NBA Preseason Power Rankings
State of the NBA Heading Into The Preseason
As every NBA team opens up training camp this week, it is official: basketball is back. Sure it seems like last season just ended, and with there being less than four months since the Miami Heat broke the San Antonio Spurs' hearts in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, it pretty much did. But it is October again and how could anyone really argue against basketball being on television every night again.
Luckily for the fans the 2013-14 season looks bound to be a war from the beginning, as each and ever team in the league will be looking to assure that LeBron James and company do not accomplish a three peat of championships. This will in turn likely drive some anti-LeBron basketball fans crazy as he again assumes mass media attention, but in the end will bring the standard of the top teams in the league up.
Not that the league needs anything to drive its level of play up after the battlefield that was the 2013-14 postseason and the ensuing mix up of squads during the summer. We have seen a number of changes occur throughout the league that has resulted in the league continue to trend towards the top teams being incredibly strong and the bottom teams looking like they couldn't beat a top college basketball team. These changes have affected teams ranging from the Houston Rockets to the New Orleans Pelicans and resulted in large number of teams looking forward to April vacations and an equally large amount feeling like they can genuinely win the NBA championship.
We have decided to make some sense of the madness surrounding the 2013 summer dealings and question marks surrounding organizations by forming a power ranking for 30 NBA teams going into the preseason.
30. Philadelphia 76ers
After taking a giant step forwards during the 2012-13 season behind the play of Jrue Holliday, the Philadelphia 76ers took an equally large step backwards by trading away Holliday. The 2013-14 season looks like it will end up in a lottery pick for Philadelphia.
29. Charlotte Bobcats
Even after adding Al Jefferson, there is still big reasons not to get too optimistic about the Charlotte Bobcats in 2013-14. After all, they are still the Bobcats. Outside of Jefferson, they are not very talented so even a 30-win season would be a miracle.
28. Phoenix Suns
When looking at the Phoenix Suns, one immediately sees young players such as Eric Bledsoe, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin and Kendal Marshall who possess great potential but simply are not ready for the prime time yet. It would be no surprise to see the Suns drafting No. 1 in the 2014 NBA Draft.
27. Orlando Magic
The 2013-14 season will be the second of the post-Dwight Howard era for the Orlando Magic, and the rebuilding effort is still in full effect. Youngsters Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris can all be expected to receive significant minutes, but it will be at least another year before the Magic can even think about a playoff spot.
26. Sacramento Kings
With Damarcus Cousins now locked up for the long term, it is evident that the Sacramento Kings have at least one building block for the future. While this is nice, they still need more complementing pieces than Ben McLemore before thinking about winning more than 30 games in 2013-14.
25. Milwaukee Bucks
After advancing to the 2013 playoffs, the Milwaukee Bucks looked ready to make become a top team in the near future. Unfortunately, the summer proved to be a big let down as Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings left town, and the Bucks are again a rebuilding team.
24. Toronto Raptors
With Rudy Gay and Demar DeRozan on board, it is clear that the Toronto Raptors will at least have two scorers. But outside of that, things look rather average. This summers addition of Tyler Hansbrough only enforced that opinion and leaves an eighth place spot in the Eastern Conference the ceiling of the Raptors.
23. Boston Celtics
After trading away Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and letting head coach Doc Rivers go to the Los Angeles Clippers, many people projected doomsday for the Boston Celtics in 2013-14. But with Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley still on board, it is hard to imagine the Celtics being finishing in the bottom-three of the Eastern Conference, although they may try and make this happen by trading away Rondo during the season.
22. Minnesota Timberwolves
With Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio on board, the Minnesota Timberwolves possess one of the most promising big and small man combination in the NBA. The only problem for the Timberwolves in the past has been actually getting both on the court at the same time, although if both stay healthy, the team could challenge for the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
21. Washington Wizards
With John Wall and Bradley Beal in the backcourt and Emeka Okafor playing center, the Washington Wizards have a core of players capable of earning a playoff spot. In order to do this, the Wizards will also need Al Harrington, Trevor Ariza and Josh Childress to play to the best of their abilities, which seems a bit of a stretch. Still, the future is bright in Washington.
20. Utah Jazz
It will be a struggle for the Utah Jazz to replace the scoring of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, who both left town this summer in 2013-14. As a result, it can be expected that the Jazz will take a step back from their ninth place finish in the Western Conference in 2012-13, but they will not be the bottom feeder that some expect.
19. New Orleans Pelicans
After acquiring Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holliday to complement Eric Gordon in the backcourt, it is clear that the New Orleans Pelicans will have one of the best young backcourts in the NBA and will be a much improved team. It is not a stretch to think New Orleans will make the playoffs in 2013-14.
18. Detroit Pistons
The acquisitions of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith will result in the Detroit Pistons being one of the top scoring teams in the NBA, but it is yet to be determined whether they will play any defense. Still, it can be expected that the Pistons will finish anywhere between sixth and 10th in the Eastern Conference.
