The NBA season is over, a champion has been crowned, and the offseason is getting ready to officially start. That means it is time to start looking forward to the 2021-2022 season, right? Wrong.
We’re taking one more interesting look back at the 2020-2021 season in the form of a fantasy ranking.
Basically, we took the team with the best regular-season record in the league last season, the Utah Jazz, and the team with the worst record in the league, the Houston Rockets, and combined the best 15 players from both rosters to create a new combo team, the Utah Rockets. The city portion of the name comes from the team with the better record, and the nickname/mascot comes from the team with the lesser record.
The next step was to break down each team based on different categories and rank them accordingly. So, let’s get to it.
#15 New York Spurs
Starters | Derrick Rose – Dejounte Murray – DeMar DeRozan – Julius Randle – Mitchell Robinson
Bench Guards | Patty Mills, Derrick White, RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Lonnie Walker, Alec Burks
Bench Forwards | Keldon Johnson, Nerlens Noel, Rudy Gay, Jakob Poeltl
This team finds itself with a few glaring weaknesses, especially when compared to the other combo teams on this list. For starters, this starting five does not contain the same level of star power seen on some real NBA teams currently. Randle is a rising All-Star, but that’s about all they have going for them. Rose and DeRozan, though both solid contributors still, are past their primes and not regarded as top 20-25 players on most lists.
The starting five for the New York Spurs does not display a lot of shooting between Murray, DeRozan, and Mitchell. Even Randle hit a very rough streak through his playoff appearance as the leader of a team. They have a solid rotation of role players, but none that really put them over the top as a true contender. If this team was inserted into the real NBA, naturally they’d be a playoff contender, but there’s a real chance they don’t even reach the Finals in a normal season.
#14 Philadelphia Magic
Starters | Ben Simmons – Markelle Fultz – Tobias Harris – Jonathan Isaac – Joel Embiid
Bench Guards | George Hill, Seth Curry, Terrence Ross, Cole Anthony, Shake Milton, Danny Green
Bench Forwards | Wendell Carter Jr., Dwight Howard, Mo Bamba, Matisse Thybulle
The new-look Philadelphia Magic have an interesting lineup for the modern NBA. The length and size provided by Simmons, Harris, Isaac, and Embiid in the starting five make this an elite defensive unit, but that’s clearly their strongest asset. Simmons is a good playmaker, allowing this offense to have some sort of flow, but his lack of shooting puts a real hindrance on the rest of his team, just like it does in real life.
Ironically, once we look to the bench on this team, the biggest weakness is on the defensive side of the ball. Curry and Ross would make one of the highest-scoring bench duos we’ve ever seen, but they’re far from elite defenders. Staggering the starters with the bench unit would be this team’s best option, but constantly having the potential for issues with any given lineup, whether it comes from a lack of shooting or lack of defense, limits this team’s overall potential.
#13 Denver Cavaliers
Starters | Jamal Murray – Michael Porter Jr. – Aaron Gordon – Kevin Love – Nikola Jokic
Bench Guards | Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Facundo Campazzo, Will Barton
Bench Forwards | Paul Millsap, JaMychal Green, Jarrett Allen, Cedi Osman, Bol Bol, Larry Nance Jr.
Featuring the current league MVP, this team puts forward one of the tallest starting fives the team has ever seen. MPJ at the shooting guard position is wild to think about, but not out of the realm of possibility. However, this does not translate directly to good defense. No one, aside from Murray in some stints this last season, none of these guys are known as top-tier defenders. In fact, the prospect of Kevin Love and Nikola Jokic trying to stop an elite offensive force down low is the opposite of comforting.
What this team does possess, however, is offensive firepower. Jokic is one of the most unique players the league has ever seen with his playmaking ability from the center position. This, combined with the shooting and IQ of Love, Porter, Murray, and the offensive-minded duo of Sexton and Garland off the bench, makes this a scary offense to contain. They also have a relatively deep bench with rotation players like Campazzo, Barton, Osman, and Nance filling out the third string, giving them plenty of plug-and-play options should someone get hurt or just not match up well against a certain opponent.
