Editor’s note: Following the flurry of late summer activity, David Aldridge has updated his annual offseason-activity rankings from early August. The revised rankings will take place this week on Tuesday (30-21), Wednesday (20-11) and Thursday (10-1).
Welcome to the Jan Brady section of my annual NBA season rankings.
Jan, famously, was the middle daughter of the blended, six-child family of “The Brady Bunch,” which was somewhat popular in the early 70s, and spent five seasons on the air in the American Zeitgeist. What endures? who knows? It was creaky and cliched at the time; Aside from Tiger Bit, who may have young girls on Big Boy, and conversely, young boys on Big Girl, TBB’s weekly storylines have fallen far short of the tough times the show first appeared on. (Maybe that’s why it’s so popular.)
But Jan’s angst resides in the profile of the middle child—perhaps not being as attractive as her older sister, Marcia, or as precocious as her younger sister, Cindy. Jan believes Marcia didn’t get attention from the boys, or their parents, or what they taught her at school, leading her to her still-remembered wailing of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” to her mother.
Likewise, if you see your team between these stages, you may feel inadequate, like your team isn’t getting the love it deserves. You can say “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy” in exasperation. But this ignores the fact that your team is ranked higher than the teams below 10 (“Who cares about them? They stink,” says your thought bubble). Don’t be afraid. Your team has done some good, sometimes very good things out of competition. Chances are, your team is also a rebounding playoff team that probably had a few more glaring holes to fill than your rebuilding/tanker cousins. Many of these teams are also waiting for the return of key players who missed most of last season with injuries.
Bach, Jan. You are loved. And in the real, NBA world, most of these teams have some real traction.
What to know about these steps
As this only covers the season, here are the non-rankings:
• Finishing order for next season.
These are not “power levels” as you understand them. For example, I’m not saying the Sacramento Kings are better than the Warriors right now, just that I think Sacramento is having a more impactful season. The Kings weren’t as good as the Dubs, so they had a lot more work to do to improve their roster. (This graph is for the world “Tim F” or similar – every year he leaves the following version in the comments, after reading the rankings and completely ignoring the physical activity: “They are better than kings. Warriors, lol))
Accordingly, as I say every year:
• If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn’t mean I like your team.
There is only one question: Is the team better now than at the end of last season? The rating reflects the belief that such is the case and to what extent. (I liked some guys in the draft more than others, for example, if your team took them, I’d probably weigh them more positively. Not that I’m right.)
as well as –
• This is not science. It’s an educated guess. Giannis Antetokounmpo or Nikola Jokić would fit anywhere, but most additions should make sense for their new teams.
• It’s clear that rebuilding teams should be given a different priority than championship teams. Teams that fix glaring flaws get credit, while teams that ignore or ignore glaring flaws will probably get a little dinged.
• A rebuilding team with a lot of cap space can make a lot of moves, but do they make sense? And a competitive team that continues to delve into luxury/recurring taxes – something most teams try to avoid – is to be commended, and here it is.
• Disadvantages, obvious, matter. The Milwaukee Bucks aren’t as good without Khris Middleton. Not Milwaukee or Middleton, offense, but … injuries happen. On the other hand, getting a key man back after missing him last year is a boost: Look for Denver to have Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. back on the court next season.
• Continuity is also important here. Many successful teams not only identify a core group of players, but also keep them together. It may also make more sense for other groups to dry their powder for another day.
So, here we go.
The salary numbers, with a few exceptions, come from SpotTrack, which stays on top of these things as well as anyone east of Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report/Basketball Insiders/NBA TV. Select draft details from Spotrac and Real GM.
