NBA Power Rankings: Living in a Warriors world

The NBA landscape looks far different from when we last saw the Golden State Warriors hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. Perennial All-Stars and future Hall of Famers changed teams (and conferences), blockbuster trades formed new superteams and a handful of rookies showed they’re ready to compete on the grand stage.

But one storyline hasn’t changed: Who in the world is going to beat the Warriors?

Every Monday throughout the regular season, our panel — ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, Amin Elhassan and Ramona Shelburne, The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring — will rank the league’s 30 teams from top to bottom. Here’s the season’s first installment of NBA Power Rankings, with research notes on each team provided by ESPN Stats & Information.

Editor’s note: Projected win-loss records were determined using ESPN’s Basketball Power Index.

1. Golden State Warriors
Projected 2017-18 record: 63-19
Last season: 67-15 | W, Finals

According to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the Warriors’ over/under win total is 67. If Golden State reaches that win total, it would be the fourth time — and fourth straight season — in which it did so, breaking a tie with Michael Jordan‘s Bulls for the most 67-win seasons in NBA history.


2. Cleveland Cavaliers
Projected 2017-18 record: 52-30
Last season: 51-31 | L, Finals

By season’s end, LeBron James could be just the sixth player to play in eight consecutive NBA Finals, joining Bill Russell, Sam Jones, Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones and Frank Ramsey. The five players he would join all did so with the Celtics.


3. Houston Rockets
Projected 2017-18 record: 54-28
Last season: 55-27 | L, Round 2

Over the past three seasons, Chris Paul has averaged 9.9 assists per game and James Harden has averaged 8.5 assists per game. Only once has a set of teammates averaged at least 8 APG in the same season (minimum 25 games on same team): 1983-84 Spurs, John Lucas (10.7) and Johnny Moore (9.6).


4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected 2017-18 record: 50-32
Last season: 47-35 | L, Round 1

Russell Westbrook recorded an NBA-record 42 triple-doubles last season, breaking Oscar Robertson’s single-season record. Westbrook is at 79 career triple-doubles and with 29 more this season, he would pass Jason Kidd for the third most in NBA history.


5. San Antonio Spurs
Projected 2017-18 record: 53-29
Last season: 61-21 | L, West finals

Is this the season Kawhi Leonard wins MVP? Russell Westbrook added two All-Star teammates. James Harden added another ball-dominant guard. LeBron James will certainly be in the running, but will he play enough? Last season, Leonard was the only player in the NBA to rank in the top 10 in points per game (ninth), steals per game (T-seventh) and deflections per game (T-ninth).


6. Boston Celtics
Projected 2017-18 record: 54-28
Last season: 53-29 | L, East finals

The Celtics return just four players — Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier — from a team that won an East-best 53 games last season. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Boston is the first team in NBA history to return four or fewer players the season after leading a conference in wins.


7. Washington Wizards
Projected 2017-18 record: 47-35
Last season: 49-33 | L, Round 2

Last season, Washington won 49 games, its most since becoming the Wizards in 1997-98. Washington has won 50 games five times in its history and hasn’t done so since the 1978-79 Washington Bullets won 54 games.


8. Denver Nuggets
Projected 2017-18 record: 45-37
Last season: 40-42 | Missed playoffs

The Nuggets became a top League Pass team when Nikola Jokic was inserted into the starting lineup in December. Following the All-Star break, Jokic averaged 17.7 points, 11.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. The only other player to put up 17-11-6 in the second half of the season was MVP Russell Westbrook.


9. Minnesota Timberwolves
Projected 2017-18 record: 48-34
Last season: 31-51 | Missed playoffs

The Timberwolves added Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford this offseason. Will the addition of so many experienced players be enough to snap a 13-year playoff drought, the longest in the NBA?


