I got the second half of the power rankings ready with the Hawks coming in at #15.
15. Atlanta Hawks (6th Seed) – The 15th spot is perfect for the Hawks. It seems like every year they get into the playoffs with no problem yet they are never a true threat to any of the top teams in the conference. I think they made some solid pick ups in the offseason with getting guys like Milsap & Brand and they’ll be getting Lou Williams back who’s coming off an ACL injury. I think the Hawks could be a very solid team but I don’t see them as one of the top forces in the Eastern Conference.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves – In reality the last seeds in the West are very interchangeable I got the T-Wolves in the 14th spot because they’ve added depth to their front court and added more scoring with Kevin Martin and hopefully Shabazz Muhammad. If Kevin Love stays healthy and Rubio steps up his shooting they have a chance to make it to the playoffs.
13. Denver Nuggets (8th Seed) – I’ve considered putting the Nuggets down further in the power rankings but on paper they still have great talent throughout their roster. While George Karl got them to a third seed in the West he didn’t really allow for a lot of their young players to grow into impact players. As much as their pick ups weren’t necessarily the smartest (Darrell Arthur, Nate Robinson, & J.J. Hickson) they are still good talents. One thing the Nuggets are going to have to do is let guys like Jordan Hamilton get some playing time to see if they are worth keeping around or at least make them trade bait.
12. New Orleans Pelicans (7th Seed) – When it comes to “young star power” the Pelicans have it. The only thing they don’t have any depth behind that. Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, & Ryan Anderson are all great young talents. If things mesh like projected they’ll have a lot of firepower to win games. Teams like the Spurs have gotten far for a long time building around the combination of Parker, Duncan, & Ginobili as their key players and signing the right kind of role players around them. If they can do the same thing with the guys they got now they have a chance to make it to the playoffs and get a decent seeding.
11. Houston Rockets (6th Seed) – Well, they got Dwight now. Now, I’m not saying Omer Asik is the player Dwight is but they pretty much do the same thing. They both defend well, rebound, and bring a little something to the offense. With the Rockets needing possibly a stretch power forward to play along Dwight it would be great if they could trade Asik (maybe for a Ryan Anderson) because that’s not going to work out on Asik’s behalf if he has to come off the bench again. The Rockets have upgrade some of their talent and with James Harden steadily improving I think they could have a real strong season.
10. Memphis Grizzlies (5th Seed) – To be honest I could see Memphis falling out the playoff picture all together. I know a lot of people don’t agree but I think it’s a great possibility. They really didn’t upgrade any positions other than Kosta Koufos at Center. Mike Miller is constantly hurt to where I thought he was on the verge of retiring. Also, they are going to have to hope that they pretty much have an injury free season because there isn’t that much depth on the team. They aren’t that many explosion scorers at either the SF or SG positions. They are going to have to defend well and depend on their bigs to get them through the season.
09. Brooklyn Nets (5th Seed) – Old. That’s something we are hearing a whole lot of lately. The Nets appear to be a pretty old team by adding Garnett & Pierce, but most of their old players play what I call “Old Man Game” anyway. From what I’ve seen last year Joe Johnson seems to still be pretty effective. Deron Williams when healthy seems to be still on top of his game, Brook Lopez is just reaching his prime. You got guys like Jason Terry, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, and Andrei Kirilenko all coming off the bench and even some sleeper players like Mirza Teletovic, Alan Anderson, Mason Plumlee, and Shaun Livingston that might prosper playing limited minutes. The Nets have potential to take on some of the top teams in the East.
08. Golden State Warriors (4th Seed) – I don’t think people realize the effect of losing Jarrett Jack will have on the Warriors. Curry has been dealing with ankle injuries off and on pretty much since being in the league. Looking at the roster now you have Tony Douglas as your undisputed back up PG. I don’t know if he’ll be able to perform at the level that Jack did this past season. Outside of that the Warriors have made some improvements. They’ve added Iggy on the wings, picked up Jermaine O’Neal & Marreese Speights to their front line which they didn’t really have much depth last year, especially with Bogut being out for a good portion of the season. Overall they’ve added a little bit more depth and they also have a better idea as to what a guy like Bazemore and Green can do on the court.
