NBA Preseason Power Rankings: The Basement (30-28)

30. Brooklyn Nets

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2015-16 Recap
Record: 21-61 (14th in the East, 28th Overall)
OFF Rtg: 103.2 (27th of 30)
DEF Rtg: 110.9 (29th of 30)

2016-17 Outlook
MVP: Brook Lopez
Projected Starting Lineup (According to RealGM):
PG Jeremy Lin, SG R. Hollis-Jefferson, SF B. Bogdanovic, PF Luis Scola, C Brook Lopez
Key Additions: A. Bennett, T. Booker, R. Foye, J. Lin, L. Scola, G. Vasquez
Key Rookie: Caris LeVert

The present sucks and the future is bleak. The Nets are still hurting from the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade of 2013 and do not own their own first round draft pick until 2019 (in 2017 Celtics have the right to swap first round picks (which is definitely going to happen) and in 2018 the Celtics outright own their first rounder). San Antonio Spurs protege Sean Marks has been brought in as the GM to right the ship but at this point he’s bailing out a cruise ship with a Starbucks cup. Nobody (well nobody good) wants to sign with them which is a huge problem for a team whose next quality draft pick position is approximately a century away.

That being said they might have a better team than last season. While they lost their second best player in Thad Young, Marks was able to pickup some decent veterans and reclamation projects. The Lin and Vasquez combo is definitely an upgrade at point guard over Jarrett Jack and Shane Larkin . Booker, Foye and Scola are some decent vets who could be flipped to a contender at the trade deadline. Brook Lopez is still a tank in the low-post. Per Synergy, he led the league with 448 post-up possessions and was in the 79.4th percentile in effective. He’s an incredibly effective player on offense… so long as he’s actually on the court.

Their biggest red flag could be the lack of depth at the shooting guard position which means that their only two prospects, Hollis-Jefferson and LeVert, are going to be thrown into the fire despite being incredibly raw. They may not eve finish last this season because the Sixers and Lakers are incredibly young and inexperienced. But make no mistake, these guys are the worst.

Best Case Scenario
Lopez is healthy, Linsanity returns to his peak, Anthony Bennett finally becomes Larry Johnson… and these guys still have to give their lottery pick to Boston.

Worst Case Scenario
Marks is caught fudging Lopez’ medical report after a trade (Jeff Green-style) and are forced to forfeit all first round picks until 2025. Another terrible season inspires Mikhail Prokhorov to jettison the team back to the New Jersey, a city much more suited to reflect this boring, awful basketball team.

29. Philadelphia 76ers

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2015-16 Recap
Record: 10-72 (15th in the East, 30th Overall)
OFF Rtg: 98.8 (30th of 30)
DEF Rtg: 109.2 (26th of 30)

2016-17 Outlook
MVP: Ben Simmons
Projected Starting Lineup (According to RealGM):
PG Jerryd Bayless, SG Nik Stauskas, SF Ben Simmons, PF Jahlil Okafor, C Nerlens Noel
Key Additions: J. Bayless, G. Henderson
Key Rookies: Joel Embiid, Dario Saric,  Ben Simmons

Keep trusting the Process. Hinkie may be gone but I feel that he has already served his purpose. Hinkie will go down as one of the best accumulators of draft picks in NBA history (Danny Ainge is clearly the GOAT) but his draft record was suspect to say the least. His whole philosophy was to to increase the chances of drafting a superstar by tanking and trading for draft picks. Hinkie’s biggest weakness was his inconsistency in carrying out the plan once he got to the draft floor. He selected Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid for their high ceilings relative to their draft position, yet made the “safe” picks in Carter-Williams and Okafor when Antetokounmpo and Porzingis still on the board.

I believe Colangelo was the perfect guy to take over at this stage of the rebuild. His draft track record in Toronto (I will still defend his reasoning for drafting Bargnani at the time) shows that he did a great job at identifying talent at the mid-to-late lottery spot. He built the core of this currently competitive version of the Raptors and still gets no credit.

This Sixers team is still in for a couple of lean years. Brett Brown is a great defensive coach and it will be awesome to see what he can do with the tall athletic talent like Simmons, Saric, Noel and Embiid. What stands to be seen is how these guys will score. Their five best players–Simmons, Saric, Noel, Okafor and Embiid–are all best played at power forward or center. Simmons has the potential to be a great point forward, but his resistance to outside shots and lack of shooting surrounding him will make it tough for him to make an immediate for this weak Sixers team. There will be improvement but they are still a couple years away from making any noise.

Best-Case Scenario
The Sixers reverse small-ball movement clicks and Philly finds some reasonable success by spending 90% of their offense with all five players in the paint. Maybe Stauskas, Bayless, Henderson and Saric supply enough shooting to space the floor for Okafor, Simmons and Embiid to operate.

Worst-Case Scenario
They suck. But at least they have their draft picks! #HinkieDiedForOurSins

28. Los Angeles Lakers

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2015-16 Recap
Record: 17-65 (15th in the West, 29th Overall)
OFF Rtg: 101.6 (29th of 30)
DEF Rtg: 111.6 (30th of 30)

2016-17 Outlook
MVP: D’Angelo Russell
Projected Starting Lineup (According to RealGM):
PG D. Russell, SG J. Clarkson, SF Luol Deng, PF Julius Randle, C Timofey Mozgov
Key Additions: J. Calderon, L. Deng, Y. Jianlian, T. Mozgov
Key Rookie: Brandon Ingram

I feel this ranking might undersell this team… until you look at their horrendous numbers from last season. At least we no longer have to watch the corpse of Kobe Bryant chuck up 30 shots a game and completely kill the flow of every possession. His touches will be redistributed to Russell, Clarkson, Randle and Ingram which is awesome for their development.

I’m interested to see how new head coach Luke Walton fairs this season. You will have to look beyond the  team’s record and boxscores (which will be bad) to find improvement. I’m interested to get a look at the Lakers’ style of play, bench rotations and effort level. Walton looked like an awesome head coach in limited time last year, but comparing last year’s Golden State Warriors to this season’s Lakers is like comparing Peyton Manning to his other brother Cooper

While this team is certainly headed in the right direction, I just can’t rank them any higher considering they still employ Nick “Swaggy P” Young and have Timofey Mozgov under contract for $64 mil over the next four years.

Best Case Scenario
The young guys make excellent strides under Walton’s new system. Timofey plays like 2015 playoffs Timofey Mozgov and not 2016 playoffs Timofey Mozgov. And what if Yi Jianlian is actually good? (Unlikely, but still in play)

Worst Case Scenario
The team doesn’t improve and Kobe’s departure leaves them irrelevant in the national media. Mozgov’s career is cut short due to embarrassment following another Blake Griffin poster dunk. Another Snapchat scandal featuring Russell and Swaggy P divides the locker room forcing the Lakers to trade their most promising young player, while the King of Los Angeles continues to reign from the end of the bench. Also what if Luke Walton is actually bad? (Unlikely but still in play)

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