In the NBA, the worst place to be is the middle of the pack. If you are not contending for a championship or tanking, in my mind, you are not relevant. Because of this, each week I will rank the top five and bottom five teams in the league. The rankings are based entirely on my own observations and opinions, so please feel free to call me names in the comments section.

TOP FIVE

1. Spurs

Until I see otherwise, the defending champion Spurs are still the best team in the NBA. Coach Pop is already in midseason form, holding himself and a number of starters from even attending a preseason game against Phoenix. Suns owner Robert Sarver was so horrified by the gesture he felt it was necessary to take control of the team’s PA system and apologize to all fans in attendance.

In classic Popovich fashion, the coach responded by saying he was surprised “that he didn’t say it in a chicken suit.” See the King stay the King.

2. Cavaliers 

If the Spurs are still king, does that make LeBron James and the Cavs the queen? That jab was for Mikey Adams and the rest of the Celtics fans who refuse to acknowledge LeBron is the best basketball player in the world. Personally, my hatred of LeBron James has slowly transitioned into begrudging respect, as its impossible not to be impressed by his absurd physical talents and genius-like basketball IQ. I am genuinely excited to see LeBron catch 50-foot outlet passes from Kevin Love and play with a legitimate point guard for the first time in his career. While there are lingering questions about the team’s chemistry and defense, the East is the Cavaliers‘ to lose.

3. Bulls

Tom Thibodeau and Joakim Noah will make sure the Bulls have an elite defense and Pau Gasol, Dougie McBuckets, and Nikola Mirotic were outstanding offseason additions, but yet again the Bulls season depends entirely on the health of Derrick Rose. If Rose is even 85 percent of what he was during his MVP season, Chicago will finish with the best record in the East. Let us not forget that.

I realize that including that song in my Bulls analysis is incredibly trite, but I did so in order to ask some more hard-hitting societal questions. Why was glam metal ever popular?  Can anyone actually look at a picture of Poison or Bon Jovi from that era and provide a reasonable explanation as to why the general public embraced these bands? Was it the emergence of crack cocaine? Reaganomics? The inevitable end of the Cold War? I was born in 1990 and understand that there is a generational divide, but its incomprehensible that a bunch of white dudes with teased-up hair, elaborate blouses, and spandex pants were ever cool. (Why did I make it racial? Because Prince did all of those things and somehow was the epitome of cool.)

4. Clippers

The Clippers replaced Donald Sterling with a Steve Ballmer, who after a decade of work touring small clubs and attending open mics finally nailed his Howard Dean impersonation. So that’s a clear positive. Another positive: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Doc Rivers still exist, so the Clippers will be title contenders. Griffin was the third-best player in the league last year and should continue to improve. The same can be said for DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers also have great bench depth. The addition of Spencer Hawes will be key to the Clippers defense late in games, as Doc Rivers won’t have to rely entirely on the Griffin-Jordan combo.

5. Mavericks/Warriors/Trail Blazers

Before Kevin Durant injured his foot, these three teams had no chance of cracking the top five. With the Slim Reaper on the sidelines, all of them have a chance to go on a run early and position themselves to be the fourth-best team in the West. Before they start playing meaningful games, its impossible to distinguish between the three, as they all have tremendous talent at the top of their rosters but questions about their depth. The Mavericks still have Dirk Nowitzki and added Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler, but lost Shawn Marion, Jose Calderon, Vince Carter, DeJuan Blair and Samuel Dalembert. The Splash Brothers will continue to lead the way for Golden State, but the second unit will continue to struggle until they resolve what to do with Andre Iguodola and Harrison Barnes. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge may be the best 1-2 punch in the league, but the Trail Blazers still are waiting for Thomas Robinson and C.J. McCollum to live up to their potential.

BOTTOM FIVE

5. Bucks

I think the Bucks might start the year as my NBA League Pass team. Only because there is a slight chance that Jason Kidd may toy with the idea of  Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo playing PG. If you have seen Giannis go the entire length of the floor in three dribbles, you should be excited, too. If he actually can develop the necessary passing and ballhandling skills, he has the potential to be the most exciting and electric player in the entire league. Don’t forget the Bucks also have the most NBA-ready rookie in Jabari Parker. The Bucks may be bad, but they at the very least will be interesting.

