2012-2013 NBA Power Rankings Season Debut Edition
NBA Power Rankings Season Opener Edition
In honor of the NBA 2012-2013 season opener tonight, I decided to rank every team in the league. My reasoning for today is pure excitement; my prediction is that this will be the most exciting season of basketball since the '98 Chicago Bulls laced them up.
There are endless storylines from the Miami Heat trying to repeat as champions to the Los Angeles Lakers adding a former MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Will LeBron win the MVP for the 4th time this year or will Kevin Durant upset his throne after working out with him in Akron again this summer.
Brooklyn now has a team thanks to a Rap mogul and a Russian billionaire. Yes, you read that right, and the New York Knicks will attempt to overcome an injury to Amar'e Stoudemire to remain the best team in their own city.
We also have a very talented rookie class coming in this year, and I am looking forward to seeing the league's new Tim Duncan (Anthony Davis) against the league's old Tim Duncan (Tim Duncan).
Without further ado, here are my power rankings for all 30 teams in the league. Disagree? Rant your comments or critiques below.
1. Miami Heat- After LeBron James finally got the monkey off his back last season, then over the summer he continued his domination as the best basketball player in the world by being the go-to scorer on the U.S. Olympic Team. The Heat then added Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, and even Josh Harrelson (who knew he could shoot the 3-ball) in the off-season, which makes them the prohibitive favorites, especially after the Thunder shockingly dealt James Harden.
2. San Antonio Spurs- San Antonio slipped ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder after they traded the "Bearded One". Another year of development for Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and DeJuan Blair will make the Spurs even stronger. Also, everyone seems to overlook the Spurs every season even though they've ended the last two years on top of the West. (I'll conveniently overlook the fact now that they failed to win the Western Conference Finals both of those years)
3. Oklahoma City Thunder- The Thunder would be ranked #2 on this list if they had managed to keep their big 4 together. They could climb to the top if Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and Perry Jones III (a steal for them) end up contributing off the bench.
4. Boston Celtics- People seem to forget that the Boston Celtics were one game from eliminating the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, until LeBron James came out with one of his ultimate pantheon games. Beantown added Jared Sullinger (a steal) and Fab Melo through the draft as well as Jason Terry (free agent) and Jeff Green (returning from heart surgery) this off-season as well. The Celtics are the only team in the East with a shot to knock off the Heat and Ray Allen's return to Boston tonight is must-watch TV.
5. Los Angeles Lakers- The Lakers went 0-8 in the preseason (I know who cares right?), but more troublesome is the fact that Kobe Bean Bryant might miss the season opener with a foot injury and the added fact that the Lakers don't really have a bench this year slips them to number 5. If injuries become a theme for this team, then look for them to flame out in the postseason versus either the Spurs or Thunder.
6. Los Angeles Clippers- The Clippers were on their way to the best NBA off-season and then the Lakers went ahead and added a certain 3-time Defensive Player of the Year and another 2 time MVP. The Clippers had a decent haul themselves. They have Chauncey Billups returning from injury, and added Grant Hill via free agency. Could this be the beginning of a beautiful thing between Chris Paul and Blake Griffin or will Paul bolt after this season and join up with another super team?
The Knockers On The Door
7. Denver Nuggets- The Nuggets wrested Andre Iguodala from the Sixers in the Dwight Howard deal and didn't have to give up much. They also inked the oft-critized but mega-talented JaVale McGee at last year's trade deadline. They could push for a top 4 seed in the West this year, but it could take time to discover who their closer is. Ty Lawson is a great player, but not sure he can close the way a Durant/Bryant/James type player can.
8. Indiana Pacers- The Pacers did not do much in the off-season other than re-sign George Hill and Roy Hibbert, and they will be banking on another largely injury free year in order to push the Heat and Celtics for top seed in the L(East) ~cough~cough I meant East.
9. Brooklyn Nets- The first Brooklyn sports franchise since 1957 had a splashy off-season by trading for Joe Johnson and inking Deron Williams to a contract extension and look like the best team in New York now, but Owner Mikhail Prokhorov's proclamation of winning a championship in the next 3 years looks pretty shaky. If they had landed Dwight Howard that might have been a somewhat sane prediction, but this team doesn't look like a contender for the foreseeable future.
10. Memphis Grizzlies- The Grizzlies lost a playoff game 7 at home in last year's playoffs and then let O.J. Mayo go to the Mavericks. If Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph can stay on the court for more than 8 games this season, then they will get back to the playoffs but still won't bring home the hardware. Lionel Hollins somehow got out coached by Vinny Del Negro (yikes) last year and his job might be on the line this year.
11. Atlanta Hawks- Adding Danny Ferry as GM, who traded Joe Johnson's supposedly immovable contract is a positive of the future of the Hawks. If Al Horford can stay healthy for a full year, then the Hawks will make noise this year. They need to draft better in the future (remember when they passed on CP3), in order to contend for a championship, but they now have the GM to make that happen.
12. Philadelphia 76ers- The 76ers were wise to snag Bynum off of the Lakers in the Dwight Howard deal and if Bynum can overcome maturity issues (don't hold your breath), then the 76ers will have a go-to offensive threat for the first time since A.I.
