Here is part 2 of my future NBA power rankings. You can read part 1 here if you missed it.
Remember that this includes the next three years, so it doesn't include five years from now when the Nets and Kings will probably be good and the Celtics and Mavericks will probably be rebuilding, but does include next year.
Also, keep in mind that you would have to pay a monthly fee to read articles like this from the experts (I wish my job was to watch basketball and talk to inside sources all the time so I could be an expert) on ESPN ;-)
Whether it's teams that are rebuilding and on the cusp of contention or teams that are in contention but on the cusp of rebuilding, these are the teams that make up the middle of the pack in my future rankings.
11. Boston Celtics
The Celtics have to be considered one of the elite teams for now since they are the reigning Eastern Conference champs. But they're age is catching up to them, and it is only through defense, veteran savvy, and good coaching that keeps them in the thick of things for now. They have a small opening right now if Shaq, Jermaine O'Neal, and the rest of their new additions fit in well and if they aren't hit too hard by injuries.
After the next two years though, they're probably finished with this championship era. Many of their key players, as well as their coach, may be gone and the rest will be older. Rajon Rondo is a bright spot though and they can build around him in the future.
Key Piece: Father Time
12. Dallas Mavericks
For years now, the Mavericks have been a top regular season team, but haven't been able to succeed in the playoffs. The closest they got was their Finals appearance against the Heat in 2006. If they are going to succeed in the future, they need to take it to the basket more and shoot fewer jump shots.
They are the oldest team in the league and I believe the title window has closed for this group, they'll need to add pieces to get over the hump. Dirk Nowitzki's staying power and Mark Cuban's wallet are the only reasons they aren't lower on this list. The potential last year's rookie, guard Roddy Beaubois, showed is also a bright spot for them.
Key Piece: Mark Cuban's bank account
13. Milwaukee Bucks
Last year, the Bucks were one of the most surprising team. They were led by rookie point guard Brandon Jennings and center Andrew Bogut, who was having a breakout year before a freak injury at the end of the season. They say that point guard and center are the most important positions to fill, once they added John Salmons, a good wing scorer and defender, along with some role players, they had a pretty good team. Coach Scott Skiles is also a top NBA coach.
They had an interesting offseason, adding vets like Corey Maggete and Drew Gooden. If they can fit in smoothly and if Bogut makes a full recovery, they could be dark horse contenders in the East. There is a chance that the chemistry won't work out, but with Skiles at the helm and with plenty of depth, I wouldn't count this team out.
Key Piece: Andrew Bogut
14. San Antonio Spurs
Spurs stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli are not getting any younger. The Spurs have extended their life span though, by adding good young players like George Hill and DeJaun Blair, and this year adding rookies James Anderson and Tiago Splitter. Richard Jefferson should also fit in more smoothly in his second year on the team. I wouldn't expect them to do great in the regular season, but they have been known to sacrifice a little during the season to give their older stars much-needed rest.
You never can really count the Spurs out during the Duncan-Popovich era, but that may soon be coming to a close. The main concerns for this team will be age, injury, and the potential for star point guard Tony Parker to depart next year. But with some of the best management in the league, the Spurs should be able to remain in the playoffs for a couple more years.
Key Pieces: The young guns (Splitter, Blair, Hill, and Anderson)
15. Washington Wizards
The Wizards could potentially be a surprise team this year. Even if not, they certainly have the potential to be a good team in the future, led by 1st pick John Wall. If yesterday's star guard Gilbert Arenas can mesh well and take a secondary role, that would help them a lot. A backcourt of Wall and Arenas would be difficult to defend. Bigs Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee have taken steps forward. Veteran Kirk Hinrich can provide some leadership.
If everyone has their attitudes in the right place, the Wizards may have been through one of the shortest rebuilding periods ever.
Key Piece: Gilbert Arenas and John Wall
16. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are difficult to predict, they definitely have some good talent in Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, and Marc Gasol. But they also have some problems, their owner is one of the worst, as evidenced by his unwillingness to pay his 1st rd. picks full price. All-star forward Zach Randolph has problems, on and off the court (including ball-hogging and and drugs). They should try and add some veterans soon if they want to be a playoff contender.
They certainly have enough pieces to make a good run, especially if they sign their rookies and some of the young players develop. I am not sure if they have the right chemistry, coach, and owner to make it work. This team is a serious wildcard. Can Rudy Gay step up as the leader of this team coming off of his max contract and his play with Team USA this summer? Any team with "Z-Bo" as their leader is in sorry shape.
Key Piece: Rudy Gay
17. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers looked like they had a mess on their hands last year. They had an OK team, but not the right mix of players and not the right system. Then they hired coaching great Doug Collins and landed the 2nd pick in the draft. Now they have a very talented young core of Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, Louis Williams, Jrue Holliday, and Marreese Speights. Add that to semi-star Andre Iguodala, and overpaid former star Elton Brand, both of whom I could see having better years this year,and some solid role players. This team could be a surprise this year and will only get better in the next few years. They also now have solid management with Rod Thorn in place.
Potential downfalls for this team could include a lack of shooting and injuries.
Key Piece: Evan Turner
18. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers would've been much lower on this list before they acquired Darren Collison. Although they are probably a year and a couple moves away from the playoffs, things are finally looking up. They have the three most important pieces in place, a point guard (Collison), a center (Roy Hibbert), and a star (Danny Granger). Draft pick Paul George also has sky-high potential
With a combination of player development, a good draft pick, and a key acquisition or two, they will soon be on their way to the playoffs. Hibbert will have to learn to stay out of foul trouble if they are going to make any noise in the East.
Key Piece(s): Roy Hibbert and GM Larry Bird
19. Los Angeles Clippers
On paper the Clips have a very talented team. On paper doesn't always work for this "cursed" franchise though. They have three talented rookies in Blake Griffin, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Erick Bledsoe and two talented young returning players in Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan. In addition they have all-star big Chris Kaman and inconsistent, sometimes-star point guard Baron Davis. Unfortunately, they also beat out the Grizzlies for worst owner.
If all goes well for this talented team, they could make a playoff run this year. All going well would be a first for this franchise though. They will need Griffin to live up to expectations, Gordon to breakout, and Davis to play well. They also need top avoid many major injuries.
Key Piece: Blake Griffin
20. Sacramento Kings
A couple of years ago, the Kings had just about nothing going for them. Coming out of the Bibby-Webber era they didn't have much beyond Kevin Martin. Fast forward a few good drafts and trades later, and they have one of the most talented teams in the league. Led by ROY Tyreke Evans, their core consists of DeMarcus Cousins, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, Omri Casspi, and Beno Udrih.
Much hinges on Cousins, can he become one of the top centers, which he has the potential to be, or a drag on the whole team, which he also has the potential to be? They also need some wing help and veteran leadership. They are in the mix for a potential 2012 playoff bid.
Key Piece: DeMarcus Cousins
Be sure to stay tuned for the conclusion of the future rankings!