4. Lakers

The Lakers have Kobe Bryant, Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle and Steve Nash‘s carcass. With that lineup, Kobe will constantly be shooting. I expect him to average at least 26 points and three obscenities yelled at teammates per game. Take this ranking with a grain of salt, because I can’t tell if the Lakers will really be this bad or if I just really want for the Lakers to be this bad. If the Dallas Cowboys are my NFL schadenfreude team, then the Lakers definitely are my NBA schadenfreude team

3. Celtics

I think the Celtics will surprise some teams with their team defense. With Rajon Rondo out to start the season, the backcourt of Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley is going to be incredibly difficult to score against. The Celtics‘ biggest problem is on the offensive end of the floor. Brad Stevens encourages his players to take as many 3’s as possible, but it’s a flawed strategy because his players are not very good at shooting. The Celtics have a chance to be in the top five in the league in 3-point attempts and bottom five in the league in 3-point percentage. I also do not buy the Jared Sullinger hype coming from Celtics fans. I guffawed when I saw this post on the r/bostonceltics subreddit asking if Sully could be an All-Star. I think Sully is a great rebounder who owns one of the biggest backsides in the league. A big bum alone isn’t enough to make the All-Star team, although I would listen to any and all counterarguments.

2. Jazz

Unfortunately for the Jazz, they play in the deep Western Conference, Gordon Hayward is their best player, Derrick Favors hasn’t turned his potential into any tangible talent, Trey Burke didn’t really make an impact in his rookie season, and Dante Exum is multiple years away from making a significant impact. Aside from those five factors, I think the Jazz will have a pretty good year.

1. 76ers

Do you think 76ers GM Sam Hinkie is proud when he sees that his team is dead last in every single NBA power ranking? I think he is. It’s a confirmation that he is executing his job. If I controlled the 76ers in NBA2K I would be doing the exact same thing. If development points really existed, I would do the Untapped Potential drill with Joel Embiid and Big Man Offense with Nerlens Noel.

Blog Author: 
Sam Packard
Brian Scalabrine says the Celtics are one player away from being a contender. (Courtesy 2 Gingers)

Brian Scalabrine, who was the featured guest at a party Tuesday night welcoming him back to Boston, says the Celtics are one player away from being one of the East’s top teams. (Courtesy 2 Gingers)

Boston, he’s home.

Brian Scalabrine announced his homecoming in LeBron James-esque fashion in August, as the former Celtics power forward will handle the bulk of color commentary for Celtics road games this season for Comcast Sports New England.

“LeBron really set the template for me,” a smiling Scalabrine said. “But I put that letter together once I knew I was going back to Boston and I wasn’t coaching anymore.”

Scalabrine returned to Boston on Tuesday night for a welcome home party at Battery Park hosted by 2 Gingers Irish whiskey, and he sat down with WEEI.com to share his thoughts on why he’s no longer coaching, Rajon Rondo‘s future in green, and his memories playing with the NBA champion Celtics.

Although he was demoted last season from his job as a Warriors assistant coach after having a falling out with then-coach Mark Jackson, Scalabrine said he left coaching — despite having offers — to spend more time with his family, including three children under the age of 8.

“It’s better for me, right now in my life, to have a much better balance in my life with my family and basketball,” he explained. “It looked like leaving coaching was not my decision, but in reality, it was my decision to leave the Warriors.”

While Celtics fans will enjoy the opportunity to hear Scalabrine analyze games and banter with Mike Gorman during road trips, he said he did have opportunities to join an NBA staff this season, including that of new Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

“I could have gone back to Golden State,” he said. “I could have coached with Doc [Rivers], and could have coached with Thibs [Tom Thibodeau] in Chicago.

“But I still have an opportunity to coach. I had an opportunity to work out players before the draft, and I worked out Marcus Smart, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid. This job is a great opportunity to be around the game without the grind of film and all the other major commitments.”

Scalabrine isn’t shy to admit the Celtics — as currently constituted — are a fringe playoff team. But he says they’re not as far away as some might think.

“The Celtics are one really good center away,” he said. “And I’m talking about a guy who can plug the lane or roll down the lane, get the ball from Rondo and rise up. This team has Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, two really good stretch 4’s that also rebound and defend their position. But if you add a 5 to the mix — a Steven Adams type or Omer Asik — this team goes from fighting to make the playoffs to a team fighting for home-court advantage.”

Scalabrine played with Jason Kidd in New Jersey and Derrick Rose in Chicago, and he coached Stephen Curry in Golden State, so he knows a great point guard when he sees one.

