NBA Power Rankings: How Recent Movement Shakes Up the League

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2012

NBA Power Rankings: How Recent Movement Shakes Up the League

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    This time of year is like Christmas for NBA junkies.

    Aside from each season's trade deadline, you're not likely to see moves made in such high volume at any point throughout the year as you are during the start of the offseason.

    The players may not be on the court, but they're certainly making headlines through trades, the draft and free agency.

    The league has certainly seen a shakeup through this point in the summer, and the question must be asked, which teams are leading the way as we continue to approach the 2012-13 season?

30. Charlotte Bobcats

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    The Charlotte Bobcats were the worst team in all of professional basketball last year, and it's looking as if they just might hold the same unfortunate label heading into next season.

    The drafting of No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the acquisition of Ben Gordon (via NBA.com) and the signing of Ramon Sessions (according to Yahoo!'s Marc Spears) are certainly steps in the right direction.

    That being said, having been as bad as they were last year, these actions are only the first of many necessary moves in order to get this team to success as they continue to rebuild.

29. Detroit Pistons

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    Ben Gordon and Corey Maggette are two very different players, but swapping one for the other feels like a lateral move for any team trying to get better.

    Drafting Connecticut big man Andre Drummond gives the Detroit Pistons a prospect who has the talent to become one of the best centers in the league, but if he doesn't pan out the way the team hopes, they will be stuck in rebuilding mode for years to come.

28. Washington Wizards

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    The Washington Wizards were able to shed the massive contract of Rashard Lewis this summer, and in return received quality pieces in Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza.

    Bradley Beal, who was the third overall pick in the NBA draft, could also become a major component in the rotation.

    The team also re-signed Cartier Martin according to the Washington Post's Michael Lee.

    The Wizards have begun to surround John Wall with the talented roster he needs, but their success will come down the road as they continue to jell as a unit next season.

27. Sacramento Kings

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    The Sacramento Kings haven't been relevant for quite some time, and I wouldn't expect that to be any different heading into next season.

    Recently-drafted Thomas Robinson may prove to be NBA ready as soon as he steps on the court, but the re-signing of Jason Thompson isn't the big-time move this team needs to compete out West any time soon.

26. Toronto Raptors

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    The Toronto Raptors have talent on their roster, but the question must be asked, how well do those pieces complement each other?

    After missing out on Steve Nash this summer, the team has extended a big-time offer to Landry Fields (according to Ian Begley of ESPN) and traded for Kyle Lowry (via ESPN).

    The Raptors have also discussed trading Jose Calderon according to ESPN's Marc Stein, further complicating the makeup of this Raptor's team.

25. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers clearly have potential, but opting to save their money for flexibility moving forward could make the 2012-13 campaign a long one for fans.

    Not only will a lack of free-agent moves deter this team from getting much better, but drafting Dion Waiters with the fourth overall pick in the NBA draft could prove to be a bit of a reach.

    The Cavaliers are an up-and-coming team with talent to groom and money to spend, but as for now, they're going to have to fight through the growing pains en route to becoming a playoff team somewhere down the road.

24. New Orleans Hornets

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    The New Orleans Hornets should prove to be a drastically different team than the one that took the court last season.

    Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and a healthy Eric Gordon will be a solid core to build around, as the Hornets have also added free-agent Ryan Anderson to their crew for next year.

    That being said, this team is very young. 

    Gordon's contentment in New Orleans and the growth of a youthful roster could cause for a large learning curve, but this team has a bright future if it can build upon its already solid foundation.

23. Golden State Warriors

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    The Golden State Warriors needed an upgrade at the small forward position, and they got that in Harrison Barnes with the No. 7 pick in the NBA draft.

    The team also acquired Jarrett Jack in a trade that sent away Dorrell Wright to the Philadelphia 76ers (via ESPN).

    This team has promise, and with solid play on the court and solid moves in the front office, the Warriors could be a sleeper team to trouble squads out West as early as next season.

22. Utah Jazz

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    The Utah Jazz have had a decently active summer to this point, but while the moves they've made have been productive, they're still a ways away from contending out West.

