Here’s a look at my first-bi-weekly NBA Power Rankings as the 2013-14 season is kicking off.
1. Miami Heat: The Bulls are closing the gap for supremacy in the East (and the NBA), but having LeBron and winning back-to-back World Championships gets you my #1 ranking…for now.
2. Chicago Bulls: D-Rose is back and lighting it up in the preseason. Not that I take too much stock in preseason, but it’s good to see he’s healthy and can elevate. Bulls can contend for title, but they’ll need Joakim Noah to stay healthy.
3. San Antonio Spurs: Coach Pop always seems to work wonders with magic beans. The familiar faces (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili) are back, and Marco Belinelli was signed to man the wing with the steadily improving Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
4. Los Angeles Clippers: Is new coach Doc Rivers the prescription L.A. needs to finally contend? This could finally be the year the CP3, Blake Griffin and Co. take the leap
5. Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizz will live and die by their #1-ranked defense (89.3 ppg allowed last year). Hopefully the signings of Mike Miller and Kosta Koufos can help alleviate their depth issues.
6. Golden State Warriors: “Run-and-gun”, “run-and-fun”, or call it what you will, but coach Mark Jackson has an exciting, fast paced team that will only look more explosive with a healthy Steph Curry and the acquisition of Andre Iguodala.
7. Indiana Pacers: The Pacers were only one win away from making it to the NBA Finals last year. Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland join a team vying to unseat the Heat in the East.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder: All-Star PG Russell Westbrook is on the shelf, and how soon he returns (and how effective he is when he does) will play a key part in determining the Thunders’ success. Youngsters Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams must make an impact if Kevin Durant wants to keep his sanity.
9. New York Knicks: The Knicks did everything they could this off-season in order to keep pace with the ever-improving Eastern Conference. Without much to spend, they managed to retain J.R. Smith, acquire Andrea Bargnani via trade, and sign Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih to salary-cap friendly deals. They are their own worst enemy, and that will be something that could keep them from contending.
10. Houston Rockets: Dwightgate is over in L.A., but will it continue in Houston? Probably not. D12 looks happy and ready to clean up the glass alongside superstar James Harden. The Rockets finished only 0.1 points behind Denver for the most points-per-game last year (106 ppg), but will Howard add enough defense for them to contend?