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NBA Power Rankings:

  • Andy Flint

With the NBA season opening in just a few days, we’ve decided to compile a preseason NBA power rankings system for all 30 teams.

2011-12 Power Rankings: Preseason

1:    Miami

2010-11 Record- 58-24

The Miami Heat finished off the 2010-11 NBA regular season in second place in the Eastern Conference and ended up reaching game 6 of the NBA finals. The newly installed “Big Three” had trouble meshing early on and Erick Spolstra looked confused on how to handle the egos in the beginning. That all changed after a few weeks and the Heat became the dominate force that everyone had predicted they would. The Heat hold 9/4 Vegas odds to win it all in the 2012 Finals.

2:  Dallas

2010-11 Record- 57-25

The older Mavericks unit finally did it last season. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and company found the path to NBA glory and were crowned champs in 6 games. And instead of standing pat, they’ve decided that shaking up their roster was the way to go. Tyson Chandler sought a path to the Big Apple, Caron Butler took a payday from the Clippers and J.J. Barrera headed north to join Minnesota. But the Mavs landed veterans Lamar Odom and Vince Carter to bolster their lineup. I can’t help but feel like they took a step backwards.

3:  Chicago

2010-11 Record- 62-20

I feel like nobody gives the Bulls a shot at winning 60 games again this season. They’re still a solid team, but with the Pacers, Knicks and Heat all improving this season, it sort of looks like Chicago will have a tougher time in the east. While I’m a HUGE fan of their Rip Hamilton pickup, I don’t feel like it was the move to put them ahead of the Miami Heat. Derrick Rose should continue to improve and make another run for league MVP in 2012.

4:  Oklahoma City

2010-11 Record- 55-27

The Thunder are a lot of analysts pick for winning it all this year. Their Vegas odds stand at 15/2 and the extraordinary play of their dynamic duo, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, should help them dominate in 2011-12. This young, fast and extremely gifted Thunder first unit can go toe-to-toe with any five in the NBA. I expect to see their athletic PF, Serge Ibaka, come into his own this year and their other “big”, Kendrick Perkins, showed up to camp 30 lbs lighter. Perkins struggled to run with the fast-paced Thunder last season after coming over from the slower-paced Boston Celtics. Monitor Perkins and his shed pounds because he should get back to being a great contributor this season.

5:  Los Angeles

2010-11 Record- 57-25

The Lakers had to ship Lamar Odom to the Mavericks as an essential salary dump after a botched trade for Chris Paul. Odom’s feelings were hurt and Mitch Kupchak felt the best move was to send the reigning 6th man of the year to the defending champion, Mavericks. They also missed out on landing Chris Paul and haven’t made any significant moves thus far. They also lost Phil Jackson to retirement and Shannon Brown to free agency. Lucky for them they still have Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol (for now). What the Lakers will need in order to compete is either a big move to bring in Dwight Howard or a healthy and productive season from Andrew Bynum.

6:  Boston

2010-11 Record- 56-26

The whole world is quietly waiting for the inevitable fall from grace that the Boston Celtics will undoubtedly experience sooner or later. Boston’s “Big Three” is getting up there in age and it doesn’t really seem like Danny Ainge is confident with Rajon Rondo’s ability to carry this team as a relevant contender once Pierce, KG and Ray Allen are gone. Boston missed out on David West and they weren’t able to snag Chris Paul. The only real move they made was trading Glen Davis for Brandon Bass, which is about as puzzling as it gets if you’re a Boston or Orlando fan. I feel like the Celtics have one last run left in the tank. Barring any major setbacks this season, they can still contend with anyone over a seven game series.

7:  Los Angeles

2010-11 Record- 32-50

Whoa, did the Clippers just become the scariest 32 win team in the NBA? I do believe they did. Their future was already starting to shape up pretty nicely with the highlight reel that is Blake Griffin. They have that young, athletic center in DeAndre Jordan and now they’ve added Caron Butler, Chauncy Billups and…. Wait for it… Chris Paul.. THAT JUST HAPPENED! Excuse my excitement, but nailing the trade that sent CP3 to the other Los Angeles area team is very exciting to me. Remember Baron Davis to Blake Griffin? Can you even begin to imagine how much better Blake is going to get because of Chris Paul? This is special stuff, people. They’ve also become a defensive problem for teams out west. Their three new additions (Paul, Billups and Butler) are all great defenders and nobody is going to question this team offensively.

8:  New York

2010-11 Record- 42-40

The Knicks improved their defensive prowess by signing Tyson Chandler to a big deal. They lost Chauncy Billups in the process and ended up with Mike Bibby. I’m kind of indifferent about this whole deal because I feel that you need a reliable point guard in the NBA. But the fact remains that the Knicks own two of the league’s strongest scorers in Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Their Vegas odds stand at 18/1 and fans in NYC are feeling good about their Knicks once again. Working within the Mike D’Antoni system will surely produce tons of scoring for this unit in 2011-12. Can Melo and Amar’e combine for 50+ per game?

