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Sports Misery Index: How miserable is each NBA fan base?

Kings fans are loyal and passionate, but 13 years without making the playoffs have tested their resolve. Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Which NBA fan bases have it the worst right now? It's a question that the Sports Misery Index tackled, and while we did an article on the top 25 in all sports, it's time to delve deeper into which NBA fans feel good about life and which are, quite frankly, miserable.

The Index was originally released in September 2018 and now has factored in the most recent NBA season. That's good news for the champion Toronto Raptors and bad news for several others. We haven't factored in this summer's free-agent frenzy in these rankings, as we'll wait and see how it translates onto the court.

The Index takes into account five factors: championships, playoff berths, playoff wins, heartbreaks and rival comparison -- plus a recently instituted "misery bonus" for franchises that haven't won championships in 25-plus years. Recent events being weighted more than events that took place decades ago. You can read more on the categories in the cross-sport story, but we'll identify how each NBA team rates in each category. In this exercise, the higher the ranking, the more the misery.


1. Sacramento Kings

NBA Movement: Even

Total score: 28.55
All-sport rank: 1 (even)
Ranking by category: championships, 13; playoff berths, 1; playoff wins, 3; heartbreaks, 17; rival comparison, 1

Why they stayed the same: While the Kings' 39 wins were the most they've had in 13 years, they still fell short of making the playoffs. That makes it 13 seasons in a row that Sacramento has sat out the postseason. That's the biggest bugaboo facing Kings fans right now, but the fact that their team hasn't won a playoff series in 15 years, hasn't won a championship (or even made the NBA Finals) since moving to Sacramento in 1985 and has had to watch the rival Warriors enjoy their dynasty has made following the Kings quite difficult.

Moving forward: While the Kings weren't really part of the July transaction frenzy, they've built a nice young talent base the last few years. With Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III leading the way, it wouldn't be surprising if the Kings' postseason drought ended next season.


2. Phoenix Suns

NBA Movement: Even

Total score: 20.14
All-sport rank: 12 (even)
Ranking by category: championships, 1 (tie); playoff berths, 3; playoff wins, 10 (tie); heartbreaks, 28; rival comparison, 2

Why they stayed the same: The Suns continued to lag at the bottom of the league, finishing with the second-worst record in the NBA and missing the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season. Phoenix has lost 58 or more games in four straight seasons, while its 19-63 mark this past season was the franchise's worst since its inaugural campaign in 1968-69. The Suns, who have never won a championship in 51 seasons, have gone from very good but not quite good enough to not even close over the past decade.

Moving forward: It hasn't translated to many wins in recent years, but the Suns have drafted some dynamic young players in Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. They'll be fun to watch, but it's hard to see the Suns emerging as a playoff team in a loaded Western Conference and a suddenly deep Pacific Division.

3. New York Knicks

NBA Movement: Up 2

Total score: 18.99
All-sport rank: 14 (up 14)
Ranking by category: championships, 3; playoff berths, 4; playoff wins, 5; heartbreaks, 27; rival comparison, 4

Why they moved up: Because bad went to worse in Gotham. Not only did the Knicks miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season, they finished with the worst record in the NBA. New York has only won one playoff series since 2000 and has only made the playoffs four times since 2001. It's gotten to the point where star players are openly trying to get traded away from the league's biggest market (Kristaps Porzingis), and this summer's expected free-agent haul was an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions.

Moving forward: Knicks fans dreamed about winning the draft lottery and drafting Zion Williamson, signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency and getting back into the playoff mix immediately. The reality was RJ Barrett and a hodgepodge of free agents led by Julius Randle. No offense to them, but that's not going to move the Knicks down this list.


4. Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Movement: Up 2

Total score: 17.89
All-sport rank: 17 (up 13)
Ranking by category: championships, 14 (tie); playoff berths, 2; playoff wins, 1; heartbreaks, 30; rival comparison, 7

Why they moved up: The Timberwolves went back to missing the playoffs after making a cameo appearance in 2018. This past season marked the 14th time in 15 years that Minnesota was absent from the postseason, as the season went downhill early after Jimmy Butler requested a trade. The Wolves have only won two playoff series in their 30-year history, both coming in 2004, when Kevin Garnett and Co. were eliminated in the Western Conference finals. Garnett later left for Boston, where he won a title immediately.

