NBA 2020-2021 Power Rankings: Preseason Edition

Welcome the guaranteed NBA 2020-2021 Preseason Power Rankings for the raw, objective, subjective, and all the commentary you want to read about in the NBA for the 2020-2021 Season. Bookmark us, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and give me a follow on Twitter?

For our first journey, I’ll make all introductions properly (and honestly). I, Chevall Kanhai, am here to test my accuracy this season. I’ll pledge to give you the insightful NBA 2020-2021 Power Rankings that you need beyond rows of data and analytics. (Although we can’t ignore those)

Biggest Takeaways
Preseason this season had teams playing a range of 2-4 games max. Not the greatest preview for a preseason ranking this week. Preseason tea sometimes gets sipped. This leads to extremely poor judgment early on.

Should you ever disagree or extremely passionate about sharing your feedback I’m on Twitter and you can email chevallkanhai@baselinetimes.com


  • Rank: 1
  • Last Season: 52-19
  • Preseason Record: 4-0
  • Last Week:

Los Angeles Lakers
The defending champs played two preseason games without their All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That sparked the Talen Horton-Tucker movement. Dubbed “THT”, Lebron James swears he’s special. I’ll give THT this, he’s definitely appearing better than Kyle Kuzma. If Kuzma intends on remaining a Laker, he’ll now have the motivation to earn his spot in the rotation. The Lakers finished the non-telling preseason 4-0. However, the team looks sharp and expectingly so with about 70 days last playing.


  • Rank: 2
  • Last Season: 35-37
  • Preseason Record: 2-0
  • Last Week:

Brooklyn Nets
How many of you were convinced that Kevin Durant was dearly missed in the game of basketball last season? Love him or hate him, his talent arguably places him in the top-two conversation. I am praying for Brooklyn quite frankly. Why? Because This team has the talent that can compete with the Lakers or at least make an NBA Finals for the next 2-3 years be entertaining with the way these two rosters currently are. I know, I’m being selfish here but the Nets and Durant make it hard to ignore this team can be hot quick. A big test comes early for the Nets who open the season against Golden State and the Boston Celtics (who they beat up in their last preseason game). A 2-0 start in opening weeks favors Brooklyn. The Nets play the Hornets, Grizzlies, and Hawks twice after that.


  • Rank: 3
  • Last Season: 46-27
  • Preseason Record: 2-1
  • Last Week:

Denver Nuggets
The preseason is completely annoying because two games against the Portland Trailblazers can’t convince anyone what the playoffs will bring forth. However, this matchup is one we need to see. Keeping an eye on Michael Porter Jr. is one thing to watch for the Nuggets this season. So far in the preseason, it appears he’s playing 20-22 minutes per game. Nuggets President Tim Connelly also wants MPJ to take the next step and the Nuggets want to be taken as a serious contender


  • Rank: 4
  • Last Season: 49-23
  • Preseason Record: 0-3
  • Last Week:

Los Angeles Clippers
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George playing less than 20 minutes per game in the preseason is a good excuse not to make assumptions. The Clippers played two games against the other team. The one that won the NBA Championship last year. The one that also “stole” the reigning Sixth Man of the Year winner, Montrezl Harrell, from the Clippers. Well, hopefully, this season isn’t a mental meltdown again for this Los Angeles team. My rule of thumb is the Clippers arguably have two top-ten ranked players on their roster. George and Leonard keep them up here for now.


  • Rank: 5
  • Last Season: 44-29
  • Preseason Record: 1-1
  • Last Week:

Miami Heat
An interesting extension for Bam Adebayo as he would be expected to win MVP to tap into the full max deal he recently signed. This particular contract allows for flexibility in the 2021 off-season. Pat Riley planning ahead for next summer might have been foiled as Giannis signed a supermax deal to stay in Milwaukee. So, the only reasonable offer is to trade for Giannis which seems like we’re about a few years removed from that point at this time. With all due respect to the defending Eastern Conference Champions, we’ll keep them in the top five.


  • Rank: 6
  • Last Season: 56-17
  • Preseason Record: 0-3
  • Last Week:

Milwaukee Bucks
The league’s best defensive team according to the NBA’s advanced defensive statistic ratings. Coming into the 2020-2021 season they will have a new look at point guard with Jrue Holiday and D.J. Augustin as the back-up. Did their stock drop slightly after a disappointing second round against the Miami Heat? Absolutely. There shouldn’t be any worry about the Bucks dropping off this season. They’ll still be a defensive force out of most of the NBA again.


