It’s all over. For the final edition of my OFFICIAL POWER RANKINGS, I ranked teams strictly by basketball-reference’s SRS (simple rating system) stat, because at this point, it doesn’t matter whether I think a team is overachieving or underachieving. Their records are final and immortal, recorded by scribes upon the stone tablets in the NBA archive. For each team, I have provided my OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT to summarize their season. Thanks for reading everybody. Sorry for wasting your time for the past 23 weeks.
1. Golden State Warriors (67-15, 5-1 this week) (last week: #1 [4-0] +0)
It was perhaps unreasonable to even consider thinking about entertaining the notion that the Warriors could maybe be better than last year, but it still feels like a disappointment that Kevin Durant was added to this team yet they finished with fewer wins than last year. The question posed at the beginning of the year, “who will suffer more from adding playing alongside another superstar, Curry or Durant?”, now has an official answer: they both suffered. Curry’s shooting worsened and Durant got injured. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: The Warriors should have won 74 games, but didn’t because of Zaza Pachulia.
2. San Antonio Spurs (61-21, 3-4 this week) (last week: #2 [2-1] +0)
Tim Duncan is playing Dungeons and Dragons with the angels now, and Tony Parker might as well be, but Coach Popovich has proved with the Spurs’ success this year that it’s not about the players in the system. It’s about the system itself. Actually it’s also kind of about the players in the system, because without Kawhi Leonard the Spurs might be a .500 team at best, because their only other player who is significantly above “average starter” level is LaMarcus Aldridge. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: The Spurs had a great year AGAIN and were elite AGAIN and I wish they would stop.
3. Houston Rockets (55-27, 4-2 this week) (last week: #5 [1-3] +2)
Everybody knew that throwing Mike D’Antoni into the mix that Darryl Morey had begun concocting would take things to another level. What people didn’t know was if the extreme gains in offensive potency (spearheaded by the additions of Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon) would be offset entirely by defensive indifference (let’s just say that Harden and Anderson are not exactly defensive specialists). That question was answered pretty early on when Harden proved to be exactly the point guard that Mr. Pringles craves. Did D’Antoni even say one word about defense over the course of the whole season? Probably not. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: The Rockets probably overachieved, but their win total this season will forever remain a testament to the genius of Moreyball. Or something.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (51-31, 4-0 this week) (last week: #4 [3-1] +0)
DeAndre Jordan made his first All-Star appearance, Blake Griffin reinvented himself as a different type of superstar, Chris Paul is still the best point guard in the league (Westbrook fanboys are welcome to leave at any time), Wesley Johnson completely disintegrated as a player to the dismay of absolutely nobody, and the Clippers had another fifty-win season. Great. Cool. But can they make any noise in the playoffs? Regular season success looks nice in the record books, but so do WCF appearances. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: This core is great and might even be a superteam, but their record was a bit underwhelming due to some injuries.
5. Utah Jazz (51-31, 4-2 this week) (last week: #6 [3-0] +1)
List of things that were good for the Jazz but not the reason for their improved record: George Hill fitting in perfectly; Gordon Hayward making the leap to star status; Dante Exum showing signs of not being a total bust sandwich with bust bread and bust fillings and bust condiments; Joe Ingles being the slowest point forward in the league. List of thing(s) that were the reason for the Jazz’s improved record: Rudy Gobert becoming the best center in the league and a fringe MVP candidate. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: Nobody on this team matters very much except Rudy Gobert and, to a lesser extent, Gordon Hayward. But mostly, yeah, just Rudy Gobert.