Moving forward: The Timberwolves have a star in Karl-Anthony Towns, and if they were situated in the Eastern Conference they might have a few more playoff appearances under their belt. But Towns (and the enigmatic Andrew Wiggins) aren't enough for Minnesota to thrive in the ultra-competitive West.


5. Charlotte Hornets

NBA Movement: Down 2

Total score: 17.86
All-sport rank: 18 (down 1)
Ranking by category: championships, 17; playoff berths, 5; playoff wins, 2; heartbreaks, 19; rival comparison, 6

Why they moved down: The Hornets didn't really move down as much as other teams (the Knicks and T-Wolves) moved past them. While the Hornets stayed in the Southeast Division race until the final week, they once again fell short and missed the playoffs. The Hornets have missed the playoffs three years in a row and have only made the postseason three times in 15 seasons since returning to Charlotte. They haven't won a playoff series since their first stint in Charlotte in 2002 and have never made it past the second round.

Moving forward: After living life on the playoff bubble the past few years, the Hornets are going into full rebuilding mode after losing star point guard Kemba Walker to the Celtics. That means several more years of missing the postseason are on the way.


6. LA Clippers

NBA Movement: Down 2

Total score: 15.69
All-sport rank: 28 (down 3)
Ranking by category: championships, 8; playoff berths, 15; playoff wins, 8; heartbreaks, 5; rival comparison, 3

Why they moved down: The Clippers surprisingly returned to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus, taking a roster that was light on big-name stars but long on feistiness to a 48-win season. While the Clips fell to the Warriors in six games in round one, they did pull off a 31-point comeback in Game 2, giving them a nice memory to go into the offseason. The playoff berth, the seventh in eight seasons, was made even better by the fact that the hated crosstown Lakers failed to make the postseason despite signing a guy named LeBron.

Moving forward: This offseason saw the most exciting moments in Clippers history since, well, ever. LA brought in two of the top-10 players in the league, trading for Paul George and signing newly minted Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard as a free agent. The Clips have never made it past the second round, but that's likely going to change.


7. Denver Nuggets

NBA Movement: Up 1

Total score: 12.13
All-sport rank: 48 (down 1)
Ranking by category: championships, 5 (tie); playoff berths, 9; playoff wins, 6; heartbreaks, 7; rival comparison, 19

Why they moved up: On the surface, moving the Nuggets up the NBA misery ratings seems suspect, as Denver won the Northwest Division, made the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and won its first postseason series since 2009. But for the second straight season, the Nuggets were eliminated in a win-or-go-home game, blowing a 17-point, first-half lead to lose Game 7 at home to Portland in round two. That loss prevented the Nuggets from having a chance to make the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.

Moving forward: The Nuggets didn't make the offseason splashes that the Clippers, Lakers and Rockets made, but they have arguably the deepest roster in the Western Conference. If Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray continue their evolution into stars, there will be a lot of happy Denver hoops fans.


8. Orlando Magic

NBA Movement: Down 1

Total score: 11.58
All-sport rank: 51 (down 9)
Ranking by category: championships, 14 (tie); playoff berths, 7; playoff wins, 7; heartbreaks, 25; rival comparison, 9

Why they moved down: The young Magic showed massive improvement this past season, notching 17 more wins than they had in 2017-18 while surging to a Southeast Division title and their first playoff appearance since 2012. While Orlando wasn't able to get a series victory, they did give eventual champion Toronto an early scare in their first-round series by winning Game 1. Also, Magic fans have seen their team go on postseason runs not too long ago, as Orlando made the NBA Finals in 2009.

Moving forward: Orlando has been quiet this offseason as far as bringing in outside talent, but they were able to re-sign star center Nikola Vucevic. The Magic are hoping that Vucevic and Aaron Gordon will continue to improve and evolve, a decent bet in a wide-open Southeast Division.


