THE WARRIORS have sucked some of the drama out of the playoffs in recent years by manhandling the opposition, but the team's impact on basketball has been indisputably positive. The champs deserve credit for making the league faster, higher scoring and more intriguing—at least during the regular season. Small forwards are now playing center. Off-guards are sliding down to power forward. Offenses often include four ballhandlers and five shooters, while defenses increasingly switch everything, leading to a much more enjoyable version of iso ball.
Rivals are desperate to break up Golden State's dynasty, so once summer arrived, A-listers such as LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard were forced to find deeper and more versatile supporting casts. Here's how the ever-evolving NBA shapes up in terms of entertainment value, from This ain't it to It's lit. Criteria include projected success, style of play, firepower, age, injuries, coaching and personality.
If centers were the only eligible players, Orlando would be a juggernaut. Unfortunately, that's not how the NBA works, and a lack of perimeter firepower will doom them to another slog of a season.
This rudderless rebuild is short on cohesion and defensive aptitude. Was this laughable one-way roster assembled to turn mild-mannered coach Fred Hoiberg into a raging lunatic?
Rookie Trae Young will deliver long-bomb goodness and dazzling assists, but extreme patience is required given the rest of this shoddy roster. Remember: Nash and Curry both needed years to blossom.
It would be so fun to watch the Baby Kings—De'Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III—lead a March Madness run. Alas, they play in the West, where they won't be able to guard anyone and will finish last.
In theory, the Knicks are doing a decent job of positioning themselves as a 2019 superstar landing pad. In practice, they are frightfully young and will get smacked until Kristaps Porzingis's left ACL heals.
KEVIN LOVE should kill it for his fantasy owners, but without LeBron the defending East champs are a group of forgotten men. Cleveland fans: Just watch tape of the 2016 Finals for the next 36 months.
They're like late-developing toddlers: Every baby step is greeted with oohs and aahs, as if it's a milestone. News flash: The Nets are no closer to finding a franchise player than they were in 2015.
Motor City Blake Griffin can't match Lob City Blake Griffin when it comes to pop and impacting wins. An incompatible core will put Dwane Casey's ability to manage difficult personalities to the test.
The Jimmy Butler holdout circus left them dead on arrival. Karl-Anthony Towns will make another leap forward, but it won't be enough to pull Minnesota out of its deep dysfunction.
Michael Jordan traded for Dwight Howard, replaced the coach, replaced the GM and then traded Howard. Nevertheless, the Hornets are still stuck in mediocrity, hoping Kemba Walker will lift them to .500.
At least Memphis has a future star to show for its 2018 misery: Jaren Jackson Jr. The 19-year-old rookie won't need to rush, as there's not enough firepower to make the team a serious factor.
Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton could be the West's answer to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, but the abrupt firing of the GM has the franchise drowning in drama. Please get this sparkling duo a point guard.
No Kawhi, no Manu, no Tony and now no Dejounte Murray. Gregg Popovich's "Beautiful Game" offense cedes the court to the brutish midrange games of LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. No thanks.
Blake and DeAndre Jordan are gone, but their replacements are energetic, plucky and well-coached. After so many injuries and trades, their motto should be, "Huh, I forgot he was on this team."
Dwyane Wade's last dance should play well in the 305, but neutral observers will tune out until Miami is restocked with top talent. This rotation full of gritty role players isn't going anywhere.
Easily last year's most pleasant surprise—far better and more engrossing than expected. Victor Oladipo's breakthrough as both a two-way star and a leader should keep the momentum going.
Dirk Nowitzki's twilight has unfolded sadly and slowly; no longer. Luka Donˇcić and DeAndre Jordan might not vault Dallas into the playoffs, but they will spark a monumental increase in highlights per minute.
John Wall's "Westbrook Lite" act can often be must-see TV, but infamous irritants Howard and AUSTIN RIVERS make Washington an enjoyable hate-watch too.
Despite their glacial pace, the Jazz can't be written off as boring any more. Donovan Mitchell gives Utah a combination of explosiveness, charisma and shotmaking that it hasn't had since Stockton and Malone.
Following four straight offseasons without a major addition, it's a miracle that Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum haven't issued trade demands. They can't be trusted in the playoffs, but they put on a show.
Just admit it: OKC's title shot evaporated when Kevin Durant left. Russell Westbrook's magnificent anarchy is more fun if you don't obsess over how it correlates to the team's success.
With a standoffish superstar in Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors won't delight neutral observers. That's O.K. Their deep cast of versatile guards and wings commands respect.
Mike Budenholzer's spacing and ball movement will lift Giannis Antetokounmpo into Milwaukee's best MVP candidate since Kareem.
Eureka! Alvin Gentry finally discovered that Anthony Davis's dumbfounding athleticism can turn every game into a track meet/dunk contest. NIKOLA MIROTIĆ and Julius Randle will keep the pace humming.
Nikola Jokić is finally ready for primetime, Jamal Murray is poised for a breakthrough, Paul Millsap is healthy, and an electric starting lineup has efficient scorers at every position.
Despite Kyrie Irving's mesmerizing handiwork, the East favorites should be savored, not ogled. From savvy lineups to crisp execution, the "wow" factor derives from their collective intelligence.
James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela eradicate defenses, and their penchant for antics and gimmicks shouldn't detract from their ruthless commitment to threes and dunks. Even Melo can't screw this up.
Increased expectations and pressure won't dampen the fun. Ben Simmons can be as forceful and creative as LeBron and Giannis. Joel Embiid is Shaq for the Instagram era.
LeBron will play at his fastest pace ever, surrounded by promising prospects, volatile veterans and fun-loving fall guys. Their hype exceeds their ability, but James's Lakers will be a ratings monster.
Steve Kerr's crew accomplishes more in 12-minute bursts than most teams do in a week. If KD bolts next summer, know this: Golden State's majesty will be sorely missed once it's gone.