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End of Season Power Rankings Part II: Brighter than the Sun//Outside Looking In

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Brighter than the Sun

23. Atlanta

Regular season: 29-53

Lottery odds: 105/1000

Draft position: 8, 10, 17

Quote of the year:

Trae Young [during last year’s draft combined, on being asked if he was the best SCORER in the draft]: “I think I’m the best overall player in this draft.” -  May 19, 2018

If we were reading about this in December last year, we would have been shaking our heads ‘til they unscrewed from our neck base and just dropped to the ground. Today, with John Collins, three first rounders in the upcoming draft (the last one coming thanks to taking on Allen Crabbe’s horrible contract) and Trae Young, the Hawks look to be on the road to becoming one of those model organizations in terms of Cap Space, youth and assets – as long as they hold out on, or find someone who will take the hit for, the contracts of Miles Plumlee, Kent Bazemore and now Crabbe – their three highest paid players next year. While 2019-2020 looks to be a player development year, there is real excitement when it comes to these Hawks now and into the future. Nothing to scoff at either that the Hawks seem farther along than the Bulls in getting their Hawks Red back to the playoffs.

 

22. Dallas

Regular season: 33-49

Lottery odds: 60/1000

Quote of the year:

Rick Carlisle [to Kris Humphries, on having fun with Dirk during practice]: “Dirk has fun. You don’t have fun. You need to focus. Dirk? He doesn’t even need to practice. He’s f------ Dirk.”

While the sun set on 41, the sun is only about to rise on 77. Dallas was a borderline mediocre playoff team during the middle part of last year, with more than a handful of close game heartbreaks and giantslaying under their belt. There are things t figure out with Tim Hardaway, Jr and Courtney Lee, but that was the price to pay for Cuban and Carlisle when they swung for the fences on Kristaps Porzingis. And if they can weather the storm of a media fiasco stemming from the ***** allegations of the unicorn, AND THEN convince a marquee free agent of signing in Dallas (thanks to the Harrison Barnes salary dump), best case scenario is that Luka and KP turn into a legitimate 1-2 punch.

 

21. New Orleans

Regular season: 33-49

Lottery odds: 60/1000

Draft position: 1

Quote of the year:

Alvin Gentry [when he heard Memphis got the 2nd overall pick, meaning New Orleans gets Zion Williamson]: “***** Yeah”

The Pelicans’ year started off with high expectations, particularly to see if they can go deeper than the success of the 2018 playoff run. Then Elfrid Payton’s injury, while not as headline-grabbing as the Durant or Thompson ones, really shook the team still reeling from the free agency departure of Rajon Rondo. Suddenly, the losses piled up and Anthony Davis would soon come to a realization that, in controlling his own destiny, New Orleans would no longer be part of it.

With a soap opera-like trade fiasco that saw former GM Dell Demps leak trade information that would undermine and destroy the minds of the young Lakers’ core, this was one really nasty playbook that we may see in trades down the road. No, it didn’t cushion the blow on the Pels’ win-loss record. Even in a season where Jahlil Okafor and Julius Randle put up monster numbers at times, in a season where All Defensive Shooting Guard Jrue Holiday would volunteer to Alvin Gentry to GUARD THE OPPOSING CENTER, many people do not understand the impact Elfrid Payton had on this Pelicans team early, and now all of that is in flux with the addition of Lonzo Ball. And Josh Hart. And Brandon Ingram. And the 4th pick in the draft. And Zion Williamson. For the New Orleans Lakers… er… I mean Pelicans, that’s a great problem to have. Did I mention that the Pels also get to swap 2 first rounders with the Lakers AND get 2 more first rounders from LA?

“F--- Yeah” Indeed.

 

Outside looking in 

 

20. Miami

Regular season: 39-43

Lottery odds: 10/1000

Draft position: 13

Quote of the year:

Pat Riley: “in 2020, we’ll have a lot of room… also have the possibility… to go after two max contracts…. And we are a destination…” – February 28, 2019

After years of trying to be Memphis of the East – never giving up the possibility of the playoffs only to present a middling team, we probably have nothing else to say about Miami, really. We all knew how Wade’s farewell tour would coincide with the season when Goran Dragic opts in to continue to cripple the Heat cap, and 2019-2020 looks to be more of the same. Credit to Riley and Spoelstra – this team puts up a fight no matter the roster make-up and they actually mean it when they say “over my dead body”.

 

19. Charlotte

Regular season: 39-43

Lottery odds: 10/1000

Draft position: 12

Quote of the year:

Jim Borrego: “I want to recognize Gregg Popovich – a mentor, a friend… someone in my first year didn’t even know my name. Called me Ray Romano. Everyone loves Raymond, right?” – May 11, 2018

The quote didn’t really have anything to do about Charlotte, I just found it to be really funny when I read it myself. What’s not funny is Charlotte’s cap situation. Although they’re in a better place than Miami because of Malik Monk and Jeremy Lamb and their rookie scale contracts, Charlotte’s storyline of “almost just missing the playoffs in the mediocre east for the nth time” is as constant as change itself. Rick Cho hitting the reset button might be best started with a Kemba Walker sign-and-trade which will net him at least a young stud who he can back-pocket until Biyombo, MKG and Batum come off the books (2020/2021). If he can’t, at least Walker is less likely to turn into John Wall after getting supermaxed, so trading him during the course of his contract is far less of a challenge. I just really wish Kemba could just finally taste some playoffs.

 

18. Sacramento

Regular season: 39-43

Lottery odds: 10/1000

Quote of the year:

Dave Joerger [on Luka Doncic]: “… there was an idea that there was a ceiling on him? I don’t see it, unfortunately for us.”

Will Marvin Bagley be the modern day Sam Bowie – just the guy who was drafted between Ayton and Doncic? Only time will tell. But if Joerger’s comments after that are to be believed, he sees a new KD and Russ pairing in Bagley and Fox. It’s just too bad he won’t be coaching them.

Sacramento’s season had great playoff hopes to start, but youth and immaturity shone through and they get a do-over. The breath of fresh air here was that this is the first team on the list who was both not cap-crippled and not tanking. Can’t wait to see how they use their close to 40million in projected 2019-2020 cap space to surround their young core with a veteran presence.

 

17. LA Lakers

Regular season: 37-45

Lottery odds: 20/1000

Draft position: 4

Quote of the year:

LeBron James: “It’s not what we signed up for…Playoffs are never promised. You’ve got to come out and work. For me personally, you just continue to put the work in.” – March 22, 2019

After trading away their future to leverage on the small window when Anthony Davis and LeBron James can play together, top to bottom, this organization has their work cut out for them. The 2019 Lakers shut down LeBron as “the other Lakers” couldn’t figure out how to win, and The King missing his first playoffs in forever was blamed for poor NBA playoffs ratings. Now, the Lakers are unrecognizable apart from their new Big 3 of AD, James and Kuzma, with the Big 2 owning over half the Lakers’ salary cap for the coming season (BEFORE Davis’ 4Million Trade Kicker). All the drama from Magic Johnson to the Lakers’ young core pouting for being dangled as trade bait can now be officially forgotten. Free agency is gonna be fun as heck, down to the last Laker role player (here’s looking at you, DeMarcus Cousins).

After all the fanfare of how two top ten, or even possibly top five players in the NBA just joined forces, LeBron’s heartbreak of missing the playoffs is the one thing he should NOT take for granted. Unlike so many other teams and so many other stars, he was the one who reminded himself that, even nearing 40 years old and three NBA championships after, you have to continue to put in the work. Will AD realize this incredibly important lesson that his amazing talents will only go so far?

 

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