9. New Orleans Pelicans

NBA Movement: Up 3

Total score: 11.18
All-sport rank: 52 (up 7)
Ranking by category: championships, 19; playoff berths, 6; playoff wins, 4; heartbreaks, 29; rival comparison, 8

Why they moved up: The Pelicans followed up their second-round performance of 2018 with a dud of a season, falling out of playoff contention early. That was bad enough, but Anthony Davis voicing his intention to leave New Orleans when his contract was up seemed to sap the morale of the fan base, which has seen the Pelicans only win two postseason series in 17 seasons and never progress past the second round of the playoffs.

Moving forward: Davis got his wish, as he was traded to Lakers in June, but the Pelicans got an intriguing bounty of players and picks in the deal led by Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. That, plus winning the lottery and taking Zion Williamson, has the Pelicans optimistic that their rebuild will be quicker than originally thought.


10. Washington Wizards

NBA Movement: Up 4

Total score: 10.43
All-sport rank: 53 (up 13)
Ranking by category: championships, 4; playoff berths, 12; playoff wins, 12; heartbreaks, 18; rival comparison, 11

Why they moved up: This past season was a disaster for the Wizards. Not only was Washington non-competitive in a Southeast Division that was open for the taking, it also lost John Wall to a torn Achilles for most (if not all) of the upcoming season. The days of the Wizards going to the playoffs and winning series (they made it to the second round three times in four years from 2014 to 2017) seem to be over, and the championship drought (1978) and NBA Finals/conference finals drought (1979) continue to grow.

Moving forward: The Wizards' salary cap situation this season, compromised by Wall's massive contract and other missteps, have left Washington with a star (Bradley Beal) stuck with a misfit aggregation of past-their-prime veterans and unproven young players around him. That will lead to a misery uptick.

11. Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Movement: Up 2

Total score: 9.99
All-sport rank: 55 (up 7)
Ranking by category: championships, 12; playoff berths, 13; playoff wins, 19; heartbreaks, 2; rival comparison, 14

Why they moved up: Four freaking bounces. Kawhi Leonard's game-winning shot in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals not only caromed off the rim four times before falling through the net and eliminating the 76ers, it also marked the first time in NBA history that a seventh game was decided on a buzzer-beating shot. That was one historical footnote that Philadelphia fans did not want to be involved with. The fact that the Raptors went on to win the NBA title a month or so later was just salt in the wound. The Sixers were this close to their first title since 1983.

Moving forward: Much of the core of last year's team stayed, with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris returning. Philadelphia did lose veterans Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick but is hoping that the additions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson (plus Toronto losing Kawhi) can get the Sixers to the Finals at minimum.


12. Brooklyn Nets

NBA Movement: Down 1

Total score: 9.87
All-sport rank: 59 (down 3)
Ranking by category: championships, 5 (tie); playoff berths, 10; playoff wins, 9; heartbreaks, 21; rival comparison, 12

Why they moved down: The young Nets made a splash this season, increasing their win total by 14 games to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Brooklyn didn't stay in the postseason long, losing to the 76ers in five games, but their strategy of accumulating young, athletic talent has allowed it to progress past the disastrous Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade and make itself an attractive free-agent destination. That paid off tremendously this summer, as the Nets hit a home run in free agency, as you might have heard.

Moving forward: With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving spurning the rival Knicks and signing with Brooklyn, the sky is the limit for the Nets. While Durant's Achilles injury might delay Brooklyn's surge for a year, the Nets will be among the prime championship contenders when he returns.


13. Detroit Pistons

NBA Movement: Down 4

Total score: 7.46
All-sport rank: 64 (down 15)
Ranking by category: championships, 21; playoff berths, 8; playoff wins, 15; heartbreaks, 22; rival comparison, 10

Why they moved down: Sure, the Pistons made the playoffs for only the second time this decade, but Detroit's slide down these rankings is more due to the success they had in the past. The Pistons didn't qualify for the misery bonus like 11 of the teams above them (only the Pelicans avoided it) due to their championship in 2004. Having that success a decade and a half ago gives Detroit fans some pride, even though they haven't actually won a playoff game since the 2008 Eastern Conference finals.

