NBA Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand After Free Agent Frenzy?
The NBA free agency period began less than a month ago, and the league looks a whole lot different than it did when the Miami Heat captured the Larry O'Brien Trophy in June.
That said, there will be plenty of additional changes by the time the 2012-13 season kicks off three months from now. Between trades, free agent signings and the specter of Dwight Howard's indecision hanging over the league, the landscape is almost sure to shift between now and October 30.
What is destined to happen is anyone’s guess. But as we head into what should be a quiet period on the NBA calendar, let's take a look at where all 30 teams currently stand.
30) Houston Rockets
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Give Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey this: At least he tried to make a major power play this summer.
Houston shed payroll (Chase Budinger, Luis Scola and Courtney Lee, among others) and acquired two first-round picks in an attempt to lure Dwight Howard to Texas. Instead, the Rockets were left with Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and a roster full of young, inexperienced forwards.
It's safe to say that the Rockets' offseason didn't go as well as the team thought it would.
A few years from now, the Rockets could potentially have the makings of a playoff team. Until then, they will be perennial contenders for the No. 1 overall pick.
29) Charlotte Bobcats
Last season, the Charlotte Bobcats had the worst single-season winning percentage in the history of the NBA (.106). This season...won't be a whole lot different.
Even though the team didn't win the Anthony Davis' sweepstakes, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a pretty good consolation prize. In addition to Kidd-Gilchrist, the Bobcats also added a few other experienced players (Ben Gordon, Brendan Haywood, Ramon Sessions) that should make them far more competitive than they were at times last year.
New head coach Mike Dunlap clearly has his work cut out for him in Charlotte, but this should be a better team than the one that finished last in the league in scoring in 2011-12 (87.0 PPG).
28) Detroit Pistons
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Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond all have bright futures ahead of them. Rodney Stuckey, Corey Maggette and Tayshaun Prince are all decent contributors. But one glance at the Detroit Pistons' roster tells you that they're obviously looking toward the summer of 2013—a year when they could have close to $30 million in cap space.
This season is the time for Detroit to figure out who will remain for the long haul. The potential for a playoff team is there, but there isn't anyone on the Pistons' roster who can ultimately lead this franchise to success.
27) Cleveland Cavaliers
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Kyrie Irving—the 2011-12 NBA Rookie of the Year—is a special player, but there simply isn't enough talent around him to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the doldrums...yet.
Much could change if the oft-discussed, not-yet-consummated Dwight Howard trade goes through. In the most recent iteration of the three-team deal, Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum would make his way to Cleveland, and with him, the Cavs might have an outside chance of making the playoffs next season.
But for now, the team will lean on Irving, forward Tristan Thompson and No. 4 overall pick Dion Waiters: a trio that is likely several years away from reaching its full potential.
26) Toronto Raptors
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The Toronto Raptors traded for Kyle Lowry this offseason and are quietly putting together a decent team north of the border.
In June, the team drafted shooting guard Terrence Ross (who should pair well with swingman DeMar DeRozan), and acquired Landry Fields: a solid backup guard who will strengthen a reserve unit that boasts Jose Calderon, Ed Davis and newly-signed 2011 draft pick Jonas Valanciunas.
Toronto is lacking the veteran leadership necessary to make noise in the Eastern Conference, but this should be a decent team to keep an eye on this season.
25) New Orleans Hornets
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For a time, it seemed as if New Orleans Hornets' guard Eric Gordon was going to be the saddest man who ever signed a four-year deal for $58 million.
After Gordon agreed to that lucrative offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns this summer, he was vocal with his desire that the Hornets wouldn't match the contract.
Three days later, the Hornets matched the contract.
Gordon's return, the acquisition of Ryan Anderson from Orlando, and the addition of top-10 draft picks Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers will make New Orleans one of the more interesting teams to watch this season. They probably won't win much in the short term, but the foundation for future success is definitely there.
24) Phoenix Suns
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Phoenix added a fair amount of talent this offseason: Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Michael Beasley, Shannon Brown and first-round draft pick Kendall Marshall. However, those acquisitions won't be enough to offset the loss of point guard Steve Nash.
Nash was the engine that made the team go, and he was the primary reason that the Suns were in the hunt for a playoff spot until the final few games of the season.
A potential starting lineup of Dragic-Brown-Jared Dudley-Scola-Marcin Gortat isn't bad, but it won't strike fear into the hearts of opposing players, either. And it likely won't lead to an appearance in the postseason.
23) Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings are absolutely loaded with young, inexpensive talent, so it makes little sense that they only won 22 games last season.
There is hope, however. The team's disappointing performance last year allowed them to draft Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson with the No. 5 overall pick. A Robinson-DeMarcus Cousins front line could be one of the more imposing 4/5 combinations in the NBA in extremely short order.
After starring in the Chinese Basketball Association, guard Aaron Brooks signed a two-year deal with the Kings, and could possibly start over last year's rookie sensation Isaiah Thomas. Sacramento's backcourt is so loaded, second-year point guard Jimmer Fredette will struggle to find playing time this season.
At some point, the Kings will figure it out and reach their full potential. That point will not come next season, however.
22) Portland Trail Blazers
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The re-signing of small forward Nicolas Batum was probably the highlight of the Trail Blazers' offseason, but the draft is where Portland shined this summer.
While center Meyers Leonard will probably have an unpleasant introduction to the world of professional basketball, point guard Damian Lillard looks ready to run an NBA offense today.
Lillard exceled in the Vegas Summer League, erasing all doubt that the former Weber State star was worth the No. 6 overall pick. The two-man game between him and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge should be exciting to watch, but Portland is still miles away from doing much of significance this season.
21) Utah Jazz
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The Utah Jazz was a playoff team last year, but the roster that they'll trot out this season will have difficulty in a loaded Western Conference.
Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are solid as the team's anchors in the post, but newly acquired point guard Mo Williams and small forward Marvin Williams are average NBA starters at best.
Utah would do well to move either Derrick Favors or Enes Kanter to bolster its talent on the wing, but until that happens, the Jazz will be a mediocre team with very little firepower. It will take an impressive coaching job by Tyrone Corbin to get this team back to the postseason once again.
20) Milwaukee Bucks
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We'll finally get a full season to see if the Monta Ellis-Brandon Jennings experiment actually works, but one shouldn't expect huge dividends from the Bucks this year.
Milwaukee made a shrewd move by re-signing Ersan Ilyasova this summer, and the recent acquisition of Samuel Dalembert gives them a capable body at the 5 spot. Even still the roster lacks a lot of talent once you get past the starting lineup.
North Carolina's John Henson will be a boost to Milwaukee's front line, and a Bucks team that allowed nearly 99 points per game last season should be a bit more formidable in the paint.
19) Washington Wizards
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Over the past six months, the Washington Wizards have completely revamped their roster to the point where a playoff berth isn't completely out of the question.
Wizards’ general manager Ernie Grunfeld was able to turn Rashard Lewis' terrible contract into Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, and the team struck gold in the draft when it selected University of Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal.
The John Wall-Beal backcourt is going to be a problem for opposing coaches, as will power forward Nene who should thrive in his first full season in Washington.
This is not the same hideous Wizards squad that you may remember from two or three years ago: The only thing ugly about this team is their uniforms.
18) Golden State Warriors
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If the criterion for this list was "Teams that will be fun to play with in NBA 2K13", the Golden State Warriors would have made the top 5.
With three very good shooters (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and first-round draft pick Harrison Barnes), Golden State will be hard to deal with on the perimeter. And let's not forget the fact that the Warriors have a pair of double-double threats in David Lee and Andrew Bogut in the paint. Their bench is extremely weak, but the three-team trade that netted them point guard Jarrett Jack does give them some depth in the backcourt.
With Curry and Andrew Bogut in the starting lineup, any prediction for the Warriors this year must begin with the "if they can stay healthy" caveat—Golden State simply isn't built to deal with a major injury to any of its stars.
17) Philadelphia 76ers
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The more things change in Philly, the more they stay the same.
The 76ers replaced leading scorer Lou Williams (who signed with Atlanta) with Nick Young, who is essentially a taller version of...Williams (minus the ball-handling skills).
Philadelphia decided to amnesty Elton Brand (a proven defender), and used part of the savings to sign oft-maligned Kwame Brown, whom the Sixers believe can be one of the more intimidating interior presences in the NBA.
To be fair, Dorell Wright is an upgrade over the team's former designated shooter Jodie Meeks, and the team's two first-round picks (Arnett Moultrie, Maurice Harkless) have loads of potential. But there's nothing about Philadelphia's offseason moves that would lead one to believe that the team will be noticeably better next season.