    The addition of Mo Williams should prove to be beneficial following the departure of the often-struggling Devin Harris.

    This team still has one of the most promising young frontcourts in the entire NBA, and if they can find a balance between the perimeter acquisitions and the current post presence, they could exceed expectations sooner rather than later.

21. Phoenix Suns

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    Goran Dragic has returned to the Desert as a free agent this summer (according to Marc Stein of ESPN).

    It's reasonable to assume that few people in Phoenix are happy to see Steve Nash sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, but a player of Dragic's talent and former connection to the team should help the Phoenix Suns transition next season.

    Kendall Marshall should also prove to be a selfless prospect with the potential to someday become a starter in this league.

    The signing of Michael Beasley (according to ESPN's Marc Stein) is a bit of a gamble, but with the New Orleans Hornets expected to match the max-dollar deal Eric Gordon signed with the Suns, the 23-year-old forward gives the team a versatile presence out on the perimeter.

    None of these players will make the city of Phoenix forget Nash, but they could very well help the team enter a new era of Suns basketball.

20. Houston Rockets

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    The Houston Rockets have swung hard to this point, but the question remains, will they hit a home run or simply strike out this offseason?

    A number of moves—including using the amnesty clause on Luis Scola—have set the Rockets up to trade for the summer's biggest prize, Dwight Howard.

    Howard has been involved in trade talks for an entire season now, and with a new offer on the table from the Rockets (according to Marc Stein of ESPN), Houston could be the favorite to land the big man, at least for the time being.

    Following the massive moves they've made thus far, the team out West is going to be a question mark whether or not they get their guy. The bigger question just might be: Will Howard even stick around beyond next season if dealt to Houston via trade this summer?

    The team is going to look vastly different next year. If the Rockets have it their way, Howard will be the biggest reason why.

19. Orlando Magic

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    At this point, we truly have no idea what the Orlando Magic's roster is going to look like when the 2012-13 NBA season finally tips off.

    Will Dwight Howard be traded? The resounding assumptions thus far has been yes, but what will the team get in return and how much more drama will we have to endure before a deal is finally struck?

    The re-signing of Jameer Nelson was a good move for this time, but sending away Ryan Anderson is a bit of a disappointment following his breakout season last year.

    This team could be entering rebuilding mode before the new season begins, but as for now, we'll continue to wait and wonder what will happen to the Magic over the next few months.

18. Milwaukee Bucks

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    The biggest move for the Milwaukee Bucks this summer is likely to be the re-signing of Ersan Ilyasova, but that's not a bad thing for a team with a solid core continuing to improve.

    The addition of Monta Ellis last season was huge for this team on the perimeter, and adding John Henson through the draft and Samuel Dalembert via trade will help bolster their frontcourt.  

17. Philadelphia 76ers

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    The Philadelphia 76ers began last year surprisingly hot, but cooled down considerably by the time the 2011-12 season came to an end.

    This team has a lot going for them, as they've re-signed Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen, picked up Nick Young and traded for Dorrell Wright. Even the use of the amnesty clause on Elton Brand helps the team get younger and better in the long run.

    The loss of Lou Williams will leave a bit of a void on the offensive end, but while the team is still pieces away from truly competing out East, Doug Collins' ability to get the most out of them could propel them to another nice playoff run by the end of next season.

16. Chicago Bulls

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    The Chicago Bulls have acquired Kirk Hinrich. While he'll provide physical and effective play on both ends of the floor, he won't make fans forget that they're without the face of their franchise, Derrick Rose.

    Rose's rehab is reportedly "ahead of schedule" according to Scott Powers of ESPNChicago.com, but with most of the upcoming season in jeopardy for the point guard, it's questionable as to whether or not the Bulls are deep enough to make the playoffs without their star.

    The Bulls' recent trade, which sent Kyle Korver to the Atlanta Hawks, will save the team money next year, but whether or not it adds to the win column is a whole different question.

15. Portland Trail Blazers

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    The Portland Trail Blazers aimed high when they offered the Indiana Pacers' Roy Hibbert a maximum contract in the opening hours of NBA free agency.

