The way too early ESPN Power Rankings for the 2021-22 NBA season have just been released after all the recent draft, trade, and free agency transactions. The Celtics have been slotted into 13th place overall, roughly middle of the pack and the same position they held in ESPN's post-finals rankings (before all of Brad's off-season moves), so I'm wondering if others think this is a fair assessment of where the team now stands.
What surprised me was seeing teams like Philly (#6), Miami (#8) and Atlanta (#9) all ranked above Boston in the East. The Sixers did not do anything special this off-season except let the toxic situation with Ben Simmons fester and replace Howard with the lumbering Drummond as Embiid's backup.
Pat Riley managed to reshape the Heat roster, adding veterans Lowry (35), Tucker (36) and Morris (32 in September) to the roster, but in doing so he lost Dragic, Ariza, Igoudala, and yes, even Olynyk. This seems like a wash to me at best, but perhaps I'm underestimating how much Lowry and Tucker have left in their respective tanks. ESPN thinks Riley improved his team, bumping the Heat up 3 spots from their post-finals ranking of 11th.
The Hawks are still young and talented but I can't help but think they got a little lucky with their surprisingly deep playoff run last season. Until they repeat that performance, I remain unconvinced that they are better than the Celtics now.
So, what do people think? Are the Celtics deserving of just one spot above the Knicks (#14)? Should Stevens get more credit for the changes he's made to the roster this past summer (i.e. adding more balance and depth)?