NBA Power Rankings: Things start getting competitive
Other than making a sign-and-trade deal with the Spurs that would ultimately send DeMar DeRozan to Chicago, the Bulls also acquired Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and Derrick Jones Jr., among a few others. On paper, this team looks like it can do some damage.
Ultimately, though, while I like the moves the Bulls made in the offseason, they feel like a last-ditch effort to make something meaningful happen. Even after bringing Nikola Vucevic to the team this past season, they struggled to the end and only managed a record of 31 wins and 41 losses. While they'll surely perform much better than that this coming year, I don't know how much their offseason moves will actually translate to the court.
The Memphis Grizzlies are right on the cusp of being a big factor in the playoffs and I think this is the season where they take the next step. They've slowly built a strong young core of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane, and De'Anthony Melton that have all come into their own nicely.
While the departure of Jonas Valanciunas hurts a bit, a return of Steven Adams, Jarrett Culver (via Minnesota), and Ziaire Williams is not so bad. The Grizzlies have drafted well in the past several drafts and I think that reaching for Williams this year will be better than many have made it out to be.
I anticipate that the Grizzlies and the following seven teams will all end up very close to one another overall and in their respective conferences.
The Portland Trailblazers have found themselves in a very awkward spot in the Damian Lillard timeline and, frankly, are in risky territory. They're bringing in a new coaching staff with Chauncey Billups at the helm, and are bringing back a very similar roster minus Carmelo Anthony, Enes Kanter, and a few players that weren't getting much time on the floor in the first place.
While Larry Nance Jr. and Ben McLemore are both well-fitting acquisitions for the team, I'm not sure how much they move the needle compared to Anthony and Kanter. I have a feeling that this may be a bit of a "do or die" season for the Trailblazers, and there's a decent chance it could end up in flames.