Moving forward: Getting to the playoffs gives the Pistons some momentum, and they smartly added Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris to their star combo of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. If this crew stays healthy (kind of a big if), expect Detroit to return to the postseason and perhaps win a few games.


14. Milwaukee Bucks

NBA Movement: Down 4

Total score: 6.45
All-sport rank: 65 (down 14)
Ranking by category: championships, 9 (tie); playoff berths, 23; playoff wins, 13; heartbreaks, 10; rival comparison, 16

Why they moved down: The Bucks had their best season since the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar days, as they won an NBA-best 60 games in the regular season and won their first playoff series since 2001 thanks in large part to league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee swept the Pistons, whipped the Celtics in five games and took the first two games from Toronto in the Eastern Conference finals before falling to the Raptors in six.

Moving foward: The Bucks fell short of making their first NBA Finals appearance since 1974 but were able to keep the majority of their core together this offseason. That, plus Kawhi Leonard leaving the Raptors, has Milwaukee among the prime contenders to win the East, and possibly more, next season.

15. Dallas Mavericks

NBA Movement: Up 1

Total score: 5.43
All-sport rank: 69 (up 4)
Ranking by category: championships, 24; playoff berths, 17; playoff wins, 18; heartbreaks, 15; rival comparison, 5

Why they moved up: The Mavericks missed the playoffs for the third season in a row despite the talents of Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic, as Dallas was never seriously in the postseason hunt. Along with missing the playoffs again, the Mavericks haven't won a playoff series since their NBA championship season of 2011. Also, Dallas fans had to say goodbye to Dirk Nowitzki, a Metroplex icon for over two decades, as he retired after the season.

Moving forward: It's been a tough run since the 2011 title, as the Mavs have struggled while in-state rivals San Antonio and Houston have thrived. But the addition of Doncic, plus a healthy Kristaps Porzingis, gives Dallas two potential franchise players to build around in the future.


16. Utah Jazz

NBA Movement: Up 2

Total score: 3.92
All-sport rank: 72 (up 6)
Ranking by category: championships, 9 (tie); playoff berths, 20; playoff wins, 16; heartbreaks, 13; rival comparison, 20

Why they moved up: The Jazz made the playoffs for the third straight season but didn't stick around for very long, falling to the Rockets in five games. Not only did Utah get eliminated by Houston for the second straight season, but this year extended a couple of streaks that Jazz fans want abolished. The Jazz haven't been to the Finals since Michael Jordan's shot eliminated them in 1998 and haven't won an NBA championship in their 40 Utah seasons, qualifying them for the misery bonus.

Moving forward: Usually the Jazz sit back and keep a low profile in the offseason, but Utah went out and traded for Mike Conley and signed Bojan Bogdanovic. With Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert already in tow, the Jazz have a core that can compete with the West's best.


17. Memphis Grizzlies

NBA Movement: Even

Total score: 3.72
All-sport rank: 74 (up 2)
Ranking by category: championships, 18; playoff berths, 18; playoff wins, 10 (tie); heartbreaks, 16; rival comparison, 15

Why they stayed the same: Mostly delayed misery onset, as the Grizzlies missed the playoffs for the second straight season and parted with franchise icons Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Perhaps seeing Gasol win an NBA title with the Raptors was enough to keep some Memphis fans happy and brought back memories of the seven consecutive playoff appearances from 2011 to 2017. Also, the Grizz have made the postseason more times than they haven't in their 18 seasons in Tennessee.

Moving forward: The "Grit and Grind" era was officially shuttered with Conley's trade to Utah. Now comes No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant. Morant's explosiveness, along with promising second-year player Jaren Jackson, gives Memphis fans some distant hope, but it's going to be a painful building process.


