The preseason is underway and it’s time to rank these teams accordingly. There are some obvious picks in the mix but there will be some surprises this season. It’s our power rankings.
1. The Miami Heat
This is a no brainer. Imagine the Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen signings happening 10 years before they did. A mixture of three All-Stars built behind Pat Riley’s ego doesn’t spell CHAMPIONSHIP. It spells DYNASTY.
2. The Los Angeles Lakers
The defending champions will have the ability to compete for another title as long as Kobe Byrant Stays healthy. The acquisition of Matt Barnes gives this defense a lot more bite and they finally have a backup point guard in Steve Blake.
3. The Dallas Mavericks
They may be a little too high on this for some people but we need to consider how they faired after last season’s trade with Washington. They have had an entire offseason to mold together as a team and their best pickup of free agency, Tyson Chandler, is coming off a gold performance with team USA.
4. The Orlando Magic
Even though Stan Van Gundy can no longer sport those turtlenecks, the Magic will contend. Yes, they lost a good defender in Barnes but their contract with Vince Carter expires at the end of the season and he could be very valuable trade bait. If they could compete last year, they should compete yet again this season.
5. The Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are both coming off of a great summer with team USA. Their leadership has grown exponentially and we expect it to show on the court. There will be thunder in Oklahoma City.
6. The Boston Celtics
Age has always been this team’s Achilles heal and the Shaquille O’Neal signing didn’t make them any younger. Rajon Rondo proved that he is one of the best point guards in the league last season. Jermaine O’Neal will give some more depth to the frontcourt but Ray Allen and Paul Pierce need to prove their worth yet again.
7. The Chicago Bulls
The Bulls had probably one of the most impressive offseasons outside of Miami. Carlos Boozer and Ronnie Brewer alone will improve the depth on this fairly young squad. Tom Thibodeaou’s defensive mindset will work well in Chicago and Derrick Rose is proving to be a top player in the league.
8. The Phoenix Suns
Last season’s Western Conference Playoffs were a definite surprise for everyone. After losing Amar’e Stoudemire, don’t expect the Suns to stumble. Hakim Warrick will score less but accomplish a lot more under the basket with his ability to actually play defense and hustle. Goran Dragic knows what he is capable of as well as Robin Lopez. Don’t expect anything from Hedo Turkoglu since we really don’t know what we’re going to get.
9. The Utah Jazz
Yes, Loosing Boozer will affect the Jazz but Al Jefferson will spark that frontcourt. Deron Williams is getting better and better and has stated that he will turn Jefferson into a better player than he already is. We don’t expect a veteran coach like Jerry Sloan to trip up over loosing a few key players.
10. The Atlanta Hawks
Head coach Larry Drew is expected to ease off of the isolation offense that implemented Joe Johnson so ineffectively last postseason for the Hawks. Expect more balance on this team now that they don’t have to worry about a deal with Josh Smith. Al Hortford is turning out to be a pretty decent basketball player and hopefully Jamal Crawford will play with the same intensity as last season despite contract issues.
11. The Denver Nuggets
The only thing keeping Denver at 10 is the situation with Carmelo Anthony. Contract issues can be very distracting. However, Kenyon Martin should rebound from last season’s injury and the backcourt is stacked with Chauncey Billups and Ty Lawson. George Karl’s presence alone should revamp this team.
12. The Milwaukee Bucks
Buck fever hit the nation last season with utter surprise. Hopefully they can maintain the same level of competition this year. Andrew Bogut finally has some help in the frontcourt with Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette will offer some veteran leadership on the squad.
13. The Portland Trailblazers
Health is the main issue for the Blazers this season as both Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla are both coming off of serious injuries. Luckily, Marcus Camby signed a two-year extension with Portland in April and will be able to hold down the frontcourt until both return. They must get a full season out of Brandon Roy as well if they want to compete next summer.
14. The San Antonio Spurs
Age will slowly kill this dying dynasty but until then, plan on one more run by the Spurs. It’s time for Popavich to put in the young fellas and let DeJaun Blair and George Hill do their thing. It’s their only hope with such a geriatric squad and an 82-game season.
15. The Memphis Grizzlies
It may be time for this young Griz team to make the playoffs in the post-Gasol era. Rudy Gay has shown that this is his team and his time with team USA will hopefully payoff. It’s a solid core and with Zach Randolph in the mix, anything can happen. They have several options on who to start at point guard but they really need to figure it out fast since that will determine if they are ready for the playoffs.
