NBA Power Rankings: Who's Ready to Challenge Heat as Offseason Winds Down

Ben Stepansky@@benstepanskyCorrespondent IAugust 29, 2012

NBA Power Rankings: Who's Ready to Challenge Heat as Offseason Winds Down

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    We're now into the late summer days of August, and NBA fans have finally accepted the fact that King James and the Miami Heat are NBA champions.

    But buckle up your seat belts because the 2012-2013 campaign is going to be another wild ride.

    With blockbuster deals and big-name signings that felt like an NBA 2K12 season with the "fair trades" option turned off, the upcoming season will feature some familiar teams in the upper echelons and some newer squads making the playoff push.

    There are still two months until those stellar matchups to start the season on October 30th, but training camp is right around the corner.

    Let's check out some rankings.

Charlotte Bobcats

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    2011-2012 Record: 7-59

    The Charlotte Bobcats made some solid moves in the offseason, bringing in Ben Gordon and drafting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist second overall, who will be a great talent in the future.

    However, they were so removed from every other team last year that a jump in the standings is unattainable.

Houston Rockets

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    2011-2012 Record: 34-32

    Was the Jeremy Lin signing the most overrated acquisition of the offseason? That is up for debate.

    The Houston Rockets lost four of their five top scorers from last season in Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry and Courtney Lee.

    It's going to be a rough season in Texas.

Sacramento Kings

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    2011-2012 Record: 22-44

    The Sacramento Kings will continue to be irrelevant in 2012-2013, but there is hope for the future. 

    The team is young. Shooting guard Marcus Thornton is already developed and a potential star, Isaiah Thomas is a young and exciting point guard, and DeMarcus Cousins and rookie Thomas Robinson will pull down boards all night. 

    Tune in next year.

Orlando Magic

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    2011-2012 Record: 37-29

    Needless to say here, the Orlando Magic will be an entirely new team without Dwight Howard.

    Someone is going to have to take a leadership position on this team, likely point guard Jameer Nelson or veteran Hedo Turkoglu.

    It will be a rebuilding year for the Magic.

Detroit Pistons

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    2011-2012 Record: 25-41

    The Detroit Pistons took a risk drafting Andre Drummond with the ninth overall pick in the draft. At 19, Drummond is young, but if his talent is developed properly and he matures quickly, he will become a solid interior player.

    Otherwise, there's not much to look forward to for the Pistons in 2013.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    2011-2012 Record: 31-35

    The Milwaukee Bucks' backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings is the highlight on this team that screwed themselves out of a playoff spot last year.

    The Bucks have a solid team but will remain a fringe team again this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    2011-2012 Record: 21-45

    With the bevy of point guard talent in the league, Kyrie Irving does not receive the amount of credit he deserves. He will continue to make the players around him better.

    If Anderson Varejao stays healthy, Tristan Thompson builds upon his mediocre rookie season and Dion Waiters makes an impact, the Cavaliers will improve upon last year's record.

Phoenix Suns

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    2011-2012 Record: 33-33

    The Phoenix Suns lost their playmaker, and one of the best of all time, in Steve Nash.

    They replaced him with Goran Dragic and brought along Luis Scola, both of whom played for the Rockets last season. 

    It will be interesting to see those two mesh with Wesley Johnson, Marcin Gortat and new arrival Michael Beasley. It won't come easy or immediately.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    2011-2012 Record: 28-38

    With two high, first-round draft picks in Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard, the Portland Trail Blazers are looking forward to the future. 

    Unfortunately, the future is not now.

    Lillard will run this team and LaMarcus Aldridge will continue to star, but there will be bumps in the road.

Golden State Warriors

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    2011-2012 Record: 23-43

    The Golden State Warriors look good on paper with Andrew Bogut coming over from Milwaukee, seventh overall pick Harrison Barnes on the wing and returners David Lee, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry rounding out the starting five.

    If they can improve upon their 28th ranked defense in points allowed per game (101.2), the Warriors could show some progress.

