2012-13 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week
1. Miami Heat: The reigning champions get the nod for the number one spot and I will bet they will continue to beast everyone and everything in their path on route to a back-to-back title. LeBron James is no doubt the best basketball player on Earth and will have another MVP-like season. Having Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh healthy isn’t too bad either and adding Ray Allen make the Heat even more deadly.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: The West looked like it belongs to the Thunder until they surprisingly shipped James Harden in exchange for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb. Kevin Durant is still the second best player behind LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are a deadly combo as Martin is now on an elite team and should add some more firepower offensively. I still give the two spot to them even with the trade, the Lakers will see them in the West Finals which will be their ultimate test.
3. Los Angeles Lakers: Yes the Lakers have one of the most impressive and mouth-watering starting-five in the league and the busiest off-season hoping for one more title before Kobe Bryant hangs up the Nikes for good. It’ll be very interesting how Dwight Howard and Steve Nash fit into Bryant’s system and if Bryant learns to pass the ball rather than take a bunch of shots and how even the distribution of offense will work. We remember how long it took the Heat in 2010 to find a happy medium and to adjust, can the Lakers go all the way or will they stumble looking for footing?
4. San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs will be called “old” while playing in a young league yet again as Tim Duncan and Manu are showing their age. I love their talented group with shooting guard Kawhi Leonard poised to have a breakout year. The Spurs are one of the most smartest clubs with Coach Pop at the helm and will find a way to maintain home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
5. Denver Nuggets: A true dark horse to make serious noise, the Nuggets added Andre Iguodala from the Dwight Howard trade and will compete for the top four seeds in the West just as long as the James Harden trade over in OKC proves to be a disaster and they can swoop the division. Denver has always played a high-octane offensive leading the league in scoring, led by speedy quick Ty Lawson and a deep rotation that got back Wilson Chandler from China. I like this Denver squad being a challenger and surprising a lot of people.
6. Boston Celtics: Boston didn’t go into full on panic mode when they Ray Allen ditched to Miami in search of one more ring. They only upgraded their bench wing players with Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and after Rajon Rondo had an incredible performance in the Eastern Finals, the C’s are still the team to beat in the Atlantic Division. To do that, the new guys have to fit in nicely with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. But how much longer will we see those two on the court?
7. Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin lead a decent L.A. team but won’t be able to overcome the big brother wearing purple and gold. The league and SportsCenter love their alley oop passes and ability to score easily in transition but the Lakers added muscle that the Clippers won’t be able to match and won’t go very far come postseason play. Adding wings Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill and giving Lamar Odom another shot in playing for Los Angeles basketball are nice pieces, it’s the deal to get another contract with Paul that the Clippers will be thinking about most.
8. Indiana Pacers: Now considered one of the elite teams of the East, can the Pacers without a true star make it to the East Finals? Although Danny Granger’s knee problems don’t help as he is sidelined “indefinitely” at the very start of the season. Indiana still has a good solid team of hard-working players who will get the job done and will want to challenge the Heat for a spot to the Finals.
9. Philadelphia 76ers: A young, talented squad with Andrew Bynum at center will boost the Sixers into a fight for home court advantage. Bynum has yet to show he’s capable of being the number one option and the star of this team so the Sixers are a question mark.
10. Memphis Grizzlies: I like this Grizzlies team because I like Rudy Gay and Z-Bo however they didn’t help the Grizzlies when they were on the court at the same time, this season they will get more chances to do so. Losing O.J. Mayo to Dallas won’t hurt them either.
11. Dallas Mavericks: After being embarrassingly swept by the Thunder last year in the playoffs, the Mavs surprisingly picked up some nice pieces with Elton Brand, O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman to accompany Dirk Nowitzki. But with Nowitzki recovering from knee surgery and missing the beginning of the season, big D can fend for themselves in the meantime.
12. Chicago Bulls: I hate to put the Bulls out of the top 10 but it really does depend if Derrick Rose comes back healthy and how rusty he could be. Chicago proved they can win without him last year but it won’t be enough for a title run as a torn ACL ruined everything. All in for D Rose.
13. New York Knicks: This is a tough one, for one they have the oldest roster in the league by adding Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas yet letting Carmleo Anthony do what he does and shoot the ball and will probably end up beating the Nets for the best team in New York. Without Jeremy Lin hogging the spotlight, this is Anthony’s year to make a statement and they need it. The biggest news from their camp is Amar’e Stoudemire out for six to eight weeks with injuries.
