No, it's not a list of the best commenters on Blazers' Edge, although that would be an entertaining list. This is just another NBA power ranking. There are two main reasons I have decided to put together power rankings here on BE. First, the site has gotten popular enough that we could use our own rankings, especially one with a little more Blazer bias and a little less East coast +Laker bias. Second, the level of discourse in the comment section will be many times higher than what will be found on ESPN or Yahoo. I love hearing other people's opinions, but not when they consist of LEBRON IS TEH BEST!!1! CAVS PWN YOU!!!1111!
I will try to get these rankings out every Sunday during the regular season. Hopefully that will give people who hate football a little more basketball related reading. On to the rankings!
This isn't my prediction for how the standings will look at the end of the year. This will be a ranking of how teams are playing up to that point in the season weighted some toward recent performance. In this case, it is how teams look heading into training camp.
For example, the difference between power rankings and a prediction for the end of the season is that teams are far healthier now then they will be in April. The Spurs are number 3, but could easily be hit with injuries again this year and fall out of the top 10, something I would take into account in a season end prediction.
1. Lakers 65-17 (record last season)
The defending champs get the nod for the top spot. The Artest for Ariza swap is a lateral move at best, but the Lakers will be the title favorites until proven otherwise.
2. Magic 59-23
The other NBA Finals participant comes in at number 2. They spent lavishly (read: overpaid) this off season and should have more lineup flexibility this season. Forget Hedo. Can Jameer Nelson repeat the numbers that earned him an All Star selection before getting injured?
3. Spurs 54-28
I'll admit it; I thought the Spurs were going to fade from contention last year and especially this upcoming season. They reloaded in the off season and now have one of the scariest 8 man rotations in basketball. They have the veteran know how and the coaching to compete for a title. Can they stay healthy?
4. Cavaliers 66-16
They added Shaq, Anthony Parker, Leon Powe, and Jamario Moon, but do any of those guys other than Shaq help them win in the playoffs? We know they can build an impressive regular season record, but does that roster have what it takes to win a ring? Whatever happens, Lebron+Shaq will make this the most interesting team in the league.
5. Celtics 62-20
The combination of overrated free agent signings, an aging roster and Garnett's questionable health status forces me to rank the Celtics 5th. This team could win the East, but it could also finish in the bottom half of the playoff seedings. The key is, obviously, Kevin Garnett.
6. Nuggets 54-28
I'm giving the Nuggets to edge over the Blazers here due to superior post season success. It's going to be very tough for the Nuggets to have a better season than last year. Other teams have big FA signings or sure to improve young players while the Nuggets have no where to go but down (I don't think any non-Nuggets homers would argue they could make the finals). Even so, they are a tough team on both offense and defense and they have the confidence of their Western conference finals appearance backing them.
7. Blazers 54-28
There are about 6 dozen reasons for us to be wildly optimistic about the upcoming season and, unlike the Nuggets, the Blazers have plenty of room for improvement. However, I'm not going to rank this team based on potential anymore; we've done that the past few seasons. I can't rank the Blazers higher until I see them on the court.
8. Mavericks 50-32
Count me among the people who are unimpressed with the Shawn Marion signing. Marion does give this team another weapon, a bit more flexibility and some insurance against injury, but he has been a large disappointment since leaving the Suns; Cuban would have been better off signing Ponce de Leon.
9. Hornets 49-33
Any team with Chris Paul leading it is a dangerous team. Look for Emeka Okafor to feast on Chris Paul lob passes and boost his scoring average up to 15 points a game. Depth will once again be a major issue this year especially as Peja Stojakovic slides further into (less than) mediocrity.
10. Bulls 41-41
I need a slightly shocking ranking and the Bulls are my pick. Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng are healthy, mid season acquisitions John Salmons and Brad Miller will be at training camp and Rose is in his second year. There is a lot to like about this team after they nearly upset the Celtics in the playoffs last season.
