NBA Roundtable

Power Rankings

In General NBA on October 27, 2009 at 5:52 am

The power rankings on this site will be made at five different points in the season – Preseason, First Quarter, Halfway, Third Quarter, prior to the Playoffs.

Teams under these Power Rankings are being judged when at full capacity (healthy), and judged on where they stand within the league when at full capacity rather than through their current form. So teams that are losing because of injuries will not suffer, and teams who are top squads but are not playing to their usual high standards and lose 7 of 9 will not be downgraded because of it.

This is the final power rankings prior to the commencement of the 2009/10 season.

Eastern Conference

#1 Boston Celtics

They’re the frontrunner until someone proves they can knock off a healthy Celtics team.

Kevin Garnett looks primed for another brilliant season.

#2 Orlando Magic

The Magic have boat-loads of talent but I’m not sure what mix gives them the best chance to win yet, and I’m not sure if that mix is going to be as good as the Celtics rotation.

Some questions to be answered … but Orlando do look extremely good.

#3 Cleveland Cavaliers

Different? Yes. Better? Ehh … the jury is still out on that one.

#4 Washington Wizards

The Wizards are closer to a title than the Hawks are. All they have to do is sacrifice some of their offensive talent or young talent in the trade market for more defensive ability. They have the assets.

In the meantime, they’re roughly comparable to the Hawks but Atlanta has an ever so slight advantage due to their defensive ability.

#5 Atlanta Hawks

Same, same.

#6 Chicago Bulls

The Bulls should be able to win 43-46 games this season and stay just ahead of the trailing pack in the playoff race.

An injury to one of their top six players could drag them right back into it though.

#7 Detroit Pistons

I’m hugely surprised, and elated, that Coach John Kuester is strongly considering starting Ben Wallace and Kwame Brown alongside one another. My biggest fear for the Pistons was the lack of steel on the interior, the lack of defense and to a lesser degree rebounding, but this combination alleviates those fears.

#8 Philadelphia 76ers

Their starting lineup is pretty good … although they can’t shoot … but … they can do a lot of other things.

The bench on the other hand? And coaching staff? Ehh, makes me nervous.

Note: I keep switching around the 9th-12th seeds. There’s very little separating the sides and they could be in any order.

#9 Milwaukee Bucks

Too early to know what to make of the Bucks. They have a good center, a solid two guard, and a weird but compelling mix of decent-to-solid role players … plus the defensive wizardry of Head Coach Scott Skiles.

Oh and that Brandon Jennings kid. I don’t have a clue how he’s going to do this season.

#10 Charlotte Bobcats

The loss of Raja Bell is a sizable blow. The most important injury of training camp so far, given the expected length of his absence.

The Bobcats have the defensive chops to be a top five club defensively, but their lack of offensive ability will leave them battling for a .500 mark.

#11 Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are a disappointment. It’s not too early to say that is it?

Bargnani’s 35 minutes a night are all that is holding this Raptors’ team out of the playoffs.

#12 Miami Heat

Unfortunately for the Heat, neither Jermaine O’Neal or Michael Beasley looks capable of stepping forward this season. The lack of contribution that these two make will put a lot of pressure on the rest of the Heat’s roster, and I’m not convinced Miami can withstand that.

The Heat will be a decent team … but I think they’ll need some teams ahead of them to falter in order to get back into the playoffs this season.

#13 Indiana Pacers

No Mike Dunleavy, no playoffs.

The storylines to watch are: (1) Can Danny Granger up his game? (2) How much can Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert contribute?

The answers to those two questions will decide how strong a playoff push the Pacers are able to make.

#14 New York Knicks

Danilo Gallinari has shown flashes but not consistency. The Knicks need him to be a difference maker in order to make a run at the playoffs.

The rest of the squad is pretty much the same as last year’s team.

#15 New Jersey Nets

The Nets are a nothing team this season … but it will be a lot of fun to track how their youngsters are doing.

Brook Lopez + Courtney Lee + Terrence Williams + Chris Douglas Roberts

The present may not hold for the Nets, but their future could come into focus this season.

Western Conference

#1 Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are the team to beat until proven otherwise.

#2 San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are the only other established (Portland are a question mark for now) contender in the Western Conference.

#3 Houston Rockets

Same auld for the Rockets — Injuries have decimated their team, leaving a squad that should play .430-.530 basketball. The team looks like the 9th-11th best roster in the West.

* I’m not expecting anything out of McGrady, but if he were able to come back at an early enough date, and play at a high level, the Rockets could make a strong playoff push.

#4 Portland Trailblazers

Can the Portland Trailblazers win 60 games?

