Power Ranking the Deepest NBA Teams, Post-Free Agency
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The NBA may be a star-driven league, but having depth sure helps when it comes to chasing the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
When looking at depth across the league, it’s important to look at rosters from beginning to end. A starting lineup is important, but a solid bench is crucial when it comes to preventing and responding to injuries.
Talent doesn’t always equal production though. Sometimes, knowing how to utilize your strengths is the key, and having a unit that jells together is vital in today’s game.
Also, production doesn’t always equate to points. Getting it done on defense is just as important in most cases, and providing toughness when the starters sit can go a long way toward winning when it counts.
It takes a full roster to compete deep into the playoffs, and there are a handful of teams primed to do just that entering the 2013-14 season.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were beaten to death by injuries during the 2012-13 season, and as a result, people have forgotten just how talented they are.
Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic create for a formidable two-man attack, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin form an exciting backcourt and Chase Budinger can be a lights-out shooter when healthy.
This team has the potential to rank higher on this list, but until it stays healthy, an honorable mention will suffice.
Portland Trail Blazers
Like the Timberwolves, the Portland Trail Blazers will look to prove their depth is top-tier throughout the year. Also like Minnesota, they have to show it on the court before we believe the hype.
Portland did serious work during the offseason when it came to the bench. It brought in C.J. McCollum, Mo Williams and Dorell Wright to score, and it acquired Thomas Robinson and Robin Lopez to bolster the frontcourt—Lopez will allow Meyers Leonard to develop off the bench.
This team had one of the most productive starting units during 2012-13, and chances are, that group will blend nicely with the new guys in 2014.
Until proven otherwise, the Detroit Pistons are an honorable mention. They've acquired talent at a quick rate over the summer, but how deep they go will depend on how well they jell out of the gate.
If all things click, you're looking at a rotation that has Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe running the show from the frontcourt. The backcourt is also potent with Brandon Jennings, Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
This group has potential; now we just need to see it to believe it.
10. San Antonio Spurs
If Gregg Popovich has done one thing well throughout the years, it’s figure out how to get the most out of his role players.
According to HoopsStats.com, the Spurs’ bench scored the fifth-most points among all second units in 2012-13. That’s partly because of the rest Popovich gave his starters, but it’s more a testament to how well he used the reserves once they saw the floor.
Per San Antonio’s usual routine, it didn’t make any drastic changes during the offseason. What it did do, though, is bring in Marco Belinelli to further bolster the second unit. With Manu Ginobili’s health being a wild card moving forward, having the 27-year-old behind him is the perfect insurance.
It also brought on Jeff Pendegraph, who will provide energy and toughness in the few minutes he plays behind the starting bigs.
When it comes to the Spurs, the mantra appears to be “next man up.” When the starters go out, the reserves come in, and rarely does the team lose a step along the way.
9. Chicago Bulls
If you need any evidence as to how deep the Chicago Bulls are, just look at how well they played without Derrick Rose.
During the 2012-13 campaign, the Rose-less Bulls won 45 games and took down the Brooklyn Nets in Round 1 of the postseason. They found contributions all over the roster, and that’s with key players dealing with injuries of their own.
For 2013-14, Rose will be back, and the team will be ready to contend. The emergence of Jimmy Butler will add to the talent level of this group, and as a result, the Bulls have put together one of the best starting lineups in all of basketball.
The signing of Mike Dunleavy was a shrewd one that will be overlooked by most fans, but it won’t be ignored by those in Chicago. He will give the team scoring at the 2, and he moves well off the ball, which will keep defenses honest when his shot isn’t falling.
Like the San Antonio Spurs, the Bulls’ bench isn’t all about talent—it’s about players buying into the system. Chicago plays a grind-it-out style of defense, and players such as Nazr Mohammed and Kirk Hinrich should fit the bill in 2014.
8. Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers did not have a good bench in 2012-13. According to HoopsStats.com, their reserves scored just 26.1 points per game, which was tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the second-worst mark in the NBA.
But while that group was hardly worth talking about, the team has made a few noteworthy changes.
Let’s start with the easy one: Danny Granger will be back and ready for action. If he comes off the bench, he gives the team a deadly offensive weapon against any second unit. If he starts, Lance Stephenson moves to the bench after averaging 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per contest.
Aside from Granger’s return, the Pacers will also add Luis Scola and Chris Copeland to the mix. C.J. Watson is another addition, and he’ll look to succeed behind George Hill—a spot where D.J. Augustin failed in 2012-13.
This group is talented across the board, and they’ve improved entering the new year.
7. Houston Rockets
Any time you add Dwight Howard to your roster, you’re going to be considered a contender.
Any time you can do it without losing players in the process, your depth is going to stand out among the game’s deepest teams.
Howard is slated to play alongside James Harden and Chandler Parsons, which could prove to be the league’s newest "Big Three." Omer Asik will either play power forward or the backup 5, and as long as he stays happy, the team has multiple big men who can dominate the glass.
Although point guard has been a position of inconsistency, it’s also one of the deepest spots on the roster. Jeremy Lin will start, Patrick Beverly will follow and Aaron Brooks will be insurance—and a deadly shooter—for when the team needs him.
Houston also has a player in Marcus Camby who can protect the rim and another newcomer in Omri Casspi who can pull down boards from the small forward position.
6. Brooklyn Nets
When it comes to the Brooklyn Nets, you have to begin with the starting lineup.
Like all teams on this list, it’s not just about who starts each contest. The bench is daunting to say the least, as the organization got a steal in Andrei Kirilenko during the offseason.
