It's been an exciting summer. There was a huge Eastern Conference shakeup, and a lot of the top free agents opted to move around, making this an exciting time in the NBA.
Within the next 2 years, the major superstar teams of the 2000-2010 decade are going to be obsolete, and the new era of elite teams is going to begin.
With all of those changes, here are my first power rankings of the year.
Are the Cavaliers really the biggest losers of the offseason? Or does that fall to the Raptors, who lost Chris Bosh. Well, the Raptors only went from bad to worse this offseason, and only having the 13th pick didn't allow them to get much better. I don't see a great record at all in their future, especially not any time soon.
While I do like the selection of Greg Monroe, I don't like the Pistons odds this season. They are a messy team right now, and while they have some quality players, when it's not meshing well, it doesn't result in a great record.
A lot of rankings this offseason still say that the Cavs are going to be an okay NBA team. While no one has put them in the playoffs, I think they're going to be terrible.
Mo Williams is really their go-to guy now, and though Jamison had some good years, and JJ Hickson will have some in the future, it's not a great squad now that LeBron, Z, and Shaq are gone. Gee, maybe that's why LeBron left?
John Wall, please prove me wrong.
This is a bad NBA team. Gilbert is not going to have a great season this year, and the supporting cast isn't very good around Arenas and Wall. Unless Howard or McGee have breakthrough years, the Wizards are a team that consists of 2 star point guards.
And nothing else.
It's hard to know where to put the Timberwolves.
I think this is as high as they'll go in any power rankings, but you could predict them as a higher team. Power Rankings are rankings of the current outlook of the team, and this is as high as that is for the Wolves.
Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer, Nikola Pekovic, and Darko Milicic could all have breakout years, and it'll only take 2-3 of those players to build a way better season, and the good news is most of those players are built for the triangle offense.
However, the way the Wolves currently look is bad. Bottom 5 team bad.
I get that this is a new team. New coach, new owner, and those things make big differences.
But this team won 12 games last year. It has to be taken in to consideration that that is a very, very low number. Harris, Lopez, and Williams couldn't win 13 games. Are the additions of Favors, Murphy and Outlaw really good enough to win them dozens more?
I don't think so. Favors was a great draft pick, but Travis Outlaw and Troy Murphy aren't team changing players. And this is a team that needed team changing players.
I don't know what's going on with the Pacers.
For the past 5 years, they've had a ton of players that have all played at around the same level. Collison was a good pickup, but they still lack an amazing presence. Darren and Danny both feel like players who are 2nd best players on a team. That doesn't help much.
This team needs a true All-Star callibur player before they can become playoff bound. They need to package 4-6 of their so-so players and get a great post player, and then they'll start moving up.
For now, Indiana is still a way below 40 win team.
Remember last year when the Timberwolves needed a point guard, then acquired 3? That reminds me of the Kings.
The Kings had a great combo guard, and needed a great center. So they acquired 3.
The Kings are now left with a team with too many Centers, one wing, and no point guard. I love the potential of Cousins and Evans, but that's two players. This a team with a great base, with a lot of holes. They should make a deal with the Pacers, who are basically the exact opposite team.
They finally made the playoffs.
Then, whoopsie, they lost their starting Center and Point Guard. My call says that that makes them a mediocre team again.
While they're covered on the wings, it seems like the Bobcats now have major holes in the other positions. Diaw and Augustine can play at high levels, but they both need to on this aging team for them to get anywhere at all.
With those major losses though, my gut tells me that they'll miss the playoffs, and won't be close either. This does mean they'll beat 5 Eastern Conference teams, but they're closer to the bottom 5 than the top 5.
New Orleans got slightly better in the off season.
They needed to get rid of Collison, if they wanted to retain Chris Paul, and I think that was a smart decision. They could've gotten a little more value for him, but I also think they wanted to unload James Posey in the process.
Chris should come back from his injury strong, and the rest of the Hornets are looking to be in okay shape. They could go into the playoffs if they came out of the gate strong, but they could also be a bottom team in the West as well. It's too tough to tell right now.
The Suns did everything in their power to gain some players after Amar'e left for New York. And while they acquired talent, I don't think they acquired what they needed.
If they wanted to succeed the way they did last year, they'd need an Amar'e replacement. And while I like the talent of Childress and Turkoglu, I don't know how much that's going to help. Turkoglu doesn't provide Amar'e's strength, and Childress just isn't necessary.
I thought they could either rebuild, or find a different Amar'e. They did neither, and that makes me question how they're going to do.
I think everyone hates Evan Turner suddenly.
If Evan Turner plays like the #2 pick, or even the #6 pick, the 76ers will improve. They've been relying on Andre Iguodala too much, and while he can perform, he's been needing help from a guy like Turner.
Hawes will be a good center for the club, and if Brand can perform, they'll be a pretty good team this year. I like the blend they have going.
They just can't shoot, is the problem.
Out of all of the teams in the West, I think the Warriors pulled their holes the best out of all 15 teams.
Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry were too offensively minded, and too small to match up against great wing players. Enter Ekpe Udoh, a defensive stopper who is closer to a power forward than a shooting guard.
They also needed a star power forward to provide them with a threat in the post. Here comes David Lee, who was an All-Star for the first time last year, coming off his best season ever.
I think they addressed their two biggest issues perfectly. I think they still have a year to go, but the future is bright, and if Andris Biedrins can play the way he has in the past, the future could be now for the Warriors.
Congrats to the Grizzlies on retaining their star, Rudy Gay for a high price. It was a move that needed to happen, and was going to drive their team straight downwards if it didn't.
Apologies to the fans with playoff hopes, however, as the Grizzlies didn't really improve in the offseason. Their biggest move was retaining Rudy Gay, and while Randolph is coming off a terrific season, I don't see that happening twice in a row. They still need a better point guard than Conley, and the small roster upgrades are going to leave them right were they were last year.
About 40 wins, 10 shy of making the playoffs.
The Clippers didn't hit big in the offseason, and they didn't need to. Blake Griffin has still yet to make his NBA debut, and he really does make all of the difference. He's projected as a player who can lead a team to 50+ wins, and with a supporting cast of Kaman, Gordon, Fariq Aminu, and Davis, he's got a good shot at it.
I still say it may take one more year until the Clippers make the playoffs. Unlike the East, none of the Western Conference power houses are slipping, except the Suns, so unless the Spurs are struck too hard by age, the Clippers are going to sit right where the Rockets were last year. Which is still a good position too be in, don't get me wrong.
One more year, Spurs. That's all I'm going to give you.
Arguably the best team of the 2000-2010 decade doesn't have a bright future ahead for the next 10 years. Their dynasty player, Tim Duncan, is reaching the end of his run, Tony Parker has an expected departure, and that only leaves a 33 year-old Manu Ginobli to run the team.
However, that is next year, and while they're still retaining those guys at somewhat of a high level, they'll be out of the playoffs this year, or the year after.
Did you enjoy it while it lasted, San Antonio?
It's hard to place the Knicks right now.
First of all, you can't even find a team photo with 2 current players in it. Secondly, it's hard to judge how Amar'e will do on his own. Same goes for Raymond Felton, who'll be joining Amar'e in a bigger role in NYC. They've overpaid big names for years now, and it seems as though this could be no exception.
However, it seems as though every upcoming free agent wants to join the Knicks as the only team with the possibility of beating the Heat, and so Carmelo Anthony or CP3 or Tony Parker could see their Knicks arrivals as soon as this year, if their teams get wise before the deadline.
We'll see about the Knicks, although it's a tough call to see where they stand.
Yao Ming or no Yao Ming, I think the Rockets will be in the playoffs this year. A team that was only 8 games out last season has the ever improving Aaron Brooks, the new Kevin Martin, and a great supporting cast with some new draft pick additions, and the newly acquired Courtney Lee to replace the ineffective Trevor Ariza.
Don't sleep on the effectiveness of Jordan Hill, Brad Miller, Chase Budinger, or Kyle Lowry though. They can help the Rockets make a little push to not only bring them to the offseason, but possibly in a high seed, maybe even 5.
Fear the Deer indeed.
The Bucks turned out to be the dark-horse team in the east last season. However, with the upgrade of the Heat and Bulls, they shouldn't be looking at moving up in the Eastern Conference more than one or two spots.
The East will be dominated by the Heat, and the Magic, Bulls, Celtics, and Hawks will all be competing for the 2-3 spots.
I think the Bucks will fall in right below all of those teams at the same spot they were in last year. A comfortable 6th place in the East, ready to take a higher slot after the decline of Boston and Atlanta.
They've upgraded enough to stay consistent with the rest of the improving East, but not enough to say they'll be moving up in the rankings.
The Jazz are another odd team to rank.
Like the Knicks, they are almost a completely new team, keeping Deron Williams, and finding new pieces to add around him after loosing other major contributers.
Still, with Millsap, Okur, and Williams still on the squad, it's a safe bet that they'll at least be playoff bound. Jefferson is a player who couldn't thrive in his system last year, but has star potential. Hayward is just the Jazz's lucky lottery pick, and Bell was a good pickup too.
The real question is how good will they be?
I completely and utterly accept any criticism I may get for this.
I just feel like the Thunder aren't good enough yet to automatically list them as the 2nd seed in the West as others have. Kevin Durant had a breakout year, which was shown by the Thunder's seeding in the West, and at the 8th seed (which was really tied for 6th), they gave the Lakers a bit of a first round scare.
However, I don't know how good the Thunder are really going to be this year. On one hand, they were only 5 games away from 2nd place, and only improved in the offseason. On the other hand, to say that they're improvements will win them those 5 games may be overdoing it a little bit. Especially when they won 50 games all ready.
This is a "believe it when I see it" circumstance. I think the Thunder have the potential to be the 2nd seed this year in the West. But they haven't proven it, and they haven't improved enough to say that it's likely.
