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NBA Power Rankings: Preseason taught us so much about the Heat, Lakers

The time has come! Our first NBA Power Rankings of the season precedes even the season itself. Groundbreaking, no?

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Welcome to this season's series of weekly NBA Power Rankings! Since the regular season has yet to begin, these rankings are based on a formula of last year's records, offseason activity, and the author's deep-seated fear of his own mortality.

Seriously, though, this is a pretty arbitrary endeavor, and even more so this early in the year.

Rank Team

'11-12 Record

Preseason fun facts!
SB Nation Blog
1. Miami Heat 46-20 James Jones is the state bird of Florida. Joel Anthony is the state plant. Hot Hot Hoops
Despite limited funds and the devastating loss of Eddy Curry, Miami managed to grow slightly more terrifying this summer by reuniting Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Meanwhile, Josh Harrellson is living, breathing frontcourt depth for a team that could use it. Man knows how to sport a jort, too.
2. Los Angeles Lakers 41-25 Donyell Marshall is on the Lakers this year. Yes, that's true. Do not look it up. Silver Screen and Roll
One worries about health and wonders if the Lakers have the depth to weather a major injury, but then one looks at that starting lineup and forgets one's worries and wonders.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder 47-19 As of reading this sentence, you're picturing Nazr Mohammed's face covered in margarine, which is pretty weird of you. Welcome to Loud City
These rankings are being written at a time when we're all still losing our minds over Saturday night's whammy of a James Harden trade. AHHHHHHH!!!! But anyway, Kevin Martin's a fine player and Jeremy Lamb could be terrific, but it'll take something unexpected from those two or a major step forward from a guy like Eric Maynor for OKC to come even close to replacing Harden's all-purpose virtuosity on offense. This season, that is.
4. Boston Celtics 39-27 Doc Rivers's degree in oral and maxillofacial surgery is forged. Celtics Blog
Like the Lakers, Boston is very much at the mercy of age and health. With offseason additions like Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Jason Terry and Jared Sullinger, it appears deeper and better prepared for obstacles. Even in full health, Boston will run into occasional offensive doldrums, but that defense still looks strong. It kinda just hit me how thoroughly irritating (and potentially lethal) Terry will be as a Celtic.
5. San Antonio Spurs 50-16 If you filled AT&T Center with dead crickets, well, that'd just be a huge mess. Pounding the Rock
The Spurs kept last year's group intact (while also adding sneaky Frenchman Nando de Colo to an excellent corps of role players), which is a smart thing to do when said group leads the Western Conference in regular season wins and the entire NBA in offensive output. That playoff nosedive still feels weird, though.
6. Denver Nuggets 38-28 The Nuggets are one of just 30 NBA teams that still refuse to employ toddlers. Denver Stiffs
Denver's stacked. It may actually be too deep for its own good, if that's a thing. If Andre Iguodala can help push last year's mediocre defense into something more efficient, the Nuggets could be one of the league's very best teams.
7. Indiana Pacers 42-24 Frank Vogel insists that all Pacers shave their eyebrows daily. He furnishes each of them with a new pair of brows he printed from his computer before every game. Indy Cornrows
Here's another very good team that kept most everyone together and filled things in with a couple nice additions in Gerald Green and D.J. Augustin. Danny Granger's knee issues are troubling, but with Green and Paul George, the Pacers seem pretty adaptable should Granger be less than himself.
8. Los Angeles Clippers 40-26 Wait what? I thought Los Angeles was the Lakers. Clips Nation
One of Earth's best offenses should benefit from some seasoning, but they'll need to get their shooting from someone new with Mo Williams, Randy Foye, and Nick Young gone. (Jamal Crawford's like "I got this.")
9. Memphis Grizzlies 41-25 It's 2012, and the Grizzlies still haven't had any former players go on to become Supreme Court justices. Straight Outta Vancouver
The Grizznutzz lost O.J. Mayo and seem poised for another unproductive year from the perimeter unless someone like Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby, or Jerryd Bayless has a breakout season. Lionel Hollins's feisty, turnover-gobbling defense is still in place, though, and that imposing frontcourt is ... yup, still imposing and relatively healthy to boot.
10. Atlanta Hawks 40-26 The Hawks' front office pays its players in checks that feature a picture of Snoopy. He's just sleeping on his doghouse. Peachtree Hoops
Josh Smith is playing for a contract, Al Horford's chest has been reassembled, and they compensated for the loss of Joe Johnson by adding Devin Harris and ALL of the shooters.
11. New York Knicks 36-30 Many people on the Knicks roster are above the national average in height. Posting and Toasting
