The NBA: Pre-season Power Rankings

Training camps have already started! Are you as excited as we are that the NBA season is just around the corner? The season is about three weeks away from opening on October 30. Ray Allen and Steve Nash have already made their pre-season débuts with their new teams. The Heat and Clippers are playing exhibition games in China (hopefully, the Philippines can get one of those games soon). The UAAP Finals will finish by this weekend (OBF!) and the PBA Philippine Cup is ongoing. So, why not more basketball for us since we are all hoopnuts right?

So, it's time to unveil the first NBA Power Rankings of the 2012-13 season. This edition focuses on the player acquisitions and losses of each team during the off-season. The rankings also take note of each team's potential on paper and how they improved or worsened compared to last season's standings.

30. Charlotte Bobcats | Last Year: 7-59
The Bobcats did not earn the worst record in NBA history because only 66-games were played BUT they ended up with the lowest winning percentage in NBA history (.106). The next lowest win total last year was 20 games. A core group of Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, Gerald Henderson, Ben Gordon, Bryon Mullens and rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist does not translate into a vast improvement from last year. It will be an accomplishment if the Bobcats win more than 11 games this season.

29. Orlando Magic | Last Year: 37-29
From being a playoff team to becoming a lottery team for next year, that will be this year's edition of the Magic after turning Dwight Howard into Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington. Then the Magic also lost Ryan Anderson (Most Improved Player) to the Hornets and in return got Gustavo Ayon. The Magic will also have a rookie head coach in Jacque Vaughn. The organization has admitted that they are in rebuilding mode and this team has no all-star in their roster. It would be no surprise if they lost more games than the Bobcats.

28. Sacramento Kings | Last Year: 22-44
This is slowly becoming DeMarcus Cousin's team. He became a better player, on and off the court last season. He still needs to improve but he had 18 ppg and 11 rpg last year and those numbers will even get better this year. The Kings drafted power forward Thomas Robinson and they hope that he and Cousins can be their frontcourt of the future. Jimmer Fredette was a disappointment last year and Tyreke Evans has been slowed down by injuries.

27. Detroit Pistons | Last Year: 25-41
The Pistons are similar to the Kings because they have Greg Monroe emerging as their best player (15 and 10) and they drafted PF/C rookie Andre Drummond to develop as Monroe's running mate. The Pistons are slightly better due to a stronger backcourt that consists of sophomore Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey. It also helps that the Pistons play in a weaker Eastern Conference.

26. Washington Wizards | Last Year: 20-46
John Wall missing around two months due to injury hurts the development of the Wizards. They drafted Brandley Beal who will start as the SG while more minutes could be allocated to sophomore Jan Vesely. The Wizards have veterans in Trevor Ariza, Nene and Emeka Okafor who are all decent starters. The environment got more mature and team-oriented with the departure of Nick Young and Andre Blatche.

25. Cleveland Cavaliers | Last Year: 21-45
The Cavs have a future superstar in Kyrie Irving. He was the ROY last year and one year under his belt plus a full training camp should help him become even better. The Cavs expect Tristan Thompson to continue to mature and be a decent starter and they drafted Dion Waiters to become their future starting SG with Irving.  Waiters has three-point range and he can form a smooth shooting and quick backcourt with Irving.

24. Houston Rockets | Last Year: 34-32
The Rockets gambled in the off-season and they lost in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. They ended up with Jeremy Lin as consolation prize. Linsanity though will play with a weaker roster compared to what he had with the NY Knicks. On the bright side, the Rockets drafted three rookies who can play: Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones and Royce White. If the rookies can contribute, this team might surprise a few people.

23. Phoenix Suns | Last Year: 33-33
Their leader, Steve Nash is gone and their best defensive player, Grant Hill gone as well. The Suns got younger with the arrival of Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley. On the other hand, Channing Frye has been sidelined indefinitely due to an enlarged heart. They will miss his shooting ability. On the frontcourt, the Suns have a decent combination of Scola and Gortat who can perform well on the pick and roll. The Suns hope that Dragic can do a half-decent job of the pick and roll just like Nash.

22. New Orleans Hornets | Last Year: 21-45
First overall pick Anthony Davis is the real deal. He is a franchise player and he can turn the Hornets into a playoff team. Though, probably not this year, but quite possibly next season. The additions of Ryan Anderson, rookie Austin Rivers and a healthy Eric Gordon make the Hornets more competitive this season. A more realistic goal for them is to have a .500 winning percentage but a tougher Western Conference will prevent them from making the playoffs.

