Tuesday, March 21, 2023

NBA’s official website ranks Phoenix Suns over LA Lakers in offseason power rankings: We take a closer look at the standings

The NBA’s official website just released its Western Conference rankings, where the LA Lakers are ranked a notch below the Phoenix Suns.

Writer John Schuhmann’s early take on the West rankings could be controversial for some, as the LA Lakers are considered the favorites by many basketball analysts.

Here is our quick take on the NBA.com’s power rankings:

Are the Phoenix Suns (1) better than LA Lakers (2) after Russell Westbrook trade?

After losing to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs, the LA Lakers were left questioning the ability of the roster to win a title next season. Based on the offseason moves by general manager Rob Pelinka, it looks like they decided the roster left something to be desired.

The Lakers cleaned house, and even with aging veterans now mostly populating the roster, they look like a much better team than they did last season. As assistant coach Phil Handy suggested a week ago, they have work to do even if they look good on paper with LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis in tow.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns are probably the much better team at the beginning of the 2021-22 NBA season because team chemistry won’t be an issue due to the minor offseason changes they made to their roster. That makes them a more sure bet to begin the season at the top. A month into the season, though, expect the Lakers to climb to No. 1.

NBA.com thinks Dallas Mavericks (4) are better than LA Clippers (5), Denver Nuggets (6) and Golden State Warriors (7)

Luka Doncic (#77) is double teamed by Kawhi Leonard (#2) and Marcus Morris Sr.
Luka Doncic (#77) is double teamed by Kawhi Leonard (#2) and Marcus Morris Sr.

After being trounced by the LA Clippers (5) in two straight seasons, the Dallas Mavericks (4) are bent on breaking that streak. It looks like NBA.com believes Luka Doncic and company are better this season than their hated rivals.

One big reason for the Mavericks’ climb up the rankings is the fact that Kawhi Leonard won’t be available for most of, if not the entire NBA regular season.

The Mavs haven’t made a big splash in the offseason yet, but if they make a major move before the new season begins, they have a chance to vault to No. 3, ahead of the Utah Jazz (3), depending on who they acquire. The way the Jazz flamed out in the postseason suggests they could be a player or two away from reaching the NBA Finals.

Interestingly, Schuhmann doesn’t believe the Denver Nuggets are going to be better this season after they were dropped to No. 6 despite finishing last season as the third seed in the West. Perhaps, that has a lot to do with the ACL injury that will keep Jamal Murray out for an extended period.

Finally, there is the Golden State Warriors whom Stephen Curry hopes to lift to NBA title contention next season. The impending return of Klay Thompson after two years out with injuries doesn’t seem to excite basketball pundits, given how this team is older with a different roster from their days as NBA champions.

Portland Trail Blazers (8) are better than Memphis Grizzlies (9) and Minnesota Timberwolves (10)

Ja Morant (#12) and Damian Lillard (#0).
Ja Morant (#12) and Damian Lillard (#0).

In the battle for the NBA Western Conference’s final playoff spot, Schuhmann doesn’t think the Portland Trail Blazers did enough to advance themselves past the other western powers.

Even with Larry Nance Jr. coming over, the Blazers may not be ready to go deeper in the playoffs. Consider the Blazers as first-round fodder for the top seed.

Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves have much to prove. They have the entire regular season to disprove Schuhmann’s early rankings.

If Ja Morant becomes a better leader next season, don’t be surprised to see them sneak into one of the lower seeds. For the Timberwolves, fitness is definitely a major issue.

If they have put their fitness issues behind them, they could shock NBA fans with a few quality wins against some top championship contenders. However, they probably need a season more or so in order to crack the playoffs.

You may also like: Which season did LeBron James become an NBA all-time great?


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