17. Dallas Mavericks
After finishing with a 41-41 record during the 2012-13 season, it was expected that the Dallas Mavericks would either attain a big-time player or blow up and rebuild. Instead, they did neither, signing a plethora of mid-level free agents headlined by Monta Ellis. These signings will again result in the Mavericks being a completely average team during the 2013-2014 season.
16. Cleveland Cavaliers
With Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson forming one of the best young trios in the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers will surely be challenging for a playoff spot in 2013-14. Just how high in the Eastern Conference they reach will likely come down to whether or not Andrew Bynum can stay healthy for the entirety of the season. If Bynum does stay healthy, the Cavaliers could find themselves ranking as high as number five in the Eastern Conference at the end of the season.
15. Los Angeles Lakers
Despite losing Dwight Howard through free agency to the Houston Rockets, it is hard to count out Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant combining to get the Los Angeles Lakers back to the playoffs in 2013-14. Sure all three are aging, but they have a point to prove after the debacle that was the 2012-13 season and will be motivated by the fact that this could be their last chance to attempt a run at a championship.
14. Portland Trail Blazers
During the 2012-13 season, the Portland Trail Blazers had great potential in their starting five. But when it got to the bench, they were extremely poor. After signing C.J. McCollum and Mo Williams during the summer it seems that Portland has addressed this issue, and appear likely to finish either seventh or eighth in the Western Conference and make it back to the playoffs.
13. Atlanta Hawks
Over the summer, Atlanta Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry made some shrewd moves, but the best out of all the moves was letting Josh Smith walk. With Smith now gone, it is likely that Al Horford and Jeff Teague will step up their play to another level, and the Hawks will make a sixth straight playoff appearance.
12. Denver Nuggets
After 10 straight playoff appearances, it is fair to say that the Denver Nuggets can be expected to at least finish in the upper half of the Western Conference. But after letting go of head coach George Karl, it can also be expected that there will be some sort of regression from the Nuggets in 2013-14.
11. Memphis Grizlies
During the 2013 postseason, the Memphis Grizzlies made a surprise run to the Western Conference Finals based on the strong play of Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen and Mike Conely. Things ultimately did not work out. But with each of these players coming back, it is fair to say that the Grizzlies will be a team to watch in 2013-14.
10. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks head into the 2013-14 season with a lineup bolstered by the additions of Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani over the summer. While each of these players has the potential to be a key addition, they do not convince the mind that the Knicks have what it takes to win the Eastern Conference. After all, they are still extremely reliant on the jump shot, which has come back to bite them in past postseasons.
9. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets appear to be the most improved team in the NBA heading into the 2013-14 season after acquiring Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry over the summer. These moves have the potential to send the Nets to the NBA Finals given good health. But given the fact that each player is 32 or older, it is yet to be determined who will actually be healthy come playoff time.
8. Los Angeles Clippers
During the previous two seasons, the Los Angeles Clippers have put up great statistics during the regular season but faltered when the competition stepped up in the postseason. The 2013-14 will again test out this theory, as Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will try to transform lob city into playoff wins.
7. Golden State Thunder
The 2012-13 postseason served as a coming out party for the Golden State Thunder. After adding Andre Iguodala to their talented core, they may be ready to compete for the top spot in the Western Conference during the 2013-14 season.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder will again try to make a run for the NBA Championship on the backs of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, which will put tremendous pressure on both to stay healthy and perform great every night. With Westbrook already appearing likely to miss at least the first part of the 2013-14 season because of an injury to his right knee that first occurred during the playoffs, this plan already appears to be faltering, but it is hard to believe the Thunder will not ready to go come playoff time.
5. Houston Rockets
After looking like a team that simply did not have enough support for James Harden to seriously make a push for the 2012-13 NBA championship, the Houston Rockets made the biggest splash of the summer by signing Dwight Howard. As long as Howard stays healthy, the Rockets appear poised to be the breakout team of the season.
4. Chicago Bulls
During the 2012-13 postseason, the Chicago Bulls simply ran out of gas, as nearly their whole team attained injuries and Derrick Rose showed no impetus to get off the bench and help. Coming into the 2013-14 season with the entire team looking healthy and Rose finally ready to return from a tear to his ACL, the Bulls look ready to make a push for the Eastern Conference title.
3. San Antonio Spurs
With Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker all coming back, it is clear that the San Antonio Spurs have the potential to compete with any team in the NBA. The only question throughout the season will be if these three players can hold off father time for one more season.
2. Indiana Pacers
After losing a crushing Game 7 to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, it is clear that the Indiana Pacers will be looking for blood in 2013-14. The Pacers addition of Luis Scola and the return of Danny Granger from injury will only help lead this charge and could result in 2013-14 being the year the team finally wins an NBA championship.
1. Miami Heat
With Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier all coming back for an attempt at a three peat, the Miami Heat is the clear No. 1 team in the NBA preseason power rankings.