16) Minnesota Timberwolves
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At times, it's hard to explain/defend the moves of Minnesota president David Kahn. But if the gambles that he made this offseason pay off, the Timberwolves might be primed for an exciting 2012-13 campaign.
The additions of Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko will give the Timberwolves a much needed dose of veteran savvy (assuming the former is healthy). Point guard Ricky Rubio should be fully healed from his torn ACL by the start of the season, and Minnesota's impressive front line—Kevin Love and the criminally underrated Nikola Pekovic—will be too much for many teams to handle.
The Timberwolves are still missing that one piece that will put them over the top, but they have enough pieces to cause some havoc in the Northwest Division next season.
15) Orlando Magic
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This is the most tentative ranking of all as Orlando will fall precipitously when (if?) Dwight Howard is traded this season.
But since he remains on the roster, Orlando is still a good team despite the loss of stretch-four Ryan Anderson to the New Orleans Hornets. Power forward Glen Davis had a fine showing in the playoffs last year, and Orlando's backcourt of Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson is one of the team's strengths.
For the sake of everyone involved (especially new head coach Jacque Vaughn), the Magic need to end the Dwight Howard mess as quickly as humanly possible. Until then, they're still a competitive unit that won't be easy to deal with next season.
14) Atlanta Hawks
The epicenter of NBA purgatory for the past few years has been Atlanta's Highlight Factory (also known as Philips Arena).
Recently, the Hawks have been both too good to get additional help in the draft and not good enough to make a concerted effort at an Eastern Conference title.
Not much will change this season.
While the team was able to shed Joe Johnson's hefty deal, the players that Atlanta brought in (Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Lou Williams, Kyle Korver) aren't necessarily difference makers. So expect another pedestrian season from Atlanta with a very uncertain outlook once Josh Smith hits the free agent market next summer.
13) Memphis Grizzlies
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Memphis has plenty of good players—their fundamental problem is that they don't have enough people who can put the ball in the basket.
The Grizzlies only scored 95 points per game last season (20th in the NBA), and would thrive if they had a dominant long-range threat on the perimeter. Instead, the team is overly reliant on Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph for scoring.
The ceiling for the Grizzlies doesn't appear to be much higher than where they are right now, so it seems as if changes may be in order sooner rather than later.
12) Denver Nuggets
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The Denver Nuggets are one player away from being a serious contender.
While no one on the roster stands out above the rest, the team is two-deep at every position and is ridiculously explosive on offense (104.1 PPG last season, first in the NBA).
The only issue with the Nuggets is whether or not they've hit the ceiling with their current core of players. The Nuggets are loaded with players who can go off for 25-plus on any given night, but that doesn't necessarily make them a Western Conference powerhouse, either.
11) Chicago Bulls
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Point guard Derrick Rose will presumably return from his ACL injury at some point this season. But even without him, the Chicago Bulls are an above-average team that should make a run at the Central Division crown.
Chicago will desperately need its bench (including newly-acquired shooting guard Marco Belinelli) to step up and be more aggressive than in years past. And until Rose returns, point guard Kirk Hinrich (now in his second tour of duty with the Bulls) will have to hold the fort down at the point guard spot.
The Bulls' stifling defense was the key behind their 50-16 record last season, and it's what will keep them treading water until they're at full strength once again.
10) Dallas Mavericks
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For a while, it seemed as if the Mavericks were going to be dreadful this year. But then the team filled its hole in the middle by signing Chris Kaman, and replaced Jason Kidd and Jason Terry with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo.
Elton Brand—one of the league's best interior defenders last year, according to Synergy Sports—now calls Dallas home as well, and a team that many left for dead should be in the postseason once again.
The small forward position is still a question mark, but the team should get enough out of Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and second-round pick Jae Crowder that they won't get killed at the 3 spot.
9) New York Knicks
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Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields are gone, but new additions Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton might be better fits for Mike Woodson's offense going forward. The Knicks aren't world beaters by any stretch, but the team should be less predictable than it was last season.
Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler are still patrolling the paint for the Knicks, but now they have some help with the Knicks trading for Marcus Camby earlier this summer. But regardless of what happens in the low post, New York's fortunes are based mostly on the success (or failure) of Carmelo Anthony.
If Anthony is willing to be more of a team player, eschewing the glory that is often inherent in "hero ball", the Knicks could be that team who no one wants to run into come playoff time.