9:  Orlando

2010-11 Record- 52-30

The Magic are a team in a desperate situation, as their superstar center, Dwight Howard, looks to be on his way out. But as long as they have Howard, this team remains to be a top caliber opponent. Orlando lacks some depth, but their starting five seems to be about the same as it’s been for the past 4 years. This team (with Howard) is a continuous 50+ win squad and I expect none of that to change with Howard in pinstripes. The thing to watch is Howard trades. The second Dwight Howard gets shipped off is the moment Orlando will likely lose its competitive capability.

10:Portland

2010-11 Record- 48-34

The Trail Blazers are an interesting team to me. They’ve lost Brandon Roy in a saddening turn of events, but they’ve also watched LaMarcus Aldridge blossom into a top 10 power forward. I’d also expect Gerald Wallace to take on a greater role and the new addition of Raymond Felton should help shape these guys into a tougher contender. These guys should be tough on both ends of the ball and I’d look for their pace to turn it up a bit without Andre Miller and Brandon Roy. Portland has been one of the slower-paced teams on offense for the past few seasons, but I look for Raymond Felton to bring some of his early 2010 spark he had with the Knicks over and speed this team up a lot. The addition of the sharp-shooting, Jamal Crawford, is also sure to supply new energy on offense.

11: Memphis

2010-11 Record- 46-36

The Grizzlies went on a playoff terror in 2011, as they rolled over the #1 seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Nobody expected that and the most promising fact about the playoffs for Memphis is that they did all of this without Rudy Gay. We also saw the emergence of Zach Randolph. Randolph has always been a double-double machine, but he always lacked the winning edge and I truly believe he finally found it. Rudy Gay slipping back into the lineup for 2011-12 won’t hurt this re-energized Memphis squad. I expect the play of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to continue to grow and for Memphis to be playoff bound.

12: San Antonio

2011-12 Record- 61-21

The Spurs remain labeled as the “old dogs” of the NBA. They started off red-hot last season and managed to finish with 60+ wins, only to be toppled by the 8 seed in the first round? I feel like it mostly had to do with their age. The Grizz were the young, hungry team who just out-worked San Antonio throughout the course of the series. I believe that with Tim Duncan, Manu Giniboli and Tony Parker the Spurs will still stack up the wins, but whether they will hold up for an entire season and playoffs is the big question.

13: Denver

2010-11 Record- 50-32

The Nuggets were able to resign Nene but will be without Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith until at least March. Chandler and Smith both inked deals with China teams during the NBA lockout and must have forgotten to plan an exit strategy. Denver recently secure Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer from the Mavericks and will hope to see continued improvement from both Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson. I don’t feel like Denver will win as much as they did last season, but I feel they’re still a playoff bound unit.

14: Atlanta

2010-11 Record- 44-38

The Hawks have instilled a new confidence in Josh Smith heading into this season and maybe that will finally translate into Smith opening up and displaying his full potential. The Hawks lost Jamal Crawford to Portland in free agency, but managed to keep the rest of their core in-tact. I’m not sure that their record will really differ much from last season, but expect to see these guys in the post-season.

15: Indiana

2010-11 Record- 37-45

Expect an improvement from the Pacers this season. The big-time addition of David West should help vault this team to the next level. I’d also expect to see increased game from Roy Hibbert, Darren Collison and Tyler Hansbrough in 2011-12. I’d expect to see them reach .500.

16:Sacramento

2010-11 Record- 24-58

I don’t think the Kings are ready to compete for a playoff birth yet. But they will improve over that 24-58 record they had last season. Expect Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins to keep getting better and to eventually develop into a very dangerous tandem in the NBA. Jimmer Fredette is going to supply a nice increase in fan attendance and possibly a nice scoring option off the bench for the Kings.

17: Milwaukee

2010-11 Record- 35-47

Unlike the Kings, I do expect the Bucks to compete for a playoff birth this season. Now we all understand that the competition in the west is tougher than the east, so that is my justification for raking them a spot lower than the Kings. I like Milwaukee’s core of Jackson, Bogut and Jennings, but I feel as if Stack-Jack is merely a stop-gap, versus a longtime solution and Bogut is already 27 years old. The time for them to try and compete may be now.

18:Utah

2010-11 Record- 39-43

The Utah Jazz have the parts compete for a playoff spot, but it just doesn’t feel like they know or understand it. They do have a plethora of youngsters making up their roster and this team could be fun if they get it all going. Loaded with a massive depth at the 4 and 5, players like Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap and young “bigs” with crazy upside in Derrick Favors, rookie center, Enes Kanter, can make this team tough in the bigger, stronger western conference. Devin Harris is their primary guard player, but the Jazz have recently added Jamal Tinsley and Villanova standout, Scottie Reynolds. I won’t promise much, but this team could be tough!

