NBA Power Rankings: Heat, Clippers, Nets, Rockets all with title aspirations

Paul Pierce Brooklyn Nets Celtics
Paul Pierce is poised to have a throwback year in Brooklyn. Credit: Getty Images

1. Miami Heat - You have to beat the best to be the best, and well, nobody has beaten the best when it counts most for the past two seasons. It could be a three-peat, folks.

2. Los Angeles Clippers – Has Doc Rivers stopped talking about the Celtics yet? Because he’s got a pretty good team in L.A., and very high expectations.

3. Brooklyn Nets - Just another quiet offseason in Brooklyn. It’s too bad they couldn’t go out and get two Hall of Famers to add to an already stacked lineup. Oh, wait.

4. Houston Rockets - Dwight Howard … if you corrupt the Rockets and turn James Harden and Jeremy Lin against each other … we won’t be all that surprised.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder - Russell Westbrook’s knee injury ended the Thunder’s title hopes last postseason, and he’ll miss the start of the regular season after arthroscopic surgery on it again on Oct. 1. When he returns, the Thunder will be again be dangerous.

6. Indiana Pacers - Always the forgotten team, the Pacers will once again compete with the best teams in the East. But are they title contenders? Not anymore with Tyler Hansbrough in Toronto.

7. Chicago Bulls - We THINK Derrick Rose is going to be ready for this season. But that could all change if he decides he wants to feel 101-percent. If he does play, look for the Bulls to cause trouble.

8. San Antonio Spurs - The first rule about the Spurs is don’t criticize the Spurs. That said, how much longer can Tim Duncan do what he’s doing? Asking for a friend.

9. Golden State Warriors - Breaking: Steph Curry just hit another 3-pointer. The Warriors will miss Jarrett Jack (now in Cleveland), but the real question is can Mark Jackson get them to play defense?

10. Memphis Grizzlies – The Griz signed Mike Miller for cheap to help with outside shooting woes, and added big man Kosta Koufos to bulk up an already stacked front court. They’ll stay tough out West.

11. Denver Nuggets - No George Karl in Denver this season just doesn’t sound right after the way he got his team to play. Note to new coach Brian Shaw: play Kenneth Faried as much as possible.

12. New York Knicks - Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace are two big additions, but we can’t help but think the Knicks will be the second-best team in New York this season.

13. Atlanta Hawks - Paul Millsap is one of the more underrated, complete forwards in the NBA, and hopefully that shows in the ATL, where the void of Josh Smith may be felt early.

14. Detroit Pistons - Between Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith, the Pistons are stacked at the forward/center positions. They also now have Brandon Jennings at guard. But points off for Charlie Villanueva.

15. Cleveland Cavaliers - No, they aren’t back to the LeBron years, but if the Cavs stay healthy, they’ll absolutely be a playoff team. Kyrie Irving, Jarrett Jack, Anderson Varejao, and *gasp* Andrew Bynum will have a big say.

16. New Orleans Pelicans - Pelicans! We like the name change, OK? And we also like Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, and Eric Gordon (if he can stay healthy). Make us like you this season, Austin Rivers.

17. Washington Wizards - Give us a fully-healthy John Wall (please, for once!) and the Wizards could make a little noise in the East. Looking at a fringe playoff team.

18. Portland Trailblazers - Damian Lillard looks poised to have a huge sophomore year, and the Blazers lineup is solid overall. That’s all we got.

19. Dallas Mavericks - Mark Cuban may want to sit a couple seasons of Shark Tank out and focus on this Mavericks team, who we’re pretty sure none of the sharks would make an offer on right now.

20. Los Angeles Lakers - Out of all the ridiculousness that surrounded Dwight Howard with the Lakers, none of it touches injuring a finger while tobogganing at the Great Wall of China. Congrats, Chris Kaman, and welcome back to L.A.!

21. Milwaukee Bucks - It looked like the Bucks had something last season. Now? We’ll see. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are replaced by Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo. At least Larry Sanders will still dominate.

22. Minnesota Timberwolves - We don’t expect much out of the T-Wolves, but we’d like to see Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio get some serious minutes together. Also, Love could go on trade block during the season if things go south.

23. Utah Jazz – They got nothing for Al Jefferson’s or Paul Millsap’s expiring deals last year, and lost them both over this offseason. Cool strategy!

24. Toronto Raptors - Addition by subtraction in dumping Andrea Bargnani on the Knicks (plus they got picks). But where is Toronto going? Talk about an identity crisis.

 25. Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins signed a four-year extension worth a reported $62 million over the offseason. That’ll come out to around $40 million after all the “suspended without pay” incidents that should pop up between now and then.

26. Boston Celtics – If Jeff Green can play like a superstar, and Rajon Rondo comes back soon, and Kelly Olynyk wins Rookie of the Year, and, and, and … #denial.

27. Charlotte Bobcats - Hey, the Bobcats made a splash this offseason by inking Al Jefferson to a multi-year deal. Now for the inevitable Michael Jordan 10-day contract.

28. Phoenix Suns – Eric Bledsoe is a nice addition to a Suns team that hopes to not finish dead last in the Western Conference again this year. Good luck with that.

29. Orlando Magic - The Magic will once again go very largely unnoticed around the NBA (and in Orlando), but Victor Oladipo is your Rookie of the Year. You heard it here first.

30. Philadelphia 76ers - The 76ers wouldn’t even crack the Top 10 of Metro’s NBA D-League Power Rankings.


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