A week ago, we did a complete list of power rankings for all 32 NBA teams. Seeing as how the regular season doesn’t officially begin until tonight, we weren’t expecting the rankings to shift much – especially at the top. However, a major and surprising trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets blew this notion out of the water. That said, let’s discuss the trade and look at the top NBA teams heading into the 2012-2013 season.
1. Miami Heat – Nothing has changed here during the preseason since the Heat are pretty much the unanimous pick to repeat as NBA champions. The newest Miami pickup, Ray Allen, recently talked about how he doesn’t like the offseason divorce with the Celtics. However, winning a title in Miami should erase most of his negative feelings about leaving Boston.
2. L.A. Lakers – A week ago, we had the Lakers tabbed as the NBA’s third best team. After all, there haven’t been any regular season games yet to showcase the chemistry between Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and new teammates Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. However, we don’t really need to see it right now following the big Thunder trade.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder – After failing to come to terms on a contract extension with G James Harden, the Thunder sent him, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, two first round picks and a second round pick. For the future, this isn’t a bad trade when draft picks are considered and Martin should provide plenty of offensive punch. But there’ll be nobody replacing Harden’s perimeter defense contributions this year, and the Thunder are a worse team at the moment.
4. San Antonio Spurs – No major preseason trades to report from the Spurs. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since they have a strong core group in Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Unfortunately, the latter is dealing with some back problems that could hamper his production to open the season.
5. L.A. Clippers – The Clippers addressed their most pressing need of depth this summer after adding Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Matt Barnes. So far in the preseason, it looks like all four players could make solid contributions during the year.
6. Indiana Pacers – In the East, it’s basically the Miami Heat and then the rest. And for our money, the rest starts with the well-balanced Pacers who feature budding franchise center Roy Hibbert and smooth swingman Paul George.
7. Denver Nuggets – Many people wonder about Denver’s lack of a true superstar. But they added a very good player in Andre Iguodala and look poised to challenge for the West’s top spot with a number of solid role players in Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried.
8. Boston Celtics – Much of the Celtics hopes rest on how much better Rajon Rondo has gotten over the offseason. With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both another year older, Rondo will have to carry Boston more this year. Also, it will be interesting to see if Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa can fill the void left by Ray Allen at shooting guard.
9. Memphis Grizzlies – Nobody’s denying that the Grizzlies have talent with Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph providing plenty of offense and Marc Gasol and Tony Allen playing lockdown defense. But will this be enough to make a serious run at the Western Conference title? It might be if everything goes right for Memphis.
10. Atlanta Hawks – With Joe Johnson now departed to Brooklyn, nobody’s giving Atlanta much of a chance to win the Eastern Conference. And while we don’t see them as being any serious threat to the Heat, they could potentially make the Conference finals with the return of a healthy Al Horford. Josh Smith will need to step up in Johnson’s absence and stop taking so many ill-advised three’s too.