NBA Power Rankings: Who Can Knock Chicago Bulls from Top Spot?
Dwight Howard remains in Orlando, Nene is going from playoff contender to a team competing for the future and the Los Angeles Lakers have finally found a point guard in Ramon Sessions.
With the Dallas Mavericks fading, it's a near certainty that we'll have a new champion crowned in 2012, and there are a handful of teams making a strong push to be the top dog in the pack.
30. Charlotte Bobcats
It's all about next season and the future in Charlotte, and there have been some frustrating times for the Bobcats this season.
Kemba Walker needs to hone his point guard skills for the Bobcats, and Bismack Biyombo remains a work in progress on the offensive end, but an impact draft selection in the summer could make a big difference going forward.
29. Washington Wizards
The addition of Nene is going to help John Wall's development, and the Wizards did well to ship out both JaVale McGee and Nick Young at the deadline.
The club has some interesting pieces to build with going forward, like Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely, and Washington would be wise to strongly consider using its amnesty clause on Andray Blatche in the offseason.
28. New Orleans Hornets
Chris Kaman surprisingly remains in a Hornets uniform after the team couldn't find a deal to its liking at the deadline, but this is another franchise looking firmly toward the future.
It wouldn't be a shock to see a roster shakeup in the offseason to clear even more playing time for the younger players, and New Orleans is going to need to draft well to build for the future.
27. Toronto Raptors
Andrea Bargnani is back on the court after a lengthy absence due to a calf injury, but the Raptors are not going anywhere this season.
With Jonas Valanciunas coming over next season and another opportunity to draft someone who can help the Raptors immediately, we could be looking at a much-improved Toronto team come the 2012-13 season.
26. Sacramento Kings
Offensive production isn't the problem in Sacramento—it's the defensive side of the rock where the Kings continue to struggle mightily.
This team fails to communicate consistently, which impacts the perimeter defense in negative fashion, and there isn't enough talent on the roster to trade buckets with playoff teams and come out with a win consistently.
25. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons would have a much brighter future if not for the insane contracts of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva still being on the books, but that is an issue Joe Dumars will look to address in the offseason.
Detroit has drafted well with Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko, but the club can't whiff on free-agent signings if there are hopes of turning the corner in the foreseeable future.
24. New Jersey Nets
The addition of Gerald Wallace is nice, but it's hard to imagine his arrival is going to be enough to convince Deron Williams that his long-term future is with the Nets.
New Jersey gave up an impact first-round pick next season (top three protected) in order to land Wallace, and that is a move the team will quickly regret if D-Will heads elsewhere like so many project him to do.
23. Cleveland Cavaliers
Kyrie Irving remains the heavy favorite to win the Rookie of the Year Award, and he'll see an increase in playing time with Ramon Sessions now in Los Angeles with the Lakers.
However, this team is moving in the wrong direction after there was some discussion of contending for a postseason spot, and there just isn't enough support alongside Irving at this time to make a serious push.
22. Golden State Warriors
When the Warriors traded Monta Ellis to Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut, Golden State basically kissed any chance of making the playoffs goodbye this season.
Bogut isn't expected back from his ankle injury, Stephen Curry is a candidate to be shut down for the remainder of the year, and the Warriors don't have enough talent to overcome those two huge absences from the lineup.
Without much financial flexibility moving forward, it's going to be awfully interesting to see what this roster looks like if and when everyone can get on the court together.
21. Portland Trail Blazers
Portland decided to blow it up at the trade deadline by shipping out Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby before firing Nate McMillan. This is a Blazers team looking toward next season and beyond.
With a ton of cap space available in the offseason, re-signing Nicolas Batum should be priority No. 1, and the draft pick acquired from New Jersey could very well have an immediate impact.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves
There have been a plethora of injuries around the NBA this season, but it's hard to find one that has had more of an impact than Ricky Rubio's torn ACL for the Timberwolves.
The perception of Minnesota as a playoff team has completely changed since Rubio went down, and it's not a surprise the T-Wolves are just 1-4 since the exciting rookie hit the sidelines.
19. Milwaukee Bucks
Although there might be some concerns about Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis in the same backcourt, the Bucks scored big time by bringing in a scorer like Ellis.
It's unclear what the long-term view of the franchise is in terms of building the roster going forward, but the acquisition of Ellis is a step in the right direction.
18. Utah Jazz
There might not be a more intriguing team in the league than the Utah Jazz.
Some nights the Jazz are incredibly impressive, and others, the club falls flat on its face and vastly underwhelms against inferior competition.
Despite the presence of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the Jazz need to find more playing time for Derrick Favors.
It wouldn't be shocking to see Utah be active in the trade market during the offseason in order to attempt to upgrade the production from the backcourt.
17. Houston Rockets
Kyle Lowry's bacterial infection is a big blow to the Rockets, and there is some concern that he could be lost for the remainder of the regular season.
Acquiring Marcus Camby gives the team a legitimate backup behind Samuel Dalembert, but Lowry's absence is one that is going to be felt in a huge way and may be too difficult to overcome.
16. Phoenix Suns
Phoenix has really turned around an embarrassing start to the season in impressive fashion, and the Suns are showing everyone what they're capable of doing when firing on all cylinders.
