Basketball is back, and that means it's time for a special season restart edition of Sporting News' NBA Power Rankings.
Since the remaining 22 teams will be playing at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., why not add a little Disney-Pixar twist to the list? We will break down the entire field with divisions based on characters from the animated masterpiece "Toy Story." (If you don't agree it is a masterpiece, stop here. It's just not going to work between us.)
Important note before we dive in: These power rankings are meant to be a fun exercise, so don't fret too much over the placement of your team. NBA players have been off for a few months, so this is going to be a bit of a guessing game.
Now, let's run through the rankings. To infinity, and beyond!
NBA power rankings
Buzz Lightyear and Woody Division
These are the main characters in this season's championship chase, the teams that will drive the central plot forward.
1. Milwaukee Bucks
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Los Angeles Clippers
4. Toronto Raptors
5. Boston Celtics
6. Philadelphia 76ers
- The Clippers are slightly below the Bucks and Lakers because of concerns about the stability of their roster. (Hopefully for Doc Rivers' sake Lou Williams won't need another trip to Magic City, which offers a much different package than Magic Kingdom.) Still, the Clips do have... the claaaaaaw.
- While the Bucks should be considered the favorites in the East, the Celtics and Raptors can't be ignored. Toronto in particular has an edge with its championship experience and a coach willing to do whatever it takes to win, even if it's a middle school defense. It would be unwise to throw out the Raptors as garage sale fodder.
- And then there's the 76ers, a maddeningly inconsistent but incredibly talented group. Philadelphia goes for fearsome, but at times they're just not feeling it! Maybe a new starting five with Ben Simmons moving to forward will take this team to the next level.
Potato Head and Rex Division
These are compelling, entertaining supporting characters, but they aren't going to carry the film.
7. Denver Nuggets
8. Houston Rockets
9. Miami Heat
10. Oklahoma City Thunder
11. Dallas Mavericks
12. Utah Jazz
13. Indiana Pacers
14. Memphis Grizzlies
15. New Orleans Pelicans
16. Portland Trail Blazers
- Don't enjoy watching Nikola Jokic run pick-and-rolls with Bol Bol? You uncultured swine. (But seriously, the Nuggets need consistent production from someone other than Jokic in the playoffs.)
- You have to wonder if we are watching the final run for this version of the Rockets. It's possible, perhaps even likely, Houston doesn't re-sign Mike D'Antoni if the Rockets can't find a way to reach the NBA Finals. One minute you're up 3-2 on the Warriors ... and suddenly you find yourself suckin' down Darjeeling with Marie Antoinette and her little sister.
- The Heat and Thunder have serious upset potential in the playoff brackets. Both teams possess veteran stars (Jimmy Butler and Chris Paul) as well as rising talents (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Bam Adebayo). They could be responsible for delaying a contender's rendezvous with Star Command.
- Ja Morant and Zion Williamson aren't flying toward the rim. They're just falling with style.
These teams could be extremely disturbing and leave you screaming in horror.
17. Orlando Magic
18. San Antonio Spurs
19. Sacramento Kings
20. Phoenix Suns
21. Brooklyn Nets
22. Washington Wizards
- There must be a snake in the Nets' and Wizards' boots. Both of these squads have lost so many major contributors.
- If you are expecting much from these teams, you are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity. Farewell.