Golden State has sparked two simultaneous arms races in the NBA, one stylistic and one structural. On the court, the Warriors’ preferred approach—pace, space and ball movement—has swept through the league. Off the court, their collection of stars has set off a wave of roster movement among top contenders. Rival stars and executives reached the same conclusion this summer: There’s no way to beat the champs at their own game without approximating their talent.
Scoring reached its highest point in 25 years last season, and it could go even higher with so many aspiring superteams on the horizon. Here’s how the booming NBA shapes up in terms of entertainment value, fromto “Yawn-inducing” to “FOMO-inspiring.” Criteria include projected success, style of play, firepower, age, health, coaching and personality.
Without further ado, The Crossover’s 2017-18 NBA Entertainment Rankings:
30. Chicago Bulls. The Three Alphas era was a miserable failure, so Chicago moved on from Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. The Zero Alphas should be irrelevant until at least 2020.
28. Atlanta Hawks. GM Travis Schlenk took the plunge on a rebuild, and suddenly the “Spurs of the East” became the “Nets of the South.” Hard-working, anonymous and terrible.
27. Orlando Magic. During its perpetual rebuild, Orlando has stumbled upon all sorts of different ways to lose. None have been satisfying in the slightest.
26. Detroit Pistons. New downtown arena; same lackluster vibe. While Stan Van Gundy reshaped his starting lineup, he really needs to detonate the Reggie Jackson/Andre Drummond duo.
25. Dallas Mavericks. The devastating, pretty offenses built around peak Dirk Nowitzki are gone forever. Deliberate Dallas was the only team to average fewer than 100 points last season.
24. Brooklyn Nets. Former lottery pick D’Angelo Russell is a rare source of hope for Brooklyn fans, who should finally be able smile occasionally.
23. Sacramento Kings. Watch out, Vlade Divac: DeMarcus Cousins isn’t around to blame anymore. Sacramento’s shaky front office has built an ill-fitting, underwhelming roster of has-beens and not-yets.
22. Phoenix Suns. A futile tank job and an empty off-season leaves Phoenix right back where it was a year ago: selling Devin Booker as the future and hoping that his unpolished teammates prove useful.
21. Charlotte Hornets. Without a stabilizing top-20 star, Charlotte has yo-yoed in and out of the playoffs. Gambling on Dwight Howard screams, “What have we got to lose?”
20. Memphis Grizzlies. A nuclear apocalypse couldn’t stop Mike Conley and Marc Gasol from getting buckets. But it’s just not the same without Zach Randolph and Tony Allen to share in the Grit-and-Grind.
19. New York Knicks. Phil, Carmelo and Rose were all jettisoned, leaving Kristaps Porzingis as the new King of New York. Unfortunately, the Latvian sensation’s bleak cast is full of paupers, not princes.
18. Utah Jazz. The NBA’s least watchable good team. Rudy Gobert captains a pulverizing defense, but Gordon Hayward’s defection means that an already clunky attack will regularly stall out.
17. Toronto Raptors. There’s a fine line between familiar and stale. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and company are approaching the wrong side of that line, even as they crank out winning seasons.
16. Miami Heat. Moxie trumps star power on South Beach these days. Goran Dragic plays until he bleeds, Dion Waiters shoots until his arm falls off, and Erik Spoelstra coaxes top effort from his defense.
15. LA Lakers. If the dozens of reporters who painstakingly captured his every move at Media Day are any indication, Lonzo Ball will be a full-fledged phenomenon from day one.
14. New Orleans Pelicans. Born of desperation, the unconventional Twin Towers pairing of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will try to make hay in a league of Lilliputians.
13. Washington Wizards. John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are all coming off career years with their sights set on the East finals. Can the Wiz count on pristine health for their starters again?
12. San Antonio Spurs. Come for Kawhi Leonard’s isolation scoring savvy. Stay to savor the league’s most precise and energetic defense.
11. Philadelphia Sixers. The highest-variance team on this list due to Joel Embiid’s injury history. When their grand franchise center is healthy, frisky Philly is as captivating as anyone outside Oakland.
10. Portland Blazers. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum bring the sizzle, but the frontline was lacking in steak until Jusuf Nurkic came on the scene. The brash 7-footer buoys Portland’s playoff hopes.
9. Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic’s breakout second season transformed Denver into a pass-happy offensive juggernaut overnight. The ball doesn’t just move, it teleports.
8. LA Clippers. No Chris Paul means no title contention, but the highlight-reel plays will live on. Blake Griffin should relish being The Man, and Milos Teodosic’s passing will have everyone gushing.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves. The hype wave that engulfed Karl-Anthony Towns last fall was four months premature. A year older and wiser, the superstar big man is ready this time.
6. Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo accelerates like LeBron, dunks like Durant, and continually improves like Kawhi. He’s ready to lead Milwaukee to the second round.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James is stuck carrying an aging rotation until Isaiah Thomas is healthy. Small ball should keep the offense humming, but the reworked Cavs will require patience.
4. Boston Celtics. Brad Stevens made his name by squeezing every ounce out of mediocre talent. Now, he gets to enjoy maximizing an exciting pair of new All-Stars in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony will prevent Russell Westbrook from drifting back into one-man band gimmickry. OKC’s new trio will be engrossing whether it booms or busts.
2. Houston Rockets. Mike D’Antoni and James Harden made a better pairing than anyone expected, and now Chris Paul arrives as a second elite playmaker. More three-point records will fall.
1. Golden State Warriors. The Dubs Dynasty seeks its third title in four years with help from an upgraded bench. As if Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green really needed reinforcements.