Without fuss and litigation, the NBA is about to embark on its 66th season of play. The Miami Heat enter this season with the proverbial target on their back, and for the same credit, the proverbial monkey off their back.
This year, the league has appeared to have shuffled its rosters as some of the NBA's most dominant teams made transactions that have fans and analysts chomping at the bits for the beginning of this season, and let's not forget about "The Return",
Now let's take a look at my,
NBA Power Rankings: Preseason Edition
Is it possible that the Bobcats can fail to win less than 10 games again? Charlotte lost D.J. Augustin and Corey Maggette, however there's plenty of excitement about the drafting of rookie Michael Kidd Gilchrist and the signing of Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions.
29. Detroit Pistons
Kyle Singler, Corey Maggette and Jonny Flynn were the highlights of Detroit's offseason. Good thing the Tigers and Lions are still playing.
The Wizards are looking to rebuild from a 20-46 record last season. Washington did however finish the season on a 6-game win streak that included Miami (2x), and Chicago.
Cleveland is rebuilding right u p to speed, building pieces such as C.J. Miles, Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters around Rookie of the Year PG Kyrie Irving (18.5ppg, 5apg, 3.7rpg).
26. Toronto Raptors
The 'new' Raptors will include such stars as Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Kyle Lowry and John Lucas III. The production of Terrance Ross will give an idea to the ceiling that the Raptors will play under.
25. Sacramento Kings
This young Sacramento team is still figuring out how to play with one another. It still remains to be seen if that is even possible. The acquisition of Aaron Brooks should add some extra maturity and talent to a talent-rich Kings team.
24. Phoenix Suns
With the Nash era over, the Suns move on to the.... Michael Beasley-Shannon Brown-era?
Portland's potential seemingly rides on the production, or non-production, from 6th overall pick Damian Lillard.
22. Orlando Magic
I will not give the Magic the death sentence that most writers and experts have since they traded Dwight Howard, Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson for mere pennies (Aaron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, etc.). However, Orlando will stink this season, unless "Big Baby" Glen Davis plays like he did in Howard's absence last season, all season.
21. Milwaukee Bucks
Montae Ellis and Brandon Jennings will be an interesting 1-2 punch in Milwaukee. The duo will undoubtedly score a lot of points, but can they do it within the perimeters of the offense and not play hero ball?
Kevin Love is looking to use his Olympic experience as aid in finally making the playoffs. Minnesota will need Ricky Rubio to come back strong off the injury that saddled him for the majority of last season in order for the Wolves' to make that next step.
This young N.O. squad has potential written all over it. Drafting both Anthony Davis, out of Kentucky and Austin Rivers from Duke, they add around the nucleus of Eric Gordon (averaged 20ppg for 9 games before injuring his knee and missing the remainder of the season) and Al-Farouq Aminu.
Golden State and head coach Mark Jackson will finally be able to run an offense that is predicated on half-court sets and ball movement now that guard Montae Ellis was shipped out of town. However, it is health, youth and defense on this small lineup that will be a question heading into this season.
17. Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets may have either purchased a playoff contender or blew a lot of money trying to posture themselves into making other teams blow money. Houston sent ridiculous offer sheets to both Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, and both the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls backed off - respectively. Although both players can contribute, it remains to be seen if they will be the type of talent a team like the Rockets can build a championship contender around.
16. Utah Jazz
The Jazz are finding what identity they will approach the 2012-13 season with. They will either hone in the traditions of the Jerry Sloan era, or transition into a youthful, more uptempo team. Enes Kanter entered training camp having lost a ridiculous amount of weight, Derrick Favors appears to be developing into a All-Star caliber player and Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap will both be playing for new contracts.
15. Atlanta Hawks
Although Atlanta got rid of mega-contracts Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, they still will be able to build around All-Stars Al Horford and Josh Smith. The Hawks did manage to snag PG Devin Harris, Kyle Korver, Deshawn Stevenson and Louis Williams all while managing to stay under the cap. This Atlanta team is still playoff capable, but like the teams of season's past, that is about it.
14. Denver Nuggets
Denver is one of the deepest teams in the NBA, when it comes to role players. No significant leaders or stars on yet another under achieving George Karl team, leaves Denver in the middle of pack with little to no potential or deep playoff success. Hopefully the signing of Andre Iguodala will give some star power to a team in desperate need of it.