A city covered in snow is on thin ice.
Carmelo Anthony isn't accepting his extension offer, and now the team is wondering what too do with their biggest star. For the time being, it looks like Anthony will be in Denver for the season though.
So we'll look at this year. Al Harrington is going to play well for the Nuggets, and Lawson should be able to add onto his performance from last year. This was a team that was one game away from being the third seed in the West, and two away from 2nd. With some continued good play, and the fall of the Phoenix Suns, the Nuggets should be able to find a good seed in the West.
Still, it's the Melo situation that has everyone in Denver biting their nails, and with most of their major contributers after Anthony over 30, it won't look good if he leaves.
The team that tied for the 6th seed, and actually was the 6th seed.
The Blazers are looking to get better. They're an extremely young playoff team, and drafting Luke Babbit, and Elliot Williams will only help them. Oden has pretty much injured everything he possibly can, and is hoping to have a solid, healthy season.
If Oden can accomplish that then the Blazers should see their highest seed yet in the Roy era.
The Hawks paid Joe Johnson big money to stay, and there's a huge reason why. He's the reason that the Hawks are an elite team in the league, and without him, they'd be crushed.
They're still looking for options better than Mike Bibby, but their core is still solid. It seems like they're getting older, but Crawford is only 30, Johnson is only 29, and Al Horford, Marvin Williams, and Josh Smith are under 25.
They've still got 4-5 more years left in the tank in ATL, and the Hawks only improved in the summer by drafting Jordan Crawford. If Teague can become an NBA starter, then maybe they can move Bibby to the bench, or to a different team. The East is becoming better than the West, and they'll need more of an improvement to keep up.
So many years among the elite in the West, and yet still some time to go. Soon there won't be a Jason Kidd, but the seemingly old Mavericks only contain two players 33 or older: Tim Thomas, and Jason Kidd. That means that Butler, Marion, Nowitzki, Chandler, Terry, and Haywood all still have some gas left in the tank.
The Mavericks should still be super powers in the West, despite the amazing new Eastern Conference. They're questionable in the playoffs after dropping out in round 1, but Chandler is definitely an upgrade at center. It's a tough call to how good the Mavericks are, but they're still among the top teams in the West.
The Bulls got Carlos Boozer in free agency as a 2nd prize to LeBron, Bosh, and Wade. He was a player that they needed, though so the Bulls do have a bright outlook.
Ranking them in the top 5 may be putting them a little high, but I think they've got a great future ahead of them. They're one of the few elite teams that is actually getting younger, and despite they're large gap at the other guard position, the Bulls are stacked at 4/5 starting roles.
If they can find a way to fill that starting 2 guard spot, the Bulls will do wonders this season.
Ever since the Magic took down the Cavs to go to the Finals, they've been considered one of the top 5 teams in the league. I don't know if that title is going to go anywhere anytime soon.
Carter is aging, and so is Lewis, but Dwight Howard at 24 years old is just starting to peak. The Magic should have no shortage of elite players trying to join their roster, so when the combined $37 million of Carter and Lewis expire in 2012, and 2013, respectively, they'll become even better.
For now, however, the Magic will sit upon either the 2nd or 3rd seed in the East once again, and may be one of the only possible teams to take down their Florida rival Heat.
Enjoy it while it lasts, boys.
The signings of Jermaine and Shaquille O'Neal show that the Celtics have got one more season left in them. Those upgrades should give them enough to be a little higher than the 4th seed, and could push them into the finals.
They've got quite a few road blocks to stop them from a ring, however. They'll need to go through the Magic and the Heat before they can even reach the defending champion Lakers.
It's a tough road ahead, but this veteran squad is well equipped to give this thing one last shot. They're the veteran underdog, now let's see if they can produce.
It's a tough call. We all know this is a tough call.
Let's face it though, the Heat are an absolutely incredible team. It's going to take a lot for them to beat the Lakers in the finals, if they get there, but the Lakers just don't have the same look for next season as the Heat.
Part of this is that the Lakers weren't even great in the regular season. They had fewer wins then the Magic, and were only the NBA Champions by a few points. Being a playoff team lead them to an NBA Championship, and having the Cavs and Magic knocked off made it a little easier.
But the Lakers are an amazing team as well. You have to admit that being the #2 team in the league at any period is a great ranking. They are basically like team #1b, in that they are more proven than the Miami Heat, but don't have anywhere near their potential.
Like I said last slide, the Heat are like 1a, and the Lakers are like 1b.
There are two ways to look at the Lakers and the Heat. The Heat are projected to be a lot better than the Lakers, but the Lakers are a proven great NBA team, and therefore are the defending Champions.
The Heat are right now the team with the best outlook for the upcoming season. They've got so much hype, so much talent, and so much to prove. They're unproven, but they soon won't be. It's hard to say which team for certain is #1 when there hasn't been a game played yet, but you can't argue that the Heat look simply incredible right now.