“Rondo is one of the top three passers in the game,” he said. “When Rajon comes off the pick and roll, all four guys are an option.”

There is almost no chance, in Scalabrine’s eyes, that Danny Ainge moves his star point guard.

“Unless you’re getting an All-Star-caliber player with a draft pick, you’re not trading Rajon,” he said. “The Celtics still look at him as the guy who can lead them to a championship if they put the right pieces around him.”

Rondo is a lightning rod for criticism among the media, and Scalabrine understands why.

“Everyone wants this guy to be superior every night,” he said. “Then, when he’s disconnected, people are upset. But we have to realize it’s very difficult for a 6-1 guard in the NBA to do that every single night with the pounding you have to take. We should be more excited about what he can do and stop harping on what he can’t.

“This year, I really want Rondo just to shut up all the critics. He’s the smartest player I’ve ever played with, and Rondo needs to teach these guys what to do. He can’t get frustrated that his teammates aren’t where he thinks they should be.”

Happy to be back in Boston, Scalabrine couldn’t resist sharing a story about former Celtics teammate Kevin Garnett.

“Before the game — there’s 65 minutes on the clock — and there’s Kevin watching ‘Family Guy,’ ” Scalabrine recalled. “Then ‘Family Guy’ ends, there’s 60 minutes on the clock, and he is this totally new guy, all about winning. His ability to lock in for every game — whether it was a Tuesday night in the preseason or a national game against the Lakers on TNT — he was always locked in and ready to go. His mindset never changed, and that’s the most special thing I’ve ever seen in a player.’

Before mingling with the crowd and serving up drinks, Scalabrine thanked the Boston fans for their continued support.

“I’m here tonight with 2 Gingers Irish whiskey,” he said. “And they’re all about following your passion. It’s such a perfect fit — especially with me back in Boston, a place I love.”

Blog Author: 
Justin Barrasso

The Celtics haven’t ruled out All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo for the Oct. 29 season opener against the Nets in Boston.

The Celtics haven’t ruled out All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo for the Oct. 29 season opener against the Nets in Boston. C’s coach Brad Stevens told reporters before Monday’s practice that a scan of Rondo’s left metacarpal, which he broke at home late last month, showed enough positive signs to consider his early return a possibility.

Asked whether he expected to be back for the opener, Rondo simply told reporters, “I don’t know.”

While he hasn’t been cleared for contact, Rondo has been ably catching and dribbling with his left hand and running the offense in practice. An Oct. 29 return would come just less than five weeks after he suffered the injury and roughly 10 days ahead of the team’s original estimated timetable of 6-8 weeks.

Meanwhile, Celtics rookie James Young (hamstring) has been cleared for practice and is expected to be in uniform in Wednesday’s preseason finale against Brooklyn at TD Garden.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

With four more minutes, the Celtics may not have pulled out their fourth preseason victory in seven tries, but Jared Sullinger’s extraordinary effort helped the C’s stave off

Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

With four more minutes, the Celtics may not have pulled out their fourth preseason victory in seven tries, but Jared Sullinger’s extraordinary effort helped the C’s stave off the Nets in the NBA’s experimental first 44-minute game.

Sullinger finished with 21 points and 19 rebounds in 29 minutes in the 95-90 win.

The Celtics trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half, but they outscored Brooklyn 33-14 in the 11-minute third quarter. Jeff Green scored 10 of his 14 points playing as a power forward in the frame.

Brandon Bass (16 points, 6 rebounds), Marcus Smart (13 points, 4 boards, 3 steals) Avery Bradley (12 points) and Marcus Thornton (10 points) all added double figures.

Evan Turner had the worst performance of his brief Celtics career, shooting just 1-of-9 from the field while collecting just three points and one assist against three turnovers. Likewise, Kelly Olynyk had just four points on 2-of-7 shooting to go along with six rebounds.

While Brad Stevens started Turner at point guard, the Celtics coach swapped Smart in for the third quarter, pushing Turner to the wing. To start that 33-point third quarter after a 40-point first half, Avery Bradley at shooting guard, Green at the 4 and Sullinger at center.

Smart converted 3-of-8 attempts from 3-point range, making 4-of-11 field goals overall. As a team, the Celtics shot just 37.8 percent form the field, sinking just nine of their 29 3-point attempts.

Gerald Wallace returned from his bone bruise injury, but finished scoreless in just five minutes.

