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NBA Power Rankings: Where Each Team Ranks Entering 2012-13 Season

Dan FavaleFeatured Columnist IVNovember 10, 2016

NBA Power Rankings: Where Each Team Ranks Entering 2012-13 Season

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    The 2012-13 NBA regular season is finally upon us, bringing with it a torrent of intrigue, excitable debuts and, well, injuries.

    Just as player movement dominated the offseason, injuries ran amok throughout the preseason, leaving plenty of the league's teams to begin their campaign without one or more key athletes.

    Will the Minnesota Timberwolves fall out of playoff contention without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio early on? Are the Dallas Mavericks poised to hit rock bottom down Dirk Nowitzki? Can the New York Knicks stay healthy enough to make any sort of splash? Is Kobe Bryant finally beginning to show his age?

    Plenty has changed since last season. Heck, plenty has changed since you feasted your eyes on this.

    That has left the Association's franchises to roll with varying degrees of proverbial punches, rendering the outlook on the season's inaugural power structure far more different than anyone could have anticipated.

    Read on to see where each team currently ranks.

30. Charlotte Bobcats

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 7-59

    It's the dawn of a new season, but not much has changed for the Charlotte Bobcats.

    Though the team added a future star in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a solid floor general in Ramon Sessions and an overrated scorer in Ben Gordon, they're still, by all accounts, bad.

    Rebuilding is never easy, but the Bobcats are making it almost unbearable, rendering it highly unlikely they improve upon their 2011-12 performance by leaps and bounds.

    Quite frankly, if they manage to avoid re-breaking the record they now hold for the worst winning percentage in NBA history, this year will be considered a success.

    Talk about a gloomy outlook.

29. Washington Wizards

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 20-46

    This was supposed to be the year the Washington Wizards contended for a playoff spot, but they appear destined for the lottery yet again.

    John Wall is expected to be out until at least late November rehabilitating a left knee injury, leaving rookie Bradley Beal to lead the backcourt charge.

    Though Beal is a talented scorer, he struggled to remain efficient from the field during the preseason, shooting just 41.3 percent. His playmaking abilities, while a nice complement to, are far inferior to Wall's as well.

    Factor in the oft-injured Nene, who remains questionable for the start of the season, and it's clear Washington's dynamic boasts a weaker foundation than a house of cards.

28. Orlando Magic

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 37-29

    Void of a superstar, the Orlando Magic will open up the Dwight Howard-less era incurring a bounty of struggles.

    While the team has plenty of scorers in Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson, Al Harrington and even J.J. Redick, they lack size and a defensive conscience.

    Luckily for Orlando, though, the Eastern Conference is wrought with inconsistent teams, a reality it should be able to capitalize off of on numerous occasions.

    No, the Magic won't even come close to making the playoffs and will likely struggle to win 25 games, but out the gate, they're in much better shape than the Bobcats, or even the John Wall-less Wizards.

    And at this stage, after all that has transpired, that's going to have to count for something.

27. Houston Rockets

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 34-32

    I want to believe in Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets, I really do.

    But I just can't.

    Not only does Houston lack experience in general, but it has put Lin in a position where he will be asked to lead, when he really still needs to be mentored himself.

    Overburdening Lin really isn't fair to the Rockets' core of rookies, who would benefit greatly from legitimate leadership and a proven floor general.

    Factor in the increased scrutiny Kevin Martin and his expiring contract will be put under, and Royce White's battle against anxiety disorder, and you have a roster built to implode.

    And one that, in all likelihood, will.

26. Detroit Pistons

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 25-41

    There's plenty to like about the Detroit Pistons, but not enough to carry them out of the NBA's basement.

    Andre Drummond bordered on competent during the preseason, and if he continues to develop, he will ultimately form a star-studded post duo with Greg Monroe.

    But that's only if he reaches his full potential down the road.

    Right now, the Pistons will lean on Monroe and Rodney Stuckey, who will only be able to carry them toward a 25- or 30-win season. 

    Such is the case when you have a roster filled with as many question marks, neophytes and over-the-hill talent as Detroit.

25. New Orleans Hornets

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 21-45

    If the New Orleans Hornets were any kind of healthy heading into the regular season, they would be in a much better position to shock the basketball world.

    While Anthony Davis is likely to carry this team toward some form of prominence, the continuing saga that is Eric Goron's knee coupled with Austin Rivers' sprained ankle truly puts a damper on New Orleans' potential uprising.

