NBA Power Rankings: Heat, Lakers and Other Teams Primed for Title Run
But, are the Lakers poised to help get Kobe his sixth championship ring? You'll have to read on to find out.
Let's see how the 30 NBA teams stack up against each other.
#1: Miami Heat
After adding Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to bolster their bench, the Heat could be even deadlier than they were last season. Of course, Miami's Big Three will also continue to play a huge role, along with the continued growth and maturity of Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.
Another key for the Heat is their motivation. However, with Lebron James at the helm, he'll likely push everybody to play with the same grit and hunger they possessed last season. The Heat's biggest weakness is still their lack of size, which will definitely be a factor if they face a team like Los Angeles in the post-season. Hopefully for their sake, their marksmen will give their offense an added jolt with timely three-pointers.
Look for Lebron to be a leading candidate for MVP yet again as he helps the Heat contend for their second championship in a row.
#2: Oklahoma City Thunder
Despite all the moves the Lakers have made, respect has to be paid to last year's Western Conference champs. Even though their efforts weren't enough to bring a Larry O'Brien trophy to OKC, they still had a brilliant season. The dynamic trio of Durant, Westbrook and Harden will only get better as they look to rebound from their Finals loss at the hands of the Heat.
The Thunder, already a young team full of potential, added another prospect to their ranks this offseason in Haseem Thabeet. They also added Hollis Thompson and rookie Perry Jones III via the draft. Thabeet, although extremely raw, could possibly be developed into a productive player; regardless, he offers great size off the bench.
Although the West will get tougher for them, the Thunder are still a major threat, and until someone demonstrates otherwise, they are the best team in the West, as it stands.
#3: Los Angeles Lakers
Within a single offseason, the Lakers' prospects of a championship have skyrocketed. After sending Andrew Bynum to Philly, they added defensive standout Dwight Howard and brought in Steve Nash—the brilliant playmaker and long time playoff nemesis of Kobe.
After a season mired in inconsistency, the Lakers will look to steamroll their way through the schedule to build up momentum for a championship run. Last season they struggled to maintain leads and often struggled against lackluster competition—addressing both of the aforementioned concerns will certainly be a goal for them leading up to the playoffs.
Offensively, the additions of Nash and Howard will take a huge load off of Kobe, who definitely has the tools he needs to claim the title. Nash will likely make Pau Gasol better, and when you have two of the smartest players in the game on one roster in Nash and Kobe, you can expect their offense will run like clockwork.
Even though Nash brings plenty to the table offensively, if the Lakers face the Thunder, he'd have a tough matchup going against Russell Westbrook. The Lakers, regardless of their weaknesses, still field probably the best all-around starting five, but until they prove themselves, you have to respect the two squads that made it to the Finals last season.
#4: San Antonio Spurs
Although they disappointed in the Western Conference Finals, the ever-consistent San Antonio Spurs are still a solid squad. With a front office that always seems to make the most out of journeymen and international free agents, the Spurs will probably surprise everybody all over again this season.
Unfortunately for the Spurs, most of their offense is predicated off of their perimeter shooting, and after the shots stopped falling, they failed to match the incredible output of Kevin Durant and the rest of the Thunder.
With age certainly being a factor, hopefully for their sake the Spurs will still get serviceable minutes out of Tim Duncan, who sat out plenty of games during the regular season and likely will this year. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will also be huge keys for their success, along with key role players like Danny Green and Gary Neal.
A great piece for the Sprus' future could definitely be Kawhi Leonard, whose corner three-ball often seemed to be automatic. The Spurs will definitely get a shot down the road, but considering the age of a lot of their key players, they will certainly have some urgency to make a championship run.
#5: Los Angeles Clippers
A team that desperately needed to get a lot deeper succeeded in doing so this off-season.
The Clippers, whose biggest weakness was definitely their suspect second unit, have succeeded in bringing in great reserves like Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom. Crawford is certainly one of the best off-the-dribble shooters in the league, Odom is a serviceable point-forward, and Grant Hill, despite his age, still has a dependable mid-range jump shot. Matt Barnes will also be a good addition to their second unit.