Washington Wizards

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    2011-2012 Record: 20-46

    The Washington Wizards will be looking to make a statement this season.

    John Wall is entering his third season in the NBA and third overall pick Bradley Beal will try to transition his strong shooting skills to the professional level.

    They may not be a playoff team yet but opponents should not take this team lightly.

Toronto Raptors

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    2011-2012 Record: 23-43

    The Toronto Raptors went full overhaul this offseason, adding Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, Landry Fields and Jonas Valanciunas.

    It's not a long shot for the Raps to contend for a playoff spot this season, but don't be surprised if they miss it for a fifth straight season.

New Orleans Hornets

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    2011-2012 Record: 21-45

    The New Orleans Hornets get an A+ for their offseason and will climb out of the basement of the Western Conference.

    Drafting first overall pick Anthony Davis will make an immediate impact on the team. Fellow draftee Austin Rivers will take a bench spot to Greivis Vasquez.

    The additional newcomers, Ryan Anderson and Robin Lopez, improve this team dramatically from last year.

    How they all play together will determine their playoff hopes.

Atlanta Hawks

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    2012 Record: 40-26

    After five consecutive seasons of making the playoffs yet never advancing past the second round, the Atlanta Hawks decided to clear house this offseason.

    The Hawks unloaded Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams and took in new guys Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow and Kyle Korver.

    It will be an interesting season for the Hawks but not necessarily a successful one.

Utah Jazz

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    2011-2012 Record: 36-30

    The Utah Jazz will be entering their second full season under head coach Tyrone Corbin and will seek to improve upon a successful campaign to the playoffs last year.

    A quiet offseason, except for the addition of Mo Williams, will leave the hope of a deeper playoff run in the hands of Gordon Hayward and Al Jefferson.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    2011-2012 Record: 35-31

    The Philadelphia 76ers may have lost Andre Iguodala in the offseason, but the acquisition of Andrew Bynum quells that pain.

    Bynum seems genuinely happy to be playing in Philly, and with Jrue Holiday dishing him the ball, the pair could form quite the combo.

    Also bringing in Jason Richardson, Nick Young and re-signing Spencer Hawes gives the Sixers a good chance at another playoff spot.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    2011-2012 Record: 26-40

    The Minnesota Timberwolves are banking on Ricky Rubio staying healthy to legitimize their chance of making the playoffs.

    They brought in shooting guard Alexey Shved from Russia and Andrei Kirilenko from the Jazz to compliment Kevin Love at the forward position. 

    The Wolves have a great shot at improving upon last season's poor showing while waiting for Derrick Williams to develop.

New York Knicks

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    2011-2012 Record: 36-30

    Sure, Jeremy Lin asked for a lot of money. But he wanted to play in New York and the fanbase loved him. 

    It may not have been the smartest move to let Lin leave, but the Knicks still have Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.

    They also added Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas. 

    The Knicks are poised for another winning season.

Denver Nuggets

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    2011-2012 Record: 38-28

    The Denver Nuggets biggest move in the offseason was trading for shooting guard Andre Iguodala. His skill and athleticism will bring new electricity to the Nuggets team.

    Re-signing JaVale McGee and drafting French scorer Evan Fournier were both good moves.

    Next on the list for Denver: signing Iguodala to a long-term extension.

Dallas Mavericks

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    2011-2012 Record: 36-30

    Mark Cuban lost out on Deron Williams and Steve Nash, which made the Dallas Mavericks' offseason a bit of a frenzy.

    Overall, it didn't turn out too bad. New additions of O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, Chris Kaman, and Elton Brand should make for a strong makeshift offense.

    It's still Dirk Nowitzki's team, and if they want to make any run in the playoffs, it will be on his shoulders.

Brooklyn Nets

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    2011-2012 Record: 22-44

    A new look, a new location and, essentially, a new team—the Brooklyn Nets are ready to turn heads this season.

    Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace join Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries in the starting five to put together a good-looking team.

    The Nets were able to re-sign Williams for five-years, $100 million and it was completely worth it. 

    The playoffs are in sight.

Chicago Bulls

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    2011-2012 Record: 50-16

    Who knows when Derrick Rose will return to the Chicago Bulls this season?

    He is reportedly scheduled to remain out until at least the February All-Star break.

    Rose's replacements? Returnee Kirk Hinrich will receive the most playing time with Nate Robinson and rookie Marquis Teague also on the ballot. 

    Much will be expected of the frontcourt in Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. 

    Needless to say, the Bulls will not be atop the Eastern Conference at the end of the regular season.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    2011-2012 Record: 41-25

    It hurt to lose O.J. Mayo, but the frontcourt of Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol is strong enough to keep the Memphis Grizzlies competitive.

    Superior depth in the backcourt as well will aid in the departure of Mayo. 

    The Grizzlies lack a consistent three-point shooter on the team and that will hurt them when down late in games. 

Indiana Pacers

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    2011-2012 Record: 42-24

    The Indiana Pacers had a breakout year last season, recording their first winning season since 2004-2005.

    They were able to hold on to big man Roy Hibbert but lost Darren Collison.

    Danny Granger will continue to lead this team as they continue to establish themselves as a serious threat in the Eastern Conference.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    2011-2012 Record: 40-26

    Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have only one year of chemistry under their belt with the Los Angeles Clippers, which means this team can only go up.

    They added Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Ronny Turiaf to the bench giving them great depth in the frontcourt.

    Jamal Crawford is also a nice addition, providing a shooting threat late in games.

    It will be difficult for the Clippers to break into the top four in the Western Conference, but they should be able to accomplish that.

Boston Celtics

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    2011-2012 Record: 39-27

    The Boston Celtics were one game away from the NBA Finals last year but couldn't close out the Miami Heat.

    Now their starting shooting guard, Ray Allen, is playing for them next season.

    That's alright for the Celtics who re-signed Kevin Garnett, ensuring he will retire in Celtic green, and Brandon Bass. They signed Jason Terry and Courtney Lee and drafted Jared Sullinger who could make a strong impact.

    This is Rajon Rondo's team now. Along with Paul Pierce, the Celtics will make a strong push back to the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs

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    2011-2012 Record: 50-16

    It was a tough exit from the playoffs for the San Antonio Spurs last season after appearing unbeatable through the first two rounds.

    Boasting the best record in the NBA (along with the Bulls), the Spurs elected to make no moves in the offseason.

    Why would they? The team is excellent, despite their age. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will be back in the playoffs this season.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    2011-2012 Record: 41-25

    The only reason the Los Angeles Lakers aren't ranked higher than No. 3 is because they haven't proven themselves yet.

    Making the two biggest offseason moves in trading for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, the Lakers have positioned themselves to return to the top spot in the Western Conference. 

    The offense is definitely going to be there, led by Kobe Bryant, but the defense is going to be the question.

    If they can sort that out, the sky's the limit.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    2011-2012 Record: 47-19

    The Oklahoma City Thunder made it to the finals last season. Now anything short of that is going to be a disappointment. 

    NBA scoring champion, Kevin Durant, is a triple-threat player that is lethal from anywhere on the court and Russell Westbrook has developed into a star point guard.

    The Thunder re-signed Serge Ibaka in the offseason and now will focus their attention on James Harden.

    Another deep playoff run is a definite.

Miami Heat

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    2011-2012 Record: 46-20

    The Miami Heat get the No. 1 spot until another team can prove they can be beaten.

    What is scary about the Heat is that they got better in the offseason. 

    Snagging Ray Allen from Boston was a great way to stick it to their rivals. However, Allen provides the necessary outside shooting range the Heat need.

    They also signed Rashard Lewis to provide some added depth off the bench.

    With an NBA championship locked away, the media are going to have to find something new to pick on.

    Is there anything?