13. Brooklyn Nets
After resigning Deron Williams and throwing the kitchen sink at Joe Johnson, the Nets appear to have catapulted themselves into the meat of the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn also went out and signed Gerald Wallace and will build around the frontcourt of Brook Lopez, who according to Shaquille O'Neal, is the second best big man in the NBA.
12. New York Knicks
After pulling out of the Jeremy Lin money grab, the Knicks signed and announced they would start Raymond Felton at the point guard spot. They also spent the money saved from Lin to grab Ronnie Brewer, Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace. If everything clicks, the Knicks should easily slide into the playoffs as no less than a 6 seed.
"Lob City" was the attraction last season as point guard Chris Paul and Blake Griffin proved they could play together and be successful. Unfortunately Blake Griffin's injury and Paul's uncertain future can prove to be detractors from building on last year's success. The Clippers picked up Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford, Willie Green, Grant Hill and Ronny Turiaf during the offseason to add more depth to the roster.
10. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls without Derrick Rose is basically a glorified Denver Nuggets. The additions of Nate Robinson, Nazr Mohammed and Kirk Hinrich won't mean much is Rose cannot return to full health before the playoffs.
Memphis lost their leading scorer O.J. Mayo to the Dallas Mavericks, but Rudy Gay's offensive production should crutch that absence. Zach Randolph says that he is returning this season in 100% health and the acquisitions of Jerryd Bayless and rookie Tony Wroten will be interesting to watch. Memphis will have to find an additional source of offseason to remain in contention in the West.
The Dallas Mavericks have held father time back one more season in effort to maximize their push in the 2013 free agency period. Dirk Nowitzki has few seasons left to chase another title, Jason Terry is no longer with the team after signing with the Boston Celtics and Dallas is still trying to find anything that resembles a sound replacement for the defensive hole left Tyson Chandler. Nonetheless, the acquisition of Chris Kaman, O.J. Mayo and Darren Collinson should boost the teams offensive production and take some of the load off of Dirk's shoulders.
The Pacers officially put the NBA on notice last season, as head coach Frank Vogel squeezed every ounce of productivity out of the undersized, but deep Pacers team. Predicated on physicality and team play, the acquisition of D.J. Augustin and Gerald Green should make the Darren Collinson mourning period very short-lived.
Philly made waves in the offseason, making out with valuable residue from the Dwight Howard trade by getting Lakers center Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson, Dorrell Wright and Nick Young. It is unclear which one of those pieces will make up for the loss of team leader and All-Star Andre Iguodala, scoring leader Lou Williams and rebounding and defensive centerpiece Elton Brand.
You can't teach a old dog new tricks, but you can buy it new shiny toys to play with. That is exactly what the Boston Celtics did during the offseason, after losing perimeter legend Ray Allen to the Miami Heat, Boston quickly picked up Mavs' Jason Terry. The Celtics had a very productive draft as well, acquiring rookies Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo, and Jamar Smith from the University of Illinois. Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce all return in full health.
The Spurs managed to get older and not to do anything about it. Hopefully for them experience will overcome an embarrassing 4-2 Western Conference Finals loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. They will have to get stronger on the defensive end and find an answer to the frontcourt "toughness" issue that plagues the team. The biggest acquisition the Spurs made during the offseason was center Eddy Curry.
This season will be the ultimate indicator if this young Oklahoma City Thuder team can capitalize with the nucleus of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. The most interesting acquisition OKC made was signing the 7'3'' Hasheem Thabeet, although it's not clear if he will be the answer for the frontcourt scoring issues the Thunder must overcome if they are to get over the NBA Finals hump. Russell Westbrook will also have to play more intelligent with the ball and become more of a typical 'point guard' in order for OKC to maximize on its full potential.
Although the Lakers haven't played one minute with the new roster, it is clear that - on paper - the Lakeshow will be the most exciting and most highly anticipated team to watch in the 2012-13 season. L.A. stole headlines during the offseason by trading Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard, signing PG Steve Nash, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Chris Duhon, Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, all without having to give up Pau Gasol. Kobe is hell-bent on getting his sixth championship and this may be his best opportunity.
1. Miami Heat
Miami finally did what they were crowned to do two seasons ago, win an NBA Championship. LeBron had a year that are only made in movies by winning the regular season and Finals MVP, winning an NBA Champioship ring and then going overseas to London and representing the USA in a gold medal effort. James should take that experience and motivation into this season and build on the success of last season. The Heat also used the offseason to make some very efficient moves by signing Ray Allen, Rodney Carney and Rashard Lewis.
Filed under: How I See It