The Dark Horses
13. New York Knicks- The recent news that Stoudemire will be out 8 weeks with an issue with the same reconstructed knee severely hurts the Knicks chances this year. It doesn't matter if you worked with Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon if your knee doesn't work. Oh and by the way, Jeremy Lin isn't walking through that door to save the Knicks season this year.
14. Chicago Bulls- Tom Thibodeau will keep this team afloat and in the playoff hunt into late February, but would it truly be worth it to risk Derrick Rose re-injuring himself just to be the 6 or 7 seed in the playoffs. They also lost their famed bench-mob and might struggle more than people think early on. As a Chicago resident myself though, I cannot wait for the buzz in the United Center when D. Rose returns. #thereturn
15. Utah Jazz- Enes Kanter has had an excellent pre-season, which makes either Al Jefferson or Paul Millsapp expendable at the trade deadline. The injury woes of the Mavericks, though, make the Jazz a dark-horse favorite in the playoffs.
16. Dallas Mavericks- News of Dirk Nowitzki's injury is not welcome news, but they were able to salvage not landing Deron Williams (side-note: Mark Cuban was Shark Hunt REALLY more important than going to that meeting?) by getting O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, and Elton Brand all on 1 year contracts.
17. Golden State Warriors- The Warriors might be sneaky good this year. I believe Harrison Barnes will be a better pro baller than he showed in college and Andrew Bogut finally gives them some interior defensive prescence (if he can stay on the floor). I think the Stephon Curry paper mache ankle experiment will end this year, but they might be better off for it.
18. Houston Rockets- The Rockets have had a sneaky good off-season. Omer Asik was an underrated part of the Bulls success last year, and though it will be tough to live up to his contract, he has shown some offensive spark this preseason. Jeremy Lin is a bit over-paid too, but at least he has an elite scorer in James Harden to throw the ball too. If Royce White can overcome his fear of flying, then the Rockets might have an interesting core of talent to develop over the next few years.
19. Detroit Pistons- Greg Monroe is a unique big man talent; Andre Drummond has also had a solid pre-season. The Pistons, if healthy, could push for an 8th seed in the playoffs. It might be too much to ask this year, but their core of young big men look to have a bright future ahead of them.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves- The T-wolves received more bad news when Kevin Love broke his hand doing bare-knuckle pushups. If Brandon Roy and AK-47 can hold the ship together until Love and Rubio get back, then the Wolves could be a dark-horse playoff team, but if they can't then it will be back to the lottery for the Wolves.
21. New Orleans Hornets- Anthony Davis has been getting a lot of Tim Duncan comparisons early on and his coach said he wants to see some 20 rebound games from the rookie. Being the 12th man on Team USA was good experience for the rookie as well. Austin Rivers went down with an ankle injury during the preseason, but make no mistake that Davis will be the centerpiece of this team for the next 10 years if the Hornets' GM has his way.
22. Milwaukee Bucks- John Henson could develop into an Anthony-Davis type shot blocking presence, but he needs to fill out his frame. This could be a make-or-break year for Monta Ellis as he and Brandon Jennings attempt to become on of the highest scoring backcourts in the East. It remains to be seen how they will guard anyone though.
23. Portland Trail Blazers- The Trail Blazers have LaMarcus Aldridge returning from injury, but are placing a lot of faith in Damian Lillard. Lillard could end up getting a lot of Rookie of the Year votes by running the pick and roll with Aldridge, but I'm not sold that the Blazers have what it takes for a playoff run this year.
24. Toronto Raptors- This year will hinge on how Ed Davis, Andrea Bargnani, and Jonas Valanciunas can coexist in the Raptors front court. They will need to add some depth in the backcourt to get into playoff position in the East, but they have a solid young core to build off of now.
The Lottery Bound
25. Phoenix Suns- Steve Nash dragged last year's Suns to the brink of a playoff spot, when they only had two legit NBA starters on the roster. This year's team will struggle, but they may have their point guard of the future, Kendall Marshall, coming off the bench this year. Look for Marcin Gortat to struggle without Steve Nash getting him the rock this year.
26. Sacramento Kings- I went to a lock-out scrimmage in DC last year where I saw DeMarcus Cousins rain a couple three-balls on Kevin Durant. That's when I knew he would eventually be a superstar in the league. I believe this is Tyreke Evans last year with the Kings and hopefully they can find a point guard who can get Cousins the ball next year.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers- Kyrie Irving is one of the most exciting young talents in the game and looks like he could be what the Wizards wish John Wall was. The Cavs still don't have enough quality big men to compete for a playoff spot in the East, but Dion Waters and Irving give them an intriguing backcourt for the future.
28. Washington Wizards- The Wizards were dealt a blow when it was announced John Wall would miss 8 weeks with knee soreness. It's better than an ACL tear, but it will be tough for Wall to drag the Wizards out the hole they will certainly be in when he gets back.
29. Orlando Magic- The Dwight Howard trade might have been the worst in NBA history. It's hard to think of how the Magic or Dwight could have handled things worse last year and it will be awhile before we talk about the Magic in the playoffs again.
30. Charlotte Bobcats- Adding MKG to a truly depressing Bobcats team will help their effort level, but not their shooting ability. Pretty sure the Michael Jordan-run Bobcats will lead the league in losses once again next year.