  • Rank: 7
  • Last Season: 15-50
  • Preseason Record: 2-1
  • Last Week:

Golden State Warriors
For my first power rankings this season I’ll make this easy. The Golden State Warriors are about to be a hot take bed for me here. First, I am on record advising that they will have a top-five defensive rating this year in the NBA. Second, they will be a team who will be carried by Stephen Curry. Not that I think Curry needs to prove himself (but this would be helpful to his resume), he has the potential to do it in the regular season. James Wiseman and Draymond Green sound like a nice paring defensively. Wait let’s add Andrew Wiggins and find out if they can mask Curry’s size and lack of defensive strength. The last hot take is I feel like the Warriors are the new age Spurs. System players can come into and thrive with a steady contending team.


  • Rank: 8
  • Last Season: 43-32
  • Preseason Record: 2-1
  • Last Week:

Dallas Mavericks
Dallas holds the highly favorable MVP for the 2020-2021 season in Luka Doncic. I’m favoring this team and Doncic’s talent over the Trailblazers at this time. However, without Kristaps Porzingas time will tell how important Luka will need his second option if the Mavs want to finish a top-four seed in the Western Conference. The Mavericks kick off the 2020-2021 season facing the Suns, Lakers, Clippers all on the road. A true test early on for Luka but my favorite to win MVP this season.


  • Rank: 9
  • Last Season: 35-39
  • Preseason Record: 1-3
  • Last Week:

Portland Trailblazers
I am apologetic to any Trailblazer fan, supporter, and advocate. I’m still in the zone of “prove me wrong”. My pretender of the Western Conference returns again. They’ll have a good regular season no doubt. I’ll predict them overachieving and finishing no lower than fourth in the Western Conference. With the early exit last season after stealing away the 8th seed from the Memphis Grizzlies, the Blazers have to prove they are for real again. The season schedule gives a better test to get some quality wins early on. They will open the season playing the Jazz, Rockets, Lakers, Clippers, and Warriors twice before playing a more inferior opponent, the Chicago Bulls in January. Pending their W-L out of those games probably forecasting this team taking a big jump to the top if it’s a positive one.


  • Rank: 10
  • Last Season: 48-24
  • Preseason Record: 0-2
  • Last Week:

Boston Celtics
Could Boston crack the top ten and drop out in two weeks? I think so. The shakiest thing about Boston is that I personally describe them pulling an equal roster into an Eastern Conference where other teams made slightly better upgrades. You sense that the Celtics may be relying on Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart to bring their young core up a notch. While filling in the gaps with Kemba Walker, Tristian Thompson, and Jeff Teague as veterans still don’t make me put them over or better yet close to Miami or Milwaukee. I can’t be the only one feeling this way. I’m a Duke guy and I want Tatum to succeed. Can the 22-year old be among the youngest players to take a leap this season like Donic last season? That’s what Boston will need to be taken as a serious contender.


  • Rank: 11
  • Last Season: 34-39
  • Preseason Record: 0-4
  • Last Week:

Phoenix Suns
A completely different Suns roster coming into the season and one better than the one that went 8-0 in the Orlando bubble? Of course, Chris Paul easily makes this team a nice wild card in the Western Conference. Again, showcasing the new-look line-up in the preseason drew not a single win so let’s not give that food for thought. Hard to say that this team will win 50-plus games this season but on the cusp of being a top ten in the rankings this season for a while. Finding the groove defensively will be key for Phoenix if they want to hang around the top six in the Western Conference this season.


  • Rank: 12
  • Last Season: 44-28
  • Preseason Record: 3-0
  • Last Week:

Utah Jazz
I’ll be the first to admit that the Jazz isn’t a team I favor moving on up to the higher rankings of the Western Conference. For now, they do earn some respect as they finished 8th in overall defensive ratings in the NBA last season. The next goal was securing the reason they do so well defensively. That was signing Rudy Gobert to a 5-year, $205M dollar deal. After Gobert is the scapegoat of the NBA and sports shutting down in March, he returns with new money and the opportunity to put the Jazz back in a conversation for contending for a playoff spot. Utah has made the playoffs the past four seasons and the highest ceiling is only making it as far as the Conference Semifinals.


