By Spike

There’s more attention on the NBA this season than I can remember there being for quite a number of years.

Say what you will about the decision of James, Wade, and Bosh to play together in Miami, but it’s got the world talking about the NBA again. That paired with the Lakers quest for a three-peat, and the emergence of Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, make for plenty of story lines.

Rank Record           Team

30.       ( – )                Toronto Raptors – They’ve got some “fun to watch” young talent in DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani. Let’s hope Raptors fans will take “fun to watch” over winning for a while, because losing Bosh, however indifferent was to playing in Toronto, is going to impact their record.

29.       ( – )                 Minnesota Timberwolves – They’ll be better than they were last year, which shouldn’t be all that difficult. Call me crazy, but I think they’re going to get a strong year out of Michael Beasley.

28.       ( – )                 Detroit Pistons – The Pistons made a big splash in free agency and signed Tracy McGrady. Did I say splash? I didn’t mean splash.  It’s probably time to trade Rip Hamilton and officially start over in Detroit.

27.       (0-0)               Cleveland Cavaliers – Perhaps you haven’t heard, they lost Lebron James this offseason. Coaching this bunch through this season will be Byron Scott’s greatest challenge as a head coach. Antawn Jamison isn’t even starting to begin the season, is it any great mystery why James would leave? This could be a disaster.

26.       (0-0)               Golden State Warriors – The Warriors were dead last in the NBA last season in defense and rebounding. They signed David Lee, which will help with rebounding, but not defense.  New owners, new coach, and probably some moves still to be made before they take the next step here. Expect big numbers out of Lee though, I don’t think 24/15 is out of the question.

25.       (0-0)               New Jersey Nets – They added Derrick Favors to an already decent nucleus of Devin Harris and Brook Lopez. What they didn’t add was a top-flight free agent. Unless a trade for Carmelo Anthony happens, which seems unlikely; don’t expect much from the Nets.

24.       (0-0)               Sacramento Kings – If everything comes together in Sacramento, this is a team that could move up several spots. If Demarcus Cousins has his head on straight, and Tyreke Evans keeps his on straight, the sky is the limit.

23.       (0-0)               Indiana Pacers – No household names yet, but Darren Collison and Danny Granger is something to build on. Did you know Mike Dunleavy is making $10 million dollars this year? Really.

22.       (0-0)               Philadelphia Sixers – A dreadful 09-10 season gave way to an offseason of hope and promise, which gave way to an ugly preseason. I’m not even close to giving up on this team or Evan Turner, but I’m definitely not a believer yet. Jrue Holiday could be Gary Payton-like if he reaches his potential.

21.       (0-0)               Charlotte Bobcats – The Bobcats are proof that if you play defense, you can win some games in the Eastern Conference, going 44-38 last year. That being said, to call their talent level “challenged” would be kind. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is Larry Brown’s last season here. Did you know Kwame Brown is still playing in the NBA? Really.

20.       (0-0)               Los Angeles Clippers – If you’ve seen any of Blake Griffin in the preseason, you’ll know why he was the #1 pick in last year’s draft. I don’t think John Wall can do anything to keep Griffin from winning Rookie Of The Year. That being said, not adding anything to Griffin and Baron Davis in free-agency will continue to keep the Clippers out of the playoffs.

19.       (0-0)               New Orleans Hornets – Nothing like an offseason full of rumors that your best player wants to leave to rally the troops, right? Trevor Ariza is a nice addition, but probably not what Chris Paul has in mind as a Robin to his Batman. I’m pretty convinced that Paul is pretty convinced that he wants out.

18.       (0-0)               New York Knicks – The Knicks cleared cap space so they could sign Lebron James or Dwyane Wade, or both. Instead, they got Amare Stoudemire. The Knicks will have problems rebounding and won’t play much defense. If they get Carmelo Anthony, it’ll change the rank for sure. Otherwise, they’ll win some games, but expect them to be no better a borderline playoff team.

17.       (0-0)               Washington Wizards – John Wall is going to be an instant star in the NBA, with speed I haven’t seen since Iverson. Nick Young has looked good in the preseason, and he can thank Gilbert Arenas’ fake injury for more playing time. If Andray Blatche continues to improve, things are looking up in Washington. Now, if they’ll just get rid of Arenas so they can change their name back to the Bullets.

