NBA

Power rankings the NBA teams through breakfast cereal

The NBA season is roughly a month underway. Let’s see where everybody stands compared to different cereal tiers.

Cereal, much like basketball, is delicious. Also much like basketball, cereals bridge the entire spectrum of various caliber and quality.

Tier 1: The half bowl of soggy Rice Krispies you left on the counter and forgot about.

The milk’s long grown tepid. The crunchy grains coagulated into an amoebic, ecru mush. There’s nothing to do except dump it out and start over. 

30. Golden State Warriors: Well, they had a good run. We knew this year would be a struggle with Kevin Durant gone and Klay Thompson on the mend, but this was beyond even the most pessimistic prognostications. 

Steph Curry broke his left hand. Draymond Green tore a ligament in his finger. And now D’Angelo Russell sprained his thumb. It already feels like a lost season and the Warriors sit dead last in the standings. Though 2019 turned into a train wreck, it does come with a semblance of a silver lining. By keeping miles off of the Curry/Thompson/Green troika and developing complementary pieces in the interim, it may actually help reopen their championship window next year.

Tier 2: Lucky Charms

Lucky Charms are nasty. It’s a hill I’ll die on. The marshmallow pieces are like chewing through wet chalk and make your teeth feel fuzzy. Like shuffling through shag carpet in wool socks. 

29. New Orleans Pelicans: Life’s been unkind so far in the post-Anthony Davis world. The Pelicans should be League Pass darlings but stumbled out of the gate while Zion Williamson recovers from a torn meniscus.

28. Washington Wizards: The Wizards have some nice stuff going for them. Bradley Beal’s been locked in both on and off the court, the Isaiah Thomas revival gains steam by the day, and Thomas Bryant looks like a legit young big. That said, this team still stinks.

In a tremendous calendar year for the D.C. sports crowd, Wizards fans should just bask in the glory of the Capitals/Mystics/Nationals championship runs.

27. Detroit Pistons: Despite deploying the seventh-highest salary figure in the league, the Pistons are far from being the seventh-best team. It looks like another season of Andre Drummond piling up 20-20 games, Blake Griffin going through dings and dents, and an overall underwhelming backcourt.

26. New York Knicks: Ever the three-ring circus, there are already rumblings of firing David Fizdale. 

There seems to be a philosophical debate about whether New York’s problems are because of Fizdale’s coaching or the constant chaos surrounding the roster and front office. It’s a real chicken-or-egg conundrum. 

Although, hope shines through the storm clouds. All the young guys either look like centerpieces (RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson) or made major strides this year (Kevin Knox, the most handsome boy Frank Ntilikina).

Tier 3: Cookie Crisp

To eat Cookie Crisp, you’re most likely either under 9-years old or you’ve completely given up.

25. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls are super young, with a lot of nice pieces. But will any of them blossom into frontline stars?

24. Cleveland Cavaliers: With Kevin Love finally healthy and Tristan Thompson playing well the Cavs aren’t atrocious.

23. Memphis Grizzlies: The Ja Morant/Jaren Jackson Jr./Brandon Clarke building blocks provide what every rebuilding team yearns for — excitement and a high-ceiling future.

22. Atlanta Hawks: Along with Trae Young blooming into a bona fide star, the Hawks initiated the Jabari Parker renaissance.

21. Sacramento Kings: The Kings looked to build themselves into something real this year. That’s gonna be difficult as long as De’Aaron Fox sits out with a significant ankle sprain.

Tier 4: Cap’n Crunch

Is the Cap’n a delectable mix of saccharine piquancy? Oh, very much so. But does it destroy all those who consume it? Yes, it’s like taking a cheese grater to the roof of your mouth. These teams have that same juxtaposition.

20. Charlotte Hornets: Against all odds, the Hornets actually played very competitively so far.

19. Dallas Mavericks: They’re above .500, Luka Dončić already entered the conversation of being a top-10 player, but they lost to the Knicks…TWICE.

18. Portland Trail Blazers: After last year’s breakthrough, all their good fortune might be reverting to the mean. Maybe Melo will give them a needed boost.

17. Brooklyn Nets: The good news; Brooklyn’s scoring the fifth-most points per game. The bad news; they’re giving up the fourth-highest points per game at 118.8.