18. Indiana Pacers

NBA Movement: Up 2

Total score: 3.5
All-sport rank: 75 (up 6)
Ranking by category: championships, 5 (tie); playoff berths, 26; playoff wins, 17; heartbreaks, 8; rival comparison, 17

Why they moved up: While the Pacers didn't have the heartbreak of their first-round loss in 2018, their playoff appearance this season was pretty feeble, as they were swept by the Celtics. Any hope of a run was ended when Victor Oladipo was sidelined with a nasty quad injury in January. Despite being a postseason mainstay -- Indiana has only missed the playoffs six times in the last 30 seasons -- the Pacers have only made the NBA Finals once (2000) and haven't been able to bring home a championship.

Moving forward: With Oladipo's recovery timetable uncertain, the Pacers have shuffled much of their supporting cast in an attempt to avoid being stale. Malcolm Brogdon leads the new set of Pacers, but Indiana's postseason hopes for next season -- and the near future -- hinge on how well Oladipo recuperates.


19. Chicago Bulls

NBA Movement: Even

Total score: 3.37
All-sport rank: 77 (up 3)
Ranking by category: championships, 20; playoff berths, 16; playoff wins, 14; heartbreaks, 24; rival comparison, 13

Why they stayed the same: It certainly wasn't due to the product on the court this season, as the Bulls dropped 60 games and missed the playoffs for the second straight season and the third time in four years. That said, the Bulls weren't subject to the misery bonus like a couple of teams in this section of the rankings (the Jazz and Pacers) due to the six titles they won in the 1990s with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen & Co. While those memories mean little for Chicago fans in their mid-20s, at least it's something.

Moving forward: The Bulls have a smorgasbord of young talent, with lottery pick Coby White joining a roster that includes Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr. and others. That said, it's likely going to be a few more years until this young mix starts paying postseason dividends, so there's misery to come.


20. Atlanta Hawks

NBA Movement: Up 2

Total score: 1.74
All-sport rank: 81 (up 6)
Ranking by category: championships, 1 (tie); playoff berths, 22; playoff wins, 20; heartbreaks, 23; rival comparison, 22

Why they moved up: The Hawks missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season after making the postseason 10 years in a row. Atlanta has also gone three years without winning a playoff series, but the biggest angst Hawks fans have is the fact that they haven't won an NBA championship in their 51 years in Atlanta or even reached the NBA Finals. The Hawks were caught in a "good, but not quite good enough" cycle before deciding to blow it all up and rebuild their foundation.

Moving forward: Atlanta was actually a pretty exciting team to watch despite its 53 losses, as Trae Young was the best rookie not named Luka Doncic (and might have been better than Doncic after the All-Star break) while John Collins blossomed in Year Two. Add two more lottery picks this year and the postseason is a realistic expectation.

21. Houston Rockets

NBA Movement: Even

Total score: -2.52
All-sport rank: 91 (down 6)
Ranking by category: championships, 16; playoff berths, 25; playoff wins, 23; heartbreaks, 9; rival comparison, 21

Why they stayed the same: Because once again the Rockets saw their season end at the hands of the same opponent. For the second straight season (and the fourth time in five years), Houston was eliminated by the Warriors, this time falling despite Golden State losing Kevin Durant in Game 5 of a series that was tied. There's a lot to be happy about as a Rockets fan, including seven straight postseason appearances and getting to watch James Harden do his thing, but Golden State is a hurdle Houston hasn't cleared.

Moving forward: The Warriors won't be what they were, so that alone is enough to give the Rockets hope. Houston went for broke in the offseason by trading for Russell Westbrook and combining him with Harden. If the two ball-dominant guards can share, perhaps the Rockets can get their first title in a quarter-century.


22. Portland Trail Blazers

Total score: -4.66
All-sport rank: 96 (down 6)
Ranking by category: championships, 11; playoff berths, 28; playoff wins, 21; heartbreaks, 26; rival comparison, 24

Why they moved up: The Trail Blazers only moved up because the Raptors plummeted in misery after winning the NBA title. This was Portland's best season in nearly two decades, as the Blazers advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2000. Like the Rockets, Portland has a Golden State problem, as this year's conference finals sweep marked the third time in four years that the Blazers were eliminated by the Warriors. But all things considered, this was a pretty good season for the Blazers (which is indicated by their drop in the overall standings).