  • Rank: 13
  • Last Season: 43-30
  • Preseason Record: 2-0
  • Last Week:

Philadelphia 76ers
Lucky 13 for the guys donning the 76er red, white, and blue to start the season? I’m convinced that Doc Rivers is good enough to give Philly a change of pace for the better. It also helps by adding a few more shooters like Danny Green and Seth Curry. What’s also promising? Shake Milton found a way to shoot in the short offseason. In the two preseason games, he averaged 17 points on 55-percent shooting from the field. This all done with only 22 minutes per game. That’s a nice boost offensively should Milton continue that pace.



  • Rank: 14
  • Last Season: 30-42
  • Preseason Record: 2-0
  • Last Week:

New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have one of the best turnarounds in my opinion. Well in this case the emotional toll of losing Anthony Davis and watching him win a championship is still something to consider. Davis spent his first season as a Laker and already being crowned a champion with a max deal of offseason. Insert Zion Williamson with Stan Van Gundy and the Pelicans organization have to hope they don’t repeat the same process with Williamson. A nice 31-point scoring night and 9 rebounds later in the last game against the Bucks for Zion. However, that most promising thing? Van Gundy played Williamson for 30-plus minutes in each game.


  • Rank: 15
  • Last Season: 53-19
  • Preseason Record: 2-1
  • Last Week:

Toronto Raptors
Oh Canada, you’re not forgotten of winning an NBA Championship less than two years ago. However, the entire NBA has changed its landscape and the Raptors find themselves peaking back in the contender status. Re-signing Fred VanVleet to a solid deal worth no more than $85M, four-years, and forgoing signing Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol to multi-year deals. This gives some flexibility to Toronto’s cap space. It seems that a high reliance on Pascal Siakam to power the Raptors through this season could be assumed.


  • Rank: 16
  • Last Season: 44-28
  • Preseason Record: 3-1
  • Last Week:

Houston Rockets
As of the moment, I am writing this James Harden is still in a Rockets uniform. James Harden has also rejoined his team and played in the preseason. As for now, the Rockets remain here in the middle of the rankings. John Wall appears to be in a game-ready form as he was able to play 23 minutes a game in the three preseason games he appeared in. His Kentucky counterpart, DeMarcus Cousins, appeared in three games, shot 46-percent from the three-point line, and played 17 minutes per game. Still a little too raw to tell how this team will bode early on.


  • Rank: 17
  • Last Season: 45-28
  • Preseason Record: 0-3
  • Last Week:

Indiana Pacers
This is one of the biggest dark horse teams of the NBA and especially in the Eastern Conference. Indiana has found ways to overachieve and still finish top five in the conference. In the past three seasons since 2017, they have accomplished that. Nate Bjorkgren comes in as the first-year Head Coach to turn this ballclub past a Conference Semifinals. The “Bubble MVP”, T.J. Warren, is a bright spot but too early to tell if even top 12.


  • Rank: 18
  • Last Season: 34-39
  • Preseason Record: 3-1
  • Last Week:

Memphis Grizzlies
Playing without Jaren Jackson Jr. is the downfall for an eager Ja Morant. I want someone to prove that “Sophomore slumps” don’t really exist anymore. With that being said, the Grizzlies picking up Desmond Bane from the drat is a nice sleeper. An off the bench shooter at most. Bane’s senior season at TCU, he led the BIG 12 in three-point percentage (44- percent). Memphis will be a nice team to see start low and end high in time for a play-in tournament.


  • Rank: 19
  • Last Season: 20-47
  • Preseason Record: 2-2
  • Last Week:

Atlanta Hawks
Another on the bubble team that got better in the offseason. The biggest concern is defensively how much better can they be? Ranked third-to-last in defensive rating in the league last year is a little YIKES. The positive for Atlanta is that sky is the limit. Rajon Rondo in the back pocket of Atlanta’s bench fresh off a championship. Hopefully, this comes with the upgrade of Trae Young’s value for an MVP consideration.


  • Rank: 20
  • Last Season: 25-47
  • Preseason Record: 1-2
  • Last Week:

Washington Wizards
The Post-John Wall era is welcomed with Russell Westbrook. Who would have seen that coming? The positive here is that Westbrook can arguably be the more available player than Wall and an era where the bottom of the Eastern Conference is open for competition. Health is wealth for the Wizards and a nice reunion for Scott Brooks and Westbrook could help them keep the Eastern Conference busy.


