NBA

Power Ranking Every Division in the NBA Entering 2013-14 Season

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistOctober 28, 2013

Power Ranking Every Division in the NBA Entering 2013-14 Season

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    After one of the wildest offseasons in NBA history, much of the league's talent has changed uniforms, thus shuffling the balance of power entering 2013-14.

    A year ago, we didn't think the Central or Southwest Divisions were anything special, but we expected big things from the Atlantic.

    The script has flipped, thanks in part to Dwight Howard's arrival in Houston, upgrades in New Orleans and the dismantling of the Boston Celtics core. Derrick Rose's much-anticipated return also helps reshape everyone's title odds.

    With a brand new season set to tip off, which division tops our power rankings?

6. Atlantic Division

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Playoff Locks: Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks

    Bubble Teams: Toronto Raptors

    Top 5 Players: Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Rudy Gay

     

    New York City gives the Atlantic Division two strong representatives, yet this group lands in the cellar of our rankings. There is too much turmoil and transition surrounding the remaining three squads.

    With the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers hitting the reset button, and Rajon Rondo rehabbing, there isn't much competitive balance in the northeast. A year ago, both clubs had lofty aspirations, and now they find themselves working with a slew of rookies and spare parts from trades.

    The Toronto Raptors are the most unpredictable team of the bunch, as they could win anywhere between 30 and 40 games. If Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay can overachieve, the division will gain some respectability.

    Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets newcomers will generate some contentious basketball in The Big Apple, but that's about all the Atlantic can guarantee us right now.

5. Southeast Division

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    Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    Playoff Locks: Miami Heat, Washington Wizards

    Bubble Teams: Atlanta Hawks

    Top 5 Players: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, John Wall, Al Horford, Chris Bosh

     

    We know the cream of the Southeast crop (Miami Heat) will be terrific, and we also know the bottom (Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic) will be ugly.

    It's up to the "wild cards" to determine this division's ceiling.

    John Wall's upward trajectory and Marcin Gortat's arrival could make the Washington Wizards a potent team come playoff time. The combination of Wall and Bradley Beal in the backcourt will be tough for most Eastern Conference backcourts to contain.

    Meanwhile, Mike Budenholzer's Atlanta Hawks are somewhat of a question mark in the middle tier, as they will be incorporating new pieces and clawing for a playoff spot.

    If both of these clubs make the postseason, the Southeast might look much better than the fifth-best division in the league. For now, we'll keep our anticipations tempered.

4. Pacific Division

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Playoff Locks: Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors 

    Bubble Teams: Los Angeles Lakers

    Top 5 Players: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins

     

    With all due respect to the L.A. Lakers' slim playoff chances, the Pacific has three inadequate teams.

    The Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings will likely be the two worst clubs in the Western Conference, and the Purple and Gold will land somewhere around 10th or worse.

    Now that the bad news is out of the way, let's remember that the top two squads in the division are poised for tremendous years.

    Both units could be gems, as the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors have surrounded their star point guards with robust lineups. They could potentially clash deep in the postseason.

    Ultimately, there's not enough proven defense to warrant any faith in the Pacific's bottom three, so the division lands in the bottom half of our rankings.

3. Northwest Division

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Playoff Locks: Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets 

    Bubble Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Top 5 Players: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard

     

    Several of the NBA's most dynamic duos play in the Northwest Division, as the Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves and Portland Trail Blazers all have powerful pairs.

    While it only has one true championship hopeful, it owns four dangerous clubs because it has a strong stable of point guards. Ty Lawson, Damian Lillard and Ricky Rubio are some of the most indefensible floor generals in the game, and Russell Westbrook will join the mix mid-season.

    Good luck to Utah Jazz rookie Trey Burke.

    In the paint, the Jazz will be much more competitive, as Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors can battle with the top-tier frontcourts in the division. We can't wait to see them crash the boards against Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic.

    Due to Westbrook's knee and the uncertainty of Denver's new regime, the Northwest runs the risk of missing out on the Western Conference Finals. However, there's too much talent and competitiveness to rank the division any lower than third.

2. Central Division

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    Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    Playoff Locks: Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers

    Bubble Teams: Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Top 5 Players: Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Joakim Noah, Josh Smith

     

    Feast your eyes on the Great Lakes region for some phenomenal NBA action this season. Two legitimate title contenders sit atop the division, while a couple of revamped young clubs seek to earn playoff berths.

    You want defense? The Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers put on a clinic every night, and there are a bunch of top-flight paint protectors: Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Larry Sanders and Andre Drummond.

    You want playmaking ability? Say hello to Derrick Rose, Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Brandon Jennnings.

    You want competitiveness? Indy and Chicago will duke it out for first place, but the fight for third will be equally intense, and it may also translate to the coveted No. 8 seed in the East.

    D-Rose's return and significant upgrades to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons turned this division into the conference's best.

1. Southwest Division

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    Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

    Playoff Locks: San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies 

    Bubble Teams: New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks

    Top 5 Players: James Harden, Tony Parker, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Marc Gasol & Anthony Davis (Tie)

     

    From top to bottom, the Southwest is pro basketball's best division, sporting a bevy of playoff talent and a strong mix of star power.

    This group has a great chance to send four squads to the postseason, and at the season's tipoff, every team has playoff aspirations. Every other division in the league has at least one non-playoff lock.

    The Southwest boasts rock-solid proven stars like Dwight Howard, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and the Grizzlies' front line. But it also owns some of the best emerging talent in the league, including rising stars James Harden, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Chandler Parsons.

    Even though the San Antonio Spurs are the preseason favorite, this division should be ruggedly competitive throughout the year. 

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