Steve Nash is averaging 11.8 points and 12.3 assists on 55 percent shooting since the All-Star break, and he's pacing Phoenix by playing at an insanely high level at 38 years old.
15. New York Knicks
Mike Woodson has replaced the departed Mike D'Antoni as head coach, and the Knicks have responded well since the change.
However, we need to see a lot more from New York before buying into the idea that the success can be sustainable, and now, the pressure is on Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire to deliver.
14. Boston Celtics
For all of the chatter surrounding Kevin Garnett before the season about how his play has declined, the Celtics would be absolutely lost without him this year.
Without a true center on the roster besides an injured and ineffective Jermaine O'Neal, Garnett has taken to the position, and it has done wonders for his game: 16.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.6 blocks on 55.7 percent shooting in 17 starts at the position.
13. Dallas Mavericks
Mark Cuban's plan to have cap space this summer in order to make a big splash is still intact, but his idea to have a roster that can be viewed as a contender until that time is not.
Simply put, the Mavericks miss Tyson Chandler in the middle and can't get the production from the backcourt they need in order to make moves up the standings.
12. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are reeling, and the stout defense we saw at the beginning of the season has evaporated into thin air.
Indiana's offense is not potent enough to make up for the defensive lapses, but the acquisition of Leandro Barbosa should provide a solid spark to a second unit that desperately needs one.
11. Atlanta Hawks
Josh Smith's monstrous season continues, and it's amazing to think what this team might be doing right now if Al Horford had never been injured.
The Hawks will be an interesting opponent come playoff time, but without a healthy Horford, there is no way Atlanta is able to compete for a realistic chance at the title.
10. Los Angeles Clippers
Remember when it was all good in Lob City and the bandwagon was running out of seats because everybody wanted to jump on board?
Things have changed.
Blake Griffin has failed to make the necessary adjustments in his game to address obvious holes, and Chris Paul can't carry the team by himself.
The addition of Nick Young could help bolster the attack on the offensive end, but it's certainly not going to solve the preexisting problems on defense.
9. Memphis Grizzlies
Getting Zach Randolph back from his knee injury is almost like bringing in an All-Star at the trade deadline, as a healthy Z-Bo is going to give Memphis a huge lift in the second half.
With Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay all rolling this season, the Grizzlies will once again be a very dangerous wild card in the postseason for any opposing team.
8. Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard has committed to Orlando (for now), and his Magic team is playing well, but we've seen this before.
Orlando is still going to struggle against the top-tier teams in Chicago and Miami, and although Ryan Anderson's improved play has helped Howard this season, he still doesn't have enough support to win a title with this group.
7. Philadelphia 76ers
The early-season glitz has begun to wear off, and Philadelphia isn't being talked about so regularly as a club that could come out of the Eastern Conference.
There is a lot of depth on this roster and its bench is as impressive as any, but rotations tighten up during playoff time, and Doug Collins can only play five guys at a time.
6. Denver Nuggets
An incredibly deep Denver team just got even deeper with Wilson Chandler agreeing to a new contract after his stint in China.
The emergence of Kenneth "Manimal" Faried has been a fun thing to watch, and George Karl has to be excited about the future of his club.
The front office will have a few months to evaluate JaVale McGee before deciding whether or not he'll be part of the long-term future, and it's a gamble that general manager Masai Ujiri was smart to take.
5. Los Angeles Lakers
There aren't enough good things to say about Andrew Bynum and the player he has become for the Lakers at this stage of his career.
Bynum is averaging 23 points, 13.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks on ridiculous 65.8 percent shooting since the All-Star break, and his production is going to be critical to Los Angeles' chances of competing.
The addition of Ramon Sessions adds an element that the team simply didn't have before, and there is no doubt this roster is improved from before the trade deadline.
4. San Antonio Spurs
Some might think bringing Stephen Jackson back was a questionable move, but it's a game-changing move for the Spurs that should benefit this particular team.
Gregg Popovich and S-Jax are familiar with one another, and the calming leadership of Tim Duncan is exactly what Jackson needs to flourish with the team he previously won a championship with in 2003.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
Too much attention is paid to both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant when talking about what Oklahoma City is capable of accomplishing in terms of a deep postseason push.
James Harden is going to be critical to whatever the Thunder do, and he's going to have to continue to play incredibly efficient basketball for his team to reach the NBA Finals like so many projected prior to the season.
2. Miami Heat
When Miami is playing its brand of basketball, there is no other opponent capable of matching the speed and athleticism the Heat bring to the hardwood on a nightly basis.
There is nothing wrong with Dwyane Wade acting as the closer in "crunch time" for this team, and that should be clearly understood in the locker room to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
If Miami doesn't win the title, it's going to be another bust of a season for the Heat.
1. Chicago Bulls
No Derrick Rose? No problem. Chicago's depth is outstanding, and the bench doesn't get the recognition that it so dearly deserves for what it brings on a nightly basis.
The team has struggled with injuries throughout the season, but that hasn't been an excuse at any point, nor will it be one in the future.
There is a lot to love about this particular Bulls team, and the chemistry between individuals on this roster is the type of thing more teams so desperately need.