6. Toronto Raptors (51-31, 5-1 this week) (last week: #7 [2-1] +1)
DeMar DeRozan started off the season as the best scorer in the league, but thankfully cooled off enough by the end that I can continue irrationally hating him without feeling too bad about it. If you say the phrase “DeMar DeRozan is the best scorer in the NBA” it sounds stupid (I tried it just now) so I’m glad that it will never be uttered again. Other players on the Raptors included Kyle Lowry (top 10 PG), DeMarre Carroll (bottom five player in the entire universe), Jonas Valanciunas (top three of players that Dwayne Casey wishes would die) and Serge Ibaka (top 5 in…length). DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: The Raptors are actually worse than last year. Oops.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31, 3-4 this week) (last week: #12 [1-2] +5)
LeBron had an amazing season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make up funny nicknames for him. LeCoast doesn’t really apply because he had to work overtime to make up for the deficiencies of his teammates as the season wore on, but LeGM is both topical and cutting. LeImplosion is a great way to mock the Cavs’ late-season struggles. LeTurnover makes fun of his turnover numbers while ignoring the fact that he had to take over more playmaking duties because Kyrie Irving isn’t a real PG. LeBanana Boat is still funny a year after the fact and will never stop being funny ever. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: I expected more from the Cavs since they were the incumbent champions and all.
8. Boston Celtics (53-29, 4-2 this week) (last week: #3 [2-1] -5)
You wouldn’t think that a core of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, and [third member of core indeterminate] would be in contention for first in the East, but it becomes surprisingly possible when one member of your core turns out to be a 30 PPG scorer. Hint: the core member in question is not Al Horford, although he does average 30 RPM (rebounds per month). Second hint: the core member in question is 5’4″ in shoes, 4’11” without shoes, and 0’7″ when you remove all the bones from his body. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: It’s really not fair at all that the Celtics have the best chance to receive the #1 pick.
9. Washington Wizards (49-33, 3-3 this week) (last week: #8 [1-2] -1)
Getting Scott Brooks to be head coach didn’t succeed in goal #1 (which was to lure Kevin Durant), but it did succeed in goal #2, which was to win a bunch of games. After a disappointing 2-8 start which saw Bradley Beal and John Wall get into multiple locker room scuffles which were surreptitiously videotaped and posted on Worldstarhiphop, the team banded together and finished with the most single-season wins for the franchise since the 1978-79 season, when they lost in the Finals. That just blew my mind really hard. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: How am I supposed to declare my final verdict when my brain is leaking out of my skull through my nose and ears?
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-35, 4-3 this week) (last week: #10 [2-2] +0)
The only thing that the Thunder did this year is act as a receptacle for all of Westbrook’s triple-doubles. Other than that, they were irrelevant and unexciting. Sure, they have some good young players. Enes Kanter and Steven Adams look good. Victor Oladipo is okay too. Domantas Sabonis shows promise. But those things are all stupid and lame when compared to the never-ending spectacle of Westbrook and his outrageous statlines. If you wrote an article about the Thunder but couldn’t talk about Westbrook, you would have maybe a paragraph, and it would be a really boring paragraph. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: Russell Westbrook will be MVP even though the Thunder’s record wasn’t even that great really. The post-Durant era is tolerable enough, I guess.
11. Memphis Grizzlies (43-39, 1-5 this week) (last week: #11 [2-2] +0)
Mike Conley contract: good now, maybe not great later when he’s older and no longer the solidest PG in the league. Chandler Parsons contract: very not good now, hopefully better later when he recovers from injury. Andrew Harrison contract: whatever it is, it’s too much. Marc Gasol moobs: very prominent, and growing larger by the day. Zach Randolph punching Lou Amundson: sadly didn’t happen this season. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: The Grizzlies’ no-offense style of play isn’t so repugnant when it results in fifty wins, but the Grizzlies didn’t win fifty games this year.
12. Miami Heat (41-41, 4-2 this week) (last week: #14 [2-2] +2)
It was a spirited, heartwarming comeback right up to the cusp of the playoffs, but the comeback was ultimately meaningless. Or worse than meaningless, if you consider that the Heat’s pick got a whole lot less valuable for no benefit. Still, it’s outright unbelievable that a team sitting at 11-30 could finish the season at 41-41. Such a feat probably won’t be seen again for a long time unless it’s done on purpose (imagine: Warriors go 0-20 to start next year and then win 62 straight). DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: Dion Waiters would have ensured that the Heat made the playoffs using the sheer power of his charisma.