19:Golden State

2010-11 Record- 36-46

The Warriors are another team with talent in all the wrong places. The back court of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry haven’t really seemed to gel like I figured they would, and the addition of David Lee didn’t really make much of an impact. I feel like the Warriors should put everyone except Curry on the block and start a rebuild before he’s 4 or 5 years in and decides he wants to play in a larger market.

20:Philadelphia

2010-11 Record- 41-41

I think a full season of Deron Williams could be enough for the Nets to leapfrog the 76ers in the Atlantic division. Philly seems to be on the outs with their star, Andre Iguodala and I’m not sure what Evan Turner will provide down the road. I believe they have talent on their roster, just not enough to make a difference.

21:New Jersey

2010-11 Record- 24-58

I feel like Deron Williams is a guy who will elevate the play of everyone around him and bring the Nets closer to .500. Remember that you don’t need to actually reach .500 to play in the post season out east. The big question that will remain for the (Brooklyn) New Jersey Nets is… Will they secure Dwight Howard? If they do. I feel that this team becomes an instant contender.

22:Phoenix

2010-11 Record- 40-42

The Suns are a team with only one superstar and he’s 37. Steve Nash will have a tough time making this collection of drifters and young bucks win 35 games. Grant Hill resigned, but he’s even older than Nash. Phoenix should deal Nash to a team who can compete and start the rebuilding process.

23:Minnesota

2010-11 Record- 17-65

I think a lot of people may actually be surprised by the T-Wolves this season. They’re not going to make the playoffs, but they’ll likely supply a nice dose of fun play and will surely improve on their league-worse 17-65 record from last year. Kevin Love shed some weight in the off-season and the addition of Ricky Rubio will add an instant pass-first mindset from the point guard position in Minnesota.

24:Detroit

2010-11 Record- 30-52

Rip Hamilton has finally left the building and Tayshawn Prince remains as the sole survivor from the championship Piston squad from the early 2000’s. Well Ben Wallace is there, but he doesn’t count because he left and then came back. I’m not sure what makes Prince stay in Detroit. Is he the last of the loyal players in the NBA? On the bright side, Austin Daye and Brandon Knight looked good in their first preseason appearance, but overall the Pistons aren’t very good.

25:Washington

2010-11 Record- 23-59

A) Why haven’t the Wizard amnestied Rashard Lewis? B) Are the Wizards going to amnesty Rashard Lewis? C) The Wizards are CRAZY if they don’t amnesty Rashard Lewis. Listen, I like Rashard Lewis a lot, but it’s not secret that he’s taken a step back ever since he was busted for using a performance enhancing agent. He can still add something special to a contender. He’s just not worth anything remotely close to the $21 Million he’ll get this season. John Wall is your future. Hurry up and build around him with smart contracts or prepare to lose him when he becomes a free agent.

26:Houston

2010-11 Record- 43-39

I’m not sure how settled things are in Houston, but we can probably expect a shake-up sometime in between now and the trade deadline. The Rockets don’t seem particularly attached to any specific players on their roster, which normally translates into a trade of some sort. Scola and Kevin Martin are their best trading chips and will likely be on the block throughout much of the season.

27:Toronto

2010-11 Record- 22-60

Toronto is one of the many NBA teams who is in need of a full-scale rebuild. Jose Calderon is getting up there in age (already) and their center, Andre Bargnani, plays like a small forward. They have some other less-than-desirable names on their roster and I’m not even sure where they’d start. DeMar DeRozen looks like their safest bet as a catalyst for the future, but I’m not even 100% sure where his ceiling is. It looks like it’ll be another tough season for Toronto fans.

28:New Orléans

2010-11 Record- 46-36

Talk about going from a possible (non-contending) playoff team to a complete mess if only a few days. Once Chris Paul had his mind made up that he wasn’t staying with the Hornets, that was pretty much the moment they went from having a shot at playoffs to just another team winning 20-something games. Eric Gordan is a nice, young piece for the Hornets, but they’ll need much more before they can get back on track. New Orléans also lost it’s only other noticeable face in David West, to free agency and they are in a full rebuild mode until further notice.

29: Cleveland

2010-11 Record- 19-63

The Cavs had two picks in the top 5 this past year and they used them on UNC’s Kyrie Irving (#1) and Texas’ Tristan Thompson (#4). These two should supply nice blocks to build around, but It’s hard for me to see either of them being the superstar Cleveland needs to replace LeBron James. The Cavs first order of business should be separating themselves from Antawn Jamison and the unattractive $15 Million he’s owed this season.

30:Charlotte

2010-11 Record- 34-48

This team is just two years removed from the playoffs and they’ve now entered a rebuild. Captain Jack is gone, Gerald Wallace is gone and Raymond Felton is gone. They drafted, standout, UCONN guard, Kemba Walker who will give them a piece to build with. But he’s likely not their franchise player. Corey Maggette gets the chance to shine as this team’s big-time scorer and he and Boris Diaw remain as the only two large contracts on their roster. Charlotte looks to have their funds in place to start fresh.

 

 

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Andy Flint

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