10. Toronto Raptors
Projected 2017-18 record: 48-34
Last season: 51-31 | L, Round 2

In a league that has put a heavy emphasis on the 3-pointer, DeMar DeRozan has stayed true to his style of play. Last season, he attempted 748 midrange field goals, 83 more than Carmelo Anthony, who was second in the NBA. A guard hadn’t taken that many midrange field goals since Kobe Bryant in 2008-09.


11. LA Clippers
Projected 2017-18 record: 43-39
Last season: 51-31 | L, Round 1

Chris Paul is no longer on the team but the Clippers added a great passer in Milos Teodosic. That’s good news for DeAndre Jordan, who has led the league in alley-oop dunks each of the past six seasons. Jordan’s 595 alley-oop dunks since the 2011-12 season are 226 more than the next player on the list.


12. Utah Jazz
Projected 2017-18 record: 41-41
Last season: 51-31 | L, Round 2

The departed Gordon Hayward will certainly be missed on the offensive side, but the Jazz should still boast a stout defense with Rudy Gobert in the middle. According to NBA.com player tracking data, Gobert held opponents to 43.8 percent shooting at the rim last season, the lowest field goal percentage allowed at the rim (minimum 300 attempts at the rim).


13. Milwaukee Bucks
Projected 2017-18 record: 47-35
Last season: 42-40 | L, Round 1

Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged career highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals per game last season. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, if he records career highs across the board this season, he will become the first player to improve his per-game averages in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals in each of his first five NBA seasons.


14. Portland Trail Blazers
Projected 2017-18 record: 42-40
Last season: 41-41 | L, Round 1

Damian Lillard averaged 25 points per game each of the past two seasons but wasn’t selected an All-Star in either season. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, he is one of three players to average 25 PPG and not make an All-Star team in back-to-back seasons, joining Michael Redd and Purvis Short. Neither Redd nor Short did so in three consecutive seasons.


15. New Orleans Pelicans
Projected 2017-18 record: 39-43
Last season: 34-48 | Missed playoffs

The Pelicans have arguably the best power forward-center combo in the NBA. DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are two of 18 players with career averages of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in NBA history. The other 16 players are all Hall of Famers (minimum 200 games played).


16. Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2017-18 record: 38-44
Last season: 43-39 | L, Round 1

The Grizzlies have made the playoffs each of the past seven seasons, the third-longest active streak behind only the Spurs and Hawks. That streak could be in jeopardy as ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives the Grizzlies a 19 percent chance of making the playoffs.


17. Charlotte Hornets
Projected 2017-18 record: 42-40
Last season: 36-46 | Missed playoffs

Despite this being his fourth stop in six seasons, Dwight Howard is still capable of producing a double-double on a nightly basis. Last season, Howard averaged a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double for the 13th time in his career, matching Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal for the fourth-most seasons in NBA history. Only three players averaged a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double in more seasons: Charles Barkley (15), Wilt Chamberlain (14) and Moses Malone (14).


18. Miami Heat
Projected 2017-18 record: 43-39
Last season: 41-41 | Missed playoffs

It was a tale of two halves for the Heat last season. Miami started 11-30, finished with a 30-11 record and wound up missing the playoffs by one game. And if the preseason was any indication, the one-on-one matchup between Hassan Whiteside and Joel Embiid will be fun to watch. Whiteside won the individual matchup in their only game last season (32-13 vs. 22-5), but Embiid and the 76ers won the game.


19. Dallas Mavericks
Projected 2017-18 record: 35-47
Last season: 33-49 | Missed playoffs

Dirk Nowitzki has played an average of 68 games over the past three seasons. If he plays 68 games this season, he’ll need to average 17.1 points per game to pass Wilt Chamberlain for fifth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.


20. Philadelphia 76ers
Projected 2017-18 record: 42-40
Last season: 28-54 | Missed playoffs

In ESPN’s #NBArank, the 76ers had five players ranked inside the top 100 (Joel Embiid 32nd, Robert Covington 55th, Ben Simmons 84th, Markelle Fultz 86th, JJ Redick 87th). The only teams with more players ranked inside the top 100 were the Spurs and Rockets, who each had six.