They won 54 last season. The improvement of Greg Oden, plus the upgrade from Sergio Rodriguez to Andre Miller, the return of Martell Webster, and some nominal improvement across the board from their other young players … it’s within their reach.

#5 Utah Jazz

With good health, comes good times … still not good enough to contend for a title.

#6 Dallas Mavericks

I haven’t been giving the Mavericks enough credit.

  • They were a pretty good team when Josh Howard was healthy and in the lineup.
  • Adding Shawn Marion on top of that, for a big perimeter defensive unit, or a small run and gun unit, should help take the Mavericks up another level.
    • Kidd + Howard + Marion + Dirk + Damp
    • Kidd + Terry + Howard + Marion + Dirk
  • They still have Barea and Terry off the bench. Also Gooden and Humphries, unfortunately I expect them to play Gooden ahead of Humphries which I think would be a bad decision.

Are the Mavs better than the Jazz? That’s a question I can’t decide yet.

#7 Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets will only go as far as JR Smith takes them. They’re not capable of contending for the title without Smith becoming an All-Star caliber player.

#8 New Orleans Hornets

I’ve lost a little faith in the Hornets following the Chandler-Okafor trade and then Okafor not playing. I’m not sure that the Hornets can be as good as they were capable of being last season. I think I’m going to have to wait, and let the Hornets prove to me that they’re still that good.

So, I’m dropping them below the Nuggets and Mavericks for the time being.

#9 Phoenix Suns

The Suns are still a good team. Not an elite team. Not a very good team. Not a threat in the playoffs. But good.

#10 Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers have a two very interesting parts:

(1) A good trio of big men in Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby (who also have very good backups).

(2) Two star quality guards in Baron Davis, who is due for a resurgent season, and Eric Gordon.

The rest of their team is a little dodgy … but those main guys will add a lot of value to their team.

#11 Oklahoma City Thunder

I have high hopes for Russell Westbrook’s and Kevin Durant’s development this season. So far, Westbrook looks like he’ll come good on it. Durant remains to be seen.

The Thunder played .400 basketball after New Year’s last season. With some improvement from their core guys, the addition of Harden and Co., hopefully the Thunder can threaten the .500 mark.

#12 Golden State Warriors

I don’t think Monta Ellis fits into the Warriors team anymore. Stephen Curry looks the best point guard, and Morrow plus Azubuike, and Jacks plus Corey, look like the best perimeter players.

Unfortunately, the Warriors won’t bench Ellis and make him the backup point guard so that means that several of the other players will be put out in order to make Monta happy … and I think that stops the Warriors from fulfilling their potential.

Golden State should be one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA once again this season, mainly due to their poor-to-very poor defensive interior.

#13 Minnesota Timberwolves

The Wolves will be missing Kevin Love for the first part of the season, so that should floor their W-L record … but he’ll be back soon enough.

#14 Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies aren’t a basketball team, they’re a circus.

#15 Sacramento Kings

I haven’t seen anything to convince me the Kings won’t be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season.

(1) Tyreke Evans is a special talent but he isn’t ready. His offensive contributions will come at a great cost (turnovers, inefficient scoring, poor floor leadership), negating most of his value. He’s one for the future, rather than one for the present.

(2) There are no signs that the defensive bleeding is going to stop in the near future.

(3) Spencer Hawes doesn’t seem committed enough (intelligent enough?) to make the most of his abilities.

Jason Thompson has looked good though. That’s one positive for the Kings. Will his improvement be enough to get them up to 20-25 wins this season? We’ll see.


Western Conference Landscape

  • Two elite team – Lakers, Spurs
  • Two teams who may make the jump to elite — Rockets and Blazers
  • Four very good teams all capable of winning 50 or more games –  Jazz, Mavs, Nuggets, Hornets
  • One good team — Suns
  • Two mediocre teams who have no hope of making the playoffs as currently constituted – Clippers, Thunder
  • One decent team — Warriors
  • One poor team — Wolves
  • Two very poor squads – Grizzlies and Kings
  • One team decimated by injuries already — Rockets — Houston would have been an elite team if Yao + Tracy were healthy.

Eastern Conference Landscape

  • Three elite teams – Celtics, Cavs and Magic
  • Zero very good teams
  • Two good teams – Hawks, Wizards
  • Two solid teams – Bulls and Pistons
  • Six decent to mediocre teams — Raptors, Sixers, Bobcats, Heat, Bucks, Pacers
  • Two poor teams – Nets, Knicks — the Knicks could easily move up a notch or two if Gallinari is healthy and as good as I hope he is.
  • Zero very poor teams

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