1. Charlotte Hornets

Another team with a busy offseason, the Hornets drafted LaMelo Ball with the third pick in the draft and completed a sign-and-trade for Gordon Hayward. Add in the emergence of Devonte’ Graham and Charlotte could fight for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Best Move: Drafting LaMelo Ball

  1. Indiana Pacers

Indiana is another example of a team with an underwhelming offseason. They were unable to trade Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner, who expressed frustration with the franchise last season. With that being said, passing on trading for Gordon Hayward’s $120 million contract was a win for the Pacers. They will be a borderline playoff team this season.

Best Move: Passing on Gordon Hayward

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Between Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, Minnesota has all the talent to make the playoffs, but poor coaching may result in another empty season. Drafting Anthony Edwards with the first overall pick was the right move for the Timberwolves, yet their best move this offseason was re-signing Malik Beasley. He scored 11 points per game and shot 39 percent from three last season.

Best Move: Re-signing Malik Beasley

  1. Chicago Bulls

Chicago is nearing the end of a successful rebuild. Guards Coby White and Zach LaVine are on track to becoming one of the league’s best backcourts. This offseason, the Bulls were relatively quiet in free agency but got a steal in undrafted free agent Devon Dotson. In his sophomore year at Kansas, Dotson averaged over 18 points per game. 

Best Move: Signing Devon Dotson

  1. Orlando Magic

Orlando has tons of young talent, but it will take some time for them to develop. On the other hand, Markelle Fultz is primed for a breakout season and rookie Cole Anthony will provide scoring off the bench. Add in Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon and the Magic could have a bright future ahead of them.

Best Move: Drafting Cole Anthony

  1. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs missed the playoffs last season and are heading into rebuild mode. The only bright spots are their starting guards, Dejounte Murray and DeMar DeRozan. While it may not be good in the long run, DeRozan picking up his player option for this season is a win for San Antonio.

Best Move: Keeping DeMar DeRozan

  1. Washington Wizards

Washington sent a first-round pick and John Wall for star point guard Russell Westbrook this offseason. Bradley Beal and Westbrook will make a solid duo but the Wizards won’t likely be in playoff contention. However, re-signing Davis Bertans was a great move. He shot 42 percent from three and scored 15.4 points per game last season.

Best Move: Re-signing Davis Bertans

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder may be the future of the NBA. Oklahoma City has racked up a total of 18 first-round draft picks over the next six seasons and already has blooming stars in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort. Trading Chris Paul for two first-rounders was the highlight of their offseason.

Best Move: Trading Chris Paul

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers are in the midst of a rebuild and will need a few more years before returning to the playoff discussion. Drafting Issac Okoro was a great move, but he, too, will need a few seasons to develop.

Best Move: Drafting Isaac Okoro

  1. Detroit Pistons

Detroit let go of young center Christian Wood but proceeded to sign an unnecessary amount of big men. Jerami Grant looks to be the best signing of the bunch and should be in for an uptick in numbers this season. The Pistons won’t come close to making the playoffs and may want to consider a change at general manager.

Best Move: Signing Jerami Grant

  1. New York Knicks

How much longer will the Knicks’ bad luck continue? We may never know, but this won’t be the year they finally make it back to the playoffs. On the other hand, drafting Obi Toppin and signing Austin Rivers in free agency were underrated moves this offseason.

Best Move: Signing Austin Rivers


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