Skip to main content

Main content


LeBron's move brings parity to the East

Summer Power Rankings

POSTED: Jul 21, 2014 12:15 PM ET

By John Schuhmann,


A Kevin Love trade could help swing the balance of power in the East.

The first three weeks of free agency have been crazy. LeBron James went home, Lance Stephenson left Indiana, Paul Pierce joined his third team in as many seasons, the Bulls reloaded, the Mavs got their anchor back, and the Rockets struck out on the big names.

The Lakers gave Jordan Hill $9 million a year and Ed Davis only $1 million. Ben Gordon will be paid more than Vince Carter this season.

There are still some moves that can make an impact. Obviously, a Kevin Love trade could send the Warriors or Cavaliers to the top of their conference. Restricted free agents Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe are still out there, waiting to sign an offer sheet or re-sign with the Suns and Pistons, respectively. And vets like Shawn Marion and Jameer Nelson could be great fits on the right team.

But with things having settled down, with Summer League about to wrap up, and with this author's attention turning toward USA Basketball and the FIBA Basketball World Cup, it's time to issue some mid-summer Power Rankings.

Here's how the 30 teams stack up. Everything starts with the champs, who are bringing everybody back and who have no question marks. From there, it's all Western Conference in the top five until we see what the Bulls are getting from Derrick Rose and whether the Cavs are getting anything from Minnesota.

* * *

• April 14: Healthy, rested Spurs head into postseason as No. 1

• High jumps of the early summer: Dallas (+3), Memphis (+3), Portland (+3)
• Free falls of the early summer: Phoenix (-4), Brooklyn (-2), Golden State (-2), L.A. Lakers (-2)

* * *

Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank) - Click here
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here

The league averaged 96.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.0 points scored per 100 possessions last season.

* * *'s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man's opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via twitter.


Last week: 1

San Antonio (62-20)
Pace: 97.1 (12), OffRtg: 108.2 (6), DefRtg: 100.1 (4), NetRtg: +8.1 (1)
Key addition(s): Larry O'Brien, Ettore Messina
Key question: How good can Kawhi Leonard be?
Individual numbers will always be limited with the Spurs, but Leonard's Finals performance should be a launching pad for an All-Star season. Before then, a (max?) contract extension is in order. Patty Mills' injury puts pressure on Cory Joseph to keep Tony Parker fresh, but these guys always step up when needed.


Last week: 2

Oklahoma City (59-23)
Pace: 97.9 (9), OffRtg: 108.1 (7), DefRtg: 101.0 (5), NetRtg: +7.1 (3)
Key addition(s): Anthony Morrow
Key question: Is Steven Adams ready?
If Adams plays more minutes than Kendrick Perkins (they were about even last season), the Thunder will have a higher ceiling offensively. On the other end of the floor, they'll need the younger guys -- Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones -- to make up for Thabo Sefolosha's departure on the perimeter.


Last week: 3

L.A. Clippers (57-25)
Pace: 98.4 (7), OffRtg: 109.4 (1), DefRtg: 102.1 (7), NetRtg: +7.3 (2)
Key addition(s): A hard cap
Key question: Is Spencer Hawes the third big they needed?
No big man combo played more minutes together last season than Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. If Hawes is going to relieve some of the pressure on those two, he has to defend a lot better than he did with Philly and Cleveland. With the Clippers less than $1 million from a hard cap, they have little in-season flexibility.


Last week: 10

Dallas (49-33)
Pace: 95.7 (17), OffRtg: 109.0 (3), DefRtg: 105.9 (22), NetRtg: +3.0 (11)
Key addition(s): Tyson Chandler Parsons
Key question: Which Chandler are they getting?
If they're getting DPOY Chandler, they have a shot at being a top-10 defense. And if he stays healthy, his ability to roll and finish and Parsons attacking on the weak side will complement those Monta Ellis/Dirk Nowitzki pick-and-pops that were already unstoppable. A top-five offense is a lock. Contender status is possible.


Last week: 8

Golden State (51-31)
Pace: 98.5 (6), OffRtg: 105.3 (12), DefRtg: 99.9 (3), NetRtg: +5.4 (6)
Key addition(s): Steve Kerr, Shaun Livingston, trade distractions
Key question: How will Kerr utilize his bench?
The Warriors' offense fell off a cliff when Stephen Curry stepped off the floor last season, and the D did the same when Andre Iguodala sat down. There's bound to be a drop-off when you have a stacked starting lineup, but Kerr needs to keep those guys fresh while maintaining a high level on at least one end of the floor.


