NBA Power Rankings 2012-13: Are Miami Heat Favorites to Repeat as Champs?

Peter Emerick@@peteremerickSenior Writer IIJuly 2, 2012

NBA Power Rankings 2012-13: Are Miami Heat Favorites to Repeat as Champs?

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    The 2012-13 NBA season is months away, but that doesn't mean it's too early to put out the first NBA power rankings.

    Are the Miami Heat the early favorites to repeat as NBA champions, or is there another team poised to get in their way of establishing the next great NBA dynasty?

    With free agency starting, and the 2012 NBA draft in the history books, it's time to see where all 30 NBA teams stand.

    Ahead you'll find a full power ranking of all 30 NBA teams as the 2012 offseason gets under way. 

30. Charlotte Bobcats

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    The Charlotte Bobcats made a somewhat shocking move when they drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the No. 2 overall pick instead of going with the shooting guard they needed in Bradley Beal.

    After trading Corey Maggette for Ben Gordon and a protected future first-round pick, it makes sense that the Bobcats would go with the wingman they've been looking for in Kidd-Gilchrist.

    With the improved talent the Bobcats have, it's tempting to put them higher than the No. 30 spot, but after a seven-win (lockout-shortened) season, that's not going to happen.

    There's no telling if Kidd-Gilchrist will be able to step right in and make a difference, or if Gordon is going to be the Pistons or the Bulls version that Bobcats fans want him to be.

29. Brooklyn Nets

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    Over the next few weeks, we'll have a better idea of how the Brooklyn Nets will be shaping up for next season.

    Until then, they have too many questions surrounding their roster, and that's why they find themselves at No. 29 on these power rankings.

    If the Nets can manage to sign Deron Williams and trade for either Dwight Howard or Joe Johnson, they will be a completely different team next year. But if they fail to sign Williams and trade for anyone, they could be even worse off next year.

28. Golden State Warriors

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    The Golden State Warriors are going to be a very different team this upcoming season.

    With Andrew Bogut, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, there's no doubt that there will be a good amount of hype surrounding the Warriors heading into next season's campaign. The only problem with that hype is that it will be based on the hope that Curry and Bogut can stay healthy for an entire season.

    Curry and Bogut have each missed significant time to injuries in their pro careers, and if they can't manage to stay healthy, Golden State will continue to struggle as a franchise.

    Here's to hoping the Warriors won't have to tank another season, and that their newly-acquired talent will actually pay off for them. 

27. Detroit Pistons

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    I'm not nearly as high on Andre Drummond as a lot of Detroit Pistons fans are. I think if he's going to be a productive player, but he's going to need a solid year or two to develop.

    The Pistons swapped out Ben Gordon's lack of production and over-priced contract for Corey Maggette's underwhelming production and over-priced contract. While that move freed up some cap space for the next few years, it certainly didn't make them that much better heading into next season.

    With Brandon Knight continuing to mature, and Greg Monroe solidifying the paint, the Pistons will certainly be a competitive team.

    Being competitive, however, doesn't mean they'll be able to return to the days Eastern Conference dominance. Give the Pistons another year and they'll be on the verge of postseason material. They just need time to build chemistry. 

26. Toronto Raptors

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    The success of the Toronto Raptors hinges on whether they will be able to sign Steve Nash this offseason.

    While the Raptors currently have Jose Calderon, they've proven they can't win with him running the point. The Raptors need a more efficient point guard to help facilitate the offense to DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani and the newly-drafted Terrence Ross.

    The Raptors were owners of the 28th-ranked offense last season, with an average of just 90.7 points per game, and if Ross can't help them improve, they won't much improve on their fourth-place Atlantic Division standing.

25. Sacramento Kings

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    The Sacramento Kings certainly have one of the youngest and most exciting rosters in the entire league. Young and exciting doesn't always equal wins, though, and the Kings found that out last season.

    With that being said, the Kings—with the frontcourt tandem of Thomas Robinson and DeMarcus Cousins, and the backcourt duo of Marcus Thornton and Isaiah Thomas—certainly have the talent to be competitive in the Western Conference.

    I think the Kings still need one more year before they can sniff the postseason once again, but I wouldn't be shocked if they came close this season.

    The Kings' success lies squarely on the shoulders of the continued development of Tyreke Evans and whether he can finally reach his full level of potential.

24. Washington Wizards

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    The Washington Wizards are quietly putting together an impressive team. After trading for Nene Hilario last season, the Wizards managed to drop Rashard Lewis' ridiculous contract and acquire two adequate players in Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, who can both help solidify the depth of the Wizards roster.

