The 2010 NBA offseason has been a busy one for many teams. The Miami Heat transformed themselves from a mediocre playoff team to the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. The Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks signed quality big men and look to be better than last year. And let’s not forget that the Lakers still have roughly the same roster as last season and they, not the Heat, are the defending NBA Champions.
Here are my complete Power Rankings heading into the NBA preseason:
1 Los Angeles Lakers
The Miami Heat have the talent to upset the Lakers, but until we see how “Miami Thrice” work together as a unit, the defending champs are still the team to beat.
2 Miami Heat
LeBron James + Chris Bosh + Dwyane Wade = A complete shift in power in the Eastern Conference. We still don’t know if the three egos can exist together, but the Miami Heat have to be considered highly based on their talent alone.
3 Orlando Magic
The Magic are coming off back to back 59 win seasons, and look similar to how they did last season. Unfortunately, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis seem to be on a downward trajectory, and the new-look Miami Heat has the potential to be dominant.
4 Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant is possibly the best player in the league. He doesn’t have the all-around skill set that James has, but his scoring prowess is second to none. The Thunder will compete for a top seed in the Western Conference, and have the talent to make a very deep playoff run.
5 Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki and company are always near the top of the Western Conference at the end of the regular season, but can this finally be the year they aren’t embarrassed in the playoffs?
6 Chicago Bulls
The additions of Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver, along with the continued maturation of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, should put the Bulls back in the Eastern Conference elite.
7 Portland Trailblazers
The Blazers were the sixth seed last year without the talents of Greg Oden. If Oden is able to stay healthy through an entire season, the Blazers should be able to feast on a newly weakened Western Conference.
8 Boston Celtics
The Celtics are a tough team to figure out. Boston looked sluggish in the regular season last year, but then made a terrific run in the playoffs, coming within a game of winning the championship. It’s hard to see Boston repeating that feat with a crew of increasingly older stars, but it’s also tough to doubt a team that has been a playoff powerhouse for the past three seasons.
9 Atlanta Hawks
Joe Johnson stays with the Hawks with a max-contract, but will replacing coach Mike Woodson be the answer or will the Hawks see another early playoff exit?
10 San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs, like the Celtics, slogged through the regular season, but were able to easily upset the Dallas Mavericks before falling to the Suns in the second round of the playoffs. There are age and injury concerns for the Spurs, but their core talent still makes them a formidable opponent.
11 Denver Nuggets
Even with Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets looked out-of-sync last season. Now, they either have to trade their leading scorer and start rebuilding, or attempt to move forward with one more year of a potentially disgruntled superstar. The Nuggets are in trouble, and I’m not sure there is an easy fix for this situation.
12 Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks were one of the hottest teams in the league last season before Andrew Bogut’s horrific injury. If Bogut is able to recover quickly and new addition Corey Maggette plays to expectations, the Bucks will once again be a dangerously underrated team
13 Houston Rockets
With the Tracy McGrady saga finally over and Yao Ming returning from a foot injury that forced him to miss all of last season, the Rockets look once again to compete for a playoff spot in the West. How Ming is able to play post-injury will determine just how far the Rockets are able to advance.
14 Phoenix Suns
The Suns are going to miss Amare Stoudemire. The additions of Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress should help a little bit, but won’t come close to replacing the production provided by Stoudemire. If Steve Nash misses significant time due to injury (he suffers from some recurring back problems), the Suns could be in a lot of trouble.
15 New Orleans Hornets
Any team with Chris Paul has a chance to compete. The Hornets acquired Trevor Ariza in the offseason to help improve their inside presence, although New Orleans still has some work to do to make the playoffs again after missing them last season. If Chris Paul is traded, the Hornets will enter full on rebuilding mode and might find themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference
16 Utah Jazz
It’s tough to replace players like inside man Carlos Boozer and three-point specialist Kyle Korver. The Jazz will compete with the Suns, Hornets, and possibly the Grizzlies for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, but right now might be one of the teams on the outside.
17 Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are a hard team to figure out, although they figure to at least be decent for years to come after inking Rudy Gay to a five-year deal in the offseason. Gone are the days of the Grizzlies being the laughing stock of the NBA, but they aren’t quite consistent competitors yet.