Chris Paul will continue to do what he does, and hopefully for his sake, Blake Griffin will be back this season with an improved jump shot and better free-throw percentage.
Another x-factor for the Clippers will be the growth of DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers desperately need Jordan to be a defensive anchor; aside from lobs and put-backs, he doesn't bring much to the table offensively. The Clippers will also hope Chauncey Billups can stay healthy, after losing him last season to an untimely Achilles tendon injury; after that, their morale didn't seem to be the same.
The Clippers have tremendous talent, and after solidifying their bench, they'll be a scary sight for anybody having to face them in the playoffs.
#6: Boston Celtics
The Celtics, like the Spurs, were a team with aging starters that still had tremendous success. But when they couldn't close out their 3-2 lead last year against the Heat, it was evident that their age had finally caught up to them.
Even though they lost Ray Allen, at this point, they're better off with Avery Bradley as their starting shooting guard. His tenacious defense and corner three-pointer make him a solid piece of the puzzle. Bradley and Rondo had great chemistry, especially when Bradley made backdoor cuts.
Paul Pierce, the triple-threat scoring machine, will come back alongside Kevin Garnett, who had an incredible season and at times looked like vintage KG. Brandon Bass, despite his sub-par defense and rebounding, has a free-throw line jumper that can at times be automatic.
Adding Jason Terry and Courtney Lee will help out a Boston bench that at times struggled to hold leads. Rondo will only continue to get better, and he can definitely carry the team toward another run, but he needs Paul Pierce and KG to find the fountain of youth for that to happen.
If the age doesn't wear them down too much, they could surprise some people.
#7: Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets will come back with a brand new player to run the wing for them in Andre Iguodala. Out of all the players they could've added, Iguodala might be the perfect piece to add to this team.
They're a high tempo, high-scoring team that can destroy you in transition. If they're knocking down transition threes and Lawson is going baseline-to-baseline finishing drives, good luck outscoring them.
Despite their incredible offense, the Nuggets struggled to stop anybody else from scoring. At times, they lost leads due to a shooting drought, so in order for them to sustain offense, they'll need baskets in and around the paint. Hopefully, the continued development of JaVale McGee will help them in this regard.
Plus, the addition of Iguodala will help vary their scoring options tremendously. Iguodala is one of the best transition players in the game, and he'll likely flourish on a squad like the Nuggets.
The downside to Iguodala that is at times he forces jump shots, but if he plays within the offense, they should be fine. McGee is probably one of the most physically gifted players in the NBA, and if he can mature, the Nuggets will have a serious weapon on their hands. Kenneth Faried is also an incredible prospect. His high motor and explosive athleticism make him one of the game's best young forwards.
The Nuggets find themselves in a stacked Western Conference, but the future looks very bright for them.
#8: Indiana Pacers
One of last season's best stories was the emergence of the Indiana Pacers.
They had a great balanced attack that featured David West's great post-up game and Danny Granger's consistent jumper. They were also a solid defensive team anchored by Roy Hibbert, who also has tremendous touch around the rim and a dependable short-range jumpshot.
They came very close to upsetting the Heat in the second round, but they struggled to consistently score at times. They also relied very heavily on the three-pointer, and as it's said, "You live by the three, you die by the three."
Indiana still had an excellent season, and now they return with a squad seasoned by the playoffs. Paul George will also continue to develop into a solid all-around guard with great size and athleticism.
Indiana isn't the flashiest team in the world, but they will continue to win by playing fundamental basketball.
#9: Memphis Grizzlies
Last year, Memphis was a team that seemed destined to play spoiler for a big favorite. They had one of the best frontcourts in the league with Marc Gasol and Z-Bo, and featured a solid lineup with the likes of Rudy Gay and Tony Allen.
Unfortunately, they blew one of the biggest leads in NBA Playoff history in their first-round playoff game against the Los Angeles Clippers, and would go on to lose at home in seven games.