    As if that wasn't enough, the Wizards managed to get the shooting guard they've needed in Bradley Beal, who can step in and create a dynamic backcourt tandem with John Wall.

    If Wall and Beal can build chemistry early on in the season, there's no telling how good a team the Wizards can be in 2013. 

23. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves will start the 2012-13 season with nearly the same roster they had to start last season.

    While that isn't necessarily a bad thing, with talent like Kevin Love, Derrick Williams, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic, the T'Wolves still need to add some serious depth at the shooting guard position.

    The Timberwolves will never fully realize their true potential if they aren't able to draft or sign a shooting guard who is able to help spread the floor to make Rubio's job of slashing into the paint that much easier.

    If the Timberwolves sign a free-agent shooting guard like Nick Young or O.J. Mayo this offseason, next season can certainly be a success. If they fail to do that, they'll be on the outside looking in come time for the 2013 NBA playoffs. 

22. New Orleans Hornets

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    With Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, and hopefully Eric Gordon, the New Orleans Hornets are going to be the team with the most hype heading into the 2012-13 campaign.

    Hype doesn't equal success, though, and the Hornets will shortly find that out. The Hornets will undoubtedly build a successful team around their two lottery picks, but their first year will be full of growing pains—especially without Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. 

    In a year or two, the Hornets could be one of the top teams in the Western Conference, with a similar path to success through the draft as the Oklahoma City Thunder.

21. Orlando Magic

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    WIth all the drama in Orlando, and without head coach Stan Van Gundy, I don't see how the Magic can be a consistently competitive team.

    As if all the drama around Dwight Howard wasn't bad enough, Jameer Nelson is testing the free-agent waters, which means the Magic will either have to re-sign him for more money or find a replacement.

    The Magic will need to find some consistency and leadership in their lineup before they can return to Eastern Conference dominance, which wasn't all that long ago.

    This upcoming season could be the start of a rebuilding phase for the Magic, which will subsequently mean a drop in competitiveness across the board.

20. Phoenix Suns

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    The Suns' season will go as Steve Nash goes. If he's wearing a Suns jersey to start the season, there's no doubt the Suns can be a playoff team in 2013. But if he's not on the team depth chart, Phoenix could certainly struggle. 

    Without knowing the future of Nash, the Suns are a toss-up at this point.

    Drafting Kendall Marshall certainly is a step in the right direction for the organization, but there's no telling what kind of production the rookie will be able to put up. If the Suns can sign a player like Ray Allen, Marshall's development will be much easier.

    But with the talent the Suns currently have, Marshall's development won't be so smooth and seamless.

19. Milwaukee Bucks

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    After an entire offseason to work on building chemistry together, Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings will certainly be one of the top duos in the NBA next season.

    The Jennings-Ellis tandem will be at the foundation of the Bucks' success, but the Bucks will only be as successful as their frontcourt will allow them to be.

    Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova are solid players in their own right; the real challenge is going to be how quickly John Henson can transition his game to the NBA—specifically on the offensive side of the ball.

    If Henson can come off the bench and be productive (and not just on the defensive side of the ball), the Bucks could make a run at the playoffs. If not, they'll likely be watching from home yet again.

18. Dallas Mavericks

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    The Dallas Mavericks made an intelligent trade with the Cavaliers on draft day that turned their two draft picks into four.

    Trading Tyler Zeller for picks that turned out to be Jared Cunningham, Bernard James and Jae Crowder was not only a great move regarding the immediate success of the franchise, it was also a tactical move with an eye on the future.

    With that being said, the Mavs' success this upcoming season is going to be square on the shoulders of Deron Williams' choice in destination.

    I think the Mavs will have a down year, and it will signify the beginning of a true rebuilding stage for Dallas—assuming, of course, Williams is elsewhere.

17. Houston Rockets

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    The Houston Rockets are going to look like a very different team to start the 2012-13 season.

    They won't have Chase Budinger or Samuel Dalembert, and there is a possibility they might not have Kyle Lowry either. The good news is that they drafted extremely well by drafting players who can fill the voids left by Budinger, Dalembert and Lowry.

    Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones aren't the most NBA-ready players, but they'll certainly be productive coming off the bench.

    If the Rockets can hold on to Lowry and sign a low-cost veteran center this offseason, the Rockets will be right on the verge of returning to the playoffs in 2013. 

16. Portland Trail Blazers

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    The Portland Trail Blazers had an absolutely great draft, a major reason why they are in for a relatively successful season.

    They found their franchise point guard in Damian Lillard, they found LaMarcus Aldridge's frontcourt partner in Meyers Leonard, and they added some much needed backcourt depth with Tyshawn Taylor and Will Barton.