13. Denver Nuggets (40-42, 5-2 this week) (last week: #20 [0-3] +7)
The Nuggets went all-in on a failed playoff push when they could have tanked for a star to put next to Nikola Jokic, but the good news is that Nikola Jokic is already a star so at least they’ve got a head start on their rebuild (or retool as the case may be). Freed from the burden of playing defense, many Nuggets had great individual seasons on the offensive end, bringing to mind the high-powered Nuggets offenses of the eighties. The only thing left to do now (other than sign or develop a legitimate stretch four and give up on Kenneth Faried) is to bring back the rainbow skyline jerseys. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: The win total isn’t a surprise, but the way the Nuggets achieved it kind of was.
14. Chicago Bulls (41-41, 4-2 this week) (last week: #18 [3-0] +4)
So much awesome drama surrounded the Bulls this season that it’s hard to remember all of it, much less cram it into one paragraph. Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler calling out their less-talented teammates for not being superstars was awesome. Rajon Rondo feuding with Fred Hoiberg about minutes and role was awesome. Nikola Mirotic getting benched and randomly revived was awesome. Paul Zipser getting his car filled with sauerkraut was awesome (okay, that one didn’t happen). DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: A Butler-Rondo-Wade core sounds good on paper and would have been good in real life three years ago, but nobody seriously thought it would work.
15. Charlotte Hornets (36-46, 1-5 this week) (last week: #15 [3-1] +0)
The Hornets had a positive point differential for the season but they went 36-46. Do you think that, after the last game, Michael Jordan personally schooled every member of the roster at 1-on-1 while forcing the rest of the team to watch? I’m betting he did, but he shouldn’t have been surprised at the outcome of the season: the Hornets didn’t add anybody of note in the off-season, and none of their guys from last season’s playoff roster were poised to make a big leap. What, was Frank Kaminsky gonna turn into a nightly 18 PPG threat? LOL (Lots of Laughs). DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: The Hornets’ regression was sad but it wasn’t exactly a surprise in retrospect. The teal-purple color scheme, luckily, remained as slick as ever.
16. Portland Trail Blazers (41-41, 3-3 this week) (last week: #13 [4-0] -3)
The season was looking like a big disappointment for the Blazers until they added Jusuf Nurkic at the trade deadline to provide a semi-decent, sort of okay third option for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Before that trade, it’s hard to even pinpoint who the third option might have been because they all were sucking. It could have been Jake Layman or Evan Turner or Moe Harkless. It also could have been Portland fans themselves since their inextinguishable cheering probably contributed more to wins than Al-Farouq Aminu constantly bricking threes. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: Sneaking into the playoffs as an eighth seed, earning a one-way ticket to sweepville at the hands of the Warriors, is an achievement of sorts, but their core has maximized its potential so it might have been better to tank.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (42-40, 2-4 this week) (last week: #9 [3-1] -8)
Sources close to the Bucks have informed me that Jabari Parker will be on vacation for a significant part of, if not the entire, upcoming season. Usually I’m all for players taking breaks to get their bodies and minds in the right place, but Jabari already missed a significant chunk of this season. Luckily, Giannis is a superstar and he never takes vacations. If he hadn’t developed like he has the Bucks would have struggled to win thirty games. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: Every time the Bucks have made the playoffs in recent history, it’s because they overachieved with low-upside players. This time might actually be different.