    While the team missed their guy—Indiana has matched the offer (via Yahoo!)—they are headed in the right direction as they continue to retool, not rebuild their rotation this summer.

    Damian Lillard is an up-and-coming point guard, Meyers Leonard has the size and skill set to succeed in the NBA and the recent re-signing of J.J. Hickson (via ESPN) gives the team another big body to be agressive in the paint next year.

    The biggest question mark remaining surrounds the status of Nicolas Batum, but with the team expected to match Minnesota's offer (via NBA.com), the Blazers' young core group will continue to develop around All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.

14. Atlanta Hawks

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    Trading away Joe Johnson and his massive contract was a big-time move for the Atlanta Hawks, but their talented roster should be able to find some semblance of success even without him moving forward.

    Trading for three-point specialist Kyle Korver (according to Scott Gleeson of USA Today) and signing Lou Williams (via Yahoo!) will be two key pieces in replacing Johnson's production on the offensive end.

    The team also traded Marvin Williams (via ESPN) in order to bring in Devin Harris from the Utah Jazz.

    Atlanta will be an exciting team to watch next season, but it's unlikely that they have the pieces to seriously compete with Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves have had a busy summer.

    Signing Brandon Roy, trading for Chase Buddinger, waiving Martell Webster and using the amnesty clause on Darko Milicic in order to sign Nicolas Batum to a big-time offer—Portland can still match the offer—are among the highlights for the team this offseason.

    This team is looking to get better, and with a number of roster moves and a healthy Ricky Rubio, this team should do just that next year.

    Kevin Love recently spoke about his desire to win and the possibility of leaving if that doesn't happen.

    Luckily for Love—and the Timberwolves organization—Minnesota should be an improved squad soon enough and the playoffs are no longer an unattainable goal.

12. New York Knicks

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    The New York Knicks have brought in a veteran point guard in 39-year-old Jason Kidd and are expected to retain Jeremy Lin as a restricted free agent (according to Jared Zwerling of ESPN).

    The team has also acquired veteran big man Marcus Camby.

    While the Knicks have the very real possibility of losing Landry Fields to the Toronto Raptors, they've kept their perimeter presence strong by retaining J.R. Smith and Steve Novak.

    It's questionable as to whether or not these moves allow the Knicks to compete for a top spot in the Eastern Conference, but a healthy Lin and a deeper bench are certainly steps in the right direction.

11. Dallas Mavericks

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    The Dallas Mavericks have saved themselves from having arguably the worst offseason in the entire NBA.

    Starting off the summer by missing out on Deron Williams is bad enough, but then to watch Jason Kidd and Jason Terry leave for better teams out East was hard for fans in Dallas to watch.

    Since then, however, the team has brought in Chris Kaman through free agency, traded Ian Mihanmi for Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones and claimed Elton Brand off waivers (via Sports Illustrated) after using the amnesty clause on Brendan Haywood.

    The concept of surrounding Dirk Nowitzki with good talent—not max contracts— is a strategy the team is forced to try after losing out on Williams, but it's a strategy that could ultimately prove to build a decent rotation in the not-so-distant future.

10. Denver Nuggets

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    The Denver Nuggets may not have a go-to superstar anywhere on their roster, but their rotation is deep and their core is solid heading into next season.

    The team has re-signed veteran point guard Andre Miller, and The Denver Post has reported that the Nuggets have offered JaVale McGee a five-year, $50 million contract, so McGee may very well find himself back in Denver.

9. Indiana Pacers

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    The Indiana Pacers have retained two key pieces in last season's playoff run in Roy Hibbert and George Hill.

    The move to trade Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones for Ian Mahinmi was quickly addressed with the signing of D.J. Augustine, once again adding depth to the point guard position.

    Gerald Green is also a solid pickup for this team.

    The Pacers played the Miami Heat well in the postseason, and if they can continue to grow and add to their current rotation, they're going to be a dangerous team for any opponent they face out East.

8. Boston Celtics

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    Despite losing Ray Allen to the Miami Heat this summer, the Boston Celtics have had a successful offseason overall, to this point.