Also off the bench will be Shaun Livingston, who is coming off a solid campaign with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’ll team up with Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche to create a consistent set of reserves, and newly acquired Jason Terry will provide the shooting touch needed to balance out the attack.
This team will no longer be satisfied with an early exit in the playoffs, and it has made the right moves to prevent that from happening two years in a row.
5. Miami Heat
Depth was a problem for the Miami Heat when they first signed the Big Three. The roster was full of aging veterans chasing after a ring, and it was tough to find a consistent threat when the second unit found its way onto the floor.
The elephant in the room for Miami has been interior strength. That category is still bound to be problematic at times with Bosh playing center, but the team has a shot-blocking machine in Chris Andersen to enter when need be.
Don’t forget about Greg Oden, either, who could prove to be valuable if he can stay healthy and return to basketball shape.
James Jones, who used to be a prominent figure off the bench, is now a mere afterthought to most casual fans. That’s because of the additions like Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis, and, of course, Ray Allen.
Even Norris Cole has shown flashes of potential, but he has time to grow, as Mario Chalmers has become known for more than just boneheaded plays.
The Heat are back-to-back champs for a reason, and a balanced roster will help their cause every step of the way.
4. Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets haven’t had a bona fide superstar since the departure of Carmelo Anthony. In fact, they took a step in the wrong direction during the 2013 offseason after losing Andre Iguodala.
But while star power is looked at as the holy grail of today’s NBA, the Nuggets are easily one of the deepest teams entering the 2013-14 campaign.
When you look at Denver’s roster, it’s tough not to find a solid contributor. The pickup of Nate Robinson was the obvious (positive) shakeup of the summer, and he’ll be lining up alongside Andre Miller, Randy Foye and Wilson Chandler off the bench.
The other major acquisition for this team came in the form of J.J. Hickson. The former Portland Trail Blazer will bring a ton of energy and sufficient rebounding, which is similar to what you’ll see from the starting 4, Kenneth Faried.
Continuing down the rotation, you have Darrell Arthur and Anthony Randolph also at the power forward spot. Timofey Mozgov will play behind JaVale McGee, hopefully giving McGee the fear he needs to do well all season.
When it comes down to it, this team is loaded from top to bottom. How far it can go as a contender has yet to be determined, but there’s no question that this group belongs near the top of the list.
3. Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors have taken huge strides over the past few seasons, and it’s time for them to be looked upon as contenders entering 2013-14.
Despite losing Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry over the summer, this group is still stacked. It picked up Andre Iguodala in free agency, which means either Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson will become an instant Sixth Man of the Year candidate to start the year.
The team also picked up Marreese Speights, who will help spread the floor following a successful stint with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Like all deep teams, it begins with the starting lineup, and with the Warriors, it starts with Stephen Curry. The guard showed us all during the postseason why he’s one of the best shooters in recent memory, and that thought isn’t going to change any time soon.
There’s also Andrew Bogut and David Lee in the frontcourt, who help add an interior presence to an otherwise perimeter-oriented attack.
Returning to the bench, you can’t forget about prospects Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli. Jermaine O’Neal will also look to teach the youngsters a thing or two, and Toney Douglas will add even more firepower to an already impressive backcourt.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers were one of the deepest teams during the 2012-13 season, and they’re bound to fall into that category once again in 2013-14.
We all know about the star power in Lob City. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin run the show, DeAndre Jordan is a capable shot-blocker (although a bit sporadic) and newcomer J.J. Redick is going to help improve the long-range game.
The starters will get the job done night in and night out, but the bench is what will put them ahead of other star-studded lineups.
Off the bench, it all starts with Jamal Crawford. He’s a Sixth Man of the Year candidate almost every season, and he was just 1.6 points per game away from being the team’s leading scorer in 2012-13.
From there, you have another strong guard in Darren Collison. The 26-year-old has been used as a starter in the past, and he’s seen shaky results along the way. Now, behind Paul, he’ll have the opportunity to soak it all in and make a name for himself as a competent backup.
Matt Barnes is going to be a solid reserve to Jared Dudley, and Byron Mullens proved with the Charlotte Bobcats he can be counted upon to produce when given the chance.
If this team had a center to play in front of Ryan Hollins, it would steal the No. 1 spot when it comes to the NBA’s deepest roster.
1. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks may or may not have a championship-caliber roster. They’re stuck in a conference with the defending champion Miami Heat, and chemistry has been an issue at different points during the past few seasons.
All that said, they have an incredibly deep rotation, as they can get it done at almost every position.
Any time you have the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, you belong near the top of this list. J.R. Smith can get as hot as anyone in the league, and while his decision-making isn’t always the best, it’s his confidence that makes him such a threat.
Alongside Smith, the Knicks have a new addition in Metta World Peace. If his jump shot is falling, you’ve got a player who helps spread the floor. If it’s not, you still have a tough presence out on the perimeter.
We’d be remiss not to mention that New York lost some talent throughout the summer. Marcus Camby is gone, and so is Jason Kidd. Chris Copeland has also departed, as well as Steve Novak.
However, you can’t forget that the addition of Andrea Bargnani, although a bit underwhelming, allows the team some flexibility when it comes to Amar’e Stoudemire. Like the Los Angeles Clippers, New York has a hole when it comes to backup center, but Stoudemire, Bargnani and Kenyon Martin should make up the difference because of the team’s style of play.
The Knicks are both stacked and balanced when it comes to the rotation, which is a good combination entering the year.