20. Toronto Raptors
2021-22 record: 48-34; He lost in the first round
Added: F Otto Porter Jr. (two years, $12.3M); F Juancho Hernangomez; C Christian Cocolo (second round, 33rd pick); F DJ Wilson (two years, $4.5M); F Justin Champagne (two years, $3.5M); G/F Ron Harper Jr. (two-way); G Jeff Dowtin (two-way)
Missing: G Harmony Brooks (left); G Svi Mykhailiuk (left)
Retained: F Chris Boucher (three years, $35.2M); F Thaddeus Young (two years, $16M); F Gabe Brown (Exhibit 10)
Back from injury: G Fred VanVleet (hip strain, injured knee); C Kem Birch (right knee arthroplasty)
The skinny: The Raps were a dark horse favorite to enter the Durant race, but that’s off the table — for now, at least. Barring some 11th-hour shakeups, Toronto returns with a very good, still-young, defense-first core. Porter will do what he’s done his entire career – spread the floor, cut, make a few 3s, defend, settle, be professional. I’m a little worried about FVV minutes going forward; Last season, he averaged nearly 38 tackles, which tied him with teammate Siakam for the league’s highest average. Sure, it could be a relative fluke, but VanVleet has missed 37 games over the past two seasons.
19. New Orleans Pelicans
2021-22 record: 44-38; He lost in the first round
Added: G Dyson Daniels (first round, eighth pick); F EJ Liddell (second round, 41st pick); C Carlo Matkovic (second round, 52nd pick)
Extended: F Zion Williamson (five years, $192.8 million)
Back from injury: Williamson (surgery, broken leg); G Kira Lewis Jr. (torn ACL, sprained MCL); Liddell (torn ACL)
The Skinny: Daniels, the G League Ignite, has the kind of tools the rookie should expect and should quickly become a rotating backcourt piece with CJ McCollum, Herb Jones, Devonte’ Graham and Jose Alvarado. If Williamson is anything like his old self after missing all of 2021-22, New Orleans will take a big jump in the West. But even if the return takes longer than expected, the Pels have the first chance at the future of the Lakers and Bucks’ remaining (six through 2027) Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday deals. New Orleans can be as bold as it wants to be in the trade market for a while.
18. Phoenix Sun
2021-22 record: 64-18; He lost in the semi-finals of the Western Conference
Added: C Jock Landale (acquired from Atlanta); G Damion Lee ($2.1M one year); F Josh Okogie (one year, $1.9 million); G. Duane Washington Jr. (two-way)
Missing: C JaVale McGee (signed with Dallas); C. Frank Kaminsky (signed with Atlanta); G Aaron Holiday (signed with Atlanta)
Retained: C Deandre Ayton (four-year, $133M opt-out from Pacers); C. Bismack Biyombo (one year, $2.9M); Gish Wainwright (Two Way)
Extended: G Devin Booker (four years, $224 million).
Back from injury: F Dario Saric (ACL rehab).
The skinny: Forget what we all saw in Game 7 of the conference semis against Dallas, Monty Williams benched Ayton for the second half. Forget that the Suns refused to offer Ayton a huge offer — and told him to look elsewhere. Forget what we saw him do with getting the bag from Indiana. The sun has set in five minutes, so see nothing here, I guess; Both Williams and Ayton told ESPN’s Mark Spears that it was water under the bridge. Forget about Governor Robert Sarver being caught up in the NBA investigation. Of course, you can’t forget any of the above, and you shouldn’t. For now, anyway, Phoenix has avoided looking to fill the hole at center by keeping Eyeton for at least another year. Under CBA rules, they cannot trade him anywhere for 12 months without his consent. So, the Suns return with a team that went 64-18 in the regular season, with small changes at the back of the rotation — including Lee, who could certainly help.
17. Brooklyn Nets
2021-22 record: 44-38; He lost in the first round
Added: F Royce O’Neale (from Utah); F TJ Warren (one year, $2.6M); F Markieff Morris (one year); G Edmund Summers (two years, $4.2M); F Yuta Watanabe (one year, $1.97M); G. Alondes Williams (two-way)
LOST: F Bruce Brown (signed by Denver); C Andre Drummond (signed with Chicago); Left Goran Dragic (signed with Chicago); F James Johnson (left); 2023 first round pick (traded to Utah)
Retained: G Kyrie Irving (player option; $36.5M); G Patty Mills (two years, $13.2M); F Kessler Edwards (two years, $3.5 million)
Extended: C Nick Claxton (two years, $17.2 million).