8) Indiana Pacers
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At lot of teams are trying to follow the blueprint of the Indiana Pacers: A talented, young squad that came within two games of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Because of their success, the Pacers are now being forced to re-sign their players at inflated contracts, thus hampering the team's flexibility in the long run. But even with all of the money that they've thrown around, Indiana simply doesn't have anyone who can take over a game when necessary.
Danny Granger may be the Pacers' best player, but he shot less than 42 percent last year. So while Indiana will probably win a playoff round once again next spring, don't expect them to go too much farther than that unless they make a significant upgrade to the roster.
7) Los Angeles Clippers
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The Lamar Odom deal along with the signings of Jamal Crawford and Chauncey Billups made the Clippers much tougher team to deal with next season.
Grant Hill will also be joining the "Lob City" party in Los Angeles, and the trio of Hill, Odom and Caron Butler isn't a bad three-headed monster option at the small forward position.
It might sound strange to say, but as long as Blake Griffin is healthy at the start of the year, the Clippers could make a run at the Western Conference title. After so many years of toiling in obscurity behind the Lakers, Donald Sterling's bunch has a chance of finally becoming the best team in LA.
6) Brooklyn Nets
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The Brooklyn Nets' move to the Barclays Center comes with it a move back to NBA relevance.
Dwight Howard was the prize that Nets' general manager Billy King originally had his eyes on this summer, but the team wound up with a very solid group that includes six-time All-Star Joe Johnson.
The most important move that the team made in July was re-signing point guard Deron Williams to a five-year deal. If Williams had walked, the Nets would have had very little buzz during their first season in New York. Instead, they have a pretty decent shot at the Atlantic Division title.
5) San Antonio Spurs
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The San Antonio Spurs are the one team that you can never completely dismiss. While it's true that Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan are all over 30 years old, the Spurs came exceedingly close to the NBA Finals last season. The clock will strike midnight for the Spurs soon, but there are still a few minutes left to make something big happen.
Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard should be even better this season, and there's no reason to believe that the team's reserve unit of Stephen Jackson, Gary Neal and DeJuan Blair can't contribute 35 points per night.
As we saw last season, San Antonio doesn't appear to have the horses to match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder in a seven-game set. That said, they'll still be one of the four teams left in the Western Conference semifinals come playoff time.
4) Los Angeles Lakers
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In the moments after the Los Angeles Lakers officially acquired Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns, many wanted to anoint them as the new kings of the Western Conference.
That kind of talk is a bit premature.
The addition of Nash makes the Lakers better, but it still won't help them deal with the whirling dervish known as Russell Westbrook.
Antawn Jamison's arrival will also help, but Los Angeles has too many issues (and not enough consistent firepower) to knock off Oklahoma City. Regardless, it'll be fun to watch Nash and Kobe Bryant in same backcourt this season.
3) Boston Celtics
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Boston's impressive draft day haul of Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph wasn't enough for Danny Ainge, so the Celtics' general manager went out and acquired Courtney Lee and Jason Terry as well.
To say that the Celtics merely reloaded this offseason would be an understatement. Not only shouldn't Boston miss a beat following Ray Allen's departure, but they appear to be better than they were last season. Forwards Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox—both of whom have fully recovered from heart surgeries—will be back in action as well.
It took a heroic effort from LeBron James to knock Boston out of the playoffs last season, and he may need to repeat his efforts against the 2012-13 version of the Celtics.
2) Oklahoma City Thunder
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The top-six players for the Oklahoma City Thunder may be better than the first six rosters on any other team in the Association. If it wasn't for youth and inexperience (and a superhuman effort by LeBron James), the Thunder would have won the championship last season.
With their loss in the Finals, Oklahoma City learned exactly what it is that separates them from an NBA champion. The experience was extremely valuable for such a young team, and it's clear that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will have something to prove next season.
The James Harden / Serge Ibaka free agency situations are still far out on the horizon: The Thunder have some business to take care of before they can worry about next summer.
1) Miami Heat
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The Miami Heat won a title, signed Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, and didn't lose anyone of note this summer, so it only makes sense for them to be ranked as the best team in the NBA.
Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh don't need an excessive amount of help, but in Allen and Lewis, Miami has two more guys who can stretch the court. Wade and James should have an easier time on offense given the fact that Allen's mere presence will force defenses to play honest next season.
The richer definitely got richer this summer, and Miami seems intent on staying atop the mountain for as long as it can.