It was an incredible series, but for Memphis fans, it was a prime example of the Grizzlies' inconsistency. Neither Gasol nor Randolph really imposed their will on the Clippers, but to be fair, the Clippers equalized their frontcourt advantage. As a result, Mike Conley was no match for Chris Paul, and the Clippers as a collective were lights out from beyond the arc.
The Grizzlies have a solid lineup, but they need someone to step up. Rudy Gay has all the potential in the world, but again, he failed to really have an impact on the postseason. The same could be said for Zach Randolph, who was incredible in the 2011-2012 playoffs, but did not seem as aggressive as he had been in the past.
The Grizzlies are a team with tremendous potential, but it remains to be seen if they can put a complete season together.
#10: Philadelphia 76ers
Following last year's brutal seven-game series with Boston, with an off-season trade the Sixers brought arguably the best center in the game to Philadelphia in Andrew Bynum. He will no doubt have a big impact on the Sixers' offense this season.
Evan Turner possesses an excellent mid-range game, and combined with Bynum's incredible low-post offense, Philly might shock some people.
They also managed to bring in Jason Richardson and Nick Young, two excellent scoring guards that will help an offense that struggled from the perimeter last year. Plus, Jrue Holiday is a game manger who does a good job of running the offense and knocking down the three-ball.
The Sixers led the league in fewest turnovers last season, and if they continue to run their offense with the same efficiency, they will definitely have a solid season. They are a scrappy team that can force turnovers and push the tempo, and adding Bynum will help them tremendously in the half-court.
#11: Chicago Bulls
The injury to Rose is a crushing blow. Although the core aside from Rose is still solid, the loss of several key role players, combined with the loss of Rose, really stings.
They are good enough to survive without him, but they won't be contending until Rose is back at 100%.
#12: New York Knicks
The Knicks possess so much talent, that at times it's mind-boggling that they continue to struggle to put everything together.
Chemistry issues, coaching changes and lackluster defense are issues that will still likely hinder the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony, definitely one of the game's best scorers, will be charged with leading a Knicks team that features Amar'e Stoudemire, veteran Jason Kidd and young standout Iman Shumpert, who certainly has tremendous potential.
The emergence of Shump will be important for the Knicks if they're going to have a balanced attack. Shump is also an excellent man-to-man defender who could become a stopper for the Knicks down the road.
Melo will find himself with a lot more pressure as the fans in New York will no doubt expect him to help lead a championship run, but unfortunately for the Knicks and their fans, they're in the same conference as the Miami Heat.
The only hope for the Knicks is that Jason Kidd can prevent the ball from stopping on the wing, forcing Carmelo to fire up a contested face-up jumper. The Knicks get away with it enough to win, but that is not championship-caliber offensive basketball.
Of course, consistent flow and chemistry between Carmelo and Amar'e remains to be seen, and until it happens the Knicks will continue to struggle against stronger teams in the East.
#13: Dallas Mavericks
After a disappointing post-championship season, the Mavericks window might be closed.
They added Chris Kaman, a decent center, and OJ Mayo, a combo-guard whose jumper is shaky, but ultimately may not have enough to compete with the likes of the Lakers or Thunder.
Regardless, they still field a decent team that has sufficient depth. The Mavs added Darren Collison, an explosive guard that played with the Pacers last season. Collison helps the Mavs get younger, and he also can run the floor and finish, something Jason Kidd at this stage in his career was unable to do last season.
Dirk needs a lot more help on the offensive end, and he needs to have a better overall season. Too often, the Mavs squandered leads, and their offense was stagnant when Dirk wasn't having a good night.
The Mavs got a little better, but it's not enough to beat the better teams in the West.
#14: Brooklyn Nets
With a retooled name and retooled roster, the Nets are thinking playoffs.
The addition of Joe Johnson will give Deron Williams a little more help alongside Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez. Johnson is a shooting guard who will provide serviceable minutes for the Nets and help improve a team desperately needing more offense.