Last week: 9

Chicago (48-34)
Pace: 92.7 (28), OffRtg: 99.7 (28), DefRtg: 97.8 (2), NetRtg: +1.9 (12)
Key addition(s): Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic
Key question: Derrick Rose?
We're going to find out soon where Rose is physically, because National Team training camp -- where he'll be competing against Curry, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard -- begins next Monday. Even if he's good to go, the Bulls will be depending on their young guys -- Doug McDermott and Tony Snell -- to play important minutes.


Last week: 22

Cleveland (33-49)
Pace: 95.7 (18), OffRtg: 101.3 (23), DefRtg: 104.8 (17), NetRtg: -3.5 (23)
Key addition(s): Andrew Wiggins, LeBron James, pressure to win now
Key question: What will they do for Love?
The debate over trading the No. 1 pick in what was a much-hyped draft for an established All-Star is fascinating, especially since the rookie may already be the better defensive player. Ultimately, the Cavs have to do whatever James tells them to. But there's no reason they can't wait a few months to see what Wiggins can do.


Last week: 6

Portland (54-28)
Pace: 97.5 (10), OffRtg: 108.3 (5), DefRtg: 104.7 (16), NetRtg: +3.5 (8)
Key addition(s): Potential for sleeping on the bench
Key question: How do they get better defensively?
The Blazers were a below-average defensive team in the regular season and got smoked by the Rockets and Spurs in the playoffs. The additions of Steve Blake and Chris Kaman don't exactly move the needle on that end of the floor, especially in regard to forcing turnovers, where this team ranked dead last in 2013-14


Last week: 4

Houston (54-28)
Pace: 98.8 (5), OffRtg: 108.6 (4), DefRtg: 103.1 (12), NetRtg: +5.5 (5)
Key addition(s): Trevor Ariza, anti-Morey criticism
Key question: Would this team be able to survive an injury?
Not only did the Rockets swing and miss on the big free agents, but they traded their depth in order to do so. Their perimeter defense should be better, but two of their primary ball-handlers are gone and the departure of Omer Asik and the extra burden on Dwight Howard could makes things worse on the interior.


Last week: 12

Toronto (48-34)
Pace: 94.4 (23), OffRtg: 105.8 (9), DefRtg: 102.4 (9), NetRtg: +3.5 (9)
Key addition(s): Continuity
Key question: Were those contract-year bumps?
Kyle Lowry had his best season last year, and Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez were also big off the bench. All three are re-signed and Dwane Casey can build on top-10 marks on both ends of the floor. Another year of development from (and more touches for) Jonas Valanciunas would do the trick.


Last week: 7

Memphis (50-32)
Pace: 92.2 (30), OffRtg: 103.3 (16), DefRtg: 102.1 (8), NetRtg: +1.2 (14)
Key addition(s): Vince Carter, conversations between coach and owner
Key question: Can Mike Conley continue to get better?
The Grizzlies went 33-13 after Marc Gasol returned from his knee injury last season, but their offense was still below average over that time. Carter adds some much-needed 3-point shooting, but there's still a ceiling on that end with limited off-the-dribble creators or options behind Gasol and Zach Randolph.


Last week: 15

Washington (44-38)
Pace: 95.5 (19), OffRtg: 103.3 (18), DefRtg: 102.4 (10), NetRtg: +0.9 (15)
Key addition(s): The Truth
Key question: How quickly before Paul Pierce fits in?
Pierce should give the Wizards more offensively than Trevor Ariza did, but it took him a while to find his way in Brooklyn last season, and Ariza had great chemistry with John Wall, leading the league with 81 corner threes. Pierce attempted just 22. Either way, this is one of the deepest teams in the league.


Last week: 18

Indiana (56-26)
Pace: 94.9 (20), OffRtg: 101.5 (22), DefRtg: 96.7 (1), NetRtg: +4.8 (7)
Key addition(s): C.J. Miles, more pressure on Frank Vogel
Key question: Will the Pacers' new shooters ever be open?
Miles and Damjan Rudez will space the floor, but Lance Stephenson's departure means that there's one less guy to get them open looks. If Vogel doesn't get more creative, the Pacers' offense will be brutal. And if he doesn't make better use of his bench, his team could hit another wall in the second half of the season.