#12 Dallas Kings
Starters | De’Aaron Fox – Luka Doncic – Tim Hardaway Jr. – Harrison Barnes – Kristaps Porzingis
Bench Guards | Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Josh Richardson, Jalen Brunson, Delon Wright
Bench Forwards | Marvin Bagley III, Richaun Holmes, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell
Any team featuring Luka Doncic has a chance to win any given game, but this supporting cast is not head and shoulders better than what Doncic already has in Dallas. Adding De’Aaron Fox obviously helps, and Buddy Hield off the bench is lethal on the offensive end, but the prospect of adding the rest of the Kings’ roster to Luka’s Mavs isn’t eye-opening.
Barnes is a good addition, and Holmes is extremely underrated, but they’re not quite championship-caliber pieces. This team possesses a decent arsenal of shooters, but next to zero quality defenders across the board. Some of these players can hold their own, but this team is not a juggernaut on the defensive side of the ball. They do have good depth with essentially Dallas’s actual rotation players filling in the third string, but nothing about this team screams “championship contender” outside of maybe Luka and Fox. Give this team two to three years and we’d be having a very different conversation.
#11 Phoenix Pistons
Starters | Chris Paul – Devin Booker – Mikal Bridges – Jerami Grant – Deandre Ayton
Bench Guards | Cameron Payne, Wayne Ellington, Cory Joseph, Josh Jackson
Bench Forwards | Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder, Mason Plumlee, Saddiq Bey, Torrey Craig, Dario Saric
We’re basically looking at an NBA Finals team with the addition of Jerami Grant and a few decent rotation pieces. How do they not make the top 10 you might ask? That’s more of a testament to the teams still to come on this list rather than this current combo team. Grant elevates this team to another level, but that’s truthfully the only notable addition to the Suns’ roster. This leaves us with a championship-contending team in a normal season competing with super teams with 3-4 All-Stars on every roster.
Like the Suns, this team has the capacity to play great team basketball and hit shots across the roster. They are capable of playing good team defense but have their defensive weaknesses, especially off the bench. One of the biggest reasons this combo team is so low is their lack of true depth. The core rotation pieces are great, but the third string is less than ideal when compared to other squads on this list.
#10 Memphis Celtics
Starters | Ja Morant – Marcus Smart – Jaylen Brown – Jayson Tatum – Jonas Valanciunas
Bench Guards | Kemba Walker, Dillon Brooks, Payton Pritchard, Grayson Allen
Bench Forwards | Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Robert Williams III, Justise Winslow, Grant Williams, Xavier Tillman
This team has quite the trio of starters with Morant, Brown, and Tatum anchoring the rotation. Combine this with elite role players like Smart and Valanciunas. Kemba Walker has fallen off slightly from his days in Charlotte, but he’s still an above-average point guard coming off this team’s bench.
Overall, this team doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses. It has playmakers, ball handlers, and decent defenders. Aside from Tatum and Brown, this team is not exactly loaded with shooters, but I still wouldn’t call them a poor shooting team. Much like many teams on this list, the team could develop into a perennial powerhouse in a couple of years thanks to their youth, but they’re not amongst the elite in our current power rankings.
#9 Brooklyn Thunder
Starters | Kyrie Irving – James Harden – Kevin Durant – Blake Griffin – Al Horford
Bench Guards | Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Bruce Bowen, Lugentz Dort
Bench Forwards | Darius Bazley, DeAndre Jordan, Aleksej Pokusevski, Jeff Green, Nicolas Claxton
Perhaps the best actual big three in NBA history collides with an up-and-coming team that has more draft picks than playable assets. In other words, this is basically the current Brooklyn Nets plus Shai. The shooting and playmaking on this team are otherworldly, and the stars are still arguably the best offensive quartet in the league.
The defense, on the other hand, doesn’t improve much with the combination of these two teams. The bench is loaded with offensive talent, but none many lock-down defenders save for maybe Lu Dort. Combine this with all of the aging big men on the roster, and you don’t exactly have a formula for defensive success. All in all, the main thing this team has going for them is their superstar talent at the top, but they face a lot of weaknesses the further down the bench you look.
#8 Utah Rockets
Starters | John Wall – Donovan Mitchell – Joe Ingles – Christian Wood – Rudy Gobert
Bench Guards | Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Kevin Porter Jr., Avery Bradley, Danuel House Jr.
Bench Forwards | Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, Kelly Olynyk, Jae’Sean Tate, Derrick Favors
The resurgence of John Wall may have been short-lived in Houston this season due to other injuries, but don’t forget that it happened. Wall is still a quality point guard paired with one of the premier young guards in the league in Mitchell. Not to mention an elite one-two punch down low with Wood and Gobert roaming the paint. When Joe Ingles is your weakest link, you’re doing something right.
