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NBA Power Rankings: Clippers, Spurs, Cavaliers start at top

1. Los Angeles Clippers - Doc Rivers has a full year under his belt, the circus surrounding Donald Sterling is over, and it seems like only injuries can stop this talented bunch. No more excuses for Chris Paul and Co.

2. San Antonio Spurs - They didn't get enough respect last regular season, but proved the doubters wrong. Their Big 3 is another year older, but age is just another useless stat to this team. When it counts, the defending champs come to play.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers - First came LeBron James, then came Kevin Love. The Cavs obviously won the offseason with those additions and immediately become the team to beat in the East.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder - Losing Kevin Durant for the start of the season will be the difference between a top seed and a middle seed come spring. But with a healthy Durant back long before then, this becomes a tough first round matchup for an unlucky opponent.

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5. Houston Rockets - One of the biggest losers in the offseason, the Rockets couldn't land any big stars as Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James said no thanks. They also lost Chandler Parsons to Dallas, and traded away Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. Trevor Ariza was their "big" signing. Did they improve enough?

6. Golden State Warriors - The Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, remain partners in the backcourt after the Warriors refused to part ways with Thompson in a deal for Kevin Love. Will that come back to bite them? Maybe, but Golden State is fun as heck to watch regardless.

7. Portland Trailblazers - The Blazers went through spurts last season where they looked like the best team in the NBA. But it couldn't last. The starting lineup, led by Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge will continue to score points - but will they defend? Chris Kaman was their big offseason signing to shore up the bench.

8. Chicago Bulls - Always a tough team to beat, and this season certainly will be no exception as Pau Gasol joins Joakim Noah in the post. Of course, the health of Derrick Rose will once again be the difference-maker.

9. Washington Wizards - The trendy and hip pick out of the East this season, the Wizards added some veteran leadership and toughness with Paul Pierce. They re-signed Marcin Gortat and with John Wall running the point things are looking up in DC.

10. Dallas Mavericks - A lot of folks see the Mavericks as one of the winners of the offseason. They snagged Parsons, Tyson Chandler, and Jameer Nelson, among others, while retaining Dirk Nowitzki. Mark Cuban refused to rebuild completely and now the Mavs are back - but to what extent?

11. Toronto Raptors - The team North of the border looks to be very competitive again. They re-signed Kyle Lowry, which was by far their most important offseason task, and kept most of the roster that came extremely close to advancing to the second round of last year's playoffs.

12. Memphis Grizzlies - The Griz will remain a tough and gritty bunch after extending Zach Randolph over the offseason. They also signed Vince Carter. But they've come up short the last few years and it's hard to believe this year will be any different.

13. Miami Heat - It was a fun run for the Heat, but without LeBron James' talents, they're no longer considered top dog. That said, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and a few other solid rotation guys will keep the Heat a playoff team.

14. Phoenix Suns - The rising Suns finally came to terms with restricted free agent guard Eric Bledsoe, and they also added guard Isaiah Thomas to the backcourt this offseason. Don't forget guard Goran Dragic, either. How will all three coexist? Stay tuned.

15. Charlotte Hornets - The "Bobcats" are dead, and that's probably a good thing. Charlotte has put together a nice little team after making the playoffs last season. Defensively, they're one of the more underrated teams in the NBA.

16. Indiana Pacers - The biggest loser this offseason is Indy. Lance Stephenson is gone to Charlotte and even worse, Paul George is gone for most or all of the season after a gruesome leg injury while playing for Team USA. Really tough situation in Indy.

17. Brooklyn Nets - After a frustrating 2013-14, the Nets will look to make a little noise this year with lowered expectations. Heath remains a huge concern, especially now that Brook Lopez has another foot injury. Can he and Deron Williams stay on the court?

18. Atlanta Hawks - A pretty quiet offseason keeps the Hawks where they've been for a while now - a decent team, but not a title contender. Getting Al Horford back is the biggest plus for them.

19. Denver Nuggets - The Nugs didn't make a blockbuster trade this offseason, but they do look to be better. For one, trading for Aaron Afflalo was a nice move and didn't cost much. They get Danilo Gallinari back from injury, as well. The Jusuf Nurkic pick will pay off down the road.

20. New Orleans Pelicans - Is this the year Anthony Davis stays healthy and becomes an absolute monster from start to finish? The Pelicans sure hope so - or they're toast. Omer Asik was a nice get for them.

21. Detroit Pistons - One of the biggest disappointments last season, the Pistons have plenty to prove now. It'll be interesting to see if they hold on to Greg Monroe all season.

22. Boston Celtics - After missing out on the Kevin Love sweepstakes, it's back to the rebuilding phase for the Celtics. They'll be better than they were last season, but that's not saying much. It remains to be seen how things go with Rajon Rondo and his impending free agency.

23. New York Knicks - Well, the Knicks got their guy, Carmelo Anthony, to stay, but will the wins follow? History would say no. This is a team not going very far anytime soon.

24. Sacramento Kings - A team with ownership looking to improve as soon as possible means they could be involved in more than one trade this season. Keep an eye on Ben McLemore, who has been rumored in trades.

25. Los Angeles Lakers - "Kobe's back!" means Kobe Bryant has returned to the court for the Lakers. "Nash's back!" means Steve Nash has serious back issues. Nick "Swaggy P" Young should keep it interesting though.

26. Utah Jazz - The Jazz are slowly piecing together a strong unit. They said they would match any offer for Gordon Hayward, and they did. Derrick Favors should improve, ditto for Alec Burks. And the rookie from Australia, Dante Exum, will turn some heads.

27. Milwaukee Bucks - With Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have two young, exciting players who they hope to be able to build around for years to come. But for now, the losses will pile up.

28. Orlando Magic - Victor Oladipo could make a big leap in his second NBA season, and the Magic have two rookies in Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton that they're high on. But they did trade away their best scorer in Aaron Afflalo. Points are gonna be harder to come by this year.

29. Minnesota Timberwolves - Well, the glass half-full crowd is excited for the Andrew Wiggins Era. The glass half-empty crowd is just waiting for Wiggins to become a stud and end up on another team. Such is life in Minnesota.

30. Philadelphia 76ers - They're still going strong in their 15-year rebuilding plan, but at least Nerlens Noel is on the court for them now. Plenty of young talent in Philly that they hope to develop.

 
 
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