    That talent, especially Meyers Leonard, isn't going to come in and immediately carry the Blazers to success in a very competitive Western Conference. It will take those players a year, at least, to develop chemistry and transition their games to the next level.

    The good news for the Blazers is that they have a ridiculously bright future with the talent they were able to grab in the 2012 draft. 

15. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    WIth Dion Waiters solidifying the Cleveland Cavaliers backcourt alongside Kyrie Irving, the Cavs could be on their way to their first playoff appearance since the days of LeBron James (not that it's been that long).

    Trading for Tyler Zeller was also a great move for the Cavs' future, as it gave them a legitimate center prospect to incorporate into the future of their franchise.

    Now that the Cavs have a solid foundation of young talent, all they need to do is find a veteran free agent or two this offseason who can help the maturation process of those players.

    If the Cavaliers sneak into the playoffs next year, they could very well find themselves in a first-round series with the Miami Heat. Talk about an exciting storyline. 

14. Denver Nuggets

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    The Nuggets were a surprise team last year, and they'll be looking to carry that success over into the 2012-13 season.

    The only problem is that they most likely won't have Andre Miller, and the two players they drafted—Evan Fournier and Izzet Turkyilmaz—most likely won't be playing in the NBA next season.

    With that being said, the Nuggets still have all the foundational talent they need to be competitive in the Western Conference.

    The Nuggets will need JaVale Mcgee to mature, and chemistry between Ty Lawson and the rest of the rotation needs to improve. With such accomplishments, if the Nuggets start playing defense they could be a sleeper team out West next season.

13. New York Knicks

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    The excitement in the Prudential Center was through the roof when the New York Knicks stepped up to the podium with the No. 48 pick. Unfortunately, that didn't last long.

    After the Knicks drafted Kostas Papanikolaou, the excitement quickly left the room. While fans wanted an immediate impact player, the Knicks were simply assuring that they'll have enough cash to pursue free agents like Ray Allen, Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin.

    The Knicks' success next year hinges squarely on the chemistry the Knicks are able to have amongst their starting rotation, and that hinges on which free agents they are able to sign.

    If the Knicks can sign Jeremy Lin or Steve Nash, their potential next season will be high. Otherwise, they could be on the outside looking in come the 2013 playoffs. I expect a similar outcome of the Knicks' most recent playoff performance and exit.

12. Utah Jazz

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    The Jazz are heading into the 2012 offseason with an exciting roster.

    Despite the questions looming around the point guard position, the Jazz have an intimidating frontcourt of Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, and they have exciting wing players in Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks.

    With the talent on their roster, and another offseason of experience under their belts, if Kevin Murphy can step in and add production off the bench, the Jazz can be an extremely dangerous and exciting team to watch out for.

11. Atlanta Hawks

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    The Atlanta Hawks are apparently willing to trade anyone on their roster, including Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. It's not the first time those players have been thrown around in trade rumors, and it certainly won't be the last.

    The main need the Hawks have, if they keep the talent on their roster, is adding offensive production on the wing. The Hawks' first-round draft pick, John Jenkins, certainly can do that.

    With that being said, the Hawks will still need to find some bench production in the free-agent market. If they fail to do that, this upcoming year could be a step in the wrong direction for the Hawks.

    It will be interesting to see how the Johnson and Smith trade rumors play out. In all honesty, the success of Atlanta's season will depend on what happens with those players.

10. Philadelphia 76ers

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    The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off a high note after knocking out the top-seeded Chicago Bulls and coming within one win of these last Eastern Conference finals.

    The 76ers might not reach that level of success next season, but they'll be in the mix for a high seed in the playoffs.

    After drafting Moe Harkless and Arnett Moultrie, it's obvious that the Sixers are embracing being a hodgepodge of versatile talent that can play eight or nine players deep.

    The 76ers need to either re-sign Lou Williams or find a veteran guard who can bolster their backcourt if they want to replicate their recent success.

9. Boston Celtics

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    Last season, the Boston Celtics proved that age and experience can still get the job done. And even though the future of Ray Allen is still up in the air, the Celtics will be looking to prove that once again next season.

    With Kevin Garnett re-signing and Avery Bradley returning from a shoulder injury, the Celtics will again be one of the top four teams in the East next year.

    If 2011 draft picks JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, and 2012 draft picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo can add production and depth off the bench, it will definitely help Boston's cause.

    The Celtics' bench play will determine how far they will go next season, and that's why adding depth to their reserves should be the main focus this offseason. 

