NBA Power Rankings, Post-Dwight Howard Trade
Any trade involving Dwight Howard was sure to be a landscape-altering one in the NBA, so let's look at how that landscape appears now that the league's best center has been traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, according to an ESPN report.
How high up the rankings do the Lakers rise? Are they title favorites now?
Did the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers emerge as title contenders as well?
How about the Orlando Magic? How far did they fall?
For the answers to all those questions and more, I present the first post-Dwight Howard trade power rankings.
30. Charlotte Bobcats
With the additions of Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the Charlotte Bobcats are going to be a little bit more competitive than they were during the 2011-12 season.
In other words, don't expect another season of record-breaking futility. The Bobcats won't be challenging last year's squad for the worst regular season winning percentage of all time.
They will still find themselves in the cellar of the NBA, though.
29. Orlando Magic
Now that Dwight Howard and Jason Richardson have been shipped out of town for Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo, Maurice Harkless, Al Harrington and some draft picks, the Orlando Magic will find themselves well short of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
When Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis are your star players, that's when you know that you're in a bit of a pickle.
Without Superman anchoring the middle, the Magic have no direction for the 2012-13 season.
28. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets made landing Dwight Howard their No. 1 goal this offseason, but now they're stuck with a rebuilding team following the trade between the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers.
Jeremy Lin will have the opportunity to put up some sensational stats once he's handed the reins to the Rockets, but there are just too many young players who have a lot of developing to do.
Down the road, this team could be quite good if the young guns develop properly. Expecting them to make noise this season is wishful thinking.
27. Detroit Pistons
While the future looks bright for the Detroit Pistons, the present is going to be filled with losses.
Greg Monroe is developing into one of the league's best big men and Rodney Stuckey is a solid combo-guard at this stage of his career, but Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond have a lot of seasoning left to do.
Even in the weaker Easter Conference, the Pistons will fall well short of playoff contention.
26. Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings have a terrifying duo of big men roaming their frontcourt. With Thomas Robinson and DeMarcus Cousins crashing the boards, it may seem like the opposing team never grabs a single rebound.
Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans form a solid backcourt as well, but this team just doesn't fit together well enough to compete in the Western Conference.
Just like many of the other bottom-feeders in these power rankings though, the Kings could shoot up the board in the future.
25. Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards have been gearing up for a playoff run by adding Nene Hilario, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, but there are still too many holes in the roster for that playoff push to turn out positively.
John Wall still has yet to blossom into one of the league's elite point guards, but he'll have the opportunity to do so this year now that Bradley Beal and Jan Vesely are joining him for the full season.
There are no more excuses for the former No. 1 pick.
24. Portland Trail Blazers
Even though Damian Lillard is going to make a big impact and compete with Anthony Davis for Rookie of the Year, he won't be enough to lead a return to the playoffs for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Between Lillard, Wes Matthews, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge, the starting lineup is solid in Portland, but there isn't a lot of depth here.
Portland is a good team, but it's still a few pieces away from being a playoff contender.
23. New Orleans Hornets
The New Orleans Hornets added two dynamic rookies in Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis while also bringing in Ryan Anderson and re-signing Eric Gordon.
As a result, the Hornets are going to be competitive for a long time, but it will also take more than just one offseason for all of these players to blossom.
The Hornets aren't going to be at the bottom of the totem pole in the Western Conference anymore, but they also aren't quite ready to compete for a playoff spot.
22. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers are on the rise after adding Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller to the mix.
As Kyrie Irving continues to develop into one of the league's best point guards, the Cavaliers might reattain their glory days.
Given the struggles of Waiters during Summer League, Irving's broken hand during the offseason and the youth of this team though, a playoff spot is just barely out of reach this season.
21. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors had a great offseason, but it will leave them still in the lottery mix.
Adding a point guard of Kyle Lowry's caliber is always a plus, although it wasn't entirely necessary because Jose Calderon is still a viable option as the Raptors floor general.
Picking up Terrence Ross and getting Jonas Valanciunas to come over to the NBA will pay major dividends in the long run.
20. Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns are going to look entirely different now that Steve Nash is gone, but the team managed to maintain the status quo despite losing the best player on its roster.
Goran Dragic, Kendall Marshall, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola and Wes Johnson will be the new faces in town, and all can make a significant impact for the desert-based franchise.
Developing chemistry will be a work in progress, but there's plenty of talent on the roster.
19. Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks are the first of the eight playoff teams from the Eastern Conference in these power rankings, despite the fact that they come in at No. 19 overall.
With a talented backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, plus a frountcourt led by Ersan Ilyasova, Samuel Dalembert and Drew Gooden, this team is suddenly a solid one.
Points will come fast and furious for the Bucks.
18. Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors now have a solid lineup from top to bottom, but it's tough to bet on this team staying healthy.
With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut serving as the starting five, the Dubs have the ability to produce from any position on the court. They'll light up the scoreboard quite a few times this year.
However, I can't put them any higher until Curry, Lee and Bogut prove they can stay on the court for an extended period of time.
17. Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz brought back Mo Williams after he spent a while away from Salt Lake City, and they'll pair him with an emerging Alec Burks in the backcourt.
Between the solid guard play and the post presences of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, the Jazz are a strong team across the board.
However, they just don't have the star power necessary to move up any higher in the rankings.
16. Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks no longer employ Joe Johnson, but they aren't going to skip too many beats after bringing in Lou Williams as his replacement.
Williams and new sharpshooters Kyle Korver and John Jenkins will provide the perimeter presence necessary to let Al Horford go to work in single-coverage on the blocks.
The Hawks will be a solid team in the Eastern Conference, but they're not championship contenders.
15. Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks were falling down the ladder during the early portions of the offseason, but a sudden surge kept them on a fairly high rung.
Adding Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo gives the Mavs a manageable backcourt, even if it isn't an elite one.
With Dirk Nowitzki, Elton Brand, Shawn Marion and Chris Kaman in the frontcourt though, it's going to be awfully difficult to boast a much better host of big bodies than the one Mark Cuban has assembled.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves
If Ricky Rubio can stay healthy, the sky is the limit for this emerging team. Even if he can't, Alexey Shved has shown enough during the Olympics that he might shoot up the depth chart and serve as a capable backup.
With Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic filling out the rest of the starting five, this is suddenly a dangerous team.
Minnesota has to be considered one of the biggest risers of the offseason.
13. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls are incredibly difficult to place in the power rankings because no one has any idea when their former MVP is going to return and re-enter the starting lineup.
Derrick Rose is the key to this team, even if the squad will remain in playoff contention as he recovers from an ACL injury.
WIth a healthy Rose playing at the same level he was at before he was injured, the Bulls are true contenders in the Eastern Conference. However, I can't rank them that aggressively because there's no telling how Rose will play when he returns, and we have no idea when he'll be back on the court.
12. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks still boast the trio of Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, a trio good enough to guarantee a playoff spot but not good enough to truly compete for a championship.
Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd will form a solid duo at point guard and the depth of the team has improved, but the Knicks still don't have enough to move up into the top 10 of this list.
11. Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers were one of the beneficiaries from the Dwight Howard trade, but only for this season unless they can convince Andrew Bynum to sign an extension.
Although the Sixers lost both Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala during the offseason, they picked up the league's second-best center and now have a viable option in the post.
Whether Jrue Holiday can develop will determine how far this team goes, as will the level of emergence by the bevy of young wing players.
10. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets are going to make a lot of noise during their first season in the Barclays Center, kicking off the home portion of their campaign with a rivalry game against the New York Knicks.
With Deron Wiliams, Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks back in town, this team retained all of its previous standouts. The Nets also added Joe Johnson, C.J. Watson, Mirza Teletovic and Reggie Evans to the cause.
This is a team with a strong starting lineup and a deep bench at almost every position.
The Nets are for real.
9. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies aren't the most glamorous team, but they'll continue to be elite as long as the talented quartet of Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph can stay healthy.
The Grizzlies didn't make any big moves during the offseason—bringing in Jerryd Bayless as the only significant new face—but they didn't need to. The status quo is a good thing for this team.
Don't be surprised when the Grizzlies are hanging near the top of the Western Conference for a good portion of the season.
8. Denver Nuggets
Even though the Los Angeles Lakers were the biggest winners of the Dwight Howard trade, the Denver Nuggets weren't far behind the team that knocked them out of last year's playoffs.
Replacing Arron Afflalo with Andre Iguodala is a huge upgrade, and the loss of Al Harrington isn't too painful due to the presence of Kenneth Faried.
WIth Ty Lawon continuing to improve into one of the better point guards in the league, the Nuggets will remain one of the NBA's best and most entertaining teams.
7. Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers matched the Portland Trail Blazers' max offer sheet for Roy Hibbert, thus retaining their prized center.
Additionally, the team added depth by acquiring Ian Mahinmi, Gerald Green and D.J. Augustin.
The Pacers might not be the most glamorous team, preferring to go for the more hard-nosed approach, but they're going to be highly competitive in the Eastern Conference.
6. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics replaced Ray Allen with Courtney Lee and Jason Terry—while Avery Bradley recovers from his offseason shoulder surgery—and re-signed the rest of their major pieces.
Also bringing in Jared Sullinger, the team in green is fully prepared to spend another year among the title contenders.
As long as Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are aboard, it's foolish to bet against this squad, especially with a roster as deep as this current manifestation.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers didn't need to make changes to the starting lineup and instead focused on shoring up the bench.
After signing Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Jamal Crawford, the Clippers now have one of the best second units in all of the NBA.
With Blake Griffin throwing down dunk after dunk and Chris Paul continuing to play like the best point guard in the world, the Clippers remain an elite team in the Western Conference.
However, to move up any higher than No. 4 in the conference and No. 5 overall, they'll need for DeAndre Jordan to show some signs of improvement.
4. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs retained the core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, which means they have to be considered one of the top teams in the NBA.
All of the people who wrote off the Spurs before the start of last season were caught by surprise when Gregg Popovich put together yet another elite contender.
With a roster that looks eerily similar to last year's, that's exactly what he'll do again during the 2012-13 season .
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder bring back every single one of their star players—Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden—and should expect each and every one of those standouts to continue improving. After all, they're still young and have yet to reach their sky-high ceilings.
Hasheem Thabeet and Perry Jones III will also join forces with the reigning champions of the Western Conference, as will a healthy Eric Maynor.
That said, the Thunder didn't improve enough to keep pace with a certain team from the West.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers made a number of big moves during the offseason. The original top move was acquiring Steve Nash for a handful of draft picks.
Then, Mitch Kupchak went out and traded for Dwight Howard. It was that move that pushed the Lakers ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the No. 2 spot in the power rankings.
The Lakers now feature the best starting five in the NBA and the Antawn Jamison-led bench isn't too shabby.
Kobe Bryant has to be feeling quite good about his pursuit of a sixth ring now.
1. Miami Heat
As the defending champions, the Miami Heat are guaranteed the top spot in the power rankings unless they lose a major contributor.
Adding Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis is only going to help the cause as well.
Until the season starts—and afterwards, unless they start losing games—the Heat truly deserve this spot.
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