11. Jazz 48-34
It is unlikely the Jazz will be hit by injuries as hard as they were last season. This is a good team and if they can overcome the distraction of the Carlos Boozer trade saga (or better yet if they can trade Boozer for help on the wings) they'll be a top team in the West again.
12. Hawks 47-35
Adding Jamal "I never saw a shot I didn't like" Crawford doesn't make them contenders in the East. This is an above average team that has a date with a 4th seed and a second round exit at the hands of either Cleveland or Orlando.
13. Suns 46-36
They aren't the British Empire. Sure, the Suns will win games because they can outscore their opponents and they will probably make the playoffs, but when you have Channing Frye and 36 year old Grant Hill manning your starting forward spots you're in trouble. If the season goes well they could end up the 7th seed and if Nash or Amar'e go down they're in the lottery again.
14. Heat 43-39
Dwyane Wade can't do everything on his own if this team is going to improve. A healthy Wade will drag the Heat into the playoffs, but unless Beasley improves significantly in his 2nd year the Heat will be one and done in the playoffs again.
15. Wizards 19-63
I'm putting the Wizards at 15 to emphasize the following point. This is an average team even with Agent Zero back from injury. 45 wins is an optimistic projection.
16. Clippers 19-63
Ok, this might be a bit high for a team as dysfunctional as the Clippers, but there are some things to like here. Blake Griffin should make an impact immediately, Zach Randolph is gone, Baron Davis is healthy, Eric Gordon had an impressive rookie season and should improve in his 2nd year and they picked up Rasual Butler.
17. Raptors 33-49
Thank you, Toronto.
Even though Toronto desperately needed a scorer and facilitator on the wing, Hedo won't improve their record as much as his price tag demands. It's clear Toronto management made an effort to build around Chris Bosh, but spending money isn't the same thing as building a contender.
18. Warriors 29-53
Another slightly unconventional ranking. The Warriors have a scary amount of offensive firepower and they force teams to play their style of basketball. Weaker teams will often be overwhelmed and stronger teams don't want to catch these guys on the wrong night.
19. Pacers 36-46
The Pacers played the top teams pretty well last year and were in the race for the 8th seed without their 2nd best player.
20. Bobcats 35-47
The league's lowest scoring team (and 26th in Off. Eff.) swapped Okafor for Tyson Chandler reducing their scoring ability further. Could they finish under 90 points/game?
21. 76ers 41-41
22. Pistons 39-43
How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the off season. Detroit's rush to spend cap space on 2nd and 3rd tier free agents is puzzling. A two year plan capitalizing on the 2010 FA bonanza would have made more long term sense. I have two words for delusional Pistons fans: Kwame Brown.
23. Thunder 23-59
The development of their young players and the continued ascension of Kevin Durant to elite status should allow the Thunder to win 30 games. They have an outside chance at making the playoffs if things go their way, but I wouldn't count on it.
24. Rockets 53-29
The Rockets have proved they are a tough team that can win games even when playing without Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. When they win those games I'll gladly bump them up the list, but at the moment it doesn't appear that they have the talent to win many games.
25. Knicks 32-50
I don't think there is much to say about the Knicks except see you in 2010.
26. Timberwolves 24-58
27. Grizzles 24-58
I may have to retract my statement about the Cavs having the most interesting team in basketball. The Grizzles could easily "earn" that distinction. As such, I hear by propose that the Grizzles change their name to the Black Holes. All in favor please type "aye".
28. Bucks 34-48
They played well with Redd and Bogut injured much of last season, but they shipped out most of the roster responsible for that.
29. Nets 34-38
There isn't much to talk about basketball wise in New Jersey, so how about a Yakov Smirnoff joke? In Russia, you don't play basketball, basketball plays you! (Bad teams don't deserve good jokes)
30. Kings 17-65
If I could give the Kings a lower ranking, I would. This will be their de-facto ranking unless they show dramatic improvement.