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2023-24 CmanCalzone Sim League 2.0 Pre-Season Preview


Here's our initial post from the creation of the league for background, but now let's take a look at them rankings!

CONTENDERS

1. Atlanta Hawks - Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, and Joel Embiid are a monster big 3. Scottie Barnes and Desmond Bane are 85+ studs that round out the starting lineup. A bench of Max Christie, C.J. McCollum, E.J. Liddell, and Jalen Duren gives them a top 9 that all easily clear 80 overall. This team has no holes... this should be their year.

2. Hawaii Tropics - The Tropics lost their two best players in LeBron James and Nikola Jokic, but still have a strong chance to repeat. Cade Cunningham, Devin Booker, Paolo Banchero, and Anthony Davis are still a disgustingly good (and young) big 4. Immanuel Quickley and Andre Drummond are amazing backups, and Matthew Honolulu is serviceable too. If they had a good starting SF and slightly better depth, this team might be the #1 seed.

3. Philadelphia 76ers - This team ended the season on a 19-6 tear after a lot of roster changes, and that's much closer to their actual talent level than their final record. SGA, Jaylen Brown, Kawhi Leonard, and Rudy Gobert might be the best top 4 in the league, especially since they all play both ways. The 76ers have a very very deep frontcourt (including Obi Toppin, Nerlens Noel, and Mitchell Robinson), though they could use some more backcourt help off the bench. Their backup perimeter players( Malcolm Brogdon, Bones Hyland, Marcelo Abmas) are great too. However, this team does lack any true forwards with size, and Mitchell Robinson isn't the best starting PF. Still, even if the team is imperfect (and Kawhi and Gobert are aging), they're still stacked. Edit: For some reason, Jaylen Brown and Mitchell Robinson have both been shipped out for James Harden. The deal has been discussed enough elsewhere, but suffice it to say that this team has moved down the rankings since that trade.

4. Houston Rockets - This is a chalky contender tier, but the top four contenders are the same teams that made the final four last year. The Rockets made a bit of an odd trade and sent out Jarrett Allen, but they're still incredibly deep. This team has Zion Williamson and Bradley Beal as the top two stars, and newcomer R.J. Barrett is still a great third wheel. Tyrese Haliburton and Wendell Carter Jr. round out a great starting five, but it's the bench that really shines. Jaylen Roach and Tyler Herro are arguably the best backup backcourt in the game, and Julius Randle is one of the best backup bigs. Deni Avdija is a solid backup forward too, and although they could maybe use one more good forward next to him, this team still really doesn't have any weaknesses. Their top end stars aren't as high as the other contenders, though, which knocks them down a bit.

PLAYOFF LOCKS

5. Denver Nuggets - On paper, I'm still not sure that the Nuggets deserve to be quite this high. But after being a single point from sweeping the eventual champs (and a true God Squad), you have to give them some credit. Jaren Jackson Jr., Lonzo Ball, and Miles Bridges gives them a solid playoff-team floor, while Jabari Smith Jr. and Johnny Davis have progressed well and dictate their ceiling. Malik Beasley and De'Andre Hunter highlight a solid bench as well. Similar to the Rockets, this team is super talented and well-rounded, but doesn't have that high-wattage star power that the other contenders have.

6. Detroit Pistons - The Pistons swung an excellent trade for Jarrett Allen, but still don't quite move into my contender tier. Ja Morant and Zach LaVine are an incendiary backcourt, and Michael Porter Jr. only gives them more offensive firepower. Jarrett Allen can protect the rim nearly by himself. They have a bunch of good backups in Fred Van Vleet, Cam Payne, Chris Duarte, Isaiah Stewart, Montrezl Harrell, and Dorian Finney-Smith. However, they don't really have a good starting power forward, and all of their 3 top perimeter players are massive defensive liabilities. That still keeps them out of the true contender tier.

7. Vancouver Grizzlies - Steph hasn't seemed to regress much, and a revamped roster with Karl-Anthony towns and Jimmy Butler next to him has the potential to be more fruitful than the Grizz's previous attempts. However, De'Anthony Melton shouldn't be a starting player on a championship level team. This team is very good, but still has a few low-level starters; they'll need to become more well-rounded to become true contenders.