This is an elite defensive team that also possesses above-average ability in nearly every relevant category. They can shoot, they have multiple playmakers, they have a quality bench with good depth. The only thing this team doesn’t have is one or two guys that have proven they can lead a team to a deep playoff run. Can Mitchell be that guy eventually? Absolutely. But he hasn’t shown it yet. This team is well balanced, but a lack of a proven superstar lands them just outside of our top five.
#7 Miami Pacers
Starters | Malcolm Brogdon – Caris LeVert – Jimmy Butler – Domantas Sabonis – Bam Adebayo
Bench Guards | Goran Dragic, Victor Oladipo, Tyler Herro, T.J. McConnell, Kendrick Nunn, Jeremy Lamb
Bench Forwards | T.J. Warren, Myles Turner, Duncan Robinson, Precious Achiuwa
Two teams known for their grit combine to make perhaps the grittiest team on our list. Butler and Adebayo join a trio of offensive-minded Pacers to form an elite starting five. The playmaking across the board with these starters is ridiculous with the combination of Brogdon, Butler, and Adebayo who are all capable of letting an offense run through them. Not to mention the elite scoring of underrated big man Domantas Sabonis.
The biggest downfall of this team is all-around shooting. Don’t hear what I’m not saying, there are shooters available on this roster, but if the Heat stars soak up as many minutes as we’d expect them to, there would consistently be below-average shooters littered in the lineup. The defensive versatility, size, and top-to-bottom depth mostly make up for this weakness, but shooting is arguably the most important aspect of today’s NBA. This downfall prevents this potential juggernaut from climbing any higher.
#6 Atlanta Hornets
Starters | Trae Young – LaMelo Ball – Gordon Hayward – De’Andre Hunter – John Collins
Bench Guards | Terry Rozier, Lou Williams, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Devonte’ Graham, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish
Bench Forwards | Miles Bridges, Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari, P.J. Washington
Talk about a team that could grow into an absolute powerhouse. This Atlanta Hornets combination features two of the best young playmakers the league has ever seen. Young’s elite shooting and dribbling combo combined with Ball’s size, versatility, and playmaking would make this team must-watch TV.
The biggest downfall for this squad would be defensive consistency. They have all the offensive talent in the world, but only one of their five starters would be considered a “good” defender or better. Given, this is aided by Clint Capela coming off the bench but almost negated by guys like Rozier, Williams, and Bogdanovic being so prominent in the rotation. Even with the potential defensive downfall, it may not matter. This team has so many offensive weapons across the roster and the perfect duo of ball handlers to keep everyone involved and the team’s chemistry sky-high.
#5 Los Angeles Bulls
Starters | Dennis Schroder – Zach LaVine – LeBron James – Anthony Davis – Nikola Vucevic
Bench Guards | Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tomas Satoransky, Talen Horton-Tucker
Bench Forwards | Kyle Kuzma, Thaddeus Young, Marc Gasol, Patrick Williams, Lauri Markkanen, Montrezl Harrell
Of course, James gives any offense life, but when you give him weapons like that of Davis, LaVine, and Vucevic you’re looking at arguably a top offense in this combo team fantasy league. What the Lakers’ duo lacks in outside scoring, this team makes up for with the addition of LaVine, and even Vucevic to an extent. Having two versatile big men who can play inside and out is a scary thought for a James-led team.
This team does not have the best bench in this list, but a few of their role players can provide plenty of rest opportunities for the four stars. Perhaps the biggest weakness on this roster is all-around defense. Davis is an elite defender, and James can lock up the best wings when he himself is locked in, but that’s not always a given. LaVine and Vucevic leave much to be desired on that side of the ball as well. If this squad can get productive minutes out of their bench and utilize their team defense, they’re an instant title contender in this fantasy league.
#4 Portland Pelicans
Starters | Damian Lillard – CJ McCollum – Brandon Ingram – Zion Williamson – Jusuf Nurkic
Bench Guards | Lonzo Ball, Norman Powell, Anfernee Simons, Eric Bledsoe, Josh Hart
Bench Forwards | Robert Covington, Carmelo Anthony, Steven Adams, Derrick Jones Jr., Jaxson Hayes
The Portland Trailblazers’ biggest weakness through Lillard’s career has been finding him reliable talent at the forward positions. They’ve done better by adding guys like Powell, Covington, and Anthony to the roster, but none of them compare to the Pelicans’ duo of Ingram and Williamson. This trio combined with CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic makes up one of the best starting fives on this list. They check all of the boxes aside from perhaps length at the guard positions, but the sheer amount of possibilities on the offensive side of the ball more than makes up for that.
