Every edition of ESPN’s weekly NBA Power Rankings comes with a sidebar via Stein Line Live to further explain how the ol’ Committee of One arrived at a particular 1-to-30 order after a long night in the famed Rankings Dungeon.
The explanation is especially important in conjunction with the season’s first batch of rankings, because of the need to issue our oft-cited (and oft-ignored) reminder that the Training Camp edition is not meant to outright predict the order of finish for teams in the reflective conferences.
Offseason successes and failures are a huge element in the committee’s maiden calculations, because we’ve always treated them as a substitute for fresh game data as we welcome teams back to work.
To expound on that premise, here’s more of a window into our thinking for each of the three rankings tiers on this glorious opening Media Day:
1-to-10: The Clippers check in at No. 4 because they had the best offseason of the teams in the West that fall just below the Warriors/Spurs stratosphere. The Thunder, meanwhile, jumped back up to No. 5 – ahead of Houston, Memphis and New Orleans – because they’re starting the season healthy. Which means that the offseason was rather good to them, too.
11-to-20: Milwaukee was rewarded for winning the Greg Monroe Sweepstakes with a bump up to No. 12. That does not mean we’re convinced that the Bucks will finish higher in the East that Toronto or Washington, but the Wizards’ loss of Paul Pierce inevitably dragged them down a bit. Same principle for Dallas: Dropping to No. 18 is a reflection of a summer that went from uplifting to devastating in a merciless hurry for the Mavs.
21-to-30: This unexpectedly proved to be the hardest section for the committee to work out. Sacramento, Orlando and Minnesota had what we deemed productive offseasons – Scott Skiles’ hiring alone qualifies in the Magic’s case – and thus landed higher than you might have expected. The opposite is true for the Suns, Knicks, Nets, Lakers and, of course, Blazers, which should leave little doubt why they wound up in the bottom third.