    Should both Gordon and Rivers wind up available on opening night, and both remain healthy and play up to their potential, the Hornets have a great opportunity to play close to .500 basketball.

    Right now, though, void of a stable rotation and a sufficient level of team chemistry, New Orleans' immediate outlook is bordering on bleak.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 21-45

    Kyrie Irving is an ever-evolving superstar, but he won't be enough to keep the Cleveland Cavaliers relevant.

    The Cavs had a golden opportunity to add some top-tier talent this past summer, yet they opted to remain relatively idle instead.

    They also took a huge gamble by using the fourth pick in the draft to grab Dion Waiters, a raw, offensively-inclined player who had a preseason and training camp to forget. 

    Rookie Tyler Zeller turned some heads, and Anderson Varejao appears to be healthy for a change, but this team has no clear-cut second-in-command; there is simply too much resting on Irving's shoulders alone at this point.

    This reality ultimately puts Cleveland in a spot where noticeable success really isn't an option.

23. Sacramento Kings

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 22-44

    The Sacramento Kings are on to something with the DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson pairing, but this team is still years away from contending.

    In Isaiah Thomas, the Kings have a surprisingly talented floor general, yet his ceiling remains as uncertain as Jeremy Lin's. And how Sacramento plans to balance the backcourt attack between Aaron Brooks, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette and even Tyreke Evans is beyond me.

    So while this is a team with potential, it's also one that has plenty to figure out.

    Until the Kings know what they have in their mess of talent, collective expectations must remain grounded.

22. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 26-40

    At full strength, the Timberwolves are a formidable entity, one capable of contending for a playoff spot.

    But they're anything but fully healthy.

    Kevin Love is out until at least November with a broken hand, and Ricky Rubio won't be ready to go until around January.

    And as impressive as the offseason additions of Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy were, it is doubtful they, along with the ever-improving Nikola Pekovic and the promising Derrick Williams, will be able to keep this ship steady enough to be in a position to make the postseason when Love and Rubio return.

    It has to be frustrating to hear for Minnesota at this point, but perhaps this team will make some substantial noise next year. 

21. Toronto Raptors

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 23-43

    Even after a successful offseason, there is still plenty for the Toronto Raptors to sort out.

    Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon are two talented point guards, but it's uncertain how Calderon will fare off the bench and if Lowry will even meet expectations.

    And though Toronto has a pair of promising rookies in Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas, they're both still searching for an identity within the offense.

    DeMar DeRozan's penchant for underachieving isn't helping things either, to the point where he could see his minutes cut in favor of Landry Fields and Ross.

    It's also been two years since Andrea Bargnani has remained healthy for an entire season, so much of the Raptors' offensive success hinges on his injury-prone body.

    Throw in a top-heavy Atlantic Division, and it becomes highly unlikely the Raptors are able to play themselves out of the lottery this season.

20. Phoenix Suns

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 33-33

    The Phoenix Suns are going to turn some heads this season.

    Though many would have had the Suns pegged to rival the Bobcats' level of ineptitude in the post-Steve Nash era, Phoenix has actually rebounded quite nicely.

    Marcin Gortat has shown glimpses of being more than a Nash-induced success, and the additions of Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley give this team a potent offensive attack.

    That said, Kendall Marshall has fallen out of the rotation, which puts more pressure on Dragic. It also paves the way for Sebastian Telfair to make an impact, a notion that is anything but settling.

    Gortat and Dragic also need to ensure they're utilizing the pick-and-roll to their advantage, as their execution there was underwhelming during the preseason.

    Essentially, the Suns find themselves in the exact same situation as last year—just outside the playoff picture.

19. Portland Trail Blazers

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 28-38

    After the massive collapse the Portland Trail Blazers suffered last season, this year is all about redemption.

    Unfortunately, such a quest will not include a postseason berth.

    I've loved what Damian Lillard has shown us thus far. He hasn't missed a beat in terms of scoring, and his ability to run the offense and distribute the basketball is coming along faster than anyone anticipated.

    LaMarcus Aldridge has healed up quite nicely, and Nicolas Batum's massive contract has set the bar for the versatile swingman rather high as well. Even Wesley Johnson and Meyers Leonard, aside from a recent head contusion for the latter, have given Portland reason to be optimistic.

    Optimism aside, though, the Blazers, outside of Aldridge, remain wildly unproven and still have a wealth of chemistry issues to resolve.