The Nets frontcourt of Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez will help on the boards, especially Humphries, who is an underrated offensive rebounder. Another tough rebounder the Nets acquired is Reggie Evans, who was a big-time hustle player for the Clippers last season.
Their second unit will feature former Bulls back-up, CJ Watson, alongside Marshon Brooks, the sophomore guard who had a solid rookie season for the Nets.
The Nets are far from championship caliber, but they will be a decent team with potential for improvement.
#15: Minnesota Timberwolves
Despite Minnesota's poor performance last season, they come into the 2012-2013 season with a lot of hope.
After losing Ricky Rubio to injury, the offense wasn't the same. Frustration boiled over as the losses piled up, and it was clear that most of the team couldn't wait until the season was over.
The Timberwolves will definitely sneak up on some teams this year now that they''ll be back at full strength.
Nikola Pekovic, although not a big name, is one of the best big men in the league. He is a rebounding machine and solidifies the Timberwolves' frontcourt alongside Love. Love's jumper was often automatic, and his knack for snatching rebounds kept the Wolves in the game during key possessions.
Key additions will include Brandon Roy, who comes back to the NBA following chronic knee injuries, and they also add Andrei Kirilenko, who will improve the Wolves' defense.
The Wolves are still building, but with Rubio back they have a decent chance at making the eighth seed in the West.
#16: Golden State Warriors
The Warriors will finally look to deliver on Mark Jackson's playoff promise this season with newly acquired Andrew Bogut back in the line-up. The Warriors will need Stephen Curry and Bogut healthy if they want to improve upon last season.
David Lee will also be an instrumental part in the Warriors' success, as his motor and rebounding ability will prove invaluable. Also, the growth of sophomore guard Klay Thompson will be another factor as the season goes on.
The Warriors will definitely improve provided they can stay healthy, but at this point, they should still be considered in a rebuilding phase.
#17: Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks come into the 2012-2013 season hoping their young backcourt continues to develop chemistry.
Brandon Jennings has shown tremendous scoring ability, but he remains wildly inconsistent.
Another one of the Bucks' biggest problems last season was the fact they were extremely undersized. They started Drew Gooden at center, and there was often no way he could out-muscle the bigger forwards and centers in the league. The Bucks managed to address their lack of size by adding veteran center Samuel Dalembert, a bruising force in the paint who is exactly what the Bucks needed at the five.
The Bucks need Jennings to have a good season, and they need the chemistry between him and Monta Ellis to improve. Monta had some incredible games last season for the Warriors, but he has yet to really show consistent performances thus far in a Bucks' uniform.
The Bucks also need to prove they can beat good teams, because their late season winning streak (following the Monta trade) was mostly against teams below .500. Assuming Jennings and Monta are consistent, the Bucks can definitely compete for a playoff spot.
#18: Atlanta Hawks
After trading away Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson, the Hawks are certainly looking to head in a different direction.
Anchored by a supremely talented frontcourt that features Josh Smith, the Hawks will also include Devin Harris, Kyle Korver and Anthony Morrow. The Hawks will be happy to have Al Horford back at full strength, and they'll need Horford and Smith to carry the load for them as a whole.
The Hawks are a decent team, but they simply don't have enough pieces at this point to be a serious contender. Until they are in a position to make more moves, they'll likely be rebuilding and planning a different approach in the upcoming seasons.
#19: Utah Jazz
The Jazz managed to make the playoffs last season, but were obliterated in four games by the Spurs. Al Jefferson, one of the game's best post players, is virtually invincible on the block, but when the ball was rotated, they lacked the shooters to knock down shots.
They had a mediocre perimeter offense, and most of their scoring came from the dominance of Millsap, Jefferson and Favors. Mo Williams will help alleviate their lack of range, but he isn't exactly an outstanding playmaker.
The Jazz also add Randy Foye, who after years of inconsistency, finally strung together some incredible shooting performances for the Clippers last season. The Jazz also need Gordon Hayward to improve his jumper, because if they're going to punish teams for doubling Jefferson and Millsap, they are going to have to knock down shots.