Back from injury: G Ben Simmons (back surgery); F Joe Harris (ankle surgery); G Seth Curry (left ankle arthroscopic surgery)
The skinny: A now-unsettled reconciliation has clouded the trade question, with the caveat that no one should be surprised if GM Marks or coach Steve Nash are cashiers or Durant is offered a new address anytime next season. . Brooklyn can at least start the season assuming it brings parties that aren’t divided (originally autocorrected to “desperate” and might be more accurate). Given his strong personality, it’s hard to see this happening. We all know KD and Kyrie blaze their own trails, but the owner of the lot, Joseph Tye, isn’t shrinking himself. And Tsai basically shut down the idea of the Nets giving Durant away for pennies on the dollar. So, I can’t pretend that the last six weeks didn’t happen, and that there wasn’t at least some damage done to the most important internal relationships.
Can Nash coach Durant or Irving, knowing a three-game losing streak could have him in the best seats? Would the Nets turn on a dime if they found a team willing to meet their asking price for Durant? As noted in my review of Brooklyn’s preseason, the Nets didn’t do badly in their roster rebuild, adding Warren and O’Neal. But Warren’s recent injury history complicates some of the enthusiasm. And, as mentioned earlier, Simmons and Harris each missed all of the 21-22 season, and Curry had to recover this summer. So regardless of their fitness level, they need some time to shake off the rust. For all these reasons, I can’t say the Nets had a top 10 season. But knowing that the two superstars have at least a minimal buy-in entering the season should elevate them from their previous positions.
16. Chicago Bulls
2021-22 record: 46-36; He lost in the first round
Added: G Goran Dragić (one year, $2.9M); C. Andre Drummond (two years, $6.56 million); G Dalen Terry (first round, 18th pick); G Javon Freeman-Liberty (Exhibit 10); G. Carlick Jones (Exhibit 10)
Missing: F Troy Brown Jr. (signed with Lakers)
Retained: G Zach LaVine (five years, $215.1M); F Derrick Jones Jr. (two years, $6.56M); C Tony Bradley (player option, $2M); F Justin Lewis (two-way)
Back from injury: G Lonzo Ball (meniscus surgery).
The skinny: The Bulls made the big move by keeping LaVine after rumors that he might look elsewhere. Ball may not be ready for the start of next season, so the Bulls added rookie vet Drugue as insurance — an anemic Chicago product (95.2 points per game, 40.4 field-goal percentage) during a decent sweep of Milwaukee. Just as important is a return to form from LaVine, whose own knee issues slowed dramatically last season and required arthroscopic surgery in March. His decline has affected DeMar DeRozan when opponents press him without the ball and LaVine. Drummond was a sneaky good pickup that backed up Nikola Vucevic and Chicago’s awful (29th) standing on the glass last season. DeRozan confirmed the upset Chicago gave San Antonio last year. But in order for the bulls to remain in the Eastern mix, they need their remaining riders to get out of the equation.
15. Washington Wizards
2021-22 record: 35-47; He did not play games
Added: G Monte Morris (acquired from Denver); G/F Will Barton (acquired from Denver); G Delon Wright (two years, $16 million); C. Taj Gibson (one year, $2.9M); G Johnny Davis (first round, 10th pick); C Yannick Nzosa (second round, 54th pick); C. Makur Sari (Exhibit 10)
LOST: F Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (traded to Denver) G Ish Smith (traded to Denver); C Thomas Bryant (signed with Lakers); G Raul Neto (signed with Cleveland); G Tomáš Satoranský (signed with FC Barcelona)
Retained: G Bradley Beal (five years, $251M); F Anthony Gill (two years, $3.8M)
Back from injury: Beal (hand surgery)
The skinny: At the end of years of breathless punditry and fake trades, Washington brought Beal, a three-time All-Star guard, into the fold with a massive contract. But there’s no guarantee that this latest iteration of supposed improvement — with Kristaps Porridge and Kyle Kuzma and Morris now flanking Beal — will have a better record than last season, when Spencer Dinwiddie was there to help Beal carry the load. Or, last season, when it was Russell Westbrook. Morris will be Ball’s fourth starting backcourt mate in four years. A healthy Porsche would certainly be Beal, the best big man DC has played since Marcin Gortat, but “healthy” has always been a KP thing, right? Wright will be an upgrade as a third guard, for sure, but Washington’s hamster wheel won’t change until the Wizards, drastically and consistently improve their offensive defense, which will be very difficult without KCP.