    That will ultimately put the playoffs out of reach once again.

18. Milwaukee Bucks

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 31-35

    I actually believe in the Monta Ellis-Brandon Jennings experiment.

    I just don't believe in the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Ersan Ilyasova showed plenty of two-way promise last season, but his production, even after earning himself a $45 million payday over the summer, is anything but guaranteed.

    Milwaukee also finds itself without a truly consistent low-post presence. The trio of Samuel Dalembert, Drew Gooden and John Henson simply won't be enough to carry the burden in the post on a nightly basis.

    Subsequently, the Bucks will find themselves settling for another year lined with lottery-bound performances. 

17. Golden State Warriors

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 23-43

    Ankles be damned, the Golden State Warriors are on the up and up.

    Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry remain sources of uncertainty, but with Curry revealing to Matt Steinmetz of CSNBayArea.com that he will be ready for the start of the regular season, it's hard not to be optimistic.

    Though Bogut's potential absence is a hindrance, Festus Ezeli has already proved to be more valuable than Andris Biedrins, which gives the Warriors an upgrade in the post regardless.

    Golden State also has plenty of scorers to increase the potency of its offensive attack. Not only is Curry on his way back, but the team has a facilitating gem in Jarrett Jack and a bevy shooters in Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson and Brandon Rush.

    Let's not forget about the workhorse that is David Lee either.

    Yes, the Warriors still find themselves outside of the playoff bubble, but even without Bogut, this team is a far cry from the near-pushovers they were last season.

16. Dallas Mavericks

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 36-30

    At first, I thought Dirk Nowitzki's absence would cripple the Dallas Mavericks.

    But then—despite the uncertainty surrounding his return—I got to thinking: The Mavericks really aren't terrible without him.

    Yes, Dallas lacks depth and a consistent scorer, but some deft offseason patchwork has left it with the likes of Elton Brand, Darren Collison, Chris Kaman and O.J. Mayo to go along with Vince Carter and Shawn Marion.

    And those six, when combined with the rest of the team's odds and ends, should have no problem keeping their heads above water in Nowitzki's stead.

    Is this a significantly more unstable product than the Mavericks put on the floor last season?

    Yes, but heading into 2012-13—Nowitzki's injury notwithstanding—this is still a playoff-caliber team.

15. Utah Jazz

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 36-30

    Enough cannot be said about how much the Utah Jazz improved this offseason.

    Not only does Enes Kanter appear leaner and meaner, but the additions of Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Marvin Williams really strengthened Utah's outside attack.

    I also have this pegged as a breakout year for Gordon Hayward, who showed he had a superior scoring touch and sound two-way instincts only last season.

    My main concern with the Jazz, though, is their lack of a true point guard. Foye can man the point, but he isn't the bona fide distributor the team has lacked since Deron Williams' departure.

    Still, I have liked what I've seen from Alec Burks, and they do have plenty of other options in Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson to explore.

    And courtesy of a Dirk Nowitzki-less Dallas team, Utah should be able to establish itself as a playoff lock early on.

14. Philadelphia 76ers

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 35-31

    Even in Andrew Bynum's absence, the Philadelphia 76ers are still a team deep enough to put up a respectable fight.

    That said, Bynum's absence is still a significant roadblock between the Sixers and the progress they were hoping to make.

    According to Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com, there is still no timetable for his return, so it's not as if there is immediate hope on the horizon. Even once he does return, Philadelphia will be tasked with developing the chemistry it needed to during training camp.

    That places the fate of this team—for now—in Jrue Holiday's hands. He has proven in the past he can step up when it matters, and peers like Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and even Nick Young are reassuring presences as well.

    However, without a healthy Bynum, any certainty surrounding his return or how he'll even fit in, we simply cannot assume the Sixers are going to be as potent a force in the East. 

13. Chicago Bulls

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 50-16

    Whether or not Derrick Rose returns is irrelevant, because the Chicago Bulls are going to struggle either way.

    In his absence, the Bulls lack a clutch-shooting All-Star capable of taking the game over on his own. With him, Chicago will be tasked with helping him rekindle the fire that was lost courtesy of his ACL injury.

    That said, regardless of how the Rose situation plays out, the Bulls are going to make the playoffs.

    Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and even Carlos Boozer are plenty talented enough to lead Chicago's cause, and the additions of Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli continue to be underestimated.

