Unless David Stern somehow intervenes in the next 24 hours, the 2011-2012 NBA season will finally tip off on Christmas Day in Madison Square Garden. Ten teams will play on Christmas, with the remaining twenty scheduled to start their seasons in the next couple of days. There has been a considerable amount of player movement to digest since December 9th, when free agency and training camps officially began. Some teams have fared better than others.
The Lakers and Celtics both finally had some bad luck. The Blazers continued to be the most cursed franchise in the NBA. And the Clippers are hoping Lob City doesn't turn into Loss City.
Below are my 2011-2012 NBA Preseason Power Rankings. As always, these rankings are 100% guaranteed or your money back.
Last Season Record: 19-63
Number of Projected Losses vs. MIN: 1 (Jan 6)
Aside from drafting Kyrie Irving, the offseason for Cleveland was not very positive. The Cavs reached for Tristan Thompson, acquired no big name free agents and saw Dan Gilbert write another letter. John Wall couldn't get many wins for the Wizards last season, and I don't expect Irving to get many for the Cavs this season, who are likely to be a bottom feeder once again.
On the bright side, the Cavs will pay Ryan Hollins $2.5 million this season.
Last Season Record: 34-48
Number of Projected Losses vs. MIN: 2 (Feb 15 and Mar 28)
Unless you think Kemba Walker will be able to come in and have an immediate impact, or that Corey Maggette will be able to have a positive impact on this team, there is no reason to think Charlotte will be able to match last season's win percentage. If only Bismack Biyombo were coming over this season...
28. New Jersey Nets
Last Season Record: 24-58
Key Losses: Travis Outlaw, Brook Lopez (to foot surgery), Kris Humphries' dignity
Number of Projected Losses vs. MIN: 1 (Feb 3)
Other than the trade for Deron Williams, Mikhail Prokhorov has not had the immediate impact on his team that some thought he would after he bought the team. WIth Brook Lopez going down with a broken bone in his foot - the same one that Rodrigue Beaubois broke last year - the Dwight Howard trade is dead and so are their chances of being a factor in the East. At least they can look forward to their move to Brooklyn.
27. Toronto Raptors
Last Season Record: 22-60
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 1 (Jan 9)
Outside of new coach Dwane Casey, the Raptors are not considerably different from last season. They swapped some role players, drafted a nice player in Jonas Valanciunas who will not play with them this season and are hoping DeMar DeRozan can develop some more. I'm not getting my hopes up about that one or about Andrea Bargnani finally learning that rebounding and defense are equally as important as scoring.
Last Season Record: 23-59
Projected Number of Losses to MIN: 1 (Jan 8)
The Wizards have sharp new Bullet-like uniforms to wear and a second-year of John Wall to improve this team. Outside of three new rookies and two new roles players, however, not much has changed for the Wizards. They still have a bit to go before they can be considered a playoff contender. I am excited to watch Jan Vesely, however, especially if he brings his significant other to all of his games.
25. Sacramento Kings
Last Season Record: 24-58
Key Acquisitions: JIMMER!!!!, J.J. Hickson, Travis Outlaw, Tyler Honeycutt, More Time in Sacramento
Key Losses: Another DeMarcus Cousins Turnover, Beno Udrih, Omri Casspi
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 4 (Jan 16, Feb 7, Mar 18, Apr 2)
I was saddened when one of my favorite draftees, JIMMER!!!!!, went to one of my least favorite teams in the NBA. I hope JIMMER!!!! can have a solid impact for this team. Unfortunately, with Turnover Machine (Cousins), and a collection of other underachieving players, I can't imagine this team having much success. At least they didn't have to move to Anaheim.
Last Season Record: 46-36
Key Acquisitions: Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, Potential Buyers (please)
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 3 (Jan 13, Mar 10, Apr 7)
We all know about the Chris Paul trade and how the Hornets likely had a better deal with the Lakers turned down by
Dan Gilbert David Stern in order to accept a deal from the Clippers. Given the lack of depth on this team and the fact that the Clippers' cast offs do not exactly seem happy to be there, this season could be painful. At least the Saints should still be playing for the next few weeks.