18. Indiana Pacers (42-40, 5-1 this week) (last week: #21 [1-3] +3)
I struggled for a while to articulate my feelings about the Pacers. Most of the struggle stemmed from the fact that I, like the rest of the collective NBA fandom, don’t really have any opinions about the Pacers. They were just…mediocrely mediocre. Not even fun mediocre or bad mediocre. They just existed in a state of perpetual, bland mediocrity. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: I suppose a team with Paul George on it is a lock for forty wins even if he never evolved into the superstar that many projected, but I honestly thought that Monta Ellis’ influence alone would result in a thirty-win team.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves (31-51, 1-6 this week) (last week: #19 [2-1] +0)
A core of Towns, LaVine, and Wiggins (all 20 PPG scorers) with Rubio (distributor extraordinaire) and Thibodeau (best yells in the business) seems like a forty-win team, but remember that 1.) young teams are never good right away, 2.) the Wolves had no bench, just a bunch of hobos masquerading as NBA players and 3.) the Timberwolves are never good. Towns in particular overcame a slow start to set multiple single-season team records, but you could call them “empty stats” just like how we used to call Kevin Love’s numbers “empty stats”. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: Next year, playoffs. I’m serious this time.
20. Atlanta Hawks (43-39, 4-2 this week) (last week: #16 [2-2] -4)
The Hawks officially broke up their core of players that got them to sixty wins two years ago: Kyle Korver (or Ashton Kutcher) went to Cleveland to help out LeBron, Al Horford departed in the off-season, and Jeff Teague got shipped away to Indiana. Paul Millsap tried to carry the team, and generally succeeded, but missed enough games that the Hawks were finished as nothing more than a mediocre team primed to be playoff fodder for one of the better East teams. Nobody even seems to care anymore that their uniforms are either the ugliest garbage ever or the most swag unis in the universe (get it? UNI-verse?) DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: The Hawks back to being a treadmill team like they were in the Joe Johnson era.
21. Detroit Pistons (37-45, 2-3 this week) (last week: #24 [1-3] +3)
The Pistons were an up-and-coming team when they looked decent against the Cavs in the first round of the playoffs last year. What went wrong? Many things. Andre Drummond stopped trying. Marcus Morris was still the starter. The entire team hated Reggie Jackson. Tobias Harris was the best player but got made into a sixth man anyway. Boban Marjanovic didn’t play until the end of the season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the one player ripe for improvement, stagnated in his development. Stan Van Gundy didn’t form enough walls with his players. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: Everything went wrong and nothing went right for the Pistons, but they had too much middling talent to be truly awful.
22. New Orleans Pelicans (34-48, 1-5 this week) (last week: #17 [3-1] -5)
It was the “Anthony Davis surrounded by scrubs” show until the Pelicans pulled off a blockbuster trade – then it became the “Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins surrounded by scrubs show. Neither show was all that compelling. The Pelicans didn’t do themselves any favors by signing a trio of low-upside role-players (Galloway, Hill, Moore), but having Anthony Davis on your team means the future is always bright even if everybody on your roster sucks. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: Stop squandering AD’s prime you dummies.
23. Dallas Mavericks (33-49, 2-5 this week) (last week: #23 [0-3] +0)
It’s not Dirk’s final season so we don’t have to be so sad that the Mavs’ season was basically a total flop worth forgetting about. Okay, we can still be a little sad. Dirk’s supposed to go the playoffs every year but now that the years have piled onto his body, he can’t just make it happen by himself. Would you look at that, I’m crying now. I wonder if Dirk ever cries. I bet he doesn’t. Unless he’s thinking about how the only help he had on this team was Harrison Barnes. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: It could have been worse. Harrison Barnes could have averaged 13/2/1 on 39% shooting.
24. Sacramento Kings (32-50, 2-3 this week) (last week: #25 [3-2] +1)
The specter of DeMarcus Cousins is finally banished from the team, and they can finally undertake a proper rebuild without having to worry about their “superstar” center (notice scare quotes around “superstar”). The Kings were bad before the Cousins trade and they were bad after the Cousins trade, but the type of badness changed from “why are they bad” bad to “I can see why they’re bad” bad. As far as Rudy Gay goes, well, maybe he’ll retire or something. Just hope he doesn’t opt in. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: The Kings’ front office will forever prevent any playoff appearances for the team until they’re all replaced. With robots.