    No, the Bulls aren't poised to win 50 games again this season, but they're not about to fade off into oblivion either.

12. Atlanta Hawks

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 40-26

    In the interest of full disclosure, I've got Josh Smith pegged to have a career year.

    And between him and Al Horford, I also believe the Atlanta Hawks have the second-best low-post tandem behind Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.

    Though I understand the Hawks lost a 20-points-per-game scorer in Joe Johnson, they added a trio of underrated scorers in Lou Williams, Anthony Morrow and Devin Harris. John Jenkins and Kyle Korver's smooth-shooting touches should also work wonders for Atlanta's offense as well.

    Factor in the star-in-the-making that is Jeff Teague and the injury concerns surrounding the Bulls' Derrick Rose and the Sixers' Andrew Bynum, and you have a team that is going to make some serious noise in the Eastern Conference.

    More than most are currently forecasting. 

11. Brooklyn Nets

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 22-44

    Something is telling me to put the Brooklyn Nets outside of the NBA's top 10, and I'm obliging.

    Though people continue to forget how much of an impact Deron Williams truly makes, there's no denying the Nets are a source of ample concern.

    Not only is offensive chemistry still an issue, but their defense has been horrid. They're giving a plethora of open shots on the perimeter, and Brook Lopez remains one of the most underwhelming interior defenders.

    That said, it is only the preseason, and Brooklyn's star power suggests it'll eventually quell any concerns.

    But to believe this team is anything more than a top-five force in the East is grossly premature.

10. New York Knicks

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 36-30

    I had a dream the other night that the Knicks were young, vibrant and healthy.

    Well, zero out of three isn't bad, is it?

    All joking aside, New York is severely banged up. Offensive powerhouses Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith remain on the sidelines, and the defensive pillar that is Marcus Camby is right beside them.

    However, I've liked what I've seen from Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd. Chris Copeland's offensive prowess—and defensive ineptitude—has caught my eye as well.

    Throw Carmelo Anthony into the fold, and it's clear the Knicks will have no trouble putting points on the board. 

    Which brings us to defense, where New York almost took a severe hit. Disaster was avoided, though, when the team announced Tyson Chandler should be good to go for the regular-season opener.

    No, the Knicks are far from out of the woods, and we may have to break out the walkers midway through season, but for now, they're in position to maintain top 10 status.

9. Indiana Pacers

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    2011-12  Regular-Season Record: 42-24

    The Indiana Pacers owe a series of "Thank yous" to the Bulls, Knicks and Sixers.

    Thanks to a slew of injuries to numerous opposing forces, the Pacers find themselves sitting comfortably heading into the regular season.

    It's not really a knock on Indiana, it's just that if Chicago, New York and Philadelphia were any kind of healthy, the East would be tougher to navigate.

    That said, the Pacers are a forced to reckoned with.

    Danny Granger is going to be coming into the season with a chip on his shoulder, Paul George is on the precipice of superstardom and Roy Hibbert is right there with him.

    Though I'm still not crazy about George Hill running the offense, I've got high hopes for D.J. Augustin—and, subsequently, the Pacers as well.

8. Memphis Grizzlies

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 41-25

    Postseason failure will lead to regular-season triumph for the Memphis Grizzlies.

    After exceeding expectations in 2010-11, the Grizzlies fell well short of their ceiling last year, a campaign that culminated in an inexcusable first-round elimination at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers.

    But it's going to be different this season.

    For the first time in what seems like a decade—but is actually two years—both Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph are healthy at the same time.

    Throw in Tony Allen and Marc Gasol, along with a preseason star on his way to universal stardom in Mike Conley, and you've got a recipe for potential dominance.

    Even in the Western Conference.

7. Los Angeles Clippers

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 40-26

    I don't trust the Clippers. I don't trust them at all.

    Blake Griffin's knee and jump shot render me queasy, Jamal Crawford can be a statistical cancer and DeAndre Jordan's post game still brings grown men to tears.

    The team's supporting cast is also overrated in the sense that they're as fragile as a newborn—ironically because the likes of Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler and Grant Hill are so old.

    But they do have Chris Paul, the impending free agent who I still believe is a serious flight risk.

    Outside of that, I have serious doubts that they'll be able to secure a top-four finish in the West, so their appearance in front of the Grizzlies is the result of my complete and utter faith in Paul as a leader.

    Feel free to shower me with criticism now. 