Another off-season acquisition is Marvin Williams from the Atlanta Hawks, a versatile forward who hasn't fully lived up to his potential.
Overall, the Jazz finally added some shooters, and they will look to compete for the 8th seed this season.
#20: Houston Rockets
The Rockets came very close to clinching a playoff seed last season, but they couldn't finish strong.
This season they add Jeremy Lin, whose mesmerizing explosion onto the scene was one of the past season's best stories. Now that Lin is a Rocket, the front-office hopes he can help the Rockets rebuild for the future.
The Rockets lost Goran Dragic to the Suns, and also traded away Kyle Lowry to the Raptors. They added free-agent Omer Asik, who was formerly the backup center for the Bulls last season. Asik is a solid big man who can rebound and defend, but offensively, he's pretty limited.
Chandler Parsons is a sophomore forward who is well-rounded, and will certainly be a good piece for them in the future. Kevin Martin, the veteran scoring guard, also returns for the Rockets, following an injury mired season
The Rockets are still rebuilding, and after losing Scola, Dragic, Budinger and Lowry, they just don't have enough pieces as a whole to be serious competitors in the West at this point.
#21: Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal and John Wall man a backcourt that show some promise. If Nene and Emeka Okafor can stay healthy, the Wizards should improve upon their efforts from last season.
Despite the additions, the Wizards are still struggling to find some semblance of chemistry over consistent stretches.
#22: New Orleans Hornets
With a number one draft pick in Anthony Randolph and Duke standout Austin Rivers, there is hope in New Orleans in the post-Chris Paul era. Combine the new additions with the emerging Eric Gordon, and New Orleans has a solid core for the future.
#23: Toronto Raptors
The additions of Lowry and Landry Fields help a bit, but the Raptors are still a heavily flawed offensive team. Bargnani showed great improvement last season, and hopefully DeMar Derozan can also improve his game.
#24: Detroit Pistons
The Pistons have a long, long way to go before they can even think about the playoffs.
They acquired slashing forward Corey Magette from Charlotte and also added Andre Drummond, a raw but talented forward from UCONN via the draft.
Their brightest spot is Greg Monroe, who has emerged as a solid scorer and rebounder for Detroit. The Pistons will also start Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey as their backcourt this season.
They have some pieces, but Detroit isn't complete enough to be worried about anything else than rebuilding.
#25: Portland Trailblazers
Aldridge will continue to be the cornerstone of this team as they continue to rebuild. The Blazers will rely on rookie Damien Lillard to develop and mature as well.
Batum and Wes Matthews should help give the rookie a little help on the wings, but until the front office can make some moves, it's going to be a long season.
#26: Sacramento Kings
The Kings have a lot of talented players, but there is clearly a lot of chemistry issues.
With the likes of Demarcus Cousins and Isiah Thomas, the Kings have prospects, but they're too inconsistent at this point to be anything but a team still in the middle of rebuilding.
#27: Cleveland Cavaliers
After an impressive rookie season, Kyrie Irving is looking to continue to improve this season.
Aside from Kyrie, Cleveland isn't very talented, but his presence gives hope for the Cavs post-Lebron. Plus, the Cavs will be glad to have the scrappy Anderson Varejao back in the lineup as well.
#28: Phoenix Suns
Unfortunately for the Suns, it's back to square one. Following a weird season where they looked great in some instances and downright bad in others, the Suns find themselves in the post-Steve Nash era.
Signing Dragic and bringing in Michael Beasley is a start, but the Suns have a long way to go at this point.
#29: Orlando Magic
Another team that dealt away their franchise player, the Magic have a long season ahead of themselves. At this point, the Magic will be playing for a spot in the lottery.
It will be a very long season for Magic fans.
#30: Charlotte Bobcats
After a historically abysmal season, the Bobcats are hoping the future will have more wins in it. The best they can hope for is more than seven wins, and to rebuild via the draft.
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