23. Detroit Pistons
Last Season Record: 30-52
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 2 (Jan 18, Apr 19)
Given that the Pistons won 30 games last season, and should have improved with a new head coach, less drama in the locker room and the addition of Knight, I would expect the Pistons to vie for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Greg Monroe looks like he could be the real thing and I only wish he had been available for the Wolves to select with their pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
22. Milwaukee Bucks
Last Season Record: 35-47
Key Losses: Corey Maggette, Michael Redd, John Salmons
Projected Losses vs. MIN: 1 (Dec 27)
The combination of Scott Skiles' impact as a coach after Year 1, Stephen Jackson's willingness to be in Milwaukee and Brandon Jennings continuing decline should have Milwaukee towards the bottom of the conference. The Bucks, however, can thank a very weak Eastern Conference for their status as a contender for the 8th seed. If Jackson can stay engaged, they could climb higher than that.
21. Phoenix Suns
Last Season Record: 40-42
Projected Losses vs. MIN: 3 (Mar 1, Mar 12, Apr 9)
With the Suns clearly slipping into rebuilding mode, I think every NBA fan outside of Phoenix - and probably a few in Phoenix - just wants to see Steve Nash traded to a contender. Watching Nash waste away the last years of his career with a lottery-bound Suns team would just be depressing. Unfortunately, Robert Sarver is unlikely to approve a Nash trade, given that such a trade would be both logical and good-natured.
20. Utah Jazz
Last Season Record: 39-43
Key Losses: Mehmet Okur, Francisco Elson
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 3 (Jan 21, Feb 22, Mar 15)
Al Jefferson is once again the subject of health concerns and that will play a large part in how well Utah performs this season. The Jazz also have a number of young players to develop and Tyrone Corbin will have his first full season to run this team. The Northwest Division may be the toughest in the NBA this season and Utah will have problems winning division games this year, which has to prompt the following question: should the Timberwolves trade Al Jefferson?
19. Atlanta Hawks
Last Season Record: 44-38
Projected Losses vs. MIN: 1 (Jan 14)
Perennial underachievers, the Atlanta Hawks have the same core for yet another season, despite the team's inability to find success in the playoffs. The addition of T-Mac was noteworthy, especially on such a cheap contract, but after also adding Stackhouse, you have to wonder if the Hawks' new owners know that it is not 1999.
Oh yeah, and Joe Johnson will make $18+ million this season.
Last Season Record: 36-46
Projected Losses vs. MIN: 3 (Mar 19, Apr 4, Apr 22)
Mama, there goes that man.
Hand down, man down.
That's a grown man move.
I'm sad that Mark Jackson will no longer be in the announcing booth and hope he is miked up for every Warriors game. He is the early favorite to be runner up for Coach of the Year. And the Warriors should be about the same, since their only big change was adding Kwame Brown.
17. Houston Rockets
Last Season Record: 43-39
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 4 (Jan 23, Jan 30, Feb 4, Feb 17)
Daryl Morey continues to show his basketball genius. After a disappointing 2010-11 campaign, Morey decided the best way to right the ship was to fire Rick Adelman, hire Kevin McHale and trade for Jonny Flynn. I think Donatas Motiejunas could help this team, but he's not playing this season, so they'll be stuck with a committee of undersized options plus Hasheem Thabeet at center. Have fun, Rocket fans.
Last Season Record: 41-41
Key Losses: Jason Kapono, Darius Songalia
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 1 (Feb 19)
The Sixers played nicely last season under Doug Collins and with largely the same group of players, I would expect them to continue that level of play. Evan Turner has a year under his belt and Nikola Vucevic could be a nice addition. I still think this team is one impact player away from reaching the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.
Last Season Record: 48-34
Projected Losses vs. MIN: 3 (Mar 3, Mar 7, Apr 1)
The Portland Trail Blazers have had some awful luck the past few years and this offseason was one of the worst. Greg Oden has more injury concerns. LaMarcus Aldridge has a potential heart issue that is troubling. Worst of all, Brandon Roy was forced into retirement with his injury problems. That's a lot for a team to endure. Still, with Matthews, Wallace, Crawford, Felton and LMA, this team should be a playoff contender in the West. I think Paul Allen may need to invest some more of his money in the Blazers' training and medical staff.
14. Orlando Magic
Last Season Record: 52-30
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 1 (Feb 13)
According to some sources, Dwight Howard has requested a trade. According to other sources, Howard has not requested a trade. According to my sources, I can no longer get three Honey Mustard sauces unless I'm willing to order the 10-piece Chicken McNuggets. Otis Smith continues to make terrible personnel decisions - like trading Bass, the better player, straight up for Davis - and seems to increase his payroll proportionally with the roster's decline in talent.