Moving forward: Golden State's injuries and free-agent departures have left the West open for the first time in five years, and the Trail Blazers have as good a shot as any to move up. While they weren't as aggressive as the L.A. teams this offseason, the backcourt combo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will have their say.


23. Oklahoma City Thunder

NBA Movement: Up 1

Total score: -6.91
All-sport rank: 101 (up 3)
Ranking by category: championships, 22; playoff berths, 27; playoff wins, 22; heartbreaks, 11; rival comparison, 25

Why they moved up: Besides the Raptors factor, the Thunder are inching up the misery list because they've stagnated. OKC hasn't won a playoff series since blowing a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference finals and losing Kevin Durant. The Thunder have fallen in the first round in each of the three seasons since, as Damian Lillard's last-second 35-footer in Game 5 ended the most recent playoff appearance. And we haven't even factored in their offseason losses yet.

Moving forward: Despite the lack of a championship, Oklahoma City's first decade of NBA basketball has been pretty fun. But now its fans will get to see how the other half lives, as Paul George and Russell Westbrook (who was the franchise's first draft pick after the move from Seattle) were traded away. The first rebuild is here.


24. Los Angeles Lakers

NBA Movement: Up 1

Total score: -7.66
All-sport rank: 104 (up 10)
Ranking by category: championships, 28; playoff berths, 11; playoff wins, 24; heartbreaks, 20; rival comparison, 18

Why they moved up: Because the addition of LeBron James wasn't enough to cure the dysfunction that has plagued this franchise lately. LeBron didn't mesh well with the Lakers' young core, which can be attributed in part to a midseason injury, and L.A. missed the playoffs again. That makes six straight postseason-less campaigns (two more than the Lakers had in their first 53 years in Los Angeles). No one has much sympathy for Lakers fans due to their previous successes, but L.A. fans have had legitimate beef lately.

Moving forward: The Lakers doubled down on their tradition of bringing in stars, as they unloaded most of their young players to New Orleans so they could pair Anthony Davis with LeBron. Will LeBron, Davis and Kyle Kuzma (the youngster to survive the purge) get the Lakers back to winning titles? At the very least they should get back to the playoffs.

25. Toronto Raptors

NBA Movement: Down 10

Total score: -14.49
All-sport rank: 111 (down 43)
Ranking by category: championships, 29; playoff berths, 24; playoff wins, 25; heartbreaks, 14; rival comparison, 23

Why they moved down: Because the Raptors' gamble paid off in a big way. They went for broke in acquiring Kawhi Leonard, which cashed in to the tune of the franchise's first NBA championship. But not only did Jurassic Park get to celebrate a title, but Toronto fans couldn't have enjoyed a better script. The Raptors defeated the 76ers on the first buzzer-beating, Game 7, game-winning shot in NBA history, then overcame a 2-0 deficit against a Bucks team with the best record in the NBA, then capped it off by dethroning a dynasty in defeating the Warriors in six games. It's hard to imagine a better way to win a first title.

Moving forward: Leonard didn't hang around for very long after the championship parade, going to the Clippers in free agency. That said, he left lifelong memories for Raptors fans. While Toronto might not be a favorite to repeat, the core of Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry & Co. should still be a playoff contender next year.


26. Miami Heat

NBA Movement: Up 1

Total score: -18.01
All-sport rank: 116 (up 1)
Ranking by category: championships, 27; playoff berths, 19; playoff wins, 26; heartbreaks, 6; rival comparison, 27

Why they moved up: Because their Big Three era is completely over. Dwyane Wade's retirement officially closed the door on a great era of Heat basketball, as Wade was on three championship teams and five NBA Finals squads from 2006 to 2014. It's been a slow decline since then, as Miami has missed the playoffs three of the last five seasons, including barely finishing behind the Magic and Pistons in the playoff hunt this past year. Miami fans still have the memories of LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh to fall back on (and Wade and Shaquille O'Neal before that), but those will fade.

