We are just about three weeks away until the regular season tips off in the NBA. The preseason is now underway too so we’re getting our first chance to look at every team.
LeBron James and the Miami Heat won the NBA title last year and are now the team with the biggest target on their back (well, they always had the biggest target on their back).
The goal for the Heat isn’t to stay the same but to find a way to reinvent themselves so they are prepared to defend their title. The goal for every other team is to figure out a way to become better than the Heat.
Power rankings this early before the season starts will probably look different by the time the playoffs roll around. But we’re going to make it a tradition here at Thunderous Intentions every Monday to rank the ten best teams in the NBA.
1. Miami Heat
The Heat earned this No. 1 spot and there is no reason for them not to start the year in the poll position. They seemed to make some really smart moves this offseason too by bringing in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. LeBron seems to be embracing the power forward position and Chris Bosh the center spot. The Heat are pretty position-less for the most part and their versatility is so far unmatched by anyone else, which may be the biggest reason they are the class of the NBA right now.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Last year’s runner-ups have to be given the best shot at dethroning the Miami Heat. OKC had a great year last season just getting to the NBA Finals and beating the San Antonio Spurs in the West Finals. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden should be hungrier than ever this season and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the league. The Thunder can match up with Miami as well as anyone. They can also match up with the Lakers as well as anyone too. They have some things they need to work on themselves (turnovers and rebounding) but if they continue to progress like they have been in each of the past three years, they should be able to contend with Miami as well as anyone.
The Lakers made the biggest noise this summer acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. They seemed to be fading away as NBA title contenders the last two seasons but now are completely revitalized in that respect. The potential for this Lakers roster is as high as any team in the league. The unknown of how exactly they will mesh is why they aren’t higher in these rankings yet. They’ve just played one preseason game so far, are installing a new offense and Howard isn’t 100 percent yet. For now, the Heat and Thunder deserve to be ahead of them.
4. San Antonio Spurs
Everyone always overlooks the Spurs and this year it will be as easy as ever to do so. They made probably the least amount of changes to their roster as anyone this offseason, but that’s not a knock on them at all. They had the best record in the West last season and while many call them old, they really aren’t and should be just as potent this coming season as the last. They have some (championship) flaws however as they aren’t quite elite defensively and their star power is fading. They should still be in the mix for the best regular season record this year and will be a very tough out for anyone in the playoffs.
Chris Paul came to town and immediately changed the culture of this franchise. There may be no more valuable player in the league to his team right now than Paul is to the Clips. The Clippers advance to the second round of the playoffs this past season where they were swept by the Spurs. In the second year of the CP3-era, we can expect some big improvements. They made some nice additions this offseason in Grant Hill, Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford. Their frontline will be able to keep up with the Lakers’ and Paul has established himself as the best closer in the league. They will always have a fighting chance with that formula.
That’s right, just one team from the East so far. The Nuggets are sneaky good and got sneaky better this offseason by acquiring Andre Iguodala. Iguodala is one of the best defenders in the league and the impact he will have in Denver will be huge in giving this team that missing ingredient from the past two seasons. Offensively, Denver will be able to score. They are just missing that go-to option late in games but they may be good enough to get the job done by committee. Being 6th in these rankings is nice but they are still 5th in the West. They could surprise a lot of teams though and finish as high as the 3-seed in the West if all goes well.
When the Celtics saw Ray Allen walk to the Miami Heat this summer, it was supposed to mark the end of the Big 3 era. Well, it did but the Celtics may be in better shape this season than they were last year to compete with the Heat. Boston brought back Kevin Garnett and also brought in Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and rookie Jared Sullinger who has looked great so far in the preseason. Jeff Green is healthy now too which gives them another athlete to throw at LeBron and some extra scoring punch. Boston is deeper than they were last year and if they can stay healthy may be the best equipped team to bring down the Heat in the East.
The Bulls had a rough year last season dealing with the Derrick Rose injuries. They did nothing big this offseason too to make anyone think they will get any better this season. But we didn’t really know how good they were last year. They had the best record in the league despite the reigning MVP missing a big chunk of the season. If Rose is healthy come playoff time, there’s really no reason to think Chicago can’t play Miami very tough. The bench did take a hit though but their main core is still together. Don’t sleep on the Bulls this year.
The Pacers have gotten better in each of the last two years and could be on the cusp of making another jump into the NBA title contenders discussion. Their work starts on defense where they have a pretty good anchor in Roy Hibbert, who they just locked up to a max-deal this summer. Paul George is one of the best up-and-coming stars and will need to fulfill that prophecy for this team to really reach their potential. They played aBosh-less Miami team close in the playoffs last year but are still a far way from taking them down.
10. Brooklyn Nets
In their first season in Brooklyn, the Nets will have a pretty decent basketball product to go with the excitement of moving to BK. They traded for Joe Johnson this summer and kept the rest of their core, including signing Deron Williams on for the next five years. They will be taxed more than anyone in the league but their owner doesn’t really care. The ceiling for Brooklyn may be higher than any team’s in the East besides Miami but there are a lot of questions to be answered first and that’s why they finish these power rankings in the 10 spot.