Last week: 5

Miami (54-28)
Pace: 93.3 (27), OffRtg: 109.0 (2), DefRtg: 102.9 (11), NetRtg: +6.1 (4)
Key addition(s): Luol Deng, LeBron James' favorite rookie
Key question: Who's backing up Dwyane Wade?
The Heat lost the world's best player, and their ability to spread the floor has been compromised by the departure of some of their shooters and Chris Bosh's new role as an offensive focal point. Without James or (close to) 82 games of Wade, they may need to reinvent themselves defensively, too.


Last week: 11

Phoenix (48-34)
Pace: 98.2 (8), OffRtg: 107.1 (8), DefRtg: 103.8 (13), NetRtg: +3.3 (10)
Key addition(s): Isaiah Thomas
Key question: Is Eric Bledsoe coming back?
Thomas is a liability on D, where Phoenix ranked 18th in the two-plus months Bledsoe missed last season. So if Bledsoe and the Suns can't bridge the gap on contract talks (and if he doesn't sign the qualifying offer), this team will take a step back on both ends of the floor. Channing Frye's floor spacing will be missed.


Last week: 14

Charlotte (43-39)
Pace: 94.7 (21), OffRtg: 101.2 (24), DefRtg: 101.2 (6), NetRtg: +0.1 (16)
Key addition(s): Lance Stephenson
Key question: Can Stephenson stay in control?
Adding another off-the-dribble creator (for much less than they would have been paying Gordon Hayward) to an offense that improved every month last season could be a real coup. And if all goes well, this could be a top-four East team on both ends of the floor. But we know that Lance's antics can be a distraction.


Last week: 13

Brooklyn (44-38)
Pace: 93.7 (25), OffRtg: 104.4 (14), DefRtg: 104.9 (19), NetRtg: -0.6 (17)
Key addition(s): Lionel Hollins
Key question: Will Brook Lopez ever be Brook Lopez again?
The Nets lost two starters in free agency, but the return of Lopez could make up for it. And if Deron Williams has ankles that work and Joe Johnson beats opposing guards up in the post like he did in the postseason, this could still be a very good team. But there are too many ifs to rank them higher than eighth in the East.


Last week: 16

Minnesota (40-42)
Pace: 99.8 (4), OffRtg: 105.6 (10), DefRtg: 104.1 (15), NetRtg: +1.4 (13)
Key addition(s): A feeling of inevitability
Key question: What will they get for Kevin Love?
Maybe a coaching change, some better late-game luck, and the development of Gorgui Dieng could put the Wolves in the playoffs. But it seems inevitable that they'll be hitting the reset button with a Love trade at some point in the next seven months. If the speculation becomes a distraction, things could get ugly.


Last week: 17

Atlanta (38-44)
Pace: 96.9 (13), OffRtg: 103.4 (15), DefRtg: 104.1 (14), NetRtg: -0.7 (18)
Key addition(s): Al Horford (remember him?)
Key question: Will they ever land a big fish?
The Hawks were well set up -- with cap space and complementary pieces (and shooting, shooting, shooting!) -- to add a No. 1 option. But they didn't even get a nibble from the big names. They're still a playoff team that's getting its best player back, but, like the Bulls, they'll be relying on some young guards off the bench.


Last week: 21

New Orleans (34-48)
Pace: 94.5 (22), OffRtg: 104.7 (13), DefRtg: 107.3 (25), NetRtg: -2.6 (21)
Key addition(s): Omer Asik, Jimmermania
Key question: Can they find a way to be good on both ends of the floor?
Anthony Davis will be a top-five player very soon and the addition of Asik will obviously help what has been the league's worst defensive team over the last two seasons. But Asik wasn't happy coming off the bench in Houston and the Pels are at their best offensively with Ryan Anderson and Davis on the floor.


Last week: 19

New York (37-45)
Pace: 92.6 (29), OffRtg: 105.4 (11), DefRtg: 106.5 (24), NetRtg: -1.0 (19)
Key addition(s): Jose Calderon, youth
Key question: Will this be a team another star wants to join next year?
You have to like the point guard upgrade, but it's also important that the Knicks have six guys under 25 with whom to start building. None has a very high ceiling and defense is still a big issue, but when Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire come off the books next summer, more pieces can be added.


Last week: 20

Denver (36-46)
Pace: 100.7 (3), OffRtg: 103.3 (17), DefRtg: 105.4 (21), NetRtg: -2.1 (20)
Key addition(s): Double consonants
Key question: Can Brian Shaw bring this team together?
Shaw should certainly have a healthier roster in his second season. The Nuggets have explosiveness in the backcourt, athleticism up front, and two legit rotation guys at every position. But it's on the coach to make the pieces work together and find an identity that can compete in the ridiculously deep Western Conference.