8. Toronto Raptors - Not much to write about this team that hasn't been written. Luka Doncic is amazing, transcendent, euphoric. Paul George's contract is whatever the opposite of those words are, and has now regressed all the way to an 83. With him as the 2nd best player (and with no real way to upgrade him), the Raptors may have already missed their best shot to win a title.

9. Golden State Warriors - Kevin Durant is theoretically amazing, but hasn't been that amazing in this league. Ben Simmons has been pretty good, but he's somehow already started regressing despite his youth. Damian Lillard is a nice third option too, and Roko Prkacin is thelone young asset on the team, but after that the next best player is 77 overall Kemba Walker. This team lost in the first round last year, and hasn't seemed to get any better.

10. Milwaukee Bucks - Dejounte Murray and Clint Capela are still rock-solid, and Domantas Sabonis is an underrated offensive hub. This team has a number of other good 80ish complementary players too. The Bucks looks better than they did in years past, but seemed to perform poorly over the last stretch of sim and playoffs. Maybe their cinderella run of dramatically outperforming their overalls has come to an end... or maybe, they'll be the 1 seed by this time tomorrow. Either way, I'm sure we'll see them in the playoffs again.

11. Pittsburgh Ironmen - Shaedon Sharpe is the best player on this team at an 83 overall, and only 3 other players even break the big 80 threshold. They're full of youth with a few random vets, but there's no high-end talent on the squad whatsoever. This team still doesn't look good, but if I put them as a tanker and they make the playoffs again, I'll never live it down.

12. Miami Heat - They just added Jokic, who has probably been the most dominant player in this league. The roster is still mostly low-80s and high-70s around him, but they still have assets to upgrade. They have a number of good bigs and guards, but not much on the wing other than Gordon "Sexy" Hayward. But anyway, Jokic should get this team to the playoffs, but they'll need much more to get through them.

PLAY-IN TEAMS

13. Los Angeles Lakers - LeBron James and Brandon Ingram make for one of the better wing duos in the league. Myles Turner is a dominant defender on a great contract, and Jalen Brunson and Corey Kispert are decent starting guards. They have acquired some decent depth in Theo Maledon, Omer Yurtseven, and Isaiah Roby (though they could still use one or two more pieces). Still though, this ranking is a reflection of LeBron. If this was Miami Heat LeBron, this is at least a good playoff lock team, maybe a contender. But until we see how he performs this year, I'm a little skeptical of how good a team that is mostly "38 year old LeBron, Brandon Ingram, and average role players" will perform.

14. Phoenix Suns - The Phoenix Suns have one of the most balanced rosters in the league, and they make a ton of sense on paper. De'Aaron Fox and Jamal Murray are a good on-ball and off-ball offensive pairing in the backcourt, Anthony Edwards is a bucket on the wing, Keegan Murray was an amazing do-it-all draft pick, and Bam Adebayo is a great defender and playmaker. They even have quite good depth too. This team should make the playoffs... but they failed to do so last year with essentially the exact same roster. Whether or not history will repeat itself is an open question.

15. Orlando Magic - Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley are both in the 90s, so you'd think this team would be a contender. But with no good players other than John Collins around them, this team doesn't have the depth or the versatility to make it past the first round.

16. San Antonio Spurs - Another year of development for LaMelo Ball and Jalen Suggs marks another year of improvement for the Spurs. Mark Williams and Saddiq Bey add to an interesting young core, but with no real second option (considering Suggs's struggles from the field), they might still be on the outside looking in.

17. Cleveland Cavaliers - Moving Joel Embiid for Darius Garland and Josh Giddey was certainly an interesting move. Those two and Jordan Poole make for a really intriguing young backcourt, and maybe all 3 will even start together. However, the bigs are looking a little light with a few guys around the 80s like Kyle Kuzma, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Edger Steele. They'll need to beef up (and add some guard depth) before they are too frightening of an opponent.

18. Dallas Mavericks - Jalen Green took the leap up to a 90, and Tyrese Maxey is a decent costar at an 85 himself. The fact that they don't have a third player at even an 80 overall could hold them back, but they do have a few young rookies who might be there by the end of the year. This could be their time to finally sneak into the playoffs, but competition will be fierce.

19. Los Angeles Clippers - This is the same Clippers team as always, and they'll likely be equally mediocre this year. Trae Young has put up some amazing stats, but he has no help. Until that changes, this team is on the treadmill of mediocrity.