14. New York Knicks
2021-22 record: 37-45; He did not play games
Added: G Jalen Brunson (four years, $104M); C Isaiah Hartenstein (two years, $16 million); G Trevor Keels (second round, 42nd pick); G Nikola Radičević (acquired from Detroit); 2023 first-round pick (acquired from Oklahoma City via Detroit); 2023 first-round pick (acquired from Oklahoma City via Washington); 2023 first round pick (acquired from Oklahoma City via Denver); 2025 first and second round picks (from Detroit)
LOST: C Nerlens Noel (traded to Detroit); G Kemba Walker (traded to Detroit); G Alec Burks (traded to Detroit); FC Taj Gibson (signed with Washington); C Jalen Duren (draft rights traded to Detroit by Charlotte); F Ousmane Dieng (traded draft rights to Oklahoma City); 2023 second round pick (traded to Detroit); 2024 second round pick (traded to Detroit via Miami)
Retained: C Mitchell Robinson (four years, $60M); F Jericho Sims (three years, $5.66 million)
Extended: F.R.J. Barrett (four years, $120M)
Back from injury: G Derrick Rose (right ankle surgery); F Julius Randle (quad); F Cam Reddish (Right AC Joint)
The Skinny: Can you plant for something the team didn’t do? The Knicks should have finally landed Donovan Mitchell this summer and paired him with Brunson in a small but offensive backcourt. But Cleveland — like the Knicks, an East team trying to crack the top six — jumped the line and got it. That puts New York back to Evan Fournier at two with Brunson. (I love Knicks fans; after Cleveland got Mitchell, I suggested New York use some of its abundant future capital to acquire Buddy Hield or Myles Turner or Indy, and they lost their minds. Sorry, the Knicks forgot about the 60-win team coming to the Finals.) If the Knicks hang around, it’s either the now-extended Barrett or Obi. They need more internal improvement to push Topi further north. At least the Knicks finally discussed their long-standing issue with Brunson on the ball and won the bet on himself. And after moving back in the first round twice this year to collect several future first-round picks, New York has a large stockpile of assets over the next three years that could go in any number of promising directions.
13. LA Clippers
2021-22 record: 42-40; Lost in the Play-In round
Added: G John Wall (two years, $13.28M); FC Moussa Diabate (second round, 43rd pick); C. Moses Brown (Exhibit 10)
Missing: C Isaiah Hartenstein (signed by Knicks)
Retained: F Robert Covington (two years, $24M); F Nicolas Batum (two years, $22.55M); G Amir Coffey (three years, $11 million); G Jay Scrubb (Exhibit 10); G Xavier Moon (Exhibit 10)
Extended: C Ivica Zubac (three years, $32.8M)
Back from injury: F Kawhi Leonard (torn ACL).
The skin: It’s all about who has been released from the Clippers’ medical department and when and how quickly they’ll return to their pre-injury forms — if they return to their pre-injury forms. Leonard is now 31 years old, and if he’s not ready for the old power forward’s home yet, he’s not a kid anymore. If he’s an MVP-caliber player again, playing alongside a healthy Paul George, the Clippers are back for the playoffs. But we won’t know that for sure until they’re in court. Using Wall as a sophomore quarterback off the bench seems like the right play — he’ll accept the role behind Reggie Jackson, who earned the starting PG spot, without complaint. Who’s going to get five non-Zubak minutes with Hartenstein and Serge Ibaka going forward, both missing since December when he played a lot until he was traded to Milwaukee at the deadline? It wouldn’t be surprising to see a vet blow through here on a minimal contract. (Blake Griffin is still there, as of this writing. Just saying.)