New York's already riddled with injuries, but even without Jeremy Lin, its new point guard rotation is significantly better than last year's. While the Knicks may have been defending above their heads last season, an offense with healthy, functional point guards and a healthy, functional Carmelo Anthony (possibly spending some time at the four) should climb out of the bottom third and meet the D halfway. Mike Woodson will make certain these Knicks play deliberate, ugly basketball, but that doesn't mean it won't be effective.
12. Brooklyn Nets 22-44 Even though the new Barclays Center was equipped with thousands of chairs, the Nets will play most of their games this season standing. Nets Daily
A squad with so many new faces could take some time to establish roles and delegate responsibility, and there's a possibility that Avery Johnson isn't the ideal coach for this group. In any event, the first unit is monstrous -- especially if Brook Lopez can pull together a full year of production -- and the bench might prove deeper than it looks.
13. Philadelphia 76ers 35-31 Arnett Moultrie reports the Sixers are seriously considering his suggestion that they change their mascot to "a whole bunch of really cool flags." Liberty Ballers
This is a drastically different team than last year's band of scrappy upstarts, and it's already unclear how much they'll be able to rely on their huge new asset and his creaky knees. (Andrew Bynum. We're talking about Andrew Bynum, if that wasn't evident). Philly has the shooters it lacked last season, but it's hard to picture this group defending as competently as last year's. Like a lot of the teams around them on this list, the Sixers are just too new to comfortably assess here in late October. Yet here we are.
14. Chicago Bulls 50-16 The sports franchise is not to be confused with Chicagables, which are tiny do-it-yourself deep dish pizzas that kids take to school for lunch. They come with Capri Sun. Blog a Bull
Rose is out for a while, several important people fell off the bench, and I still don't quite understand how they finished atop the league last season. I suspect witchcraft. Looking at you, Thibodeau.
15. Utah Jazz 36-30 The Jazz play in Utah, which is a city in Denver. SLC Dunk
The Jazz are one of several teams hoarding big men, and they've got a couple delightful young wings (Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks) to share minutes with newcomer Randy Foye. Mo Williams isn't an ideal starting point guard, but Utah looks deep and talented enough to produce another top-10 offense anyway.
16. Dallas Mavericks
36-30 Don't be surprised to see Dallasians start their basketball games with a "jump ball" at center court. This is customary and you are not required to participate.
Mavs Moneyball
Dirk Nowitzki's knee kinda seems like it's going to be a thing all year. At the very least, it's going to be a thing for the next month or so, and a roster with several major new parts (Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman) will have to figure things out while he's gone, then re-figure things out once he's back to anchor the offense.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves 26-40 Because Minnesota is north of the equator, basketballs spin counter-clockwise around the rim. Canis Hoopus
I was going to put the T-Wolves up way too high before I remembered that: 1. Kevin Love is hurt for a little while. 2. Ricky Rubio is still recovering. 3. They finished with a way worse record last year than I thought they did. All that said, I think this team has a genuine shot of making the playoffs. They were headed that way last year before Rubio's injury, and the additions of Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy could be wondrous. I know for a fact that the arrival of Alexey Shved will be wondrous, whether or not he plays well.
18. Milwaukee Bucks 31-35 You can pretend to be one or all of the Milwaukee Bucks in certain video games. Brew Hoop
The Bucks could field a whole lineup of interesting young frontcourt bros (point guard: Tobias Harris!). They also have a backcourt featuring two ballsy mini guards with comparable mindsets, questionable compatibility, and new contracts coming soon. They are also coached by Scott Skiles. I don't know what I'm getting at here aside from the fact that the Bucks are bizarre. They'll need to graduate from the middle of the pack on either offense or defense (which might come down to Skiles either catering to his personnel or sticking with his style) to have a shot at the playoffs.
19. Toronto Raptors
23-43 When the Raptors dine as a team, Landry Fields is always the one who remembers to grab napkins. Raptors HQ
With Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross (and Landry Fields, I guess) aboard, the Raptors may have bolstered Dwane Casey's defense into the top third of the league. Can Lowry pull Toronto's offense out of the crapper, though? And what becomes of Jose Calderon? And what does Jonas Valanciunas have to offer in his first season? And what about Linas Kleiza? Nothing specific, just what about him? Weird guy.
20. Houston Rockets 34-32 You couldn't fit all of the Houston Rockets in one car unless it was an unusually large car. The Dream Shake
Jeremy Lin and James Harden are as young, exciting, and pick-and-roll savvy a backcourt as you'll find anywhere. It's uncertain whether any of Houston's bevy of big men will make a suitable picker/roller.