13. Denver Nuggets
Last Season Record: 50-32
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 4 (Feb 20, Mar 25, Apr 11, Apr 26)
No more Melodrama, but the Nuggets have a roster full of talent, despite three key players over in China. Danilo Gallinari is poised for a breakout year, Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer came to the roster for free, and Kenneth Faried could have an immediate impact in the NBA. Additionally, it will be nice to see George Karl on the sidelines once again. The return of Nene and Afflalo will help keep the Nuggets in the playoff hunt.
Last Season Record: 61-21
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 3 (Jan 2, Jan 27, Mar 21)
The storyline remains the same for the Spurs. Can they stave off Father Time for another year? Given what happened against the Memphis Grizzlies in last year's playoffs, the conventional wisdom says no. Yet, whenever people write this team off, they tend to come back. The addition of Kawhi Leonard appears to be another solid draft pick for this organization, and if T.J. Ford can contribute off of the bench, they'll still be a tough out in the playoffs.
11. Indiana Pacers
Last Season Record: 37-45
Key Acquisitions: David West, George Hill, Jeff Pendergraph
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 2 (Feb 1, Apr 16)
The Pacers had one of the best offseasons of any team in the NBA and it largely came from Larry Bird's willingness to stay put and wait for the dust to clear. Although a trade for O.J. Mayo fell through, they signed David West and acquired point guard George Hill. Along with Paul George's growth spurt (he's apparently 6'11" now) and the continued development of Hibbert and Collison, this team should finish well above .500 this year and could even vie for a top-4 seed in the East.
10. Memphis Grizzlies
Last Season Record: 46-36
Key Acquisitions: Josh Selby
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 4 (Jan 4, Feb 8, Mar 27, Apr 17)
The Grizzlies largely stayed put this offseason, save for the resigning of Marc Gasol, but should return as a playoff force in the Western Conference. The biggest loss for this team was that of Darrell Arthur, who tore his ACL and is out for the season. The other question is how the return of Rudy Gay could impact this team, both positively and negatively, as well as if O.J. Mayo will finally be traded after several unsuccessful attempts.
Last Season Record: 56-26
Key Losses: Jeff Green, Glen Davis, Relationship between Danny Ainge and Rajon Rondo
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 1 (Mar 30)
The Celtics tried trading Rajon Rondo for Chris Paul and tried signing David West, but failed in both of those pursuits. In the process, they managed to anger Rondo and lose Jeff Green to heart surgery. They did add Brandon Bass and Keyon Dooling, but also added Sasha Pavolvic, which has to be considered a net loss. With Garnett, Allen and Pierce all getting another year older, this team's window at the top might be closing.
Last Season Record: 42-40
Projected Number of Losses to MIN: 1 (Feb 11)
The Knicks are back. While they likely overpaid for Tyson Chandler after giving up on the Chris Paul pursuit, he is still a great addition to improve the Knicks D. Amar'e's health and point guard depth after the loss of Billups are both big concerns, but if all goes well, the Big Apple could be a challenger to the Bulls and Heat this season. I am shocked that Mike Bibby could still get an NBA roster spot after his performance with Miami last season.
Last Season Record: 57-25
Key Acquisitions: Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy, Jason Kapono
Key Losses: Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Half of Kobe's estate
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 4 (Jan 29, Feb 29, Mar 9, Mar 16)
What a terrible offseason for Kobe. He's getting a divorce...and didn't have a prenup. He lost Chris Paul in the trade debacle and saw his team trade Lamar Odom to the team that swept the Lakers in last year's playoffs without getting any players in return. It went from bad to worse after he tore a ligament in his hand. Still, the team has Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and some quality role players such as Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace. If Devin Ebanks can live up to his hype, they can still do some damage in the playoffs.
The Lakers are no longer the best team in L.A. and are no longer a true title contender, in my opinion. Getting Dwight Howard is not necessarily going to make them better, especially if they trade both Pau and Bynum for him.
Last Season Record: 32-50
Key Acquisitions: Caron Butler, Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups
Key Losses: Craig Smith, Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 4 (Jan 20, Feb 28, Mar 5, Apri 12)
The Clippers have Chris Paul, and with the additions of Butler and Billups, they instantly go from a nice young team to a Western Conference contender. Still, they have to prove they can win in Lob City and not just throw alley-oops. I would ordinarily love to root for a team like this, but unfortunately, David Stern still allows Donald Sterling to own an NBA team. Sterling may be one of the worst people alive on the planet, and if he is accepting the championship trophy from Stern this summer, it will be a sad day for professional sports.
