The NBA’s preseason is in full swing, and, as we count down the days until the games actually count, why not get things started with some nice preseason power rankings?
1. Miami Heat
Miami steamrolled their way to its second-ever NBA title last season, and actually may be even better this time around.
Their offseason may have gotten lost in the shuffle a bit with all of the other big moves, but adding sharpshooters in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis makes the Heat even more imposing heading into this year. Shooting, which had been a bit of a weakness for Miami, is now a tremendous strength.
Oh, and they still have LeBron. That’s somewhat meaningful.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Outside of landing a possible first round steal in Perry Jones III, OKC comes into this season with a roster nearly identical to the one that landed them in the Finals last season.
It should be incredibly frightening to the rest of the league that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are just 24 and 23, respectively.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
Obviously, nobody made a bigger splash during the summer than the Lakers, landing Dwight Howard and Steve Nash via trade.
There are still some big-time question marks on the bench, although they did attempt to shore things up a bit in adding Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, among others.
4. San Antonio Spurs
Every year, the Spurs continue to keep that championship window pried open, despite seemingly having been written-off as viable championship contenders by most.
A fairly deep, young frontcourt (featuring Tiago Splitter, DeJuan Blair and Boris Diaw) should help to keep Tim Duncan’s regular season minutes down, once again, keeping him fresh for the postseason.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers broke through and advanced to the second round of the playoffs last season after the addition of Chris Paul, and look to take things a step further this time around.
The additions of (the hopefully rejuvenated) Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill have the Clippers looking as deep (on paper) as any team in the West.
6. Boston Celtics
No more Ray Allen? No problem, as Boston savvily scooped up veteran guards Courtney Lee and Jason Terry in free agency.
Their frontcourt is looking healthier than it did last season, as well, with the return of Jeff Green and the addition of talented rookie Jared Sullinger.
7. Denver Nuggets
Speaking of depth, the Nuggets have a boatload of it.
They’re as athletic as any team in the league, and the essential swap of Arron Afflalo-for-Andre Iguodala should pay huge dividends for Denver.
8. Indiana Pacers
The pesky Pacers gave the Heat all they could handle in the playoffs last year, and they have a young nucleus that should keep them near the upper-echelon of the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future.
9. Memphis Grizzlies
They lost O.J. Mayo to the Mavericks, but his role had diminished greatly in the past few years anyway, and he likely won’t be too difficult to replace.
Having a fully-healthy Zach Randolph this season will be the key to how far the Grizz can go.
10. New York Knicks
Weird offseason for the Knicks, who may have compiled the most ancient bench unit in the history of the league. New additions Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace have a combined 66 years of NBA experience.
Oh, and they also picked up 35-year-old Argentinian point guard Pablo Prigioni.
11. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers were big players in the Dwight Howard trade, landing mercurial center Andrew Bynum in exchange for shipping the aforementioned Andre Iguodala to Denver.
It’s tough to project how the loss of Iggy will impact the Sixers, but they still maintain one of the youngest, most explosive rosters in the NBA.
12. Dallas Mavericks
Speaking of overhauls, the 2012-13 Mavericks are far different from the 2010-11 unit that won the championship.
Gone are Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd and Ian Mahinmi, and in are Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison.
Dirk Nowitzki has been dealing with a few nagging knee issues, so keep an eye on his status going forward.
13. Brooklyn Nets
They couldn’t land Howard, but the Nets still appear to have improved themselves greatly this offseason.
The moves may be questionable from a monetary perspective (dishing out a combined $100M on Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez while taking on the massive salary of Joe Johnson), but the on-court product should be far superior with the return of Deron Williams, as well.
14. Chicago Bulls
The loss of Derrick Rose obviously hurts the Bulls tremendously, and, barring a late-season return, likely takes them out of the championship hunt this season.
Still, though, under Tom Thibodeau, Chicago won’t be an easy out with their hard-nosed, defensive-minded style.
15. Utah Jazz
The Jazz surprisingly snuck into the playoffs last season as the No. 8 seed before being promptly swept away by the Spurs in the first round.
They added Marvin Williams from the Hawks, as well as a couple of our former Clipper backcourt friends in Mo Williams and Randy Foye. Watching the continuing development of their young, formidable frontcourt should be fun.
16. Atlanta Hawks
This team should still have enough to make the playoffs in the East, but who’s the Alpha Dog here?
17. Golden State Warriors
Potential sleeper playoff team here, assuming they can stay healthy.
Adding Andrew Bogut in exchange for Monta Ellis last year is a potentially brilliant move, and would give the Warriors the formidable big man they’ve been seeking for so long. They also have a pair of exciting young wings in Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves
Ditto for the Wolves, now that they have Ricky Rubio back in the fold following a brutal ACL injury last season.
Kevin Love ranked fourth in the league in scoring last season (26ppg) and only seems to be getting better and better.
19. Milwaukee Bucks
The backcourt dynamic between combo/scoring guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings will be interesting to watch. Big potential for a volatile situation there.
20. Phoenix Suns
The Steve Nash era is finally over, and they’ve replaced him with his former backup, Goran Dragic. Phoenix also added a random mix of other veterans, such as Luis Scola and Michael Beasley.
They have a chance to sneak into the back end of the playoffs, but it’ll be an uphill climb for a team with a completely new identity.
21. Portland Trail Blazers
This may be too high for a team that completely self-destructed in the second half of last year, but they do have some compelling pieces.
LaMarcus Aldridge is a bona fide All-Star, and they also expect huge things from little-known first round pick point guard Damian Lillard.
22. Toronto Raptors
Last year’s first round pick, Jonas Valanciunas, has arrived, and the team expects him to be a franchise centerpiece.
23. Houston Rockets
The Rockets struck out yet again in their attempts to land a superstar, instead adding Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik in free agency, among others.
Rookie guard Jeremy Lamb was born to score, and has the potential to be their sought-after star.
24. Sacramento Kings
Nobody is quite sure what to expect of Tyreke Evans, who has seen his fair share of ups-and-downs since his sensational rookie season in 2009.
25. Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond was one of the more polarizing players in this year’s draft class, tantalizing GMs with his potential but worrying others with his apparent lack of interest.
He’s been highly impressive so far this preseason, and, if he pans out, gives Detroit one of the more scary young frontcourt combos in the league alongside the steady Greg Monroe.
26. New Orleans Hornets
Anthony Davis may never be a 20-points-per-game kind of player, but he already appears ready to make a huge impact on the defensive end, as he did in his only season at Kentucky.
27. Washington Wizards
John Wall will miss the first month of the season, so this team may not be watchable until some time in December.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs surprised many by taking Dion Waiters with the No. 4 overall pick, following one collegiate season during which he didn’t start a game for Syracuse.
Kyrie Irving, however, appears to be a future superstar point guard.
29. Orlando Magic
They’ll be battling it out with the Charlotte Bobcats for the bottom spot in the weakened Southeast Division.
30. Charlotte Bobcats
Ugh. Ben Gordon!
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers, and covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for ProSportsBlogging.com.