20. Seattle SuperSonics - Collin Sexton and Jonathan Kuminga still are the headliners on this team, but they've added Davion Mitchell and Nikola Vuecvic now. With nearly a full starting lineup of low 80s, they're improving steadily and becoming more balanced. Still, as lovely as Sexton is, he probably can't drag a mediocre supporting cast to the playoffs if they don't step up their game.

LOTTERY TEAMS

21. Oklahoma City Thunder - This team had high hopes, but have fallen apart. Giannis is the only thing holding them together, and he's now on the trade block. If he goes, this team might be in the lottery for years to come.

22. Brooklyn Nets - Trading James Harden's completely unmovable deal and getting Jaylen Brown, Mitchell Robinson, and a pick... let's just say if another GM had done that, we would've had to veto it. Amazing stuff. However, this team still is a good bit a way from competing on the court. Brown and Robinson are nice, but DeRozan and Nurkic are aging and mediocre. They have some good role players, but Jaylen Brown can't carry a team to the playoffs alone.

23. Indiana Pacers - Deandre Ayton is probably the best individual player of any team in this tier, as a young 91. However, the next best player on this team is 81 overall D'Angelo Russell. Until he gets some help, the Pacers are looking at another high draft pick.

24. Utah Jazz - Pascal Siakam is an All-Star player, and Keldon Johnson makes for a nice two-way forward duo. The young guards on this team (Anfernee Simons, Malakhi Branham, and Isaac Okoro) fit well together and all bring something to the table. However, they're still a few pieces away from making any playoff noise. Still, with all those picks they got from the Ironmen, they have the means to keep upgrading.

25. Charlotte Hornets - Dyson Daniels made an All-NBA team as a rookie, and put up a young-LeBron level statline, though with a little less scoring. Still, unless Scoot Henderson can have the same impact (or if this team swings a trade for another star), this team still looks pretty far from contention.

26. Washington Wizards - The Wizards have a spicy young frontcourt with Victor Wembanyama and Jeremy Sochan, and Ochai Agbaji had a great season last year as well. Putting them this high is already just a guess that Wembanyama will be amazing. If he's not, though, this team might struggle to get to 20 wins again.

27. New York Knicks - Dariq Whitehead was an amazing draft pick, but he's still only an 82 overall, which means he's not going to win a ton of games by himself. Christian Wood and Franz Wagner add a pair of low-80s forwards, but they're not changing the outlook of this team. To the lotto we go!

28. Portland Trail Blazers - The only reason this team isn't in the lowest tier is because they don't have their pick, and therefore aren't going to try to tank. Eric Gaines and Nimari Burnett look like they'll be good rookies, but the rest of this roster is exceedingly mediocre. Josh Primo, Jakob Poeltl, and Drew Eubanks are having a little Spurs reunion, which is possibly the most interesting thing about this team. At least they have Cam Thomas, who at one point was averaging nearly 25 points per game last year.

TANKERS

29. New Orleans Pelicans - James Wiseman and Jaden Ivey are a nice little duo, and OG Anunoby and Brandon Clarke are nice young role players too. But with backup-caliber players like an aging Klay Thompson and Mike Conley clogging up the cap sheet at a combined $65+ million, there's no real path for this team to be competitive until they come off the books.

30. Minnesota Timberwolves - This isn't a hopeless team by any stretch of the imagination, but it looks worse than it did last year. Out of their vaunted 2022 draft class, only Chet Holmgren has progressed well, as the others are all still below an 80 overall. And even Chet, the crown jewel of the rebuild, averaged below 14 points per game last year and looks to be more of a complementary player than a future star. The dreams of an Ironmen-level immediate turnaround built on a squad of regens seems to be delayed for at least another year or two.

31. Chicago Bulls - The trio of JD Davidson, Cason Wallace, and Kennedy Chandler form quite the young Cerberus of 21-and-under guards. Spencer Dinwiddie is totally overqualfiied to be the fourth best guard on a team. But outside of the guards, things get rough. Khris Middleton is overpaid and regressing, but is still a fine enough starter. The next best player is... Kyle Anderson? Yikes. Third best is 74 overall Lynn Edwards??? Avert your eyes.

32. Boston Celtics - This was a team solely build around Nikola Jokic, and now he's gone. KP should be on the move shortly too, and they look to be bottoming out with a loooot of draft picks. Still, this is the path they picked, and they are on an upward trajectory.


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