18 New York Knicks
Signing Amare Stoudemire has given Knicks fans hope that they might be able to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004, but nothing is written in stone yet. The Knicks should improve from last year’s abysmal 29 wins, but if Stoudemire’s injury woes continue, the Knicks will look horrible again.
19 Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats shocked everyone by making the playoffs last season. They still have Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, but Larry Brown coached teams have a history of not being able to sustain their successes. We’ll see if Michael Jordan is willing to take risks as the new owner of the Bobcats, but Charlotte has a long way to go to be able to compete with the teams at the top of the conference.
20 Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia has a good core of young talent, but Elton Brand is holding them back. He’s either been injured or underperforming since joining the Sixers. Philly’s best chance of moving forward might be by attempting to trade Brand and/or Iguodala and embracing the youth movement.
21 Los Angeles Clippers
Firing head coach Mike Dunleavy was a good move forward for the Clippers, although hiring Chicago outcast Vinny Del Negro isn’t much of an improvement. As long as Donald Sterling is the Clippers’ owner, I don’t have any faith that they can move forward. How Blake Griffin is able to recover after missing his rookie year with injuries will tell us whether the Clippers are a couple of years or a decade away from competing again.
22 Indiana Pacers
The Pacers had some good moments last season, although I’m not sure they have what it takes to make the playoffs. The bottom half of the Eastern Conference is weak enough that the Pacers are a good sleeper pick, but don’t be surprised if they’re once again on the outside looking in by season’s end.
23 Detroit Pistons
After the 2007-2008 season, the Pistons fired coach Flip Saunders. Then, halfway through the 2008-2009 season, Detroit traded Chauncy Billups for Allen Iverson. These two moves have done irreparable damage to the Pistons team, and it might be another three to five years before the Pistons are able to compete again in the East.
24 Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry has the potential to lead this team to the playoffs, but not this year. The Warriors don’t seem to have any trouble scoring, but their defense was almost non-existent last season. Adding David Lee is only going to compound the “offense first, defense never” mentality. Golden State has some talented players, but Don Nelson’s system hasn’t worked for the Warriors for a couple of years, and it might be time to go in a new direction
25 Washington Wizards
The one-two tandem of John Wall and Gilbert Arenas should be entertaining to watch, but without a good group of supporting players, the Wizards aren’t going to compete for a playoff spot. Washington is going to miss Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood more than many people realize.
26 Sacramento Kings
Tyreke Evans is going to have a terrific NBA career, but the Kings probably aren’t going anywhere this season. DeMarcus Cousins has the potential to be a very good big man for the Kings, but he’ll have to answer questions about his work ethic before I raise the Kings up on the Power Rankings.
27 New Jersey Nets
The Nets are currently in talks to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets. If Melo joins New Jersey, they easily become a competitor for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. As it stands, they should improve from last season, but considering they narrowly missed setting the NBA record for most losses in a season, it would be hard not to improve.
28 Toronto Raptors
It takes a lot of guts to admit a mistake and trade a high-priced player, but that’s what Toronto did with Hedo Turkoglu. Unfortunately, without Chris Bosh, the Raptors aren’t going anywhere.
29 Cleveland Cavaliers
No matter how much owner Dan Gilbert tries to convince the world otherwise, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to be one of the worst teams in the NBA next season. Their entire gameplan was focused around LeBron James, and now that James has “taken his talents to South Beach” (I never get tired of saying that), the Cavaliers are going to have to reconstruct their identity before they even think of competing again.
30 Minnesota Timberwolves
Here’s what David Kahn has done as GM of the Minnesota Timberwolves: Drafted three point guards in the 2009 Draft, subsequently trading one (Ty Lawson, who played very well last year for Denver) and having another one decide to play in Europe instead of signing with the T-Wolves (Ricky Rubio, probably the most talented of the three point guards chosen by Kahn). He then decided that he wanted to acquire and sign notorious draft bust Darko Milicic to a four-year contract. Then, in this past offseason, he decided to trade draft picks for troubled youngster Michael Beasley, because the best place to get over off-court issues is with a perpetually losing team. Right. At least Kahn won’t be using those draft picks to draft even more point guards.
Kevin Love, Johnny Flynn and Wesley Johnson are all talented young players, but without anyone to complement (or mentor) these young players, the Timberwolves have basically locked up the Western Conference basement.
All stats and standings from espn.com