25. New York Knicks (31-51, 2-4 this week) (last week: #22 [2-1] -3)
All around me, the world is crumbling away, and huge chunks of it begin to fall into the void. Then, the sky itself fractures as if it were a plate of glass, and it similarly falls away, revealing deep, unending blackness behind. The collective psyche of the Knicks’ players is being ripped apart before me, and I can hear the crying of a baby, the same crying that I heard when I entered this morbid vision. Soon, I have returned to the empty black space where this saga of insanity began, but even that, eventually, begins to fade into less than black, into something that is no color at all… DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: What a strange, strange dream.
26. Phoenix Suns (24-58, 2-3 this week) (last week: #29 [0-4] +3)
Devin Booker scored 70. That record counts no matter how many wins the Suns ended up with (it wasn’t very many) or whether they even won the game in which the 70 points was scored (they didn’t). It was also the defining moment for a Suns season which was basically an extended audition for all the young players on the roster. If you’re going to be a terrible team, it’s better to do it this way than it is to stockpile mediocre vets with no potential. And if you do accidentally get some of those mediocre vets, don’t even pretend like you want to give them minutes. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: The Suns were never supposed to be good. It seems like their roster should have won 30 games, but it’s probably better that they only won 24.
27. Philadelphia 76ers (28-54, 0-6 this week) (last week: #26 [1-3] -1)
76ers with Joel Embiid = playoff-caliber team. 76ers without Joel Embiid = one of the worst teams in the league. 76ers with Jahlil Okafor = bad. 76ers without Jahlil Okafor = still bad. 76ers with cheesesteaks = 100% savory deliciousness at all hours of the day. 76ers without cheesesteaks = boring, lame, unexciting, and definitely lacking in strips of fresh-off-the-grill beef smothered in gooey cheese and served on a sumptuous roll. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: 28 wins was expected. Joel Embiid playing like an MVP candidate was not.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (26-56, 5-1 this week) (last week: #30 [0-4] +2)
Lakers fans are still onboard with the rebuild plan (the ones who pay enough attention to realize that Kobe is actually retired now), but you know that if things don’t pick up soon, there will be some defections and desertions. Overpaid, washed-up foreigners Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov were huge disappointments in their first year in LA, so it wasn’t even a downgrade to replace their spots in the rotation with players who might conceivably have some development left in them. The narrative here is that Luke Walton is a genius. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: Developing Brandon Ingram seemed to pay dividends by the end of the season, and since that was the single most important thing to do strive for this year, the Lakers’ season was a success.
29. Orlando Magic (29-53, 2-3 this week) (last week: #28 [0-4] -1)
The Magic were badly enough run that GM Hennigan got the can almost as soon as the final buzzer sounded of their final game. Hennigan screwed a lot of things up (delaying Aaron Gordon’s development and giving up valuable assets to rent Serge Ibaka), and Frank Vogel clearly didn’t know how to deal with squad given to him, but at least Disney World was really close by. I hear if you hug Mickie Mouse, he’ll suck your soul out of your body and feed upon it. Hopefully all the Magic players took advantage of that feature to forget the crushing disappointment of their win-now season. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: None of the Magic’s off-season moves made sense, and, in retrospect, after a 29-win season…nope, they still don’t make sense. Thanks Hennigan.
30. Brooklyn Nets (20-62, 3-3 this week) (last week: #27 [2-2] -3)
The Nets started off the season okay and they ended the season strongly, but in between was the worst basketball played in the NBA by any team this season. Everybody knows by now that they don’t even get a high pick for being bad because Billy King traded it away about eight head coaches ago. Brook Lopez re-solidified himself as a top center, but he was surrounded by scrubs who prevented him from ever winning games. Jeremy Lin had cool hair for much of the season so that was neat I guess. DTB’S OFFICIAL FINAL VERDICT: Did you know that the Nets traded a bunch of picks to the Celtics because they’re dumb? LOL! LOL! LOL! LOL!