    Re-signing Kevin Garnett was a big-time move for this team, and retaining Brandon Bass and Jeff Green were also important.

    Further bolstering their frontcourt, the team drafted Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo in the first round of last month's NBA draft.

    Allen may be gone, but the team is bringing in a solid replacement in Jason Terry. He has played in a bench role most of his career, and finding minutes behind Avery Bradley won't be a problem for this group of players.

    Once Bradley is able to return to full health, this team is going to challenge the Heat out East again next season.

7. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Aside from re-signing Maurice Speights and Darrell Arthur, the Memphis Grizzlies' only real move this summer has been the signing of free agent Jerryd Bayless.

    Bayless will provide a spark off the bench in the backup point guard role, as he has shown that he can be a dominant scorer throughout spurts of his young career.

    This team continues to get better, and even the smallest of moves will help propel this team to success.

6. Brooklyn Nets

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    Despite not getting Howard this summer, the Brooklyn Nets have drastically improved their chances of being competitive next season.

    Retaining Deron WIlliams (according to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN), locking up Gerald Wallace (via The Associated Press) and trading for six-time NBA All-Star Joe Johnson (via NBA.com) have thrown the Nets back into relevancy as they make their transition to Brooklyn next season.

    The team has signed Brook Lopez to a four-year, $60 million deal (according to ESPN), seemingly removing them from the Dwight Howard trade talks at this point.

    Lopez is a 17.4-point-per game player who also averages 7.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on his career.

    If he can stay healthy, Brooklyn will compete out East with a solid core unit even if Howard never finds a way to become a part of the Nets organization.

5. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Nick Young is gone, but the re-signing of Chauncey Billups is a huge move for this Los Angeles Clippers team.

    With him on the bench last season, they clearly missed his leadership, free-throw shooting and clutch performances in late-game situations.

    The team has also signed free agent Jamal Crawford, who is another player who drastically helps in each of the above-mentioned categories.

    Even the acquisition of Lamar Odom helps improve this team, as his versatility on the perimeter and in the post helps all over the board despite his bizarre disappearance last season.

4. San Antonio Spurs

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    The San Antonio Spurs aren't making headlines this summer, but for a team that quietly flies under the radar year after year, we wouldn't expect it to be any other way.

    Tim Duncan has re-signed with the Spurs (via NBA.com), and Danny Green and Boris Diaw have followed suit.

    No drastic changes are expected to be made by the team that made it to the Western Conference Championship last season. While their stars are aging, they have a deep, solid group of young talent and a coach who continually knows how to get the best out of them, 

3. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Following their most recent elimination to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers turned around and made one of the best moves of the entire summer thus far.

    Having traded away a number of future draft picks, the Lakers acquired (via NBA.com) Steve Nash in a move that should make them a legitimate challenger to the Thunder out West.

    Nash's ability to run the pick-and-roll should improve the games of both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and his ability to find playmakers shouldn't clash—in theory—with the score-first mentality of Kobe Bryant.

    Whether or not age proves to be an issue is something that only time will tell; but for now, expect the Lakers to be back near the top of the West again next season.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder haven't made much noise this summer, but why mess with a good thing while you've got it?

    Having stayed quiet in free agency, the drafting of Perry Jones III late in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft is hands down the biggest acquisition of the summer for the defending Western Conference champions.

    The former Baylor Bear is a big-time question mark coming into the league, but having taken him with the overall 28th pick overall, he is a low-risk, high-reward prospect on an already great NBA team. 

1. Miami Heat

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    The defending champion Miami Heat have done the unthinkable this summer.

    They've gotten even better.

    Following the signings of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis (according to Mike Wallace of ESPN), the Heat have added depth and shooting to their already-stacked rotation next season.

    Lewis hasn't done much that's been noteworthy over the past few years, but his massive contract is no longer an issue and he is a low-risk pickup for the defending NBA champions.

    Allen, on the other hand, is one of the greatest three-point threats in NBA history, and adding him to the rotation gives reliable shooting night in and night out.

    As the cliche says, the rich get richer, and the Heat have shown us all exactly what that means this offseason.