Okay, some people just call ‘em Power Rankings or Team Rankings, but I ain’t some people. I’m just one people. Er, person. Anyway, the reason I’ve phrased it as such is ‘cuz I definitely think some teams will take a bit to round in shape (like how the Spurs regularly gear up in the second half of the season), versus others will come out & steadily play the same throughout the season. And of course there obviously will be injuries and trades throughout the season, so who knows how things will end up? Thus this is just my view of how teams are without any of them having even started training camp. If people like this one, then maybe I’ll do another one after the pre-season when we’ve had a more of a chance to check out this year’s editions of every teams. So here we go…
LakersWill Ron Artest be a bigger distraction than help? Truth is in the regular season it won’t matter. They’re not a grind-it-out defensive team like most of the other top guys so they can just have fun scoring with ease and not need constant focus (which is what happened during a lot of last year)
CavaliersThis spot’s tough to call ‘cuz all the contenders made big changes. But the Cavs rightly have something to prove after last year. Everyone talks about the Shaq acquisition to counter Dwight Howard, but is Shaq that much more mobile on D than Big Z nowadays? What really makes this team much better than last year is the addition of 2 great swingmen in Anthony Parker & Jamario Moon who’ll add more height.
NuggetsThis is my “let’s get people arguing” choice. Has there ever been a team who made it to a Conference Finals in a damn tough conference who was then so summarily dismissed as a contender for the next year? The Nugs’ ears have been burning, giving ‘em a hunger (causing Kmart to recently claim they’ll be even better this year). With their core intact, I expect them to come out strong. That being said, I’m with everyone else in that I expect other teams to surpass them as the season goes along.
HawksAnother shocker. The beginning of the year is all about who comes out the most driven, and often the top teams come in a little entitled. It’s teams like the Hawks that want to make the leap to the big leagues that come out strongest. With the same starting unit and a big upgrade in the bench with Jamal Crawford they have both continuity and a solid reason to believe they’ll be better. Down the road though, the Magic & Celts will easily pass them (not to mention a bunch of the West)
MagicEven though Vince is a better player than Hedo, the Magic pretty much ran their offense through Turk so I think they’ll have trouble out of the gate. That said, never underestimate a Van Gundy. Stan’ll easily have ‘em be a top 3 seed by the end of the season. Unless they suffer a serious injury, no way they’ll ever be this low again.
CelticsIt’s all about KG’s knee. If it’s 100% healthy, then boom this team could even snag the top spot. I love their pickups of ‘Sheed & Marquis Daniels, but with Ray Ray and The Truth getting older, we saw last year they need KG to be in the elite. Once we see KG on court we’ll know more.
MavericksThe pickup of Shawn Marion was huuuge. Yes, he’s spent the past year plus trying to prove to us he’s done-fer, but in both Miami & Toronto they needed a #2, and he’s no #2. When he was in Phoenix everyone but him knew that. Now he can go back to being #4 (or 5) with a PG he knows. This team knows they have a small window & will come out strong.
BlazersMaybe they should be higher ‘cuz they’ve kept their core intact. The only thing is I’m not fully certain that they truly believe they should be contenders, so I don’t see them coming out with a passion to get to the next level. I picture it like how the Hornets fell off the map after 1 year. Except the Blazers haven’t hit their peak yet.
SpursIf I rank the Celts 6
‘cuz of KG’s knee, then I’ve gotta downgrade the Spurs until I see how healthy Duncan & Ginobili are. However I expect them to be good to go down the stretch, and with the wonderful acquisitions of Richard Jefferson & Antonio McDyess (plus the underrated drafting of DeJuan Blair) I expect them to end up #2 in the West and one of the five genuine contenders(w/Lakers, Cavs, Magic & Celts).
SunsPeople cite concerns about A’m’a’re’s health, but he had eye issues & granted they were serious, but if he keeps his rec specs on I can’t imagine the problem returning. With the return to the run’n’gun offense that they’re all so used to, plus with a chip from having missed the playoffs, they’ll come out strong.
BullsYeah, they lost Ben Gordon, but if Deng’s healthy the net result should be zero. Factor in an extra year of seasoning for youngs Rose, Noah, Ty Thomas & particularly coach Vinny Del Negro and there’s no reason to think they couldn’t be fighting for the #4 spot in the east.
WizardsWhaaat? Didn’t these guys win like 2 games last year? And if I’m shoving big asterisks next to the injured KG & TD, shouldn’t there be 2 for Arenas? Maybe, but unlike those guys, Arenas has made it back to the court at this point & supposedly looks great. They’ve got a lot to prove, but this was a 40-win team for a few years before last season. With Mike Miller, Randy Foye & coach Flip Saunders, they only need Arenas to be 75% what he was to reach the 40-mark.
HornetsOkafor’s gonna come into camp pumped to finally be on a winning team, bringing a bunch of energy. Unfortunately, CP3 seemed fed up by coach Byron Scott last year & I’m worried that dissention will ruin the locker atmosphere.
JazzSpeaking of dysfunction, lemme introduce ya to the Jazz. The team & Boozer openly talked about him being gone, but uh, he’s still here & will start at PF. Deron’s said the right things, but you can tell he’s not a big fan of Booze. And Millsap, after being assured of being the Jazz’s PF of the future, how’ll he feel coming off the bench? Jerry Sloan won’t let things get out of hand, but still…
HeatSpeaking of good soldiers saying the right thing, meet Dwayne Wade. He wanted Miami to take the next step forward & they did nothing. After being injured for so long he was out to prove himself with a vengeance. He’ll still be a top 5 player, but I don’t think he can maintain that same intensity all year on a team that’s mediocre.