8. L.A. Clippers

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    Even if Chris Paul isn't intending on staying with the Clippers long term, that won't change their prospects for success next year.

    CP3 is the kind of player who will consistently make everyone around him better, and no matter what talent the Clippers have around him  and Blake Griffin, they'll still be a competitive team.

    The Clippers' success next season will hinge on the continued development of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, pertaining to developing legitimate post moves and consistent mid-range jumpers.

    If the Clippers can improve their production in the paint, it will help take the defensive focus off Chris Paul, which will help the star guard further increase his efficiency. If the front office can find another piece or two to fit into Vinny Del Negro's system, the Clippers can contend in the West once again. 

7. Indiana Pacers

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    In need of some immediate production off the bench, the Indiana Pacers made an interesting move when they drafted Miles Plumlee with their sole pick this past daft.

    Plumlee is a mirror image of Tyler Hansbrough, and that's not a good thing for the Pacers, who desperately need depth on the wing.

    If the Pacers are able to retain Roy Hibbert, they can certainly be as competitive a team as they were last year, and in all probability more so with another year of experience under their belts.

    Production and depth at shooting guard is integral for Indiana, and that's why it will be interesting to see how active the Pacers are during free agency over the next few months. 

6. Chicago Bulls

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    The Chicago Bulls will be without Derrick Rose for a healthy portion next season, and that will certainly be the biggest hurdle they will have to overcome.

    Without their MVP, the Bulls don't have a player who can consistently penetrate and score around the rim with serious intensity and efficiency.

    Luckily for the Bulls, once Rose returns, they can return to last season's form that helped them earn the best overall record in the Eastern Conference.

    The most interesting thing to watch for next season will be the development of Marquis Teague, and whether he will be able to fill in for Rose while also being able to add production at the shooting guard position. 

5. Memphis Grizzlies

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    If Zach Randolph can stay healthy, the Memphis Grizzlies could certainly be one of the best teams in the NBA—not just in the Western Conference—next season.

    With O.J. Mayo hitting the free-agent market, however, it is imperative that the team addresses their needs at shooting guard.

    If Tony Wroten Jr. can finally add the depth at the point guard position the Grizzlies have needed for so long, the Grizzlies can be a dangerous team.

    With Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph solidifying their frontcourt, there's no limit to the success Memphis can reach. There are a lot of reasons for Grizzlies fans to be excited heading into the summer.

4. San Antonio Spurs

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    The Spurs' fate hinges on the re-signing of Tim Duncan this offseason, which seems like all but a sure thing.

    With that being said, even if the Spurs do re-sign Duncan, they will certainly need to increase their bench production.

    The Spurs' biggest offseason need is arguably PG depth. Behind Tony Parker, the Spurs don't have much production, and we saw how much that hurt the Spurs against OKC in the Western Conference finals.

    Depth is the name of the game for the Spurs. With the right talent coming off the bench, the Spurs could make another run at the NBA title in 2013.

3. L.A. Lakers

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    With rumors surrounding the possibility of the Lakers pursuing Dwight Howard, there's no telling what the Lakers roster will look like at the start of next season.

    Aside from their frontcourt issues, the Lakers' biggest need is finding the offensively-productive point guard that has eluded them the past few years.

    If the Lakers can land Deron Williams or Steve Nash, the Lakers can be one step closer to being the team to beat in the West.

    As always, so much will be dependent on Kobe Bryant and his health. While Kobe's days of being the league's best may be past, he still has at least one more year as an elite player left in him.

2. Miami Heat

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    Putting the 2012 NBA champs at No. 2 on these power rankings might seem outlandish, but the 2012-'13 season will be a whole new level of difficulty for LeBron James and the Heat.

    I'm not saying LeBron and company won't be up to the challenge, but they're going to have to make some difficult decisions this offseason.

    The Heat failed to add any talent through the draft, and while that may help them sign a free agent like Ray Allen, it is the major grounds for their second-place standing here. Depth on the bench is key for Miami, and failing to address the issue through the draft could prove costly for the franchise.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Even though the Oklahoma City Thunder fell short in the 2012 NBA Finals, they've done something the Heat have yet failed to do, and that is gain depth and quality through the draft.

    The Thunder made the steal of the draft when they landed lottery-prospect Perry Jones III with the 28th overall pick.

    While Jones has yet to do anything for the franchise, he's an exciting prospect and a player who could very well end up being the additional bench production the Thunder lacked last season.

    The Miami Heat might have different plans than adding depth through the draft, but I think they failed where the Thunder succeeded, and that's why the Thunder are the top team heading into the 2012 offseason.