21. Detroit Pistons
Projected 2017-18 record: 39-43
Last season: 37-45 | Missed playoffs

New Piston Avery Bradley took a step forward last season in Boston, averaging career highs in scoring (16.3) and rebounding (6.1). He became the first player 6-foot-2 or shorter to average 16 points and six rebounds per game since 1970-71 and just the sixth player overall to do so.


22. Los Angeles Lakers
Projected 2017-18 record: 34-48
Last season: 26-56 | Missed playoffs

Lonzo Ball averaged a Las Vegas Summer League-record 9.3 assists per game. Only three Lakers rookies averaged even five assists per game in their first season: Magic Johnson (7.3), Norm Nixon (6.8) and Nick Van Exel (5.8).


23. Sacramento Kings
Projected 2017-18 record: 29-53
Last season: 32-50 | Missed playoffs

The Kings added the ageless wonder Vince Carter this offseason. Carter will turn 41 on Jan. 26. The last player at least 41 years old with a dunk in a NBA game was Dikembe Mutombo on April 10, 2009. Carter had 10 dunks with the Grizzlies last season.


24. Orlando Magic
Projected 2017-18 record: 34-48
Last season: 29-53 | Missed playoffs

After attempting 190 3-pointers in his first two seasons, Aaron Gordon took 267 3-pointers last season (made 77). His 28.8 3-point field goal percentage was the second worst in the NBA (minimum 200 attempts), just ahead of Marcus Smart (28.3).


25. Phoenix Suns
Projected 2017-18 record: 30-52
Last season: 24-58 | Missed playoffs

Last season, Devin Booker recorded the first 70-point game in the NBA since Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game in 2006 and averaged 22.1 points per game in his age-20 season. Only four other players averaged that many points in their age-20-or-younger season in NBA history: Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal.


26. Indiana Pacers
Projected 2017-18 record: 32-50
Last season: 42-40 | L, Round 1

Lance Stephenson is the only remaining Pacers player from the 2013-14 squad that reached the Eastern Conference finals, and even Stephenson has changed teams six times since then. Now Indiana looks to its young, promising talent Myles Turner to help lead this team. Last season, Turner joined Anthony Davis, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber and Shaquille O’Neal as the fifth player to average 14 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks per game in his age-20-or-younger season.


27. New York Knicks
Projected 2017-18 record: 31-51
Last season: 31-51 | Missed playoffs

The Kristaps Porzingis era is officially underway in New York with Carmelo Anthony now a member of the Thunder. Porzingis’ ability to play inside-out was on full display last season, finishing with 78 dunks and 112 3-pointers. He was one of six players with at least 75 dunks and 75 3s and was easily the tallest player to put up those numbers.


28. Brooklyn Nets
Projected 2017-18 record: 29-53
Last season: 20-62 | Missed playoffs

The Nets won 20 games last season, their fifth fewest since joining the NBA in 1976-77. The Nets have won fewer than 25 games in five of the past eight seasons. No other team has more than three such seasons over that span.


29. Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2017-18 record: 27-55
Last season: 43-39 | L, Round 1

Like the Grizzlies, the Hawks could see their playoff run come to an end this season. Atlanta has made the playoffs each of the past 10 seasons, the second-longest active streak behind the Spurs. But ESPN’s Basketball Power Index has the Hawks winning 27 games with a 0.4 percent chance of reaching the playoffs for an 11th straight year.


30. Chicago Bulls
Projected 2017-18 record: 23-59
Last season: 41-41 | L, Round 1

Now that Taj Gibson is on the Timberwolves, the Bulls don’t have any players left from the 2010-11 team that reached the Eastern Conference finals. The honor of longest-tenured Bulls player now belongs to Nikola Mirotic, who is entering his fourth season with the team.

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