21. Portland Trailblazers | Last Year: 28-38

The Blazers had a tough year last season when Brandon Roy retired and LaMarcus Aldridge missed 11 games due to injury. Raymond Felton (now with Knicks) was out of shape and Wesley Matthews was in a shooting slump. They have two rookies in the projected starting lineup (Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard) who can contribute this early. Also having J.J. Hickson and Nic Batum as support players to your top 20 player Aldridge can make the Blazers a tough out.

20. Toronto Raptors | Last Year: 23-43
The Raptors have a vastly improved rotation with the arrivals of Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields and rookies Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross. There is optimism that they can make the playoffs and that is a realistic goal IF Andrea Bargnani stays healthy and the rookies contribute. Holdovers like DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis are relatively young so there is room for improvement. Jose Calderon might get traded and if they get a decent player in return, the playoffs could be a reality.

19. Milwaukee Bucks | Last Year: 31-35
The Bucks have an explosive starting backcourt with Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. They are arguably the highest scoring backcourt in the East (Williams and Johnson, Nets). Up front is a different story where they have Samuel Dalembert, Drew Gooden, Dunleavy and Mbah a Moute who are good role players but lack the firepower offensively. The key is to have Ersan Ilyasova improve on his 13 and 9 stats from last season to elevate the Bucks into playoff contention.

18. Golden State Warriors | Last Year: 23-43
If healthy, the Warriors can be a top team in the West. They have a sweet shooting backcourt consisting of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson while the frontcourt is loaded with David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes and Carl Landry. On the bench, they have Jarret Jack, Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson. This team is not lacking in scoring but defensively, they are a work in progress. 

17. Atlanta Hawks | Last Year: 40-26
Are the Hawks better by subtraction when they traded Joe Johnson to the Nets? Johnson was known for his isolation style of play with the Hawks but he was also a decent defender and a good shooter. In return, the Hawks got Anthony Morrow (good shooter) and DeShawn Stevenson (decent defender). Other additions are Kyle Korver and Devin Harris who make the Hawks a more balanced team.  

16. Minnesota Timberwolves | Last Year: 26-40
The T'wolves were on pace to make the playoffs until Ricky Rubio got injured. A healthy Rubio paired with a healthy Brandon Roy (who unretired) a slimmer Kevin Love and a stronger Nikola Pekovic can get the T'wolves back in the playoffs. Not to mention the addition of Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger gives them more flexibility on the wings and if Derrick Williams finds his game, this team will make noise. 

15. Chicago Bulls | Last Year: 50-16
Last year, the Bulls did fine when Derrick Rose missed around 20 games. Things will be much different this year when Rose wont be back until January or February. And when he comes back, he may not be as explosive like before as he tries to recover from an ACL injury. The Bulls also lost Kyle Korver and Omer Asik while adding Radmanovic and Bellinelli. The Bulls will still make the playoffs but that aint a guarantee without a healthy D-Rose. 

14. Utah Jazz | Last Year: 36-30
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap finally had a taste of the playoffs last season. They're coming back this year for more of that and the improvement of Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward will dictate how strong the Jazz can become. Randy Foye and Mo Williams are now with the Jazz and their outside shooting can open more scoring lanes and post-ups for their power players. 

13. New York Knicks | Last Year: 36-30
The Knicks are no longer the best team in New York. They got much older with the additions of Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace. The pairing of Carmelo and Amare has yet to work and they have this year to try again. A healthy Iman Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer together with Tyson Chandler (DPOY) give the Knicks good defensive players. It's just a matter of shot selections and ball movement when Melo and Amare share the court.  

12. Brooklyn Nets | Last Year: 22-44
The Nets will make the playoffs this year. This team got better with Joe Johnson and Andre Blatche while sophomore Marshon Brooks continues to improve. If Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries all stay healthy plus Deron Williams provides his leadership and numbers (21 and 9), the Brooklyn Nets are a balanced team with rebounding, defense and outside shooting. 

11. Dallas Mavericks | Last Year: 36-30
The Mavs are another team that lost in the Howard sweepstakes but they recovered much better than the Rockets when they reloaded with players. The Mavs ended up with Kaman, Brand, OJ Mayo and Darren Collison. Not a bad collection of players to go along with Dirk, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. This is an aging veteran team that can be prone to injuries but as long as Dirk is healthy and in good condition, the Mavs will go as far as he can take them.  