Moving forward: Miami did some retooling on the fly this offseason, parting with Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson while bringing in Jimmy Butler to fulfill Wade's star role. Can Butler inspire the Heat's talented youngsters, or will they wilt under his intensity? That will determine Miami's degree of misery in the short term.


27. Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA Movement: Up 1

Total score: -19.86
All-sport rank: 118 (even)
Ranking by category: championships, 25; playoff berths, 14; playoff wins, 29; heartbreaks, 4; rival comparison, 28

Why they moved up: Because for the second time in a decade, the bottom fell out after LeBron James left. While there wasn't nearly the angst about LeBron skipping town this time (the 2016 championship and three other trips to the Finals earned him grace), the aftermath was the same, as Cleveland fell toward the bottom of the league again. Not only were the Cavs LeBron-less, but Kevin Love and J.R. Smith barely played, making the past Cavs team nearly unrecognizable in comparison to the four-time Eastern Conference champions that preceded it.

Moving forward: It seems unlikely that LeBron will come back for a third stint by the lake, so the Cavs are in the midst of a massive rebuild. Collin Sexton played well as a rookie, but Cavs fans are going to have several years of rough basketball unless John Beilein's system carries over from Michigan without a hitch.


28. Boston Celtics

NBA Movement: Down 2

Total score: -22.84
All-sport rank: 119 (down 3)
Ranking by category: championships, 23; playoff berths, 29; playoff wins, 27; heartbreaks, 12; rival comparison, 29

Why they moved down: Because unlike most of the teams in this portion of the rankings, the Celtics made the playoffs and won a series. Boston fans were disappointed by the way this past season went, as a team that was considered the preseason favorite in the East never jelled and was dispatched by the Bucks in five games in round two. That said, the Celtics made the playoffs (something that Lakers, Heat and Cavs fans are envious of), making it five in a row and 11 berths in 12 years. Also, it's hard to have sympathy for a franchise that has won a league-best 17 titles.

Moving forward: Is switching out Kyrie Irving for Kemba Walker a better stylistic fit going forward? Celtics fans hope so, as they still possess a young, talented base of players to go with Walker. How Brad Stevens uses Walker and accounts for Al Horford's departure could determine whether Boston is a serious Eastern contender.


29. San Antonio Spurs

NBA Movement: Even

Total score: -24.77
All-sport rank: 120 (even)
Ranking by category: championships, 26; playoff berths, 30; playoff wins, 28; heartbreaks, 1; rival comparison, 26

Why they stayed the same: Because Pop still has it. Gregg Popovich was able to get quite a bit out of his aging roster, as he led the Spurs to the playoffs for the 22nd straight season. San Antonio, which has made the postseason 29 times in 30 seasons dating to 1990, gave a talented Denver team fits in the first round before the Nuggets prevailed in seven games. While the Spurs aren't at the level which saw them win five NBA championships and finish one Ray Allen shot short of a sixth from 1999 to 2014, reports of San Antonio's demise are premature.

Moving forward: Can the Spurs continue their playoff streak? It might be tough, as the West continues to get deeper and San Antonio's stars continue to get older (LaMarcus Aldridge will be 34 next season and DeMar DeRozan will be 30). But it's really hard to imagine a Popovich team falling out of contention.

30. Golden State Warriors

NBA Movement: Even

Total score: -42.35
All-sport rank: 122 (even)
Ranking by category: championships, 30; playoff berths, 21; playoff wins, 30; heartbreaks, 3; rival comparison, 30

Why they stayed the same: Because they did something that hasn't been seen in the NBA since the Bill Russell Celtics of the 1960s. The Warriors advanced to a fifth straight NBA Finals despite a harrowing postseason that saw them lose Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to catastrophic injuries. The loss of Durant and Thompson finally caught up to the Warriors, who fell into the Raptors in six games despite a gallant effort, but the way they played through adversity showed the mettle that netted them championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Moving forward: Durant left for Brooklyn and Thompson could miss the 2019-20 season rehabbing his torn ACL, but the Warriors still have Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. While a sixth consecutive Finals appearance could be far-fetched, this Golden State dynasty might be pausing and resetting instead of shutting down operations.