It's a little early, but why not get started on the pecking order of the league. We're only 2 months away from the start of the regular season!!!
1. Los Angeles Lakers- Defending champs are always default No. 1 but they also got a lot better defensively and offensively off the bench with Barnes, and Blake. Don't sleep on their rookies either, they will be making significant contributions this year with injuries to regular rotation players that are bound to happen.
2. Boston Celtics- Rondo is clearly their best player, but he needs to develop a shot by now. They have the edge over Miami right now due to their experience and ability to deal with adversity.
3. Miami Heat- Just on talent alone, they are the 3rd best team without even seeing a game from them. And thats also why they are third. We haven't seen them play yet.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder- High on the Thunder but it is scary to have so much hype coming into a season that the only direction to go is down. Westbrook's shooting, the addition of size in Cole Adrich, the improvement of Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green's playoff performances will be key.
5. Orlando Magic- A deal for Chris Paul could catapult this team into the top 3 but I will say this again and again...they will never win until Dwight Howards stops laughing and becomes motivated Shaq circa 1999-2000.
6. Dallas Mavericks- A perenial choker everytime during the NBA playoffs but a full season of x-factor Caron Butler along with the always offensively loaded cast of characters renews hope. I think Dirk and Cuban still can't get over the blowing the 2-0 lead to the Heat in '06.
7. Chicago Bulls- The Bulls were the most active team in Free Agency, bringing in a star in Boozer as well as outstanding shooting and athleticism, and defense with Kyle Korver, Flip Murray, CJ Watson, Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans. This team might be the most well rounded along with Houston in the NBA. Whether Boozer can elevate the Bulls above Orlando and Boston in the East is another discussion all together.
9. Atlanta Hawks- A team that will once again win 50 games but are stuck in no man's land in the lower end of the upper echelon in the East. No chance to crack the top 3 once again.
10. Denver Nuggets- Stay tuned for the Melo trade. This could go from 10 to 20-something.
11. Utah Jazz- Replaced Boozer with a better power forward in Jefferson. This team will be interesting as both Williams and Jefferson have contrasting styles of play. Their pick and roll offense will be solid of course.
12. San Antonio Spurs- Very few teams realize when its time to rebuild after such a long run of 50+ win seasons. This year may be the Spurs chances to recognize they need to deal Parker as well as get younger around George Hill. Duncan will of course be solid and consistent.
13. Portland Trail Blazers - A team that can't stay healthy with a possible bust in Oden (fair or not is not the issue) and a headache in Rudy Fernandez makes for another season filled with issues and early playoff exit.
14. Phoenix Suns - Not sure how long Phoenix will stay here but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt with Steve Nash possibly playing his last year around a cast of good shooters and an intriguing player in Hakim Warrick.
15. New York Knicks - This team is going to be athletic and fun to watch with the addition of the high flying Anthony Randolph, Amar'e, and Raymond Felton. With potential trade targets such as 'Melo, Tony Parker, and Chris Paul, the off the court buzz should be fun to watch as well. The 8th seed is very realistic. Amar'e has a chance to prove that he can stand on his own without Steve Nash as a legitimate superstar.
16. Milwaukee Bucks - Quiet additions this offseason (Maggette and Gooden) along with Salmons re-signing. With Jennings and Bogut being the cornerstones, what does this mean for the career of Michael Redd?
17. Charlotte Bobcats - Stephen Jackson always seems to make teams better when he arrives...and then he wears out his welcome and is on his way out. Their biggest question mark now is point guard with the departure of Felton. This team may take a step back.
18. Memphis Grizzlies - A pleasant surprise last year and good balance around all 5 positions. This team will contend for the playoffs and fall just short. OJ Mayo must make a huge leap and they have to figure out if Mike Conley is the future at PG.
19. New Jersey Nets- This team was a lot better than the 12 wins they showed last year. With core pieces, Brook Lopez, Devin Harris and possibly Derrick Favors. Jordan Farmar, Troy Murphy and Anthony Morrow are all starters who may be coming off the bench. Morrow might be the best shooter in the NBA. This team will improve a lot under Avery Johnson. Playoffs are definitely a possibility.
20. Sacramento Kings - We all know Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins hold the keys to the future. Landry is solid. The Kings are hoping to get huge years from their younger players (Greene, Casspi, and Thompson). If Evans now has a jumper, look out. This team has 7 players 6 foot 9 or taller. The defense and rebounding should improve with Dalembert.
21. New Orleans Hornets- All eyes will be on Chris Paul to see how he responds to his own trade demands. The trade for Ariza won't be enough to satisfy CP3.
22. Philadelphia 76ers- Evan Turner might be the most 'ready to play' player in the Draft. They are stuck with Elton Brand and a dilemma of where to play Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala. Spencer Hawes is still a young offensively polished player with upside but lacks the physical skills to bang down low.
23. Golden State Warriors - Stephen Curry is a quick lights out shooter and will only learn the point guard position. David Lee is a nice addition. Monta Ellis staying or going will be the question of the season as he pairs with Curry to make one of the smallest backcourts in the NBA. Nelson needs to go as he has clearly checked out mentally. They are stuck in the West though so life stays tough for the new ownership group.
24. Los Angeles Clippers - Not as good as everyone thinks they are. Low to mid-level talent at best on this team. Look at their roster honestly at the rest of the crew and tell me if you think they win 30+ games this year.
25. Indiana Pacers- The Pacers found their point guard in Darren Collison and a possible gem in Paul George (whose stock rose all the way to No. 10 in the 1st round). Roy Hibbert must continue to improve. A team with no direction the last 3 to 4 years may have found its way to help out Danny Granger. Way to young to make any noise right now though.
26. Detroit Pistons- We know they won't get past the 1st round. Bad contracts with Gordon and Villanueva. Monroe will be solid but not spectacular amongst the rookie class. Hamilton and Prince should be gone to contenders by the deadline.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers - This team will only be relevant when the Miami Heat play them on TNT at the Q. Bad contracts, bad contracts and the J.J. Hickson era has begun. It would be amazing to see a 1st round series between them and Miami. Byron Scott will bolt after the season is over if the Lake show offers him the top spot. Could you really blame him?
30. Minnesota Timberwolves - Ricky Rubio is content in Spain. David Kahn has assembled Team Darko (Beasley, Milicic, Sebastian Telfair, Wesley Johnson (a bust in my mind). In case you don't understand, I'm implying these guys are either big time busts or will be in the next 3 to 4 years. David Kahn may never get another management job again...anywhere and in any industry...in the universe.
This is just an opinion... so please Pardon My Bias.
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