Another season is upon us, and once again the Golden State Warriors are the clear favorites to win the NBA title in June. As last season's top challenger lost a couple of key elements to its top-10 defense, the champs gained an All-Star at the one position where they didn't already have one.
The Houston Rockets still have two stars, a solid supporting cast, and the likelihood that they won't miss 27 straight 3-pointers again. And in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics -- with their top-line talent and versatility -- could be the Warriors' new biggest threat.
Focus on the big picture and "Warriors or the field?" remains a legit question. At their best, the champs are the best team on both ends of the floor. We might just have to wait before we really see them at their best.
There will be plenty of other things to watch in the meantime. The Jimmy Butler situation in Minnesota is at the top of the list for the time being, because a very good team is being pulled apart and one of the league's best two-way players will eventually be on a new team.
Of course, LeBron James and the Lakers won't take a back seat for long. The best player in the world has joined the league's most high-profile franchise and has been surrounded by a motley crew of mercurial veterans and promising youngsters. How it's all going to fit together and to what degree it will work remain a mystery.
There are plenty of other things to be discovered over the next nine months and it's time to get this show started.
- Mid-Summer Rankings: Celtics make things interesting atop East | James' arrival adds intrigue to Western Conference
- This time last year: Some All-Star combinations will work -- and some won't -- Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison were Sidney Deane and Billy Hoyle. We had no idea how long Kawhi Leonard was going to be out with his quad issue, Dante Exum separated his shoulder in the preseason, Dwyane Wade was starting over J.R. Smith in Cleveland, Kyle Kuzma was the Lakers' rookie sensation, and somebody ranked the Pacers much too low (26th).
Plus-Minus Players of the Preseason
- Mr. Plus: Jae Crowder (UTA) was a plus-79 in five preseason games.
- Mr. Minus: Derrick Rose (MIN) was a minus-60 in four preseason games.
Teams of the Preseason
- Make It Last Forever: Charlotte (4-1) -- Both teams that went undefeated in the preseason -- the Clippers and Jazz -- got two of their five wins against non-NBA competition. The Hornets were the only team with four wins vs. NBA teams, seeing increases in assist rate and 3-point rate from last season.
- Something Just Ain't Right: New Orleans (0-5) -- Every other NBA team (even the Wolves with all their drama) won a game in the preseason.
Movement in the Rankings
- High jumps of the preseason: Milwaukee (+3), Portland (+3), L.A. Lakers (+2)
- Free falls of the preseason: Minnesota (-8), Six teams (-1)
Week 1 Team to Watch
- Minnesota -- The Wolves' schedule isn't all that interesting. They'll open in San Antonio on Wednesday, host the Cavs on Friday, and then head back to Texas for the second game of a back-to-back in Dallas. But no matter the opponent, how can you possibly look away?
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Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league averaged 98.1 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 107.7 points scored per 100 possessions last season.
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NBA.com's Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man's opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.
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