10. Memphis Grizzlies | Last Year: 41-25
A healthy Zach Randolph could mean a top 4 finish for the Grizzlies in the West. The Grizzlies have an intact starting five from the last two years and Darrell Arthur appears to be back from his Achilles injury that sidelined him last season. If Rudy Gay and Zach play well together and Marc Gasol takes another step into becoming the better Gasol, the Grizz are among the best in the West. 
9. Philadelphia 76ers | Last Year: 35-31
The Sixers rely on Andrew Bynum to make them a playoff team. Without him, the Sixers wont make the playoffs. Bynum will miss most of training camp to rest a knee injury. His health has always been a question mark and the Sixers hope nothing serious is amiss. Evan Turner becomes a starter with Iguodala and Lou Williams gone. Turner will have more minutes than before and he needs to make a significant improvement on his game as a third year player. Nick Young also needs to learn more about shot selections. 

8. Denver Nuggets | Last Year: 38-28
As a team, the Nuggets got better with Iguodala due to his all-around game and defensive abilities. A much improved JaVale McGee, the growth of Kenneth Faried and the arrivals of Iguodala and Anthony Randolph make this team super athletic and long. The Nuggets are among the deepest teams in the NBA with Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Miller and Ty Lawson. Scoring wont be a problem but can they make stops?  
7. Indiana Pacers | Last Year: 42-24
The Pacers come back this season with an intact starting five that grew together as a team last year and became the third seed in the East. They tried to provoke and bully the Heat in the playoffs but failed. With that failure comes learning and the Pacers are ready and eager to learn more about their team this year. They added DJ Augustin and Gerald Green to provide scoring off the bench.

6. Los Angeles Clippers | Last Year: 40-26
The Clippers made some nice additions with Grant Hill, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom. But they arent the best in LA just yet. Still, if Blake Griffin and Chris Paul can elevate their games into another level (especially Blake), the Clippers can knock out the top teams in the West. A healthy Billups and Butler vastly improves their rotation but it's really up to Griffin to have a better year on offense and defense. 

5. Boston Celtics | Last Year: 39-27
The Celtics were one win away from the NBA Finals until LeBron took over. They lost Ray Allen to the Heat but they have added Jason Terry and Courtney Lee which have strengthened their SG position. The drafting of Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo could work wonders if both rookies contribute while the return of Jeff Green adds help in their SF position. Overall, a motivated Rajon Rondo and a healthy Garnett and Pierce can take the Celtics to at least the East Finals again. 

4. San Antonio Spurs | Last Year: 50-16
The Spurs have pretty much the same lineup from last year which means that they could end the regular season with the best record again. No change could result into a seamless start into the season with the Spurs winning every night but it could also mean the same result from last season when they lost in the West Finals. Tony Parker needs to continue his strong play from last year while Manu Ginobili needs to stay healthy. 

3. Oklahoma City Thunder | Last Year: 46-19
Another team with almost no change, the OKC Thunder only added rookie Perry Jones III to their nightly rotation. They will also have Eric Maynor back from injury. Their Big 4 will be intact for one more season (Harden might leave next year) and they have the two youngest scoring duos in the NBA with Durant and Westbrook. The Thunder also have a special defender against Dwight Howard in Kendrick Perkins. I cant wait to see the Lakers vs Thunder. 

2. Los Angeles Lakers | Last Year: 41-25
The Lakers made the biggest news in the off-season when they got Steve Nash. Then they made it even bigger with the acquisition of Dwight Howard while Pau Gasol was not traded. By the way, they also added Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks and Chris Duhon to their bench. On paper, this is a super team loaded with veterans. Kobe Bryant wants a 6th ring and if he learns to share the ball more, the Lakers are scary good. 

1. Miami Heat | Last Year: 46-20

The NBA champions have the best player in the world who was league MVP and an Olympic gold medallist. They also have 3 top 20 players. They added the career leader in three-pointers made (Allen) and signed a former all-star in Rashard Lewis who is also a three-point threat. Chris Bosh has increased his range to three-point area while LeBron plans to play in the post. The Heatles are motivated to get ring #2 and they know what kind of basketball can win them games. Dwyane Wade will be starting fresh after off-season surgery and he will be on a mission to silence his critics about his decline. Another ring should do the trick. 

Follow me on Twitter: @rollzter

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