Stern needs to force Sterling to sell this team in the next thirty days.
Last Season Record: 57-25
Key Acquisitions: Vince Carter, Brandan Wright, Lamar Odom
Key Losses: Rudy Fernandez, Corey Brewer, J.J. Barea, Caron Butler
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 3 (Jan 1, Jan 25, Feb 10)
The defending NBA champion Mavericks added two fairly sizable pieces in Odom and Carter, who should provide solid veteran minutes in this condensed season. Their roster is aging rapidly, and if Rodrigue Beaubois can stay healthy, he may be counted on to supply fresh legs. Mark Cuban does not strike me as a guy who would be satisfied with only one title, but the road is still tough through the West. Besides, Barea and Brewer were largely responsible for last year's championship (along with Brian Cardinal).
Last Season Record: 62-20
Key Acquisitions: Richard Hamilton
Projected Number of Losses to MIN: 1 (Jan 10)
If you talk to an MVP voter, they'll likely tell you that Derrick Rose was very deserving. If you talk to a blogger, he or she will likely tell you that Rose stinks and name off a list of players who deserved it over Rose, including LeBron, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez, Serge Ibaka and Gary Neal. Whatever the case, Rose is back and his Bulls have added Richard Hamilton. We'll have to see whether Rip has anything left, but if he does, it could be a nice solution to the Bulls' shooting guard woes. Carlos Boozer also needs to play much better than last season if the Bulls hope to beat Miami in the playoffs.
Last Season Record: 55-27
Projected Number of Losses vs. MIN: 3 (Dec 26, Mar 23, Apr 14)
Kevin Durant may be the coolest non-Timberwolf superstar in the NBA. Not only is he supremely talented, but he plays in flag football games with random Twitter followers, went to every charity game possible during the summer (except the Michael Beasley All-Star Classic) and appears to remain humble and dedicated to getting better. If he can co-exist with Russell Westbrook and James Harden starts to come into his own, this Thunder team is going to be scary. Barring injury, OKC looks to be the second-best team in the West.
They also made a great addition in Lazar Hayward, who could be the missing piece that they've needed to make a deep playoff run.
2. Miami Heat
Last Season Record: 58-24
Key Losses: Mike Bibby, Jamaal Magloire, Juwan Howard's memory of anything before 1850 A.D.
Projected Number of Losses to MIN: 1 (Dec 30)
People have dogged LeBron and the Heat all summer for not winning the NBA title, but frankly, I think that getting the Finals and being a couple of wins away from an NBA Championship is pretty impressive in the core's first year together. There are a lot of fan bases that would've been fine losing in the NBA Finals. The Heat added Battier and Cole, who could both play important roles this season, and Mario Chalmers continues to improve. The Heat should be better this year, as long as they can get solid minutes from their front line.
I've taken a lot of pot shots at Eddy Curry this offseason, but if he can actually come back and play productive minutes for the Heat, then that's a tremendous story. Of course, if he can't, then he'll be the butt of some more of my jokes. That's just how it works.
Last Season Record: 82-0
Key Acquisitions: Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea, Malcolm Lee, Derrick Williams, Rick Adelman
Key Losses: Jonny Flynn, Lazar Hayward, Sebastian Telfair
Projected Wins This Season: 66
We've come a long way from the days of Al Jefferson, Randy Foye and Kevin Love. I remember being very disappointed when I learned about the O.J. Mayo-Kevin Love trade. I remember thinking in that first season that I would've rather had Mayo. I remember saying Love wasn't that good. I was very wrong about Love and I'm very glad about how wrong I was. Love is a bona fide superstar now and he deserves max money.
But for once, it's not all about Love. We have a supporting cast that looks promising, including another future star in Ricky Rubio. I don't need to go through this roster with you, since everyone already knows why and how the Wolves are going to go 66-0 this season. Coach Adelman will get the most out of all of our potential, and for the players who have already realized their potentials, he will put them in the best positions to succeed.
It's going to be a great year, guys. I hope to see the Target Center packed this year to cheer on our NBA Champion Minnesota Timberwolves.