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Everyone should know how these work by now, so without further ado I bring you the SoB NBA Preseason power rankings.
With the lockout-shortened season resulting in a condensed schedule. the best combination for success seams to be fresh legs and continuity. Keeping that in mind, this is how I ranked each team going into this year.
1) Miami Heat – I’d love to write something negative here, but I can’t. They made the finals last season after a pretty terrible start based on the talent on the team. Add in a whole year together, Shane Battier, and Norris Cole … they aren’t 2/1 odds to win the championship for nothing.
2) Chicago Bulls – Their one weakness was Keith Bogans starting at guard next to Derrick Rose. Now, Rip Hamilton is just about a perfect a fit next to Rose.
3) Oklahoma City Thunder – Another prime example of a team that didn’t do a whole lot during the offseason and didn’t have to. They added Boston College guard Reggie Jackson and lost 30+ pounds of Kendrick Perkins. I like them coming out of the Western Conference.
4) New York Knicks – Tyson Chandler took the Mavericks from pretenders to contenders (did I just say that?), and I think he can do the same for the Knicks. If – and it’s a big fat “If” – Baron Davis can recover from his back injury in time to find his rhythm with the rest of these guys, look out. Oh, and Iman Shumpert!
5) LA Clippers – Yes, I put the Clippers ahead of the Lakers. Again – this is PRE season power rankings. Clippers stole Chris Paul from the Lakers, added Caron Butler, retained DeAndre Jordan, and added Chauncey Billups. Bravo.
6) LA Lakers – Mike Brown + Josh McRoberts – Phil Jackson + Lamar Odom = Angry Kobe Bryant. All kidding aside, I actually like the ADDITIONS the Lakers made. I don’t understand giving Odom away for a trade exception (unless they get Dwight Howard by year’s end), but the addition of McRoberts and rookie Daruis Morris will help. They should be fine, but with both Gasol and Kobe a year older, I see them slipping a bit from last season, not improving.
7) Dallas Mavericks – The defending champs lost their best defender and should now fall back to where they were before they got him. I like what Dallas did after they realized Chandler was gone, bringing in Odom, West, and to a lesser extent an over-the-hill Vince Carter. They will be good, but I don’t think they will have enough to repeat.
8) Memphis Grizzlies – I keep going back and fourth on the Grizzlies. I look at the roster and what they were able to do last season and am immediately impressed. Then I remember that they are the Grizzlies. Logic would tell you that adding a healthy Rudy Gay and rookie Josh Selby would make your team better. The true wildcard this season, they could finish first in the West or miss the playoffs entirely.
9) San Antonio Spurs – This spot is more out of respect for the Spurs than what I actually think could happen to them this year. They didn’t add a whole lot (although I do like Kawhi Leonard quite a bit). They are old. Really old. But they still are the Spurs, and they still have the best coach in the entire league.
10) Boston Celtics – Unfortunately they are in the same boat as the Spurs. Solid team, old team, and a good coach. Losing Jeff Green will hurt. The additions of Keyon Dooling, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, and Jajuan Johnson will give them better depth then they have had in years past, but this teams championship window has just about shut.
After the top 10, things start to get pretty dicey.
11) Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets should be pretty decent. They were able to Keep Nene and Afflalo which where clearly their top two priorities. They have a lot of solid pieces and a good enough coach to make the playoffs.
12) Orlando Magic – I’m putting Orlando here and I’m totally uncomfortable with it. If they lose Howard this could be the worst roster in basketball.
13) Atlanta Hawks – I’d like to see the Hawks do something. They have had the same basic core for a few years now and it hasn’t won them anything. They are good, but what is the long-term plan here? They have just about maxed out their potential. They brought in Tmac though … so they have that going for them.
14) Indiana Pacers – I like Indiana! They added David West (creating a very good big man trio of Hansbrough, West, and Hibbert). They added George Hill. Paul George is a year older…I like what Larry Bird is doing.
15) Portland Trailblazers – Just another solid, solid team. The addition of Jamal Crawford and Ray Felton should help solidify them as a playoff team. Now if Oden could just get healthy…
16) Philadelphia 76ers – They fit the ‘fresh legs, same team’ theme pretty well. They brought back Thaddeus Young and their young players should improve, but Spencer Hawes is still the starting center. Opposing teams, plan accordingly.
17) Houston Rockets – I secretly really like Kevin McHale as a coach. Houston has a solid mix of veterans (Kevin Martin, Louis Scola) and young players (Kyle Lowry, Jordan Hill, Patrick Patterson). They should be right in the mix with about 8 other teams for the final few playoffs spots in the west.
18) Milwaukee Bucks – The Bucks have a lot of young pieces, and when you get to this point in the list you have to start looking for a few little things that separate each team because they are all incredibly close. Bogut is a top-5 center in this league, and I love rookie Tobias Harris. Beno Udrih will also help them, I promise.
19) Sacramento Kings – The Kings are my number one “If they figure it all out” team. DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans both have the potential to be in the top tier of players at their position THIS season. They have great depth at every spot, and they should be able to win more games than they lose. I repeat, they should. Who knows if they will?
20) Minnesota Timberwolves – They have a ton of pieces. Kevin Love is fantastic. Derrick Williams will be in contention for rookie of the year, and they also have Beasley, Rubio, Barea, Ridnour, Johnson … lots of talent.
21) Golden State Warriors – I know they can score, but I don’t know if Mark Jackson can coach or if they can defend. If those two things happen, they can make the playoffs.
22) Utah Jazz – Another team that could either be much better or much worse than #22. They should have a nice rotation of bigs with Jefferson, Favors, Kanter, and Millsap. So good that it makes you wonder if they can improve the rest of their roster by trading one of them.
23) New Jersey Nets – This was a tough team to place. They have a now-injured Brook Lopez and Deron Williams. but beyond that you’re looking at a pretty lackluster roster. If they land Kirlenko that will surely help, and there is also the possibility of landing Dwight Howard.
24) Phoenix Suns – Want to know how much I respect Steve Nash? They are No. 24 despite having one of the more underwhelming rosters in the entire league.
25) Washington Wizards – The success or failure of this team will fall entirely on the shoulders of John Wall. If he can play at an elite level they will be decent.
26) New Orleans Hornets – Once again, PIECES. New Orleans has them. They won’t be great, but they have some players you can build around.
27) Detroit Pistons – I feel for Pistons fans. They are in just about the worst spot you could be in as a franchise. They have some older talent and bad contracts but are just good enough to finish better than the bottom few teams (who all get a shot at a top draft pick).
28) Cleveland Cavaliers – Kyrie Irving should win rookie of the year, and fellow rookie Tristan Thompson should get a lot of playing time. That’s a good place to start your rebuild.
29) Charlotte Bobcats – Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker. I’ll watch them so you don’t have to! Seriously though, they might not be horrible.
30) Toronto Raptors – They will be much better when top pick Jonas Valanciunas joins the team in the next few years. Until then, expect DeMar DeRozan to shoot the ball every time he gets it.
Phew! Expect a shorter version just about every week here on Sports of Boston. Christmas can’t come soon enough!