07. New York Knicks (4th Seed) – I think the Knicks have a lot weapons. The thing is will they figure how to use them. If the Knicks could pull everything together they could actually have a hell of a team. If Amare can shake back somewhat to what he use to be with additions like Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih, and Tim Hardaway Jr that seems pretty promising. You also have a guy like Iman Shumpert who’s steadily improving and regaining form after coming back from an ACL injury. All of this makes the Knicks look like a formidable team. From top to bottom they have a lot of pieces on this team, but with Melo running the show and JR as the side show will they be able to gel as a winning team.
06. San Antonio Spurs (3rd Seed) – I really feel that was the Spurs last shot at a championship if it’s based off Ginobili being a major part in them returning. While they did go to the Finals last year with a similar looking roster, depth issues could cause them to not go back this upcoming season. Even though there is not a whole lot of firepower to this team the other top teams in the West didn’t really make any improvements either to where realistically they could make another deep playoff run.
05. Los Angeles Clippers (2nd Seed) – It seems like everybody is hyped with the additions that the Clippers have made this past off-season. I personally think their best addition was getting Doc Rivers to coach them and replacing Bledsoe with another solid point guard in Darren Collison . I don’t think picking up J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, and Antawn Jamison are going to be the game changers like so many people predict because what they bring in shooting (Redick & Jamison) they give up on defense and with Dudley coming from an open offense in Phoenix I don’t know if that’s going to translate over to LA.
04. Chicago Bulls (3rd Seed) – I have the Bulls up here this high for two reasons. Derrick Rose return and their defense. The Bulls play a great team game. Even last year without D Rose they played real good. With them adding Derrick Rose back he adds an X factor element they didn’t have last season. When you have one of the elite players in the league returning to your rotation there has to be an improvement. In the process of D Rose being gone we got to see the emergence of Jimmy Butler who’s proved he can play both sides of the court and add even more lock down defense to the team. There weren’t that many improvements to the roster but when you bring back a former MVP you have to believe that the Bulls are going to be a force.
03. Oklahoma CIty Thunder (1st Seed) – To be honest with the East improving so much the West is starting to look that much weaker. When it comes to creating depth and improvements the Thunder have been pretty stagnant the last few years. They’ve had plenty of high draft picks in the last 4-5 years and they only have 4 players in rotation right now and that’s Jackson, Westbrook, Durant, & Ibaka. Even with that being said Jackson only got solid play time when Westbrook went down with an injury. Scott Brooks is going to have to let Lamb, Jones, and some of these other guys get some playing time to see if they can develop and help the team in the long run. By Brooks shortening his rotation he’s going to wear his stars out by the time playoffs come around. Even with that being said Westbrook & Durant is one of the elite combinations in the league who can work their way to a top seed and possibly even make it back to the Finals.
02. Indiana Pacers (2nd Seed) – This team is steadily getting better. The Pacers are going to be getting Granger back, added Luis Scola, Chris Copeland (underrated shooter/scorer), and CJ Watson to the team. On top of that Hibbert, Stephenson, & George are still improving. This team is battle tested, they have depth, and they have an emerging star. The only thing I see from the Pacers that they could possibly use an upgrade is at the point guard position, but other than that they are a true power house.
01. Miami Heat (1st Seed) – To try and 3 peat won’t be easy. While the Heat did pick up Beasley & Oden there is no guarantee at all if these guys will be effective this upcoming season. While both have the potential to easily put the Heat back on top for another championship they also have the potential to not do a damn thing for the Heat. Even with all that being said they still have the best player in the league on their team which still gives them a great chance to win the championship. While I do think Wade is at the end of his road the Heat understand how to manage his time on the court so he can be ready for the playoffs. If they could get either Cole or Chalmers to step their game up this season it would be a great help and make that path to the Finals so much easier.