Last week: 26

Detroit (29-53)
Pace: 97.4 (11), OffRtg: 102.9 (19), DefRtg: 107.3 (26), NetRtg: -4.4 (24)
Key addition(s): Stan Van Gundy, cheap shooting
Key question: Will they keep Josh Smith, Greg Monroe or both?
Van Gundy's teams have been top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency in five of the six full seasons he's coached. He did his best to add as much shooting as he could (four guys who shot better than 39 percent from 3-point range) with a limited budget. But that's all for naught if Smith is still playing small forward.


Last week: 23

Sacramento (28-54)
Pace: 96.7 (14), OffRtg: 102.9 (20), DefRtg: 106.3 (23), NetRtg: -3.4 (22)
Key addition(s): Nine nerds
Key question: What the heck is the plan here?
Their Draft process seemed refreshing and open-minded, but there still haven't been any decisions to distinguish new Kings management from old Kings management. Darren Collison over Isaiah Thomas? And if they're really trying to put together a frontline of Rudy Gay, Josh Smith and DeMarcus Cousins, oh boy.


Last week: 27

L.A. Lakers (27-55)
Pace: 101.0 (2), OffRtg: 101.9 (21), DefRtg: 107.9 (28), NetRtg: -6.0 (27)
Key addition(s): Lots of "And one!" yelps
Key question: Just how bad can they be defensively?
Very, very bad. They were awful last season, the only plus defender on the roster (Ed Davis) is competing for minutes with Carlos Boozer and Julius Randle, and the last time Byron Scott (the only candidate, it seems) coached was the last time a team ranked in the bottom five in defensive efficiency three straight seasons.


Last week: 25

Boston (25-57)
Pace: 95.9 (15), OffRtg: 99.7 (27), DefRtg: 105.2 (20), NetRtg: -5.5 (20)
Key addition(s): A young and smart backcourt
Key question: Is there a future All-Star on this roster?
Rajon Rondo is a four-time All-Star, but hasn't run an above-average offense in four years. And though the Celtics now have six first-round picks under the age of 25 on their roster, the one with the best potential (Marcus Smart) plays the same position as Rondo. Danny Ainge is still waiting to make his big move.


Last week: 24

Orlando (23-59)
Pace: 95.9 (16), OffRtg: 99.3 (29), DefRtg: 104.8 (18), NetRtg: -5.5 (25)
Key addition(s): More young guys, and Channing Frye
Key question: Ben Gordon? Really?
There was no reason not to believe in Rob Hennigan as he tore the Magic roster down and began building a young core. But when it was time to spend a little money, he handed $4.5 million to a guy who should have been hoping for a minimum deal. The 31-year old Frye also seems like a strange fit.


Last week: 29

Milwaukee (15-67)
Pace: 94.3 (24), OffRtg: 100.2 (26), DefRtg: 108.9 (29), NetRtg: -8.7 (29)
Key addition(s): Jabari Parker, Non-answers at the coach's press conferences
Key question: Will Larry Sanders live up to his extension?
Last year was a throwaway season, helping the Bucks get the No. 2 pick. But now Sanders' four-year, $44 million extension kicks in and there's another young star on the roster for him to influence one way or the other. At his best, he's a defensive anchor. At his worst, he's not someone you want around.


Last week: 28

Utah (25-57)
Pace: 93.6 (26), OffRtg: 100.6 (25), DefRtg: 109.1 (30), NetRtg: -8.4 (28)
Key addition(s): Quin Snyder
Key question: Can Trey Burke and Dante Exum play together?
It will be interesting to see what Snyder can come up with for a young roster. There's nowhere to go but up on defense, where the length of both Exum and Rodney Hood should help. But if Gordon Hayward is still their best offensive player and Steve Novak is their only real shooter, they'll continue to struggle on that end.


Last week: 30

Philadelphia (19-63)
Pace: 101.6 (1), OffRtg: 96.8 (30), DefRtg: 107.5 (27), NetRtg: -10.7 (30)
Key addition(s): Nerlens Noel
Key question: What is Thaddeus Young still doing here?
Young handled last season like a pro and young teams need vets like that. He's still only 26, but he has an early termination option next summer, may not want to keep waiting for his team to start caring about results and could make a real impact on one of the top five or six teams in the East (or in Phoenix).