Kevin Garnett sat out for the Nets with a stomach virus. Fear not, KG faithful, for the Celtics face Brooklyn again on Wednesday and in the regular-season opener on Oct. 29.

For the record, the NBA’s first 44-minute game lasted 1 hour, 58 minutes — finishing roughly a half-hour quicker than an average game.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

I think we can all agree the Celtics won’€™t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon RondoAvery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’€™s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’€™s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’€™s pieces in a series we’€™ll call Asset Management. Next up: Phil Pressey.

Phil Pressey

Phil Pressey

With the trade for Will Bynum completed, Phil Pressey is now the fifth-best point guard on the Celtics roster. Whether or not Bynum is long for Boston, the second-year floor general’s minutes — and possibly his roster spot — are in serious trouble.

Since joining the Celtics as an undrafted junior out of Missouri last year, Pressey has remained in green longer than most expected. The 23-year-old actually started at the point 11 times as a rookie and appeared in more games than everybody but Brandon Bass and Jeff Green in 2013-14. In July, The C’s guaranteed Pressey’s $816,482 contract for this season after he submitted 36-minute averages of 6.8 points, 7.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals in 75 appearances.

At 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, Pressey may never be a great scorer, particularly among the trees and especially if he can’t improve his outside shot. As a rookie, he ranked as a below average shooter from everywhere on the floor but the straightaway 3-pointer, where he still only made 7-of-21 attempts. Pressey shot 40.0 percent on 85 attempts in the paint, 25.8 on 62 tries from mid-range and 26.4 percent on 106 triples. Still, he proved a capable playmaker — submitting a 2.77 assist-to-turnover ratio that ranked among the league’s best backup point guards — and a willing defender.

Still, the Celtics already have a better starting playmaker in Rajon Rondo and a superior defensive backup in Marcus Smart. Should Bynum stick around, he’d bring veteran stability and superior (albeit not great) shooting as a third-stringer, and let’s not forget Evan Turner has started at the point in Rondo’s absence each of the past two preseason games.

All of that leaves Pressey as the odd man out. After starting the C’s first three summer league games in July, he watched Smart assume the starting role in the last two games in Orlando and the first four games of preseason. Pressey didn’t see playing time until the final 15 minutes of Thursday’s exhibition game, when the Celtics already owned a 20-point lead.

The Celtics like Pressey’s competitiveness, even as they understand his inability to score at the NBA level seriously limits his ceiling. Yet, three months after guaranteeing his contract, they’re faced with his redundancy on the current roster. Pressey’s minimum salary makes him a relatively easy roster trimming possibility — either by release or a trade to a team in need of back-end point guard depth. Even then, the return would be a heavily protected second-round pick with little chance of ever bearing fruit.

Asset Rating: D-

This has been another edition of Asset Management. Check out more Celtics player valuations below.

ASSET MANAGEMENT: Avery Bradley | Jeff Green | Kelly Olynyk | Marcus Smart | Jared Sullinger | Marcus Thornton | Evan Turner | James Young | Tyler Zeller

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

The Celtics are finalizing a trade for veteran Pistons point guard Will Bynum in exchange for little used center

The Celtics are finalizing a trade for veteran Pistons point guard Will Bynum in exchange for little used center Joel Anthony, a league source confirmed on Friday. ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg first reported the deal.

The swap of Anthony’s expiring $3.8 million contract for the final year of Bynum’s two-year, $5.7 million deal gives the Celtics an extra $900,000 of wiggle room below the NBA’s luxury tax level. According to Basketball Insiders salary cap-ologist Eric Pincus, the C’s are currently just $1.19 million under that line.

Bynum, 31, who averaged 8.7 points (50.2 TS%), 3.9 assists and 1.8 rebounds in 18.8 minutes off the bench in Detroit last season, has proven a more productive player than the 32-year-old Anthony, who has played a total of 30 minutes in Boston’s five preseason games.

Of course, the Celtics will still have 16 players under guaranteed contract — one more than the league maximum once the regular season begins later this month — and an already crowded field at point guard. Second-year floor general Phil Pressey is already finding it difficult to crack a rotation that will feature Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart. Additionally, Evan Turner has started at point guard in Rondo’s absence each of the last two preseason games.

As a result, the Celtics will evaluate Bynum’s future in Boston over the next few days, according to the source.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Nothing like a preseason game against the 76ers to feel good about the Celtics.