16. Oklahoma City Thunder: They hung around in the early going but the Thunder remain a powder keg for trade deadline action.

Tier 5: Raisin Bran

The working man’s cereal. Nothing flashy, gets the job done.

15. San Antonio Spurs: I can’t verify if Gregg Popovich eats Raisin Bran every day, but Greg Popovich DEFINITELY eats Raisin Bran every day.

14. Indiana Pacers: Maybe he just needed a larger role, but Malcolm Brogdon’s been a revelation.

12. Orlando Magic: While the reasons for his early demise remain a mystery, Markelle Fultz IS BACK.

Tier 6: Apple Jacks

Fruity, delightful, but eat too much and you’ll feel empty after the inevitable sugar crash.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves: After sleepwalking through his first five seasons, it finally looks like Andrew Wiggins is fulfilling his potential.

10. Miami Heat: Exceeding expectations with Jimmy Butler at the helm. Also, Dion Waiters did an edible and freaked out.

9. Phoenix Suns: Phoenix matured this year to be a real, live team. They acquired useful, savvy veterans and Devin Booker — disparaged as a good stats/bad team guy — showed he’s actually a goldfish, growing in relation to his surroundings. They’re playing so over their heads, it has my Suns-fan friend feeling whimsical:

“My life is greater when the Suns are watchable. Food tastes better and dare I say the sun shines brighter. Before this half-decade tank-a-thon, they so often were the team good enough to really break your heart, and I can’t believe I miss that. I am ready to get hurt again.

After years of being a joke, a coaching turnstile and having the worst owner this side of 8th Avenue Manhattan, my highest of hopes were: “A return to respectability.” But the veterans James Jones brought in (Aron Baynes!!!) are playing better than anyone could have hoped and Monty Williams has the team doing this thing not seen in the desert since games were played at America West Arena: They play defense and play with effort — and it’s all been without DeAndre Ayton!”

Tier 7: Honey Bunches of Oats

Honey Bunches of Oats and its catalog of variants are criminally underrated. They probably get overlooked since it’s inherently targeted toward an older demographic because oats are the doctor’s waiting room of the grain world. A ‘bunch of oats’ sounds like a boring, healthy choice. Let me tell you something, HBoO is neither boring nor healthy. 

Quick aside, here’s a power ranking of all the HBoO flavors within the power ranking. Power ranking inception:

  1. Strawberry
  2. Almond
  3. Apple caramel crunch (Must be new. I’ve never seen it before this exercise but I’m safely putting it third based on presumed deliciousness.)
  4. Pecan and maple brown sugar. Meant for the mature refined palette.
  5. Cinnamon
  6. Vanilla
  7. Honey roasted

NR. Peach. Apparently it’s discontinued since it’s not listed on the website, but it was my cereal unicorn. Nearly impossible to find and perfect by all accounts.

8. Utah Jazz: The coalescence of Mike Conley hasn’t been totally smooth but Utah’s playing well.

7. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons, still a coward.

6. Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam sailed way past any questions of being a top banana.

5. Denver Nuggets: At some point, they’ll probably consolidate their talent. Until then, they’re the league’s deepest team.

4. Los Angeles Clippers: Through his first two games back, Paul George scored 70 points in 44 minutes.

Next: The Lakers’ role players have cemented them as championship contenders

Tier 8: Honey Nut Cheerios

Aside from being a low-key elite cereal, it holds a special place in NBA lore. 

4. Milwaukee Bucks: 30.1 points, 14.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.5 blocks. Those are Giannis Antetokounmpo’s average stats through 12 games.

3. Houston Rockets: So far, so good on the James Harden/Russell Westbrook experiment.

Tier 9: Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Anyone who claims this isn’t their favorite cereal is either going for the contrarian angle or lying. 

Through about 15 percent of the regular season, the cream of the crop are especially impressive given their major roster turnover.

2. Boston Celtics: The season’s early returns show the Celtics as the favorite in the east right now. Despite losing Al Horford, they’ve put out a top-10 defense thus far. And before breaking his hand, Gordon Hayward looked way closer to his pre-leg-injury-self — which makes sense since those injuries always take more than a year to mentally and physically recover from.

1. Los Angeles Lakers: LeBron James is rejuvenated and the Lakers have the best point differential in the league. Both of those things should make every other team very nervous.

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