With defense being an obvious weak point in McCollum’s career, he’s finally surrounded by consistent star forwards that can create plays on both sides of the ball. This team can light it up from deep, bang down low with the best of them, and let’s not forget about Lonzo Ball and the rest of Portland’s wings coming off the bench! The Portland Pelicans have a go-to star, multiple secondary scorers, a rising superstar, and one of the best all-around rotations in this league.
#3 Golden State Wizards
Starters | Stephen Curry – Bradley Beal – Klay Thompson – Draymond Green – Thomas Bryant
Bench Guards | Russell Westbrook, Andrew Wiggins, Raul Neto, Kelly Oubre Jr.
Bench Forwards | Eric Paschall, Rui Hachimura, James Wiseman, Davis Bertans, Daniel Gafford, Kevon Looney
A healthy Warriors squad by itself is an instant title contender. Westbrook and Beal put it together to end last season and push their squad into the postseason. Put all of these incredibly talented guards on the same team and what do you get? Greatness. This team easily has the best guard rotation on this list with Andrew Wiggins being the defacto “fifth guard” in the rotation.
The biggest weakness in this team is the big men. Green is still a good basketball player but fields his fair share of weaknesses, and Bryant has been injured so much in the last couple of seasons that it’s hard to get an accurate reading on what he might look like on a championship-caliber team. The bench consists of incredible size including Westbrook and lengthy wing players like Wiggins, Paschall, Hachimura, Oubre, and Bertans. Then the big man rotation is rounded out with three additional centers off the bench, though none of them are proven floor-stretchers.
#2 Los Angeles Timberwolves
Starters | Reggie Jackson – D’Angelo Russell – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Karl-Anthony Towns
Bench Guards | Ricky Rubio, Terance Mann, Anthony Edwards, Patrick Beverley, Luke Kennard, Malik Beasley
Bench Forwards | Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac, Nicolas Batum, Serge Ibaka
The Clippers were on the verge of the first Finals appearance in franchise history when a devastating injury to Kawhi Leonard left us with nothing but what-ifs. This combo team gives an elite playmaker and a top-tier center to an already stacked Clippers team, along with additional bench depth. The starting five boasts five shooters, multiple playmakers, lengthy defenders, and playoff experience. Leonard is a 2x Finals MVP leading a team full of All-Star caliber talent.
Though the starting backcourt does not contain great defenders, players like Rubio, Mann, and Beverley are available off the bench to provide different looks on both sides of the court. All of this goes without even mentioning the future potential of Towns, Mann, and Edwards, all players still very early in their careers.
#1 Milwaukee Raptors
Starters | Kyle Lowry – Khris Middleton – Pascal Siakam – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Brook Lopez
Bench Guards | Jrue Holiday, Donte DiVincenzo, Fred VanVleet, Pat Connaughton, Gary Trent Jr.
Bench Forwards | OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher, Bobby Portis, P.J. Tucker, Aron Baynes
Four bonafide All-Stars, two Finals MVPs, and the perfect stretch big to play alongside Giannis collide in this starting five. Then you look at former All-Star Jrue Holiday leading the bench unit that consists of great 2-way role players. And let’s also not fail to notice that the third-string point guard is essentially Fred VanVleet, a starter on a recent NBA championship team.
Perhaps the only weakness on this team is Giannis’s lack of shooting, but as we just saw in the NBA Finals, that doesn’t necessarily mean the team can’t succeed. Not to mention basically every other player on the roster is an above-average shooter from distance, all the way down the third-string center, Aron Baynes.
Lowry is still an elite playmaker in today’s NBA, averaging over 7 APG five different times in his career, including 7.3 APG in 2020-21. After that, no one on this roster is viewed as a true point guard, but it hardly matters. Holiday and VanVleet are both capable of running an offense, and Middleton, Siakam, and Giannis are all capable of handling the ball when called upon. This team has shooting, length, depth, defense, playmaking, and basically everything you could ask for in a championship roster.
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