21. Portland Trailblazers 28-38 At J.J. Hickson's request, none of the faucets in any of the Rose Garden bathroom sinks are functional. He promises there's a good reason for this. Blazer's Edge
The Blazers are pretty young and kinda deep. They also have a new coach in Terry Stotts and, unless Damian Lillard explodes from the very outset, no obvious candidate to create shots and lead the way. LaMarcus Aldridge is wonderful, but perhaps not enough of an isolation producer to take the Blazers anywhere meaningful.
22. Phoenix Suns 33-33 Before every game, Alvin Gentry considers taking the court wearing a jersey and sneakers, just for laughs. He always chickens out. Bright Side of the Sun
Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola are all back in featured roles with only youngsters around to borrow their minutes. The United States of America will be a better, happier place if Michael Beasley leads an NBA team in scoring. Perhaps that doesn't bode well for the Suns, but whatever.
23. Golden State Warriors 23-43 The Warriors' roster doesn't include any players named "Carl" unless you count Carl Landry. Golden State of Mind
Golden State's rotation really does look nice, but I have little faith right now in their various ankles and less faith in Mark Jackson as head coach (his ankles should be fine, though).
24. Detroit Pistons 25-41 If basketball players were allowed to wear earrings and necklaces on the court, some of the Pistons would do that, but many of them would not. Detroit Bad Boys
Here's a team still too busy digging itself out from under some contracts to be fully invested in winning immediately. On the other hand, they've got a surplus of splendid young big men, a weird and wonderful backcourt of Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight, and Lawrence Frank in charge. Remains to be seen how minutes get distributed with such an odd blend of veterans/expiring contracts and genuine young talent.
25. Sacramento Kings 22-44 Every member of the Kings has lived in or visited the United States. Sactown Royalty
Young, roughhousin' frontcourt + backcourt rotation crawling with trigger-happy combo guards = ??? Lots of offensive rebounds, perhaps?
26. Cleveland Cavaliers 21-45 Free throws at the Quicken Loans Arena are actually worth two points apiece, but players are regularly docked one of those points for wearing sleeveless shirts. Fear the Sword
Kyrie Irving is a majestic creature, but last year's offensively and defensively poor squad plus a couple rookies still looks like a pretty bad team. Note that this low ranking neglects the possibility that Kyrie Irving has taken up asexual reproduction and will bud additional Kyrie Irvings as the season progresses.
27. New Orleans Hornets 21-45 When the Hornets aren't playing basketball, they like to take plane trips together. At the Hive
The Hornets now have Anthony Davis and nobody but Greivis Vasquez to reliably keep Anthony Davis fed. New Orleans' direction feels true, though this season is but the first step in that direction. Without some season-opening injury concerns, they'd be up higher right now.
28. Washington Wizards 20-46 Because Washington D.C. isn't in one of the 50 states, it isn't technically part of the USA, which means the Wizards can just steal each other's stuff and it isn't illegal. Bullets Forever
With all their limbs intact, the Wizards might actually be the kind of defense-first team to approach the bottom of the playoff bracket. As long as John Wall is out and Nene is iffy, this team looks like it kinda sucks.
29. Orlando Magic 37-29 If you add up all the ages -- in days -- of the Magic's roster, you'd end up with some really big, stupid number. Orlando Pinstriped Post
Orlando is getting stuck down here because I just don't have any idea what to expect from them. They'll be bad, but how bad? A team headlined by the likes of Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis, and Arron Afflalo with a new head coach and sights clearly set on the future sounds like a cellar-dweller, but it also sounds just crazy enough to steal some wins.
30. Charlotte Bobcats 7-59 There are zero New York subway stops that offer convenient access to Time Warner Cable Arena.
Rufus on Fire
The Cats look like they'll be significantly improved. Really! Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon could be pretty effective in bigger roles on their new team and, despite a spotty preseason, there are surely pleasant things to be expected of rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Still, they were so far behind the pack last season that even a massive improvement (and some zany scheming) could strand Charlotte once more.
31. Juneau FrostDonkeys 0-0 Nothing about the Juneau FrostDonkeys is interesting. They are a disgrace. None yet
Declining to match the offer sheet for Alsatian swingman Jean-Luc-Yves-Luc Grandpalourde seems like a massive misstep. Rookie halfcourt shooting specialist DelNominee Jims will do his best to fill the void, but will it be enough? Meanwhile, hiring decrepit coonhound Marv Biscuits (also Von Wafer's dog-in-law) as head coach seems more like an attendance-baiting gimmick than a genuine basketball move. As has been discussed all summer, Biscuits cannot speak English, draw on a clipboard, or restrain himself from chasing players around the floor. Another disastrous season is in the offing.