As we mentioned in Part 1 of this series, we will be previewing the NBA season by ranking the clubs in reverse order and revealing those clubs two at a time. Here’s what those rankings look like at this point:
30. Atlanta Hawks
29. Sacramento Kings
28. Orlando Magic
27. Phoenix Suns
26. Chicago Bulls
25. New York Knicks
24. Brooklyn Nets
23. Charlotte Hornets
22. Memphis Grizzlies
21. Dallas Mavericks
20. Cleveland Cavaliers
19. Los Angeles Clippers

Here are the next two clubs:

18. Detroit Pistons

Last Season: 39-43 (0.476) (4th in Central Division, 9th in Eastern Conference)
Head Coach: Dwane Casey (1st season with team, 0-0 team; 373-307 overall)
Major Off-season Acquisitions: Jose Calderon, Glenn Robinson III, Zaza Pachulia
Major Off-season Departures: Anthony Tolliver, James Ennis III
Salary Cap Info: $123.3 million ($21.3M over cap, $0.5M luxury tax space available)
Narrative: The Pistons just missed the playoffs last season, and with the reshuffling around the East – mostly because of LeBron James’ departure to Los Angeles – they move up a spot (at least in these rankings) as our 8th playoff team. They didn’t lose a whole lot in terms of production, and are hoping for a full season of production from Blake Griffin, who joined the team in a midseason trade last year.
Stan Van Gundy is out as coach (and director of basketball operations), and the Pistons hired Dwane Casey, last year’s Coach of the Year, to replace him on the bench after he and the Raptors decided to part ways. This is most likely the team they’ll have to compete with this season, but they should compete for the bottom of the playoff seedings should they repeat last year’s performance.

17. Miami Heat

Last Season: 44-38 (0.537) (1st in Southeast Division, 6th in Eastern Conference)
Head Coach: Erik Spoelstra (11th season with team, 484-320 team; 484-320 overall)
Major Off-season Acquisitions: ??
Major Off-season Departures: ??
Salary Cap Info: $132.7 million ($30.8M over cap, $9M over luxury tax)
Narrative: The Heat are consistently over the salary cap, and this off-season was no different. They added some players on the fringes of the roster, but of all the teams in the NBA, they are the ones closest to returning with most of the same rotation players. They did win their division last season, and were rewarded by a 4-1 series loss to the 76ers in the first round of the playoffs.
Erik Spoelstra is tied for the second-longest tenure of all coaches (with the Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle) behind Gregg Popovich, and he has won titles before, albeit with the greatest player in the world on the team. He hasn’t done much since LeBron left Miami three seasons ago, but as long as Pat Riley is running the front office in Miami, they shouldn’t be written off as a team where players might play on the cheap. They should finish between 6th and 9th in the East and flame out in the playoffs quick again, unless Riles can work his magic and find an impact player in the trade or buy-out markets.
Until next time… 
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