14. Brooklyn Nets: A new name, arena, colors, city and everything Jay-Z make it cool now to cheer for the Nets. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in the backcourt will be fun to watch and the Nets will finally make it to the playoffs once again, but I don’t think they are going to be good as everyone thinks they will be. Yes they are new and exciting but I believe the Knicks have their number and things will be tough at first for the Nets to get their feet wet and used to playing with an almost totally different roster.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Are the Hawks an elite team of the East? No. Will they make the playoffs again? Yes, anywhere from 5-8 looks like open territory to once again showcase they can do it but will bow out quickly. Anything else exciting about the Hawks? Nope.
16. Phoenix Suns: Picking up the pieces after losing Steve Nash will not be easy, the Suns can still play up-tempo basketball just as good with Goran Dragic running the point. Picking up Luis Scola was surprising as well as Michael Beasley and they almost had the chance to get Eric Gordon. They shouldn’t be tak
17. Houston Rockets: Houston’s core of James Harden and Jeremy Lin make them interesting but everyone else on the roster doesn’t seem to be enough to compete. Chandler Parsons, Omir Asik and Royce White are fine players but the Rockets didn’t do themselves a favor by letting go of Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb. Watch the Thunder just rip apart the Rockets this season.
18. Milwaukee Bucks: In order for the Bucks to stop being the overall ninth seed for two consecutive years, they need Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to be a two-guard combo punch that can get hot quickly and often. The sky is the limit for Milwaukee and they would love to ruin some games to Eastern elites.
19. Sacramento Kings: I hope the Kings do well this season, they have a solid lineup (DeMarcus Cousins for an All-Star nod?), got Thomas Robinson and have a great fan base. It would be a shame to see them pack up and move somewhere else.
20. Portland Trail Blazers: I don’t expect Portland to win a lot of games this year but they should be no doubt fun to watch as new coach Terry Stotts will let them run and gun. Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews need to step up this year to help All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and show what they’re made of, and Damian Lillard will compete hard for Rookie of the Year.
21. Minnesota Timberwolves: The Wolves want to see light in the postseason but with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio both sitting out at the beginning for significant time to injury, who knows how that will play out. I pray that Brandon Roy’s knees don’t betray him again but it’ll be sickening to see him step into the Rose Garden with a Wolves jersey on.
22. Utah Jazz: The Jazz need everyone in the Northwest division to falter and make mistakes. If they do, then the Jazz will be okay and stay competitive. However that’s not going to happen.
23. Detroit Pistons: The Pistons’s front court of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond is pretty solid, Detroit needs to get tough defensively while playing mature basketball but they won’t be able to get beyond .500 as long as Chicago and Indiana stack their division.
24. Golden State Warriors: I have faith that the Warriors can live up to coach Mark Jackson’s promise about making it to the playoffs but they need the stars to align in the right way in order for that to happen: Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes need to play great, Carl Laundry and Jarrett Jack provide the necessary leadership, a healthy Andrew Bogut in the paint and for Stephen Curry’s ankles to not be made of paper mache.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers: Another high-profile player sidelined to injury and it has hit the reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving. The Cavs open the season against the Wizards (snore) and depending on whether or not Irving can make a difference, it’ll be another long year for Cleveland to make any significant progress.
26. Washington Wizards: I find it hard to believe that a starting lineup of Wall, Beal, Ariza, Okafor and Nene isn’t taken more seriously because the Wizards have a decent starting five with Nick Young and Martell Webster coming off the bench. However with Wall and Nene out with injury, can the Wiz overcome losing them or will they go back to being uncontrollable?
27. New Orleans Hornets: Things are looking better for NOLA once they got their man in Anthony Davis with the number one pick of the 2012 draft and kept Eric Gordon. Davis will be the heavy favorite for Rookie of the Year and will force other teams to rethink how to get around him and his ridiculously long wingspan.
28. Toronto Raptors: They are hoping for their European talent to kick into high gear, the Raptors are eyeing that last spot for playoff contention but will find out the hard way how bad they are.
29. Orlando Magic: After a disastrous offseason handling the Dwight Howard saga, the Magic are in total rebuilding mode and will be an afterthought and could be the ones nabbing the number one pick in next years draft.
30. Charlotte Bobcats: Will the Bobcats win more than seven games? Yes. Will they still be a crappy team? Yes. Will they win more than 15 games? No.
photos courtesy of abasketballjones.com,