16.       (0-0)               Memphis Grizzlies – A strong frontcourt in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Rudy Gay coming back with a big contract and a gold medal. The problem is, no one can shoot and they’re pretty thin. If Tony Allen isn’t looking to be a star, and can fill the 6th man role he’s best at, the Grizzlies will be improved.

15.       (0-0)               Phoenix Suns – The Suns lost Amare Stoudemire to free agency, but picked up Hedo Turkoglu in a trade with Toronto. They’ve got a lot of good players, the problem is, outside of Nash, they all play the same position.

14.       (0-0)               Denver Nuggets – Carmelo Anthony wants out, and Denver doesn’t want to just let him go for nothing. It might take a while, and the situation will probably take its toll on the success of the team.

13.       (0-0)               Houston Rockets – The Rockets exceeded expectations last season, especially after losing Yao Ming. They’ve got Yao back this season (for 24 minutes a game), but still don’t have a #1 guy on the roster. Luis Scola and Kevin Martin are nice players, but I still think they’re a star away.

12.       (0-0)               Atlanta Hawks – Was Joe Johnson worth a max contract? Probably not. But if they let him go, how were they going to replace him? This is life in the NBA right now. A middle of the pack playoff team is what they were, and where they’ll stay.

11.       (0-0)               Milwaukee Bucks – If Andrew Bogut is healthy and Brandon Jennings can figure out a way to continue to impress and shoot a better percentage, the Bucks could win 50 games. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Michael Redd comes back with the Bucks having re-signed John Salmons.

10.       (0-0)               Portland Trail Blazers – Is it silly to say “if Greg Oden is healthy…” when I write about the Trail Blazers? Well, it’s the truth. If Oden is healthy, the Blazers have a top of the line frontcourt with him and LeMarcus Aldridge to go along with Brandon Roy.

9.         (0-0)               Chicago Bulls – I’m not as sold as everyone else is on the Bulls. Trading Kirk Hinrich to create cap space to get Wade or James, and then not getting either, hurts. Until then, I still see them as a middle of the pack playoff team in the East. I do like the addition of Kyle Korver though. If Rose becomes everything we think he can be, they’ll be fine.

8.         (0-0)               San Antonio Spurs – Everyone keeps waiting for time to catch up with the Spurs, and in the playoffs last year, it looks like maybe it has.

7.         (0-0)               Utah Jazz – They lost Carlos Boozer, but added Al Jefferson. That move will tell the tale of the Jazz season. Deron Williams has also proven he’s the best point guard in the NBA. Yes, he’s better than Chris Paul.

6.         (0-0)               Dallas Mavericks – The talk about the Mavs this year has been about whether their window is closing, or if it’s closed.  The answer may be, both. The chance for them to win a title seems closed, but they can certainly be competitive, and a top 4 team in the West.

5.         (0-0)               Oklahoma City Thunder – We know how good Kevin Durant is, what we don’t know, is how good he can be, which is scary. Think George Gervin, Version 2.0. Russell Westbrook might be the best young guard in the NBA. Durant and Westbrook are 22 and 21 years old, respectively, and they’ve already got a 50 win season under their belts.

4.         (0-0)               Boston Celtics – They’ve got the same questions that the Spurs do about their age, but they showed us they’ve still got it in the postseason last year. As long as they still play the same defense and are healthy at the end of the season, they’ll be a threat in the playoffs.

3.         (0-0)               Miami Heat – I firmly believe that within 2 weeks, the Heat will be ranked #1. After watching them in the preseason, and knowing what we know about James, Wade and Bosh, I believe they’ll go down as one of the greatest teams we’ve ever seen. Try and think of a team who had two of the four best players in the league and didn’t win the championship. Until I see it for real though, they’ll stay at #3.

2.         (0-0)               Orlando Magic – There’s no question how good the Magic will be in the regular season. They’re deep and talented. The two questions for Orlando are; 1. Has Dwight Howard done enough in the offseason to improve his offensive game, and 2. Who is the guy on this team that’s going to finish off other teams in the playoffs? Because it’s not Vince Carter.

1.         (0-0)               Los Angeles Lakers – They might get off to a slow start because of Kobe Bryant’s knee surgery, but they’ve won two straight titles, and added defensive specialist/energy guy Matt Barnes. Somehow, I believe all of the talk about Miami Heat will drive the Lakers this season.

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