6. Boston Celtics

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 39-27

    For a team that was supposed to enter rebuilding mode this past season, the Boston Celtics are looking pretty damn good. 

    Rajon Rondo is poised to continue to do what he does best and now comes complete with some foul-shooting efficiency, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are the embodiment of fundamentally sound veterans and the additions of Courtney Lee and Jason Terry have left offensive advocates giddy.

    Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger also give the Celtics some versatile big men who can hopefully improve upon the team's rebounding deficiencies.

    My qualms about the team stem from age—which they have proven time and time again doesn't stop them—and a lack of depth at point guard.

    I like Leandro Barbosa and Avery Bradley (injured) as much as the next person, but I'm not sure either packs the distributional punch necessary to man the point in Rondo's stead.

    Even so, Boston remains a viable threat to the Miami Heat and the rest of the NBA's championship contenders.

5. Denver Nuggets

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 38-28

    There's nothing like a fresh batch of unselfish basketball to secure a team's status as a title contender, is there?

    We haven't seen much of the new-look Denver Nuggets yet, but what we have seen has left us wanting more.

    Andre Iguodala has brought some much-needed veteran leadership and household recognition to the locker room, and JaVale McGee continues to surprise anyone who breathes.

    Ty Lawson is a future star, Danilo Gallinari is still a bucket of potential, there's no one more consistent than Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler's return has me smitten and Timofey Mozgov continues to peak interest.

    Scream "overrated" all you want, but this is squad which pushed the third-seeded Lakers to the brink last year. And that was without the likes of Chandler and Iguodala.

    So yeah, there's cause to be excited in Denver.

4. San Antonio Spurs

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 50-16

    Something inside me tells me this is the year the San Antonio Spurs begin to taper off.

    I've decided to ignore such an inkling.

    Though the Spurs didn't make any significant additions this offseason, they remain the poster team for aging gracefully.

    Tony Parker is one of the most underrated superstars in the league, and Tim Duncan continues to be a pillar of prolific consistency. Manu Ginobili's health is of some concern, but it's tough to worry about him when you have Danny Green, Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard all prepared to pick up the slack.

    Yes, like the Knicks, the Spurs are older, but they're also both deep and healthy.

    That ultimately puts them where New York isn't—amidst the rest of the title contenders.

3. Los Angeles Lakers

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 41-25

    Los Angeles' postseason shortcomings seem like a distant memory—because they are.

    The Lakers managed to completely revamp their roster with the additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, without breaking up the duo of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

    Speaking of Kobe Bryant, though, how about his ankle? 

    Well, according to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, his status for Los Angeles' season opener remains unclear.

    And while the Black Mamba's absence would prove to be a blow, it won't be crushing.

    Nash is more than capable of running the offense through Howard and Gasol, and though the extended absence of Bryant would be anything but ideal, the Lakers now have the firepower necessary to carry on without him.

    Quite a change from last season, isn't it?

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 47-19

    It's really scary to consider both how good the Oklahoma City Thunder are and how young their stars still are.

    Though the Thunder fell short in last year's NBA Finals, they've improved by leaps and bounds every season. And there's no reason to believe that trend won't continue.

    Kevin Durant is the only thing standing between LeBron James and another MVP, Russell Westbrook is arguably the most explosive guard in the league, Serge Ibaka's mid-range jumper renders him a lethal two-way threat and James Harden, even after a disappointing postseason, scares the bejeezus out of defenses.

    Throw in the athletic stylings of rookie Perry Jones III, the sometimes dominant Kendrick Perkins, the defensive connoisseur that is Thabo Sefolosha and the ever-underrated Nick Collison, and you've got the makings of a second straight Western Conference championship.

    Look out, LeBron and Co. 

1. Miami Heat

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    2011-12 Regular-Season Record: 46-20

    South Beach's finest are still the NBA's finest.

    The Miami Heat aren't just the reigning champs, they're the reigning champs who bolstered their already dominant roster even further this summer.

    LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are terrifying enough. Bringing Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis into the fold, though? That's bone-chilling. For Miami's opponents, that is.

    Yet plenty of attention has been—and continues to be—paid to the Lakers, Clippers, Nets, Knicks and Thunder.

    But it would be wise of us to remember that the Heat are still the most dangerous team in the NBA until proven otherwise.

    At this point, even if you're the Lakers or Thunder, that seems nearly impossible to do.

     

     

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