Let’s be honest here. No one really knows how this NBA season is going to turn out. It will take weeks, if not months, for teams to figure out who they are how they want to play and it’s a question of when (not if) injuries will begin to mount in this jam-packed schedule.
With that in mind, we’ve divided the initial Power Rankings into tiers beginning with the true contenders all the way down to the lottery-bound cellar dwellers. There will be an immense amount of change in the Power Rankings once the games begin for real and teams begin to separate themselves. Last year’s record are in parenthesis.
Miami (58-24): The Heat have had a year to play together and there are no more excuses for a team with two of the top five players in the league, an All-Star big man and a stronger supporting cast with the addition of Shane Battier. The road to the finals in he East runs through Biscayne Bay Blvd and the West is in the midst of a major reorganization. This is the year for LeBron James to finally break through and bury his demons.
Oklahoma City (55-27): During the playoffs, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook experienced what Rajon Rondo has been dealing with his entire career. When he’s great, they’re practically unbeatable and when he’s off he gets most of the blame. This is also a big year for Kevin Durant, who quietly took a minor step back last season. The Thunder are the anti-Heat and now that they have their playoff legs underneath them, they seem almost predestined to meet in the finals.
Chicago (62-20): The Bulls are just hanging out, quietly bringing back their entire rotation and adding Rip Hamilton to take some of the scoring load of Derrick Rose. The key in this short season is their young and athletic frontline including unheralded Omer Asik and Taj Gibson. The problem is they don’t matchup well with Miami.
OLD AND IN THE WAY
Dallas (57-25): Rather than keep their championship team together to try and squeeze one more title out of their aging core, the Mavericks let Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson and JJ Barea walk and added Lamar Odom for a bag of magic salary cap beans. The Mavs are dangerous as long as Dirk Nowitzki still breathes, but they are also eying next summer when they will have tons of cap space to reload for another run.
LA Lakers (57-25): Speaking of Odom, he’s looking more and more like a straight salary dump, which is curious for a team that almost landed Chris Paul. It’s hard to see what the end game is for a franchise that hired Jason Kapono and Josh McRoberts to play meaningful minutes. Still, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are enough of a foundation to at least make them dangerous.
Boston (56-26): The Celtics are clearly in a transition stage as they added useful complimentary players, but didn’t change the team’s core or address their future. Everyone knows the deal: If Rondo and the Big Three are healthy and happy when May comes around, the Celtics will be the proverbial playoff team that no one wants to play. Beyond that is anyone’s guess.
San Antonio (61-21): No one is talking about the Spurs, which is totally fine with Tim Duncan and company. It’s not like they’ll fall completely off the map, but they’re not likely to be any better this season, either. The Spurs are in a strange kind of limbo: Their potential for disaster isn’t as great as Boston or the Lakers, but their days as a contender are likely over.
Orlando (52-30): As long as Dwight Howard remains, the Magic have to be taken seriously, but if he leaves their roster has disaster written all over it with commitments to players no one else wants. Orlando didn’t address any of its major needs and it’s hard to see how this ends well. (more…)