ClippersMy boys! Even though they’re my 9
ranked team in the West, they’ve got a good shot if things come together. But I ain’t delusional, that’s a big ol’ IF. Boom Dizzle’s been possessed this off-season, Griffin’s looked great, Eric Gordon’s blossomed last year, DeAndre Jordan’s taken a step up, hopefully Kaman & Camby’ll be healthier, and even GM Dunleavy’s done a decent job. But they’ve still got Coach Dunleavy. And the Donald. Plus they’re still the Clips.
RocketsThey’ll come out hard, scrapping for everything like they did in the playoffs after Yao went down, and they’ll catch team off-guard. At the beginning of the year. Then opponents will take Houston for real and the team should drop further down these rankings. Unless Aaron Brooks gets to go up against Derek Fisher for 82 games straight.
RaptorsThe amount of work Bryan Coangelo did re-making this roster was darn impressive. Even more impressive is that much like Nostradamus predicting the future years in advance, Shakespeare wrote a play perfectly describing the Raps’ summer: “Much Ado About Nothing.” Okay, fine the play’s got nothin’ to do with this, but as Shakes also almost said, “The title’s the thing.” The Magic’s whole offense revolved around Hedo, making him a stud. With Calderon running the O, Hedo’ll be fair at best. Plus with Bosh already injured this is a team that’ll come limping out the gates.
SixersI love the hiring of Eddie Jordan, one of the big underrated coaches of the NBA. But the loss of Andre Miller, one of the most underrated PGs in the league will hurt just as much. If Elton Brand can come back and fit in, maybe that’ll compensate a bit.
PistonsPiston fans assume Dumars has some secret hidden plan that explains why he overpaid a SG when he had just given a rich extension to their current SG not six months earlier. Ben Gordon and Villanueva are talented, but they’re also flawed players which is why the two of them struggled in their careers to get and hold onto a starting gig on past teams.
WarriorsIf Captain Jack hadn’t already asked to be traded, they’d be higher up. With Monta healthy for a whole season and Anthony Randolph looking ready to take the next step, it seemed like they’d be better this year. But it sets a bad tone that could ruin a season when yer cap’n says yer team sucks & you’ve yet to play a game. Unless this team starts out on fire & Jack does a 180, he’ll probably be traded and this team will plummet further down the chart.
PacersWill Brandon Rush take that next step? Will Dunleavy Jr be able to return to health (or will he remain as big of a drain as his pop)? If the answer to both those questions is yes, then the Pacers should make the playoffs. If even one of those is no, they’ll be on the outside looking in again.
BobcatsLarry Brown brought them within a few games of the playoffs last year and Chandler will improve their D. Thing is their D was already good; their problem was they couldn’t score. Tyson’ll hurt them there. And while Felton’s said good soldier stuff, after getting a one-year deal if things start to go south will this team still play as one?
ThunderDurant’s turning into a super-stud, and if he played anywhere but Oklahoma City he’d be a star in the league. They ooze talent & showed marked improvement when Scotty Brooks came on board. I expect them to climb this chart.
KnicksI’d assumed they’d suck with Lee & Robinson on 1-yr deals, but the Knicks smartly not only paid them well, but gave them $1 million bonus incentives if the team makes the playoffs. With the two being the longest tenured Knicks on the roster, it should make them feel serious ownership of the team. Maybe these guys’ll improve on last year and be in the fight for a playoff spot.
GrizzliesDespite ranking 26
, this is a team that can go even lower. Unlike the rest of the world, I’m giving Iverson the benefit of the doubt that he’ll be a real team player. He knows this is his last shot at redemption. Unfortunately Zach Randolph won’t feel that way. And with Rudy Gay declining slightly last year due to the arrival of OJ Mayo, I’m concerned both those young guys’ growth will be hindered.
NetsI’m concerned about Harris’ durability with his history of injuries. I’m worried that Rafer Alston won’t be able to deal with being a backup on an awful team. I do however think they got a nice discounted stud in Courtney Lee for Vince. Brook Lopez was great last year, but I’m not sure how much more room for growth he has.
T-WolvesI really didn’t like the Wolves’ trade of Foye & Mike Miller for the #5 pick. It turned out to be Ricky Rubio so in the end they might come out on top with it, but the truth is they probably should’ve ended up with either James Harden or Tyreke Evans, neither of whom is as valuable as the combo of those two guys above. They’re really weak at SG, but I love the Sessions pickup. Al Jefferson’s building up a history of injuries, but if he can stay healthy this season they should move up from here (but still won’t be as good as if they kept those two dudes above).
BucksThe best thing going for Minnesota fans is that both Redd and Bogut were injured last year so they have something to prove. Otherwise management’s summer firesale would’ve been enough to kill the drive of any player. With the hard-driving Skiles in charge, they actually may do better than people expect. Assuming Redd & Boggs can stay healthy.
KingsTyreke Evans might be good, but he’s not a PG so if he turns into a stud then the Kings top two players will both be SGs. The young bigs should improve a bit, but it won’t be enough to prevent them from having a long, long, long, long season.