12. Orlando Magic
2021-22 record: 22-60; He did not play games
Added: F Paolo Banchero (first round, first pick); F Caleb Huston (second round, 32nd pick)
LOST: C Robin Lopez (signed with Cleveland).
Retained: G Gary Harris (two years, $26M); C Mo Bamba (two years, $20.6 million); FC Bol Bol (two years, $4.4 million); G Admiral Schofield (two-way)
Back from injury: G Jalen Suggs (stress fracture, right ankle); F Jonathan Isaac (hip); ball (foot)
The skinny: If you have a secret, tell it to the Orlando front office. Their interest in Banchero was murky for weeks before they landed the first pick on the Duke freshman. He would fit in anywhere but should be fine in the Magic frontcourt where he could stand some more pop. The idea of banging a banchero on your elbow while Franz Wagner strums his wings has plenty of appeal. The Magic still considered re-signing Bamba, presumably in favor of Banchero, in a team-friendly deal. Although I’m not at all sure how Jamahl Mosley is going to get enough yardage minutes for Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz, Suggs, Harris, RJ Hampton and Terrence Ross. At the very least, the Magic’s surplus of guards and forwards (from Chicago and Denver) will give Orlando the ability to put together credible packages in the summer for potential stars to play with Banchero.
11. Detroit Pistons
2021-22 record: 23-59; He did not play games
Added: F Kevin Knox (two years, $6M); G Rodney McGruder (one year, $2.29M); C Nerlens Noel (from New York); G Alec Burks (from New York); G Jaden Ivey (first round, fifth pick); F/C Jalen Duren (draft rights acquired from Charlotte); G/F Gabriele Procida (draft rights acquired from Portland); G Buddy Boeheim (two-way); 2022 second-round pick, 2025 first-round pick, 2026 second-round pick swap (acquired from Portland); 2023, 2024 second round picks (from New York)
LOST: F Jeremy Grant (traded to Portland); G Nikola Radičević (traded to New York); C Ismael Camaget (draft rights traded to Portland) C Luca Garza (team declined 2022-23 option); G Frank Jackson (team declined 2022-23 option); G Carson Edwards (team declined 2022-23 option); 2025 first and second round picks (traded to New York)
Retained: F Marvin Bagley (three years, $37.5M); G Corey Joseph (player option, $5.1M); G Hamidou Diallo (team option, $5.2M)
Recovery from injury: None
SkinNews: They didn’t do what many thought they would – offer a huge offer sheet to Deandre Ayton. Instead, Detroit and New York exchanged a lot of spares and future draft picks. At the end of it all, though, the Pistons get a player in Duren, a freshman from Memphis who is reliably big compared to Chris Webber pre-draft. The Pistons ultimately offered Grant, who could not be extended in the next 12 months on Detroit’s timeline. Grant was believed to land a big move, but the modest package the Pistons received from Portland (highlighted by a 2025 first-round pick in Milwaukee) was more realistic.
Detroit’s biggest upgrade, however, was acquiring Ivey, who fell to Detroit in the first round after Sacramento moved with Iowa forward Keegan Murray. Evie projects as one of the league’s best young backfields alongside Cade Cunningham as a great complement. In fact, Detroit may now have the best collection of under-25 talent — Cunningham, Ev, Sadiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Duren — in the league. One caveat: The Pistons haven’t exactly addressed their terrible 3-point shooting (.326, 29th in the league last season) other than bringing in Burks, who shot 40 percent last season. And can Dwane Casey Burks play big minutes with Ivey’s growth curve going?
(Top photo: Art by Wes McCabe/The Athletic; Bradley Bell by Michael Reeves/Getty Images; DeAndre Ayton by Sarah Stier/Getty Images; John Wall by Barry Gossage/Getty Images)