The NBA Regular season kicks off tonight! Let's take a look at where I stack this year's teams as they all begin to compete for an NBA Championship. LeBron starts his first ever title defense with the Miami Heat and the rest of the league will try to take it away.
Who has the best shot?
30. Charlotte Bobcats
Michael Jordan isn’t running out of the Bobcats tunnel anytime soon, but Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will. That’s about it for this Charlotte Bobcats team.
29. Orlando Magic
I dare you to look at Orlando’s roster and say “they will be successful” with a straight face. The Dwight Howard rebuilding process will be a lot tougher than when Shaq left town for L.A..
28. Detroit Pistons
Detroit has two promising stars (Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe), but it will take time for the team and its role players to gel. Rodney Stuckey looked good in preseason (12ppg, 2apg, 1spg).
27. Washington Wizards
Washington seems to be latest victim of the injury plague (John Wall, Nene, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker). Nonetheless, rookie Bradley Beal will get a chance to have more responsibility on the floor before the return of Wall. That won’t be nearly enough for the Wizards.
26. Sacramento Kings
It’s amazing how the Kings seem to get younger every season. Many will be interested to see how Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette and John Salmons split shot attempts. With the threat of moving the team to Seattle looming, it will also be interesting to see what kind of fan support the Kings get.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cav’s went 42-40 the year the year after LeBron James earned Rookie of the Year. The ceiling will be a lot lower for reigning ROY Kyrie Irving. Rookies Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller should be relatively productive early. The Cavs first month includes games against 8 playoff teams from last season.
24. Phoenix Suns
The “Afternash” of the Lakers trade will be rough on everyone in Phoenix. The Michael Beasley, Shannon Brown, Goran Dragic and Markieff Morris era now begins..
23. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have a tough early road schedule (15 of first 22), and the Atlantic Conference may be the deepest in the NBA (Brooklyn, Boston, Philly, New York).
22. Portland Trailblazers
Portland is once again the league’s most injured team. New head coach Terry Stotts must figure out a way to be successful while players are on the mend. Greg Oden’s future in the NBA still remains a question.
21. New Orleans Hornets
Despite youth, Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and Robin Lopez have some around the league talking about a surprise eight seed coming from the bayou. If they stay healthy and buy in to head coach Monty Williams, that very well may be a possibility. Until then, they are here.
20. Golden State Warriors
Mark Jackson will go into Year 2 of his coaching career minus his team’s leading scorer Montae Ellis. Nonetheless, Stephen Curry will have added responsibility and David Lee had a monster preseason (20ppg, 9rpg). The Warriors also exercised the third year option for guard/forward Klay Thompson (14ppg, 1spg in preseason).
19. Minnesota Timberwolves
Despite the fuss of a “too white” roster, Minnesota will look to make a playoff push, as long as superstars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio return to full health. The T’Wolves has perhaps the most brittle lineups in the NBA with Love and Rubio on the mend, the return of Brandon Roy, who retired in 2011, due to chronic knee issues and guard Luke Ridnour dealing with back problems. Health is a huge concern for the State of 1,000 lakes.
18. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks hope that the combination of Brandon Jennings and Montae Ellis will push the Bucks past the bubble. Ersan Ilyasova must continue his progress and make a bigger impact if Milwaukee can get off the snide.
17. Atlanta Hawks
The fact that Atlanta has failed to meet expectations makes the upcoming rebuilding process even more morose. Atlanta dumped the leeching contracts of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams in anticipation of next summer’s free agency period. Don’t be surprised if the season tanks and the Hawks vie for a high draft spot.
16. Brooklyn Nets
There is a lot of hype for the new Nets team, but not a lot of substance. Deron Williams (questionable ankles), Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez headline a team that is considered by most to be a playoff contender. But, not this guy.
15. Houston Rockets
Houston dumped a lot of money into overnight sensation Jeremy Lin (6ppg, 6apg in preseason) and Bulls backup center Omer Asik (7pts 11rebs). However, recent trade of Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb (averaged 20ppg in Houston’s summer league) for reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden that raises the ceiling for this team. It will be exciting to see how Harden adjusts to a new environment and a full-time scoring responsibility.
14. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets lack of star power will sit them in a familiar position, early playoff exit, which happens to be the same position they were in when they did have star power. The Karl era appears to be nearing an end, but the Nuggets intend on making Andre Iguodala the missing piece. Danilo Galinari had a good preseason (15ppg, 4rpg, 1spg) as well as Corey Brewer (15ppg, 3rpg).
13. Utah Jazz
The Jazz will usher in a post-Sloan era, but the team will still embody the same principles that made them an annual contender in the West, physical play and a dependence on the pick & roll. Enes Kanter (13ppg, 9rpg), Paul Milsap, Marvin Williams and Al Jefferson all are capable components while Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors will each compete to fill a spot on a team that may be deeper than most assume.
12. Memphis Grizzlies
The loss of O.J. Mayo will be a lot worse than many think. On the bright side, Mike Connely had a monster preseason (16ppg, 5apg) and Zach Randolph was looks as close to 100% than he has in a long time.
11. New York Knicks
The pressure is on in New York as the new Brooklyn Nets appear to be already nipping on the heels of the Knicks for the hearts of the city. Their also on a short timetable for success as the last two seasons the combination of Carmelo Anthony, Amare’ Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler hasn’t seemed to work. Many will start to question GM Donny Walsh over the Lin debacle if the Knicks start to slide early.
10. Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki’s knee injury may threaten the Mav’s streak of 12 straight playoff trips. Nonetheless, Mark Cuban will work effortless to provide the city of Dallas with a competitive roster, which shows in the acquisition of O.J. Mayo and Elton Brand. Chris Kaman had a very productive preseason (12ppg, 7rpg, 1bpg) which should be beneficial for the Dallas backcourt.
9. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls will be without Derrick Rose for at least half of the NBA regular season. Despite that fact, under the leadership of head coach Tom Thibideau, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and the progress of Taj Gibson, the Bulls will still be able to make the playoffs. The rest depends on the return, or the lack thereof, of Derrick Rose.
8. Philadelphia 76’ers
Philly made waves last year with an improbable playoff run and an upset of the No.1 seed Chicago Bulls. They made even more splashes in the offseason, trading for top center Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson. The Sixers had 6 players’ average double digits in scoring in the preseason.
7. Los Angeles Clippers
Lob City is back, after leading the league with 107 dunks and a first playoff appearance since 1995 and second appearance in over twenty years, the Clippers look to build on sustainable success. It’s unclear what the organization plans to do with Chris Paul after the season, so enjoy it while it lasts.
6. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have aged gracefully as they begin to transition into a new up tempo identity. They will need to in order to stay the least bit relevant in the rebuilt Western Conference. Tim Duncan’s days are numbered as a starter on the Spurs roster. Look for Dejuan Blair to continue increased production.
5. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers were successful in spite of their lack of bench production. Any significant contribution from the reserves can mean a huge jump for Indianapolis. Head coach Frank Vogel is deserved of any extension the Pacers organizations gives him. Gerald Green should also expand the depth of the team.
4. Boston Celtics
The Celtics will deal with age and attrition all season. This is nothing new to this gritty roster of vets. The acquisition of Jason Terry and Jared Sullinger should add some depth and take some wear and tear off core players Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. This could also very well be Doc Rivers’ final season coaching the Celtics and defensive ace Avery Bradley will return sometime in December.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have retooled with a more experienced veteran player in Kevin Martin, after a heartbreaking Finals loss to the Miami Heat. Unfortunately the loss of reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden may force the Thunder to take a step back in the thick of the Western Conference. Serge Ibaka’s increased offensive game may be the X-factor for OKC moving forward (16ppg in preseason).
2. Los Angeles Lakers
It’s hard not to think that the trade for Dwight Howard and signing of future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash doesn’t make the Lakers an instant favorite to make the Finals. Chemistry and health appear to be the biggest questions surrounding the team. Pau should be a happier player this season, as he should see more shots with Nash making the decisions with the ball.
1. Miami Heat
The Heat finally accomplished their ultimate goal, an NBA Championship. Now they look to defend, as well as reigning league MVP LeBron James, who looks to prove that he is capable of winning multiple championships. Now, with the proverbial monkey off his back, he should play a lot more comfortably. Ray Allen joined the team during the offseason, turning his back on the Heat’s biggest rivals, the Boston Celtics. So expectations have now risen, as if it needs to be any higher. Miami enters the season as one of the league’s healthiest teams, and that includes Dwayne Wade. Scary.