16. The Charlotte Bobcats
They really took a step backwards by losing both Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton. Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace are the best players on the team but they need to stay healthy (Wallace is injured all the time). D.J. Augustin says he is ready to be this team’s point guard while it’s Tyrus Thomas’s first full season in Charlotte.
17. The Sacramento Kings
It’s weird putting them up this high (yes, 17 would be high for some of the more recent Kings’ teams) but it all depends on the development of these young kings. Tyreke Evans has shown that this is his show and hopefully he wont hit a sophomore slump. Demarcus Cousins has the potential to be a great basketball player if he keeps his head on straight. Samual Dalembert will hopefully aid in his growth as an NBA big guy.
18. The Houston Rockets
By limiting Yao Ming’s minutes and Brad Miller already showing signs that his career is dwindling, Houston has a big problem at the center position. Yes, they may make the playoffs but it depends on a lot of things. Kevin Martin has already shown that he has trouble adjusting to new offenses and new players from his time in Sacramento (even he has injury problems). He needs to kick the old habits and start scoring if the Rockets want a chance.
19. The Indiana Pacers
It all revolves around the point guard position this season for the Pacers. Darren Collison is good but he really needs to prove his worth. He is going from a very deep backcourt in New Orleans to a very shallow one in Indiana. Danny Granger needs to play with the same intensity and injuries need to be kept to a minimum. If all this works out, the Pacers may be seeing the postseason for the first time in years.
20. The New Orleans Hornets
An unhappy super star on the squad never helps a team. This is exactly what is going down in the Big Easy and signing Trevor Ariza will not be a catalyst in making Chris Paul stay. It is Monty Williams first full season in New Orleans but we have seen that this team’s problems run deep.
21. The Washington Wizards
Over the past few seasons, we have seen that it takes a lot more than a first round pick to turn a team around. John Wall is good but something is stirring up in Washington. Gilbert Arenas has said that it is no longer his team and is eying an exit. Good luck Gil. Washington signed you to a maximum six-year contract in 2008. You aren’t going anywhere.
22. The Golden State Warriors
The Nelson era is over but we have yet to see if his style of ball with depart as well. Keith Smart is going to have to implement some defense but that may be hard with a crew that is so used to running and gunning. We will see some upsets and good games from these young guys but it’s going to take a little more than David Lee to turn it around for the Warriors.
23. The Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Love is coming off of a productive summer and Corey Brewer improved a lot last season. Michael Beasley has said that he wants to turn his life around and get serious about the game and what better place than the frozen tundra (sarcasm). Drafting both Wesley Johnson and Lazar Haywood were steps in the right direction but it isn’t the Wolves time… yet.
24. The Cleveland Cavaliers
Don’t feel sorry for them. They did this to themselves. LeBron James had no incentive to stay and management did very little to make him feel welcome by not including him in the coaching decision. Byron Scott has a lot of work on his hands. Antawn Jamison will be leading this team now and that wont be enough. The only glimmer of hope for the Cavs is J.J. Hickson who showed a lot of potential last season.
25. The New York Knicks
Amar’e Stoudemire and Eddy Curry spell out maybe one of the laziest frontcourts in the NBA. They will win more games but Mike D’antoni has his work cut out for him. We have already seen that he has a tendency for pissing his players off with his limited rotations. Let’s see how that rotation works with a bunch of out-of-shape washouts.
26. The New Jersey Nets
We have seen what Avery Johnson can do with a team that is already built (The Dallas Mavericks in 2005) but we have yet to see what he does with rebuilding. He does an excellent job of implementing defensive schemes and the players in New Jersey will prove to be good students. They finally have some depth with Anthony Morrow, Troy Murphy and Travis Outlaw but a reunion of Devin Harris and the little general could prove disastrous.
27. The Philadelphia 76ers
It will take more than Evan Turner to turn this team around. Andre Iguodala has proven that he isn’t a primary scoring threat and Allen Iverson and Andre Miller attributed to his early career success. There isn’t much else in Philly to take the attention away from him. Don’t expect much.
28. The Los Angeles Clippers
Baron Davis showed up for the season out of shape. Eric Gordon played well in the FIBA Championship but has shown that he is injury prone. Blake Griffin is showing signs of promise but do we really expect a rookie to turn it around for the other team that plays at Staples Center?
29. The Detroit Pistons
They are being sold. That’s about all that they got going for them.
30. The Toronto Raptors
They will be athletic with Leandro Barbosa, Julian Wright and the growth of DeMar DeRozan but Toronto will suck. General manager Bryan Colangelo has shown that the Raptors are not done dealing but there really isn’t much for them to offer or even acquire that can turn this franchise around.