  • Rank: 21
  • Last Season: 32-39
  • Preseason Record: 0-3
  • Last Week:

San Antonio Spurs
Are the Spurs finally washed? We can’t count out Coach Popovich right? I’m leaning towards turning with the decade. The Spurs of the past are gone. Long gone that nobody is begging to go to San Antonio. Going 0-3 in the preseason gave me no hope of what to expect of this team. So rather than give them the benefit of the doubt, sorry Spurs down here you go.


  • Rank: 22
  • Last Season: 22-43
  • Preseason Record: 3-1
  • Last Week:

Chicago Bulls
A complete toss-up between the Bulls pacing their way to stay relevant at the bottom of the East or is it tank mode again? Coby White looks like a promise and Billy Donovan’s college expertise on developing talent could slightly overachieve? Someone talk me out of it on Twitter @BaselineChevy


  • Rank: 23
  • Last Season: 19-45
  • Preseason Record: 1-2
  • Last Week:

Minnesota Timberwolves
Another confusing team that has some potential to overachieve. Karl Anthony-Towns returns with a new sidekick in D’Angelo Russell for a more refreshed start. Ricky Rubio is back in town and the number one pick Anthony Edwards joins the mix. The Timberwolves will have to hope for some better shooting from Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver this season.


  • Rank: 24
  • Last Season: 21-45
  • Preseason Record: 3-1
  • Last Week:

New York Knicks
Am I really sipping the preseason tea here? A little strong? Possibly, but they came out and beat teams ranked lower them. What do we expect in New York? One night of Julius Randle, Nerlens Noel, Elfrid Payton, and then Kevin Knox, Obi Toppin, and RJ Barrett the next. Confusing but oddly pleasing to see work out to compete better than a tanking season.


  • Rank: 25
  • Last Season: 23-43
  • Preseason Record: 1-3
  • Last Week:

Charlotte Hornets
LaMelo Ball highlights ended up on my Twitter and not surprising it was his passing. The only thing to ponder about this team is moving in a direction upward week-to-week here. Gordon Hayward is out with a fractured finger which was the Hornets’ biggest signing this offseason.


  • Rank: 26
  • Last Season: 44-28
  • Preseason Record: 1-2
  • Last Week:

Oklahoma City Thunder
Promising for the Thunder is Shai Gilgeious-Alexander. One of my favorites for Most Improved Player of the Year. This team has completely transformed losing Steven Adams, Chris Paul, Danillo Gallinari, and Dennis Schroder. All seem to have moved on to better situations respectfully. After 11-straight seasons in the playoffs that run is most likely over this season OKC fans.


  • Rank: 27
  • Last Season: 19-46
  • Preseason Record: 2-2
  • Last Week:

Cleveland Cavaliers
A reason to watch Cleveland sports besides Baker Mayfield is now Isaac Okoro. The rookie shot 62-percent from the field in his first three games while averaging 14.3 points per game. Safe to say the rookie can shoot and score. Collin Sexton taking another leap this year could keep the Cavs afloat as a surprise team in the top 10. For now, they hang loose with the teams they could beat a couple of nights in a row.


  • Rank: 28
  • Last Season: 33-40
  • Preseason Record: 2-2
  • Last Week:

Orlando Magic
Orlando also has a bit of an identity transformation. Some young and familiar names with a little bit of redemption in mind. Markelle Fultz and Chuma Okeke both took similar paths after they were drafted. Neither would play the ensuing season due to injuries. With their delay to the NBA next to a young defensive-minded roster the Magic also are battling with the tank or not-to-tank idea. Playing a younger core could mean a few more mistakes and games lost.


  • Rank: 29
  • Last Season: 20-46
  • Preseason Record: 2-2
  • Last Week:

Detroit Pistons
I supposed there is room for Jerami Grant to take on a bit of the offensive responsibilities. However, is this truly what Detroit needs? Another team lost without an identity.  Dwane Casey at the helm also gives me enough information that I may not be so sure what Detroit will become this season. If Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin turn back time I’ll be more confident in putting any stock into Detroit early.


  • Rank: 30
  • Last Season: 31-41
  • Preseason Record: 2-2
  • Last Week:

Sacramento Kings
I never thought I’d start the Kings out at the bottom by the time preseason rolled around but here we are. Hassan Whiteside is on a highlight reel out on NBA Twitter giving Steph Curry years to shoot. The Kings can easily appear as the practice dummy of the Western Conference. Their schedule is primarily up against the top eight teams in the Western Conference. This Kings team could catch one of them asleep one night but that’s not a recipe for success.


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