Here is the first installment of my monthly power rankings, which will be posted on the first Friday of every month. I considered the offseason as well as teams’ performance from last year, accounting for injuries, trends, and a number of other factors, not limited to my trusty gut.
Once the season begins, I will add additional columns such as previous ranking, record, etc. and publish rankings more often. I would love to read your comments on Twitter (@ericpatten). You can also leave comments at the bottom of these rankings.
They're the champs and they added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. D-Wade is reportedly progressing from offseason knee surgery. Anyone who watched a minute of the Olympics knows Lebron is in GOAT mode.
Have to believe the combination of Olympic triumph and Finals disappointment will only further motivate Durant, Westbrook, and Harden. They're young and have the ancillary pieces to be great for a long time. Return of Eric Maynor (knee) could add another boost.
They've heard it for years: you can't outrun father time. But they've also been the West's best regular-season team two years in a row. Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, and their younger cast must continue to improve.
The Lakers starting 5 alone would vault them to the No. 1 slot, but there are still a number of questions. How much time does Dwight (back) miss? What kind of production do they get from the bench? And can a team with an average age of 33.7 among their top 6 players stay healthy?
All five opening night starters return from 2011-12 to partner with a revamped bench of Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, and Grant Hill. The Clippers are deep, loaded with great locker room guys, and have two superstars. If they gel quickly it could mean a top 3 seed.
Boston was supposed to be on the cusp of rebuilding. Oops. More like reloading. Still with a Big 3 in Rondo, Pierce, and KG, they replaced Allen with Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, should get Avery Bradley back by December, and have more versatility on the wing with the addition of Jeff Green.
We know the fast-paced Nuggets can score (league-high 104.1 ppg), but they were 6th in defensive efficiency (103.4) among West playoff teams last year and added arguably the most athletic wing defender in the league (Iguodala).
Adding Bynum gives Philly a definitive go-to guy, something they've been without since the mid aughts. To truly contend in the East, though, they will need Evan Turner to blossom beyond his 9.4 point and 5.8 rebound averages from last season.
They may have overpaid Roy Hibbert and George Hill, but the Pacers are deep and play with a certain ferocity. In 2011-12 they averaged 13.3 blocks+steals per game, and were devastating at times making transition 3s. Expect more of the same this year.
Boasting two former Clippers (Foye and Mo Williams), the Jazz have improved their backcourt, while maintaining their dynamic frontcourt. The biggest question for Utah is how does Tyrone Corbin manage minutes for Jefferson, Millsap, Favors, and Kanter, who all deserve to play a lot.
Two years removed from being one of the West's up-and-comers, the Grizz seem stuck in a bit of a holding pattern. Still, they replaced Mayo with Bayless and re-signed Speights and Arthur at relative bargains. The Clippers will get a first-hand look at the health of Z-Bo's knee on opening night.
The Nets could arguably be a few ticks higher on the list. They had a nice offseason, but it's tough vault them into the East's elite just yet. That said, D-Will, Joe Johnson, Crash, Humphries, and Brook Lopez give them a good-looking starting 5.
Obviously, the D-Rose injury causes last season's No. 1 seed to plummet. They were 19-9 in the regular season without Rose last year, but the health of Noah (ankle) and Deng (wrist) will be called into question. Thibs will also be trying to integrate five new members of the bench.
Minny should be a lot of fun to watch, and had Rubio (knee) not gone down they might have snuck into the playoffs last year. With more support around K-Love and the potential improvement of Derrick Williams, the Wolves might not need to sneak up on anyone.
The inside collar of the Knicks re-imagined jerseys reads, "Once a Knick, Always a Knick." It may be all down hill from there, unless Melo and Amar'e prove their on the same page and Raymond Felton plays like the 2010 version of himself.
Yes, the Mavericks still have Dirk, so there's always a chance. Around him, though, it will be a wait-and-see approach. Mayo gives them an athlete on the wing, and they could certainly do worse than Brand and Kaman up front, but, man, Rick Carlisle has a lot of work to do to integrate all the new guys.
New GM Danny Ferry worked quickly to blow things up in ATL, dealing Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, with a focus on the future. However, the Hawks will likely first take a steep drop from the team that's won better than 53.7% of its games in each of the last 4 seasons.
Things couldn't be brighter in NOLA. A year removed from dealing the best player in franchise history (CP3), they boast a lineup anchored by Anthony Davis and former Clipper Eric Gordon. Newly extended coach Monty Williams had the Hornets working hard through the end of last season, and it should pay dividends now.
In a recent poll, one fan Tweeted, "The Warriors should be fun." With Steph Curry, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, et al. he's right. In the West, though, fun isn't going to result in much better than 9th or 10th.
The Wiz took on a lot of salary (Nene, Ariza, Okafor) to make a push for the playoffs this year, but it will be the maturity of John Wall and the development of Brad Beal that make or break their season in the Nation's Capitol.
Lowry makes Toronto tougher and Lithuanian rookie Jonas Valanciunas makes them more skilled up front, but that's not saying a lot about a team that was underwhelming much of last year. The return of a healthy Bargnani should be a boost, too.
The baby backcourt didn't work in Oakland, but the Milwaukee brass will try it anyway. If nothing else, the offensively starved Bucks will be able to score the ball better with a full season of Jennings and Monta. Henson looked good in Vegas, meaning they have 2 shot blockers (Dalembert)... and they'll likely need all the rim protection they can get.
The outlook in the desert would be much improved had they landed restricted free agent Eric Gordon. But the Hornets matched the Suns' max-contract offer and they were left to pick up the pieces from there. Adding 2 Rockets starters and Super Cool Beas helps, but not nearly enough.
Let's make one thing clear: Kyrie Irving is going to be awesome. It's just the pieces around him aren't there with him yet. Might feel different had they gone in a different direction than Dion Waiters at No. 4 in the Draft.
Although they whiffed on Dwight Howard and traded/waived/lost nearly everyone from last season's highly competitive team, sans Kevin Martin. The consolation prize? Linsanity, the Gulf Coast Version; Omer Asik; and three rookies that could be good.
Portland has endured a number of unfortunate things in the last decade or longer. But if Brandon Roy plays well in his comeback bid with Minnesota, that might be one of the worst. The Blazers are rebuilding the roster around LaMarcus Aldridge, Nic Batum, and Damian Lillard, not exactly the most imposing Big 3 at the moment.
Andre Drummond could be great or a major bust, there doesn't seem much room in the middle. At the moment, despite a couple of winning stretches last year, Detroit doesn't have enough around the youngsters (Drummond, Knight, Monroe, etc) to compete.
It could be a long, and potentially final, season in Sacto, yet Thomas Robinson was an excellent draft pick, Tyreke Evans is in a contract year, and without Bynum in the division, DMC is arguably the most skilled young big man out West.
They will be better than the historically paltry 7-59 from a year ago, but by how much? MKG, Kemba, and Biyombo is an intriguing trio.
No Dwight Howard. No Jason Richardson. No Ryan Anderson. And they're rumored to be shopping Turkoglu, Redick, Baby and any other familiar name outside of Jameer but, hey, there's always hope for the No. 1 pick in a reportedly weak draft.